Kramnik story

Font Size
Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

43rd Chess Olympiad (Open Division)
Batumi, Georgia
Sept. 23 — Oct. 6, 2018

Final Standings (Open)

Country Points TB1 TB2

1. China 18/22 372.5 28.5

2. USA 18/22 360.5 29.0

3. Russia 18/22 354.5 29.0

4. Poland 17/22 390.0 28.0

5. England 17/22 340.0 27.5

Total of 185 teams from 183 countries. Georgia as the host country was allowed to field three teams.

Time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes play-to-finish, with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1.

For those BW readers who were able to witness the 1992 Manila Olympiad, I am sure you will recall that Vladimir Kramnik was the big story. He was plucked out of obscurity, a mere FIDE Master, to join Garry Kasparov, Alexander Khalifman, Sergei Dolmatov, Alexei Dreev and Alexei Vyzmanavin to represent Russia in the first post-USSR Olympiad.

Nobody had heard of Kramnik then but the story is that Garry Kasparov had vouched for him and in fact insisted that he be put on the team. Kramnik’s result completely vindicated Kasparov — he scored an incredible 8.5/9 which included wins over GMs Van Wely, Zigurds Lanka, Yasser Seirawan, Gia Georgadze, Emir Dizdarevic and John Nunn for a tournament performance rating of 2958, which was the highest in the Olympiad, even ahead of Garry Kasparov who had a performance rating of “only” 2908.

Manila 1992 was Kramnik’s launching pad to chess fame and his chess dream was finally culminated when he crowned himself chess king by winning the 2000 Braingames World Championship in London against no less than former his mentor Garry Kasparov 8.5-6.5. That was 18 years ago. Kramnik lost the title of Vishy Anand in 2007, challenged Anand at the World Chess Championship 2008 to regain his title, but lost.

Nevertheless, he remains a powerful contender for the title. Some quarters have noticed that Kramnik’s style has evolved — perhaps realizing that his stamina is no longer as stable as it used to be he no longer relies so much (some might say too much) on his technique. Lately in many cases he is already forcing decisions in the middlegame with its attendant risk. He no longer looks as unbeatable as before, some might say, but I have to point out that his well-known powers of study and analysis are obviously still there and his creativity just as original as before.

It will be many years before Kramnik will need to retire.

Here in Batumi Big Vlad did not start out well and lost inexplicably in the 4th round to one of Poland’s wonderboys Jacek Tomczak. It was a completely unnecessary loss.

Tomczak, Jacek (2614) — Kramnik, Vladimir (2779) [C45]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (4.3), 27.09.2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.h4 Qe6 9.g3 Nb4!?

Tomczak tried to surprise Kramnik with the latest trend in the Scotch Game (8.h4) but Big Vlad was ready with this new move, which is strong. The Polish GM thought long and hard but his position slowly deteriorates.

10.c4 Ba6 11.Bf4 d5! 12.a3

Not 12.exd6? Nd3+

12…Bxc4 13.Qd1 Bxf1?!

Not the strongest. 13…Qf5 threatening 14…Qe4+ is hard to meet for White.

14.Kxf1 Na6 15.Nc3 Nc5! 16.b4 d4! 17.bxc5 dxc3 18.Qd4 Rd8?!

The “Kramnik” move here is 18…Qd5! forcing the exchange of queens with a very superior position in the endgame. Instead, he goes for a middlegame crush.

19.Qxc3 Qd5 20.Kg1 Bxc5 21.Rc1 Bb6 22.h5 0–0 23.h6 Rfe8 24.hxg7 Re6 25.Bg5 Qa2!

Preventing White from attacking h7 with Qc2.

26.Rh2 Rd5?

[26…Rd4 followed by 27…Rg6 is correct. Now White turns the tables]


Completely overlooked by Black. The threat is Qf8 mate.


[27…Kxg7 28.Qh4 is the same as in the game]

28.Qh4 h6 29.Bxh6 Qb3 30.Bd2 Kxg7 31.Qh8+ Kg6 32.Qh7# 1–0

This game, together with a Jakovenko loss to GM Kamil Dragun, meant that the Russians lose to Poland 1.5-2.5 in round 4. Their woes were to continue – inround 6 there was a 2-2 draw with India which was not too bad but then came another draw, this time against Serbia, and it looked like their medal hopes had evaporated. Remember that in 2016 Baku Olympiad both the USA and Ukraine teams finished with 20/22 – they each only gave up two points. Now it is round 7 and already the Russians had give up four points. So everyone stopped keeping an eye on Russia and instead concentrated on the record-breaking performances of Azerbaijan, Poland and USA.

Now that they were no longer in the spotlight Russia came back with victories against Belarus (3-1), Italy (3-1), England (2.5-1.5) and France (2.5-1.5) and they actually tied for 1st at the end and were relegated to bronze only through having poor tiebreaks.

And Kramnik had a big part of that fight back as his chess really sparkled. I am going to show you now his best game from Batumi but first some background information.

Carlsen, Magnus (2851) — Kramnik, Vladimir (2801) [D35]
Norway Chess 4th Stavanger (7), 27.04.2016

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Bf5 7.Qf3 Bg6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Qxf6 gxf6 10.Nf3 Nd7 11.Nh4 Be7

Preparing to meet f2–f4 with …f7–f5. GM Viacheslav Ikonnikov wrote in Yearbook 120 that this position is called “Short’s endgame” as he was the one who made the greatest contributions to the development of the line. According to the author “White’s main task is to take control of the weak square f5 and try to exchange Black’s light-squared bishop (which is holding the broker pawn structure together) — but not on g6. The ideal situation would be an endgame with the white knight on f5 against Black’s dark-squared bishop.


A new move at that time. Previously White usually continues 12.g3 Nb6 followed by 0–0–0 and Bd3. The text move is a discovery of Magnus’ second GM Jon Ludvig Hammer. White gives up castling in order to bring additional pressure to bear on f5.

12…Nb6 13.Ng3 Bb4+ 14.Kd1 Na4 15.Ngf5! Kd7 16.Rb1 Ke6?! 17.Bd3 Rhc8 18.Ke2 Bf8 19.g4 c5 20.Ng2!

Very strong, bringing his knight to f4 and also preparing h2–h4.

20…cxd4 21.exd4 Bd6 22.h4 h5 23.Ng7+ Ke7 24.gxh5 Bxd3+ 25.Kxd3 Kd7 26.Ne3 Nb6 27.Ng4 Rh8 28.Rhe1 Be7 29.Nf5 Bd8 30.h6 Rc8 31.b3 Rc6 32.Nge3 Bc7 33.Rbc1 Rxc1 34.Rxc1 Bf4 35.Rc5 Ke6 36.Ng7+ Kd6 37.Ng4 Nd7 38.Rc2 f5 39.Nxf5+ Ke6 40.Ng7+ Kd6 41.Re2 Kc6 42.Re8 Rxe8 43.Nxe8 Nf8 44.Ne5+ Bxe5 45.dxe5 Kd7 46.Nf6+ Ke6 47.h5 Kxe5 48.Nd7+ Nxd7 49.h7 Nc5+ 50.Ke2 1–0

This game was adjudged “Novelty of the Year 2016” by the readers of “New in Chess Yearbook.” You can see the candidates for that award in NIC Yearbook No. 122.

Kramnik must have studied this novelty and liked it, for he started playing 12. Ne2 as White himself. In round 8 of the Batumi Olympiad he got to use it against GM Aleksej Aleksandrov of Belarus, and the incredible concept he came up with won the Brilliancy Prize of the Round. It would perhaps have won the overall brilliancy prize, but there was another game played which had an even more beautiful finish. I will show it to you next Tuesday.

Kramnik, Vladimir (2779) — Aleksandrov, Aleksej (2602) [D35]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (8.3), 02.10.2018

1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Bf5 7.Qf3 Bg6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Qxf6 gxf6 10.Nf3 Nd7 11.Nh4 Be7 12.Ne2

The same position as previous.


Intending to get rid of the h4–knight immediately so there is no more of this f5–outpost nonsense.


[13.Nf3 to save the knight is possible, but why should he? Black is giving up his powerful dark-squared bishop for it.]

13…Bxh4 14.gxh4 Nf6 15.Rg1

Kramnik had previously reached this position against Nisipeanu and he tried 15.f3 Ke7 16.Rg1 Nh5 17.Kf2 Rae8 18.b4 f4! (seems like Black has already equalized here) 19.Nxf4 Nxf4 20.exf4 Kf6 21.a4 Bf5 22.Ra2 Re7 23.Re2 Rxe2+ 24.Bxe2 a6 25.Ke3 h6 26.Kd2 Ra8! (anticipating the opening of the a-file) 27.a5 White has no way to break through. Kramnik,V (2792)-Nisipeanu,L (2672) Dortmund 2018 1/2 46.

15…Ke7 16.Bh3 Rae8 17.Nf4 Kd6 18.Kd2 Re7 19.a4 a5 20.Ra3 Rhe8 21.Rb3 Kc7 22.Rc1 Kd6 23.Bg2 Nh5 <D>


And now for the prize-winning conclusion.

24.Nxd5!! cxd5 25.Rb6+ Kd7 26.Bf1!

The hard-to-see point of the sacrifice.

26…Kd8 27.Bb5

Suddenly everything makes sense. The rook on e8 cannot move because of White’s threat of Rd6+

27…Re4 28.Rxb7 Nf6 29.b4 f4 30.bxa5 fxe3+ 31.fxe3 Rxh4 32.Bxe8 Rxh2+ 33.Kc3 Ne4+ 34.Kb3 Nd2+ 35.Kb4 Nc4 36.Bb5 Rb2+ 37.Kc5 Nxa5 38.Rd7+ Kc8 39.Kxd5+ Kb8 40.Rd8+ Kb7 41.Kd6 Kb6 42.Ra8 1–0


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.