Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Kramnik vs. Aronian, The final word

Black just played 13...Qb8
A friendly match between Kramnik and Aronian is finished, and nobody won. Or maybe everyone won?
However, a result was 3-3 (yes, this time my prediction was good) but there were a plenty of chances for both players.
If we want to analyse this match objectively we have to put clear distinction between competitive role of this match and promotional role.
Both of players already gave some interviews and I will not repeat their opinions here (except to underline my opinions).
As I already talked about games 1-4, I will focus on game five and six.
From my point of view, a game number 5 was the best game of this match. Of course, game 6 was more entertaining but there are a much more entertaining things (chess related) then watching game 6 for hours, so I like to believe that most of chess fans prefer quality instead of entertainment.
A very first position is from game 5 (Kramnik was white), and Aronian just played strange looking move 13...Qb8.  Kramnik played 14.cxd5 with a lot criticism by most of commentators. Not because that move was bad, but because it is ,according to them, boring.
Kramnik explained later that 14.cxd5 was probably the best choice and that black´s defensive task is not simple at all. As 14...exd5 would lead in some form of Carlsbad-structure (which is a bit more favourably for white), Aronian answered 14...cxd5.
They got symmetrical position without many chances for easy pawn-breaks. In this kind of positions is very easy to organize defence if Black has, for example a pawn on b7 (instead on b6) and a knight on c6 (instead on d7). A perfect scenario would be with a bishop on f5, but it can be useful on d7 as well. However, Aronian has some weaknesses along a c-file and a bishop pair means nothing.
Easy draw?
Soon, they exchanged some pieces and reached a position on the next diagram. On their level, a draw is most natural result, but I have to say that this position is a one of these positions in which I can be sure to win a game against lower rated opponent. White has a knight on d3 and that is a perfect position in this structure. he can play for an e3-e4 break or he can try to open another front on the king side (by playing f3-g4). He can even combine all plans, and start with centralisation of king. So why I think that this position can be very unpleasant for lower rated players?
There are no clear plans for Black and he has to be patient. Usually, when there are no clear plans, a weaker players can do something extreme. Put their pieces on wrong squares or make some weaknesses. Of course that Aronian can defend this position with success, but still his opponent is Kramnik, a player with a style which suits perfectly for this position.
Kramnik played 24.b3
So, after they centralised their kings, Kramnik was first to do something more committing. He played 24.b3 and changed a pawn structure. Black´s bishop became stronger and White got some weaknesses but he also got some additional possibilities on queen side (a4-a5).
To protect against that Aronian played a7-a5 (later on). Notice that a pawn on b6 is not weak, because there is no way that some of white knight can attack it. Later, Kramnik switched his play , first in centre by playing f3 (with idea of e4) and when Aroian played f7-f5 he switched on king-side play with g4. Aronian was very patient and he knew it that a c-line has to tell. It is not as important as it has only open files in some other positions, but it is a source of counterplay.
A critical moment arose in the position on the next diagram.
To build or not to build
Aronian manages to exchange one pair of rooks and he controls a c-file. On the other side Kramnik can play for a win of g-pawn or maybe for h3-h4 and than maybe open a g-file. 
It is easier to say than to do as he has to include mote pieces in the action. His only piece which can change something is a knight on e2.
He played: 36.Nf4 which puts a lot of pressure on black´s king-side but he lost control of c3 square and black went:
36...Bb4+ just to push back white king on d1.
37.Kd1 ...and than he started his counterplay with:
White´s only choice was:
38.Rc1 Now, black should avoid exchange of rooks (because of g6 pawn) and he did it with:
38...Rxe3. White finally managed to break-trough with:
39.Rc7+, Kd8
40.Rg7   ...just to see that after
40...Kc8  there is not more than a draw with checks on g7 and g8.
Extremely high quality of play. Unfortunately, we could not see a same level of quality in game 6, but a position was much more complicated. Aronian avoided a real Berlin defence, and played 4.d3 . He was a bit better but kramnik managed to outplayed him in the endgame. Than, we could see very serious weakness in Kramnik´s play which is characteristic of his play in the last few years. he just don´t have enough energy to win a games when he have to find a final blow. He is not accurate enough and he can not escape with that nowadays.
A young players like Carlsen and Aronian (probably Radjabov,Karjakin as well) has a very high level of resistant, much higher that a players from Kramnik´s generation.
All in all, it was very interesting match. Both players played on very high level, but their openings were a bit experimental. I still think that Kramnik would win a long match against Aronian (he simply would squeeze some wins, and probably neutralise Aronian with black) but that is just a speculation. On the other hand, Aronian has a clearly better chances to win a candidate tournament.

  • The next big event is World Champion match in Moscow between Anand and Gelfand.
  • In a few days starts Bosna 2012 open in Sarajevo and shortly after that Sigeman & co  a closed round robin in Malmö, and I will try to provide some information from both tournaments. Still I am not sure should I have internet connection during a tournament in Sarajevo.
  • FIDE published a new Elo list yesterday. Still, there are not players from Bosnia and Herzegovina, because of debt of our Chess Union (although, I am not in the top 10 right now, but soon, I will be back). Instead, I will provide Swedish top 10:
1. Evgenij Agrest 2614
2. Emanuel Berg 2587
3. Tiger Hillarp Persson 2578
4. Slavko Cicak 2572
5. Ulf Andersson 2571
6. Hans Tikkanen 2566
7. Jonny Hector 2560
8. Nils Grandelius 2556
9. Pontus Carlsson 2531
10. Stellan Brynell 2489 
  • The 7th Mikhail Tal Memorial will take place from 7th to 19th June, 2012, in Moscow, Russia. This years edition will be earlier than usual.

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