Carnage in Bonn!

Remember at the end of my last chess post when I wrote:

But no need to despair! This is just the feeling out period. I suspect the real match will begin shortly.

Oh baby! Was I more right than I knew! Vishy Anand drew first blood in the big chess match today, and did so in fine style. Once again Kramnik opened with his queen pawn, and Anand replied with the Slav. But whereas game one saw Kramnik employ the insomnia-curing Exchange Variation, this time we had the ultra-sharp Meran Variation. After fourteen moves of well-known theory, Anand, playing black, bashed out a novelty:

V. Kramnik – V. Anand
World Championship 2008
Position After 14. … Bc8-b7

A quick look at the position reveals that black has won a pawn, but has made some clear positional concessions to get it. His king is going to be stuck in the center for quite some time, his pawns on b5 and d4 are weak, his king-sde pawns are broken up, and his development leaves something to be desired.

His extra pawn being his big trump, black usually tries to hold onto it with 14. … Ba6 or 14. … b4, both perfectly playable moves. Anand’s novelty offers to give back the pawn on b5, in return for getting caught up on development. The bishop is beautifully placed on the long diagonal, and it will cooperate well with a black rook on the g-file.

After the moves 15. Bxb5 Bd6 16. Rd1 Rg8 17. g3 Rg4 18. Bf4 Bxf4 19. Nxd4 we reach our next diagram:

Position After 19. Nf3xd4

Here we have a nice demonstration of why I am watching the games from home, and am not on the stage in Bonn. You see, I was thinking Anand was in big trouble right around here. Granted, he is up a piece for a pawn. But white’s last move was a real humdinger. It discovers an attack by the white queen on the black rook on g4. It wins a pawn. And it threatens all sorts of mayhem down the newly-opened d-file. Notice the tag team of the white rook on d1 and the white bishop on b5, taking aim at the ailing steed on d7.

Anand, as it happens, had seen farther than me. Apparently still in his home preparation he calmly protected his rook with 19. … h5. There followed 20. Nxe6 fxe6 21. Rxd7 Kf8 22. Qd3 Rg7 23. Rxg7 Kxg7 24. gxf4

Position After 24. gxh4

The smoke has cleared and Kramnik has emerged with two extra pawns. Connected passed pawns on the queenside, no less. But this material lead comes at a serious price! White’s kingside is one big weakness, and all three of black’s pieces will quickly become active. White’s pawns have the potential to become strong, but back there on the second rank they’re not so scary. The position is probably holdable for Kramnik, but it is definitely a difficult defense.

Anand got down to business with 24. … Rd8 25. Qe2 Kh6 26. Kf1 Rg8 27. a4 Bg2+ 28. Ke1 Bh3 29. Ra3 Rg1+ 30. Kd2 Qd4+ 31. Kc2 Bg4 32. f3 Bf5+ 33. Bd3 Bh3

Position After 33. … Bf5-h3

Splat! White is helpless against the looming armegeddon on his second rank. The cavillers pointed out that 33. … Bf5xd3+ is actually a forced mate. But Anand, short of time, pragmatically found a move that wins easily, rather than attempt to calculate a lengthy mating variation. Hard to fault him for that.

Kramnik has one last Hail Mary to try. Granted, he’s hemorrhaging material on the king-side. But there is still that a-pawn: 34. a5 Rg2 35. a6 Rxe2+ 36. Bxe2 Bf5+ 37. Kb3 Qe3+ 38. Ka2 Qxe2 39. a7. This is a good time to remind any nervous players out there that a pawn on the seventh rank is still just a pawn. Kramnik resigned after 39. … Qc4+ 40. Ka1 Qf1+ 41. Ka2 Bb1+ 0-1

Final Position

White will either get mated or lose his a-pawn. For example, play could continue 42. Kb3 Qb5+ 43. Kc3 Qd3+ 44. Kb4 Qd4+ 45. Ka5 Qxa7+.

An impressive display by Anand and a bad loss for Kramnik. Winning with black in a short match is a big deal. On the other hand, Kramnik had to come from behind in his matches with Leko and Topalov, and Anand would be crazy to think he can sit on his lead.

Stay tuned!


  1. #1 John Rummel
    October 17, 2008

    Dude, as an old tourney player retired for over 10 years, I LOVE it that you’re a chess geek. Thanks for motivating me to look over the recent games. Today’s fireworks were indeed awesome!

  2. #2 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 17, 2008

    Glad I motivated you! Hopefully we’ll have nine more games just like this one, though I suspect that’s asking a bit too much.

  3. #3 Paul
    October 17, 2008

    I’m not as good a chess player as I wish I could be. That said, I am enjoying your posts on these matches, Jason.

  4. #4 BobC
    October 18, 2008

    What a surprise to see a world championship chess game described on scienceblogs. I used to occasionally lurk here for the evolution articles, but now I have a reason to stop by more often. I’ve been playing since 1961. If I was rated I might be between 1700 and 1800. I’m too lazy to study openings so I play only the King’s Indian as both white and black, and I play only the black side of the sicilian, preferably the najdorf. I play only on the internet, only on the Free Internet Chess Server, and only 10 minute games. I prefer long hard fought endings instead of violent attacks against the king. My favorite chess book is Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings by Irving Chernev. I learned to try for small advantages that might be enough to win an endgame, like two bishops against bishop and knight. My favorite grandmaster is Fischer. His games were always interesting and educational. I liked that he always played to win, even as black against the best players.

  5. #5 Dave S.
    October 18, 2008

    Kasparov recommended the potential swindling possibility of 33. Kb3, when 33. … Rc1 34. a5 Bc2+ 35.Qxc2! Rxc2 36. Kxc2 Qc5+ 37. Kb1 Qxb5 38. a6 and white draws. However 34. … Qd5+ seems OK for black.

  6. #6 ...tom...
    October 18, 2008

    Me too … liking the chess posts I mean.

    Keep ’em coming please..!! (Though there seems little likelihood of that _not_ happening…)


  7. #7 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 19, 2008

    Glad you’re enjoying the posts. It’s nice to know these posts aren’t completely self-indulgent!

  8. #8 Dave S.
    October 19, 2008

    Game 4 a draw with not too much fire from either side.

    One thing I like about chess is the strategy is layered in many ways. For instance, here we have the question for Anand of how to proceed, given the tournament status of 2-1 in his favour with 9 rounds to go. Does he push hard with white, hoping to put Kramnik in a 3-1 stranglehold from which it will very difficult indeed for him to extract? But what if he pushes too hard, stumbles, and Kramnik wins with black? Then it’s all tied up again and Kramnik suddenly has the edge, at least psychologically. Or does he instead play super solid, knowing that sooner or later Kramnik must take a risk in order to have any hopes of winning (since draws now favour Anand), and then use his hopefully superior tactical gifts when Kramnik is finally flushed? He chose solid, not taking any chances and being happy with at best a tiny edge. And the match goes to 2.5-1.5 for Anand.

    And now what does Kramnik do? Maybe he’s happy enough to draw game 4 with black, but intends to push the next game with white, with fireworks to ensue in game 5. Or maybe he waits another round with some special preparation surprise line, hoping to even the match with fewer rounds for Vishy to regain his equanimity?

    Time will tell.

  9. #9 Joe
    October 19, 2008

    I enjoy the chess coverage, too.

  10. #10 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 19, 2008

    Dave S –

    I was thinking along the same lines. I suspect Anand just might have been tired after the hard work of Game 3, so he effectively took the day off by just making a solid, no nonsense, draw with white. As for Kramnik, the QGD is not exactly what you play when you’re going all out for a win.

    The next pair of games will be critical. Will Kramnik go all out with white in Game 5. Or is he not yet really feeling the pressure? And will Anand show signs of going for the kill in Game 6, or is he really just going to try to sit on his lead.

    As you say, time will tell.

  11. #11 Kevin
    October 21, 2008

    Jason used to have a picture of himself at a chessboard on his blog.

  12. #12 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 21, 2008

    I still do! It’s just that to make the photo fit into the small space at the side of the blog it needed to focus on just the head. You can see the whole photograph at my personal web page.

New comments have been disabled.