11 May 2016

Kramnik's Pants

Day Eight of the Russian Club Championship held at the Zhemchuzhina Hotel in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

By all appearances, Vladimir Kramnik feels great in his hometown. Along with the rest of the crowd he is a regular of the hotel cafe (sunglasses fail to provide any disguise since "we will recognize you by your height anyway"), and enjoys his swims in the saltwater pool. Looking unusually at ease, the ex-world champion showed up for round eight of the Premier League wearing a sports suit and a blue T-shirt featuring a sailboat on his chest. The result, as they say, has translated into the tournament table: 3.5 out of 4 points with almost 12 points gain to his Elo rating. However, this article is not about Vladimir Borisovich's clothes, but rather about the endgame technique that he managed to come up with in yet another game of his own. 

Vladimir Kramnik is taking stock of his teammates' positions

Sjugirov ("Zhiguli") – Kramnik ("Siberia")

The gifted Sanan Sjugirov's performance against the heavyweights is far from being successful in this tournament. They have somehow probed his weaknesses and started delivering precisely-aimed strikes. Sanan is helped neither by his wonderful sense of initiative nor by his deep calculation capabilities nor by his excellent knowledge of modern opening lines. It happened likewise in this game as well, in which Kramnik managed to drag Sjugirov into an unfamiliar territory, outplaying him and ending up in a much better endgame.

Following 46... Kf5! (king centralization is a priority!) White is rescued neither by 47. Nb5 Nb6 48. Nd4+ Kf6, nor by 47. Kh5 Ne5 48. Nb5 Nxc4 49. Nxc7 Nxe3. Kramnik's inaccurate move, however, gives Sjugirov an excellent chance to bail out.

46…Ne5?! 47. c5! Kf5 48. cxd6?

Beside the mark… White should have advanced his pawn to c6 to turn it into a protected passer: 48. c6! Nc4 49. Nb5 Nxe3 50. Nxc7 Ke5 51. Kg3 Nf5+ 52. Kf2. While there is no d5-pawn taking for Black since the c6-pawn is going to queen immediately, no other consolidation measures are in view. Therefore, the position is a draw.

48... cxd6

49. Kh5

Even though this desperate counterattack arrives late, the passive type of defense would have also availed to nothing. For instance: 49. a4 Nc4 50. Nd1 Nb6 51. Nc3 Ke5 52. Kh5 Nxd5 53. Nd1 (the queen ending arising after 53. Nxd5 Kxd5 54. Kxh6 Kc4 55. Kg5 d5 56. h4 d4 57. h5 dxe3 58. h6 e2 59. h7 e1Q 60. h8Q Qg3+ 61. Kf5 Qf3+ 62. Ke6 e3 is hopeless for White) 53... Nb6 54. Kxh6 Nxa4 55. Kg5 Nc5 56. h4 a4 57. h5 a3 58. Nc3 Nd7 59. h6 Nf8 – the white h-passer is stopped, whereas its black counterparts are full speed towards their queening squares.

49...Nc4 50. Kxh6 Nxa3

It is the rook pawn that Black needs to eliminate since after 50...Nxe3? 51. h4 White was likely to bail out.

51. Kg7 Nc4 52. h4 Nxe3 53. h5 Ng4

54. Nb5

Following 54. h6 Nxh6 55. Kxh6 e3 there arises on the board a well-known case of "pants".

54... Ke5 55. Kg6 e3 56. Nc3 a4 57. Kg5 Nf6 58. h6 a3 59. Kg6 e2 - these are the type of pants we have just spoken about. White resigns.

"Zhiguli" has failed a test from "Siberia" and lost 1.5-4.5. Even a bigger score 5-1 was recorded in the match SHSM "Legacy Square Capital" - "Ladya". While Vladislav Artemiev's blunder in the game against Ernesto Inarkiev has already been added to our column "Position of the day", below-given is another spectacular episode of tactical nature.

Najer – Timofeev

20. Nxf5! exf5

Since the middlegame down a pawn resulting after 20...Rg5 21. Nd6 Ba4 22. b3 Bc6 23. Ne4 affords very few chances for survival, Black plunges straightforward into the world of adventures.

21. Rxh7+! Kxh7 22. Qh5+ Kg7 23. Qxf7+ Kh6 24. Qxf6+ Rg6 25. Qh4+ Kg7 26. Qe7+ Kh6 

27. Rxd7

According to the engine more precise is 27. Rd4 Rxg2+!? 28. Kf1! (28. Kxg2?? fails to 28...Bc6+) 28...Rxf2+ 29. Kxf2 Qxh2+ 30.Kf1 and the king will make it to safety after all. However, why a human player should drain his energy calculating all these complex lines?

27...Qxc4 28. Qh7+ Kg5 29. Rd4

Black resigns: the mating threat on h4 is in the air, whereas after 29…Qxd4 30. cxd4 Re8 31. g3 Kf6 32. Qxb7 he is going to end up down a lot of material.

The only remaining key match between "Siberia" (Novosibirsk) and "The Bronze Horseman" (St. Petersburg) will take place in round nine of the Premier League, after which the final distribution of medals will be determined up to a degree of 90%. The women's Champion has been determined already and, once again, our congratulations go to the SHSM "Legacy Square Capital" on yet another brilliant victory of theirs! This team's lineup features Alexandra Kosteniuk, Ekaterina Lagno, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya, Alina Kashlinskaya and Anastasia Savina and is represented by such coaches as Eldar Mukhametov, Sergey Smagin and Alexander Zlochevskij. The key match of round 7 was detailed by Dmitry Kryakvin in his blog.

The Higher League witnessed the failures of the Yekaterinburg "Malachite" and the Togliatti "Bulbasaurs", while the team consisting of the grandmaster Sergey Arkhipov and his disciples has broken clear of the field. We are looking forward to an exciting finale and use this opportunity to congratulate all of you on the Victory Day and wish you happiness and peaceful skies over your head!