Games: Chess

The game in the Belgrade tournament between the players ranked two and three in the world fully lived up to expectations. Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand both gave spectacular displays of imagination, with the Indian player ending up victorious after meeting Kramnik's sacrificial attacking play with an astonishing counter-sacrifice.

The position after 5.Bg5 was one that Kramnik has had countless times as both colours. Those games generally entered the wild territory of the Botvinnik System with 5...dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7, but Anand by-passed that line with 5...h6. Theory now recommends 6.Bxf6 Qxf6, which is said to leave White with a more comfortable position, but Kramnik instead played a supposedly dubious pawn sacrifice.

At move 12, he sacrificed a piece to destroy the pawn cover around Black's king. Black was able to defend in the short term by huddling pieces round his king, but after 19.b4! White clearly had good compensation for the piece. 19...cxb3 20.Qxb3 would have left e6 impossible to defend, while otherwise White's grip on c5 makes it difficult for Black to untangle. The critical moment came after 25.Ne4 (see diagram). Black cannot play 25...Be3 because of 26.Rxf8+ when 26...Qxf8 loses to 27.Bxe6+, 26...Nxf8 loses to 27.Nf6+, and 26...Kxf8 loses the bishop to 27.Qf3+ (and 27.Qh8+ Kf7 28.Rf1+ Kg6 29.Nf6 is even stronger).

Anand found the extraordinary 25...c5!! 26.Nxg5 Bd5!! (26...Rxg5 27.Qh6 favours White). White's best continuation may then have been 27.Nxe6 Bxe6 28.Bxe6+ Qxe6 29.bxc5, but Kramnik's decision to keep the piece he had just won back was understandable. As the game went, White was a pawn down, but the black passed pawns on c4 and b4 were too powerful.

Kramnik's 37.bxe6!? was a last despairing effort to confuse the issue, but a final combination with 38...Rxf3! put the matter beyond doubt. White had rook and three pawns for Black and knight, but his position was hopeless. One of the most exciting and eventful games I have seen for a long time.

White: Vladimir Kramnik

Black: Viswanathan Anand

1 Nf3 Nf6 23 Qe2 Ba8

2 c4 e6 24 Qxh5 Rf8

3 Nc3 d5 25 Ne4 c5

4 d4 c6 26 Nxg5 Bd6

5 Bg5 h6 27 Nf3 cxb4

6 Bh4 dxc4 28 axb5 axb5

7 e4 g5 29 Nh4 Qg5

8 Bg3 b5 30 Rxf8+ Nxf8

9 Be2 Bb7 31 Qe8 Rf7

10 e5 Nh5 32 Nf3 Qg6

11 a4 a6 33 Qxb5 b3

12 Nxg5 Nxg3 34 Rf1 Qd3

13 Nxf7 Kxf7 35 Kg1 Qe3+

14 fxg3 Kg8 36 Kh1 c3

15 0-0 Nd7 37 Bxe6 Bxe6

16 Bg4 Qe7 38 d5 Rxf3

17 Ne4 Rh7 39 gxf3 Bh3

18 Nd6 Rb8 40 Qc4 Bxf1

19 b4 h5 41 Qg4+ Kh7

20 Bh3 Bh6 42 e6 Ng6

21 Kh1 Bg5 White resigns

22 Qc2 Rg7