Analysis Room by Ilias Kourkounakis
Round 1


Round 2


Round 3 J.Applet
Round 4 J.Applet
Round 5 J.Applet
Round 6 J.Applet
Round 7 J.Applet
Round 8 J.Applet
Round 9 J.Applet
Round 10 J.Applet
Round 11 J.Applet
Round 12 J.Applet
Round 13 J.Applet
Round 14 J.Applet
Round 15 J.Applet
Round 16 J.Applet

Last update:
03/12/2000 21:04







KASPAROV,G (2815) - KRAMNIK,V (2770) [C67]
WCCwch London (1), 08.10.2000

[It is probably worth mentioning that the start of Game 1 was delayed by nearly 30 minutes. Half an hour before the 3pm start time the organisers were still laying carpet in the playing hall so the delay may have been due to that.]

[As one might expect, Kasparov wishes to test his opponent's readiness to play the Russian Defence. At this stage of the match, it is more important to establish what will be the main Black openings by Kramnik for the duration of the event, in a way similar to the Anand match.]

[No Sicilian Defence today, thank you! The challenger wisely refrains from his sharper variations in his first Black game.]

2.Nf3 Nc6
[This is rather a surpise. Kramnik declares his willingness to enter a variety of openings, such as the Scotch, the Ruy Lopez, or even the Evans Gambit.

Behind the moves, a rather subtle psychological battle is taking place. Each player makes a variety of propositions to his opponent and creates challenges that the other might accept or duck. This will set both teams working for future games in the contest, but some work will be necessarily useless. The question here is which team will manage to outfox their collective opponents in the long run.]

[True to his principles, Kasparov chooses the "objectively best" move. Indirectly, he tells Kramnik that the match shall be played on heavy theoretical paths.]

[But Kramnik refuses to oblige! The Berlin Variation is rather timid, but solid. The challenger effectively declares that he is satisfied with a draw in this first game and will press for the full point almost exclusively when he is White, at least in the first half of the match. In addition, he attempts to show that he is able to control the pace and thus show "the Boss" that he is not really "boss".]

[This is the main line, while after 4.d3 or; 4.Qe2 the conflict is likely to be slower. The center will remain closed for a long time and Kasparov's intended theoretical battle in the opening shall not take place.

The problem with the text is that it practically leads to a position without Qs, a feature probably dearer to Kramnik than to the World Champion.]

[Another option is 4...Bc5, when White may continue either with 5.Nxe5 or 5.c3 0-0 6.d4 Bb6. Both continuations lead to sharp play, which is evidently not in Kramnik's interest.]

[The continuation 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 had already been used in the first official World Championship Steinitz-Zukertort (4th game), that went on 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Qh5 f5 9.Nc3 Nxe5 10.Rxe5 g6 etc.]

[This move was popularized by Lasker and Pillsbury, but of course 5...Be7 was also possible.]

[An interesting alternative is 6.dxe5 Nxb5 7.a4, regaining the piece while retaining the Qs on the board. Kasparov was probably unwilling to enter a more complicated side-variation without preparation.]

6...dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5
[Although 7...Ne4 is playable, White then gets to keep the Qs with 8.Qe2.]

[While now the move 8.Qe2 allows Black to equalise by exchanging Ns. After 8...Nd4 9.Nxd4 Qxd4, Fischer played 10.Nc3 against Neikirch in the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal (no more effective is 10.Rd1 Bg4 11.Rxd4 Bxe2 12.Nc3 Bh5 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bh4 Bc5, essayed in the later encounter Janosevic-Minev, Maribor 1967), but after 10...Bg4 11.Qe3 Qxe3 12.Bxe3 Bb4 full equality was established.]


[This is one of the modern "tabiyas" in the Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Compared to the normal Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.d4 exd4 6.Qxd4 Qxd4 7.Nxd4), this position offers both sides some advantages and disadvantages. White possesses more space in the center and has deprived his oppponent of the right to castle, but in return has conceded the B pair. In particular, it is important that White has relinquished his white-squared B at a point in which his remaining central pawn seems prematurely advanced to a black square.

Kasparov's most important problem is that his main advantage is the kingside pawn majority, which cannot advance easily. In addition, Black may exchange his black-squared B for a N and thus provoke an endgame with opposite-color Bs, with clear drawing tendencies.

Kramnik's difficulties stem not so much from any danger that his uncastled King may face (there aren't any right now), but from the fact that his Rs cannot be activated in obvious ways. One may be exchanged on the d-file, but this means his King will have to move over and block the other one for a long time to come.]

[The game Arakhamia-Panno, Aruba 1992, was a clear indication how the opposite-color Bs may affect the progress of the game: 9.Rd1+ Ke8 10.Nc3 Be6 11.b3 Bb4 12.Bb2 Bxc3 13.Bxc3 Rd8 14.Ng5 c5 15.Rxd8+ Kxd8 16.Rd1+ Ke7 17.g4 (if White wants to make some progress, this advance is absolutely necessary, while any delay may allow Black to set his own queenside majority in motion with...a7-a5 etc.) 17...Nh4 18.h3 (better seems 18.Nxe6 fxe6 19.f4, although even in that case Black probably keeps sufficient control over the white squares) 18...h5 19.f3 Ng6 20.Re1 hxg4 21.hxg4 Bd5 22.Bd2 Nf8 23.Kg2 Ne6. Now the Argentinian GM had nothing better than the exchange of Ns and a peacful outcome, but he decided to fight for more and suffered a deserved setback: 24.Ne4 b6 25.f4 Rd8 26.Bc1 Nd4 27.c4 Nc2 28.Re2 Bc6 (this is even better than 28...Bxe4+ 29.Rxe4 Rd1 30.Be3 Nxe3+ 31.Rxe3 Rd2+ 32.Kf3 Rxa2 etc.) 29.Kf2 Nb4 30.Kf3 Rd4 31.a3 Nd3 32.Bd2 Nxe5+ 33.fxe5 Bxe4+ 34.Kf2 Bb1 35.Bg5+ Ke6 36.Kg3 Rd3+ 37.Re3 Rxe3+ 38.Bxe3 Ba2 39.b4 cxb4 40.axb4 Bxc4 41.Kf4 Bd3 42.Bd4 g6 43.Bb2 Kd5 44.Kg5 Bc4 45.Kf4 Be2 46.Bc3 c5 47.bxc5 Kxc5 48.g5 Kc4 49.Be1 b5 50.Ke3 Bg4 and 0-1.

It is worth noting that Kasparov refrains from either the R check or 9.Bg5+. The enemy King will have to move anyway, while it is far from clear whether the checking pieces are best placed on these specific squares. One interesting historical example of this line of play is Harmonist - Tarrasch, Germany 1889: 9.Bg5+ 9...Ke8 10.Nc3 h6 11.Bf4 Be6 12.Rad1 Rd8 13.Ne4 c5 14.Rxd8+ Kxd8 15.Rd1+ Kc8 16.h3 b6 17.Kf1 Be7 18.a3 Rd8 19.Rxd8+ Kxd8 20.c3 Bd5 21.Nfd2 Kd7 and Tarrasch eventually won by exploiting the long-term advantages of his position, without really worrying about his doubled Ps. Exchanging Rs freed the black King and allowed him to infiltrate via the white squares.]

[A relatively new idea, preparing to evacuate the King towards the queenside. Another instance where the difference between the white and black squares made itself felt was the encounter Wang-Z.Polgar, Shanghai 1992: 9...Ke8 10.b3 a5 11.Bb2 Be6 12.Rfd1 Bb4 13.h3 Bxc3 14.Bxc3 c5 15.Ne1 (the Chinese player begins N manouvres that show she has trouble creating a long-term plan and lead only to a waste of time) 15...h5 16.Nf3 b6 17.Bd2 Bd5 18.Ne1 Bc6 19.c3 h4 20.Bf4 Ne7 21.Nc2 Ng6 22.Bd2 Ke7 23.f4 Ke6 (even the King plays an active role in the fight for the white squares, while his enemy counterpart is unable to play a similar role) 24.Rf1 Ne7 25.Ne3 Nf5 26.Nxf5 Kxf5 (opposite-color Bs do not guarantee a draw, as long as Rs remain on the board) 27.Rad1 Bb5 28.c4 Bc6 29.Rfe1 Ke6 (avoids the strategic threat 30.e6 fxe6 31.Bc3, when White assumes the initiative) 30.Bc3 Rhd8 31.Kf2 a4 32.b4 cxb4 33.Bxb4 a3 (an inspired pawn sacrifice that ensures R infiltration behind the enemy lines) 34.c5 b5 35.Rxd8 Rxd8 36.Bxa3 Ra8 37.Re3 Ra4 38.g3 b4 39.Bb2 Rxa2 40.Re2 hxg3+ 41.Kxg3 b3 42.Kg4 g6 43.Kg5 Bf3 44.Re3 Bd1 and 0-1. Not a very good game by White, but rather instructive in how small inaccuracies may result even to her losing the contest.

Kramnik's idea is to avoid exposure of his King on the e-file, where tactical tricks abound and annoying pressure may be apllied. A typical instance occured in the game Yudasin-Rogers, Manila 1990: 9...h6 10.Rd1+ Ke8 (as a matter of fact, the move order was 9.Rd1+ Ke8 10.Nc3 h6) 11.h3 Be7 12.Ne2 g5 13.b3 Be6 14.g4 Ng7 15.Ng3 c5 16.Ne4 Rd8 17.Ba3 Bd5 18.Nf6+ Bxf6 19.exf6 Ne6 20.Ne5 (now Black's loss of castling really means that the Rh8 cannot join the battle for many moves) 20...b6 21.c4 Bb7 22.Rxd8+ Nxd8 (the Australian GM tries to ease the pressure by exchanges, but it is much easier for White to bring new reinforcements) 23.Rd1 Nc6 24.Bb2 Nb8 25.Ng6 Rg8 (the King's precarious position is revealed in the variation 25...fxg6 26.f7+ and 27.Bxh8, as well as in the game continuation) 26.Ne7 Rh8 27.Be5 Nc6 28.Nxc6 Bxc6 29.Bxc7 Bd7 30.f3 h5 31.Kh2 hxg4 32.fxg4 Rh6 (even the endgame cannot solve the Black King's problems since the B remains pinned against 33.Rd8#) 33.Rd6 Rg6 34.Kg3 Rh6 35.a3 Rg6 36.b4 Rh6 37.b5 Rg6 38.a4 Rh6 39.Bb8 Be6 40.Bxa7 Rxf6 41.a5 and 1-0.]

[The main disadvantage of Black's last move is that it leaves f7 relatively unprotected. One is tempted then to attack it with 10.Ng5 in order to force 10...Ke8 after all. The problem is that White then has no time for normal development, since after 11.b3 there comes 11...Nd4 etc. Since the Yudasin-Rogers game (among others) clearly showed the usefuleness of the B on the long a1-h8 diagonal, Kasparov proceeds without attempting to muddy the waters -yet.

According to Internet reports, until now Kasparov had invested half an hour against only 5 minutes for Kramnik. Nevertheless, the quiet nature of the position means that he is not likely to miss this thinking time anytime soon. The challenger has achieved his primary aim, that is to avoid a full-scale theoretical battle, but still has to solve a few practical problems.; It is worth mentioning how the development of the white B serves a variety of goals: it guards the N against a possible attack...Bf8-b4 and a subsequent exchange that might cripple the queenside pawn structure, it creates the strategic threat e5-e6 at several points in time, it keeps the B out of the way of other white pieces and, in addition, the b-pawn guards the white square c4, sometimes supporting its fellow foot-soldier to advance there. The only drawback is that sometimes Black has the possibility of a pawn break...a7-a5-a4, but usually that is prevented by a2-a4.

There is no real danger for Black in the bishop’s straightforward development to f4, even though in this case White’s a1-rook finds itself on d1 one move earlier. For example, 10.Bf4 h6 11.Rad1 Kc8 12.h3 (or 12.Rd3 Be6 13.Rfd1 Be7 14.g4 Nh4) 12...Bb4 (also good is 12...Be6 13.g4 Ne7) 13.Ne4 Be6 and Black faces no serious problems.; Finally, Black need not worry about 10.Rd1 Kc8 11.Ng5, as the temporary retreat 11...Be8 will allow the subsequent eviction of the N with...h7-h6 while the B may go to c6 saving a tempo.]

[Sooner or later, the g5 square must be covered against enemy invasion. After 10...Kc8 11.Ng5 Be6 12.Nxe6 fxe6 13.Ne4 Black should not feel very comfortable, although the previous note suggests that a retreat like 11...Be8 is not necessarily bad.]

11.Bb2 Kc8

[At first glance a meaningless move, where 12.Rad1 seems much more purposeful. However, top grandmasters are distinguished by playing non-obvious moves in situations where others might make a quick decision. We are clearly in the transitional phase between the opening and the middlegame, which means that simple quantitative development will not do. Each move must be part of a long-term plan, with every piece aiming for its bast placement in the least possible amount of time.

At the present moment, it is not at all evident that the d-file would be beneficial to White. Kasparov's plan is to advance his kingside pawn majority at some point and challenge with it crucial white squares. The move g2-g4 is indispensable, which means h2-h3 is useful as well. The Ra1 could join the effort by going to e1, providing useful support to the "candidate" passed pawn.]

[Kramnik does not have an active plan, since his only advantage is the B pair. This can only show its power when the game opens up, therefore development and exchanges are in order. The Russian GM played this move very quickly, indicating that he was still following home preparation.]

[This move puzzles me a lot, as it contradicts my earlier comment, which however, I am unwilling to retract.

Reports had it that Kasparov had used 54 minutes up to now, against only 12 by Kramnik, but this should not cause any unnecessary excitement. His problem is not to make 27 moves in 66 minutes, but to find some constructive moves in the first place.

It was worth considering 13.g4 Ne7 14.Kg2, bringing the King up to g3 in order to provide adequate support to the g4-pawn. Then 14...Nd5 should not be dangerous after 15.Ne2 and c2-c4.

In general, White should keep as many pieces as possible on the board, since Black lacks space -for example, both the N and the black-square B could use e7. Kasparov does not have any easy pawn breaks, which means he must resort to piece manouvres and use his superior mobility.]

[An excellent retreat, preventing White's best plan for a long time to come. Now it is not possible to play 14.g4, as then 14...h5 follows and the King is too far behind the g4 pawn.

The official site of the match mentioned that 13...a5 was played in Shirov(2746)-Krasenkow(2702) earlier in the year, an encounter from the Polanica Zdroj traditional Rubinstein Memorial (4th round, August 20) previously unknown to me. I would definitely vote for Kramnik's move, as I do not believe queenside expansion should be such a high priority for Black -yet.

Just a little time later, I discovered in TWIC the rest of this important game (again there seems to have been a slight transposition in move order, that is 12.Rad1 a5 13.h3 b6): 14.a4 Bb4 15.Ne2 Re8 16.Nf4 g6 17.g4 Ng7 18.Rd3 (the tactical usefulness of a timely h2-h3 is that now White does not need to waste time defending the Pg4 and may create threats much faster once his challenge for the initiative gets under way) 18...Ne6 19.Nxe6 Bxe6 20.Nd4 Bd7 21.Ne2 Bd6 22.f4 f5 23.exd6 Rxe2 24.dxc7 Kxc7 25.Be5+ Kc8 26.Rfd1 Be6 27.Rd6 and 1-0 (after 27...Bd5 28.c4 the B is pinned against a R invasion to d8). Once again, the opposite-color Bs proved dicisive for the attack with Rs on the board and an inactive R for the defending side.

It should be noted that 13...Be6 runs into 14.g4 Ne7 15.Nd4, when the usefulness of an early h2-h3 becomes apparent, while; 13...Be7 Ostos-Beliavsky, Caracas 1976, continued 14.Ne2 Rd8 (14...c5 and White could gain the advantage after 15.g4! (while in the game it was 15.Nf4?! g5 16.Nh5 c5 17.g4 Bc6! and Beliavsky captured the initiative.) 15...Nh4 16.Nxh4 Bxh4 17.e6! Bxe6 18.Bxg7. 15.Nf4 Bc6 16.Nd5 Kb7 17.c4 with a position not unlike that which occured later on in Kasparov-Kramnik) and now, instead of 15.Nf4 g5 16.Nh5 c5 17.g4 Bc6, White could continue 15.g4 Nh4 16.Nxh4 Bxh4 17.e6! Bxe6 18.Bxg7 with a definite advantage.

Grandmaster Shipov, in his notes to the game on Kasparov's Internet site, correctly mentions that in general it is dangerous for Black to develop his bishop on e7, because White is then often able to engineer a successful breakthrough with e5-e6.]

[Apparently Kasparov needed approximately 15 minutes for this move, an indication that he either has difficulties in forming a long-term plan or he still needs to adjust his ideas to Kramnik's novelty.]

[14...c5 would be premature, as after 15.Nf4 Black might not be able to complete his development in a satisfactry way. A typical continuation then is 15...Ng6 16.e6 (much better than 16.Nxg6 fxg6 and...Bd7-e6, with a white-square blockade) 16...Bxe6 (Black cannot afford 16...Nxf4 17.exd7+ Kd8 18.Ne5) 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.Rfe1 Nf4 (or 18...Bd6 19.Rxe6 Nf4 20.Re4 with the twin threats 21.Rxd6 and 21.Bxg7) 19.h4, when the simple push 20.g3 will create insurmaountable problems.]


[Kasparov retreats with attacking intentions, that is a massive advance of his kingside majority. Still, I think he should have provided for it better by using his King earlier rather than posting the R on the d-file.At least, he managed to force Kramnik to think seriously for the first time in the game. After making all of his previous moves almost instantly, the Challenger spent half an hour on this move. Perhaps he was surprised by Ne1, nevertheless he still remains with far more thinking time available than Kasparov.

Another significant alternative was suggested by Shipov, that is 15.Ng3. The main idea is to transfer the N to h5, from where it attack the g-pawn. A possible continuation then is 15...c5 (after 15...h5 White can take advantage of the new weakening with 16.Ng5 Be8 17.f4 etc.) 16.Nh5 Bc6 17.Rfe1 Kb7 18.e6 Bxf3 19.gxf3 fxe6 20.Rxe6 Nh4 21.Kf1 and White apparently keeps a definite advantage.]

[An excellent restaining response, without which Black could get into serious trouble. I trust my previous comments and the games mentioned earlier make clear how important is control of the square f5 in such positions. In addition, Kramnik manages to develop the Rh8 without moving at all his black-squared B.

The immediate 15...c5 is riskier but apparently tenable. If White then attempts to wrest the initiative with 16.f4, Black still has the time to reply 16...Nh4 with the idea...h6-h5, e.g. 17.g3 (after 17.f5 Bxf5 {naturally not 17...Nxf5 18.Rxd7} 18.g3 Bxh3 19.gxh4 Bxf1 20.Kxf1 Be7 it is not at all clear that the minor pieces are worth more than R+2Ps in an open board) 17...Nf5 18.Kf2 c4 19.g4 Bc5+ 20.Nd4 Nxd4 21.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 22.Rxd4 cxb3 and the fight still rages on.Of course, Kramnik's choice avoids any unpleasant surprises in variations like the above.]

[Kasparov has much the better piece development, but without an appropriate pawn break it is practically impossible to make it tell. Despite the opinion of other human commentators (and some silicon ones as well), I believe White's potential is limited.]

[A useful move that signals Black's intentions to expand on the black squares as well, even though it has the obvious defect of leaving d5 with less support than it deserves. The alternative 16...Be7 runs into 17.e6 Bxe6 18.Bxg7, e.g. 18...Rg8 19.Bb2 Nh4 20.Ndf4 and White's superior development provides him with much better chances once hand-to-hand combat begins.

Shipov proposes 16...Kb7, arguing that Black runs no danger from 17.Nc5+ Bxc5 18.Rxd7, as then 18...Rae8 can be played, e.g. 19.Rxf7 Nxe5 20.Bxe5 (20.Rxg7 Nc4 is much worse) 20...Rxe5, when Black may even stand better.]

[The idea...c5-c4 should be stopped once and for all. One typical variation in which it proves particularly dangerous is 17.Nef4 (admittedly not the best of moves) 17...Nxf4 18.Nxf4 a5 and White cannot prevent the furter advance of this pawn with subsequent opening of the a-file with 19.a4, because of the simple reply 19...c4 etc.]

[I am not so sure this advance is essential now. Black might want in the future to expell an enemy N from d5 with...c7-c6 without exposing his b-pawn.]

[White, on the other hand, faces much less danger regarding his own Pb3, as he only has to take care against a manouvre of the type...Bd7-f5-c2.]

[Kramnik wisely completes the process of immobilizing the enemy pawn majority before deciding about the best squares for his pieces: they have no offensive power, anyway.]

19.Nc3 Be6
[The correct diagonal for the B is the one that allows control of the critical square f5. By now, Kramnik was catching up with Kasparov on time.]

[The N only looks threatening on this square. In reality it only blocks the d-file, which makes it inconsistent with White's previous play.Kasparov's idea was all along to reroute it towards f5 by moving it to the only reasonable square from which it can approach it, that is e3.]

[At long last, the challenger is ready to activate a R.]


[The best move in the position, it completely halts Kasparov's only logical plan. If White does nothing, Kramnik may continue 22...Be7 and 23...Rd8 (impossible without the B development, because of the discovered attack after Nxc5+) or 22...Re8 and 23...Kc8.]

[Leaving himself with only 12 minutes until the first time control, Kasparov admits that he has nothing. The only conceivable idea behind the B move is to redirect it towards the kingside and attack the semi-exposed Ph4 from e1, but this plan is easily thwarted.]

22...Re8 23.Rd2
[Frankly, I do not understand how this move fits in with the World Champion's previous one.]

23...Kc8 24.f4
[A small crisis is provoked, but it will soon be dissolved.]

24...Ne7 25.Nf2 Nf5
[The blockade has been firmly established and there is not much play in the position. In perhaps the most important moment of the game, Kramnik takes the opportunity to offer a draw.

This should not pass unnoticed, because to offer Kasparov a draw with Black after only 25 moves indicates a position of strength. We must remember that in the previous match against Anand it was Kasparov who made all(!) the offers, thus indicating who controlled the proceedings. This time, from the very first game, the challenger screams that they stand on equal terms.]


[In passing, it should be mentioned that the offer was made in a novel way, especially designed for this contest: Kramnik pressed a button on the side of the board, lighting up a bulb that was visible to the audience. In this way, the spectators were fully aware that a specific player has offered to split the point.

I expect a great fight to be built up slowly as the match progresses to its first critical point. Who will be the player that will choose the timing for that crisis?]


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