GOTM; October, 2004.   

  Welcome to my  ...  "Game of The Month," for October, 2004.  


  BOO!  (A Halloween reference, my daughter asked me to put this in.)  

This is a fairly well-annotated game, from recent GM practice. This is a contest that is primarily aimed at players rated approximately 1000-to-1650 in (USCF) rating strength. There is lots of repetitive stuff, and explanations; but before you get offended and write me a letter, please remember who I started this feature for.  (Lower-rated players!)  And while this feature is aimed at less experienced players ... and you will often find the simplest idea or variation explained ... it is my sincere hope that even the exalted MASTER class of player would find this work of some value. (At least I truly hope so.)  

I have tried to consult ECO, NCO, MCO, etc. I key this work ... for the most part - to  MCO-14  ... because this is the most popular and current reference work on the market today. (You can still easily find this book on any commercial web site, like Amazon.)  When some other - more popular or more current work - replaces MCO-14, then I will use that work instead. (But I will be the one who decides what reference is used!)  


My methods remain reasonably constant. This game is the work of  MANY  hours of work and analysis.  I also have consulted nearly every book in my library  on this particular opening line ... and I have done literally dozens of database searches. I have also attempted to use the computer to analyze this game every step of the way. (Please read earlier installments of my columns if you wish to know more.) 


You can now click  here  to see the games that I looked at - some very closely - that were seriously considered for this month's  "GOTM"  feature. These games are  NOT  annotated ... however I spent many hours looking at this small group of games. (Some were simply too long, others were decided by a simple blunder. In others, the openings were too similar to games I have done previously. I have also tried to avoid doing the games of the same player over and over and over again.) In the end, I chose this one. Good or bad, I thought this had to be one of the best games of the whole month. I thought that many people might be interested to see the games that I had seriously considered. You decide!! Tell me, did I choose the best game? 

  This is basically a text-based page. (With just a few diagrams.) I strongly suggest that you use a chess set.  


   Click  HERE  to see this game on a  java-script re-play  board.   (You can also find this game on the CG server.) 

     Click  HERE  to see an explanation of the symbols I use.    

 GM Peter Leko (2741) - GM Vladimir Kramnik (2770) 
  The (Centro Dannemann) Classical  {chess}  World's Championship  
  Brissago, SUI; (Round #05), / 02,10,2004.  

 [A.J. Goldsby I] 

 gotm_oct-04_med.gif, 02KB

<< The Classical World Chess Championship takes place at the Centro Dannemann in Brissago, Switzerland; September 25th - October 18th, 2004. A total of 14 games will be played under classical time controls. Vladimir Kramnik is defending the title he won from Garry Kasparov in 2000 against Hungarian GM Peter Leko, who qualified at the Dortmund Candidates in 2002. >>  - From a press release on the Internet.  

When GM Vladimir Kramnik won the first game ... with the BLACK (!) pieces, many pundits began to predict a complete rout. But I did not buy into this theory, figuring the loss to be as much first round jitters as anything else.  

Since becoming a world-class GM, Peter Leko has used the KP opening almost religiously. (I could only find two instances of Leko using the QP opening in the database ... the last of these occurred in 1998.)  So to switch to a QP during the match would be a definite surprise, Leko had no history at all, (with the QP opening);  to study.  

<< Leko switched to 1.d4 and surprised Kramnik with a quiet line of the Queen's Gambit, something that Kramnik likes to play himself. The world champion defended well   
     and reached an endgame a pawn down but with a draw looking very likely. >>   -  From the CB website.  

I had suggested to several friends (on the Internet) that Leko might switch to the QP, but most really did not take this idea seriously. But on the morning of the fifth game, my phone rang, and a {former} chess student from  New York  was calling to tell me that Leko had indeed switched to the move, 1.d2-d4.  

The only question remained ... what system would Leko use now? He decided to use an early Bf4, which is a slow system that was sometimes used (on occasion) by Steinitz, Rubinstein and even Capablanca. [Of modern masters, I only really remember Victor Kortschnoij using this system at the highest levels. He even defeated Karpov in a WCS Match game with this opening.]   

In my opinion, Kramnik's play looked rather spotty; his opening strategy appeared to be flawed.  Soon he had an isolated pawn - Kramnik even lost a button - but most of the pundits on the Internet were still predicting a draw. (A former U.S. Champ even sent me a very detailed e-mail during the game, explaining why the game would be drawn!)  

But I do not know if Kramnik tired ... or if Leko simply outplayed him.  (Maybe ... just a little bit of both?)  But in the end, Leko scored the full point and equalized the match score. (Possibly demoralizing the Champion, especially in a match of such a short duration?)  

The ratings are those of FIDE ... and I believe are accurate here.  

(This is game five of the match.)  

 1.d4!?,  (Possibly - '!')  
Just as when Bobby Fischer began using Queen-side openings in his (1972) match with Boris Spassky, the use of the QP had to come as something of a surprise here.  

In the post-game interview, Leko said he wanted to "torture Kramnik for a while," just as the Champ enjoys torturing his opponents from the White side of the QP-opening.  

     [ In games One and Three, (of this match); Leko had used his favorite move:   1.e4,   to open his games.  (I should also  
        note that Leko got almost nowhere in the opening - which may have prompted the change to 1.d4.) ]   


 1...Nf6;  2.c4 e6;  3.Nf3,   
A simple developing move. (And there is nothing wrong with that.)  

     [ The only real question was if Leko had played:    3.Nc3{Diagram?}   
        would Kramnik have played the <'dreaded'>   Nimzo-Indian (Defence)? 
        [3...Bb4]  I searched the databases very thoroughly. I only found around 
        30 instances of Kramnik using the Nimzo, and around half of these were 
        fast games. (Games played at rapid or blitz chess.)  

       Additionally, Kramnik's results with this opening system were not all that 
       impressive, I found several instances of Kramnik losing with this line. 
       (Like Kramnik's loss to FIDE Champ, GM Rustam Ponomariov at 
        Wijk aan Zee, NED;  last year, {2003}.)  ]   


 3...d5;  ('!?' or even - '!')      
Kramnik is VERY much a classical player - who likes classical openings. (Like 1.d4, d5;  and also  1.e4, e5.)  

Here he transposes to the most sturdy and solid way of meeting the move of 1.d2-d4, the Queen's Gambit Declined.   


     [ Kramnik also likes to use the opening that begins with the move of:  
        3...b6!?{Diagram?}    (The Queen's Indian Defence.)  

       I found 21 instances in the database of Kramnik employing this opening since the 
       year, 1999. (Kramnik's overall results with this opening have been pretty good.)   

       (I should go on to note while this game represents Leko's first use of the QP opening 
        in this match, he used it in later games as well. And in at least two of these, GM Kramnik 
        did indeed use the very respected Queen's Indian Defense. 

       {I began annotating this game almost as soon as it was played. I had no idea - when 
         Leko first utilized it - if the QP was a 1-time thing, of if Leko planned on using it for 
         the rest of the match.}  Friday;  October 15th, 2004 .)  ]   


 4.Nc3 Be7;   
Simple - safe - and sound development. Black's last move also prepares castling. I would say from a standpoint of pure principle, that this is one of the most solid options for Black.  


     [ Black could try:   4...c5!?which I believe would lead to a  "Semi-Tarrasch"  system.  ]  



 5.Bf4!?,  (Another surprise!)   {See the diagram ... just below.}   
GM Nick de Firmian - on page # 389 of MCO (14) - calls this particular line,  ... "a {very} viable alternative"  (to the regular lines).  



 Diag. # 1, after 5.Bf4  (gotm_oct-04-pos1.gif, 09 KB)



Many top GM's have used this system on occasion, but I know of  no 'Top 100' player who uses this slightly off-beat line on a truly regular basis. {This is NOT to imply that there is anything wrong with this whole system ... but it does have a reputation as being somewhat drawish.}  One notable exception is Dutch GM Loek van Wely - who has used this system quite often in the last 10-15 years.  


> Kramnik himself has used this line (as White) on various occasions. One of the better games that come to mind is his fine victory over  
   GM Artur Yusupov
at  Dortmund, GER;  in  1997. (1-0 in 44 moves.) <  

[ See also the following contest GM V. Kramnik - GM Nigel ShortICT / CORUS Masters  /  Wijk aan Zee, NED;  2000. ]   

My only question is - why did Leko choose this system? Did he note some defense (by Kramnik) in this line that made him (or his team) want to try this? Or was it just a good, solid, and very easy (non-theoretical) line that Leko thought might be easy to learn? (Unless Leko writes a book on this match, we may never know.)   

    ---> [See all the lines in MCO-15; page #420; columns #01 through col. #06 ... and all the applicable notes.]  (This note added April, 2015.) 


     [ If White wanted to - it was not too late to transpose back into the main lines 
        of the  QGD  by playing the following moves:   
        5.Bg5 0-06.e3 Nbd77.Rc1 c68.Bd3, "+/="  {Diagram?}    
        White holds a solid edge.  

        See the recent encounter:   
        GM Vassily Ivanchuk (2716) - GM Karen Asrian (2605);   
        ICT / 5th IECC  (1/2, 46 moves.)Antalya, TUR;  2004.   
        {This game was a tough, long struggle - that was drawn.} ]    


 5...0-0;  6.e3 c5!?;   {See the diagram - just below here.}   

Supposedly ... this is the best move here, the main - BOOK - line. Yet after this game, it is my feeling that this position might need to be re-evaluated!  
(White plays fairly simple moves ... and gets a very substantial advantage.)   



Diag. # 2, after 6...c5.  (gotm_oct-04-pos2.gif, 09 KB)



A good place for a look around.  


     [ Maybe  6...a6;  is worth a try? ]   


 7.dxc5 Bxc5!?;  (Maybe - '?!')    
Again - this is book - but does that mean it is really all that good?  (Or even best?)  


     [   Maybe a little better than the game was the continuation:   
          >/=  7...dxc4!8.Qxd8 Rxd89.Bxc4, "+/="  9...Bxc5{Diagram?}   
          White is clearly (a little) better ...  but Black has no structural problems 
          in this position. 

         {I found no master games in the database with this particular position.}  ]    


 8.cxd5!,  (d5-square)   {Diagram?}   
To me it makes great sense to immediately go after the pawn structure and give Black an isolated Pawn. (Several books say that the main line is either Qc2 or a3 in this position.)   


     [ According to one book  have on the Queen's Gambit Declined, the continuation of:   
        is probably best for White.  (This volume is only about five years old, so it hardly 
        can be considered out of date!)  


        One (fairly reliable) reference book gives the continuation of:  
        8.Qc2 Nc69.a3 Qa510.0-0-0 Be711.h4!? Rd8{Diag?}  
        Black's position looks OK here.  

        White's next move is designed to open the g-file ... experience has 
        shown that Black should not open this key line.  
        12.g4!? Bd7!13.Kb1 dxc414.Bxc4 Rac815.g5 Nh5{Diag?}  
        The end of the column here.  

        16.Bd6 g6!?17.Be2 Bxd618.Rxd6, "+/="  18...Ne7{Diagram?}   
         "Black gradually equalized from this position."  - GM Nick de Firmian   
          (I think that White is just a tad better from here. {A.J.G.})  

        GM Garry Kasparov - GM Jaan Ehlvest;  
        ICT / (Super) Masters {Invitational} / Novgorod, RUS;  1995.  
        {1/2 - 1/2;  in 43 moves.}  [replay

        [ See MCO-14,  page # 416;  col. # 61, and also note # (f.). ]  ]   


We continue marching down a  (big-time)  {main}  book line.   
 8...Nxd5;  9.Nxd5 exd5;  10.a3! Nc6;  11.Bd3 Bb6;  12.0-0 Bg4;  13.h3!? Bh5;  14.b4 Re8!?;   {See the diagram ... just below.}     

This looks like a very logical move, and naturally places pressure on the half-open file in this position.  



 Diag. # 3, after 14...Re8. (gotm_oct-04-pos3.gif, 08 KB)



Kramnik has used this line before.  

See the contest: 
GM L. van Wely - GM V. Kramnik;  / ICT / 10th Melody Amber (rapid) / Monaco, 2001.  
(This game was a draw, but it took 91 moves!)  [replay]  


     [ Probably better was:  >/=  14...a615.Rc1 d4!{Diagram?}   
       The end of the column here.  

       16.g4!? Bg617.e4 Re818.Nd2 Rc819.Bg3 f6!?{Diagram?}  
       This position looks close to being unclear ... GM Nick de Firmian says 
       that (now) f4, "+/="  is slightly better for White ... but I am not so sure.   

       See the GM clash:   
       Alexander Beliavsky - Kiril Georgiev;  ICT / Masters  
       Biel, SUI;  1992.   {Drawn in 33 moves.}  [replay]  

       [ See MCO-14,  page # 416; col. # 66, and also note # (z.). ]  ]    


 15.Rc1!?,  (Maybe - '!')    
A natural move ... occupying the only open file.  


     [ Deep Fritz prefers:  15.b5!?, "+/="  {Diagram?} in this particular position. ]   


 15...a6!?;  {best?}   {Diag?}   
Once again we see a natural-looking move, but should Black pursue a more aggressive line of play from this position?   

BTW, this is all still book here.  


     [ One chess column gives: 15...d4!?16.b5 Bxf317.Qxf3 Ne5; "<=>"  {Diagram?}  as an improvement here. ]   


 16.Bxa6!?,  (hmmm)    
During the game ... there was not a lot of agreement if this move was good or bad. 
(Some said yes, some said no, many were not sure.)   

AFTER the game - a friend sent me an email, he had scanned a whole chess column, and sent it to me as an attachment - one writer awarded this a DOUBLE EXCLAM ('!!') here.  

I think the move is OK  ...  but it HARDLY wins by force!!!   

Deep Junior - after nearly 15 minutes of machine time - is not impressed either, and awards a slight edge ... to BLACK!!  

Several pundits ... including one GM on ICC (!!) - after the game ... have referred to Bxa6 here as a ...  "brilliant novelty."  But the simple fact is that it is neither brilliant, nor new.  


According to my database,  Bxa6  first  occurred in a postal game in the 1980's. 

The first  OTB  use of this move that I could find in the CB database was the encounter:   
GM V. Malakhatko - GM E. Pigusov; / Second (2nd) European Championships /  Ohrid,  (F.Y.R.o.) Macedonia; 2001.  {The game was drawn in 44 moves.}   




     [ Another possibility would be:  16.Re1!?, "="  (Maybe - "+/=")  {Diagram?}  
        with a playable game. ]   


 16...Rxa6;  {Box.}   
Practically the only good move for Black in this position.  


     [ Vastly inferior would be:  </=  16...bxa6?17.Rxc6, "+/="  {Diag?}  and White is clearly much better.  (Maybe just - '')  ]   


The next few moves look to be relatively forced or best.  
 17.b5 Rxa3;  18.bxc6 bxc6;  19.Rxc6,  (best)   {See the diagram - just below here.}   
Still pretty much in book.  
(Like 10 games in the database with this position ... all with solid masters, and all ending in a draw.)  



 Diag. # 4, after 19.Rxc6.  (gotm_oct-04-pos4.gif, 08 KB)



White is a little better here.  


     [ Interesting was:  19.g4!? but this might help Black put his QB on a better diagonal. ]  


 19...Ra7!?;  (Maybe - '?!/?')   {Diagram?}  
This is the  BOOK   response ... but it looks  pretty awful  to me.   
(Karpov and Anand played this position to a draw in 2002, but it took 114 moves!!)   [replay]  


In Kramnik's favor is the argument that he probably went over this line fairly quickly ... and remembered that this was SUPPOSED to be a draw. The other side of the coin is that Kramnik is both a GM and is the acting (World) champion  ...  he should be able to analyze a little here.  

Also in Kramnik's defense is the fact that this has been played at least a dozen times before. Many of these encounters were solid "GM-versus-GM"  clashes  ...  
and therefore the results from this particular position, (ALL DRAWS!!); should have been reliable.  

One GM - from the  "Play-Chess"  server - explained to me that Black has a slightly bad game  ...  and will gladly dump the pawn to reach what should be a theoretical draw.  



      [ It does not take  Fritz  but a few seconds  to come up the move:   
          >/=  19...Re6!;  "~"  {Diagram?}   
        which is vastly superior to the text ... and does NOT lose any Pawns.  
        (Doesn't anyone bother to check any of this stuff?)     

        GM A. Dreev - GM Kir. Georgiev; / ICT / Super-Master {event}   
        Sarajevo, BOS;  2001.  {This game was drawn in 62 moves.}  [replay]  


        This line has also been played in several other master-level games.  
        They are all there in the database. No excuse for missing this here!   
        {In this age where computers are used - perhaps overly so - the  
          "scores"  between these two lines is simply too great to overlook!} 

        Editor's note:  I just replayed the game above. Black does eventually sacrifice 
        his QP ... but he manages to reach a theoretically drawn R+P endgame ... 
        and Black holds the draw without too much difficulty. (WED. Feb. 01, 2012.)



Now White wins a Pawn, outright.  
(But allows the second player to wreck his King-side Pawn structure.) 
 20.Rd6 Rd7;  21.Qxd5 Rxd6;  22.Qxd6 Qxd6;  23.Bxd6 Bxf3;  24.gxf3 Bd8!;  25.Rb1 Bf6;  26.Kg2 g6;  ('!')  {Diagram?}      
This is best ... we are following the analysis of a fairly well-known game in this line.  

Several  end-game experts  confirmed to me that the results of this position should be ...  
"an easy draw, all the second player must do is keep his Bishop on the long diagonal ... and trade all the Pawns." 

   (Theory versus practice!!)      


 27.f4!, ''  (nice)   {See the diagram - just below the paragraph below.}     
Believe it or not - this is all still 'book.'  (I nearly fainted when an IM sent me a message on ICC and told me that this was a draw. I said something original like:  "Why do you say that?" and he replied that:  "This has all been played several times before ... the result from this position has ALWAYS been a draw!")  Unreal!!!   



 Diag. # 5, after 27.f4!  (gotm_oct-04-pos5.gif, 07 KB)



"The game followed known paths for twenty seven moves and then reached an endgame with rook,   
   bishop and four pawns to rook, bishop and three."  - IM Malcolm Pein / Chess Express   [more]   


I like the idea of f4. --->  If Black can draw this endgame by keeping his Bishop on the long diagonal, then it makes good sense to try the idea of f4, followed by e3-e4-e5, to displace the Bishop. (This move, 27.f4!,  is also the first choice of several strong chess programs.)  


     [ Another idea here was:  </=  27.e4!?{Diagram?}    
        but it would not be as accurate as the text, I imagine. ]  


 27...Kg7;  (hmmm)    
This does not quite do the trick for Black ... who suffers from several problems here, including a tender back rank. 
(If Black moves the Rook off the first row, White might place his Rook there. Then the first player would be threatening Bf8+, to be followed by Bh6+, and mate. 
 This problem will exist as long as the Black Bishop is on the f6-square, the Black King is on g7, and the Black buttons are on f7, g6 and also the h7-square.)   

     [ Maybe   27...Rd8!?  instead?  ]   


White has a very clear edge now.  

Over the next series of moves, both sides simply jockey back and forth for position. 
(Both players often repeat the position, this is probably just in an effort to gain time on the clock!)   
 28.Rb7 Re6;  29.Rd7 Re8;  30.Ra7!? Re6;  31.Bc5 Rc6;  32.Ra5 Bc3;  33.Rb5 Ra6!?;      
This looks static, safe ... but somewhat passive.  


     [ Was the move of:   33...Kf6!?{Diagram?}   
        too dangerous for Black to try in this position? ]   


 34.Rb3 Bf6;  35.Rb8 h5;  {Diagram?}    
Black decides he needs a little air here. (The move of  35...Ba1; was also worthy of consideration.)  


 36.Rb5 Bc3;  37.Rb3 Bf6;  38.e4!,  (hurray!)    
I guess Leko decided that he was close enough to the time control to try this ... besides, after one or two more trips to b5 by the Rook, the game would be drawn.  


     [ Or if   </=  38.Rb5!?,  then  38...Bc3; "="    looks like a draw offer. ]   


 38...Ra5;  39.Be3 Ra4;  40.e5 Be7;  41.Rb7 Kf8;  42.Rb8+ Kg7;  43.Kf3,    {See the diagram - just below here.}       
If White does not use his King actively in this ending, he will be unable to make any headway here.  



 Diag. # 6, after 43.Kf3.  (gotm_oct-04-pos6.gif, 07 KB)



The funny thing is that, while possibly not always proceeding in the most efficient manner, Leko has managed to make  real progress  in this ending.  


     [ >/= 43.Rb7 Kf844.Rb8+ Kg7; "=" ]    


White now goes on a long  'road trip'  with his King ... it didn't really seem to accomplish a whole lot, other than the fact that Kramnik consumed a great deal of time on the clock!   
 43...Rc4;  44.Ke2 Ra4;  45.Kd3 Bh4;  46.Bd4 Ra3+;  47.Kc2!? Ra2+;   48.Kd3 Ra3+;  {Diag?}   
Kramnik does a good job of trying to avoid the really obvious stuff.   


     [ GM Kramnik does not fall into simple traps. Therefore, Black should NOT play:  
        </=  48...Bxf2?49.e6+! Bxd4[]{Diagram?}   
        Absolutely forced.  

             ( Not  </= 49...Kh7 ???;  50.Rh8#.     

               Also  </= 49...f6?;  50.e7,  "+/-"  {Diag?}     
               is completely lost for Black. )       

        50.e7 Ra3+51.Kxd4 Ra4+52.Kd5 Ra5+;   53.Kc6 Ra6+  
        54.Kd7,  "+/-"  {Diagram?}   and Black should resign. ]    



White continues to dance about with his King.   
 49.Kc4 Ra4+;  50.Kd5 Ra5+;  51.Kc6 Ra4;  {Box?}   
This is probably best.  


     [ Going much too far would have been: </=  51...Ra6+?{Diagram?}   as after Kb5, Black is lost. ]   


 52.Kc5 Be7+!?;   
Black is already in very dire straights ... but maybe  putting the Rook on a7 was a little better.  

     [ Maybe  (>/=)  52...Ra7{Diagram?}   in this position for Black?  ]   


The King continues to run - - - finally finding a degree of shelter here on the e4-square.   
 53.Kd5 Ra5+;  54.Ke4 Ra4;  55.Rc8!,  (Maybe - '!!')   {See the diagram ... just below.}    
A very, very fine move here.  It is a good precaution (for White) to get off the dark squares, (Black Bishop); additionally, Black is running out of useful waiting moves here.  



 Diag. # 7, after 55.Rc8.  (gotm_oct-04-pos7.gif, 07 KB)



White has - if a little erratically - achieved a very dominant position.  


     [ One pundit suggested:   </=  55.f3?{Diagram?}   
        I can't believe that he was getting paid to comment on the games!  ]   


 55...Bh4!?;  (Maybe - '?!')   {See the diagram ... just below.}       
This simply loses ... but it takes a fairly nice combo to pull it off.  

The move,  ...h4; was a little better, but Black is probably lost in this position ... no matter what he plays.
(Most of Black's problems stem from the faulty decision that he made to enter this stupid ending in the first place!)   



 Diag. # 8, after 55...Bh4.  (gotm_oct-04-pos8.gif, 07 KB)



{One writer labeled this,  "the losing move"  ...  but give him a scattergun, and he couldn't hit the big side of a country barn in broad daylight!!!} 


     [ Maybe slightly better was:  
        >/=  55...h4; ('!')  56.f3 f6{Diagram?}  
        but now Leko plays:  57.Kd5!{Diagram?}  
        and White will probably win in the end. ("+/-")  
        Even if Black finds the absolute best, possible   
        moves ... every single time.}   


       Another interesting try is:   
        "="  55...Ra6!?56.f5!,  "+/-"  {Diagram?}   
       and several HOURS of analysis leads me to believe 
       that White is winning in this position.  
       (...Ra6!?;  was the suggestion of  ChessMaster 9000 ...   
        but the program's evaluation clearly shows that White 
        is on top.)  ]  


White to move and win ... What move would YOU play for the first player in this position?   
  56.e6+!! Bf6[];  57.e7! Rxd4+;  58.Ke3,  (Uh-oh.)   {See the diagram ... just below.}     
The point of all this play? Black must now surrender his Rook to prevent the White Pawn from getting promoted.  



 Diag. # 9, after 58.Ke3.  (gotm_oct-04-pos9.gif, 07 KB)



This is a good place for a  {chess} picture, to try and get a good idea of what is happening here.  


     [ Not:  </=  58.Kf3?? Bxe7;  "/+" ]    


 58...Bxe7;  59.Kxd4 Bh4!?;   
Several pundits - also - condemned this play as errant, and as the losing move.   
(Three different people sent me copies of various newspaper columns, {as e-mail attachments};  ... two of these decided that this was THE losing move!)   

For example:  
"The only possible defence after this was to put the black bishop on the h8-a1 diagonal and play f5.  
  After  59...Bh4;  it is surely lost."  - IM Malcolm Pein   < Chess Express, # 79. 10/4/04 >  

The simple answer is that I have spent hours with this position. Detailed study - constantly using the computer - and also accessing all of my endgame books, 
leads me to believe the following:  

A.)  Pein's advice is correct ... but only on principle;
B.)  Black is probably lost in this position, no matter what move he now plays. {See the analysis just below.} 

 ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***  

---> Yet another quote here:   
<< Immediately after the game, GM Amador Rodriguez commented on Kramnik's own website ...  
      (, "The above position is well-known as a theoretical draw, and therefore 
      the result of the game was still unclear."  At the top of that web page was the chess proverb:  
      "A chess master is a good, informed amateur."  

      All over the world there were GM's on the Internet explaining why it could only be a draw, but 
      Leko was in no hurry to agree...  

      After the game, (in an interview); he {Kramnik} commented, "In the Rb1 variation of the Grunfeld,  
      there is a long variation, which arrives in exactly this endgame, and this was part of my repertoire as 
      Black. I knew if the bishop stays on long diagonal, it's a draw, but after the time control, Black is not   
      in time to place bishop on long diagonal."  

         Keene {Kramnik?} continues:    
      "There are a couple of well known theoretically drawn positions relevant here  known as 'fortresses', 
        because while White has a plus in material and freedom to manoeuvre, there is no way to make progress."    
        [notes w/ diagrams omitted]   

      "What makes the real difference is that Black has yet to set up the fortress, and before he can do so Leko's 
        check on move 61 pushes the Black king to a square that the Bishop would like to use." >>    
         - GM Raymond Keene  (  

 ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***  

If you are curious, and would like to know exactly what a few of these specialized endgames are - then you need to consult a good work on the endings. (NOT an overall, general work! 

Two good examples are "Basic Chess Endings,"  by GM R. Fine, and also the catalog of endings, generally known as ... ... ...   
  "The Encyclopedia of Chess Endgames,"  by the same folks who bring you the INFORMANT.)   


     [  Variation  # 59B01.)  
        Black can try to get his Bishop to the long diagonal, but after:   
        "="   59...Bf6+!?60.Ke4 Ba161.f5!, ''    Maybe "+/-"  {Diagram?}    
        White is clearly on top.   

        {The evaluations here are just as bad - or worse - than the actual game!}  
         I argued ... nearly endlessly, for days, most via e-mails  ...  with several Masters.   
         They all said Black draws this. Yet one night on one server, I took on practically 
         a whole army of players from this position. I able to win ... EVERY SINGLE TIME!!!    
         (It was agreed beforehand that both sides could consult or use a computer, to aid in 


        Variation  # 59B02.)   
       Totally useless would be:  
       </=  59...f5?!60.Ke5! Bh4!?61.Rc7+ Kh662.Rc2! Kg7  
        63.Ke6,  "+/-"  {Diagram?}   
        White's position is overwhelming, he will shortly win more material. ]   


The rest really needs no comment, Kramnik plays on; as though he is unable to believe {accept} that he has been defeated.  
{See the diagram just below for the current position.}  



 Diag. # 10, before 60.f3.  (gotm_oct-04-pos10.gif, 06 KB)



Kramnik does get a few points for his fighting spirit, he only quits when it is blatantly obvious that he is lost.   


Now it is time for Leko to wrap things up. 
 60.f3 f5!?;  61.Rc7+ Kf6;  62.Kd5 Bg3;  ('?')  [Maybe the REAL losing move!]          
Seemingly inconsequential ... but this move could be a mistake.   


     [ GM Pal Benko  points out the vastly superior continuation for Black:    
        >/=  62...Be1!!63.Rc6+ Kf7! 64.Ke5 Ba5!!65.Rf6+ Kg7!    
        66.Ke6 Bc3!67.Rf7+ Kg8!;   "~"   {Diagram?}      
        and its a draw - "because the White King cannot get any closer."      
        - P. Benko,  in his 'Endgame Lab' column; see the April CL, pg. # 57.    

        If this is correct - and it certainly appears to be a fortress for Black - this     
        is a really big improvement over the course of the actual game.   

        {Editor's note: A lot of people talked about how Black could draw, Benko  
         is the first one to clearly demonstrate it. I spent several hours last night  
         attempting to break down Black's defenses ... all the time, assisted by the  
         computer. I was unable to pierce Black's shield here.} April 15th, 2005.  

         Editor's note: "CL"  =  The 'Chess Life' (USCF) magazine.  ]   


 63.Rc6+ Kg7;  64.Ke5 h4;  65.Rc7+ Kh6[];  {Diag?}     
(This is) completely forced.  

     [ Not  </=  65...Kh8?66.Kf6!, "+/-" ]   


 66.Rc4! Kg7;  67.Ke6! Bh2;  68.Rc7+ Kh6;  69.Kf7!,  ("+/-")   {See the final diagram ... just below.}  
 Black Resigns.    

   (Editor's note:  Black will lose his g-pawn ... when the loss cannot be avoided.)   



 Diag. # 11, after 69.Kf7.  (gotm_oct-04-pos11.gif, 06 KB)



     [ The loss of more material is inevitable here, i.e.:  
        69.Kf7!, Bxf470.Rc6, Kh571.Rxg6, Be372.Kf6, f473.Rg8!?, Bd4+  
        74.Kf5, ('!')  74...Kh6[]75.KxP/f4,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}   ... and wins. ]   


This - obviously! - was not Kramnik's best game. However, this contest reminded me of yet another struggle that Leko won in similar fashion. (Linares, 2004?)  ALL the titled players said that game was a draw as well, yet Leko just continued to play  ...  and eventually was able to improve his position enough to be able to finally triumph there.  

This could have been the decisive, turning point for the match. A really difficult ending - a true ...  "Clash of The Titans."   

This game also has a significant impact on theory - Leko has made it very clear that Black cannot count on drawing this ending. 




   1 - 0   



   Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2004.  All rights reserved.   


Another perspective on this fascinating struggle. 

  (HTML code, initially)  Generated with  ChessBase 8.0   

  All the diagrams on this page, were generated with the excellent little program,  Chess_Captor 2.25 

  [ The official  web-site  for this match. ---> I checked this link in 2006 - it is no longer working. ]     [ The LCC/TWIC  site  for this match. ]  
  [ The CB  report  for this game. All CB reports for this match. ]  

  For further study.  

I recommend that the serious student study the following games - to deepen their understanding of the opening and the types of positions that arise from this particular opening system.  

  1. GM V. Korchnoi - GM A. KarpovWorld Champ. Match, Game # 21 / Baguio City, PHI / 1978.  
    A long and somewhat tedious game ... but a win at the highest level here. (1-0, 60 moves.) 

  2. GM M. Krasenkow - GM A. KarpovICT / Rubinstein Memorial; R1 / Polanica Zdroj, POL / 1998. 
    (1-0 in 52 moves.)  A great game, a really tough fight - even if somewhat imperfectly played. (See box, just below #8.) 

  3. GM V. Kramnik - GM N. ShortICT/ Hoogoven's CORUS-Master / Wijk aan Zee, NED; 2000.  
    A fantastic game, rich in fighting content - it shows just how lethal this supposedly dull line can be, especially if Black does not know the best lines ... 
     or plays inaccurately. (1-0, 32 moves.) 

  4. GM Alexander Khalifman (2667) - GM A. ("Big Al") Beliavsky (2654);  XVI European Chess Championships / Neum, BIH (Rnd. # 02)25,09,2000.  
    (1-0 in 42 moves.)
      Another tough fight that ends in a victory for White in the ending. This game is extremely complex and is worthy of very close and in-depth study.)

  5. GM A. Aleksandrov (2679) - GM Vadim Zvjaginsev (2654)ICT / 5th Karpov Invitational / Poikovsky, RUS; (Round # 02) / 18,03,2004.  
    (0-1, in 47 extremely hard-fought moves.)  Just to balance things out, I show a very difficult victory by Black. Another valiant struggle that would help the student if he (or she!) was willing to subject this encounter to deep study. 

  6. GM Joel Lautier - GM A. Vaisser; The National Championship Tournament / (Round Two) Chartres, France; (FRA) / 2005.  {1-0 in 33 wild & tough moves.}  
    This game is the same line as Leko-Kramnik, but the opening varies slightly. However, I believe this  game  is the perfect study companion to this one, and the play is very typical of this whole line. (It is also a good game to study for tactics!)  [replay]  

  7. GM Garry Kasparov (2805) - GM Rafael A. Vaganian (2640); [D37] / Super-GM Tournament, (Rnd. #5) Novgorod, RUS / 1995. 
    Garry wins an extremely brilliant game in only 24 moves
    . The game IS pretty short ... but it is also a lesson in tactics and sharp play - the kind which I have seen in many GM games. (Sometimes ... in this sub-system ... White will castle on the Q-side and generate a really virulent attack.) 

  8. GM V. Anand (2792) - GM M. Carlsen (2863); FIDE World Chess Championship Match; Game #08 / Sochi, RUS; November 18th, 2014.  
    This game was a really tough, hard-fought draw in 41 total moves. (Anand needed to win, but could not. Black's ...Re8; early in the opening, is a relatively new and untested idea, one that is probably sure to be seen again in the future.) According to the experts in opening theory, this is a very important game for this whole system!  [video] 

[Event "Rubinstein Memorial 35th"]
[Site "Polanica Zdroj"]
[Date "1998.08.17"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Krasenkow, Michal"]
[Black "Karpov, Anatoly"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D37"]
[WhiteElo "2655"]
[BlackElo "2725"]
[PlyCount "103"]
[EventDate "1998.08.17"]
[EventCountry "POL"]
[EventCategory "17"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. a3 Nc6 9. b4 Be7 10. cxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 exd5 12. Bd3 Bf6 13. Rc1 Bg4 14. O-O Qe7 15. h3 Bxf3 16. Qxf3 Rfd8 17. Rfd1 g6 18. Bb1 Ne5 19. Bxe5 Bxe5 20. Ba2 a5 21. Bxd5 Rd7 22. Rc4 axb4 23. axb4 Kg7 24. b5 Rad8 25. e4 h5 26. Qe3 Qf6 27. g3 h4 28. Rf1 hxg3 29. f4 Bc7 30. Qxg3 Qb6+ 31. Kg2 Qf6 32. Qc3 Qxc3 33. Rxc3 Bb6 34. Rfc1 Ra8 35. Kf3 Ra5 36. Rb1 Ra4 37. h4 f5 38. Rd3 fxe4+ 39. Bxe4 Rxd3+ 40. Bxd3 Bc7 41. Be4 Ra3+ 42. Kg4 Ra4 43. Rd1 Rc4 44. Rd7+ Kf8 45. Bxg6 Rxf4+ 46. Kg5 Rc4 47. h5 Bf4+ 48. Kf6 Rc8 49. h6 Kg8 50. Bf5 Re8 51. Be6+ Kh8 52. Bc4, 1-0 

[Replay this game on the CG website.]  

In the end, the lure of annotating a World Championship Game was too much for me. It also was a perplexing puzzle - why would GM V. Kramnik so willingly go into such a bad endgame? 
(Answer - he obviously believed it to be drawn! And so did every one else!!) 

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  This page was first posted on:  Friday; October 15th, 2004.    (The formatting of this page took close to a week, other projects had to be completed first.)  

  The final format ... with diagrams  ...  was completed and posted on: Friday; October 22nd, 2004.    This page was last updated on:  05/07/2015 02:56 PM .  

    COPYRIGHT (c) LM A.J. Goldsby I;   Copyright () A.J. Goldsby; 1985 - 2014.    

  Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 2015. All rights reserved.  

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