The game will start soon. Any prediction on the first move? 🙂

[Event “World Championship”]
[Site “Bonn”]
[Date “2008.10.23”]
[Round “7”]
[White “Anand, V”]
[Black “Kramnik, V”]
[ECO “D18”]
[WhiteElo “2783”]
[BlackElo “2772”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 Kramnik is mixing things up right away. This Slav line is pretty solid which suits Kramnik better.

5. a4 Bf5 Other choices are 5…Bg4 and 5…Na6 but they more risky.

6.e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8.0-0 Nbd7 9.Qe2 Bg6 10.e4 O-O 11.Bd3
Both players are playing very fast. It does not seem that Anand is taken back by the new opening choice by Kramnik.

11…Bh5 12. e5 Nd5 13.Nxd5 So far, everything is still in the opening book.

13…cxd5 This is a better recapture. Taking back with the e pawn is not as strong as this one.

14.Qe3 Re8 This move has been played but I do not think it is as popular as 14…Be7 to stop the Knight from going to g5. Anand is finally taking his time with his 15th move. I would play 15.Ng5 here to force Black to change the dynamic of his pawn structure, perhaps weaken it a little.

Kramnik should have a good memory with this line from his World Championship match against Topalov. In game 2 of that match, he played 14…Bg6 and won (a very lucky game). In the first playoff game, he played 14…Re8 (as in this game) but after 15.Ne1 continued with 15…Rc8 (that game ended in a draw).

15.Ne1 This has been played as well. I still would prefer 15.Ng5. Just a matter of personal preference.

15…Bg6 Another sound choice is 15…Rc8. It is perfectly fine to delay retreating the Bishop to g6.

16. Bxg6 hxg6 17. Nd3 Another move worth looking at is 17.Bd2 to go into a Knight endgame instead of Bishop versus Knight. Again, it is a matter of preference.

17..Qb6 18. Nxb4 Qxb4+= 19.b3 An interesting option is 19.Bd2 Qxb2 20.Rfb1 Qc2 21.Rc1 Qf5 22.f3 Qh5 23.Rc7 It is approximately even but it does have plenty of play.

19…Rac8 The best location for the White Bishop is on the a3 square to control the a3-f8 diagonal.

20.Ba3 In this position, Kramnik has to make a decision. Does he want to keep the Queen on the board with 20…Qa5 or 20…Qb6 or exchange it with 20…Qc3. The better move is 20…Qc3. However, White can play 21.Rac1 and the game will most likely end in a draw. If he is not down by the score of -3, I expect him to play this move. But given his current score, he may have to take chances, or maybe not 🙂

20…Qc3 Kramnik chose to play the best move even if it will likely lead to a draw and not make an inferior move.

21.Rac1 Qxe3 22.fxe3 I am not sure why Anand is take quite a bit of time for this move. The other choice of 22.Rxc8 is bad for White. 22…Rxc8 23. fxe3 Rc3 =+

22…f6 23.Bd6 White is very slightly better but Kramnik should have little difficulty drawing this game. This may serve both players well as Anand is 1/2 point closer to retaining his title and Kramnik gets a comfortable game to regain his confidence after 2 very bad losses in a row. He will be in the position to have 3 White in the final 5 games to make a comeback.

23…g5 24.h3 White has many playable lines such as 24.a5 or 24.Kf2. All lines give White a small edge.

24…Kf7 25.Kf2 Since the Queens are off the board, there is no danger for either side to bring their Kings out. In fact, it is one of the basic rules of chess to activate the Kings in Queenless endgame. Black is spending a lot of time on his 25th move. I do not blame him. It is quite difficult to find anything concrete to give Black a chance to score a full point. 25…Kg6 is probably most logical here. I still expect to see a draw at the end.

25…Kg6 26.Ke2 One thing I do recommend to my students is when you are having a hard time coming up with a plan, make the most logical moves. There is not much happening on the board so the players are making sound and logical moves.

26…fxe5 27.dxe5 b6 In this position, both 28.b4 or 28. e4 are playable. 28.b4 a5 29.bxa5 bxa5 30.Bc7 Rf8 += or 28.e4 Nc5 29.exd5 exd5 30.b4 Nxa4 31.Kd3 Nb2+ 32.Kd4 +=

28.b4 Anand chose to go with a more solid continuation. This stops the Black Knight from getting to the c4 square unless he plays a5 which leads to the line I just showed above.

28…Rc4 White must play 29.Rxc4 dxc4 30.Kd2 and White’s position is solid with a slight advantage. White cannot allow Black to double the Rooks on the c file.

29.Rxc4 dxc4 A good plan for White is to play 30.Kd2 then c3. Another one is Rc1 forcing Black to put his Rook on c8.

30.Rc1 Rc8 Once Anand plays g4, Black has no way of getting his King past midfield. Anand is consolidating his position toward guaranteeing himself a draw with zero risk. He does not want to give Kramnik a chance to get his King into play with Kh5, h4 then g3.

31.g4 Here is my opinion about the match etiquette in this game at this point of the match. Kramnik is down by 3 games. Anand’s position is slightly better. Normally either player can offer a draw in this position. However, given the current score, I would not expect to see Anand offering a draw. It would be up to Kramnik to do it since he is the one behind. Of course there is no rule regarding this and of course Anand can reject and play for the win. It is only my opinion 🙂

31…a5 White should not trade and just play b5 and not to give Black counter play. Black’s problem is the c4 pawn is weak and his a5 and b6 pawns are both on dark squares which is not a good thing. 32.b5 is good for White. The plan is after b5, e4, and then Ke3 and Kd4. Black is banking on the fact that the White King cannot cross the midfield either. It means that Black thinks he will be able to hold.

32.b5 c3 The idea is even after White wins the pawn, the Rooks are off the board and the White King cannot make progress. By the way, do not count on your Rybka or Fritz to precisely understand this position. When White gets his King to d3, Black can play Nc5+ and that would lead to a drawn endgame. Therefore, before White can play Kd3, he must get his Rook closer to the c2 square. But even with that, I do not see how White can make progress.

33.Rc2 Kf7 Perhaps 34.Kd3 is in order now. But I fail to see a winning line 34…Nc5+ 35.Bxc5 Rxc5 36.Rxc3 Rxc3+ 37.Kxc3 and neither King can make progress.

34.Kd3 Nc5+ 35.Bxc5 Rxc5 36.Rxc3 Rxc3 1/2

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