Chess: Spirited Battle a Draw for Kramnik, Aronian

Article excerpt

Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The six-game match between Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik and Armenian GM Levon Aronian that wrapped up in Zurich on Sunday proved unexpectedly entertaining. The world's No. 2 and No. 3 players, evenly matched and theoretically armed to the teeth, showed a refreshing willingness to mix it up and take risks before settling for a 3-3 tie after Kramnik just missed a win in Sunday's final round. After a stunning loss with White in Game 1, Kramnik bounced back with a strong performance in Game 3, goading Aronian into a speculative queen sacrifice and navigating the ensuing complications with aplomb. Kramnik's Four Knights Scotch was an inspired opening choice, and after the kings castled on opposite wings, White got the double-edged battle he was hoping for. Aronian, already up a point in the match, also deserves some credit for not trying to run out the clock.

The battle is joined almost immediately with 9. .. d5!? 10 exd5 Nxd5 11. Bg5 Nxc3!? (playing for the win; 11. .. Nde7 [Nce7?! 12 Bb5 c6 13. Nxc6! is unpleasant for Black] 12. Nxc6 Qxd2+ 13. Rxd2 Nxc6 14. Nd5 Re1+ 15. Rd1 Rxd1+ 16. Kxd1 Be6 was a safer choice) 12. Bxd8 Nxd1 13. Bxc7! (ruthlessly gobbling up material and stronger than 13. Qxd1?! Rxd8 14. c3 Nxd4 15. cxd4 Be6, and all of Black's minor pieces are active) Bxc7 14. Nxc6 Ne3 15. Bb5! - the one move that appears to give White an edge in all variations.

Aronian gets three minor pieces for his queen and two pawns, but his forces become disorganized under pressure from White's active queen. A timely exchange sacrifice only emphasizes Black's problems: 30. Re8+! Rxe8 31. Qxd5 Rd8 32. Qb5 Rd6 33. Kc2 Kg7 34. b4, and the advance of White's queen-side pawns poses one more headache for Black.

With 40. Qxc7 Nxb5 41. Qe5!, Black's king side is essentially paralyzed, and after 41. .. Na7 42 Kd3, Aronian gave up in light of the decisive penetration of Kramnik's king in lines such as 42. .. Nc6 43 Qa1 Nd8 44. Kc4 Nc6 45. Kb5 Ne7 46. Qe5 Ng8 47. c6 Kf8 48. c7 Ne7 49. Qxf6.

Kramnik-Aronian serves as a nice appetizer for the world championship match that will be served up next week in Moscow. Indian titleholder Viswanathan Anand will defend his crown in a 12-game match against Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand. We'll have all the news and some games from the match in the coming weeks.


Two rising American stars passed a milestone last month as IMs Marc Arnold of New York and Darwin Yang of Texas each notched their first grandmaster norm while tying for first in the 10-player St. Louis Invitational. Yang, Arnold and Iranian GM Elshan Moradiabadi all finished at 6-3 in the Category 10 event.

Yang needed a strong closing kick to secure his norm, with wins over GM Ben Finegold in Round 7 and veteran IM Michael Brooks in the ninth and final round to qualify. His tense win over Finegold from the Black side of a sharp QGD Botvinnik was one of the best games of the event.

Yang later admitted that White was well-versed in this tricky opening line and his speculative piece sacrifice was a bid to change the flow of the game: 17. h4 Nxf6!? 18. Bxf6 Rxg3 19. Ne4 Rhg8 20. Bg5 (Nxg3? Rxg3 21. Rfd1 Bxf2+ 22. Qxf2 Rxg2+ 23. Kh1 Rh2+! 24. Kxh2 Qxf2+ 25. …