29 May 2023

Commentary: 2022 U.S. Women's Championship, Round 6 (Foisor - Lee)

I continue my examination of the last U.S. Women's Championship - after something of a break - with the round 6 game between Sabina Foisor and Megan Lee. Foisor managed to have two Whites in a row and opened the same way both times for the first three moves. However, instead of again heading for a "Slow Slav" by transposition as in round 5, she chooses to continue with a Colle System setup. The opening seems a bit of a mishmash, as it's not a true Colle-Zukertort, and Black has some chances to play more aggressively in Stonewall fashion. However, by move 10 White has achieved a pleasant game against a more cramped-looking Black.

The early middlegame transition is where White begins going wrong, ending up more cramped for space herself and then allowing an interesting if not quite decisive tactic by Black on move 17, that gives Black the initiatve. By around move 25 White has re-established equality, but Black signals with her move choices that she is not interested in heading for a draw. It's worth following how through stubbornness and rearrangement of her pieces, Lee finally ends up in a classic and decisive Dutch-type attack on the kingside. 

[Event "U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2022"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2022.10.11"] [Round "06"] [White "Foisor, Sabina-Francesca"] [Black "Lee, Megan"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2203"] [BlackElo "2226"] [EventDate "????.??.??"] [ECO "D04"] [PlyCount "142"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 {Colle System} 3...c6 4.Bd3 e6 {the second most popular move in the database, but not nearly as effective as ...Bg4 in countering White's basic plans in this opening setup.} 5.b3 {this move is emblematic of the Colle-Zukertort variation; however, it is normally played when Black has gone ...c5.} 5...Nbd7 6.Bb2 Bb4+ {played to provoke White's next move, but it is not obligatory.} ( 6...Ne4 $5 {now Black could seize some space and play like a Dutch Stonewall following ...f5. Taking the knight is not a great option for White.} 7.Bxe4 dxe4 8.Ne5 Bb4+ 9.c3 Nxe5 10.dxe5 Qxd1+ 11.Kxd1 Be7 $10 ) 7.c3 ( 7.Nbd2 $5 Ne4 8.a3 $14 ) 7...Bd6 8.c4 {although this double pawn advance seems a bit contradictory, it actually appears best, as Black would simply lose a tempo by moving the bishop back to b4.} 8...Ne4 {although this is a key idea for Black in this formation, both the database and the engine indicate that it might be better played earlier, on move 6. Now it moves an already-developed piece twice.} 9.O-O {nowhere else to put the king, so might as well castle now.} 9...O-O {this gives White a number of pleasant alternatives, but there does not appear to be anything better.} ( 9...f5 {going for a Stonewall formation would be the logical follow-up to ...Ne4. However, this scores poorly in the database and is very committal.} ) 10.Ne5 ( 10.Nc3 $5 {scores even better in the database and is a less committal option for White.} ) 10...f6 11.Nxd7 {probably best, so as not to lose a tempo by retreating, although there is the trade-off of making Black a little less cramped overall after the pieces are removed.} 11...Bxd7 12.f3 {symmetrically kicking Black's knight now, which will be awkwardly placed.} 12...Ng5 13.Nd2 {this appears to be an inferior square for the knight. Going to c3 instead would indirectly restrain ...e5, due to cxd5, although there are some tactics to think about.} ( 13.Nc3 $5 f5 ( 13...e5 $6 14.cxd5 exd4 15.exd4 Qc7 16.h4 Rae8 17.Kh1 ( 17.hxg5 $2 Bh2+ 18.Kh1 Qg3 $19 ) 17...Qd8 18.Qd2 $14 ( 18.hxg5 $6 fxg5 {and it looks like Black and look for a rook (or queen) lift to the h-file and try for a perpetual check.} ) ) 14.Qd2 $14 {with the idea of Ne2-f4 as a follow-up, also enabling play for the rooks.} ) 13...f5 {If Black was planning to play this way, it seems like making this move earlier would have been better, although it is not bad. The f6 pawn would instead seem better placed to support play in the center, specifically the e-pawn lever.} ( 13...e5 ) 14.Qe2 $10 {White has the problem of where to put her queen, as no square is particularly good, and is somewhat cramped.} 14...Be8 {a classic idea in the Stonewall formation. The bishop will do nicely one repositioned.} 15.e4 {White understandably looks to free up some space, but this may have been premature.} 15...Bh5 {the logical follow-up, although it might be better to anticipate White's next.} ( 15...Bb4 $5 {immediately pressures the Nd2, which is a key tactical point. White does not have time to simply kick it away.} 16.a3 $6 ( 16.Rad1 $10 ) 16...Nh3+ 17.Kh1 Qg5 18.gxh3 ( 18.axb4 $2 Nf4 19.Qf2 Nxd3 $19 ) 18...Bxd2 $15 ) 16.e5 Bb4 17.a3 $6 {this allows tactical ideas based on the Nd2 being under-protected, similar to the above variations.} ( 17.Rad1 ) 17...Nh3+ $1 {the key idea. White is still all right, but Black certainly has the initiative now.} 18.Kh1 ( 18.gxh3 $2 Qg5+ 19.Kh1 Bxd2 20.Bc1 Bxc1 21.Raxc1 dxc4 22.Bxc4 Qe7 $17 {and Black will have a much better game, targeting the weak White pawns.} ) 18...Nf4 19.Qe3 {forced, to protect the Bd3.} 19...Bxd2 {this piece liquidation ends up being even, but it helps White un-cramp her position.} ( 19...Nxd3 $5 20.Qxd3 Be7 {would preserve the two bishops, at least temporarily, and keep White a little more cramped.} ) 20.Qxd2 Nxd3 21.Qxd3 {now things look very even again.} 21...f4 {gaining some space and a better diagonal for the light-squre bishop, but also putting the pawn farther from its support.} 22.a4 {opening the a3 square for the bishop and restraining ...b5.} 22...Bg6 23.Qd2 {the logical square, pressuring f4 and allowing the queen to be mobile on the 2nd rank .} 23...Qh4 {committing the queen to the kingside. This move also overprotects the f-pawn.} 24.Qf2 Qh6 {indicating Black wants to play for a win, rather than exchange. However, she does not have any real threats and the queen is not very effective on h6, so White could take advantage of this.} 25.cxd5 ( 25.Ba3 $5 {seems logical, with the potential transfer of the bishop to the d6 square.} ) 25...exd5 {Black continues to try to unbalance the game in seeking a win, but again White could take even more advantage. However, the engine move may not have even been contemplated, since it detaches the e-pawn from its support.} ( 25...cxd5 26.Rac1 Rfc8 $10 ) 26.Bc1 {a passive place for the bishop, but equal.} ( 26.e6 $1 {the idea is that the pawn can get to e7 and cannot be dislodged, putting Black under pressure and giving White a measurable advantage.For example} 26...Bf5 27.e7 Rf6 28.Rfe1 Re8 29.Ba3 $16 {with the idea of Re5 and also the potential for play on the queenside with a4-a5 and Bc5.} ) ( 26.Ba3 {again is a good idea, although after ...Rfe8 Black is still all right.} ) 26...Rae8 {restraining the e-pawn.} 27.a5 {this is less effective with the bishop on c1 instead of a3.} 27...Bd3 {while the position is equal, Black again has some initiative due to White's passivity.} 28.Rg1 Qh5 {the point here is that h6 is cleared for a rook lift.} 29.Re1 {White does not appear to have any ideas for progress, since the rook of course could have come to e1 the prior move.} 29...Re6 30.Ra2 Rf5 {Black continues with piece play. However, we now have a Dutch-looking structure in which the natural move would be to grab space on the kingside.} ( 30...g5 $5 ) 31.Rd2 Bb5 {although Black's pieces are clearly more active, there is still no way to make progress. White can play for a fortress by simply moving her rook to c2, for example.} 32.Qg1 $6 {this actually weakens White's defensive structure, by making the queen a potential target and giving up control of the e1-h4 diagonal.} 32...Qf7 33.Rf2 Rg6 {choosing to line up against the queen on the g-file rather than the king on the h-file. However, Black does not have much in the way of follow-up threats.} ( 33...Rh5 $5 {would appear to be a more consistent with the queen retreat, allowing for ...Rh4 as a follow-up while pressuring the h-file, for example by putting the queen back on h5.} ) 34.h3 Kf8 {this doesn't seem like a necessary idea, but then again there is no evident way to make progress.} 35.Ba3+ Ke8 36.Rd2 $2 {White further cramps her position and now Black is able to obtain a winning advantage by rearranging her own pieces for a kingside attack.} ( 36.e6 $5 {again the Dragon engine spots this idea, which seems counter-intuitive.} 36...Rxe6 {the pawn sacrifice is good for dynamic equality, as Black having brought her king to the center made it a target along the e-file. For example} 37.Rc2 Rf6 38.Rcc1 $10 {preparing to reload on the e-file after an exchange of rooks} ) ( 36.Ra1 {looks safe and allows for the the queen to become more active via Qc1 and then transferring to c5.} ) 36...Qe6 {this blocks the e-pawn and lines up on h3.} 37.Qh2 {White continues with her static defense.} 37...Rg3 $1 {now there is nothing White can do to stop Black's buildup.} 38.Bc1 Rh5 39.Ra2 g5 {Black finally gets the g-pawn into the action.} 40.Bd2 Bd3 {following the rule of bringing all the pieces into the attack.} 41.a6 {a sacrificial distraction. Black would do best to not retreat the bishop and continue the attack, but is still winning after snatching the pawn.} 41...Bxa6 ( 41...b6 {and now ...Bf5 is threatened, with White having no counterplay.} ) 42.Rc1 {clearing e1 for the bishop. Black could simply proceed with taking on h3 now, although the text move is still fine.} 42...Qf5 ( 42...Rgxh3 43.gxh3 Rxh3 44.Bb4 Rxh2+ 45.Rxh2 Qf5 $19 {Black is winning handily with the extra pawns, but perhaps she did not want to deal with the queen versus two rooks dynamics.} ) 43.Be1 Rgxh3 44.gxh3 Rxh3 45.Rxa6 {a desperate bid for counterplay by opening the c-file.} 45...Rxh2+ 46.Kxh2 bxa6 47.Rxc6 $19 {at the end of the sequence Black is materially up by a winning amount, but still has some cleaning up to do. The power of the queen is nicely demonstrated.} 47...Qd3 ( 47...g4 $5 {would be more forcing and get rid of the last shred of a pawn shield for White.} ) 48.Kg2 Qxd4 {Black takes her time and keeps the win in hand, rather than worrying about playing the absolute best move. This is an excellent strategy in the endgame.} 49.e6 Qb2+ 50.Bf2 d4 {passed pawns must be pushed! This also completely cuts off the Bf2 from the action, prompting White to in effect exchange the e- and d-pawns, which also results in the rest of the queenside pawns disappearing. The simplification does not help White, however.} 51.Rd6 Ke7 52.Rxd4 Kxe6 53.Ra4 Qxb3 54.Rxa6+ Ke5 55.Rxa7 Qd3 {calmly centralizing the queen and protecting h7.} 56.Ra5+ Kf6 57.Ra4 h5 {passed pawns must be pushed!} 58.Rd4 Qa3 {controlling d6 to prevent a rook check.} 59.Rc4 h4 60.Bd4+ Ke6 {it is a sign of Black's dominance that the king is just fine alone in the center, with the queen also on the board.} 61.Rc3 Qa2+ 62.Kh3 {forced, to stop the further advance of the h-pawn.} 62...Qe2 ( 62...Qd5 {would be more forcing.} ) 63.Ra3 ( 63.Rc6+ Kd5 $19 ) 63...Qf1+ {further tightening the noose around White's king and forcing it off the blockading square.} 64.Kh2 h3 65.Ra2 Qxf3 {the position is now obviously resignable, but White makes her work for it.} 66.Rf2 Qd3 {kicking the bishop.} 67.Ba7 Kf5 {showing the utility of the king in the endgame, supporting the pawns and the attack.} 68.Kh1 g4 69.Kg1 g3 70.Rf1 h2+ 71.Kg2 Qxf1+ {Black takes the simplest route and White finally resigns.} 0-
Evaluation chart generated by HIARCS Chess Explorer Pro

26 April 2023

Training quote of the day #43: Victor Korchnoi

   From the commentary to game 40 in My Best Games by Victor Korchnoi (2011 edition):

At this point I remembered or, it would be better to say, I sensed that I had reached this position 27 years earlier in a game with Polugayevsky! Generally speaking, it is useful for a chess player to have a good memory - very often he does not need to seek the best move himself, but it is sufficient for him to choose something from the examples that are available (and residing in his memory!) But there is a limit to any memory. Of the approximately five thousand games that I have played, it is doubtful whether I remember the contours of one quarter of them! But this game with Polugayevsky was one that I remembered. I made there an unusual move - with my knight to g1, and I won! Without thinking for long, that is what I played.

08 April 2023

Commentary: 2022 U.S. Women's Championship, Round 5 (Foisor - Yu)

This next commentary game also is a Slow Slav (by transposition), but has a much more unbalanced character than Cervantes - Lee from the earlier round 3 of the 2022 U.S. Women's Championship. Black goes for the unprecedented 11...g5, which while not the most solid move appeared to work as a strategic trick. White immediately commits to castling kingside and then makes a premature advance in the center, overlooking how Black can conjure up an attack on the h-file. Yu does not press the full attack, however, and has to settle for a dynamic equality while being up two pawns.

It is also instructive to see the resulting back-and-forth into the endgame and some missed breakthrough opportunities; it always makes me feel better as a Class player, when Master-level competitors also show how difficult it is to play an endgame fully correctly. Rather than fear the endgame, though, I have (mostly) learned to stop worrying about it and love the opportunity to play one.

[Event "U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2022"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2022.10.09"] [Round "05"] [White "Foisor, Sabina-Francesca"] [Black "Yu, Jennifer"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2203"] [BlackElo "2297"] [ECO "D12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon by Komodo 2.6.1"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 Bf5 4.c4 c6 {by transposition, we now have the "Slow Slav"} 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 ( 6...Be4 {was played in the previously analyzed game from this tournament. I prefer it because it is more active and normally forces f2-f3.} ) 7.Be2 Be7 {this could be viewed as prematurely committing the bishop, with ...Nbd7 being by far the most played here.} 8.Nxg6 hxg6 9.Qc2 {White scores very well in the database from here, over 80 percent.} 9...Qc7 {taking advantage of the open h-file to pressure h2, however this is easily frustrated by} 10.g3 Nbd7 {finally getting the knight developed.} 11.Bd2 {and now White develops her final minor piece. Black has to decide on her strategy at this point, and chooses something very unusual.} 11...g5 {Perhaps this was more of a waiting move, to see what White would commit to first. Later the g-pawn actually becomes useful when White allows Black too much leeway on the h-file.} ( 11...O-O {would be a standard approach, followed by playing for exchanges in the center.} ) ( 11...dxc4 {immediately, similar to what occurred in the previously analyzed game, also looks good and perhaps more active for Black.} ) 12.O-O {this is safe for the moment and not a bad choice, but White should watch out for ideas by Black to be able to attack using the h-file, as in fact happens later.} 12...dxc4 13.e4 $6 {White is not yet positioned to adequately support this attempt to control the center, so Black's counter-thrust is more impactful.} 13...e5 14.d5 {essentially forced, otherwise Black exchanges on d4 and then has the ...c5 and ...Ne5 ideas.} 14...Nb6 {dominating d5 and protecting the c4 pawn. This leaves the g5 pawn hanging, but White chooses not to take it, which was probably simplest for equality.} 15.dxc6 $6 Qc8 $1 {while not yet winning, this is much more effective than recapturing on c6, as now the queen threatens to go to h3.} 16.Bf3 $6 ( 16.g4 {was necessary, as the engine points out.} ) 16...Qh3 $19 17.Rfe1 {the king needs space to run after ...Qxh2.} 17...bxc6 {h2 cannot be defended and White's king cannot move, so Black calmly recaptures.} 18.Be3 {putting the bishop on a better diagonal for defense and opening up the 2nd rank for the Qc2.} 18...Nfd7 $6 {this delays Black's attack too long and allows White to insert a good defensive move. It also removes from the action a potentially excellent attacking piece for Black. It does allow the Be7 to protect the g5 pawn, which perhaps was why it was played.} ( 18...Qxh2+ 19.Kf1 Qh3+ 20.Bg2 Qh5 {now Black has the threat of ...Ng4 with an excellent attack.} ) 19.Na4 Qxh2+ 20.Kf1 Qh3+ 21.Bg2 Qe6 {the best square for the queen, as the attack has spent itself and Black needs to cover the c4 pawn and central squares. White should now be able to recover at least one of the pawns and can think about counterplay, although she is still a little worse off.} 22.Rac1 $15 f6 {this gives the king an immediate bolt-hole on f7, but weakens the light squares complex.} ( 22...g6 $5 {is recommended by the engine, covering more squares on the defense of the kingside.} ) 23.Red1 $10 {White's threatens counterplay down the d- and c-files.} 23...Kf7 24.a3 ( 24.Nxb6 {appears more straightforward for White.} 24...Nxb6 25.a4 c3 26.Qxc3 Nxa4 27.Qc2 Nb6 28.Qxc6 Qxc6 29.Rxc6 {with compensation for still being a pawn down, as White has the two bishops and more active rooks. Compare with the main game and White clearly has more scope for her pieces.} ) 24...Nxa4 {Black goes for simplification.} 25.Qxa4 Nb6 26.Bxb6 axb6 27.Qxc4 Qxc4+ 28.Rxc4 c5 {simplifying Black's tasks at hand, although locking in the bishop.} 29.Rc3 {White wants to give her rook more room to maneuver, but this would allow Black to lock up the kingside and the Bg2 further.} ( 29.Bf3 {would keep the bishop active, regardless of Black's next.} ) 29...b5 ( 29...g4 $5 ) 30.Rcd3 g4 {now Black finds and executes the bishop restriction idea, but White has better rooks than before.} 31.f3 $6 {the general idea of breaking the bishop out is correct, but before White's 3 pawns were successfully containing Black's 4 on the kingside. This exchange results in a weak structure for White.} ( 31.Rd7 ) 31...gxf3 {immediately taking advantage of this, but White's structure would be so bad after taking on g4 that Black can afford to do other things first.} ( 31...Kg6 32.fxg4 b4 33.axb4 cxb4 34.Rd7 Bc5 $17 {is one illustrative line.} ) ( 31...b4 $5 ) 32.Bxf3 g6 {with the idea of supporting an eventual advance of the f-pawn.} 33.Kg2 b4 {this move now has less impact than it would have earlier.} 34.axb4 cxb4 35.R1d2 {conservatively guarding the b-pawn.} ( 35.Rd7 Rhd8 {is still fine for White, since if all the rooks get swapped, White should have no problem holding a draw in the opposite-colored bishop endgame.} ) 35...Ra1 {the active choice.} 36.Bd1 {correctly blocking the first rank. Now Black gets a bit of initiative, however.} 36...f5 37.Rf3 {pinning the f-pawn.} 37...Bg5 38.Rd7+ Ke6 39.Rfd3 Be7 {the only move, guarding the d6 square. White continues to hold the balance through her rook activity, despite being a pawn down with worse structure.} ( 39...fxe4 $4 40.Bg4+ Kf6 41.R3d6# ) 40.Rb7 $2 {this however would allow Black to simply win, now that there is no mate possibility.} ( 40.exf5+ gxf5 41.g4 fxg4 42.Bxg4+ Kf7 {and White should draw.} ) 40...Kf6 $2 {missing the breakthrough chance.} ( 40...fxe4 $1 41.Bg4+ ( 41.Bb3+ Kf5 $19 ) 41...Kf6 42.Re3 Bc5 43.Rxe4 Rg1+ $19 ) 41.Rb6+ Kg5 {correctly advancing on the kingside, rather than staying passive defending.} 42.Rb5 Rb1 {preferring to trade the e- for b-pawns.} 43.Rxe5 Rxb2+ 44.Kf3 Bf6 45.Red5 Bc3 {a safe choice to guard the b-pawn.} 46.exf5 gxf5 {with opposite-colored bishops and both rooks on the the board, this should still be a draw for White, but it's of course easier to play for Black.} 47.Re3 Rh1 48.Be2 Rh2 {while this looks threatening, there's nothing Black can actually do, since White has everything covered. Until the next move, that is.} 49.Rd1 $2 ( 49.Re8 ) 49...Bf6 {missing another breakthrough chance.} ( 49...Bd2 $1 {is spotted by the engine. The problem is that White's king is boxed in and the Re3 cannot leave the 3rd rank.} 50.Rd3 Bc1 51.Rxc1 Rbxe2 {without the opposite-colored bishops on the board, it is now won for Black, who has the outside passed pawn.} 52.Rf1 Ra2 $19 ) 50.Re8 Rb3+ 51.Re3 Rxe3+ {double rooks are typically better for drawing, so an exchange benefits Black's practical chances to win.} 52.Kxe3 Be5 {posing White diffficulties that she fails to solve.} 53.Rb1 $2 ( 53.Rd8 Bxg3 54.Rg8+ $10 ) 53...Bd6 $19 {the simple winning continuation. White cannot threaten the b-pawn, while Black will eventually get the g-pawn, which is stuck on a dark square.} 54.Kf3 Bc5 {creating a mating threat on f2.} 55.Rf1 b3 {the principle of two weaknesses in action. White can (barely) cover her kingside pawn and the mating square, but that leaves the queenside open.} 56.Bd3 b2 ( 56...Rd2 {would put White in zugzwang after} 57.Bb1 Bd4 ) 57.Bb1 Rd2 58.Ba2 Bb6 59.Bb1 Bd4 60.Ba2 Rd3+ 61.Kg2 Be5 62.Rf3 Rd1 {threatening to advance the b-pawn.} ( 62...Rxf3 $2 63.Kxf3 {and the opposite-colored bishops force a draw after White goes Bb1.} ) 63.Rf1 Rxf1 64.Kxf1 Kg4 {now the g-pawn falls without Black having to give up anything.} 65.Bb1 Bxg3 {White can resign now.} 66.Ke2 f4 67.Ba2 f3+ 68.Ke3 ( 68.Kf1 Kf4 $19 ) 68...Bh4 69.Bb1 Kg3 70.Be4 Bg5+ 71.Kd4 {...f2 72. Bd3 b1(Q) and Black queens one of the pawns.} 0-1
Evaluation chart generated by HIARCS Chess Explorer Pro

06 April 2023

"5 Things to Know - Before playing your first over-the-board tournament" - Chess.com article

This Chess.com article - https://www.chess.com/article/view/playing-your-first-chess-tournament - which confusingly has different titles on the site - is an entertaining view of the initial OTB tournament experience by streamer Jules, who recently re-started her tournament career. There are different takes on this "first tournament" experience across the chess community - including this blog's "Your first (serious) chess tournament" - but seeing them is always a good reminder for me of the special nature of a tournament experience. It also should be encouraging for people who want to start (or re-start) their own tournament career, so they can see they are not alone in experiencing how sometimes fearful but also exhilirating it can be.

Since it's a personal take on the experience, nothing is really "wrong" about the article, although perhaps it shouldn't be taken literally as a to-do list. For example, learning how to set your own clock prior to the tournament is just good planning, either using its instruction sheet or a YouTube video, rather than relying on the kindness of strangers. (You also don't need to say "adjust" when straightening pieces on the board before a game has started.) That said, her "Just Leap" advice is otherwise good.

25 March 2023

"How Cal Newport rewrote the productivity gospel" - FT Weekend article

I would agree with this quote from "How Cal Newport rewrote the productivity gospel" from the March 9 edition of FT Weekend. It highlights the benefits of adopting chess as a serious pastime for our thinking process about life, not just the game.

Newport came up with the idea of “deep work” during his time at MIT, when he was surrounded by “these brilliant theoreticians”. The MacArthur Genius Grant winners around him, who had solved some of the world’s biggest mathematical theorems, had the ability to concentrate deeply on a single problem or project for an extended period, he observed. According to Newport, there are certain people who are naturally good at deep working. Top theoretical computer scientists, for instance. Chess players. Mathematicians. And then there are the rest of us who lament our inability to make progress on meaningful, long-term goals or difficult projects. We tend to look away from the task at hand, reflexively refreshing our email browser, Twitter or this website.