25 April 2014

Commentary: Candidates 2014 - Round 10

In round 6 of the 2014 Candidates Tournament, Peter Svidler surprised everyone by playing the Dutch.  Although he achieved an advantage out of the opening, a Leningrad Dutch with 7...Qe8, he eventually lost the game.  It's not clear whether surprise was a factor in round 10, when Svidler essayed the Dutch again against Kramnik, but the latter must have expected some level of preparation in the opening and had a very unusual early (move 4!) novelty in mind.

Despite the strange-looking and original early play, by move 14 Black transitions into a Stonewall structure, which serves to equalize.  Some interesting jousting with the minor pieces ensues, which is useful to examine to understand the logic behind piece exchanges.  The action really gets going after the 25. c4 break, which White justifies tactically, and Black's small error on move 26 which hands the initiative and some pressure to White.

Kramnik follows up well, but this game becomes another lesson in the importance of CCT, as evidently he focuses too much on the action in the center and as a result misses a forced deflection tactic on the kingside.  This leaves Black an exchange up with no compensation to White, so Kramnik decides to try for a swindle rather than suffer through a long, losing endgame.  Svidler then brings home the point in true Dutch Defense style, with the closing move ...f4.

[Event "FIDE Candidates Tournament 2014"] [Site "Khanty-Mansiysk"] [Date "2014.03.25"] [Round "10"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A80"] [WhiteElo "2787"] [BlackElo "2758"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [TimeControl "40/7200:20/3600:900+30"] 1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 {an unusual approach, usually this means White is looking for a solid, unambitious game rather than to challenge Black early on.} b6 {Black can often fianchetto the light-squared bishop to good effect when given the opportunity. This also recalls the Bird-Larsen opening as White.} ( 3... e6 {would be a standard response for Stonewall players and prevents White's next move.}) 4. d5 $5 $146 {provocative, to say the least, and a novelty already. However, the pawn proves to be difficult to deal with effectively.} Bb7 5. Bc4 {White supports the d-pawn and makes it impossible for Black to try and exchange it for the e-pawn with ...e6.} c6 {Black therefore looks to exchange it off with the c-pawn.} 6. Nc3 cxd5 7. Nxd5 e6 8. Nxf6+ Qxf6 9. O-O {both sides look OK coming out of the initial opening clash. Black's d-pawn on the half-open file is an excellent target for the opposition, implying that he will need to push ...d5 at some point.} Bc5 10. Bd2 Nc6 (10... Qxb2 {was something Kramnik was obviously not worried about, since he would obtain good compensation for the pawn.} 11. Nd4 Qa3 (11... Bxd4 $2 12. Rb1 Qa3 13. Bb4 Qa4 14. Qxd4) 12. Qh5+ g6 {and Black's position is full of holes, with his queen offside as well.}) 11. Bc3 Qe7 12. a3 a5 {Black's typical reaction, in order to prevent b4. Although White's immediate idea is foiled, a3 is still useful because it takes away b4 from a Black piece and ...a5 is relatively more weakening, abandoning the b5 square.} 13. Qe2 O-O 14. Rad1 d5 {while not exactly forced, this is the obvious antidote for Black to White's play on the d-file. We now have a Stonewall pawn structure.} 15. Bb5 Na7 {lacking any good alternative squares, the knight challenges the bishop.} 16. a4 {a logical follow-up, also indicating White is not satisfied with a draw, as otherwise a repetition with Bd3 is possible.} (16. Ba6 Bxa6 17. Qxa6 {would be another way to avoid the repetition, without the possibility of Black changing White's pawn structure with an exchange on b5.}) 16... Bd6 {Svidler with this move indicates he prefers to keep his knight on the board rather than exchange it. This looks a little weird at first, with it posted at a7, but the knight will eventually have greater freedom than the light-squared bishop.} (16... Nxb5 17. axb5 Bd6 {is an alternative and rather different way to play, with the two bishops for Black and a White pawn on b5. Black may be solid, but he has some problems to solve here, especially the Bb7.}) 17. Ba6 {White looks to exchange; his light-square bishop is not very useful either in a Stonewall structure.} Nc6 {there are a number of options here. Svidler decides to use the tempo to improve his knight's position.} 18. Bxb7 Qxb7 19. b3 {supports the otherwise lonely a4 pawn and opens up a retreat on the long diagonal for the bishop.} Qa6 20. Qd2 {White has not changed his mind about his desire to win vs. draw, so avoids the queen trade.} Rac8 21. Ng5 Rce8 {Svidler chooses to move the queen's rook twice in order to protect the e6 pawn, rather than take the other rook off the f-file. Counterplay there is evidently more important to him than on the c-file.} 22. Bb2 h6 {there is no reason for Black to allow the knight to remain at g5. This is also a useful preparation for a possible future ...g5, a typical kingside attacking plan in the Stonewall.} 23. Nf3 Bb4 {Black sees that c4 is a threat. He could have simply played the bishop to e7 for the same result, but this maneuver helps get him closer to the time control.} 24. c3 Be7 25. c4 {although the bishop is no longer hanging on d6, White finds another tactical justification for attacking Black's central strongpoint.} dxc4 { taking on c4 is best, either now or after an intermediate move such as ...Bb4, otherwise Black's pawn structure is compromised.} 26. Rc1 {White takes advantage of another hanging piece, this time the Nc6.} b5 {this decision to unbalance the queenside structure looks dangerous.} (26... Rc8 {is the solid way to play, suggested by Houdini.} 27. Rxc4 Qb7 28. Rfc1 Rfd8) 27. axb5 Qxb5 28. Rxc4 {White in contrast to the above variation has significantly greater scope for his pieces and can target Black's weaker kingside as well as look for play on the c/d files.} Nb4 {this allows Black to significantly improve the knight and closes the e1-a5 diagonal, but also cedes control of e5.} 29. Ne5 Nd5 30. Qc2 Bd6 (30... Nb4 $5 {harassing the queen looks like a good intermediate move here.}) 31. Nc6 Nb6 32. Rd4 $2 {Kramnik misses the deflection tactic for Black. Easy to do, if one focuses on the center of the board and assumes that the kingside is safe, without checking CCT.} (32. Nd4 Qe5 33. Nf3 Qb5 34. Rc3 $14) 32... Bxh2+ $1 {White has no choice but to take on h2, leaving the Rf1 unprotected.} 33. Kxh2 Qxf1 $17 34. Qc3 $2 {although this objectively leads quickly to a lost game, Kramnik must have decided that a swindle was his only chance to save the game.} (34. Nxa5 {was objectively best, recovering a pawn, but it's hard to picture a super-GM not being able to convert the material advantage as Black in this position.}) 34... Rf6 { blocking any funny business on the long diagonal.} 35. Ne5 Qxf2 {Svidler is not distracted by White's desperate attempts to generate a threat and calmly increases his advantage.} 36. Rf4 Qe2 37. Qd4 Nd5 38. Rf3 Rc8 {Black now goes over to the offensive. The end is near.} 39. Rg3 f4 {Black finally gets to attack down the f-file. Breakthrough is inevitable and White resigns.} 0-1

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