Monday 23 April 2012

Kramnik vs. Aronian after two games

After first to games in interesting match between former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik and World´s number 2, Levon Aronian, result is 1,5-0,5 in advantage for Armenian Grandmaster.
There are a lot of chess sites where you can find commentated games and PGN files, and it is not easy to say something new about first two games, but I will try to share some thoughts about it.
Black to move
This is position is already very famous, and every serious chess player knows that both players followed a game from Women European Championship between Gunina V.  -Mazychuk A. and that White won after not so impressive 16...Qd6 ?! . As was pointed by many sourcies 16...Qe6! is by far better choice and Aronian didn´t miss a chance to try it. Kramnik said in after game press conference that he watched a Gunina - Mazychuk game but he forgot to switch on his engine. What that tells me is that leading players like Vladimir Kramnik more believes to practice (reference games) and own analyses than to recommendations from chess magazines and books. Or, at least in this case Kramnik didn´t knew it that CEWN (Chess Evolution Weekly Newslater ) analysed a game very deeply. Of course, I don´t think that Kramnik lost a game because of his poor preparation. That is just one of the reasons.
If we look at a position on next diagram and ask ourselves a question "Would Kramnik lose this position in his match against Kasparov in London 2000 ? ".
Answer is of course not, and actually Kramnik had a bit harder task in some games and he still manages to save himself. There is no doubt that Black is slightly better in this position, but such an endgame expert like Kramnik and such a bad resistant like we saw. 
Kramnik-Aronian White to move
In his best days he would certainly found manoeuvre with Nd2-Nc4 ( not in diagram position but a bit later) which was pointed by computer. This indicates that Kramnik already past his best days and that he is not a serious contender for chess crown. Of course, it can happen, just as Boris Gelfand in his advanced age (in terms of World Champions in last 30 years) can win his WC match against current World Champion Vishvanatan Anand, but I don´t think that is something to expect. What can I say about Aronian is that ,according to what he said in post conference , he thinks that he understood what is a difference between a match and tournament play. Still, this match is very short one, and as Kramnik pointed out in his short interview about WC match Anand-Gelfand, matches today are mote tactical than strategic battle, and it is so because they are to short. I agree with his opinion, and Aronian can play just as in the tournaments, because Kramnik practically can not use his big experience in matches. For example, he needs to play every white game for a win, because it is just a three white games, and in the long matches he can try to set pressure on his oponent´s repertoire who maybe can escape one or two times but in the long term will collapse. However, Aronian played a very good game and his victory is deserved. There were some minor details which he missed but there is no point to search for a spots on the Sun. I will show one instructive moment.
Black to move
It is Aronian´s turn and he played 32...Rf6!? . Later he won pretty easily. He could play better move 32...Ra4! forcing White to exchange rook in favourite version for Black. If he takes 33.Rxa4, Rxa4 34.Nf3, Ra1  Black exchanges last pair of rooks and his win is trivial. If White takes on f4 instead, 33.Rxf4, Rxf4 he is forced to retreat with his knight on inferior squere g2, 34.Ng2 and it seems that win is meter of time. To win a Black game on their level, and in a such a short match can be essential for the outcome. Despite my prediction before the match, I think that Aronian is clear favorite now (still I would put a money on 3-3).
It was very interesting to see how will Kramnik react in a second game. Aronian surprised him with 1.e4 (at least, tried to do that) but Kramnik played his favourite Berlin defence in Ruy Lopez ( would be interesting to hear Kasparov opinion), and without big difficulties he managed to equalise. On the move 19 he offered a draw but Aronian decided to play on. Position was symmetrical with opposite-coloured bishops, but there were 
Aronian-Kramnik game 2
some details. First of all, knights are still on the board and that is in advantage for side who plays for a win (objectively, not by decision). Exchange of knights or both pair of rooks leads to a immediately draw (exchange of one pair of rooks can actually favour White). White bishop is slightly more active. Kramnik played 19...Nf5 and after 20.Bc5 his pawn on a7 is hanging and he can not oppose his rook on d-file.White pawn-chain f3-g2-h3 restricts Black bishop and controls many squares (together with bishop on c5). Kramnik was practically forced to play 20...b6 and after 21.Bf2 ,Rgd8 Aronian played 22. a4  putting pressure on Black´s queen side. Kramnik than found a very strong 22...Ne7 23.a5, c5 24.Nb5, Nc6 taking control of everything. The game continued: 25.Rxd8, Rxd8 26.axb6, axb6 27.Ra6, Rd1+ 28.Kh2, Rd2 and soon they liquidate to a dead draw position. 
Aronian could play 24.g4!
Aronian could play 22.g4 with idea to keep a tension in position. It would be interesting to see how would Kramnik defend this position. Of course position is a draw, but there are some small chances for White. Aronian said in after game press conference that 22.g4 is not a human move and no human will play such a weakening move. It is hard to claim that 22.g4 is better that that what actually happened in the game, but in a case of 22.g4 a game is still alive. This game shows that Aronian still has initiative in the match, but Kramnik recovered from his defeat in the first game. Today is a free day and third game will be played tomorrow and Kramnik has a white pieces. We can expect a real fight and a real try to level a score. In the meanwhile players can enjoy in beautiful Zurich.
Aronian Kramnik Zurich
Click to enlarge

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