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Hari fails the Kramnik test

by Sagar Shah - 29/04/2016

With 4.0/7 Harikrishna had chances for an excellent finish at the Norway Chess 2016. However, in the eighth round he came across the positional genius of Vladimir Kramnik. The Russian's subtle ideas and moves were too much for Hari to handle as in a matter of five moves his position went from being equal to nearly lost. With this defeat Hari is back to 50%. But he still has chances for a top finish if he can beat Aronian in the last round. We have the game analysis for you along with critical points where we can learn from the ex-World Champion.

Recently Vladimir Kramnik has developed a style of play, which quite simply put, transfers the entire weight of the struggle to the middlegame. He is never really looking for an opening advantage. It is true that this approach sometimes backfires as he gets absolutely nothing out of the first few moves, but on Thursday it worked perfectly against Harikrishna Pentala. The Russian players first three moves were 1.Nf3 2.g3 and 3.e3!? It was obvious that the Indian came out of the opening with absolutely no issues. But just out of nowhere problems started to crop up in the position for Hari.

Kramnik's Nf3-g5 was a move that was trying to feel his opponent's position. The sole purpose of moving the knight to g5 was to induce some weaknesses in opponent's camp. And Hari did just that.

A few moves later the knight had done the damage, returned back to f3 and jumped to d4 and eyed the juicy e6 and f5 squares. The damage was beyond repair for Black.

The speed with which Harikrishna's position spiralled downwards was quite unbelievable [picture by Joachim Steinbru]

How can you beat a man who concentrates like that! [picture by Joachim Steinbru]

Here's the game with analysis for you to learn from the Big Vlad:

[Event "4th Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2016.04.28"]
[Round "8.5"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A04"]
[WhiteElo "2801"]
[BlackElo "2763"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "93"]
[EventDate "2016.04.19"]
1. Nf3 e6 2. g3 b5 $5 {Harikrishna is not afraid of making some bold moves
against the ex-World Champion.} 3. e3 $5 {Kramnik is in mood for creative
chess. The normal reply would have been Bg2. But with e3 the Russian wants to
prove that e3 is much more useful than a6.} a6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O Nf6 6. b3 c5
7. c4 Be7 8. Nc3 O-O {Truth be told there seems absolutely nothing wrong with
Black's position. He has comfortably equalized out of the opening.} 9. d4 (9.
cxb5 $6 axb5 10. Nxb5 Ba6 $1 $15 {is strong because the rook on a1 is
undefended and hence a4 is not possible.}) 9... d5 10. cxd5 (10. Ne5 Qc7 $15)
10... Nxd5 11. Nxd5 Bxd5 12. dxc5 Bxc5 (12... Nd7 {And taking with the knight
was also possible.}) 13. Qe2 Nd7 14. Rd1 Qe7 15. Bb2 Rac8 16. Rac1 Bb7 (16...
Nf6 17. Ne5 $14 {is also a slight edge for White.}) (16... f6 $5 {With the
idea of later going e5 can be an idea.}) 17. Ng5 $1 {Kramnik is quick to seize
the moment. With this move he is threatening things like Ne4 when his knight
would be looking at the juicy d6 square. Also Qd3 comes into the picture.} Bxg2
18. Kxg2 f5 (18... Qxg5 19. Rxd7 $16) (18... Nf6 19. Bxf6 Qxf6 20. Qh5 $1 Qh6 (
20... h6 $2 21. Ne4 $18) 21. Qxh6 gxh6 22. Ne4 $14) 19. e4 $1 h6 20. Nf3 Nf6 (
20... f4 21. Rc2 {With the idea of doubling on the d or the c-file is pretty
strong. But this is much better than what occured in the game.}) 21. exf5 exf5
22. Qxe7 Bxe7 23. Nd4 $1 $16 {The knight is looking at f5 and e6 and just like
that Black is almost lost! This is why Kramnik was and is still called a
positional genius.} Rxc1 24. Rxc1 Nd5 25. Ne6 Rf7 26. Rc8+ Kh7 27. Ra8 (27.
Bxg7 Rxg7 28. Nxg7 Kxg7 29. Rc6 Nb4 {And White is better but Black is fighting.
}) 27... f4 28. Rxa6 {White is just a clean pawn up.} fxg3 29. hxg3 Bf6 30. Bc1
Re7 31. Rd6 Nc3 32. a3 Kg8 33. Bb2 Ra7 34. Rc6 Nd5 35. Bxf6 Nxf6 36. Rc7 $1 {
Following Botvinnik's rule. Knight endgames are like pawn endgames. The extra
pawn will tell.} Rxa3 37. Rxg7+ Kh8 38. Rg6 Ne4 39. Rxh6+ {Two pawns up,
further resistance is futile.} Kg8 40. Rh4 Nd2 41. b4 Nc4 42. Nc7 Ra2 43. Re4
Nd6 44. Rd4 Nf5 45. Rd8+ Kf7 46. Nxb5 Rb2 47. Rd3 {A fine game by Kramnik but
a crucial loss for Hari, who effectively cannot fight for the top three spots
in the tournament.} 1-0

Not even the best of defensive techniques could have helped Hari save this game
Carlsen's loss to Aronian in the eighth round has thrown this tournament wide open

Watch Daniel King analyze Aronian vs Carlsen

Harikrishna still has a chance for a top finish if he beats Aronian today. If Eljanov beats Carlsen, Grandelius holds MVL and Topalov versus Kramnik ends in a draw, then everyone ends on 5.0/9! It will be an exciting final round! You can watch it live on our newspage.