Leko vs Kramnik great game!
1. d4 (Notes by Raymond Keene.) After all the predictions of a dull event, this is proving to be one of the most dramatic sporting contests of recent WCC matches. Kramnik needed at least one win from the last two games, and was not going to leave it all to the very last game. He chose as Black a strongly counter-attacking, unbalanced system, the Modern Benoni, and one could not help but recall how this defence gave Fischer his first win against Spassky in 1972. Kramnik, a long-time 1 d4 player, must have been more familiar with this structure than the neophyte Leko, and played in true Benoni style, putting pressure on White with a King's-side pawn advance. Leko seemed to escape any difficulties and a rook endgame emerged on the board, but again Kramnik found ways to set his opponent problems. Leko faced pressure on the board and the clock, probably missing some chances to obtain a more clearly drawn position, but with characteristic determination found a series of 'miracle' saves and Kramnik could not find a final decisive manoeuvre. Perhaps through sheer momentum, the players continued until the most clearly drawn position of all was reached... two lonely Kings. Did Kramnik miss a win? Probably! I have been greatly assisted in my understanding of this endgame by comments from acirce, a chessgames.com contributor who is also a noted endgame composer [Ulf Hammarström], and the analysis published on www.chessbase.com. 1... Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 The Benoni is often seen as a dubious defence, but Kramnik is desperately in need of something irrational to disturb the balance, given his dire match situation. 4. d5 d6 5. Nc3 exd5 6. cxd5 g6 7. Nd2 Or 7...Nbd7 8 Nc4 Nb6 9 e4 Bg7 10 Ne3 O-O 11 Bd3 Nh5 12 O-O Be5 13 a4 Nf4 14 a5, was Nimzowitsch-Marshall, New York 1927. In this line, 11...Re8 12 O-O c4 13 Bc2 Bd7 14 Bd2 Rc8 15 Kh1 Rc5 16 f3 Nc8 17 a4 a6 18 Ne2 Ne7 19 Bb4 Rc8 20 Bc3 also greatly favours White (Keene-Pritchett, British Ch 1972). 7... Bg7 8. e4 O-O 9. Be2 Na6 10. O-O Ne8 11. Nc4 This transfer of the Knight to c4 was, I believe, first seen in the Nimzowitsch game and is now standard in many main lines of the Benoni. 11... Nac7 12. a4 f5 13. exf5 Kramnik has had this position as White, a number of years ago. He drew in 46 moves after the continuation 13 f3 Qe7 14 Bf4 g5 15 Bg3 f4 in the game Kramnik Ivanchuk, Belgrade 1995. 13... Rxf5 14. Bg4 Rf8 15. Bxc8 Rxc8 16. Qb3 b6 17. Nb5 White is playing for a light square grip, but there is something rather static about the position for White that emerges. That is, it looks impressive, but it is hard to see how to improve the position thereafter, or to exchange White's advantages for others. 17... Nxb5 18. axb5 Rc7 19. Bd2 Rcf7 20. Bc3 Qd7 The online audience were baying for Kramnik to 'launch' 20...Qh4, but this may just get in the way of Black's actual plan. 21. f3 Kramnik now begins a bold King's-side pawn advance. 21... g5 22. Ne3 Rf4 23. Rfe1 h5 Black's play looks loosening but at least he has a plan to improve his position. By going so consistently for exchanges, White may have robbed himself of any serious activity. 24. Qc2 Qf7 25. h3 Bd4 26. Bxd4 Rxd4 Black faces an important choice. Kramnik of course spent some time considering 26...cxd4, but could not find enough in its favour at the board. His actual choice allows White to play a liquidating combination. 27. Nf5 Qxf5 28. Qxf5 Rxf5 29. Rxe8+ Kf7 30. Rb8 Rdxd5 31. Rxa7+ Ke6 32. Re8+ Kf6 The dust has cleared, with an apparently level position. Leko now produces the sort of move which might produce further clarification, but which might simply create weaknesses. In fact, it turns out to be the latter. White should play 33 Rh7! Kramnik now devotes renewed energy to probing White's position. 33. g4 hxg4 34. hxg4 Rd1+ 35. Kf2 Re5 36. Rh8 Rd2+ 37. Kg3 Ree2 Given the looming mating net, White forces an exchange of rooks. 38. Rf8+ Kg6 39. Rg8+ Kf6 40. Rf8+ Ke6 41. Re8+ Kd5 ( 41... Kf6 ) 42. Rxe2 Rxe2 43. Rg7 Re5 Another example of trying to reach the end of a story too soon. Everyone 'knew' that White was completely lost in this position. But Garry Kasparov, commenting on www.playchess.com, declared to some general surprise, "Wait a minute. After 44.Rb7, White has chances to draw." According to chessbase.com, "In spite of harsh contradiction by the heavily armed spectators (equipped with Fritz, Junior and even the 16-processor Hydra) Kasparov stuck to his analysis, which Leko went on to play, almost move by move. GM Jon Levitt called it 'a magical draw' 44. Rb7 c4 45. Rxb6 Re2 46. f4 !! The key move in Kasparov's analysis, and a defensive move of genius. 46... Re3+ 47. Kf2 gxf4 48. Rb8 Rb3 49. b6 It seems that 49 g5 Ke5 50 b6 Rxb2+ 51 Kf3 holds the draw 49... Ke4 Kramnik's major alternative was 49...Rxb2+. All night the computers whirred and the kibitzers muttered... One chessgames.com kibitzer amongst many, Honza Cervenka gave 49...Rxb2+ as a win for Black after 50 Kf3 c3 e.g. 51 Rc8 (51 g5 fails to the neat trick 51...Rxb6! 52 Rxb6 c2) 51...Kd4 52 g5 (52 Rc6 d5 53 g5 c2 54 g6 Rxb6 55 Rxc2 Rxg6 56 Kxf4 Rf6+ 57 Kg5 Rf1) 52...Rxb6 53 g6 Rb7 54 Kxf4 d5 55 Kg5 Kd3 56 Kf6 d4. ChessBase gave instead 51 b7, marking it "winning for Black" but analysing 51...Kd4 52.Rd8 Rxb7 53.Rxd6+ Kc5 54.Rd1 Rf7 55.g5 Kc4 56.g6 Rf8 57.g7 Rg8 58.Rd7 c2 59.Rc7+ Kd3 60.Rd7+ Kc3 61.Rc7+ Kd2 62.Rd7+ Kc1 63.Kxf4= 50. Re8+ Dionyseus queries this move, giving instead 50 g5 Rxb2+ 51 Ke1 c3 (simply "-+" ChessBase) and analysing 52 g6 Rb1+ 53 Kf2 c2 54 Rc8 Rb2 55 Ke1 Rxb6 56 g7 Rb1+ 57 Kf2 Rb2 58 Kf1 c1=Q+ 59 Rxc1 Rb8 60 Kf2 Rg8 61 Re1+ Kf5 62 Rd1 Rxg7 63 Rxd6 with a draw. 50... Kd3 51. Re2 d5 52. Kf3 d4 53. g5 c3 54. bxc3 dxc3 55. Rg2 Rb2 56. b7 Rxb7 57. Kxf4 Rb2 58. Rg1 c2 59. Rc1 Rb1 60. Rxb1 ( 60. Rxc2 ) ( 60. Rxc2 Kxc2 61. g6 Rb4+ 62. Kf5 Kd3 63. Kf6 Rb6+ 64. Kf5 Rxg6 65. Kxg6 )