08 December 2019

Annotated Game #230: Bishop vs. Queen

This next, first-round tournament game illustrates the practical value of tenacity in achieving results. My opponent varies from normal Caro-Kann Panov lines with 7. Be2, which is however a solid move. I play the opening well, but start going wrong on move 15, heading into a queenless middlegame, by mis-evaluating the results of a piece exchange. Following that, neither of us really understand how to deal with the pawn structure on the queenside, but I make the last mistake and end up an exchange down with no compensation by move 21.

The ensuing struggle of R+B vs. 2 rooks turns complicated and I miss the correct drawing line on move 36. However, my active play still provided counterchances and I end up with a bishop and 3 pawns versus White's new queen, which proved frustrating enough to secure the draw. An unorthodox way to fight back, but a practical success.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B14"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "98"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be2 {an uncommon but solid move.} O-O 8. O-O Nc6 (8... dxc4 $5) 9. c5 b6 10. Bb5 Bb7 ( 10... Bd7) 11. Bxc6 Bxc6 12. b4 Ne4 {it's good to play actively here.} 13. Ne5 (13. Nxe4 dxe4 14. Ne5 Bd5 {and Black is comfortable with the strong bishop, the doubled e-pawn being more of a help than a hindrance.}) 13... Nxc3 $15 { correctly continuing with active play.} 14. Nxc6 Nxd1 15. Nxd8 Rfxd8 $6 (15... Nc3 {preserves the knight, which is better than its White counterpart.} 16. Nc6 Ne2+ 17. Kh1 Bf6 $15 {The White knight looks menacing on c6, leading the pawn formation, but in fact has nowhere to go.}) 16. Rxd1 a5 $6 {with the next sequence, it becomes clear that neither of us know how to properly handle the queenside structure.} 17. bxa5 $6 (17. b5 bxc5 18. Ba3 $14 {this ability of White to force a recapture on c5 is what I missed, as it pins the c-pawn against the Be7.}) 17... Rxa5 $2 {here I am too afraid of the c-pawn, but inadvertently empower it using the rook to recapture and leaving the b6 pawn en prise. Capturing (but not recapturing on a5) with the pawn is perfectly fine and also eliminates some White tactics based on the a3-f8 diagonal.} ( 17... bxc5 $1 18. dxc5 (18. Ba3 $6 Rxa5 {now the rook capture makes sense} 19. Bxc5 Bxc5 20. dxc5 Rxc5 $17) 18... Rxa5 $17) 18. cxb6 $6 (18. Bf4 {now tactically punishes the pawn capture on c5, although Black has no better option.} bxc5 (18... Rd7 19. cxb6 $16) 19. Bc7 Rda8 20. Bxa5 Rxa5 21. dxc5 Bxc5 $16) 18... Rb8 $2 (18... Rb5 $11) 19. Bf4 $1 $18 {my opponent now sees this idea, which tactically ties me in knots, given the possibility of Bc7 and a skewer on the d8-a5 diagonal. However, there is nothing better, given the power of the advanced passed b-pawn, so I am forced to sacrifice the exchange.} Rxb6 (19... Rb7 20. a4 $18 {and the Ra5 can now be driven back, followed by a4-a5, which is winning for White.}) 20. Bc7 Rba6 21. Bxa5 $18 Rxa5 {Black has no compensation for the exchange. However, I did not give up on drawing chances, since my R+B combination can fight to restrain the a-pawn, and my structure otherwise is solid.} 22. a4 g6 23. Kf1 Kg7 24. Ke2 Bb4 25. Kd3 { my opponent is correctly bringing his king into the fight. Meanwhile, I am working to restrain it.} Ra7 {vacating the a5 square for the bishop and covering the 7th rank.} 26. Rdb1 Ba5 27. Rb5 Bd8 $6 {the bishop should continue blocking the pawn.} (27... h5 $5) 28. Kc3 (28. a5 {is more to the point.}) 28... Bf6 {my idea was to tie to the king to the defense of the d4 pawn. This is not a bad idea, although White can simply accept this fact and ram the a-pawn through eventually. However, in practice it is not so simple, as I can get counterplay without careful precautions by White.} 29. a5 Rc7+ 30. Kd3 Rc4 31. a6 $2 {this underestimates Black's counterplay.} Rxd4+ 32. Kc2 $14 Rc4+ 33. Kb3 Rc3+ {White has to somehow seek shelter from the rook while not losing material, for example the Ra1. The advanced a-pawn means that I must be careful about taking material, however, and can only do it if it helps with my goal of perpetual attack on White's king.} 34. Ka2 Rc6 {again not giving White time to consolidate.} 35. Ra5 Bxa1 {I had sufficient time to think this through and conclude that it led to a draw.} 36. a7 Bd4 $2 {this, however, is not the drawing line.} (36... Rc8 $1 37. Kxa1 (37. a8=Q Rxa8 38. Rxa8 Bd4 { with a comfortable draw for Black.}) 37... Ra8 38. Kb2 Kf6 39. Kb3 Ke5 40. Kb4 Ke4 {is the trick, keeping the balance with counterplay. Black's king can be shut out of the queenside by White's, unfortunately, but the passed d-pawn counterbalances this.}) 37. a8=Q $18 Rc2+ 38. Kb1 Rb2+ 39. Kc1 Rxf2 40. Ra2 Rxa2 {I judged that making my opponent prove the superiority of a queen to a bishop plus three pawns was my best practical chance.} 41. Qxa2 Bf6 42. Kc2 d4 (42... Be5 $5 {Komodo calculates that Black is better off not moving the central pawns and just making moves with the bishop, perhaps with ...h5 thrown in.}) 43. Kd3 e5 44. g4 Bg5 45. Qa6 h5 $2 {giving White the chance to open lines with a queen on the board is not the right idea. Specifically, this also will allow the king to penetrate via f5 after a pawn exchange.} (45... Be3) 46. h3 (46. gxh5 gxh5 47. Ke4) 46... hxg4 47. hxg4 Bf4 48. Qc6 Bg5 49. Qf3 f6 $2 { again opening lines unnecessarily, in this case the 7th rank, but my opponent was tired of trying to crack my position and offered a draw.} (49... Bf4) 1/2-1/2

Training quote of the day #28: Viktor Moskalenko

From Training with Moska by GM Viktor Moskalenko:
'My favorite piece is the one that wins' - Bobby Fischer
The value of a piece changes during a game, as it always depends on its placement on the board. On the other hand, the level of any player always depends on his knowledge and understanding of the properties of pieces, pawns and squares.

05 December 2019

Commentary: 2018 US Championship, Round 1 (Onischuk - Akobian)

As part of my opening and general chess studies, I save professional/master-level games that I run across with direct relevance to my opening repertoire. Even if they aren't in exactly the same variations that I may use, the ideas and high-level play in these games repay the time invested in analyzing and studying them. It's been a while since I formally did a commentary game, but I expect to continue mixing them in with my own analyzed games. Both PGN annotated game collections are kept up-to-date and available for download via the sidebar links.

This next commentary game features a Dutch Stonewall from round 1 of the 2018 US Championship, between veteran GMs Alexander Onischuk and Varuzhan Akobian. Their play highlights a number of useful themes in the Stonewall, middlegame and endgame, including:
  • The idea of dissolving the Stonewall center and its consequences, especially the need for active central play.
  • Black's positional exchange sacrifice, for which he gets the center and a strong advanced passed pawn as compensation.
  • The strength of that central advanced passed pawn, which eventually decides the game
  • Akobian's practical decisions to simplify play to a less advantageous position, but one that is more easily played, rather than go in for additional complications.
It's an entertaining and instructive game, which among other things shows how the Stonewall can in fact lead to varied, active positions rather than stereotyped closed ones.

[Event "US-ch Men 2018"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2018.04.18"] [Round "1"] [White "Onischuk, Alexander"] [Black "Akobian, Varuzhan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2672"] [BlackElo "2647"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] 1. d4 e6 2. c4 f5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g3 d5 5. Bg2 c6 6. Nh3 {an interesting side variation in the Stonewall. White normally looks to dominate and place a minor piece on f4, while happening to restrain ...g5 in the process.} Bd6 {this is the standard Modern Stonewall placement of the bishop. Black must be alert to not playing into White's plans for the Nh3 however, for example by exchanging bishops on f4.} 7. O-O O-O 8. Qc2 dxc4 {transforming the center and initiating complications.} (8... Na6 $5 {scores best in the database, although only based off three games, all of which were in the 1990s. It is also Komodo's preference. In all cases, it was followed by ...dxc4. The text move appears to be the modern choice, dispensing with the knight development, although the last occurrence was played some four years before this game.}) 9. e4 {White needs to play actively in response and strikes back in the center, now that the d-pawn no longer influences e4. The immediate threat is e4-e5.} e5 {blocks White's forking threat and challenges for the center.} 10. exf5 exd4 ( 10... Na6 {is the engine choice, getting another piece developed and eyeing the b4 square.} 11. dxe5 Bxe5 12. Qe2 Qc7 13. Bf4 Bxf4 14. Qxc4+ Kh8 15. Nxf4 Bxf5 $14) 11. Ne2 c5 $146 {choosing to protect the d-pawn over the c-pawn.} ( 11... d3 $2 12. Qxc4+ $16) (11... b5 {was previously played.} 12. Nxd4 Qb6 13. Ne6 Bxe6 14. fxe6 Na6 15. Ng5 Rae8 16. Be4 Nxe4 17. Qxe4 g6 18. Nf7 Nc7 19. Nxd6 Rxe6 20. Be3 c5 21. Nxc4 Rxe4 22. Nxb6 axb6 23. Rfd1 b4 24. Rd7 Rf7 25. Rad1 Nb5 26. Rd8+ Kg7 27. Rb8 Re6 28. Rdd8 Nd4 29. h4 Nf5 30. Bg5 Nh6 31. Rd2 Ng4 32. Bd8 Ne5 33. Re2 Nf3+ 34. Kf1 Nh2+ 35. Ke1 Nf3+ 36. Kf1 Rd6 37. Bxb6 Rd1+ 38. Kg2 Rg1+ 39. Kh3 Rh1+ 40. Kg2 Rg1+ 41. Kh3 Rc1 42. Kg2 c4 43. Re3 Rg1+ 44. Kh3 Rh1+ 45. Kg2 Rg1+ 46. Kh3 Rh1+ 47. Kg2 Rh2+ 48. Kf1 Rh1+ 49. Kg2 Rh2+ 50. Kf1 Rh1+ {1/2-1/2 (50) De Jong,J (2424)-Ulybin,M (2538) Alghero 2011}) 12. Qxc4+ Kh8 13. Ng5 $6 {White misses the chance to immediately undermine Black's center.} (13. b4 $5) 13... Nc6 $11 {defending against the b-pawn advance.} 14. Bf4 {although there is no longer a Nh3, the Ne2 plays a similar role in supporting the bishop on f4. White does not attempt to protect the f5 pawn, which would be too awkward.} (14. Nf7+ {seems like a good move, winning the exchange, but is passed up by Onischuk. None of the engines like it either, showing equality at best for White.} Rxf7 15. Qxf7 Ne5 16. Qb3 Rb8 {and Black has full compensation for the exchange with the protected passed d-pawn, 4-2 mobile queenside pawn majority, and active piece placement. White's doubled f-pawn is also a weakness.}) 14... Bxf5 15. Nf7+ {now White goes for the exchange, with similar results to the above variation. There is not much of a choice, however, since Black otherwise is just a pawn up.} Rxf7 16. Qxf7 Rb8 ( 16... d3 $5 {is recommended by both Komodo and Stockfish, showing full equality. Perhaps Akobian did not want to enter the complications afterwards; the text move simplifies the position and is more predictable to play. The idea is put into practice shortly, in any case.}) (16... Ne5 $2 {as in the above variation no longer works, as there is no Bc8 now and the b-pawn is hanging.}) 17. Bxc6 bxc6 18. Rfe1 d3 (18... Rxb2 $2 {is avoided by Akobian, who no doubt spotted the response by White to sacrifice on d4 and open up the e-file for the Re1. This type of response is likely to be missed by Class players, who would focus on grabbing the pawn and assume that the d-pawn is still well-protected, without further evaluation.} 19. Nxd4 $1 {the point is that Black is forced to deal with the knight, which is attacking the Bf5 and c6, while White also creates threats involving the e-file.} cxd4 20. Bxd6 $18 { this is White's ultimate idea, which works due to Black's back-rank problem.} Bg6 (20... Qxd6 $2 21. Re8+) 21. Qe7 Qxe7 22. Rxe7 d3 23. Be5 Rb5 24. Rd1 $18) 19. Bxd6 $2 {without the e-file open, this idea no longer works for White.} ( 19. Rad1 {was necessary.}) 19... Qxd6 $15 20. Nc3 d2 21. Re7 {Black is vulnerable on the 7th rank here, rather than the 8th rank, so the position is defendable.} Rg8 22. Rxa7 $6 {Onischuk evidently felt that he had time to snatch the pawn, perhaps with the goal of advancing the a-pawn. However, this gives an extra tempo to Black, whose own passed pawn is much farther along on d2.} (22. Rd1) 22... Bg4 (22... Qd3 {is the engine recommendation, powerfully centralizing the queen. This does multiple things, including allowing the advance of the c5 pawn, threatening to penetrate via c2, and forcing White to worry about his airy king position.}) 23. Qe7 (23. Re7 $15) 23... Qxe7 { as before, Akobian goes for a simpler position with less of an objective advantage. This is a common practical decision, especially taking into account things like fatigue and time management.} (23... Qb8 {is the engine recommendation. For example, if} 24. Rb7 Qc8 25. Rc7 Qf5 26. Rxc6 Bf3 $19) 24. Rxe7 $15 Nd5 {the only move for Black. Now the pawn threatens to queen, since Black is in a position to remove the Nc3 and White's Re7 cannot get to the d-file to defend.} 25. Re2 $2 (25. f3 {is the only saving move for White.} Bxf3 {deflecting the bishop from covering d7.} 26. Rd7) (25. Nxd5 cxd5 $19 {and White loses material after an eventual d1(Q).}) 25... d1=Q+ $1 0-1

27 November 2019

Video completed - Foxy vol. 135: The Stonewall and Colle-Zukertort Systems

I recently completed the Foxy vol. 135 (e-DVD edition) of "Queen Pawn System: Stonewall & Colle-Zukertort" by IM Andrew Martin. The Foxy video series are older (non-HD) video presentations that don't offer the interactivity or extras of newer computer products, so are basically equivalent to a recorded lecture.

Martin makes no great claims about these systems, instead repeatedly emphasizing their playability and practical effectiveness at "club level", where Black players are unlikely to be familiar with the right plans and also lack obvious opportunities for early counterplay. With the adoption of the Stonewall Attack - what Martin calls an "antique variation" since its heyday was around the beginning of the 20th century - the White player deliberately slows down the game's pace, deprives Black of tactical opportunities in the opening, and can generate some early kingside attacking threats if Black is not careful.

Below is a summary outline of the DVD contents, which run a total of two hours. After an introductory segment from Martin, there are 17 example games presented, with Martin providing light commentary and occasionally some alternative recommendations for White.

The sum of the example games and explanations provides a more or less complete White repertoire, with a couple of different options in different places. Martin is correct in also stressing ideas over specific variations during the presentations, especially since there are a lot of different move-order possibilities to reach these positions. The Stonewall Attack and Colle-Zukertort structures are not just old ideas, though, as searching on these database positions will pull up a number of examples at GM/professional level that are contemporary. The DVD has content through around 2011, so anyone looking to construct or augment a White repertoire should make the effort to find some newer model games, for other examples and ideas.


Introduction: White systems based on 1.d4 followed by 2. e3. These include three broad categories:
  • Stonewall Attack vs. Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) and related Black setups with ...d5
  • Colle-Zukertort (with a delayed or omitted f4) vs. Queen's Indian Defense (QID) or similar Black setups without ...d5
  • Rapid queenside expansion plan with Nf3/Be2 development vs King's Indian Defense (KID) setup
Game 1: Standard Stonewall Attack White setup (Stonewall pawn formation c3-d4-e3-f4, Bd3, Nd2, Ne5, Qf3) vs. QGD; game is from a 2002 Cuban tournament
  • Explores Black inaccuracies
  • White idea is to mount an early kingside attack, with option of castling queenside when there is no Black counterplay there
Game 2: Black QGD setup with blocked center (c5-c4) from 1998 Asian Championship
  • Removal of central pawn tension enables idea of White playing e4 to undermine Black's center
  • Again shows how White can maneuver to take advantage of planless Black play
Game 3: Black QGD setup with ...b6 to develop the queen bishop; technically a Colle-Zukertort with a delayed f4. (Nikitina-Fedotova, 2011 Sterlitamak Open)
  • Notably features White piece development with b3/Bb2, analogous to Modern Stonewall queenside fianchetto
Game 4: Kramnik - Deep Junior (2000 Dortmund Exhibition); Stonewall Attack against QGD with ...c5
  • Kramnik uses an old anti-computer strategy, with Deep Junior (2700+ at the time) not able to recognize the long-term attacking potential of White's setup
  • Computer plays an early 7...Ng4?! sally to attack e3, which is parried by Qe2 and delayed castling 
  • White features play on the g and h files, also eventual queenside castling to bring the second rook into play; again, no Black counterplay on queenside
  • Kramnik is familiar with the Dutch Stonewall from his training with Mark Dvoretsky, so understands the positional ideas deeply
Game 5: Black plays ...g6/Bg7 after 3. Bd3 (Parr-Broadbent 1946 British Championship)
  • Standard White Stonewall Attack setup, followed by h4/g4 advance
  • Relentless attacking play by White suitable for club level, according to Martin
Game 6: Early 2...Bf5 by Black (Liang-Shen, 2010 All China Games)
  • Martin's recommendation is to play c4, followed by Qb3, to target b7; 
  • White plan is to exchange pawns on d5, followed by Nc3 and Qb3 
  • Martin's suggestion is to go for winning the two bishops by Nf3-h4, if the Black Bf5 can't get away
Game 7: Early 2...Bf5 with an early White Qb3, results in queenless maneuvering middlegame (Abdullah - Shaw, 2008 Dresden Olympiad) 

Game 8: "Book Antidote #1": 3...Bg4 (Wall-Olbrich, Bundesliga 2001)  
  • Recommended for Black by Martin in previous QP openings video
  • White reacts by playing f3 and c4, followed by Nc3/Ne2 development, then b3/Bb2
  • White Knight can go to f4, king can go to f2 as needed
Game 9: "Book Antidote #2": 3...Nc6 threatening to follow up with ...e5 or ...Nb4 (Rubinstein-Reti, Vienna 1908; Marshall - Suctung also cited)
  • Martin recommends proceeding with Stonewall formation, preventing ...e5
  • Continue development with Nf3, allow minor piece exchange and pawn recapture on d3 to cover e4, then play Nc3
  • Rf3-h3 rook lift idea, combined with standard Stonewall queen bishop maneuver over to kingside
Game 10: QID setup (Temnekov-Morisov, 2008 Russia) versus Stonewall Attack
  • By delaying ...d5, Black prevents usual Ne5 ideas, with ...d6 in reserve
  • However, allows for White idea of Qe2 followed by e4
  • White continues to grab space with a3/b4
  • Once rest of board is locked up, White can look to break on the kingside, but is not in a rush
Game 11: Colle-Zukertort move order (Alekhine-Del Turco, Zurich 1934)
  • Leads to favorable version of Stonewall, after Nf3-e5 and f2-f4
  • White has alert play on queenside with c2-c4 at the right moment, along with threats to open up long diagonal for the Bb2
Game 12: QID vs Colle-Zukertort (Bogdanovich-Lehman, Munich 1996)
  • Less loose (because no initial f4) than Game 10 system
  • White plays Qf3 and then e4, with queen moving to h3 after exchange on e4
  • No f4 played, more of a central focus
Game 13: Early ...g6 / KID setup (Kovacevic-Zufic)
  • White needs to find an alternative to Bd3 development, according to Martin, so goes Nf3/Be2, continuing with c4 and Nc3
  • Recommended plan is for queenside pawn expansion, which was started with a4 in the game
  • Need to find a place for the dark-square bishop development; default is to leave it on c1 to protect e3, unless specific opportunities/targets appear on the other available diagonals
  • Prophylactic play shuts down a kingside attack from Black, after dominance established by White on queenside and center
Game 14: KID setup; (Piskov-De Jong, 2006 Hoogeveen tournament)
  • Early b3 (before c4); Martin prefers to play b2-b4 in one go
  • Queenside expansion plan
Game 15: Gruenfeld setup; (Savechenko-Baramidze, 2000 Sparkassen Open)
  • White uses Nf3/Be2 development, followed by b3/Bb2, delaying or omtting c4
  • Ne5 is now available again, now that Black has played ...d5
  • Kingside attack after center is blocked
  • Exchange sacrifice opens up center after extended maneuvering
Game 16: Gruenfeld setup with ...c5 (Del Rio de Angelis-Suarez Uriel, Madrid 2010)
  • b3/Bb2 development again; follow up with Nbd2 and c2-c4; look to occupy e5 with a knight
  • White ends up with a c/d hanging pawns structure; defends them, then uses h-pawn advance 
Game 17: KID setup (Zwaig-Poutiainen, Team 6 Nations, 1973)
  • White plays early Qc2 after c4; Martin recommends continuing with b4 immediately
  • After a/b pawn pushes, White plays Nd5 to exchange off the key Black Nf6
  • White relies on c-file pressure and queenside play to break through, sacrificing a knight on c6 after a b-pawn advance

23 November 2019

Perpetual Chess

I've recently started listening to a high-quality podcast, Perpetual Chess, which has chess improvement as one of its central themes. It's US-based and features both professional and amateur US players - including past US champions such as GM Gata Kamsky and IM Nazi Paikidze - but also has a number of international guests on it at the GM/IM level, including notables such as GM Jonathan Rowson, GM Jacob Aagaard, IM Tania Sachdev, and many more.

What drew me most to it, though, are the "Adult Improver" episodes featuring people who have been making significant progress as adults, at both the Master and Class level. Of course there are a number of other very interesting and relevant interviews at the professional level, and the episode notes give a detailed preview of the topics, which I find very helpful. There should be something useful for any chess enthusiast in the interview list.