11 February 2012

Annotated Game #30: English vs. Double Fianchetto

This next tournament game features an opening which presents major decisions as early as move 3, which I find both interesting and refreshing.  Black however seems intent on playing a "system opening" in which he pursues a double fianchetto of his bishops without regard to what White is doing.  While the formation is not a particularly bad choice against the English, this sort of rote play starts going off the rails with 5...e6, which might have been a better idea if White had established a traditional pawn center.  White grabs the initiative on move 7 and has a strategically won game by move 12, although Black had some tactical counterplay possibilities on move 17 that would have greatly improved his position and chances.

While I've previously identified endgame play as my greatest weakness, the Bishop endgame that arises (which admittedly should be easily won) is played well by White.  This is the other side of the coin of analyzing your own games; not only should your areas for improvement be identified, but credit should also be given for competent play when it happens.  This is a confidence booster and it is useful psychologically for the improving player to know that they are in fact capable of such play.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A13"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "89"] [EventDate "2002.??.??"] {A10: English Opening: Unusual Replies for Black} 1. c4 b6 {played early, this can directly challenge White's standard kingside fianchetto with g3} 2. Nf3 Bb7 3. g3 g6 ({Now would be the time to take advantage of the board setup with} 3... Bxf3 4. exf3 c5 5. Bg2 (5. d4 $5) 5... Nc6 {which would result in a very different type of game, although White is certainly no worse.}) 4. Bg2 Bg7 { this sort of double fianchetto smacks of a "system" opening, played regardless of what the opponent does.} 5. O-O e6 {with the bishop already developed to g7, this seems to unnecessarily weaken f6 and d6. It also opens the a3-f8 diagonal, which White takes advantage of later.} 6. Nc3 c5 7. Nb5 {a direct kind of move, immediately threatening the hole at d6. Although White is not fully developed yet, neither is Black and his king is in the center, prompting immediate action.} (7. d4 {was preferred by Fritz. It asserts control over the center and opens up the diagonal for the Bc1. Houdini rates the text move as equivalent, with a slight plus to White.}) 7... d5 {now the hole no longer exists, but opening center lines can only benefit White at this point.} 8. cxd5 exd5 9. d4 a6 10. Nc3 c4 {Black needed to develop a knight at this point, in order to further mobilize his forces. Instead, this typical positional error is made, likely prompted by an unwillingness to maintain the pawn tension and the illusion of gaining space by the pawn push.} 11. b3 Ne7 12. Ba3 {Black has no means of blocking the a3-f8 diagonal and the bishop is ideally placed to make threats and exert pressure.} O-O $16 {Despite the material being even, White is nearly winning strategically. Black's pieces have little scope or prospect, while White has a space advantage and much better coordination among his pieces.} 13. e3 {shores up d4, but is a rather slow approach.} (13. Ne5 { is the active choice preferred by Houdini. The point is that an exchange on e5 would in fact be good for White, despite the doubled pawns, as the e5 pawn would enhance the space advantage and Black would then have a pronounced dark-square weakness without the Bg7.} Bxe5 14. dxe5 {Black cannot hold his center now either, as bxc4 is coming and the advance ...d4 does not work because of the hanging Bb7.} b5 {trying to support the pawn chain does not help, either} 15. bxc4 bxc4 16. Rb1 Bc6 17. Qd4 {and White will break through in the center.}) 13... Re8 {breaks the pin on the Ne7, but White is now able to ratchet up the pressure on Black's overextended pawns.} 14. Nd2 cxb3 15. Qxb3 Nbc6 16. Rab1 b5 {this sequence doesn't gain White anything. An immediate Nxd5 was possible, without the drawbacks created by the in-between moves, including the b-pawn now being protected by the a6 pawn and controlling c4.} 17. Nxd5 {this is now not as good for White, due to the possibility of a discovered attack on the Nd5 and Black sacrifices against the e3/d4 pawn chain, which were found by Houdini.} Nxd5 {Black however also fails to see these tactical ideas, which are admittedly rather complicated.} (17... Nf5 {with the threat of Na5, unleashing the Bb7 and driving the Qb3 away from the protection of the Nd5.} 18. Nc3 {simply retreating the knight now gives Black a good game, as his pieces come to life and are much better coordinated than before.} (18. Qd1) 18... Na5 19. Qb2 Nxe3 {ironically, this pawn intended as a bulwark for d4 is now a tactical target} 20. fxe3 Rxe3 21. Bc5 Rc8 {and Black has compensation for the material, with the initiative and major pressure against White's pawns and pieces.}) 18. Qxd5 $16 {White is now a clear pawn ahead and his queen is nicely centralized. Houdini suggests that Black trade queens directly here.} Na5 {now the queen trade occurs on White's terms, with Black's knight somewhat misplaced.} 19. Qxd8 Rexd8 20. Rfc1 Bxg2 21. Kxg2 Rac8 22. Rxc8 {typical amateur move, not wanting to maintain the tension along the c-file. Better would be to improve the position of the bishop with Bb4 or Bc5. However, trading down to move the endgame forward is not a bad strategy, given White's strong protected passed d-pawn.} Rxc8 23. Rc1 Rxc1 24. Bxc1 Bf8 (24... f5 { with temporary control of e4 is recommended by the engines.}) 25. Kf3 (25. Ne4) 25... f5 26. e4 fxe4+ 27. Kxe4 $18 {the king is now well-centralized and able to support the d-pawn's advance.} Kf7 28. Kd5 Ke8 29. Nb3 {a poor choice, exchanging White's more active knight (Ne4!) for the one on the rim.} Nxb3 30. axb3 Kd7 31. Bd2 Bd6 32. h3 {preparing to mobilize White's kingside majority. Now the principle of two weaknesses kicks in, as Black will have trouble maintaining his blockade of the d-pawn and defending the kingside from White's advance.} Bf8 33. f4 h5 34. g4 hxg4 35. hxg4 Bd6 36. f5 gxf5 37. gxf5 {White now has a sufficient winning advantage on the board.} Bf8 38. f6 b4 39. Kc4 a5 40. Bf4 (40. Kb5 {would end things immediately.}) 40... Kc6 (40... Ke6 $18 { what else? says Fritz. This would at least pick up the f6 pawn, although Black is still lost, since the the a and b pawns cannot be saved.}) 41. d5+ Kb6 42. Be3+ Ka6 43. Bc5 a4 44. Bxf8 a3 {evidently hoping for Kxb4} 45. Bxb4 1-0

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