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    Entries in Aronian-Kramnik 2012 (6)

    Saturday
    Apr282012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Game 6 and the Match Drawn

    The finale of the Aronian-Kramnik match was an exciting draw that was generally in balance until, where both sides had some chances (especially perhaps Kramnik). Levon Aronian stuck to his great 1.e4 experiment, and Vladimir Kramnik stuck to his trusty Berlin Defense. Rather than banging his head against the Wall endgame a third time, though, Aronian switched to 4.d3. For a while it was a calm maneuvering struggle, but not for long. Kramnik's plan for ...d5 started making things interesting, and then Aronian's 19.a5 sharpened the game further.

    A complicated and roughly balanced endgame ensued shortly thereafter, but after Aronian's 30.c4?! Rd3 31.b4? Rxe3! he was suddenly in trouble. He drew with some work after 32.Rxe3 cxb4 33.Rg3 e3, but had Kramnik chosen instead 33...Ne7! 34.Rxb4 Bc7! White would have been in huge trouble.

    After missing his one chance, Aronian was able to save the position, and so the game finished peacefully, as did the match as a whole. A good show for the spectators, and hopefully the players got most of what they hoped for as well, too.

    The game, with my comments, can be replayed here.

    Friday
    Apr272012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Game 5 Drawn

    Vladimir Kramnik didn't get a lot with the white pieces, and it seemed that an early draw and a rapid game was in the spectators' future. He kept pressing, however, and the game grew increasingly interesting - though still ultimately even. So, after an (ultimately) entertaining draw, the match is now tied at 2.5-2.5 with one game remaining. (Note: that game starts two hours earlier, at 1300 local time in Zurich/7 a.m. ET.)

    Match site here; the game, with my comments, is here.

    Wednesday
    Apr252012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Game 4 A Quick Draw; Aronian Wins the Rapid Game

    Perhaps still smarting from yesterday's defeat, Levon Aronian didn't undertake too much against Vladimir Kramnik's Berlin Defense and the game was drawn fairly quickly and comfortably by Black. That leaves the match tied 2-2, and after the rest day tomorrow they'll finish with games on Friday and Saturday.

    The players decided before the match that in case of a draw lasting fewer than three hours they'd play a rapid game with colors reversed, and so they did. The game was for purely exhibition purposes, having no relevance to the match score or prize fund or anything else, so they could have some fun - and they did. Kramnik played 1.e4 and went on a bit of an attacking spree; unfortunately for him and the spectacle, he failed to follow up with the right move at the critical point. (The move in question is 25.Ne5, which he saw, as they immediately started analyzing it after the game, but rejected for some reason.) Aronian went on to win the entertaining game with a nice finish.

    Here are both games, with my comments.

    Tuesday
    Apr242012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Kramnik Wins a Crazy Game 3

    After a dry pair of games in the Levon Aronian-Vladimir Kramnik match, today's battle was incredibly complicated - thanks to Aronian. Kramnik played 1.e4 for the first time in a long time, but not as a prelude to anything interesting; rather, he trotted out the disgustingly dull Scotch Four Knights. (The motto of the Scotch Four Knights player: "Not everyone's brave enough to play the London System".) Thankfully, after the exchange on d4 Aronian avoided the boring equalizing line with ...Bb4 and tried ...Bc5 instead, and then a few moves later found a great queen sac that set the board ablaze.

    While I'm happy to heap scorn on Kramnik for his horrible opening choice (at least it wasn't a Ponziani), once the game got sharp he rose to the occasion. He played very well in the tactical maelstrom, and it seems that both his tactical sight and his assessments were more accurate than Aronian's. When the smoke (kind of) cleared, White had a small material advantage and an easier position to play, and he turned the tables from game 1, as this time he took advantage of Aronian's time trouble to wrap up the game.

    Now this six-game match is even at 1.5-1.5, and Aronian will have White in game 4 tomorrow. Will he go bloodthirstily for revenge and pull out his best openings, or will the trend of the last two games continue, with each player using sidelines to save their main prep for other events? We'll see, but now that both players have tasted the sting of defeat I anticipate that the battles will grow more intense through the finish.

    Here is today's game, with my annotations.

    Sunday
    Apr222012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Game 2 Drawn (Updated)

    Vladimir Kramnik recovered somewhat from yesterday's loss with the white pieces, drawing the second game of his match with Levon Aronian in a well-played Berlin Defense. Aronian innovated first and had some slight pressure throughout, but Kramnik rose to the challenge and with accurate play neutralized White's initiative and held the draw.

    You can replay the game with my notes here; meanwhile, we're hoping that they'll play an exhibition rapid game. Match rules state that a game that finishes in a draw in three hours or less will be followed by a rapid game that doesn't count for the match scores; unfortunately, Aronian (deliberately?) dragged the game out to the 3:05 mark. The commentators think they might agree to play such a game anyway, but we'll see.

    UPDATE: There's no game today (Monday) - after every second game they have a rest day. Thus they'll play Tuesday and Wednesday, take Thursday off, and then finish Friday and Saturday.

    Saturday
    Apr212012

    Aronian-Kramnik Match: Aronian Wins Game 1 (Updated)

    It was the best possible start for Levon Aronian, as he not only won game 1 of his six-game match with Vladimir Kramnik, he did so with the black pieces. Aronian played the Semi-Slav, but Kramnik declined the invitation for wild chess, opting instead for the solid Moscow Variation (5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6). The players followed the recent game Gunina-A. Muzychuk from the European Women's Championship, and the all-knowing commentators assumed that when Aronian played 16...Qe6 rather than Muzychuk's 16...Qd6 both players were still early in their preparation.

    Surprisingly, this assumption was false. Aronian, who played the novelty, was unaware of the game and hadn't spent too much time on 11.Re1 lines in general. Kramnik did know the game, but in a big lapse had not investigated it too seriously or with an engine (but I repeat myself?) and was on his own after Aronian's new move.

    Unluckily for Kramnik, Aronian's novelty - one mentioned beforehand in at least two e-sources (Chess Today and the Chess Evolution Weekly Newsletter) - not only took care of Black's problems, it gave some for White to solve. Kramnik spent more than 20 minutes trying to decide "which slightly worse position" to defend, and in the long run he failed to do so. First, while 24.g5 might have been alright, the plan behind it, to continue with 26.f4, was not, and after 26...Rb8! Black's advantage had grown to near-decisive proportions. The problem with Kramnik's plan was that although it led to some pawn exchanges, which are useful in principle, the resulting weakening of his king's position was both serious and chronic. By move 40, in mild time trouble and with a position that was almost surely losing in the long run, Kramnik's choice of 40.Rd7? lost immediately. After 40...g5! 41.Ng6 Bd6 White couldn't both save the knight and cope with the threat of 42...Bxh2+ 43.Kh1 Rf1#, so he gave up.

    Aronian's play was very impressive, but unless Kramnik is in poor form he's sure to put up a better fight than he did today. He'd better do so tomorrow with the black pieces, as a 2-0 deficit in a 6-game match will be almost impossible to overcome.

    Now for some links. The event website was linked above, and you can replay the live broadcast (complete with commentary by GM Yannick Pelletier and IM Werner Hug) on this page (look under "Latest Videos"). GM Arkadij Naiditsch supplied live commentary, and you can find my own analysis of the game here. (Update: GM Sergey Shipov's analysis is here. It's worth your time, as his work usually is, but it's funny that he too is a member of the "Wow, great prep by Aronian!" brigade.)