Kramnik V. (2760)
Giri A. (2776)

Qatar Masters Open (7.1)
Doha, 2014

Giri was off to a flyer in the tournament with six wins on a trot. But now he faced the most severe test in the tournament as he was up against Vladimir Kramnik with the black pieces. If someone could stop Anish, it was definitely Kramnik.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 Giri chooses the Meran Variation in the Slav. Kramnik is usually in pretty aggressive mood in such open events and hence something sharp was expected of him. Would he go for the Bg5 into the labyrinths of Moscow or Botvinnik variations? 5. g3!? Kramnik chooses a quieter line that is recently gaining in popularity. It's advantages are that it is relatively unexplored and also Kramnik likes such Catalan structures. 5... dxc4 Taking up the challenge. This is the right way to play according to me. 6. Bg2 b5 Giri sticks to the line which he played with the young Ilya Nyzhnyk in 2011. Anish lost that game. 6... Nbd7 is another option. It prevents Ne5 but it has its own drawbacks. 7. O-O Be7 8. e4 with complicated play. 7. Ne5 a6 7... Nd5 8. e4 initiates a crazy line. 8... Nb4 9. a3 Qxd4!? 10. axb4 Qxe5 11. Bf4 When White has a strong initiative. 8. O-O of course taking the pawn was not such a good idea. 8. Nxc6 Qb6 9. Ne5 Bb7= and Black is more than fine. 8... Bb7 9. b3!?

a powerful pawn sacrifice. 9. a4 looked the most logical but Black is doing very well there. 9... cxb3 9... b4 leads to some complications and could well be a better option. 10. Na4 c3 10. axb3 So White is a pawn down. What are his compensating factors? 1. The bishop on b7 is quite dead while the bishop on g2 is powerful. 2. The a1 rook is into the game without having made a move. 3. White is ahead in development. 4. It's difficult for Black to complete his development. All in all this was an excellent pawn sacrifice by White. 10... Be7 11. Bb2 O-O 12. Qc2 Nfd7 12... Qb6 13. Ne4 Nbd7 14. Nxc6! is a nice tactic worth noting. 14... Rfe8 15. Nxe7+ Rxe7 13. Nd3! When ahead in material avoid exchanges. 13... Qb6 14. Ne4 White clamps down the c5 break. Black is going to have a very tough time breaking free from this bind. 14... a5 15. Ndc5 Bc8 16. Qc3!? This is a very interesting idea by Vladimir. He could have just continued with Rfc1, but he creates the threat of d5 and forces the black pawn to come to b4 when they lose their mobility. 16... b4 17. Qe3 Na6 18. Rfc1 Nc7 19. Nxd7 Bxd7 20. Nc5 Be8 20... Bxc5 would be a horrible decision positionally, as it opens the b2 bishop but tactically too it is flawed. 21. dxc5 Qb7 22. Bxg7! (22. Qd4 Ne8) 21. Ra2 looking to double on the a-file. 21... Qb5 22. Qd3 22. Rca1 Bxc5 23. dxc5 f6= followed by e5 would be really a fine position for Black. 22... Qxd3 22... Bxc5 23. Qxb5 Nxb5 24. Rxc5 keeps up the pressure. 23. Nxd3

The queens are off the board but the pressure remains. 23... Nd5 24. Ne5 Ra6 For the time being Black is defending everything, but now Kramnik brings the final guy into the battle. 25. Bf1! Threatening e4. 25... Nc3 Giri panics and gives back a pawn. The pawn is gone but the pain remains. 25... Nc7 was much better. 26. Bxc3 bxc3 27. Rxc3 Black is still completely bound up. 27... c5 The pressure is so great that Giri gives back another pawn. Vladimir happily chops it off. 28. dxc5 From being a pawn down, White is now a pawn up. 28... Bf6 29. f4 Bb5 30. Bg2 The c-pawn has everything in place now for its advance. 30... Ra7 31. c6 Be7 32. Be4 This is a very nice move by Vlad. He would like to play his knight to f3 and then to d4, but he wants his bishop to be open and hence brings it to e4. 32... f6 33. Nf3 Rd8 33... f5 34. Nd4 34. e3 Nd4 is too strong. 34... e5 34... f5 35. Nd4 Rxd4 36. exd4 fxe4 37. c7 35. fxe5 fxe5 36. Rc1 Another accurate move. Now the e5 pawn is hanging. 36... a4 another pawn to ease the pain. 36... Bf6 37. Rc5 37. bxa4

And this was a successful pawn sacrifice by Anish because it convinced him to resign and cut short the torture. A great game by Kramnik. 1-0 [Sagar Shah]

Game(s) in PGN