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Dortmund 09 r8: Kramnik Being Kramnik

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Finally a showdown that acted like a showdown. Eight-time Dortmund champion Vladimir Kramnik took a big step toward his ninth title by destroying leader Magnus Carlsen to swap places with him and take over clear first with two rounds to play. Kramnik has a history of winning on demand in Dortmund, but rarely has he done it so spectacularly. Carlsen was fending off the brutal attack very well for a while, but eventually blundered with 25..Qc7 (instead of 25..Qc5!, though there are still many ways to go wrong) and the sacrificial barrage Kramnik had been wiring up finally detonated. Faced with mate or the loss of his queen, Carlsen resigned. A fantastic game that was all the more entertaining for having tactics czar Larry Christiansen working out line after wild line for hours live on ICC Chess.FM. Whew!

Jakovenko got ye olde minimal endgame edge in a theoretical Marshall (is there another kind) against Bacrot. The Russian then proceeded to show why the top guys still play this tedious stuff by outplaying Bacrot in an opposite-colored bishop endgame. Game notes on both decisive games later. Leko got less than nothing against Naiditsch when he turned back from some interesting lines to liquidate with 20.Qf3. Now it's Kramnik on top with +2 and a mob with Leko, Carlsen, and Jakovenko on +1 still in the mix heading into the final weekend. Today was almost interesting enough to make you forget how dreary this event has been overall.

Round 9: Jakovenko-Kramnik, Bacrot-Leko, Naidtisch-Carlsen.

Update: Wish I had the time and energy to relay half the spectacular variations Larry went through in Kramnik-Carlsen today. They didn't all work for White, but they illustrated the fantastic dangers to Black's king at an early stage. Carlsen actually defended quite well, but one slip was enough. Kramnik showed his aggressive intentions with the pawn sac 18.f5. Carlsen went for a tactical defense 19..Qb6 (20.Qxd7? Rd8). With 25.Rd6 suddenly the severe danger Black was facing became apparent, as sacs on e6 are everywhere. The saving move every kibitzer's computer spit out, 25..Qc5, is fraught with danger. 26.Ne4! Qxc4 27.Nf6 and now Black is forced to take a leap of faith on par with bungee-jumping in the Grand Canyon. 27..Ke7. By some miracle there is no winning discovered check here for White. 28.Rd1 Nd4 29.Nxe8+ Kxe8 30.Qg8+ Ke7 31.Qxa8 Qd5 and by another minor miracle the threat of ..Nf3+ forces White to return the exchange with a roughly equal queen endgame.

Hard to blame Carlsen for rejecting that line. How about 25..Rd8, when you have to work out 26.Rxe6, (or after Qh6+) 26..Qd4 is now the only move that doesn't lose instantly. 26..fxe6 loses to a whirlwind of checks and a ridiculously counter-intuitive knight move: 27.Qh6+ Kf7 28.Qxe6+ Kg7 29.Qg8+ Kf6 30.Qf8+ Ke5 31.Nb5!! With d6 controlled white is threatening a remarkable mate with Qg7+, Nc3+ and Be2#. So 26..Qd4! it is, sayeth the silicon oracle, and the lunacy continues. 27.Rf6!? Bizarrely, White isn't really threatening anything and hangs a bishop to boot. Material is equal. 27..Qxc4 28.Rxc6 Qxc6 29.Qxd8 with a slightly better endgame. Back in the game, Black could have grovelled on with 29..Qc8, which is what we expected. (Various spectators (well, their computers, surely) suggested 29..Qxd6, but the position without the queen is entirely hopeless. The white h-pawn is more than enough to win.) But simply 29..Qc8 30.Qxh7, with the killing threat of Rxe7+, is enough, though it takes some precision. 30..Nd8 31.Qh4+ Kf8 and now the charming switchback 32.Rd4!, plotting Qf6, Rh4, Rh8 mate.

Fabulous stuff, and so let us not be too critical of young master Carlsen for faltering under the strain of such a load. It would be interesting, of course, to know exactly what he didn't see both in the 25..Qc7 line he didn't see and the apparently sufficient alternatives 25..Qc5 and 25..Rd8. A great win by Kramnik both in the sporting sense and as a piece of chess art against a mighty foe.

Looking at Jakovenko-Naiditsch it's hard to see how it's possible for Black to lose the endgame until he actually does. Jakovenko ground the young German down in the first half as well, and Naiditsch has repeatedly broken down in long endgames in Dortmund. To be fair, it appears he had a draw today in the endgame only if he finds 76..Bb8. It takes a few minutes to figure out why the bishop should draw there and lose on g3, but it's instructive. The point is that the black king needs the d5 square to hustle across the board to stop the h-pawn. With the bishop on g3, as in the game, the king would cut the bishop's control of c7. With the bishop on b8, that isn't the case and black draws with the Reti-esque diagonal king march to h8. The bishop can then be freely given up since the h-pawn is the wrong color. Good stuff.

It's certainly not over in Dortmund with so many players a half-point back. Kramnik finishes with black against Jakovenko and then white against the miserable Naiditsch. You have to like Carlsen's chances to score 1.5/2 finishing with black against Naiditsch and white against Bacrot.


Mig you say: "25..Qc5!, though there are still many ways to go wrong". Could you post some lines and analysis?

25...Rd8 looks so natural for us humans, bringing the rook to the open file and proposing exchanges right and left. Hard to believe that a player of Carlsen's caliber would play Qc7. Was he in time trouble? Anyway Carlsen will play the two weakest players in the last two rounds and still has a good chance to score +2.

Extremely interesting endgame in Jakovenko-Bacrot.

ed, after 25...Rd8 26.Rxe6 things get pretty slippery again. The best response seems to be 26... Qd4, which to me is as hard to find as 25...Qc5. Carlsen had around 30 min left at this time iirc.

Haven't seen such a nice game from Kramnik in a long time. I especially liked Rd6 which I saw with Rybka before Kramnik played it, but I somehow thought he'll go for the perpetual because he paused for a while before Rd6! Luckily he played it.

Man, Kramnik just won -yet another fantastic game, in his career and you're more interested in an ending!

A truly moderate chess fan :-)

Great game by Kramnik.

Typo I think: "The point is that the black king needs the d5 square" - should be e5.

"Carlsen had around 30 min left at this time iirc"

Yes, and he ended up with 25:33 left on the clock eleven moves later, so he sure didn't use much time on those last moves.

"Looking at Jakovenko-Naiditsch ..." [in the update]
As correctly written in the initial entry, Jakovenko played Bacrot. Naiditsch had 'broken down in a long endgame' against Jakovenko the day before - drawing rather than winning.

Yes, correct the nonsense about Naiditsch!

Vlad must have the highest rating with the white pieces.... Anyone with any data? Incredible that Anand beat him twice with Black during the Bonn match


A bit more wins in earlier years though, lately it has been one in Dortmund, one in the Olympiad, and one against Anand.

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    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 10, 2009 6:19 PM.

    San Sebastián 09 r3: No Tourney for Old Men was the previous entry in this blog.

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