An unexamined life is not worth living.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kramnik in the Sveshnikov – The Breakthrough Style

The book of Vladimir Kramnik’s  games published in Russia in the end of the 1990’s was called the “Break”, and for a while it became my constant source of aesthetic pleasure. I did not understand back then why people talk about Kramnik as a boring or even solid player, and still don’t understand it now – from following most of the tournaments where he plays. This is a player with a very dynamic sense of pawn structure and of how pawns and pieces release their power in unexpected (to the opponent) moments of the game.

Merely looking through a collection of his games in B33 ECO classifications I immediately came across several examples (I had known most of them from before, but a couple were new to me!). These games were played against the top players of the world, with good results. While regretting that Kramnik stopped playing the Sveshnikov, I do understand that one has to switch repertoire from time to time – in part to develop one’s style, but also to avoid computer preparation as lines that Kramnik makes popular – get overanalyzed to death and become difficult to play for a win.

Lutz –Kramnik, 1995
 image 26…e3 ripped White’s position apart before queenside pawns could promote.

Polgar – Kramnik, 1998
image  With unexpected 38… a4, Black undermined White’s knight and pinned 3 White pieces along the long diagonal.

Anand – Kramnik, 1998
image After 13. Qf3, Black fought for initiative by sacrificing two pawns – 14…f5! 15. exf5 d5! getting enough counter play for the material.

Shirov – Kramnik, 2000
image With 20…d5!! Black was able to transfer the b8 rook to the kingside via b6, and again – obtain enough counterplay.

Leko – Kramnik, 2000
image with 36… b4, Kramnik puts more pressure on White’s tangled position, although in time trouble the game ended as a draw after Black missed a win.

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