29 May 2014

Commentary: XV Karpov-Poikovsky Tournament - Round 4

Before continuing on with an account of my best recent tournament, started in Annotated Game #123, I have a pending commentary game to post.  From round 4 of the 15th anniversary Karpov-Poikovsky tournament in mid-May, this features two well-known international players (Bologan and Nepomniachtchi) slugging it out in a Leningrad Dutch.  Bologan's unusual 6th move creates a new strategic picture in the opening variation, but Black is the one who takes advantage of it.  It is instructive to see Nepomniachtchi successfully execute several thematic moves (7...Nc6, 9...Ne4 and 11...g5) that allow him to equalize and then seize the initiative.  Bologan had some opportunities to pull himself back into the game later on, but they were difficult to find and Black's threats kept coming in a relentless fashion.  Overall, this game is an excellent example of what Black can do in the Leningrad Dutch against imprecise play.

[Event "15th Karpov GM 2014"] [Site "Poikovsky RUS"] [Date "2014.05.14"] [Round "4.5"] [White "Bologan, Viktor"] [Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A81"] [WhiteElo "2655"] [BlackElo "2735"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "2014.05.11"] 1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c3 {White apparently wants to avoid a theoretical duel in the Leningrad variation, settling for an uncommon solid-seeming move rather than the usual c4. The immediate logic is obvious, to reinforce the d4 strongpoint, but the line is certainly less challenging to Black. One difference that Black should keep in mind, though, is that White now has Qb3+ without a pawn blocking the diagonal.} a5 {Black cheekily answers with an offbeat response of his own. This pawn move seeks to restrain White's potential follow-up play on the queenside, including b4. Prior to this game, however, it scored horribly, with no Black wins and White scoring a similar number of wins and draws.} 7. Nbd2 {the natural square (c3) having been occupied, White needs to take some extra time to get his knight developed. From here White may also think about supporting the e4 advance.} Nc6 {when Black can get away with this knight development in the Leningrad, it's usually a good idea to play it, since it fights directly for e5. The usual advance d5 here is not playable for White, due to the c-pawn being a square short of its usual post.} 8. Re1 d5 {a strong central reaction. Black sees that exerting control over e4 and c4 is more important than any potential resulting pawn structure weaknesses.} 9. Nb3 {the knight has now taken two moves to get to a not-very-useful square.} Ne4 {another move Dutch players always love to be able to execute unchallenged.} 10. a4 {otherwise Black threatens to push the a-pawn and kick the hapless Nb3.} e6 {the structure is now a hybrid of Stonewall and Leningrad. However, the main point of the move was not the pawn placement, but rather to open the diagonal and support Black's following move.} 11. Bf4 g5 {yet another favorite move in the Dutch. Although Houdini still rates the position as equal, the fact that Black has been able to consistently play his desired thematic moves and take over the initiative this early is bad news for White.} 12. Be5 Bh6 {Black chooses to avoid exchanging the Bg7 while also preventing White from establishing a useful outpost on e5.} (12... Nxe5 13. Nxe5 Qe7 $11) 13. Rf1 {it seems that White is already running out of good moves and can do little in the face of Black's initiative.} g4 $15 14. Ne1 Nxe5 {now Black exchanges, with the knight out of the way.} 15. dxe5 {now the pawn on e5 will be a source of weakness for White.} c5 {playing this without preparation is possible for Black, although perhaps not the strongest continuation.} (15... b6 {is favored by Houdini.}) 16. Bxe4 dxe4 17. Nxc5 Qb6 18. b4 $6 (18. Nb3 {instead would allow White to regroup and address his backwards development while Black spends time regaining the pawn.} Bg7 19. Qc2 Bxe5 20. Ng2 $11) 18... Rd8 {an easy decision to seize the only open file.} 19. Qb3 {White now attends to his weak b-pawn, but Black is able to continue making threats and improving his pieces without impediment.} Rd5 {a powerful centralization move, threatening both e5 and c5 due to the pin of the b4 pawn against the unprotected Qb3.} 20. Qc4 $2 { unfortunately for White, this just moves into another pin.} (20. Qb1) 20... Qc7 {attacking e5 again and pinning the Nc5. White has no good way to meet all the Black threats.} 21. Nc2 $17 {the least worst option, leaving the Nc5 to its fate but trying to stir up some counterplay.} (21. Qa2 {withdrawing the queen helps, but is not sufficient to get White out of danger in the rest of his position.} axb4 22. cxb4 Rd2 {made possible by the offside yet influential Bh6. } 23. Qb1 Qxe5 24. Ra2 Rxa2 25. Qxa2 b6 26. Nb3 Qd5 $19 {and now Black's two bishops are going to carve White up, assisted as needed by his central pawns and more active major pieces.}) (21. Qb5 {would be a perhaps too-obvious try for a swindle.} b6 $2 (21... Kf7 $19) 22. Qe8+ Kg7 23. Nxe6+ Bxe6 24. Qxe6 Rxe5 25. Qb3) 21... b6 22. Nd4 {the point being that the knight now threatens to take on f5, with some counterplay, as the Rd5 would be hanging if Black recaptured with the e-pawn.} Rxe5 {Black (perhaps in some time pressure?) goes for the safe-looking choice.} (22... bxc5 {simply taking the piece, however, looks best.} 23. Nxf5 Bg7 $17 {and regardless of what White does, Black takes the e-pawn and has a fine position.}) 23. Nb5 Qe7 24. Nb3 $15 {White has managed to extricate himself from the pin, with only a slightly worse game according to the engine, although Black still looks threatening and the defender will have to walk a tightrope. Unfortunately, White cannot maintain equilibrium.} e3 {the only real try for an advantage.} 25. Qd4 (25. N3d4 { is preferred by the engine, but this is not at all obvious.}) 25... exf2+ 26. Rxf2 Re4 {the strongest option for the rook, attacking the queen and keeping control of e3, with the threat of ...Be3.} 27. Qxb6 axb4 (27... Be3) 28. cxb4 $2 {after this White is lost.} (28. Nd6 {the only move that lets White keep equality, according to the engine. A sample line:} Be3 29. Qc6 Bxf2+ 30. Kxf2 Qa7+ 31. Qc5 Qxc5+ 32. Nxc5 Re5 33. cxb4 $11 {although down an exchange for a pawn, the two connected passed pawns should be enough compensation.}) 28... Be3 (28... Rxb4 {also wins.}) 29. N3d4 (29. Qc6 {here does not work due to} Bb7 { which would be prevented in the above variation by the Nd6.}) 29... Bb7 30. Rd1 Ra6 31. Qc5 Qxc5 {Black decides to accept the trade and exchange down into a simpler won position.} 32. bxc5 Re5 33. Nd6 Ba8 34. Nc4 Bxf2+ {Black is forced to finally pull the trigger on the pinned rook to win the exchange.} 35. Kxf2 Rxc5 {White has no compensation for the exchange and Black's rooks and bishop can run rampant in the position.} 36. Ne3 Kf7 37. Nb3 Rc3 38. Nc1 Be4 39. Na2 Ra3 {the a-pawn will fall and then Black will just chew White up with his stronger pieces and extra pawn.} 0-1

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