Topalov – Kramnik [D12]
WCC Match 2006 (Game 11) 10.10.2006

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.Rb1 (A new move already on move 8! In Game 9, Topalov played 8.a3 and won. Obviously Kramnik was ready to surprise Topalov there. Most popular are 8.g3 and 8.Bd2. Although some Queen moves such as 8.Qb3 or 8.Qc2 were experimented with also in the past. However, a new move does not always mean a significant improvement over the current theory.)

8…Nbd7 (Black responds with the most natural developing move.)

9.c5 (A logical follow up of White’s previous move. If 9.b4 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Bd6=)

9…a5 (A good move to include the exchange of the a Pawns before White advances b2-b4-b5.)

10.a3 (Continuing with the b2-b4 plan. 10.f4 b6 11.cxb6 Qxb6 and c6-c5 is fine for Black.)

10…e5 (This is one of Black’s two main plans. The other was 10…b6 11.cxb6 Qxb6 and c6-c5 soon.)

11.b4 axb4 12.axb4 Qc7 (Putting pressure on the h2 Pawn.)

13.f4 (Similarly to Game 9, Topalov makes a lot of ambitious Pawn moves. 13.h3 would be more reserved.)

13…exf4 14.exf4 Be7 (What an unusual view: White has only a Knight out all the other pieces are still on the back rank after move 14! If 14…Nh5 [with the idea of Nh5-g3 using the pin] it could be stopped by 15.Qf3.)

15.Be2 Nf8 (White would be better after the natural 15…0–0 16.0–0 followed up by f4-f5.)

16.0–0 Ne6 (Now of course 17.f5 would be a terrible blunder allowing 17…Qxh2+. Avoiding that problem is the explanation behind White’s next move.)

17.g3 (After the solid 17.Be3, Black could answer with 17…g5.)

17…Qd7 (This is the beginning of a simplification plan with the idea of Nf6-e4. Also if White is not careful the Black Queen may appear on h3 in some variations.)

18.Qd3 (After 18.Bf3 the answer would have been the same 18…Ne4.)

18…Ne4 (A temporary Pawn sacrifice.)

19.Nxe4 dxe4 20.Qxe4 Qxd4+ 21.Qxd4 Nxd4 (After all these trades White is still hoping in the power of the pair of Bishops. But actually the position is very close to equal.)

22.Bc4 0–0 (Finally! Even though we are practically already in the endgame phase of the game, castling still puts the King to the safest place.)

23.Kg2 (Moving out of any potential Knight or Bishop checks.)

23…Ra4?! (I don’t particularly like this move. Perhaps Kramnik missed White’s trap set on move 25.)

24.Rd1 (White’s hope is to enter the seventh rank [on d7] if the Black Knight moves away.)

24…Rd8 25.Be3 Bf6 (At first it seems that Black wins a Pawn after 25…Nc2?! 26.Rxd8+ Bxd8 27.Bf2 Rxb4? [27…Nxb4 28.Rd1 Bf6 29.Rd7 Nd5 30.Bxd5 cxd5 31.Rxb7 Rc4 32.Rd7 d4 33.g4 Kf8 34.Rd5 and White is better] but, amazingly White has a cute trap with 28.Bb3!! Na3 and 29.Bxf7+! Kxf7 30.Rxb4+-)

26.g4?! (I prefer 26.Rd2 Raa8 27.Bf2 with a small plus for White.)

26…Kf8?! (More active was 26…Ra3! 27.Bf2 Rc3=)

27.Bf2 (Now 28.g5 is a serious threat to win a piece. The immediate 27.g5 would weaken the f5 square and would help Black after 27…Nf5 28.Rxd8+ Bxd8.)

27…Ne6 28.Rxd8+ Bxd8 (During the game I expected rather 28…Nxd8, but White would be slightly better then too.)

29.f5? (This is when to tides started to turn. Instead of White having a slight edge, Black will shortly be the one and playing for a win. Much better was 29.Bxe6 fxe6 30.Rb3 += [stopping Ra3].)

29…gxf5 30.gxf5 Nf4+ 31.Kf3 Nh5 32.Rb3 Bc7 33.h4 Nf6 (The upcoming Bishop (the one on c4) moves are quite mysterious to me and lead White to an unpleasant position.)

34.Bd3 Nd7 35.Be4 Ne5+ 36.Kg2 Ra2 37.Bb1 Rd2 38.Kf1 Ng4 39.Bg1? (Better was 39.Be1.)

39…Bh2 40.Ke1 (After 40.Bxh2 Rxh2, the h4 Pawn is lost.)

40…Rd5? (A better choice would have been 40…Rg2 41.Bd4 Be5! 42.Bxe5 Nxe5 with Black’s advantage.)

41.Bf2?! (Clearly better would have been 41.Bxh2 Nxh2 42.Rd3 with the following possible variations: 42…Rxd3 43.Bxd3 Nf3+ 44.Kf2 Nxh4?! 45.Kg3 g5 46.f6 Ng6 47.Bf5 Ne5 48.Bc8 Ke8 49.Bxb7 Kd7 50.Ba6 Ke6 51.b5 cxb5 52.Bxb5 Kxf6 53.c6 Ng6 54.c7 Ne7 55.Bd7= or 42… Rxf5 43.Rd8+ Ke7 44.Bxf5 Kxd8 45.Kf2 g6 46.Bh3 f5 47.Kg3 Ng4 48.Bxg4 fxg4 49.Kxg4=.)

41…Ke7 42.h5 Nxf2 43.Kxf2 Kf6 44.Kf3 Rd4 (44…Kg5 45.Be4 Rd1 46.b5=)

45.b5 Rc4 46.bxc6 bxc6 47.Rb6 Rxc5 48.Be4 Kg5 49.Rxc6 Ra5 50.Rb6 Ra3+ (50…Kxh5 51.Rb7=)

51.Kg2 Bc7 52.Rb7 Rc3 53.Kf2 Kxh5 (Black won a Pawn but with only so few pieces left on the board and with opposite color Bishops, it is not too difficult for White to hold a draw here.)

54.Bd5 f6 55.Ke2 Kg4 56.Be4 Kf4 57.Bd3 Rc5 58.Rb4+ Kg3 59.Rc4 Re5+ 60.Re4 Ra5 61.Re3+ Kg2 (61…Kg4 62.Re7 Ra2+ 63.Kd1=)

62.Be4+ Kh2 63.Rb3 Ra2+ 64.Kd3 Bf4 65.Kc4 Re2 66.Kd5 ½–½
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