Topalov – Kramnik, World Championship 2006 (11)

Topalov’s last game with the White pieces sees him out of a Slav with very little. He refrains from his novelty from game 8 and instead plays a more solid 8. Rb1. Kramnik’s solid play gives him a tiny edge through the middlegame, and he pushes Topalov back in the queenless middlegame (35… Ne5, 36… Ra2 and 38… Ng4). Kramnik enters the endgame with an extra pawn, but its meaningless in the opposite coloured-bishops ending. And a draw is agreed on the second time control after Topalov stubbornly defends his position.

Veselin Topalov (2810)
Vladimir Kramnik (2740)
Queens Gambit: Slav
World Championship 2006, Elista, Round 11
ECO Code

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Bg6 7. Nxg6 hxg6 8. Rb1

Another Topalov novelty. Topalov played 8.a3 in game 9 and won an impressive game against Kramnik using an idea conjured up by his second, Vallejo Pons.

8… Nbd7 9. c5

Closing the centre. Black has the thematic plan of countering with an …e5 break. White could take this opportunity to expand on the queenside.

9… a5

If White expands on the queenside it will leave Black controlling the a-file.

10. a3 e5

The immediate centre-break gives Black equality and balanced play in the centre.

11. b4 axb4 12. axb4 Qc7 13. f4

Preventing the use of the … e5 square from becoming a jumping off point for the Black pieces, White ensures he’ll have a pawn exerting pressure.

13… exf4 14. exf4 Be7 15. Be2 Nf8

Rerouting the knight to …e6 where it exerts pressure on the White pawns, particularly the f4-pawn.

16. O-O Ne6 17. g3

Preventing Black from exploiting the pin on the f4-pawn by …g5, followed by …Qxh2+ with a very strong kingside attack.

17… Qd7!?

Position after 17...Qd7!? Black switches play to the weakened light-squares around the White kingside position, there’s also another more subtle reason for this queen manoeuvre.

18. Qd3 = Ne4?!

Kramnik heads for the exchange of queens, which leaves White with the better placed minor pieces.

19. Nxe4 dxe4 20. Qxe4 Qxd4+ 21. Qxd4 Nxd4

Kramnik has some compensation for Whites better pieces. He controls the a-file, has a strong knight on …d4, and his dark squared bishop is more useful that its White counterpart. Kramnik has a temporary initiative, but Topalov has a better position thanks to his more active rooks, the potential pawn thrusts f4-f5 and b4-b5, and the two bishops give him an edge.

22. Bc4 +=

The bishop takes up an active post and also prevents the entry of the Black rooks on …a2.

22… O-O

There’s no for the Black rook down the h-file, and no easy way of entering play via … h8-h5, so Kramnik decides to castle, and bring the king rook to the d-file.

23. Kg2 +=

Covering the weak f3 light-square, and thus freeing the rook for more active duties.

23… Ra4

Trying to tie White down on the queenside – preventing Bb2 for the moment, thus keeping the Black knight on …d4 for a bit longer. Black could also have gone for play down the d-file with

Fritz 8: 23… Rfd8 24. Rd1 Bf6 25. Rd2 Nf5 26. Rxd8+ Rxd8 27. g4 Ne7 28. g5 Bd4 29. Kf3 [0. 53/16]

24. Rd1 +/-

Slowly White is regrouping, and slowly his advantage is growing. The initiative is with White, Black doesn’t have an active plan at his disposal.

24… Rd8

24… Bxc5 is a sharper alternative, but White has a clever trick up his sleeve. Fritz 8: 25. Be3! (25. Bxf7+!? Rxf7 26. bxc5 Kh7 27. Be3 Nf5 28. Rd3 g5 29. fxg5 Nxe3+ 30. Rxe3 Ra2+ [0.41/16]) 25… Ne6 26. Bb3!! A superb tactical intermezzo that forces Black to ditch the exchange, leaving White with a substantial advantage. 26… Rxb4 27. Bxc5 Rxb3 28. Bxf8 Rxb1 29. Rxb1 Kxf8 30. Rxb7 c5 31. h4 [1.19/16]

25. Be3 Bf6

Kramnik has managed to hold on to the …d4 square, and still has the White queenside tied down, but his pieces are also now tied down. The Black rook also now has the a3-square as an entry point into the White position.

Fritz 8: 25… Nf5 26. Rxd8+ Bxd8 27. Bf2 Bf6 28. h3 g5 29. Bd3 g6 30. fxg5 Bxg5 31. Bxf5 gxf5 32. b5 Ra2 [0.72/16]

26. g4

Aiming to take advantage of his two bishops by taking control of the space on the kingside. The threat of 27. g5 is met by 27… Nc2 (threatening …Nxe3+ and …Na3), where the exchange of rooks on d8 gives Black the opportunity to move the harrassed bishop. Fritz 8:

  • 26. Rd2 Nf5 27. Rxd8+ Bxd8 28. Bf2 Bf6 29. h3 g5 30. Bd3 g6 31. fxg5 Bxg5 32. Bxf5 gxf5 33. b5 Ra2 [0.78/16]
  • 26. Bf2 Fritz 8 reckons this is the more accurate move order. (….Ra3 is harmless because White hasn’t committed a tempo to g3-g4 and thus can reply to the threat of …Rc3 with a useful rook move like Rd2) 26… Kf8 27. g4 Ne6 28. Rxd8+ Nxd8 29. Rb3 Ke7 30. Re3+ Kd7 31. Be1 Ne6 32. Bxe6+ fxe6 33. h4 [0.87/16]
26… Kf8

Removing any potential discovered attack threats beginning with Bxf7+.

26… Ra3! Fritz 8 regards this move (with the follow up of …Rc3) as cutting across White’s plan, which is why it prefers 26. Bf2 before progressing with g2-g4.

  • 27. Bf2 27… Rc3 28. Rbc1 Nc2 29. Rxd8+ Bxd8 30. Be2 Bc7 31. f5 gxf5 32. gxf5 Ne3+ 33. Bxe3 Rxe3 34. Bc4 b5 [0.19/17]
  • 27. Bxd4 is the more promising continuation 27… Bxd4 28. Bb3 Kf8 29. Rd3 Bf6 30. Rbd1 Rxb3 31. Rxd8+ Bxd8 32. Rxd8+ Ke7 33. Rd4 Ra3 34. h4 Ra2+ 35. Kf3 Ra3+ [0.44/17]
27. Bf2

27. g5 Still gives White an advantage. 27… Nf5 28. Rxd8+ Bxd8 29. Bf2 Bc7 Black gets another temporary initiative 30. Kf3 Ra3+ 31. Rb3 +/-

27… Ne6 28. Rxd8+

28. Bxe6 isn’t as strong 28… Rxd1 29. Rxd1 fxe6 30. Be1 g5!? 31. fxg5 Bxg5 += and White retains a fraction of his previous advantage.

28… Bxd8

Fritz 8: 28… Nxd8 29. Be1 Ne6 30. Bxe6 fxe6 31. h4 g5 32. hxg5 Bd4 33. Kf3 [0.81/16]

29. f5?!

Allows a lot of the tension of the position to dissipate, but White retains a slight edge.

Fritz 8: 29. Bxe6 Smashing Black’s kingside pawn formation into three isolated pawns seems to be the smoothest path to victory. 29… fxe6 30. h4 Ra3 31. b5 Ke8 32. Rb4 Bf6 33. Re4 Ke7 34. b6 Ra8 35. Kg3 [0.97/16]

29… gxf5 30. gxf5 += Nf4+

30… Ng5 is marginally better.

31. Kf3 Nh5 32. Rb3 Bc7!

Position after 32...Bc7!? The bishop takes up a useful diagonal, and provides some stability for his knight companion.

33. h4 Nf6 = 34. Bd3

Fritz 8: 34. Bd4 Bd8 35. Be5 Be7 36. Bg3 Bxc5 37. bxc5 Rxc4 38. Bd6+ Kg8 39. Rxb7 Rc3+ 40. Ke2 Nd5 [0.25/16]

34… Nd7

Alternatives were to go for the b4 pawn with (White holding compensation for the pawn in the form of the two bishops). Fritz 8:

  • 34… Be5 35. Bb1 Nd5 36. Be4 Nxb4 37. h5 Ke8 38. Be3 Bf6 39. Bf2 Kf8 40. Be3 Ke8 [0.06/16]
  • 34… Nd5 35. Be4 Nxb4 36. Bd4 Bd8 37. h5 Bf6 38. Be3 Ke8 39. Bf2 Kf8 40. Be3 [0.06/16]
35. Be4

35. Bd4 and if Ba5 exploiting the pin on the b4-pawn 36. Bc3 Bd8 +=

35… Ne5+ 36. Kg2

Trying to keep the game alive, but the initiative is with Black again.

36. Ke3 Ng4+ 37. Kf3 Ne5+ draw by repetition

36… Ra2

Kramnik activates his rook that’s done a sterling job keeping the White queenside in check.

37. Bb1 Rd2

The rook takes up a spendid post on the d-file.

38. Kf1 Ng4 39. Bg1 Bh2 40. Ke1

Only move to hold the balance of the position.

40. Bxh2 allows Black to demolish White’s kingside pawns 40… Rxh2 -/+ with …Rxh4 to follow

40. Be3 Nxe3+ 41. Rxe3 Rb2 -/+ And White’s b4-pawn drops.

40… Rd5 =

Fritz 8: 40… Rg2!? 41. Bd4 Be5 42. Be4 Rh2 43. Bg1 Rxh4 44. b5 Nf6 45. Bf3 Rh3 46. Ke2 Ne4 [-0.34/16]

41. Bf2 Ke7

The king has a useful role to play in neutralising White’s kingside pawns.

42. h5 Nxf2 43. Kxf2 Kf6

The Black king is safe here unless he contrives to lose control of the d-file.

44. Kf3 Rd4 45. b5

White tries to activate his rook by liquidating the queenside pawns.

45… Rc4 46. bxc6 bxc6 47. Rb6 Rxc5 48. Be4 = Kg5 49. Rxc6 Ra5

With the h-pawn certainly dropping, Black’s chances of winning lies in keeping the rooks on. Exchanging rooks would be the simplest path to a draw.

50. Rb6

Aiming to get to the seventh rank where the rook can harrass the two Black pawns.

50… Ra3+

One more check to push the White king further from the defence of his pawns.

51. Kg2 Bc7!?

An interesting plan of protecting the kingside pawns from the White rook

52. Rb7 Rc3 53. Kf2 Kxh5 54. Bd5

Fritz 8: 54. Ke2 Kg5 55. Kd2 Ba5 56. Ra7 Ra3+ 57. Kc2 Kf4 58. Bd3 Rc3+ 59. Kd2 Rc5+ 60. Kd1 Bc7 61. Ke2 [-0.22/16]

54… f6

Black’s extra pawn is immaterial.

54… Kg5 55. Bxf7 Kxf5 56. Rb5+ Be5 =+

55. Ke2 Kg4

55… g5 56. fxg6 Kxg6 =+

56. Be4 Kf4 57. Bd3 Rc5 58. Rb4+ Kg3 59. Rc4 Re5+ 60. Re4?!

60. Kd1 =

60… Ra5

Fritz 8: 60… Bb6! 61. Rxe5 fxe5 62. Bb5 Kf4 63. Bd7 e4 64. Be6 Bd4 65. Bd7 Ke5 66. Bc8 Bg1 67. Bd7 Bb6 [-0.59/18]

61. Re3+ Kg2

Fritz 8: 61… Kg4 62. Re4+ Bf4 63. Rc4 Re5+ (63… Rd5 64. Rb4 Rxd3!? 65. Kxd3 Kxf5 =+ And Black has two passed pawns for the exchange, but the endgame is not straightforward.) 64. Kf2 Rd5 65. Be4 Rd2+ 66. Ke1 Kg5 67. Rc2 Rd4 68. Rg2+ Bg3+ 69. Rxg3+ Kf4 70. Rxg7 Rxe4+ 71. Kf2 [-0.38/19]

62. Be4+ Kh2 63. Rb3 Ra2+ 64. Kd3 Bf4 65. Kc4 Re2 66. Kd5

Draw agreed

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