Kramnik’s Masterclass on Isolated Queen Pawn Positions
In this video, GM Matthew Sadler analyzes a brilliant game between Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik, which shows a great way to play in isolated Queen pawn positions. The game was played in the Candidates Tournament, London 2013.
Levon Aronian opened with 1.d4 and Kramnik played a Queen’s Gambit Declined Tarrasch Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c5), an opening that nearly always leads to isolated Queen pawn positions. White’s d4 pawn could become weak if Black can block it and exchange off minor pieces. In the meantime, however, White gets more space and open lines to use in the center.
GM Sadler points out that he’s played dozens of isolated Queen pawn positions but Kramnik’s plan in this game was completely new to him. Aronian delayed castling in order to set-up a Queen and Bishop battery against h7. The sneaky thing about this is that a normal move like …g6 could be met with an aggressive h4. White’s King, while in the center, wouldn’t be in any immediate danger, so a pawn storm and maybe even a Rook lift (Rh1-h3-g3) would be possible.
Kramnik met this Q+B battery with an alarming …f5, creating a hole on e5 and a backward e6 pawn. This was a particularly strange move so early in the game. It looks like White can generate some dangerous threats by securing d4 then playing his Bishop to c4, attacking the Queen and putting pressure on the pinned e6 pawn.
This is where Kramnik unveils his latest contribution to playing against isolated Queen pawn positions; he plays …b5! This odd-looking move is strategically superb. The b5 and f5 pawns prevent White placing his pieces on c4 and e4 (the usual benefit of having an isolated Queen pawn), while Black’s Queen sits on d5 unchallenged. This last move also prepares …Bb7, when the Bishop and Queen will ominously eye g2.
GM Matthew Sadler goes in-depth on Kramnik’s plan in this video, a free sample of his Secrets of Top-level Chess course.