Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kramnik vs Radjabov, Baku Olympiad 2016

Although the FIDE World Chess Olympiad 2016 ended some time ago, its games never fail to inspire. Today, we will look at a game from Round 9 of the Olympiad, where Russia's star player Vladimir Kramnik scored a crushing win over Azerbaijan's Teimour Radjabov.

I was unable to find a significant amount of discussion on this particular game, probably because it was eclipsed by the Carlsen - Caruana struggle in the same round. Hence, I have attempted to provide more of my own analysis below.

Kramnik, Vladimir vs Radjabov, Teimour
Baku Chess Olympiad 2016, Round 9

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. O-O Nf6
5. d3 d6
6. c3 a6
7. Re1

Kramnik is not ready to push d4 yet so he improves his position first.

7... Ba7
8. a4!?

A peculiar move, but it serves a multiple purposes: Prevent Black from pushing b5, and preparing a queenside pawn storm.

8... O-O
9. h3 Ne7

The knight will be more useful on the kingside, where it is not restricted by enemy pawns.

10. Nbd2 Ng6
11. d4 h6 (D)

Position after 11... h6

As always we want to know what happens if Black takes on d4: 11... exd4 12. cxd4

Here it is obvious why Radjabov won't play 11... exd4: White's pawn centre is dominating, and has the strong threat of e5. So for example 12... Re8 13. e5 dxe5 14. Qb3 Rf8 15. dxe5 Nh5 White has strong pressure on the kingside.

12. Bf1

Before advancing on the queenside, the path in front of the c-pawn must be cleared.

12... Re8
13. a5 Bd7

Perhaps it was possible for Black to counterattack on the other wing? An f5 pawn thrust looks prospective: 13... Nh5 14. b4.

Here f5 cannot be pushed immediately (see variation), so Black first brings his knight to safety: 14... Nhf4 (14... f5? 15. Nxe5 dxe5 16. Qxh5 winning a pawn.) 15. d5 f5 16. exf5 Bxf5 17. c4 (D)

Position after 17. c4

Although White's attack looks threatening, most of his army is still undeveloped. Black can use his more active pieces and the open f-file to his advantage.

14. b4

By occupying the dark squares, White restricts Black's dark-squared bishop.

14... Bc6
15. d5 Bd7
16. c4 Nf4
17. c5?!

Offering a pawn. The plan is to weaken the e5 square and attack in the queenside/centre.

17... g5?

Seeing ghosts: Black declines the offer but ends up weakening his kingside. It was better to just accept the sac: 17... dxc5 18. Nc4 cxb4 19. Nfxe5 Ng6 20. Bb2 (20. Nxg6? Nxe4 White must take on e4, else ... Bxf2+ winning the exchange anyway.) 20... Nxe5

White sacrificed his pawn to gain central space and more piece activity. In response Black exchanges pieces to relieve the tension.

18. Nc4 (D)

Position after 18. Nc4

"Now White has strong pressure, basically for free" --

18... Qe7
19. Be3 Bb5

Black must prevent White from breaking through on c6.

20. Rc1 Nxe4?

Picks up a pawn, but it opens the file and puts Black's queen in a deadly pin. Once again it was better to liquidate: 20... dxc5 21. Bxc5 Bxc5 22. bxc5 (The threat of 23. d6 is dangerous, so Black must get rid of the supporting pieces) 22... Bxc4 23. Rxc4 Rad8

Although White has the advantage, Black holds out for now.

21. cxd6 Nxd6
22. Bxf4! (D)

Position after 22. Bxf4

The effects of the pin! Black is forced to capture with his g-pawn, irreversibly wrecking his kingside.

22... gxf4
23. Ncxe5

With Black's king exposed, Kramnik switches his attention from one wing to the other.

23... Bxf1

Radjabov finally gets to exchange, but it is not enough to relieve the attack.

24. Kxf1 Nb5
25. Qd2 Qf6
26. Re4

The breakthrough. White wins a pawn and with it the game.

26... Qg7
27. Rxf4 Rxe5
28. Rg4 Rh5
29. Rxg7+ Kxg7
30. g4 Rxh3
31. Kg2 Rxf3
32. Kxf3 Rd8
33. g5 Rd6
34. gxh6+ (D)

Position after 34. gxh6

Powerful gameplay by Kramnik!


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