Kramnik-Aronian game 5 drawn, while we've arrived in Zurich

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

The fifth match game between Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian lasted 43 moves, saw quite some excitement especially in the final phase, and eventually ended in a draw. The match score is 2.5-2.5 with one more game to go, which starts at 13:00 CET tomorrow.

This morning we arrived in Zurich to "check out" the Aronian-Kramnik match, and our first impressions are very pleasant. In the centre of this pretty and sunny Swiss city there is the Paradeplatz ("parade square") and right there it's difficult to miss the luxurious Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville. Under big chandeliers, and with an audience of about a hundred chairs (all filled), the two players are fighting under the conditions that such a top level match deserves. Below the game analysis you can find a few photos; we're also preparing a video.

Below is GM Sergey Shipov's live commentary of today's 5th game (original in Russian here at Crestbook).

[Event "Aronian-Kramnik Match"]
[Site "Zurich (5)"]
[Date "2012.04.27"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Vladimir Kramnik"]
[Black "Levon Aronian"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[Annotator "ChessVibes"]
[PlyCount "86"]
[EventDate "2012.??.??"]
[TimeControl "120+17"]
[WhiteClock "0:01:03"]
[BlackClock "0:01:21"]

{Hello, dear viewers. The friendly match in Zurich is entering the finishing
straight, and this is Grandmaster Sergey Shipov bringing you coverage of game
number five. The players' chances of victory are absolutely even and a lot
will depend on their mood. The drawback of friendly matches is that there's a
temptation to avoid a fierce struggle and instead organise a friendly,
peaceful finish, as cyclists do on the last stage of the Tour de France. Yes,
the scales are tipped in favour of an uncompromising battle by the anti-draw
rule, which complicates the peace process and reduces the motivation for a
quick draw. There's a difference in rating which will be a small stimulus for
Aronian. There's probably also a difference in the amount of money the match
winner or loser receives - I don't know whether that's in fact provided for,
but you'll agree it would be logical. There's also the ambition of the players
and their desire to be the best of the best. And finally, there's the fear of
damaging your reputation in the eyes of organisers and viewers. But on the
other side of the scales we've got tiredness, the fear of losing rating points
in case of excessive risk and, finally, simple human laziness... What do you
think will prove weightier? I'd put my money on the first side of the scales!
I hope Vladimir and Levon will display their fighting qualities... On the
other hand, if you think about it there's no clear distinction between a
fighting game that ends in a draw and a game that's played at half-steam. The
external impression can sometimes be misleading. In general, I'm not far away
from exposing Kramnik and Aronian the way Fischer in his time "exposed" Karpov
and Kasparov :) But to begin with let's nevertheless watch the game...} 1. Nf3
{A change of track in the opening. Or rather, a rotation - after all, this is
how Volodya started the match.} d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 {The Slav Defence.} 4.
Nc3 e6 {An invitation into the Meran or the Moscow Variation.} 5. Bg5 h6 {
Again I'm trying not to breathe in the hope of seeing the bishop retreat to h4.
..} 6. Bxf6 {Alas, it didn't help.} Qxf6 7. e3 Nd7 8. Be2 {The first surprise.
The bishop didn't reach d3 - so we've got a deviation from the first game of
the match. Where's the nuance? Where's the difference? If the pawn on c4 is
taken then it seems there won't be any difference - White will be forced to
capture with the bishop. But if Black holds back from that...} Qd8 {The speed
of Levon's reaction suggests he's up-to-date on the differences. The queen
leaves the frontline in order to avoid coming under fire. It's effectively
turned out that in contrast to the first game Black was given an additional
option - and he used it.} ({It looks more ambitious to play the more
frequently seen} 8... g6 {but there are probably submerged reefs there...}) 9.
O-O Be7 {Of course the bishop might have come out to d6, but then White could
play e3-e4 with gain of tempo, as Black's bishop would fall under the hooves
of the knight.} 10. Qc2 {White is preparing to play e3-e4. A rook will operate
very effectively on d1. In that regard the position of the bishop on e2 is
perfectly logical.} ({By the way, also played here was the immediate} 10. e4 {
, when there followed:} dxc4 11. Bxc4 O-O 12. Qe2 b6 $6 (12... b5 $1) 13. Rfd1
Bb7 14. d5 exd5 15. exd5 Bf6 (15... c5 $5) 16. dxc6 Bxc6 17. Nd4 Bxd4 18. Rxd4
Qg5 19. Bd5 {and White had a persistent initiative, M. Vokac - J. Obsivac,
Roznov 2002.}) 10... O-O 11. a3 {A rare continuation. Kramnik's play is very
cunning - he hasn't yet determined the setup of the rooks and, perhaps, he's
planning to seize space on the queenside in future.} ({In the encounter G.
Timoshenko, Y. Kruppa, Kiev 2001, the players quickly opened up the centre:}
11. Rfd1 a6 12. c5 Qc7 13. e4 dxe4 14. Nxe4 e5 $1 15. dxe5 Nxe5 16. Nd6 Nxf3+
17. Bxf3 Be6 18. Rd3 Rad8 19. Rad1 Rd7 20. g3 Rfd8 21. Qd2 {and agreed to a
draw... although Black should have continued with} Bf5 $1 22. Rd4 Bf6) 11... b6
{A simple and natural plan - Black will bring his bishop out to b7 after which
he can begin to think about opening things up. Can White play b2-b4 now with
the idea of a clamp - that's the question. After a7-a5 he'd continue with
b4-b5. But I'm concerned about a preliminary exchange on c4 with Black then
completing his development. The undermining a7-a5 would come a little later.
In the ensuing structure the white queen isn't particularly well-placed on c2
- it'll have to go to b3 with the loss of a tempo. Which is no trifle... There
really is something to think about here. Times: 1.45 - 1.45.} 12. Rfd1 {The
restraint of a veteran soldier. He doesn't go on the rampage unless he's sure
of success. The rook will be useful on d1 after any opening of the centre.} Bb7
{Played after a short pause which I'm unable to decipher. Other continuations
looked clearly worse.} ({It would be the move of a player a class lower to play
} 12... Ba6 {as after White's simple reply} 13. cxd5 {Black is deprived of his
main trump - the advantage of the two bishops.}) 13. Rac1 {Yet again not
revealing his true plans. White's pawns remain unmoved... This appears to be a
novelty.} ({The predecessors weren't great:} 13. e4 dxe4 14. Nxe4 Qc7 15. Rac1
Rad8 16. b4 c5 $1 17. dxc5 bxc5 18. b5 {and in the game V. Potomak - P.
Votruba, Czech Republic 1994, there was a favourable position for Black. He
could already have attacked at this point with} f5 {and so on.}) 13... Qb8 {
This vaguely reminds me of the Indo-Pakistani... [a reference to a song by
Vladimir Vysotsky] no, the Anti-Meran Variation. Black is removing his queen
from the gaze of the d1-rook and, probably, planning active operations in the
centre. It's not in vain that the rook has got stuck on a8. It'll come in
handy if White decides to play b2-b4.} ({It seemed to me that it was a
flexible and somewhat pragmatic solution to play} 13... a6 {- such a flexible
structure on the queenside would leave Black with lots of options.}) ({It was
also possible to consider} 13... Bd6 {with the idea of putting the queen on e7.
Then in the line} 14. e4 dxe4 15. Nxe4 {Black would win an important tempo with
} Bf4 $1 {and then you need to look at} 16. Rb1 f5 $5 17. Nc3 Qf6 {with a
complex struggle.}) 14. cxd5 {A bold step. White is removing the tension in
the centre but, I have to admit, I don't yet see any dividends however Black
takes on d5...} ({On the other hand, other continuations didn't promise an
advantage. For example,} 14. e4 dxe4 15. Qxe4 c5 $1) ({Or} 14. b4 $6 dxc4 15.
Bxc4 a5 $1 {and the white pawn on a3 is hanging.}) 14... cxd5 {Playing to
equalise.} ({For us commentators and fans it would be more interesting to see}
14... exd5 {but it seems Aronian saw the strategic risk of that structure. Yes,
for now it's difficult for White to carry out the undermining b2-b4-b5, and a
break in the centre promises little, but who knows what might happen in the
future... In general, we're not going to get to see it.}) 15. Qa4 {A sensible
manoeuvre. By attacking the d7-knight Kramnik wins a tempo... and it'll be
logical to use it to exchange bishops with Bd3-a6. The prospect of getting a
small but persistent edge for White is perfectly realistic.} ({It was
fruitless to play} 15. Bb5 Nf6 16. Ne5 {because of} a6 $1) 15... Nf6 {So let's
see... Black's idea is obvious: he's planning to expand with a7-a6 and b6-b5.}
16. Ba6 {Stating the obvious.} Bxa6 {Aronian replied almost instantly. He'd
clearly foreseen White's play.} 17. Qxa6 Qc8 {What can you say - Black's reply
makes sense. If queens are exchanged then he won't give up the c-file, and if
the enemy queen retreats he'll have the chance to fight for space with Qc8-b7,
a7-a6 and b6-b5. So maybe my initial impression of the harmlessness of White's
play with exchanging on d5 was correct? It often happens when you watch the
play of outstanding grandmasters. Each new move changes the impression a
little. After a move by White it seems as though he has the edge, but after
Black's reply it becomes perfectly obvious that everything's fine. And so on...
In order to evaluate the ensuing position the players had to evaluate the
variation 18.Qxc8 Rfxc8 19.Nb5 accurately in advance - just have a think about
it, dear viewers. I've found how Black equalises there. Will you find it?} 18.
Qxc8 Rfxc8 {Now let's check the answers.} 19. Ne5 {Kramnik of course
calculated everything accurately.} ({After} 19. Nb5 {Black had to avoid
falling into the trap of} a6 $2 20. Nc7 $1 Ra7 (20... Rab8 21. Nxa6) 21. Nxd5
$1 Rxc1 22. Nxe7+ Rxe7 23. Rxc1 {and he wouldn't survive without such a pawn.})
({However, in actual fact} 19. Nb5 {is harmless due to} Rxc1 $1 20. Rxc1 a6 {
and White is forced to retreat, as it gives him nothing to play} 21. Rc7 (21.
Nc7 $6 Ra7 $1) 21... axb5 22. Rxe7 Rc8 {with good counterplay for Black.})
19... Bd6 {Again, accurately played. Levon is ready to exchange pieces on e5
and win a pawn with Nf6-g4. White's initiative is coming to nothing... The
clocks show: 1.00 - 1.20. There's still a long time to go before it's ok to
leave the stage. Too little time has passed since the start of the game.} ({For
} 19... a6 {Kramnik had prepared the cunning} 20. Na4 $1 {and Black doesn't
have the option of defending the b6-pawn by putting the knight on d7.}) 20. Nd3
{Solidity comes first.} ({After} 20. Nb5 Bxe5 21. dxe5 Ng4 22. Nd6 Rxc1 23.
Rxc1 Nxe5 24. Rc7 {White has some compensation for the pawn but, in the best
case scenario, it would only be enough to equalise -} a5 {and if} 25. f4 {
there's the unpleasant resource} Ng4 $1) 20... Ne8 {A sensible manoeuvre...
besides, it's not clear that it's a defensive one. In the long run the black
knight is intending to head for c4 via d6. I don't envy the commentators on
the official site now! I can stop writing, drink some coffee and switch on the
TV, but they have to say something and maintain the viewer interest - as
they're under the gaze of the camera. Well, everyone has their own job to do...
} 21. Kf1 Kf8 ({Another obvious move was} 21... Be7 {, for example,} 22. Ke2
Nd6 23. Rc2 Rc7 24. Rdc1 Rac8 25. Kd1 Bf8 {, after which I don't personally
see any constructive plans for either side. All that's possible is further
simplification with complete equality.}) 22. Ke2 Ke7 {The players are
improving solidly and unhurriedly, essentially changing nothing. The knight is
laying low on e8... It's possible that at some point the warring factions will
begin to advance pawns on the kingside. You need to be careful with that - on
no account should you give your opponent points of attack.} 23. h3 {A case in
point. Of course the pawn was inedible for the bishop due to g2-g3. Nowadays
no-one repeats Fischer's mistake from the 1972 match against Spassky...
Judging by the video broadcast the grandmasters are clearly bored. So please
agree a draw! And we can watch a battle in rapid chess.} Rc4 {No, the battle
is continuing. After Black doubles rooks he'll get the threat... no, there's
no threat. If you take on a3 with the bishop the knight jumps away with tempo,
taking on d5.} 24. b3 {Played quickly and confidently. It seems Vladimir had
this means of altering the structure on the queenside in mind in advance.} ({
By the way, he didn't have to alter it:} 24. Nb1 Rac8 25. Nd2 {with all the
rooks getting exchanged.}) 24... Rcc8 {Now you need to resolve the problem of
the a3-pawn. You can't describe it as serious. It's easiest to exchange the
"problem" creator with Nc3-b5. Kramnik's thinking... In principle, a flaw in
the rule about an extra game in Zurich has become clear. Keeping firmly to the
three-hour mark forces the players to look at the clocks and think where they
wouldn't think in a normal game.} 25. a4 {Also an option. However, I don't see
any reason to think White could be the stronger side here. For example, after
a7-a6 and doubling rooks on the c-file Black will get the unpleasant threat of
Bd6-a3.} Ba3 {Aronian decided to use that resource immediately.} 26. Rc2 Rc7 {
i.e. he decided to do without the prophylactic a7-a6 manoeuvre. The c3-knight
is pinned and Ra8-c8 is the threat.} 27. Ra1 {The simplest response. No bishop,
no problem.} Bd6 {Though it might return... However, White can defend the
c3-knight with the king as well, and the a1-rook can be used to attack with
a4-a5.} 28. Kd2 {Exactly. It seems Black can't get by without the move a7-a6.
But in that case as well you need to look at the undermining a4-a5 with the
idea of exploiting the weakness of the c5-point. It seems Levon rushed a
little with the bishop attack from a3. It simply lost a tempo.} a5 {A
fundamental solution. It seems he considered the weaknening of the b5-point
the lesser evil. Time trouble isn't likely: 0.35 - 0.58.} 29. Rcc1 {You still
can't avoid exchanging rooks.} Rac8 {Just as equality and a draw are
inevitable. If, of course, no-one gets too carried away.} 30. f3 {Vladimir is
imitating the desire to play e3-e4. I don't believe him!} f5 {But his opponent
did.} ({Well, the variations there really weren't simple. For example,} 30...
h5 {(one of umpteen possible continuations)} 31. e4 dxe4 32. fxe4 Bh2 33. e5 f6
34. Nb5 Rxc1 35. Rxc1 Rxc1 36. Kxc1 Kd7 37. Kd2 Nc7 38. Nxc7 Kxc7 39. Ke3 h4
40. Nf4 Bxf4+ 41. Kxf4 fxe5+ 42. Kxe5 Kd7 43. d5 exd5 44. Kxd5 Kc7 {- it seems
you get a draw as the white king can't go after the g7-pawn.}) 31. g4 g6 {The
ensuing pawn tension favours White. However, those are just small nuances for
now.} 32. Ne2 {The knight couldn't be maintained permanently on c3.} Rxc1 33.
Nexc1 {Vladimir is making his ambition clear. He's keeping a rook for
operations on the kingside. But at the same time Black gets a one and a half
tempo breather. I think he should use that to find employment for the deserter
- the e8-knight. Let's glance at the clocks. There's no cause for concern: 0.
29 - 0.38.} Nf6 {The simplest approach.} ({Levon no doubt also looked at the
manoeuvre} 33... Nc7 {with Nc7-a6-b4 to follow, but in that case there's a
danger of the white knight appearing on f4 at the most unpleasant moment for
Black.}) 34. Ne2 Nh7 {There you go! It turns out the Armenian grandmaster has
thought up a counterattack on the kingside. But hasn't he overestimated his
chances?} ({It looked solid to play} 34... g5 {, which would have eliminated
the option of Ne2-f4.}) 35. Ne5 {The Russian has responded quickly and sharply.
Big alterations in the position are in the offing...} ({I looked at} 35. gxf5
gxf5 (35... exf5 $2 36. Nef4) 36. h4 {It seems White retains a certain
initiative, but Black holds:} Nf6 (36... Rg8 37. Rc1 Kd7 38. Ndf4) 37. Nef4
Bxf4 38. Nxf4 Rg8 39. Rc1 Kd6 40. Ke2 {and so on.}) 35... Ng5 {Levon is
clearly in a rage. He doesn't want to defend and is determined to
counterattack. That's playing with fire, though.} ({I didn't manage to find an
advantage for White in case of the banal} 35... Bxe5 36. dxe5 Nf8 {- Black's
threatening to force f3-f4 with the move Nf8-d7, after which the knight will
come to c5 and, perhaps, e4, with great impact. While in case of} 37. gxf5 gxf5
38. Rg1 {there's the simple defence} Kf7) 36. Nf4 {Vladimir decided not to
take the principled path. It's possible to understand him, as it's extremely
difficult to finish the calculation with a clear evaluation of the position.} (
{Judge for yourself:} 36. Nxg6+ Kf7 37. gxf5 Nxf3+ 38. Kd3 exf5 ({it's bold
but insufficient to play} 38... Kf6 39. Rf1 e5 40. Nxe5 Nxe5+ 41. dxe5+ Bxe5
42. Nd4) 39. Ngf4 Bb4 $1 40. Ng2 (40. Nxd5 Ne1+) 40... Ke6 41. Rf1 Nd2 42. Rf2
Ne4 (42... Nxb3 $6 43. Ngf4+ Kd6 44. Rg2 $1) 43. Nef4+ Kd6 44. Rc2 {with a
small edge for White.}) 36... Bb4+ {A reasonable response. The knights heading
to the right flank have reduced the comfort of the white king. Now he can't go
to d3.} 37. Kd1 {He had to restrict his own rook. On the other hand, the
g6-pawn is doomed...} Rc3 {A sharp uncompromising fight has begun. Aronian
responds to his opponent's attack with an attack. The players have enough time
to make considered choices: 0.10 - 0.21.} 38. Rc1 {Another powerful resource.
White activates his last passive piece without regard for losses.} Rxe3 {
Launching an eating race. Who'll manage more and be quicker about it!} 39. Rc7+
({It looked even more promising to play} 39. Rc6 $1 Kd8) 39... Kd8 40. Rg7 {So
then, Black has an extra pawn and it's his move, but White has such great
piece activity... At first glance it seems it's still roughly equal. But in a
battle anything can happen.} Kc8 {Sensible prophylaxis. The black king is
preemptively getting out of a check on e6 from the white knight. Now the
g5-knight can take the f3-pawn. Well, the time control has passed and the
players have an extra hour to think. The position's very combative. It's time
for a cup of coffee... While raising the cup to my mouth I noticed the
possibility of perpetual check with Rg7-g8-g7+. It's dangerous, to put it
mildly, for the black king to escape to a6. Well, it's up to Kramnik to decide
whether it's possible to continue the battle.} ({In the line} 40... Nxf3 41.
Nxe6+ {Black didn't have the retreat} Kc8 $2 {because of} 42. Rc7+ Kb8 43. Nc6+
Ka8 44. Ra7# $1) 41. Rg8+ ({Exchanging pawns didn't affect the evaluation of
the position:} 41. Rxg6 Nxf3 42. Nxf3 ({you can announce perpetual check here
as well:} 42. Rg8+) 42... Rxf3 43. Nxe6 fxg4 44. hxg4 Rxb3 45. Rxh6 Rg3 46. g5
Kd7 47. Ke2 Bd6 48. Rf6 Rg4 49. Ke3 Rg1 {- and there's equality and
brotherhood on the board.}) 41... Kb7 42. Rg7+ Kc8 {Of course.} ({Moving the
king away from the centre and shutting it up in a tight box was dangerous:}
42... Ka6 $6 43. Rxg6 Nxf3 44. Nxf3 Rxf3 45. Nxe6 fxg4 46. hxg4 Rxb3 47. Rxh6 {
and in comparison to the previous note the chances of the g4-pawn advancing
are clearly greater.}) 43. Rg8+ Kb7 {DRAW! A fair result of a fierce encounter.
Overall the game ended up being ragged, arrhythmic. White had no great
pretensions in the opening and Black equalised with accurate play. After the
queen exchange it seemed as though they were about to reach a peaceful
agreement. But, thanks to the organisers, the new anti-draw rule again had an
effect. The grandmasters were forced to play on and little by little the
situation on the board became more tense. Kramnik skillfully upped the
pressure and Aronian counterattacked strongly. However, the quality of the
play remained very high from both players and the sharp struggled ended in a
logical repetition of moves. Well done to both of them! The match score
remains level: 2.5 - 2.5. This is Grandmaster Sergey Shipov thanking you, dear
viewers, for your attention. I'll be waiting for you tomorrow when we'll watch
the deciding game together. All the best!} 1/2-1/2

Note that you can click on the variations in the analysis to follow them on the board

Lake Zurich, in the central southern part of the city, with the mountains as a stunning backdrop

The Greek myth of Ganymede abducted by Zeus, in the form of an eagle, to serve as cup-bearer in Olympus | By Hermann Hubacher

The Grossmünster, a Romanesque-style Protestant church and one of the three major churches in the city

Yes, it's a chess-minded city!

The Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville, where on the first floor the match takes place

The playing hall was pretty packed today

On the first row we see Kramnik's wife Marie-Laure and their daughter, as well as Petra and Viktor Kortchnoi

Vladimir Kramnik

Levon Aronian

The press conference after the game was also well attended...

...with Levon Aronian entertaining the audience (and his opponent!) with a number of jokes


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

The players ranked number 2 and 3 on the FIDE rating list are competing against each other over six classical games. They'll play an additional rapid game if the main game on any given day is drawn in under three hours. The final game will take place on Saturday, from 13:00 CET. Again we'll have live commentary here at ChessVibes.

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.


Videos by Macauley Peterson

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

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