|[After his thrashing in Game 10, Kasparov has very few survival chances in the match. Kramnik loses as rarely as he does, especially with White. A change of pace is required, including the openings. Therefore, the World Champion (still!) should go for 1.d4 in the hope that his opponent did not prepare as well against it as against 1.e4. The Scotch is probably not a good choice at this stage of the match, since Kramnik has already indicated that he is fully ready for such a course of events and Kasparov has refrained from it on so many occasions.]
[Well, Kasparov does not agree with me at all... He believes he is ready for the Berlin Defence at last, just as he indicated in Game 9. Then Kramnik avoided the Champion's specific preparation by choosing a different move order and still managed a draw. What will happen now?
One important conclusion from Kasparov's choice is that he had decided to play 1.e4 and 1.c4 throughout the match. There was no better moment to play 1.d4, therefore one can say with a certain degree of conviction that he did not prepare much for it.]
1...e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5
[The other alternative, 3.d4 , is also not to be. The Scotch Opening adds tension in the centre too quickly and is thus an inferior weapon for pressing when one is behind in the scoreboard.]
[But now Kramnik again chooses something else, following my previous estimate that he cannot depend on 3...Nf6 for the duration of the match. The Berlin Defence has served its purpose, for what more could one expect from a timid Black opening than 3 draws in 3 games?
This time Kramnik reveals his reserve Ruy Lopez variation, one that he had by necessity prepared before the match. The possibility that the Berlin would turn out badly after just one game or two could not be excluded, so he had to be ready with at least one more option (and probably two).]
4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5
[After Anand's experience withe Open Variation in 1995, I do not think anyone expected Kramnik to choose 5...Nxe4 here. However, a real possibility was;
5...Be7 , the Classical Closed with all its ramifications. Kasparov proved an expert on it in his matches against Karpov, but I believe it suits Kramnik's style to a reasonable extent.]
[This is another unexpected choice from Kramnik, but it makes perfect sense in the given circumstances. The Challenger goes for an active continuation, full of specific tactical details, that needs to have been prepared very well. This he is much more likely to have done for Game 11 than the Champion, so he is more likely to be able to dictate the course of events.]
[Another major choice is 7.Nxe5 , but I am not an expert in this line and thus will refrain from quick judgement between sub-variations. Here it only needs to be said that White often tries to take advantage of the temporary weakness of the enemy b-pawn.]
7...Bb7 8.d3 0-0 9.Nc3
[Much more energetic than 9...b4 . In these lines, Black often sacrifices temporarily a pawn in order to force the issue. Here compensation comes in the form of White's damaged pawn structure and the pair of Bs.]
10.axb5 Nxb3 11.cxb3 axb5 12.Rxa8 Bxa8 13.Nxe5
[Naturally, the central P is to be preferred from 13.Nxb5 , although the same position may occur via a different move order.]
[A key breakthrough on the white squares, securing some compensation where White is weakest. Kasparov cannot afford to take on d5 without exposing several Ps to attack (b3, d3 and even g2).]
[Kasparov himself has had valuable experience in this position, against Shirov in Linares 1998: 14...Be7 15.Nxb5 dxe4 16.dxe4 Bxe4 17.Nc3 (in the same tournament, Anand tried 17.Re1 against the same opponent, with the same result) 17...Bb7 18.Re1 h6 19.Bf4 Bb4 20.Ng4 Nxg4 21.Qxg4 Re8 22.Rxe8+ and 1/2–1/2.
Kramnik's choice does what he has managed to do best during the whole match: the Qs are exchanged very early in the game. Even at this late stage of the London encounter, Kasparov seems unable to impose his style on his opponent and is forced to fight on "foreign" turf.]
15.dxe4 Qxd1 16.Rxd1 b4
[Another important move, adding fuel to the battle for the white squares.]
[Apparently a new move, but it is not clear whether it was prepared or an inspiration of the moment. Even if Kasparov had not studied it for this specific encounter, it is quite possible that he might have prepared it for a future game against Shirov, a specialist in this variation. The alternative 17.Nd5 did not accomplish much after 17...Bxf2+ 18.Kxf2 Nxe4+ 19.Kg1 Nxg5 20.Nd7 (there is really nothing better) 20...Rd8 21.Nxc7 (threatening the "pedestrian" 21.Nf6+) 21...Kh8 22.Nxa8 Rxa8 23.Rd4 Ra1+ 24.Kf2 Rb1 25.Rxb4 (and now a simple back rank mate) 25...Rxb2+ 26.Ke3 h5 27.h4 Ne6 28.g3 Rg2 29.Kf3 Rb2 (while Black can do no more than 30...Rxb3+, which is easily avoided as well) 30.Ke3 Rg2 31.Kf3 Rb2 32.Ke3 and 1/2-1/2 in Topalov-Shirov, Monaco 1997.;
The decentralizing 17.Na4 is dealt with 17...Nxe4 18.Nxc5 Nxg5 (but not 18...Nxc5 19.Be7 , when 19...Re8 20.Bxc5 Rxe5 is impossible because of 21.Rd8+) , e.g. 19.Ned3 Rd8 20.Re1 Ne4 21.Nxe4 Rxd3 etc.
Kasparov's idea is to lead the game into an endgame with unequal material, hoping the asymmetries can work in his favour.]
[The capture 17...gxf6 is not unworthy of consideration, as the tempting 18.Nd7 proves to be trap (correct is 18.Na4 Be7 19.Rd7 when best for Black is probably 19...Rd8 20.Rxd8+ Bxd8 21.Nd3 Bxe4 22.Nxb4 Be7 with a likely draw) : after 18...bxc3 19.Nxf8 (no better is 19.Nxc5 c2 and 20...Rd8) allows the intermediate attack 19...c2 and after 20.Rc1 Bxe4 21.Nd7 Bd4 Black even wins.]
[Kasparov's pawns are undoubled, meaning they may produce a passed P later on.]
18...gxf6 19.Nd7 Bd6 20.Nxf8 Kxf8 21.f3
[After massive liquidation, an interesting endgame is on the board, with approximate material equality. Nevertheless, all the winning chances are with White, the only army that may produce passed Ps or attack weaknesses. A R is often better than two minor pieces in the endgame, but most such cases involve B+N rather than 2Bs. The latter complement each other nicely, cover all sensitive spots and prevent the enemy King from advancing.
It is interesting to note that Kasparov had used about 25 minutes of his thinking time, while Kramnik only 6! No prizes for guessing who was still following pre-game preparation at this point...]
[A logical advance. Black should exchange this isolated P, in order to allow fewer targets for the enemy R.]
[Kasparov decides to block the enemy h-pawn at a square where it can be attacked via the 5th rank. 22.h3 would prove worse than useless after 22...h4 , crippling the kingside majority for ever, but;
22.g3 was possible. Since 22...f5 runs into 23.e5 and then 23...Bxf3 fails against 24.exd6 Bxd1 25.dxc7 , the World Champion would keep intact his hopes of producing one passed P on each wing.
It should be added that the white h-pawn may now become a target as well.]
[But, of course, not immediately 22...Bg3 because of 23.Rd8+ . Kramnik follows established wisdom by centralizing his King, possibly with the idea ...Ke7-e6 and ...f6-f5 at some point.]
[Ditto. In the traditional press conference after the game, Kasparov said that he might have missed here a chance to attack the h-pawn by 23.Ra1 , but after 23...Bb7 24.Ra5 Be5 nothing much can be achieved that is not similar to the game.
In any case, Kramnik declared he had analyzed this type of ending during his preparations and was convinced it was a clear draw. The master has been outplayed at his own game! (or should I say endgame?)]
[Naturally, the B has to come out of the corner sooner or later. The sooner the better, of course.]
[By this time, both players had about one hour left on thier clocks. The position seems balanced, as every White effort has a negative aspect that Black can take advantage of.
For example, the attempt to advance the kingside Ps first with 24.g3 is thwarted by 24...Bc5+ 25.Ke2 (after 25.Kg2 it is equally difficult to make serious progress) 25...Bd6 etc.
Kasparov's choice has the obvious defect of weakening some important black squares, allowing his opponent to set up an appropriate blockade. In addition, the only way to create a passed P on the queenside now is to have it on the c-file, which means it will be closer to the second front White wishes to open on the other side of the board. Consequently, it will be easier to stop it without stretching the defensive pieces too far.]
[Prepares the black-square blockade and at the same time controls a1. Naturally, the R has other ways of using the a -file.]
[Kramnik decides there is no reason to hurry with 25...c5 because of 26.Ra2 . At the same time, he prepares the useful exchange ...f6-f5, after which the enemy King will find it much more difficult to advance without exposing his kingside Ps to attack by the Bs.] 26.Rd5 [Now that the R has reached the 5th rank, the Challenger must take care that his h-pawn does not become dangerously exposed. I suspect Kramnik had already prepared for this eventuality.]
[The advance 26...c5 would prove premature after 27.Ke3 Bd4+ 28.Kd3 and either of the c- or the h-pawns fall.]
[The pawn finds itself at the right place at the right time. It blocks the 5th rank and also cripples the enemy queenside majority. Meanwhile, it is practically impossible for Kasparov's King to participate in the battle without leaving unguarded the precious h-pawn.]
[Of course, not 28.Rxc5 Bd4+ . Still, the c-pawn has now become an immobile target and also prevents the black-square B from communicating with the queenside. This endgame is really all about give and take, as almost all moves with positive aspects tend to have some evident defect as well.] 28...Bd4+ 29.Kd3 f5 [Black must do that to prevent the idea Ra5-a8-h8xh5, but of course Kramnik was very happy to oblige. On the other hand, Kasparov now has a chance to create his long-awaited passed P on the queenside.]
[reportedly, both contestants had about half an hour left until move 40.]
[31.fxe4 Bf2 is not necessarily better, as then Kasparov's Ps become isolated and 32.b5 creates a passed P whose advance is easily arrested. The King must advance at all costs, but some costs are more costly than others.]
[The correct way to go about the h-pawn, as after 31...Bxc4 32.bxc5 Bf2 33.c6 the World Champion would threaten 34.Rxh5 and 33...Bxh4 34.c7 Kd7 35.Rc5 would prove disastrous for the Challenger. However, these are pretty small traps and easily dealt with at this level.]
[This capture keeps the position more open for the White King to infiltrate, but the passed c-pawn is much closer to the Black monarch.
The only way Kasparov can make serious headway now is to find a way to sacrifice his R for a B and create passed Ps on both sides of the board. Any attack on a single front should be easily repulsed.]
32...Bxh4 33.c6 Kd6
[As an indication of the dangers still hidden in the position, the variation 33...f5+ 34.Rxf5 Bxf5+ 35.Kxf5 allows Kasparov to dream about retaining his title.]
34.Rxh5 Bf2 35.g4
[There is absolutely no way to save both c-pawns.]
[By now it is clear the game will be drawn. Too many Ps have been exchanged and a typical defensive ploy can be used by Kramnik almost at will: he will sacrifice one of the Bs in order to eliminate all the remaining enemy pawns. Then the K+R vs.K+B ending will be even more equal than the K+R+N vs.K+R that occured in Game 4.]
36.Rh2 Bc5 37.Rc2 f6
[The time needed by the Champion to defend the second c-pawn is used by the Challenger to set up a barrier against the King along the 5th rank. The relative weakness of the f-pawn is immaterial.]
[An admission that there is nothing better, really. The rest is practically forced.]
38...Bxc4 39.Rh6 Bd5+ 40.Kf5 Bxf3
[The time control is reached and the game is over.]
[At this point, the players agreed to split the point. Once more, Kramnik demonstrated his ability to outprepare the World Champion, thus robbing him of his most potent weapon: initiative in the transitional phase from opening to the middlegame. It seems Kasparov has been reduced to an "ordinary" top grandmaster without it, while there are only two Whites left to him. If he cannot win a game with Black, a most unlikely event by now, he will be unable to save the match.
This is a daunting prospect for a man that has dominated World Chess for the last 15 years and the period 1999-2000 in particular. His minor setbacks could be considered great successes by most other players, which means he has not been used to dealing with failures. Without burying him before he is dead, this means he will be more anxious for the next 5 games than Kramnik, who can even afford to lose once and still play objective chess. One might even begin to think the unthinkable: a 16-game match with Kasparov unable to win even one game! Who could consider betting in favour of this prospect before October 8, even at 10 to 1 odds?
Note: these comments were completed just before 3:00a.m. (Greek time) on Friday, October 27th.]