Last Dance

[Event "Classical World Chess Championship"]
[Site "Brissago SUI"]
[Date "2004.01.15"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "14"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Vladimir Kramnik"]
[Black "Peter Leko"]
[ECO "B12"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "82"]

1. e4 {(Notes by GM Ray Keene.) Kramnik, the defending world
champion, scored a brilliant victory in the 14th and final
game; Peter Leko resigned after 41 moves when faced with
checkmate. This is only the third time in the entire history
of the World Championship that the defending champion has
saved his title by winning in the final game. The game itself
was a jewel of controlled aggression. Despite consistent
exchanges throughout the game, Kramnik maintained an iron grip
on the position and ultimately blasted his way into the black
camp via the dark squares. Taking no account of material
sacrifices it was Kramnik’s king that dealt the fatal blow
when it marched right into the heart of the opposing
position. This outstanding game, the best of the match,
recalled the classic fifth game won by Petrosian against
Botvinnik in 1963 when a similarly epic king march in an
endgame brought White a classic victory. "I had to give
everything, especially at the end, to win against such an
opponent. Peter Leko is an incredible defender. For me it was
more difficult than my match against Kasparov in the year
2000", said Kramnik after the game. Leko said in conclusion:
"It was a very hard fight. In the end, it was not enough for
me to win the title. I'm disappointed, but I'm looking forward
to the future. I'm 25 years old, and I hope to get a new
chance to become world champion." } c6 {Leko is not averse to
repeating the main lines of the Caro-Kann.} 2. d4 d5 3. e5 {By
contrast, Kramnik must seek sharper paths. This move, favoured
by Nimzowitsch, Tal and Short, is ideal for a must-win
situation, since it locks pawn formations and avoids premature
exchanges.} Bf5 4. h4 {Nimzowitsch liked this 3 e5 variation
and would play here 4 Bd3. His most famous game with this line
is sadly a loss, a magnificent manoeuvring game against
Capablanca from New York 1927. The most common alternative
these days is 4 Nc3, as played for example by Kasparov in a
drastic win over Karpov at Linares 2001, which continued
4...e6 5 g4 Bg6 6 Nge2 Ne7 7 Nf4 c5 8 dxc5 Nd7 9 h4 Nxe5 10
Bg2 h5 11 Qe2 N7c6 12 Nxg6 Nxg6 13 Bg5 Be7 14 gxh5 Nf8 15 Nb5
Nd7 16 h6. The latest try for Black is 4 Nc3 a5!? as in
Sebag-Chiburdanidze, FIDE WCh Women KO, Elista 2004. Black won
in 33 moves after 5 Be3 a4 6 a3 Qb6 7 Rb1 Qa5 8 g4 Bd7 9 Bg2
e6 10 Nge2 c5 11 0–0 Nc6 12 f4 h5. This 4 h4 line was tested
repeatedly in the Tal-Botvinnik WCC match, Moscow 1961, with
generally favourable results for Black. The paths they
followed are retraced below.} h6 {4...h5 may be preferable,
after which Tal tried 5 Ne2 e6 6 Ng3 g6 7 Nxf5 gxf5 8 c4 c5 9
cxd5 Qxd5 but only drew their 14th game from 1961.} 5. g4
{Instead 5 Ne2 is possible and in their 20 th game 5 e6 6 Ng3
Ne7 7 Nc3 Nd7 8 Be3 Bh7 9 Bd3 Bxd3 10 cxd3 h5 led to a
marathon struggle and another draw.} Bd7 {It looks more
natural to retreat the bishop along the b1-h7 diagonal, but,
in that case, Black has to reckon with the dangerous pawn sac
e5-e6.} 6. Nd2 {This looks like a new move. In the 10th
Tal-Botvinnik game from 1961, we saw 6 h5 c5 7 c3 Nc6 8 Bh3 e6
9 Be3 Qb6 10 Qb3 cxd4 11 Qxb6 axb6 12 cxd4 Na5 and Black won
in 42; while the 18 th game followed the course 6 c3 c5 7 Bg2
e6 8 Ne2 Bb5 9 Na3 Bxe2 10 Qxe2 cxd4 11 cxd4 Bxa3 12 bxa3 Nc6
and Black won again. However, Tal persisted with this line,
and in Tal-Pachman, Bled 1961, he finally won after launching
an attack following 7... e6 8 f4 Qb6 9 Nf3 Nc6 10 Na3 cxd4 11
cxd4 O-O-O 12 Nc2 Kb8 13 Bd3 Nge7 14 Rb1 Na5 15 Bd2 Rc8 16
b4.} c5 {Black has one way to free himself before White's
pawns begin to exert a fatal grip.} 7. dxc5 e6 8. Nb3 Bxc5 {A
small combination that regains his pawn, but at the cost of
trading his dark squared bishop. 9...Qc7 would doubtless
transpose, but this is more forcing.} 9. Nxc5 Qa5+ 10. c3 Qxc5
11. Nf3 Ne7 12. Bd3 Nbc6 13.Be3 Qa5 14. Qd2 {The tone of play
for the middlegame is set -- Black's position is resilient,
but White has a promising future on the central dark
squares. Fritz now wanted to try the line-opening gambit
14...d4!?, but no human player would yet regard such drastic
measures as necessary. (It's a mark of how far computer
programs have advanced that Fritz makes this dynamic choice.)}
Ng6 15. Bd4 {Accepting some exchanges, but White's dark square
grip persists. In contrast, 15 Bxg6 gives black too much
counterplay along the half-open f-file.} Nxd4 16.cxd4 Qxd2+
17.Kxd2 Nf4 18.Rac1 {From now on, White's play is direct and
brutal. I would have played Bf1 and followed it with
Ke3. Kramnik has no truck with such sophisticated nuances and
goes directly for the jugular.} h5 {And here I would have left
Black's king's-side pawns severely alone and traded on
d3. After 18...Nxd3 19 Kxd3 Ke7 20 Rc7 Rab8 followed by
...Rhc8, I believe Black could withstand the onslaught from
White, though it must be admitted that White's knight will
always be superior to Black's bishop.} 19. Rhg1 {19 g5 is
possible instead, but Kramnik is all for open lines.} Bc6
20.gxh5 Nxh5 21.b4 a6 22.a4 {An admirable display of energy,
but, after 22...Bxa4 23 Rc7 Bb5 24 Rxb7 O-O, Black reduces the
tension and gains counterplay. Taking the pawn could even be
dangerous for White after 25 Bxb5 axb5 26 Rxb5 Ra2+. For this
reason, I prefer 22 Ke3 restricting Black's knight, and if
22...O-O then 23 Rg5 g6 24 Rcg1 Ng7 25 h5! or if 24...Kh8 25
Bxg6! fxg6 26 Rxg6 Rf7 27 Ng5 and wins.} Kd8 {? Leko exhibits
an alarming tendency towards a bunker mentality. After this
passive move, Black is strangled in the style of his hero
Petrosian or of Nimzowitsch, the arch-blockader and early
prophet of 3 e5 against the Caro-Kann.} 23. Ng5 Be8 24.b5 Nf4
{Clearing the a-file merely offers White a further avenue of
attack after 24...axb5 25 axb5 Ra3 26 Ra1!} 25.b6 {Creating a
terrible outpost on c7 for his rook. Black must prevent such
an invasion at all costs.} Nxd3 26.Kxd3 Rc8 27.Rxc8+ Kxc8
28.Rc1+ Bc6 {Black has plugged one path for White's forces but
more soon open. Black, we soon see, is fatally debilitated on
the central dark square complex.} 29.Nxf7 Rxh4 30.Nd6+ Kd8
31.Rg1 Rh3+ {Passive defence is hopeless, so Black tries to
clear off as many white pawns as he can. } 32.Ke2 Ra3 33.Rxg7
Rxa4 34.f4 {!! The decisive coup. White's small but highly
efficient army is ready to concentrate its powers and deal the
death blow. If now 34...Rxd4, then 35 f5 exf5 36 e6 Re4+ 37
Nxe4 fxe4 38 Rc7, threatening Rxc6, and if 37...Bb5+, 38 Ke3
when Black's b-pawn is doomed and White's king penetrates.}
Ra2+ 35.Kf3 Ra3+ 36.Kg4 Rd3 37.f5 {The same theme. The way
White's king now takes the Black fortress by storm with just
rook and knight against rook and bishop reminds me strongly of
the epic king march and superlative conclusion of game 5 from
the Petrosian-Botvinnik WCC match, Moscow 1963.} Rxd4+ 38.Kg5
exf5 39.Kf6 Rg4 40.Rc7 Rh4 41.Nf7+ {Black resigns since
41...Ke8 42 Rc8+ Kd7 43 Rd8 is mate. A jewel of a game and a
sublime atonement for the sins of omission in some previous
games of this match. Now compare the celebrated king march by
Petrosian that doubtless provided inspiration for Kramnik as
he conducted his final onslaught. } 1-0

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