Aronian-Kramnik: game 4 draw, Aronian wins rapid game

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

The fourth match game Aronian-Kramnik, played today in Zurich, was a rather quick draw in another Berlin Endgame. It ended in under three hours and so the players played a rapid game as well – something that was part of the match conditions. This game was won by Levon Aronian.

For the third time in the match the game started with 1.e4, and for the second time a Berlin Endgame came on the board. Vladimir Kramnik demonstrated once more that he's the world's biggest expert in this line - he more or less outmanoeuvred Aronian with Black and had a slight edge in the final position. It remains to be seen whether the Armenian player will choose the same first move in his last white game! Below is GM Sergey Shipov's live commentary from today, translated from Russian by Colin McGourty:

[Commentary by GM Sergey Shipov - original in Russian at Crestbook]

[Event "Aronian-Kramnik Match"]
[Site "Zurich (4)"]
[Date "2012.04.25"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Levon Aronian"]
[Black "Vladimir Kramnik"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "49"]
[EventDate "2012.??.??"]
[TimeControl "120+17"]
[WhiteClock "0:01:03"]
[BlackClock "0:01:21"]

{Greetings, dear chess fans and connoisseurs. This is Grandmaster Sergey
Shipov with the pleasure of commentating on this match. All the ingredients
for good work are there: viewer interest, superb players, a friendly match
atmosphere, beautiful play and free-flowing creativity from chess artists...
It's also pleasant that the match didn't become a walk in the park for Aronian
- he was the one many considered the favourite, and the first game confirmed
the validity of that choice. But Kramnik has managed to stand up for himself.
He's revived the intrigue by conducting the third game on the level of a
champion. After every game I take the time to look deeper into the analytical
details before recording my video summary [in Russian at]. So
then, yesterday I came to the conclusion that Vladimir's play was simply
phenomenal. Perhaps a few trivial nuances escaped his attention, but overall
he worked like a bulldozer, rapidly and confidently solving all the critical
tactical and positional problems. Beating that kind of Kramnik is a task of
the very highest degree of difficulty. But that's the kind of task Aronian
faces now. He's younger than his opponent, and hungrier. He needs to fulfil
his talent and bring the work done to fruition in the form of titles. And even
though they're not playing for any crown in Zurich, victory against such a
famous player would undoubtedly give Levon the aura of a champion. If, of
course, he manages... The fourth game of the match is about to start. I don't
think the Armenian grandmaster will again try to test out the solidity of the
Berlin Wall. It's made of very robust masonry. And the mason himself, sitting
opposite, is akin to the wall. No, you have to take a different approach, in
positions of a different type. Livelier, more complicated, more cunning. So on
the first move it would be worth pushing the pawn a little further to the left
into the centre...} 1. e4 {No. Aronian's persisting in his delusions.} e5 2.
Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 {And again the Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez.} 4. O-O
Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 {Again the same endgame.}
9. h3 {But here's a slight deviation from the trodden path.} ({In the second
game of the match we saw} 9. Nc3) 9... Ke8 {Kramnik's ready for everything. It
couldn't be any other way.} 10. Nc3 h5 11. Bg5 Be6 12. b3 {The players have
made these moves instantly without giving me a chance to look in the database.
Now, it seems, I can... White's last move is quite rare. Hou Yifan played this
way in the recent (Men's) Chinese Championship. White's preparing to gradually
seize space on the queenside.} ({Anand, Svidler and Navara here played} 12.
Rfd1) ({Karjakin, Leko and Malakhov preferred} 12. Rad1) ({Vachier-Lagrave
stood out with the move} 12. a3) ({Volokitin and Safarli trusted in} 12. Ne2) (
{I wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow one of the world's most famous chess
players comes up with something new after glancing at their computer monitor.
For example,} 12. Kh2) ({or} 12. a4 {I also wouldn't be surprised if in five
years' time all of the indicated moves are declared to be weak...}) 12... Be7 {
It's interesting that in this branch of the variation Black calmly gives up
the advantage of the two bishops. The comfortable position of the king on e7
and the cooperation of the rooks are worth it.} 13. Rad1 h4 {Fixing his
opponent's kingside. In a number of cases the rook can come out to h5 to worry
the e5-pawn.} 14. Rfe1 {A novelty. White's play is classically simple - all
his pieces are coming to the centre, with no plan of action yet having been
determined... Perhaps that'll largely depend on Black's response.} ({Aronian's
great female predecessor played in the way that was the accepted norm - until
this game - i.e. she doubled her rooks on the only open file:} 14. Rd3 Rd8 15.
Rxd8+ Kxd8 16. Rd1+ Ke8 17. Kf1 f6 18. Bf4 Bd8 19. exf6 gxf6 20. Ne2 Kf7 21.
Ned4 Nxd4 22. Nxd4 Bd5 23. Re1 {- White's achievements are very modest, but
Black's next move looks dubious -} b5 24. Rc1 $1 a6 25. c4 bxc4 26. bxc4 Be4
27. f3 c5 28. Nb3 Bd3+ 29. Kf2 {- Black encountered real problems, but
nevertheless held, Hou Yifan - Ni Hua, Xhinghua 2012.}) 14... Rd8 {It's
beneficial for Black, as a rule, to exchange one pair of rooks.} 15. Rxd8+ Kxd8
16. Ne4 {Levon is playing with emphatic speed, leaving no doubt that all his
moves were conceived at home. For now he's preventing Black's planned f7-f6
break. Vladimir has started to think...} b6 {Another logical response. Black
eliminates the Ne4-c5 threat while also hinting at pawn encroachments on the
queenside. He's only got a light-squared bishop, so he'd prefer to put the
pawns on dark squares.} 17. Bf4 {There's no end to their cunning. Elite chess
players are as capricious as fashionable women. Their plans and preferences
change seven times a day. I want to exchange bishops, I don't want to. I want
to put the bishop on g5, I want to put the knight there - besides, it's still
not clear which... And all to spite each other!} ({As a man who's not so
up-to-date on the nuances of fashion and artistic questions, I only looked at
simple continuations like,} 17. Rd1+ Ke8 18. c4 {, in the hope of exchanges on
g5... which wouldn't, however, give White anything significant either.}) 17...
Kc8 {This is what they call harking back to your youth! At the turn of the
century in the Kasparov - Kramnik match it was fashionable to send the king
into exile on b7. In the given situation there's a firm basis for it. If the
bishop has survived on e7, and there are no other prospects, then the king
won't find a comfortable post in the centre. By the way, he could stop on c8,
as if choosing where to go... While the d8-square will come in handy for the
rook... I wouldn't want to disappoint fans seeking the spectacular, but it
seems as if White has achieved nothing out of the opening. And there's no
active plan of action. We can expect to see an unhurried positional struggle.
A tug-of-war.} 18. Neg5 {Of course this is an obvious manoeuvre. A couple of
exchanges of minor pieces will in principle make it easier for White to
advance on the kingside, but I'm concerned by the fact that Black can seize
the d-file. You shouldn't underestimate an invasion by the black rook...} Bxg5
{An understandable inclusion. It's important to distract the sentries guarding
the d2-point from their posts.} 19. Bxg5 {Realising the danger of the idea
mentioned Levon prevents the move Rh8-d8.} Bd5 {But now the f3-knight finds
itself in an uncomfortable position. And if it moves then the black knight
will appear on d4 i.e. Black has real counterplay. There's a remarkably large
amount of time on the clocks: 1.40 - 1.31. We've got very realistic prospects
of seeing an extra rapid game today. However, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
..} 20. Nh2 {A new puzzle. Where's the knight going? Perhaps it's simply
making way for the f2-pawn, although the structure h3-g2-f3-e5 doesn't appeal
to me. Again, that's because I'm not as up-to-date with chess fashion as the
players in the match.} c5 {But Black's structure on the other side of the
board is good - as it's classical - that was how pawns were placed even back
in ancient times. If you've got a light-squared bishop put the pawns on dark
squares. And vice versa. Now in case of c2-c4 the bishop can calmly retreat to
c6. At the same time Black's threatening the pawn prod c5-c4. After, for
example, the preliminary a7-a5. The idea of "undoubling" the pawns is very
tempting...} ({If you rushed with} 20... Nd4 21. c4 {you'd have to return the
bishop to e6.}) 21. Rd1 {It seems Aronian has his doubts about putting the
pawn on c4. He's probably planning to put it on c3, limiting the f5-knight.
But that's unlikely to blunt Black's counterplay. For example, he can play
a7-a5 with the threat of a5-a4. And after a possible a2-a4 there would follow
the extremely unpleasant break c5-c4!} Bc6 22. c3 {There it is. Let's see if
Kramnik repeats my unsubtle reflections or instead comes up with something
better. He's capable of it!} a5 {No, I was right. When you write about the
obvious it's easy to guess the moves of the great.} 23. Ng4 {An amusing route.
The first thing that springs to mind is exchanging knights on e3 with... but
will it really be an absolutely equal opposite-coloured bishop endgame? The
h4-pawn demands constant attention from the black rook - defending pawns isn't
exactly a noble task. However, all abstract reflections need to be checked
concretely. After all, the white bishop will have to take on e3 and it might
not manage to return to g5 after, let's say, the reply Rh8-e8. So I don't see
any obstacles to further advances by Black on the queenside. Everything's fine
for him.} Bd7 {Vladimir chose a more cunning path. That's his prerogative.} ({
And it's mine to look at alternatives. For example,} 23... a4 24. Ne3 Rh5 $5 ({
it's also ok to try what was mentioned} 24... Nxe3 25. Bxe3 Re8) 25. Nxf5 Rxg5
26. g4 $1 hxg3 27. Ne7+ Kb7 28. f4 $1 Rh5 29. Nxc6 Kxc6 30. Kg2 {and the
result of White's brilliant play... is an equal rook ending -} g5 $1 31. f5 Rh4
32. Re1 Kd7 33. Kxg3 Rf4 {- new exchanges are inevitable and the draw isn't
far off.}) 24. f3 {And here's the promised structure.} ({There were dangerous
complications for White after} 24. Ne3 Rh5 $1 25. Nxf5 Rxg5 26. Ne7+ Kd8 27. f4
Rg3 $1 28. Nf5 Rxc3 29. Nxg7 Re3 $1 {and so on.}) 24... a4 {And here's the
promised counterplay. If Aronian wasn't playing White I'd think that Kramnik
was going to win this game... He's implementing all the classical Berlin ideas
so smoothly and confidently. The clocks don't inspire fear: 1.25 - 1.12. What
is remarkable, though, is the speed with which Levon is making all these less
than obvious moves at the board. Where's he rushing to? Perhaps he wants to
watch the final match of the Gagarin Cup between Dinamo and Avangard, or to
have dinner in time for the Champions League match between Real Madrid and
Bayern Munich? Believe it or not, such motives do sometimes govern even great
chess players. We all know Boris Gelfand loves to watch Barcelona play. I also
recall myself how once, almost a hundred years ago, I played a game against
Nigel Short, and that was the evening of a football match between England and
Scotland. Well, I don't think Nigel was up for chess... That's how I explain
my convincing victory.} 25. Kf2 {And Vladimir's accommodated his opponent's
desire - DRAW! However, the fighters won't be able to leave the stage
immediately. They're going to have to work a bit and play a game of rapid
chess. Congratulations to the tournament organisers for introducing that new
rule. I feel I also had some part in it... As for the game that's finished, my
opinion hasn't changed: Aronian's decision to play the Berlin Variation was
flawed and fruitless from the start. He hadn't stored up any bold novelties
and he didn't demonstrate any real pressure. Moreover, in the final position
Black is, in my opinion, simply better. And if Kramnik hadn't been so placid...
In general, it's too late to change anything now. The continuation of the
chess banquet awaits! While I, Grandmaster Sergey Shipov, am finishing my work
and will join you, dear viewers. I'll watch in turn chess, hockey and football.
We'll meet again the day after tomorrow, after the rest day. All the best!}

After a small break the players also played a rapid game, with reversed colours. This one, which also started with 1.e4, was won by Aronian - commentary by ChessVibes:

[Event "Zurich Chess Challenge Rapid"]
[Site "Zurich SUI"]
[Date "2012.04.25"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Aronian, Levon"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C77"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "2012.04.21"]
[TimeControl "60+5"]
[BlackClock "0:00:08"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3 b5 6. Bb3 Bc5 7. c3 d6 8. Bg5 h6
9. Bh4 Bb6 10. Nbd2 Rb8 $146 (10... Na5 11. Bc2 c5 12. Nf1 Be6 13. Ne3 Qe7 14.
d4 cxd4 15. cxd4 Nc4 {Ramaswamy,A (2239)-Ramya,K (2161)/Visakhapatnam 2006})
11. Qe2 a5 12. a4 b4 13. O-O g5 $5 {Getting rid of the pin before castling is
a well-known idea in these structures.} 14. Bg3 O-O {White has to find a good
plan now. Kramnik's manoeuvre might not be the most testing.} 15. Nc4 Ba7 16.
Nfd2 h5 $1 {Grabbing the initiative on the kingside.} 17. h3 h4 18. Bh2 Kg7 19.
Kh1 Rh8 20. d4 $5 ({Houdini doesn't like this pawn sacrifice and has a slight
preference for White after} 20. Ne3) 20... bxc3 $1 {The open b-file is useful
for Black in the following complications.} 21. bxc3 exd4 22. e5 $5 {Kramnik's
idea is very creative, but Aronian responds well.} dxc3 $1 (22... dxe5 23. Nxe5
{is highly unclear.}) 23. exf6+ Qxf6 24. f4 $5 {Again very creative -
everything is directed to Black's king - but this is probably a bit too much.} (
{The obvious alternative was} 24. Ne4) 24... cxd2 25. fxg5 Qe6 26. Qd1 $2 ({
White should have tried} 26. Ne5 $1 Rxb3 (26... Qxb3 27. Nxc6) 27. Rxf7+ Kg8 (
27... Qxf7 28. Nxf7 Kxf7 29. Qc4+) 28. Rf6 $1) 26... Rxb3 $1 {This wins on the
spot.} 27. Qxb3 Ba6 {The point.} 28. Qf3 Bxc4 29. Qxc6 Bd4 30. Bg1 Bxa1 31.
Rxa1 Re8 32. g6 Qf6 33. Qxc4 Re1 34. Kh2 Rxa1 35. Bd4 Rh1+ 0-1

In the match between Aronian and Kramnik a total of six classical games will be played. Thursday is the final rest day, and the last two games will take place on Friday and Saturday, when ChessVibes will be in Zurich for on-the-spot coverage!

EventAronian-Kramnik | PGN by TWIC
DatesApril 21-28, 2012
LocationZurich, Switzerland
System6-game match

Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik

Rate of play40 moves in 120 minutes, 20 moves in 60 minutes and, for the remainder of the game, 15 minutes plus an increment of 30 seconds per move
BonusAs a bonus for the audience, Kramnik and Aronian will play an additional rapid game if the main game on any given day is drawn in under three hours

Live commentary

Sergey Shipov is a highly acclaimed Russian grandmaster, coach, author and commentator. His Russian annotations at Crestbook are being translated by Colin McGourty, who did this many times before on his own site Chess in Translation. More information on the match can be found here.


Saturday, 21 April: 15:00  Round 1
Sunday, 22 April: 15:00  Round 2
Monday, 23 April: Rest Day
Tuesday, 24 April: 15:00  Round 3
Wednesday, 25 April: 15:00  Round 4
Thursday, 26 April: Rest Day
Friday, 27 April: 15:00  Round 5
Saturday, 28 April: 13:00  Round 6

Videos by Macauley Peterson

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