Weekly chess column

In a rare example of good will between two leading grandmasters, Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik recently played a six-game practice match. In the end, they played to a 3-3 tie. Here is a win by Kramnik in the third game.

 The game is a Four Knights/Scotch Opening. Aronian deliberately avoids the main line, which is 5. …Bb4. He instead goes for 5… Bc5 often thought of as a feasible alternative. On move 11, Aronian starts a desperado combination. This costs him his queen and two pawns for a rook and two minor pieces. However, Kramnik’s position is superior. He rebuffs an attack on his king and with his extra pawns he eventually puts an end to Aronian’s resistance.


 a) The normal move here is 5…Bb4, but Aronian was purposefully trying to experiment in this match.

b) If Black did not play this, he would simply cede White a space advantage. Now the fireworks fly!

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c) According to people at the match, Kramnik had checked the position after 11.Bg5 with his computer but had not done detailed analysis, while Aronian was making it up as he went along! But it is hard to suggest a better move, e.g. 11…f6 12.Bc4!

d) Kramnik thought a long time on this move, which appears to be best. GM Pelletier says “the computer” prefers 13.Bh4 Nxd4 14.Qxd1 Nf5, but both players agreed that Black was fine here.

e) This is key; not 15.Nd4? Bf4! and White is in trouble.


f) This is a critical juncture. Black has other alternatives, e.g. 15…a6 and 15…Bf5, but after the game the players believed White stood well in all cases if he played precisely.

g) Better was 17.Qb4! Be6 18.Bxe8! Rxe8 19.Re1! and White should win thanks to the key Rxe6 tactic if Black’s bishop lets go of b8, e.g. 19…Ba5 20.Rxe6!! Bxb4 (20…fxe6 21.Qxc4; 20…Rxe6 21.Qb8+) 21.Rxe8+ Bf8 22.Ra8 etc., or 19…Bf4+ 20.Kb1 Bd2 21.Rxe6!! etc.

h) Each player thought he stood better here! As it turns out, only Kramnik was correct. This move is far too loosening. Black needed to hunker down, e.g. with 21…g6. White is better but it is still a fight.

i) And now at this point it becomes clear that Black is fighting for his life.

j) Kramnik had to foresee 30.Re8+!! in order to play 28.b3. The key point is that Black’s knight and bishop are now horribly discombobulated; one of them is inevitably doomed.

k) Black is completely frozen and the blockade on c6 will crumble, e.g. 42…Nc6 43.Qb2 Ne7 44.Kc4 Nc6 (44…Ng8 45.Kb5) 45.Qa1 and either Kd5 or Kb5 on the next move, as appropriate.

 Kramnik – Aronian

Zurich Chess Challenge 2012

Four Knights/Scotch Opening

Kramnik Aronian

Kramnik Aronian

White Black

White Black

1. e4 e5

22. c3! Bc5

2. Nf3 Nc6

23. Re2! h6

3. Nc3 Nf6

24. g3! a5

4. d4 exd4

25. f4! (i) a4

5. Nxd4 Bc5!? (a)

26. f5 Bd5

6. Be3 Bb6

27. Qd3 Bb6

7. Qd2 O-O

28. b3! axb3

8. O-O-O Re8

29. axb3 Na5

9. f3 d5 (b)

30. Re8+!! Rxe8

10. exd5 Nxd5

31. Qxd5 (j) Rd8

11. Bg5 Nxc3!? (c)

32. Qb5 Rd6

12. Bxd8 Nxd1

33. Kc2 Kg7

13. Bxc7! (d) Bxc7

34. b4! Nb7

14. Nxc6 Ne3

35. c4! Rf6

15. Bb5! (e) bxc6 (f)

36. g4! Nd8

16. Bxc6 Nc4

37. c5 Bc7

17. Qd4? (g) Be6

38. Qd7 Nc6

18. Bxa8 Bb6

39. b5 Na7

19. Qd3 Rxa8

40. Qxc7 Nxb5

20. Re1 Rd8

41. Qe5 Na7

21. Qe4 g5? (h)

42. Kd3 (k) 1-0

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