Kramnik and Gelfand Chase Anand
By GM Ian Rogers   
September 28, 2007

kramniklead.jpg
Photo Cathy Rogers
Viswanathan Anand's stroll to the World Championship title in Mexico City could turn into a nail-biter after victories for Anand's main rivals in round 12 on Thursday.
 
While Anand was playing a solid draw with Peter Svidler, Boris Gelfand and Vladimir Kramnik launched crushing attacks from nowhere to move to within striking distance of the leader.
 
Gelfand, who defeated Levon Aronian with Black on Thursday and has the second highest score, is best placed to challenge Anand.
 
Gelfand's biggest test will come on Friday, where he will need to defeat Kramnik with the White pieces. Kramnik remains half a point behind Gelfand after his win on Thursday and will need to beat Gelfand - and see a stumble from Anand - to have any hope of retaining his world title.
 
Anand will need to be at his most careful in round 13, playing Black against the most unstable player in the tournament, Alexander Grischuk. Grischuk crashed to his fourth defeat in six rounds on Thursday but all those losses have been with the Black pieces; he has scored two wins and no losses with White.
 
Anand has looked good with Black in every game so far this tournament and his game against Svidler was no exception.



The players, who have played the Anti-Marshall against each other with both colors on many occasions, followed an Ivanchuk-Svidler game until Anand's new move 13...Bf8. Svidler's choice, 14.d5, led to a normal Zaitsev variation of the Ruy Lopez but with White a tempo behind. However by not having played Nbd2, White had the additional option of Na3 but Anand reacted precisely with 17...Qc7, intending to meet 18.b4 with either 18...Nc4 or 18...cxd5!? - Anand had not decided whether or not to try the piece sacrifice.

The final position was a matter for some dispute.

"I spent my whole childhood playing the Zaitsev," said Svidler, "and I remember I used to think that if I get a position like this [as Black] I should start looking for more. So when Vishy offered a draw I felt I didn't have any reason to decline."
"I wasn't so optimistic about my position as Peter," said Anand. "At first I thought he was better but then I realized that I could bring my knights back and push my center pawns. My plan was to play ...d5, wait for White to play b4 and then play ...d4 liquidating all the pawns.
Of course I am happy with today's result."
 
Kramnik showed that his fighting words yesterday were not hollow by demolishing Peter Leko in an outstanding game. "I am sure the public enjoyed it, even if I didn't," was Leko's rueful summary.
 


Opening: Catalan

 
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 7.Qc2 a6 8.Qxc4 b5 9.Qc2 Bb7 10.Bd2 Be4 11.Qc1 Qc8 12.Bg5 Nbd7 13.Qf4 !?

 Kramnik's improvement on 13.Nbd2 Bb7 that led to nothing in an Aronian-Kramnik game a few rounds earlier. "[13.Qf4] is a novelty that is quite interesting - at least for one game," said Kramnik. "The most principled way to react is 13...c5 because the way Peter played I had a slight advantage."
13...Bb7 14.Rc1 Bd6 15.Qh4 h6
Now White creates a pawn center without challenge. 15...Ne4 was a serious alternative.
16.Bxf6 Nxf6 17.Nbd2 Re8 18.e4 Nd7 19.Nb3 a5
"Peter reacted well with 18...Nd7 and 19...a5," said Kramnik, but already Leko had fallen more than an hour behind on the clock. 20.Nc5 !?
Kramnik used 36 minutes of his time advantage on this move and it was time well spent. The text move does not offer a clear advantage to White but gives Leko many problems to solve.
20...Be7 21.Qf4 e5?
Right idea, wrong move order. After 21...Nxc5! 22.dxc5 e5 23.Nxe5 Bf6 Black has no problems.
"My original intention had been 21...Bxc5 22.dxc5 e5 23.Qe3 Bc6 with a more or less equal position," said Leko. "But suddenly I was excited by this 21...e5. Maybe it is not so bad but not the way I played it; I forgot about 28.Qf7."
22.Nxe5! Nxe5 23.dxe5 Bg5 24.Qf3 Bxc1 25.Rxc1 Rxe5
Otherwise 27.Qc3 followed by f4 will give White a dominating position.
26.Qc3 f6?
"A surprise for me," said Kramnik. "I was expecting Peter to play 26...Re7 27.Nxb7 Qxb7 28.e5 Qa7 29.Bxa8 Qxa8 and I was thinking about this position when I played 20.Nc5. I play 30.Qd4 and maybe I still press but I think the normal outcome would be a draw."
"I didn't play 21...e5 in order to [defend after] 26...Re7," said Leko. "Otherwise I would just have played 21...Bxc5 and defended that position."
27.Qb3+ Kh8?!

Played almost instantly by Leko, who by now had 20 minutes left to reach move 40. 27...Kh7 was necessary, although after 28.Qxb5 White has great compensation for the sacrificed material.
28.Qf7!
"I think Peter missed [this]," said Kramnik. "All of a sudden Black has no defense."
"If I had not spent so much time in the beginning then I guess I would have spotted 28.Qf7," admitted Leko. "It is not an easy or natural move but after [Vladimir played it] I realized I was lost." 28...Bc6
Otherwise the c7 pawn falls after 29.Nxb7 or 29.Nd3.
29.Nd3 Re6 30.Nf4 Rd6 31.Ng6+ Kh7 32.e5! fxe5 33.Bxc6 Rf6

Futile, but 33...Rxg6 34.Be4 Raa6 35.Rxc7 Qg8 36.Qd7 leaves Black hopelessly tied up.
34.Qd5 Qf5 35.Bxa8 Qxf2+ 36.Kh1 Qxb2 37.Qc5 Kxg6 38.Be4+ Kh5 39.Rb1 1-0
 
After the game Kramnik was asked if he still felt he had hopes to win the tournament and replied, more realistically than yesterday, "Well I think it all now depends on Vishy but there are very few chances, unfortunately. There is not a big point to risk when you are one and a half points behind Anand. It doesn't make sense just to bluff."
 
Gelfand won a fine counterattacking game against an aggressively minded Aronian.
 

 
Opening: Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav
 
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6

Aronian had an unfortunate experience with the gambit 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 earlier in the tournament against Anand and so chooses the quieter Moscow variation.
6...Qxf6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 g6 10.0-0 Bg7 11.Rc1 0-0 12.Ne4 Qe7 13.Bb3
"A very ambitious line," said Gelfand. "If I can play ...b6 it's another story."
13...Rd8 14.Qc2 e5 15.Rfe1 Kh8 16.g4!?
"I had a look at 16.g4 in my preparation," explained Aronian. "I thought it looked double-edged so it should be ideal for a fight.
16...Rf8 17.g5!?
"A very risky plan," said Gelfand, who was already an hour behind on the clock by the time he responded.
"I don't think many people will repeat this experience [with g4-g5]," said Aronian after the game.
17...f5!
Aronian's preparation had concentrated on 17...hxg5 18.Nexg5 but now he began to think for the first time in the game.
18.gxf6 Bxf6
"Every idea has its drawbacks," said Gelfand, "and after [his g4-g5] the f line becomes weak."
"I didn't like my position so much," admitted Aronian, who spent 28 minutes on his next move.
19.Kg2 Bg7 20.h4?!

Consistent, but 20.Rcd1 was more sober.
20...Nb6!
"After this move I didn't see a good plan for White," said Gelfand. "...Qd7 will come in some lines."
21.dxe5?!
After 41 minutes, almost catching up on the clock, Aronian chooses a poor option.
"A mistake, but Black's pieces are already coming to attack. I was intending to play 21.Qc5 but after 21...Qd7 22.Nxe5 Qh3+ 23.Kg1 Bf5 24.Nd6 Nd7!, Black is fine," explained Aronian. (In fact White is lost after 25.Nxd7 Qg4+! 26.Kh1 Qf3+ .)
However 21.Nxe5 was the best chance, even though Black is well on top after 21...Bf5 22.f3 Bxe5 23.dxe5 Rae8.
21...Bg4!
The computer commentators were crying out for 21...Rxf3! 22.Kxf3 Bf5! - Aronian only looked at 22...Qxh4) but Gelfand's choice is also extremely strong, "and I didn't have so much time to think about it."
22.Ned2 Nd7! 23.e6
There is no longer a saving resource. 23.Qxg6 loses beautifully to 23...Nxe5 24.Nxe5 Rxf2+!! 25.Kxf2 Qxh4+ 26.Kg1 Bxe5 27.Nf1 Rf8! 28.Rc2 Bf3! 29.Rg2 Be4!! with a decisive attack.
23...Ne5 24.Nh2 Qxh4 25.f4 Bf5! 26.Ne4
26.e4 Bh3+ 27.Kh1 Rxf4 is equally ugly.
26...Qh3+ 27.Kg1 Nf3+ 28.Nxf3 Qxf3 29.Ng5!?
A typically tricky Aronian resource but with seven minutes left on the clock Gelfand has more than enough time to cope with the tricks.
29...hxg5 30.Qh2+ Qh5 31.Qxh5+ gxh5 32.e7
32.e4 Bg4 33.f5 is optically more resistant but without control of the dark squares the White pawns would be going nowhere.
32...Rfe8 33.Rc5 Bg4 34.Rxg5 Rxe7 35.Kg2 Bf6 36.Rg6 Rf8 37.e4 Bf5 38.Rh6+ Kg7 39.Rxh5 Bxe4+ 40.Kh2 Bd5 0-1
Gelfand having made the time control, Aronian saw no reason to continue the unequal struggle further.
 
 After the game, Gelfand again refused to comment on his chances to win the tournament. "I can only repeat the formula I have used on the previous 11 days - I play each game separately. I don't think about the tournament situation - I don't think it helps to get extra pressure for no reason."
Gelfand then went on to thank the people who had devised the format being used to decide the World Championship and to blast the knockout events, which FIDE had previously used to decide their world title.

"For me it's a privilege to play in this tournament. It's unlikely that a tournament like this, with a seven-hour time control and eight best players, will happen in the future. For me there's a big difference between becoming a Champion at a knockout tournament with a [fast] FIDE time control and to win a title here. More and more we have to play a nonsense time control at events."
 
The third decisive game of the day saw Alexander Morozevich push Grischuk down into a share of last place with the latter's fourth loss with Black in six rounds.



As usual in Grischuk's games, the clock played a key factor, with Morozevich managing to stay a minute or two ahead of Grischuk. "I had a good position but I just played very, very, very slow and deservedly lost," was Grischuk's depressed summary of the game. "When you are in [time trouble] every game you get completely drained of energy."
 
Grischuk emerged very comfortably from the opening but Morozevich thought that 15...Rfe8 would have been more precise than 15...Rad8.
22...Rfe8?! was a little too slow (22...Nd4!) and he soon found himself under pressure. "I didn't understand Black's decision to give up the pawn on b7," admitted Morozevich.
With six minutes left on the clock, 26...Nd4 was probably a good practical try for counterplay, since 26...Nd8 27.Qb3 fxg3 28.Qxg3 Nb8 29.b4 looks very promising for White.
However Grischuk responded poorly to Morozevich's 30.d6!? (30...Qxd6! should hold) and then 37...f5? proved fatal.
Morozevich finished with a pretty combination (if 40...Qxf5 41.Qc3+ wins) that ended in an unexpected mating attack.