Lessons from Kramnik-Topalov, Skopje 2015 1-0

Lessons from Kramnik-Topalov, Skopje 2015 1-0

Nov 27, 2015, 6:45 AM |

Chessbase Magazine 169 has just arrived on my doorstep, and the first game highlighted is this instructive game annotated by Kramnik against Topalov from the European Cup in Skopje.


I'm making a concerted effort to annotate and blog all chess material I cover, in order to slow myself down and dissect in detail the lessons they offer.


What impressed me in this game were the ideas that weren't played in the game. Kramnik illustrates to me "total chess" where he not only promotes his ideas but can see prophylactic ideas to restrict his opponent (eg. 23. b3 is very deep to me).

Lesson 1: Kingside pressure with Qg4

Having not been familiary with this opening (thought it is an IQP position), I was impressed with this idea to transfer the Queen to the Kingside immediately with 11. Qg4 and immediately induce Kingside weakening. Kramnik notes this is an old theoretical line.


Lesson 2: Exerting Light squared pressure

I found this sequence with White's light squared Bishop very instructive. Firstly he moves again to target the newly weakened e6 pawn. Then he moves again to pin the Knight at d7, which forces Black to exchange the Knight at e5 for his dark squared Bishop. Constant provoking that forces concessions from the opponent.
Also note the cute tactic of Nc6 should Black have played ... Nd7 allowing a fork at e6

Lesson 3: Removing the Guard leading to weakening of dark squares
White notices the Black Queen is the guard of Nd7 and seeks to exploit this playing Qh5 threatening Bg5 to remove the guard. This induces a weakening of dark squares with ... g6.
Instructive is if Black responded 18. ... h6. White can rip open the Kingside and employ a sacrifice at d5 to weaken f5 whilst the Black Queen must defend f7.

Lesson 4: Endgame Assessment with the Power of connected passed pawns and lack of entry points for enemy Rooks

This is a great lesson in endgame assessment. Kramnik had to forsee this position had Black played 18. ... h6 allowing 19. Bxh6.

This is a better endgame for White as he has 3 connected passed pawns on the Kingside and Black has not entry points on the e-file for his Rooks.


Lesson 5: Removing the Guard

This hypothetical situation could have occured had Black played 22. ... Rc2. Alarm bells ring with g7 being such a focal point. The e-pawn is used to harrass the Black Queen and ultimately interfere along the 7th rank.

Lesson 6: Prophylaxis
To me, this is what separates the great from the good. White identifies that Black's active Rook may target g2 via Rc8-c4-g2 and puts a stop to this with b3.

Lesson 7: Stubborn Defence
I learnt a lot from Kramnik's suggestion how Black could have made it very difficult for White to break through. He plays ... h6 to meet h5 with g5, and shores up d5 with ... Rc5 to overprotect against the sacrifice.

Lesson 8: Decisive Moment where everything is in order. The e-pawn acts as an attacking piece
All of White's pieces are in position. The devastating Exchange sacrifice allows the e-pawn to act as an attacking piece, breaking through.

Lesson 9: Piece Activity leads to ... Promotion Tactics, Skewers, Back Rank mates, Discovered Checks, Pins and Counter Pins
There are so many tactical themes in the finish to this game, but this doesn't just fall out of the sky. The positional play leads to this final position and break through.
Ultimately illustrates the fruits of piece activity.

Game Score: Kramnik-Topalov, Skopje 2015 1-0