Peter Svidler,


Catalan Opening Е04
Game 1

After months of anticipation, the match finally begins - and the first game did not disappoint.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 a5. True to himself, Veselin opts for one of the sharper, and more forcing, replies to the Catalan.

7.Qc2 Bxd2+ 8.Qxd2 c6. And the most topical as well - this move was played only once previously, by Moiseenko against Grischuk in the Russian Club Championship this April. Black is serious about hanging on to the c4 pawn.

9.a4 b5 10.axb5 cxb5.

11.Qg5. White will win the pawn back - but at the expense of development.

11...0-0 12.Qxb5 Ba6!? The novelty, and a very interesting one. Moiseenko played 12...Na6, but after 13.Qxc4 failed to prove he had enough compensation for the pawn.

13.Qa4. Of course, White would much prefer to take on a5, but after 13.Qxa5 Black has a powerful riposte: 13...Bb7! 14.Qxd8 Rxa1, and the endgame after 15.Qxf8+ (15.Qc7 Rxb1+ 16.Kd2 Rxb2+ 17.Kc1 c3 clearly favors Black, while 15.Qb6 Rxb1+ 16.Kd2 c3+! simply loses) 15...Kxf8 16.0-0 (16.Kd2 Ng4 17.Nc3 Rxh1 18.Bxh1 Nxf2 is equal as well) 16...Ra2 17.Ne5 (17.Rc1 Rxb2 18.Na3 Nbd7 does not promise anything for White) 17...Ba6! (17...Bxg2 18.Kxg2 Rxb2 is weaker: after 19.e3 the c4 pawn will fall) 18.Nc3 Rxb2 19.Rc1 Nbd7 will not pose too many problems for Black.

13...Qb6 14.0-0. White obviously needs to get the king safe, and there was no way to comfortably protect the b2 pawn anyway.

14...Qxb2. Black could try 14...Nc6, developing his last piece and attacking d4, but after 15.Nc3 Qxb2 16.Rfc1 Qb6 17.e3 or even the more direct 17.Ne5!?, White retains some pressure. Black once again opts for the forcing continuation.

15.Nbd2 Bb5 16.Nxc4 Bxa4 17.Nxb2 Bb5. This endgame is more complex than it looks - at the moment the a5 pawn is more of a weakness than a passer, but it could all change if he manages to neutralize White's initial pressure. White, on the other hand, would be quite happy with his position if not for the knight on b2, which has no obvious prospects, and is in fact blocking an importing open file. This explains Black's last move - a case could be made for playing 17...Bc6, forcing White to sooner or later trade his all-important Catalan bishop, but Veselin believes it is more important to rein in the b2 knight.

18.Ne5 Ra7 19.Bf3 Nbd7.

A critical position. Vladimir spent around half an hour here, and with good reason. White only can hope for an edge here if he is very precise.

Vladimir chose 20.Nec4. At first I thought that 20.Nc6 was an interesting alternative: exchanging Black's bishop would free the other knight, and I thought that was worth a tempo or two. But in fact after 20...Bxc6 21.Bxc6 Rc8 22.Bf3 (22.Ba4 Nb6 is not very good either) 22...e5! Black will be able to equalize quite easily. Kramnik's choice leads to a more complicated position, with chances for both sides.

Perhaps the most counter-intuitive choice of all was the wisest: 20.Nxd7!? (the idea of trading the better knight may look strange, but it buys White some important time)

A) 20...Nxd7 21.Rfb1 is surprisingly unpleasant: 21...Rc8 22.Nd1 Bc6 23.Rc1

A1) 23...Rac7 runs into 24.d5! Bxd5 (24...exd5 25.Rxa5 Nf6 26.Rac5 is not too pleasant) 25.Rxc7 Rxc7 26.Bxd5 exd5 27.Rxa5, and the d5 pawn falls;

A2) 23...Bb7 24.Rxc8+ Bxc8 25.Nc3, and White is exerting pressure;

B) 20...Bxd7 21.Nd3 Rb8 22.Ra3 a4 23.Rfa1, and White is doing well.

20...Rb8 21.Rfb1.

21…g5! Black continues indirectly protecting the a5 pawn - after 22.Rxa5 Rxa5 23.Nxa5 g4 the e2 pawn will fall.

22.e3. Kramnik decides to allow g5-g4. Ideally White would like to play 22.g4, but after 22...Nd5! Black is comfortable - now White will never be able to chase that knight away.

22...g4 23.Bd1. Keeping an eye on both a4 and g4, but it has a drawback -

23...Bc6. Black immediately occupies the vacated long diagonal.

24.Rc1 Be4 25.Na4 Rb4. Of course, Black does not allow 26.Nc3. Despite finally activating the b2 knight, White is still somewhat cramped, and lacks the coordination needed to put pressure on the a5 pawn. Somewhere in the past 5 moves White has overplayed his hand, and now it is Black who has thoughts of an advantage.


26…Bf3! Now the king will forever be boxed in on g1.

27.Bxf3 gxf3 28.Nc8. Transferring the knight closer to the action - it was not doing too much on d6. 28.Nc5 a4 29.Ra3 Nxc5 30.dxc5 Rb3.

28...Ra8 29.Ne7+ Kg7 30.Nc6 Rb3 31.Nc5. Finally White is attacking the a5 pawn.

31...Rb5. For those of you who have not seen this line yet - a crowd-pleaser: 31...Nxc5 32.dxc5 Rb2 33.Rxa5 Rxa5 34.Nxa5 Ne4 35.c6 Nxf2 36.c7 Nh3+ 37.Kh1 Rg2 38.Rf1

38…Rg1+ 39.Rxg1 Nf2#

Be sure to watch Sergey Shipov's excellent live commentary - he is always the first one to spot little beauties like that. Of course, White would probably play 33.Nd4 instead, with equality.

32.h3. Time to create some breathing space for the king.

32...Nxc5 33.Rxc5. By not taking on c5 immediately Black made sure that White recaptures with the rook: 33.dxc5 Nd7 34.Nd4 Rxc5 35.Nxf3 a4 gives Black a comfortable edge.

33...Rb2. Of course, Veselin never intended to take on c5 and trade 'a' for 'c'. White's king is so poor that the extra pawn will not be felt at all.

34.Rg5+ Kh6 35.Rgxa5 Rxa5 36.Nxa5 Ne4 37.Rf1 Nd2 38.Rc1 Ne4 39.Rf1 f6! Black is not satisfied with the draw. The knight on a5 has no easy way back, and Black can try weakening White's kingside since White is entirely immobilized.

40.Nc6 Nd2 41.Rd1 Ne4 42.Rf1 Kg6.

Here Vladimir sank into deep thought. Black wants to play against the knight (he also has an additional option of h7-h5-h4), while White has only one break-out idea - d4-d5, to which Black will reply e6-e5, not allowing the knight to get back to d4, and then the pawn on d5 will become very weak.

43.Nd8. Going deeper into enemy territory, White blocks the easy passage for the king, and lures the rook away from the 2nd rank.

43...Rb6. Not committing to anything drastic just yet, but even 43...e5!? 44.Nc6 Kf5 45.dxe5 fxe5 made sense - the knight will have to endure a long chase.

44.Rc1 h5. Increasing pressure.

45.Ra1. White, on the other hand, does not have too much choice.

45...h4. But this is perhaps one of the cases when the threat is stronger than the execution. This push makes play much more concrete, and for the defender it is always easier, at least psychologically, to face problems that you can calculate your way out of. Black could try playing 45...Kg7 to get the king closer to the knight, and see how White reacts - after all, he could always return to the kingside if the knight hunt does not come off.

46.gxh4. This looks risky, but now Black will also be stretched a bit thin - the knight is needed on e4, the rook is protecting e6, and there is no back-up arriving any time soon.

46...Kh5 47.Ra2 Kxh4 48.Kh2. Meeting the enemy at the gates.

48...Kh5. 48...Ng5 would allow 49.Ra4, and after 49...f5 (49...Rb2 50.d5+ Kh5 51.Nxe6 Rxf2+ 52.Kh1 Rf1+ is a draw) 50.d5+ Ne4 there is yet another study-like draw: 51.dxe6 Rb2 52.Rxe4+ fxe4 53.e7 Rxf2+ 54.Kg1 Rg2+ 55.Kf1 Rg8 56.Nf7 Rb8! (56...Re8 57.Nd6 Rxe7 58.Nf5++-) 57.Nd6 Rb1+ with a perpetual.

49.Rc2 Kh6. Triangulating to get the king to f5 when the rook is on c2. However, the unfortunate position of Black's king allows White a chance to make an immediate draw...

50.Ra2 ...which he ignores. 50.d5!? exd5 (50...e5 51.Rc4 is similar to what happened in the game - Black needs to watch his step. Still, after 51...Nxf2 52.Kg3 e4! he will make a draw without too much hassle: 53.Ne6 Rb1!) 51.Nc6 would settle the matter there and then: 51...Nxf2 (or 51...Rb1 52.Nd4) 52.Rxf2 Rxc6 53.Kg3, and it is time to shake hands.

50...Kg6 51.Rc2 Kf5 52.Ra2. White is content to just wait and see.

52...Rb5. A baiting move - Black stops the checks, but also allows the knight out.

53.Nc6 Rb7. Finally, a threat - White no longer controls b7, and Black is aiming to swing the rook over to the g-file.

54.Ra5+. White is not tempted by 54.d5 e5.

54...Kg6 55.Ra2.

55…Kh5?! Here Black could pose a much greater problem for White by playing 55...Kh6, and White would have to find a series of only moves to save the game: 56.d5 Rg7 57.dxe6 Rg2+ 58.Kh1 Kg7 59.Ra7+ Kg6 60.Ne7+ Kh6 61.Ra2 Nxf2+ (61...Ng3+ 62.fxg3 Rxa2 63.Kg1 will only interest White) 62.Rxf2 Rxf2 63.Nf5+ Kg6 64.Nd6!, and Black has to play 64...Rf1+ 65.Kh2 f2 66.e7 Rh1+ 67.Kg3 f1Q 68.e8Q+ Kg7 with yet another perpetual.

56.d5! Now White is safe.

56...e5. 56...Rg7 is no longer an option: 57.dxe6 Rg2+ 58.Kh1 Kg6 59.Nd8!, and the e-pawn is unstoppable.


A long and hard-fought game is coming to an end. Black had his chances, but in the end draw would be a logical result, and Black only needed one precise move to achieve it. And then he played

57...f5?? 57...Nxf2 58.Kg3 e4 59.Kxf2 Rb2+ would halve the point immediately.

58.Nxe5 Rb2 59.Nd3. Suddenly White is winning. He has covered all his weaknesses, and with two pawns up, the conversion is very easy.

59...Rb7 60.Rd4 Rb6 61.d6. Swapping d5 for f3 and freeing the king. The end is near.

61...Nxd6 62.Kg3 Ne4+ 63.Kxf3 Kg5.

64.h4+ Kf6 65.Rd5 Nc3 66.Rd8 Rb1 67.Rf8+ Ke6 68.Nf4+ Ke5 69.Re8+ Kf6 70.Nh5+ Kg6 71.Ng3 Rb2 72.h5+ Kf7 73.Re5 Nd1 74.Ne2 Kf6 75.Rd5. There is no hope left for Black, and he resigned.

An unexpected end to a very tense game. After carefully diffusing White's initiative, Black managed to slowly outplay his opponent, and the position after the time control was very worrying for White. Veselin increased the pressure well, but Vladimir's defence was up to the task, and draw seemed imminent - until 57...f5?? One can only guess what could have led to such a blunder - perhaps, after being in charge of the game for a very long time, Veselin could not accept the fact that his opponent finally escaped. Whatever the reason, Kramnik now leads the match.

Game 11 & Game 12. Comments by GM Mikhail Golubev. «Two Fighting Draws»
12-я партия. мг Михаил Голубев. «На чужой территории»
11-я партия. мг Михаил Голубев. «В поисках Абсолюта»
Game 9 & Game 10. Comments by GM Mikhail Golubev. «A Decisive Chess»
10-я партия. мг Михаил Голубев. «Пятью пять»
9-я партия. мг Михаил Голубев. «Развилка близка»
Game 7 & Game 8. Comments by GM Peter Svidler. «Too Close to Call»
8-я партия. мг Алексей Коротылев. «Безжалостные кони»
7-я партия. мг Алексей Коротылев. «Нерасчехленное копье»
Game 6. Comments by GM Peter Svidler. «Plumbing New Depths»
6-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «Это мы не проходили»
Game 3 & Game 4. Comments by GM Peter Svidler. «Sanity Restored»
4-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «В режиме прощупывания»
3-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «Завышенный запас прочности»
Game 2. Comments by GM Peter Svidler. «A very human masterpiece»
2-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «Серп и молот»
1-я партия. Комментирует мг Алексей Коротылев. «Воля и судьба»