20 January 2014

Commentary: Tata Steel Group B (Challengers) - Round 1

This next commentary game features an unusual Dutch Stonewall from the round 1 game between Radek Wojtaszek and Dmitri Reinderman from the Tata Steel Group B (Challengers) section.  As is typical of many master games, the opening is fluid and contains a number of transpositional possibilities, until the point Black chooses to construct a Stonewall formation.  He does this in a favorable way, with White in the end not having much to show from the opening.

The middlegame features some interesting choices in terms of piece exchanges and has a heavy strategic and positional flavor.  White has no prospects for an advantage, but nevertheless passes up a chance to go into a repetition sequence on move 26 - perhaps influenced by the players' rating difference?  If so, it was a poor choice, as White on move 32 follows up by deciding to sacrifice one of his weak queenside pawns for insufficient compensation; Black deserves credit for finding the non-obvious 33...Nf7 in order to gain a slight advantage.  By move 36 we have a minor piece endgame, where Black's two knights shortly become dominant over White's B+N combination.  Reinderman plays the remainder of the endgame masterfully, exchanging off a pair of minor pieces and carefully shepherding his advantage home with his remaining knight.  An excellent game for those interested in things like the Dutch Stonewall, positional considerations behind piece exchanges in the middlegame, or how to win tricky knight endgames.

[Event "Tata Steel Challengers"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2014.01.11"] [Round "1"] [White "Wojtaszek, R."] [Black "Reinderman, D."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A85"] [WhiteElo "2711"] [BlackElo "2593"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "142"] [EventDate "2014.01.11"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 1. d4 e6 2. c4 b6 $5 {this actually is "hot" according to ChessBase and scores 50 percent. Although statistics are mostly meaningless this early in a game, it's still an indication that the move should not be dismissed. There are many transpositional possibilities, one of the attractions of the move.} 3. a3 { prevents ...Bb4, preparing White's next move.} f5 {transposing immediately into a Dutch Defense. The majority of the time Bb7 is played first, but Reinderman has other plans for the bishop deployment.} 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. g3 Ba6 ( 5... Bb7 6. d5 {with an independent line of play.}) 6. Bg2 c6 7. b3 (7. Qa4 { is the other alternative that has been played, scoring 3-0 for White in the database. It is an aggressive departure from standard development, but poses more probems for Black on the queenside by pressuring the Ba6, c6 and b5.}) 7... d5 $11 {now Black has a rather favorable version of the Stonewall, where his light-square bishop is already developed and White has not done anything comparably useful.} 8. Nh3 {a common alternate plan in the Stonewall - instead of trying to dominate e5, with the more standard Nf3, White's knight instead heads for f4.} Bd6 9. Nf4 Qe7 10. O-O Nbd7 11. cxd5 cxd5 12. a4 {White moves to establish an outpost on b5, with the idea of trading knight for bishop.} O-O 13. Nb5 Bxb5 {a positional necessity. Black in the Stonewall normally tries to avoid trading off the dark-square bishop, given his weakness on the dark squares, so takes the Nb5 with the other bishop. From White's standpoint, this rids Black of a strong piece on the a6-f1 diagonal and opens the a-file for White's rook. From Black's standpoint, White's queenside pawns are now weak and Black is left with a lead in development.} 14. axb5 Rfc8 15. Bb2 Nf8 { Black overprotects e6, thereby freeing up his queen.} (15... Bxf4 16. gxf4 Nf8 {is Houdini's preference, with the idea of following up with ...Ng6-h4. Black's dark-square weakness is not easily exploitable and White's two bishops are constrained by the pawn structure.}) 16. e3 Qd7 17. Qd3 Ne4 {a standard idea in the Stonewall. Here it may not be the most effective immediate choice for Black.} (17... g5 $5 {is a more aggressive approach, but fully in keeping with the Dutch.} 18. Ne2 h5) (17... Rc7 {is another possibility, looking to immediately occupy the c-file.}) 18. Ne2 Rc7 19. Rfc1 Rac8 20. Rxc7 Qxc7 21. Rc1 Qd7 22. Rxc8 Qxc8 {by capturing with the queen on move 20, the difference on move 22 after the additional rook exchange is that the queen is on c8 rather than c7.} 23. f3 {this move is always expected after the knight sortie to e4, but it of course further blocks the Bg2.} Nf6 24. Nc3 Bb4 {the bishop had no future on the b8-h2 diagonal.} 25. Na2 Bd6 26. Bc3 {avoiding the repetition after Nc3. The position does not justify White's playing for a win, however.} Ng6 27. Nb4 Ne7 {the knight comes back to defend c6, the point of the maneuver. Given the lack of a threat to e6, it was also doing nothing on f8.} 28. Qd2 h6 29. Nd3 {clearing the square for the bishop, as White is looking to exchange on d6.} Qd7 30. Bb4 Ne8 {Black again repositions a knight to a more effective square.} 31. Bxd6 Nxd6 32. Ne5 $6 {White seems to be trying too hard for the win. Alternatively, perhaps he saw the sequence through move 35 and incorrectly evaluated it as an easy draw.} (32. Qb4) 32... Qxb5 33. Qc3 Nf7 $15 {Black finds the best defense to White's threat to penetrate with the queen.} 34. Bf1 (34. Qc7 $2 Nxe5 35. Qxe7 Qd7 $17 {and White has almost nothing to show for the sacrificed pawn.}) 34... Qa5 35. Qxa5 bxa5 {perhaps White evaluated this position as easily drawn, which turns out not to be the case.} 36. Nd7 Nd6 37. Kf2 Nc6 {Black's knights keep looking better and better.} 38. Nc5 Kf7 {time to activate the king, which is sufficient to protect e6.} 39. Ke2 g5 {now Black seizes some space on the kingside.} 40. Kd3 Ke7 41. Be2 $6 (41. Bg2 {and now} f4 {does not work:} 42. gxf4 gxf4 43. Bh3 $11) 41... f4 {Black finds the way to exploit the inaccuracy of the bishop's location, using a temporary pawn sacrifice to undermine White's center and achieve dominance with his knights.} 42. gxf4 gxf4 43. exf4 Nf5 44. Bf1 Ncxd4 $19 {White now will lose 2 kingside pawns and can only pick up one of Black's on the queenside in return.} 45. Bh3 {White must start desperately looking for counterplay.} Nxf3 46. Nb7 Nxh2 47. Nxa5 Kd7 48. b4 h5 49. Bxf5 exf5 50. Nb3 {the endgame is now lost for White, although he apparently held out some hope for a draw, perhaps by sacrificing his knight to eliminate all of Black's pawns.} Nf3 51. Ke3 Nh4 52. Nd4 Kc7 53. Kf2 Ng6 54. Kf3 Ne7 55. Kg3 Nc6 56. Nxf5 Nxb4 57. Kh4 Nd3 58. Kxh5 Nxf4+ 59. Kg5 Ne2 60. Kg4 Kb6 61. Kf3 Nc3 62. Ke3 Nb5 63. Kd3 Kc5 64. Ne3 a5 65. Kc2 a4 66. Nd1 Na3+ 67. Kd3 (67. Kb2 {is no help, as this possible line of play shows:} Nc4+ 68. Ka1 d4 69. Nf2 Kb4 70. Nd3+ Kc3 71. Nc1 d3 72. Na2+ Kb3 73. Nc1+ Kc2 74. Nxd3 Kxd3) 67... Nc4 68. Nc3 a3 69. Na2 d4 70. Kc2 Na5 {the most effective way to make progress.} 71. Nc1 Kc4 0-1

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