Weekly chess column

Vladimir Kramnik was striving to catch the indelible Magnus Carlsen in the late rounds of the London Classic played this month. He faced Judit Polgar in the penultimate round. Polgar was having a tough tournament with only two draws at this point and hence a total of two points under the Sofia system (3 for win, 1 for draw).    

 Kramnik had the white pieces, and started with an English opening. Polgar defended conservatively, and allowed Kramnik’s knight to occupy d5 without immediate challenge. On the 12th move, Judit elected to sacrifice a knight rather than submit to a retreat. She received two pawns and got an additional tempo in what ultimately appeared to be a bad bargain. Kramnik defended well with 17. d4 versus his opponent’s attack. Polgar found that her queen had too many duties and could not maintain the initiative. Kramnik found weak spots and prevailed. He did not catch Carlsen in the Classic but is now rated the world’s No. 2 player.  Polgar turned in a victory against Luke McShane in the last round.


a) The start of an interesting plan, although it does not work out well in the end. The typical move here is 4…e6 and after 5.Nf3 d5, whereas Black often avoids 4…g6 due to 5.e3 Bg7 6.Nge2 O-O 7.d4, and White has an edge (although Black’s position is perfectly playable).

b) Or 5.Nf3 g6 etc. and Black sidesteps the e2-e3, Nge2 setup.

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c) Naturally White must keep his grip on the d5 square and prevent …d6-d5.

d) Is this all she had planned here? This seems to give White a pleasant edge with no effort. I would have thought the critical test would be 7…Bxd5 8.cxd5 Nb4. Although I would not be surprised if White keeps the advantage here, at least it roils the waters somewhat.

e) In keeping with her style, Polgar sacrifices a piece rather than allow Kramnik to keep a clear edge after kicking the knight away from b4 via a2-a3, but the sacrifice is unsound.


f) Thanks to Kramnik’s incisive play, he has activated all his pieces and has a clear advantage.

g) This is necessary to prevent 29.Be6+, but now White has a great shot.

h) Very nice! Since 29…Qxd7 30.Qb8+ Kg7 31.Qf8# is checkmate, Black must retreat the bishop to f7 and allow White to break up Black’s pawns advantageously.

i) The exchange sacrifice for two pawns has left White with crushing domination of the center, and has de-fanged Black’s queenside pawns. The game is effectively over now.

Kramnik – Polgar

4th London Chess Classic, 2012

English Opening


Kramnik Polgar

Kramnik Polgar

White Black

White Black

1. c4 Nf6

21. Rf5! Qd7

2. Nc3 c5

22. Re5 Re8

3. g3 Nc6

23. Bh3! Qc6

4. Bg2 d6!? (a)

24. Rxe8+ Qxe8

5. e3 (b) e5

25. Bd2 (f) Qe7?!

6. Nge2 Be6

26. Qh5! Qd8

7. Nd5 (c) Be7 (d)

27. Rf1 g6

8. O-O O-O

28. Qe5 Ra6 (g)

9. Nec3 Nb4

29. Bd7!! (h) Bf7

10. Nxe7+ Qxe7

30. Rxf7! Kxf7

11. d3 d5?! (e)

31. Bb5 Rf6

12. a3 dxc4

32. Bxc4+ Kg7

13. axb4 cxb4

33. Qxe4 (i) Qc7

14. Ne4 Nxe4

34. Qd5 Rf8

15. Bxe4 f5

35. e4 b5

16. Bg2 Rfd8

36. Qxb5 Qd6

17. d4 a5

37. Qb7+ Kh8

18. Qe2 e4

38. Qa7 g5

19. f3! Bd5

39. Bxg5 Qc6

20. fxe4 fxe4

40. Qe7 1-0

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