07 January 2017

Commentary: 2016 Olympiad Round 10 (Kramnik - Adhiban)

The following game was widely considered to be one of Kramnik's best at the 2016 Olympiad; you can see the original ChessBase "Learning from Kramnik" article for analysis of this and several other illustrative games of his from the event.  This particular game attracted my interest not just because of the quality, which was a standout in the Olympiad, but also because of the White structure Kramnik employs.  Essentially he transitioned into a Leningrad Dutch style position, after Black opposed his Reti (1. Nf3) by using a Slav structure.

I have aspirations of someday playing the Dutch (well) and currently play the Slav, so was able to take away some specific lessons in both cases.  The apparent simplicity with which Kramnik maneuvers, his patient redeployment of pieces to best squares, and positional dominance with tactical themes (note the repeated pins and forks in the end sequence) are also all models for improving players to emulate.

Kramnik, Vladimir (2808) - Adhiban, B. (2671)

Result: 1-0
Site: Baku
Date: 2016.09.12
[...] 1.¤f3 d5 2.g3 ¤f6 3.¥g2 it's been noted by commentators that Kramnik in 2016 often largely avoided theoretical duels in the opening, in favor of simple flank opening development early on. This parallels Carlsen's similar practice of often "just playing chess", a strategy that succeeds when your overall level of understanding and effort is better than your opponent's. 3...¥f5 4.O-O c6 Black is using a Slav-type structure, which is solid if unambitious. 5.d3 e6 6.¤h4 a standard maneuver against a Slav bishop developed to f5. 6...¥g4 7.h3 ¥h5 8.£e1 removing the queen from the line of the pin and supporting the idea of an e-pawn advance. 8...¥e7 9.f4 ¤fd7 pressuring the Nh4, among other things so that it cannot support f4-f5. 10.¤f3 White's last two moves have now given him a mainline Leningrad Dutch (!) structure in reverse. Kramnik knows these structures well. 10...f5 presumably aimed at deterring the thematic Leningrad Dutch e-pawn advance, but... 11.e4 anyway! 11...¥xf3 an understandable decision to exchange minor pieces, as the bishop is currently largely locked out of the game by its own pawns on the light squares. 12.¥xf3 nevertheless, the exchange seems to leave White in a good position on the kingside, with his own bishop now improved. 12...O-O 13.¤c3 White at this point has a clean structure with his pieces working relatively well together. Black now has a Stonewall pawn structure, but his pieces are not as well placed or developed. 13...fxe4 14.dxe4 d4 this seems overly ambitious. Black completely gives up his solid central pawn wedge in a forward thrust for space. It certianly inconveniences White temporarily, but in the longer term it weakens Black's game. 15.¤d1 e5 16.¤f2 Kramnik has plenty of time to usefully reposition the knight, as Black has to take additional time to shore up his advanced d4 pawn and get his pieces out. 16...c5 17.£e2 putting the queen on more useful diagonals and clearing the back rank to connect the rooks. 17...¤c6 18.¥g4 a beautiful place for the bishop. Now the downside of Black's earlier decisions - to exchange off his light-square bishop and advance the pawn wedge - is highlighted. 18...¢h8 19.¥e6 exf4 done in order to inconvenience and disrupt White's kingside. 20.gxf4 here Komodo assesses the position as completely level, although it seems easier to play as White. Adhiban makes a rather drastic decision to try to further disrupt White's structure, but this time the weaknesses he leaves behind after the g-pawn advance become more acute. 20...g5?!
After something like 20...£c7 21.¤d3 White has an equal but pleasant game, with ideas like f4-f5, Kh1 followed by Rg1, etc.
21.¤g4 the knight hops to a strong square, with multiple benefits (blocking the g-file, eyeing h6 and f6 as well as e5). (21.f5 also looks good here.) 21...gxf4 22.¥xf4± White's two bishops are looking really good now. 22...£e8 shifting diagonals with the idea of redeploying to g6. 23.e5!? this is a key moment and White has multiple ways to proceed. Kramnik picks a world-class and complex way, by offering the Ng4. 23...¥h4
23...h5 is the critical way to oppose White's idea, by threatening the Ng4. 24.¢h1
24.¤h6? is one option and something many Class players would first consider, since it looks aggressive. 24...£g6+ is the big problem with it. 25.¢h1 d3
25...£xe6?26.£xh5! leads to mate and would justify White's aggressive play.
26.£g2 (26.cxd3?26...¤d4 and Black wins due to the hanging Be6.) 26...£xe6 27.¦g1 ¦g8 28.¤xg8 ¦xg8ยต
24...hxg4? loses to 25.£xg4 with a completely open field in front of Black's king, versus White's queen, two bishops and rook.
25.£g2 ¤d4 a similar idea as in the above variation, but now the queen is on g2, so White can play 26.¥d5± with heavy kingside pressure.
24.¥c4 withdrawing the bishop after the discovered attack, but its effectiveness is not lessened any, plus e5-e6 is now a possibility. White's space advantage and mobility gives him a significant plus. 24...£g6 25.¢h1 avoiding the ...h5 threat, now that the Qg6 is present. 25...¥g5 naturally Black seeks to exchange off one of White's two bishops, but to no avail. 26.¥h2 again, the bishop retreat shows no loss of effectiveness for the piece, plus the f-file is uncovered. 26...¤b6
26...¦xf1+ would be an attempt to exchange off material and reduce White's threats, but after 27.¦xf1 ¦f8 28.¦xf8+ ¤xf8 29.e6!+⁠− the advanced passed e-pawn gives White the advantage.
27.¥d3+⁠− moving the bishop to an even better diagonal. 27...£e6 28.£e4 sometimes the obvious threats (in this case mate on h7) are still best. 28...£d5 29.e6! passed pawns must be pushed! White now would be fine with a queen exchange. 29...¦ae8 30.¦xf8+ now reducing material favors White's positional advantages, with the pawn sitting on e6. 30...¦xf8 31.¤e5
31.¦g1 is favored by the engines as an enhanced version of the idea behind the text move. 31...£xe4+ 32.¥xe4 ¢g7 33.¤e5+⁠−
31...£xe4+ 32.¥xe4 ¤d8 33.a4 an interesting idea and not one Class players would consider, given that it surrenders the e-pawn.
33.¤d7 has been noted as a more direct route to victory. 33...¤xd7 34.exd7 ¢g7 (34...¦f7 35.¥e5+ ¥f6 36.¥d5!+⁠−) 35.¦g1 ¢h6 and now White can win with either Bd5, controlling key squares, or going for material with Bxh7. It is still complicated, however.
33...¤xe6 34.a5 the point of the idea, chasing the knight away from defending the d7 square while the b-pawn is hanging and cannot be protected. 34...¤c8 35.¤d7 Kramnik by this point evidently saw a path to a win and was comfortable following it, without necessarily seizing every available opportunity.
35.¥d5!?35...¤f4 36.¤f7+ ¢g7 37.¤xg5 ¤xd5 38.¤e6+ ¢f7 39.¤xf8±
35...¦e8? not the best defense. It looks obvious, lining up against the hanging Be4, but White now uses the available tempo-gaining check to dominate Black's side of the board.
35...¦d8 36.¥xb7 (36.¥e5+ as in the game continuation is also a strong idea.) 36...¤e7 37.¤e5± with the two bishops so powerful and Black's weaker pawn structure, Kramnik must have felt he could bring the point home with best defense here.
36.¥e5+ ¤g7 (36...¢g8 37.¥d5 b6 38.¦f1+⁠− and Black loses material.) 37.¦g1 (37.¦f1!?) 37...¥h6 38.¥xb7+⁠− at this point White has achieved total dominance and can leisurely go about winning. Black has too many weaknesses, for example at h7 and c5, while White's three advanced minor pieces combine very effectively against them and the rook. 38...¤e7 39.¤f6 ¦f8 40.¥e4 ¤g8 41.¤xh7 ¦e8 42.¤g5 tactically defending the Be5 with the threatened fork (and mate) on f7. 42...¦e7 43.¥d3 ¥xg5 44.¦xg5 threatening mate on h5 now, given the pinned Ng7. 44...¤h6 45.¥xg7+ a simple, clean finish. 45...¦xg7 46.¦h5
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