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Norway R02: Kramnik outfoxes Anand

by Sagar Shah - 08/06/2017

The second round of the Norway Chess 2017 had only one decisive game. This time it was between Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik. Anand uncorked a very interesting idea in the Ruy Lopez with the white pieces. Kramnik picked up the gauntlet and was a pawn up. Soon Anand recovered the pawn, but went wrong and landed in a difficult ending. Kramnik persisted and converted the advantage into a full point. Check out the game with a break down of the critical positions.

Photos by Lennart Ootes

Games between two ex-World Champions are always very interesting. In the second round of the Altibox Norway Chess 2017 Vishy Anand was pitted against Vladimir Kramnik. Big Vlad had already beaten Vishy in blitz, so Anand was definitely aiming for a revenge. Things became very interesting when Vishy uncorked a new move.


In the above position White played the move 8.Nd5!? which was a very interesting idea. Usually White plays 8.d3 securing the e4 pawn, which has over 100 games that have been played. Only four games have been played in 8.Nd5 with the best white player being rated 2328.

Always coming up with new ideas is Vishy Anand

For the pawn, White has active pieces and pressure on the f6 knight

Soon White recovered the pawn, but in return Black had active pieces on the board. Nothing special, but enough for a small pull.

The critical mistake came in the position where Anand took the pawn on c7, leaving his a2 pawn to be taken. Instead a4 was a stronger move with an equal position.

The outside a-pawn gave Black a clear advantage

The rook coming to e1 was a strong move. In queen endgame, having an outside passed pawn led to a decisive advantage.

Kramnik blocked the check on f7. Now the pawn was going to move to a2 and that's an easy win!
[Event "5th Norway Chess 2017"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2017.06.07"]
[Round "2.3"]
[White "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C77"]
[WhiteElo "2786"]
[BlackElo "2808"]
[Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"]
[PlyCount "120"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Bc5 {An Archangel seems to be
a breath of fresh air after multiple Berlins and Marshalls.} 6. Nc3 $5 {
Something Vishy must have cooked before hand. A specialty of Dominguez, it is
very rare compared to 6.c3} b5 (6... O-O 7. Bxc6 dxc6 8. Nxe5 Re8 {recovers
the pawn, which makes castling a viable alternative to the move in the game})
7. Bb3 O-O 8. Nd5 (8. d3 h6 9. Nd5 {is much more common, seen in many of
Dominguez's games. Anand has his own idea, involving a pawn sacrifice.}) 8...
Nxe4 {Kramnik isn't one to refuse a challenge. Also, any other move lacks
justification} (8... h6 9. c3 {with the idea of a quick d4, looks dangerous}) (
8... Bb7 9. c3 {again might be an issue.}) 9. d3 Nf6 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Nxe7+ Qxe7
12. Re1 {After a more or less forced sequence we arrive at this position.
White clearly has compensation for the pawn: two bishops, pressure on e5 and
better development. Black must play accurately, but his position is still
solid and it is hard to crack any weakness. Sometimes, recovering e5 will not
be sufficient for an advantage.} h6 13. Bh4 (13. Bxf6 Qxf6 14. Bd5 Bb7 15. Nxe5
Nxe5 16. Bxb7 Rae8 {is completely fine for Black, even perhaps better for him
due to the superior piece placement!}) 13... Bb7 14. c3 Rfe8 15. d4 (15. Nxe5
Nxe5 16. d4 Nf3+ 17. gxf3 Qd6 {gives Black an edge. The crippled pawns on the
kingside are worth more than the, for now, uncoordinated bishops.}) 15... e4
16. Nd2 Na5 17. Bc2 g5 18. Bg3 Nc4 {Releasing some pressure off of e4 seems
natural, though Black now has to suffer against the activation of some
important pieces.} (18... d5 19. h4 {gives White obvious counterplay. The
position is still terribly murky.}) 19. Nxc4 bxc4 20. b3 Bd5 21. Be5 $6 {
despite recovering the pawn, this move isn't precise} (21. h4 $1 Qe6 22. hxg5
hxg5 23. Qd2 {puts real pressure on g5}) (21. Bxc7 $5 {is also worth
considering, as the bishop will hide on a5 without problems.}) 21... d6 22.
Bxf6 Qxf6 23. bxc4 Bxc4 24. Rxe4 Rxe4 25. Bxe4 Re8 {Material is even, but
Black retains a nagging edge now that his rook controls the only open file and
his pieces are slightly better placed.} 26. Bd3 Qe6 27. Bxc4 Qxc4 28. Qb3 Qd3
29. h3 Kg7 30. Rd1 Qe2 31. Rf1 Re6 32. Qd5 Qd2 {The situation hasn't changed.
Anand has played very well to get to this position and continues holding on.}
33. Qc4 a5 34. Qxc7 $2 {But this is a mistake. Giving Black the outside passed
pawn proves catastrophic.} (34. a4 Re1 {looks dangerous, but after} 35. Rxe1
Qxe1+ 36. Kh2 Qxf2 37. Qxc7 {there isn't anything but a perpetual.}) 34... Qxa2
35. c4 Qd2 36. Qb6 a4 37. Qa7 Qb4 38. f4 Re1 $1 {The transition to the queen
endgame is perfectly timed. The Black king is not easily caught in a perpetual
check.} 39. fxg5 Rxf1+ 40. Kxf1 hxg5 41. Kg1 Qxc4 (41... a3 {immediately was
winning.} 42. Kh2 Qb2 43. Qe7 Qd2 $1 {and White can't prevent the pawn from
advancing}) 42. Kh2 Qb4 43. Qe7 Qd2 44. Qa7 Qf4+ 45. Kh1 Qc1+ 46. Kh2 a3 47.
Qa5 Qf4+ 48. Kh1 Qc1+ 49. Kh2 Qe3 50. Kh1 f6 $2 (50... Kg6 {made Kramnik's
life slightly easier. The point is that White is almost zugzwanged, as the
queen has to keep an eye on the kingside and the a-pawn. This is easy for
computers to see, but for humans it's a huge headache to calculate queen
endgames.} 51. Qa8 Qb3 52. Qg8+ Kf5 53. Qh7+ Ke6 {and the king escapes
successfully.}) 51. Qa4 (51. Qc7+ Kg6 52. Qc4 $1 {would have made Black's task
much, much harder}) 51... Qc1+ 52. Kh2 Qf4+ 53. Kh1 Qe3 54. Kh2 Kf7 55. Kh1 (
55. Qa7+ Kg6 56. Qa8 Qb3 $1 {is winning. Black places the king on g7, the
queen on f7 and finally pushes a2.}) 55... Kg6 56. Qa8 (56. Qc4 $1 {is still
winning for Black, but much, much harder}) 56... Kg7 57. Qb7+ Kg6 58. Qa8 (58.
Qd5 $1) 58... Qb3 {Now the pawn advances without problems} 59. Qe4+ Kg7 60.
Qe7+ Qf7 0-1

Anand tried a new idea in the opening, but it didn't work out so well
"Where exactly did I go wrong?", asks Anand!
Naturally Kramnik was elated as he joined Nakamura as the leader in the tournament
Round 2: June 7, 2017 in Clarion Hotel Energy
Hikaru Nakamura
Levon Aronian
Anish Giri
Sergey Karjakin
Fabiano Caruana
Magnus Carlsen
Wesley So
M. Vachier-Lagrave
Vishy Anand
Vladimir Kramnik

The crosstable after round two

Replay all the games:

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