27 September 2014

Annotated Game #134: Foiled Again!

I was looking forward to this fourth-round tournament game, in order to get revenge for a previous tournament loss against my opponent from Annotated Game #116.  Unfortunately, even with colors reversed, the game followed a similar trajectory and my plans were foiled (again).  I overestimated my chances out of the opening, missed opportunities and played more passively than necessary.  A big psychological blow also occurred when I missed the opportunity to simply take a hanging piece, due to an optical illusion and time pressure affecting my calculations.  Although I recovered somewhat after this, Black maintained the initiative and in the end I could not find the necessary defense against Black's kingside attack.

Other than the calculation and time pressure judgment issues, the main takeaway from this analysis for me is that one should never give up.  Despite everything, I had managed to equalize again on move 34 and then failed to defend properly, in large part due to feeling a sense of desperation.  The psychological lesson is that a player needs to unburden themselves of previous ups and downs in a game, in order to best tackle the actual position in front of them.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A28"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2012.07.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] {A28: English Opening: Four Knights Variation} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 { the English Four Knights.} 4. e3 d5 {this is less effective against White's previous move than it would be against other reversed Sicilian-type moves such as g3.} 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bb5 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Qf6 $6 {while the e-pawn needs to be defended, this premature queen sortie isn't recommended.} (7... Bd6 {is standard.}) 8. Qa4 $146 {this is not a bad move, as it increases the pressure on Black, but I played it more from hoping my opponent would go wrong, than from seeing a clear road to an advantage. Black makes obvious moves in response and easily equalizes.} (8. d4 {is the more straightforward move, in the spirit of opening development, that is universally played in the database. Here is an international-level example:} exd4 9. cxd4 Bb4+ 10. Bd2 Bxd2+ 11. Qxd2 O-O 12. Rc1 Bh3 13. O-O Qg6 14. Ne1 Rad8 15. Bxc6 bxc6 16. f3 Rd5 17. Nd3 Rg5 18. Nf4 Qh6 19. Nxh3 Qxh3 20. Rxc6 Rc8 21. e4 Qh5 22. Qf4 Ra5 23. Rxc7 Rxc7 24. Qxc7 h6 25. Qc8+ Kh7 26. Qc4 Ra3 27. d5 Qe5 28. Rd1 Qb2 29. d6 Rxa2 30. Qxa2 {1-0 (30) Suba,M (2531)-Ljubarskij,J (2344) Bad Zwischenahn 2008}) 8... Bd7 9. d4 exd4 10. cxd4 Bd6 11. O-O O-O {White has a cramped position, comments Houdini via the Fritz interface. This is mainly due to the dark-squared bishop, which is currently "bad" due to the e3/d4 pawn chain.} 12. Bd2 Bg4 {this allow White to get a small positional plus with the following sequence.} (12... a6 $5 {is what I was expecting.}) 13. Bxc6 bxc6 {Black has the pair of bishops.} 14. Ne5 {spotting this type of idea is something that I likely would not have been able to do prior to my latest training. The idea is to threaten to take the c6 pawn and then expose the other c-pawn, which will now be isolated, to further pressure. While not decisive, the maneuver is White's best attempt at an advantage.} Be2 $6 {aggressive but not best. The idea is to swing the bishop around to protect the c6 pawn, which on the surface looks good. However, a lateral pinning tactic then becomes possible following an exchange on e5, as can be seen in the below variations.} (14... Bf5 15. Nxc6 Rfe8) 15. Rfc1 {continuing to focus on the c-file.} (15. Rfe1 { is also a possibility, one that the engine evaluates as better. During the game I thought that would simply allow the bishop to swing over to b5 and not gain me anything.} Bb5 16. Qa5 Bxe5 17. dxe5 Qe6 (17... Qxe5 $2 18. a4 { and the bishop is pinned laterally against the queen.}) 18. a4 Bd3 19. Rac1 $16 ) 15... Bb5 (15... c5 {is preferred by the engines.} 16. Nd7 Qh4 17. f4 $14) 16. Qc2 {a passive retreat that does not take advantage of the queen's position.} (16. Qa5 {is the key move, establishing lateral pressure through to e5.} Bxe5 17. dxe5 Qg6 (17... Qxe5 $2 18. a4) 18. Qxc7 $16) 16... c5 $11 { my opponent now equalizes again with this active pawn break, although I respond well and actively to it.} 17. a4 Be8 {preserving the bishop. Black could also play ... cxd4 here.} 18. Nf3 {I was already behind the time curve by this point and not properly generating good candidate moves. The knight is not placed actively on f3.} (18. Nc4 $5) (18. Ng4 Qe6 19. dxc5 Be7 $14 { White is up a pawn but Black has the two bishops and the pawn structure is symmetrical, which limits White's advantage.}) 18... cxd4 19. exd4 $6 {I chose this recapture in order to maintain a pawn in the center, but it is of limited value in an open position with my opponent having the bishop pair.} (19. Nxd4 { would give the knight an excellent central outpost and not leave White with an isolated d-pawn.}) 19... h6 {Covers g5} 20. Rab1 $6 (20. Ne5 $5) 20... Bd7 $15 {by this point Black has constrained White's pieces quite well - thanks in part to my own choices - while the Black pieces are looking more and more active.} 21. Rb7 Bf5 22. Qc6 Rfe8 $17 23. d5 Be4 {Black can now pursue a kingside strategy with the two bishops, queen and rook all contributing. Meanwhile, I have no counterplay and fewer defending pieces.} 24. Re1 Qg6 ( 24... Re6 {is what the engines spot, with the immediate threat of ...Bxh2.} 25. Qc3 Bxd5 26. Qxf6 Rxf6 $19) 25. Kh1 $2 {this is an inferior way to defend against the threat of ... Bxf3.} (25. Rb3 {is best played immediately, to bring the rook back for defense along the third rank.} Rad8 26. g3 $17) 25... Red8 {the wrong rook.} (25... Rad8 {would bring the queen's rook into the game. } 26. Rb3 Re5 27. Rbe3 Bxd5 28. Qc3 $19) 26. Rb3 $6 {right idea, bad timing.} ( 26. Qc4 Bxf3 27. gxf3 Qh5 28. f4) 26... Rab8 {Black misses a chance to increase the pressure and win the d-pawn.} (26... Qf5 27. Rbe3 Bxd5 $19) 27. Rbe3 $17 f5 {maintaining the bishop on the e4 outpost.} 28. Bc3 {by this point in the game I'm still significantly inferior, but at least my pieces are better positioned than previously and have more potential to make threats.} Qg4 29. Kg1 $4 {this should lose the game rather quickly, although the winning continuation is not obvious. It also marks a two-tempo loss of time, after having pointlessly moved the king into the corner previously.} (29. Be5 Rb6 30. h3 Qg6 $15) 29... Qh5 {Black allows White to escape and come closer to equality.} (29... Bxf3 $1 30. Rxf3 Rb6 {and now amazingly the queen is trapped. }) 30. h3 (30. Ne5 $11) 30... Bxd5 $4 {is an example of an "optical illusion" tactical blunder. Embarrassingly, both my opponent and myself failed to visualize the possibility of Qxd5 properly. I had ruled it out when calculating earlier variations because of the response ...Bh2+. However, capturing on d5 would gain a tempo with check, so there is no problem with it.} (30... Qg6 31. Be5 $15) 31. Qa6 $4 {I had a little over a minute per move left on the clock by this point, in order to make time control, and did not properly check the move. It was a big psychological blow for me to miss the piece capture, and this contributed to Black's subsequent momentum in the game. } Bc5 (31... f4 {would be more effective on the attack.} 32. Re7 (32. R3e2 Rb3 33. Qd3 Bb4 $17) 32... Bxe7 33. Rxe7 Bf7 $17) 32. Re5 Rd6 33. Qf1 Rd7 {this lets up the pressure again.} (33... c6 34. g4 Rg6 35. Qg2 Bxf3 36. Rxc5 (36. gxh5 $4 {[%emt 0:00:04] is impossible because of the following mate in} Rxg2+ 37. Kf1 Rxf2+ 38. Kg1 Rg2+ 39. Kf1 Rg1#) (36. Qxf3 $2 fxg4 37. Rxh5 gxf3+ 38. Kf1 Rg5 39. Rxg5 hxg5 $17) 36... Bxg4 37. Rxc6 Rxc6 38. Qxc6 $15) 34. g4 $11 { although objectively White should hold here, Black still looks threatening and I felt I was desperately trying to save the game.} Qg6 35. Nh4 Qg5 36. Nxf5 $6 {the wrong choice, made under time pressure. Black find the way to punish it.} (36. Ng2 {maintains the defense.}) 36... Qf4 $15 37. Ne7+ $4 {the losing move, a desperate attempt at "counterplay" when defensive moves are called for.} (37. Ne3 {this is the best way to fight back} Rf8 38. Nxd5 Qg3+ 39. Qg2 Bxf2+ 40. Kh1 Bxe1 41. Ne7+ Rxe7 42. Qxg3 Bxg3 43. Rxe7 $15) 37... Rxe7 $19 38. Rxe7 (38. Rxd5 Qg3+ 39. Kh1 Qf3+ 40. Qg2 Qxc3 41. Rg1 $19) 38... Qg3+ 0-1

21 September 2014

Annotated Game #133: What have I learned?

Following the rather blah and weak second-round draw in this tournament, we come to an even poorer loss.  As Black, I face my own favorite White opening, which is not easy to cope with psychologically.  As early as move 5, I start losing the thread of the game, although it was really 7...Qc8 that put me in a bit of a positional hole.  White misses a couple of chances to make his advantage concrete, including 12. Ne5, which would have given him a winning game.  Despite this, I manage to equalize and even have a shot at an advantage myself, after bringing my queen knight back into the game authoritatively.  The turning point and a swift tactical blow by White come following a big error on my 24th move that effectively puts me away.  My opponent deserves full credit for correctly spotting and calculating the sequence, which includes a neat deflection tactic on h6 and f6.

The big lesson for me from this game was my failure to actively falsify my opponents' moves.  This was obvious on both my 11th and 24th moves, as I failed to see or consider the strong knight moves my opponent had at his disposal.  (The first oversight was much simpler and therefore less excusable; I simply got lucky because my opponent also overlooked the opportunity).  Since by this point I had put together my simplified thought process, this game was just an example of my lack of energy or laziness in not following what I should have learned by now.  Remember: thou shalt always falsify thy moves.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2012.07.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] {A11: English Opening: 1...c6} 1. c4 c6 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 d5 4. Nf3 {White chooses a gambit continuation, although I decline to accept it, preferring the strong point on d5. White normally can also easily recover the pawn or get excellent compensation in these types of positions.} Bf5 5. O-O h6 {this is not a bad move in this opening, as it prepares a retreat square for the bishop on h7, but either ...e6 or ...Nbd7 would be more to the point in furthering Black's development.} 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. Qb3 {a standard sortie by the queen, when the bishop has already been developed to f5.} Qc8 $6 {this ends up being too passive and putting the queen in a place where she can easily be attacked down the c-file.} (7... Qb6 {is a reasonable way of meeting White's threat, as the doubled pawns following an exchange would not be a decisive weakness.} 8. Qxb6 axb6 9. Nc3 Nc6 {with a slight plus to White.}) (7... Nc6 $5 {is pointed out by Komodo 8 as a possibility, as Black gets compensation for the pawn sacrifice.} 8. Qxb7 Bd7 9. Qb3 {White has to withdraw quickly or hand over the initiative and the center to Black.} (9. Qb5 Rb8 10. Qa4 e5 11. d3 Bd6 12. Nc3 O-O $11) 9... e5 {with an interesting, active game for Black.} (9... e6 10. d4 Bd6 {and again White has a slight plus, according to both Komodo 8 and Houdini, although Black certainly has the more dynamic game.})) 8. Nc3 $14 e6 9. d3 Be7 10. Bd2 {here White missed a chance to play actively and exploit his small lead in development.} (10. e4 dxe4 11. dxe4 Bg4 (11... Bxe4 {appears to win a pawn, but White gets immediate compensation and may be able to regain it with a strong positional plus, for example} 12. Nxe4 Nxe4 13. Be3 O-O 14. Ne5 Nd6 15. Rac1 Nc6) 12. Be3 O-O 13. Rac1 Nc6 14. Nb5 $16 {and now if} Nxe4 $6 { White has either Ne5 or Nfd4 as a strong response.}) (10. Bf4 {would also be stronger than the text move, without the extra complications of the pawn thrust.}) 10... O-O 11. Rac1 Qd7 $2 {this appears at first glance to be reasonable, keeping an eye on the b7 pawn and avoiding the threat on the c-file, but both my opponent and I miss the easy tactic that would give White winning game.} (11... Nc6 {would develop a piece and block the threat, also challenging White's control of e5.}) 12. Rfe1 {throwing away the advantage, says Houdini via the Fritz interface.} (12. Ne5 {and White wins} Qe8 13. Qxb7 $18) 12... Nc6 13. e4 {White now goes for the pawn thrust, which however is less effective now than it would have been earlier.} dxe4 14. dxe4 Bh7 15. Bf4 {while a good move, White could have saved himself the tempo by not passively developing it to d2 earlier.} Na5 16. Qc2 Rac8 {a rook move seems to be called for in this position, but this perhaps is not the best one.} (16... Rfd8 $5 { places a rook on the open d-file and also gives the queen the e8 square as a good place to retreat, if necessary.}) 17. Red1 Qc6 {an obvious increase of pressure on e4, but White responds dynamically and improves his position.} 18. Ne5 {I'm now missing the knight on c6.} Qb6 19. Qe2 Rfd8 20. Be3 Rxd1+ 21. Rxd1 {here the engines both consider this inferior to the queen recapture, although this is not obvious to a human.} (21. Qxd1 Qd6 (21... Qxb2 $4 {a poisoned pawn} 22. Nd5 Re8 23. Nxf6+ Bxf6 24. Qd7 $18) 22. Nd5 {this works because of the hanging Rc8} Rxc1 23. Nxe7+ Qxe7 24. Qxc1 Bxe4 25. Qc8+ Qf8 26. Qc7 Bxg2 27. Kxg2 Nc6 28. Nxc6 bxc6 29. Bxa7 $16) 21... Qc7 22. Ng4 (22. f4 {is the critical path and the best try for a White advantage.}) 22... a6 {the immediate ...Nc4 seems better. At the time I wanted to prevent White from harrassing the queen, but he can do that anyway.} 23. Qf3 {not a very helpful move for White, as it accomplishes nothing and allows Black to start making threats.} (23. Bf4 $5 Qc4 24. Nxf6+ Bxf6 25. e5 Qxe2 26. Nxe2 $11) 23... Nc4 $15 {the knight finally gets back in the game, on an excellent square.} 24. Bf4 {White threatens to win material: Bf4xc7} e5 $2 {although this is defensible in a narrow sense, as the e5 pawn can't be taken, White is able to think more dynamically, make threats in return and exploit a deflection tactic on the kingside.} (24... Qa5 {dodges the bullet.} 25. Nxf6+ Bxf6 {and Black is doing fine, since the b-pawn is hanging and White cannot break through on the kingside. For example} 26. Rd7 Nxb2 27. e5 Bxe5 28. Bxe5 Qxe5 29. Qxf7+ Kh8 30. Bxb7 Bg8 31. Qg6 Rxc3 $17) 25. Nxf6+ $1 $18 Bxf6 26. Nd5 {once again in this game, I miss a powerful knight move.} Qc6 27. Bxh6 $1 {Deflection: f6} Nxb2 { here I figured I was in trouble regardless of what I did, so should at least try for some counterplay.} (27... Kh8 28. Nxf6 Qxf6 29. Qxf6 gxf6 30. b3 Na5 31. Rd7 $18) 28. Rc1 {although the Bh6 is en prise, it still effectively reaches backwards to support the Rc1.} Qe6 {this leads to a quick loss, but I was done for anyway. The queen is overloaded protecting both the Rc8 and the f6 square.} (28... Nc4 29. Bxg7 Kxg7 30. Rxc4 Qxc4 31. Qxf6+ Kg8 32. Ne7+ Kf8 33. Nxc8 Qxc8 34. Qh8+ Bg8 35. Qh6+ Ke7 $18 {the e5 pawn will fall and the endgame is hopeless for Black, although this is of course still better than the game continuation.}) 29. Nxf6+ gxf6 30. Rxc8+ Qxc8 31. Qxf6 1-0

14 September 2014

Commentary: 2014 Sinquefield Cup, Round 7

Fabiano Caruana's now-historic performance at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup was the topic of the previous commentary post, which featured Caruana's round 5 win in a Slav Defense, and we return for more commentary on his round 7 victory in a Stonewall.  In this game, as Black he decides to start off with a Queen's Gambit Declined setup, but then takes advantage of French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's sub-par development scheme to transpose into a favorable version of a Dutch Stonewall.  Although White is certainly equal, Black has the easier game and clearer plans available to him.  MVL stumbles in the early middlegame - something that has been a recurring challenge for myself - and Caruana masterfully exploits his opponent's mistakes, never giving White a chance to recover.

On a separate but related note, this is the first game analyzed with the assistance of the Komodo 8 engine, which is getting good buzz for its performance in more positional situations.  See this AoxomoxoA wondering post for more on it.

[Event "2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.09.03"] [Round "7"] [White "Vachier Lagrave, M."] [Black "Caruana, F."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D35"] [WhiteElo "2768"] [BlackElo "2801"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "2014.08.27"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 {Caruana starts off this time with a QGD structure.} 3. Nc3 Be7 4. Bf4 Nf6 5. e3 O-O 6. Rc1 {although this may appear a little premature, leaving the kingside still undeveloped, it's the second most popular option (after Nf3) and scores well.} Nbd7 {Black keeps his options open while developing the knight.} 7. c5 $146 {releasing the central tension is usually favorable to Black in these types of positions, as the d5 pawn becomes a major strongpoint. The extra space gained on the queenside is not sufficient compensation.} (7. cxd5 {scores well (over 70 percent), as shown in this Kasparov-Karpov clash:} exd5 8. Nf3 c6 9. h3 Re8 10. Bd3 Nf8 11. O-O Ng6 12. Bh2 Bd6 13. Bxd6 Qxd6 14. Qc2 Be6 15. a3 a5 16. Na4 Nd7 17. Rb1 Ngf8 18. b4 axb4 19. axb4 b5 20. Nc5 Nb6 21. Ra1 f6 22. Nxe6 Qxe6 23. Nd2 Nc4 24. Nb3 Qe7 25. Nc5 g6 26. e4 Kg7 27. Qc3 Nd7 28. exd5 cxd5 29. Rxa8 Rxa8 30. Re1 Qf7 31. Ne6+ Kg8 32. Nc7 Rb8 33. Be2 Ndb6 34. Nxb5 Re8 35. Bf1 Qd7 36. Rxe8+ Qxe8 37. Na3 Qc6 38. b5 Qc7 39. Nc2 Kg7 40. Ne3 Qd6 41. g3 h5 42. h4 f5 43. Bxc4 dxc4 44. d5+ Kh7 45. Qd4 Nd7 46. Nxc4 Qb4 47. d6 Qxb5 48. Nd2 Qc6 49. Nc4 Qb5 50. Ne3 Qb1+ 51. Kg2 Qb7+ 52. Qd5 Qxd5+ 53. Nxd5 Kg7 54. Kf3 Kf7 55. Nc7 Ne5+ 56. Kf4 Nc4 57. d7 Ke7 58. Kg5 Nd2 59. Kxg6 Ne4 60. Kxf5 Nxf2 61. Ne6 Kxd7 62. Nf4 Ke7 63. Nxh5 Kf7 64. g4 Nd1 65. Nf4 Ne3+ 66. Kg5 Kg7 67. h5 Nc4 68. Nd3 Nd6 69. Nc5 Nf7+ 70. Kf4 Kh6 71. Ne4 Nd8 72. Ke5 Nc6+ 73. Kf6 Nb4 74. Nc3 Nd3 75. Nd5 Nc5 76. Kf5 Nb3 77. Nf4 Nd4+ 78. Kf6 Nf3 79. Nd3 Nh2 80. Kf5 Nf3 81. Ne5 Nd2 82. Kf4 Nb3 83. Nf7+ Kg7 84. Nd6 Nd4 85. g5 Ne6+ 86. Kg4 Kh7 87. Nf5 Nf8 88. Nh4 Ne6 89. Ng2 Kg7 90. Nf4 Nd4 91. h6+ Kh7 92. Kh5 Nf5 93. g6+ Kg8 94. Kg5 Ne3 95. Nh5 Nd5 96. Nf6+ {1-0 (96) Kasparov,G (2812)-Karpov,A (2619) Valencia 2009} ) (7. Nf3 {is the other obvious choice.}) 7... Ne4 8. Bd3 (8. Nxe4 {causes Black no problems. For example} dxe4 9. Bc4 e5 10. Bg3 (10. Bxe5 Nxe5 11. dxe5 Qxd1+ 12. Rxd1 Bxc5 $15) 10... exd4 11. exd4 c6 $11) 8... f5 {Black chooses to head for a comfortably equal version of a Stonewall, supporting the Ne4.} 9. Nf3 c6 {the Stonewall is now complete. While the position is equal, Black must be happy with his situation, as he has achieved a favorable version of the opening with White's forces not deployed very threateningly.} 10. Ne5 Nxe5 11. Bxe5 Bf6 12. Bxf6 Qxf6 {given White's development scheme, he no longer has the ability to control e5 with a piece, so Black is able to successfully remedy this standard Stonewall weakness.} 13. Ne2 e5 14. Qa4 $6 {MVL admitted afterwards that he miscalculated the strength of Black's responses.} (14. O-O $5) 14... Qh4 (14... Qg6 {is the engine's choice.} 15. Bxe4 fxe4 16. O-O Bg4 17. Rc2 exd4 18. Qxd4 Rf6 $15) 15. g3 $6 {White was worried about castling into a Black attack, but the text move ends up being more weakening.} (15. O-O Nd2 {could lead to a repetition.} (15... Nf6 {would be more challenging, but White remains equal. One possible continuation:} 16. Qb4 e4 17. Bc2 g5 18. Qd2 Ng4 19. h3 Nf6 20. f4 exf3 21. Rxf3 $11) 16. Rfd1 Ne4 17. Rf1) 15... Qg4 $15 { by playing the obvious move, Black seizes the positional advantage.} 16. Rf1 ( 16. Qd1 {would bring the queen back for defense, although it doesn't solve White's problems and Black retains an edge. For example} exd4 17. exd4 (17. Nxd4 Qxd1+ 18. Rxd1 Nxc5) 17... Ng5 18. f4 Ne4 $15) 16... Ng5 {illustrating how well the knight and queen can combine when attacking.} 17. Kd2 $2 {White's king now runs away, but at the cost of a pawn.} (17. Ng1 $5) 17... Nf3+ 18. Kc3 Nxh2 {although White will have the half-open h-file, this is insufficient compensation for the material.} 19. Rh1 Nf3 20. Qa5 {eyeing the c7 square for penetration, although this is not a serious threat to Black.} Qg5 {Black adjusts with his own queen in response, so she can be brought back as necessary.} 21. dxe5 Qe7 {much stronger than simply recapturing immediately with the Nf3, which might have been a Class player's choice. The queen now covers the 7th rank and pressures c5; meanwhile, the e5 pawn is not going anywhere.} 22. Nd4 Nxe5 23. b3 $2 {this is simply too slow. Black now takes advantage of White's exposed king position and awkwardly placed pieces with a pawn break.} (23. Kd2 $5) 23... b6 $1 {now White is essentially lost.} 24. cxb6 c5 {Black's pieces can now activate with deadly force, making threats that White cannot counter.} 25. Nb5 Bb7 $19 26. bxa7 (26. Rhd1 {avoiding the discovered attack still does not help White too much.} Nc6 27. Qa4 axb6 28. Qh4 Qe5+ 29. Kd2 Nb4 $19) 26... d4+ 27. exd4 Nxd3 28. Kxd3 Bxh1 29. Rxc5 Qe4+ 30. Kc4 Qe2+ 31. Kb4 Qd2+ 32. Rc3 Bc6 {taking advantage of the pin on the Rc3. At this point, Black just needs to mop things up, as White is down significant material with a very exposed king.} 33. a4 Bxb5 34. Kxb5 Qxd4 (34... Rxa7 { would end things quicker, according to the engine. Black picks up the pawn with the deflection tactic and also forces the indirect exchange of rooks.} 35. Qxa7 Qxc3 36. b4 Qd3+ 37. Ka5 Rd8 $19 {; perhaps Caruana thought the text move led to a less risky endgame.}) 35. Rc7 Rfd8 {continuing to play it safe in the endgame, not going for any flashy tactics and deep calculation.} 36. Qb6 Rd5+ 37. Ka6 {hoping for a miscalculation by Black.} Rd6 38. a5 Qd3+ 39. Kb7 Qd5+ 0-1

10 September 2014

Chess vs. Football (FT edition)

In the spirit of Chess vs. Tennis, I wanted to point out the latest chess-themed article from the Financial Times, written by GM Nigel Short and featuring a game/interview he had with top former British football (soccer) star Sol Campbell.  There are some entertaining parallels between the two sports.  One favorite excerpt:
Sol’s king had not escaped very far. My strikers were all over the penalty box and in chess there is no such thing as offside. About three hours after our game began, it concluded in checkmate. Sol, not for the first time, spoke positively about the benefits of chess and how it put him in a different mental zone. One phase of his footballing career may be firmly over but I am sure we have not heard the last from this thoughtful man.
A more fulsome comparison between the two can be found at iplayoochess.com.

06 September 2014

Commentary: 2014 Sinquefield Cup, Round 5

The performance of GM Fabiano Caruana at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis has been legendary.  Here is a detailed look at his round 5 game against GM Hikaru Nakamura, with Caruana masterfully manuevering in a Slav Defense to obtain the win.  For a previous example of White's early opening divergence with 4. Nbd2, you can also see Annotated Game #58.

[Event "Sinquefield Cup"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.08.31"] [Round "5"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "134"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nbd2 {for some reason this is a "hot" line, as shown by the database, with a number of professional-level players using it in 2014 to good effect. It's hard to imagine this being an objectively strong threat to the Slav, however.} Bf5 {standard and best.} 5. Nh4 {the overwhelming choice lately for White, although the calmer g3 enjoys slightly more popularity historically. Here is a recent high-level example:} (5. g3 e6 6. Bg2 h6 7. Ne5 Nbd7 8. Nxd7 Qxd7 9. O-O Be7 10. b3 O-O 11. Bb2 Rfd8 12. e3 b5 13. c5 a5 14. a4 b4 15. f3 Bd3 16. Rf2 Qc7 17. Rc1 Nd7 18. e4 Qa7 19. Nf1 Ba6 20. e5 Rf8 21. f4 f5 22. exf6 Nxf6 23. Qc2 Rae8 24. Re1 Bd8 25. Nd2 g5 26. Bh3 g4 27. Bf1 Bxf1 28. Kxf1 Qh7 29. Qd1 Bc7 30. Rfe2 Qf5 31. Re3 Kf7 32. Kg1 Rg8 33. Qe2 Nd7 34. Nf1 Re7 35. Bc1 h5 36. Nd2 Rge8 37. Rf1 Kg8 38. Rf2 Rf7 39. Nf1 Rfe7 40. Re5 Bxe5 41. fxe5 Qe4 42. Qxe4 dxe4 43. Bf4 Rf7 44. Nd2 e3 45. Bxe3 Rxf2 46. Kxf2 Kf7 47. Nc4 Ra8 48. Bg5 Nf8 49. Nd6+ Kg7 50. Bf6+ Kg8 51. Ke3 Nh7 52. Be7 Kg7 53. Bh4 Kg6 54. d5 exd5 55. e6 Nf6 56. e7 Ne8 57. Kd4 Rb8 58. Ke5 Ng7 59. Bf6 Ne8 60. Nxe8 Rxe8 61. Ke6 Ra8 62. Bd4 Rb8 63. Be5 Rg8 64. Bc7 d4 65. Bxa5 d3 66. Bxb4 {1-0 (66) Krasenkow,M (2633)-Cramling,P (2525) Stockholm SWE 2014}) 5... Be4 {provoking White's next. Also, since the bishop will inevitably be traded for a knight, Black would have no problem doing this on e4 instead of g6.} 6. f3 Bg6 7. e3 e6 8. g3 {this doesn't seem natural. The engine makes it a top choice, however White never seems to follow up on the idea.} (8. Nxg6 {is the obvious move, but all four database games with this line are White losses, which undoubtedly was noted by Nakamura during his preparation.}) 8... Be7 9. a3 Nbd7 {Black continues developing naturally and unhurriedly.} 10. cxd5 cxd5 {Black chooses to keep the overall pawn structure as equal (5 and 2). Otherwise, White's kingside majority looks like it might be the source of potential attacking pressure, even if not decisive.} 11. Nxg6 {White finally finishes off the knight maneuver.} hxg6 12. Bd3 e5 {Black chooses an aggressive posture in the center, knowing that his lead in development (three pieces to two) and better structure would benefit from its opening.} 13. O-O O-O 14. Qb3 Qc8 $5 {this appears to be an attempt to avoid a possible drawing line. Placement on the c8-h3 diagonal is also advantageous for Black.} (14... Bd6 {or similar moves would try to bait White into taking the b-pawn, with a draw a likely result. For example:} 15. Qxb7 Rb8 16. Qxa7 exd4 17. exd4 Ra8 18. Qb7 Qe7 19. Kg2 Rfb8 {with a draw by repetition coming, as the queen cannot flee to safety but cannot be cornered either.}) (14... a6 15. Qxb7 exd4 16. exd4 Bc5 17. dxc5 Nxc5 18. Qb4 Nxd3 {is another interesting variation on this theme.}) 15. Nb1 {Houdini agrees this is the best move, in order to reposition the knight to c3, but this also points up the deficiency of developing the knight to d2 in the first place.} exd4 16. exd4 Nb8 {with the central pawn structure now resolved, Black decides his knight is also better off repositioned, to pressure d4.} 17. Nc3 Nc6 18. Be3 (18. Nxd5 Nxd5 19. Qxd5 Nxd4 $11 {; White cannot capture on d4 due to the bishop skewer on c5. }) 18... Qd7 19. Rad1 Rfd8 {overprotecting d5.} 20. Rfe1 Ne8 {Caruana is now able to reposition his other knight in an interesting maneuver, one that allows his bishop to spring to life.} 21. Bf2 Nc7 22. Bf1 (22. Qxb7 $2 Rdb8 $19 ) 22... Bf6 {after the bishop maneuver, it appears that White will have more long-term trouble with pressure against his d-pawn than Black.} 23. Qa2 { moving the queen out of the way of the b-pawn. White is looking to generate some activity on the queenside, with few prospects in the center or on the kingside.} g5 {this move often features in Black's plans in this type of position, as the advanced g-pawn is in fact not that weak and can usefully gain space. Here Caruana's idea is also to clear the 8th rank by subsequently fianchettoing the king.} (23... Rab8 {is a more prosaic alternative, preparing to push ...b5}) 24. b4 g6 25. Qd2 {getting the queen out of the corner to a more useful square.} Kg7 26. b5 Ne7 (26... Na5 {is also possible. For example} 27. Nxd5 Qxd5 28. Qxa5 Ne6 29. Qd2 Nxd4 30. Bxd4 Bxd4+ 31. Kg2 $11) 27. Be3 Ne6 28. Bh3 Nf5 {with Black's knights getting ever more active, White decides to exchange bishop for knight.} 29. Bxf5 gxf5 30. f4 {the kingside pawn structure is now defined by Black, who prefers to close it.} (30. Ne2 Qxb5 31. Qc2 $1 { with about equal position}) 30... g4 31. Qd3 Rac8 {Black has the easier game and it's hard to find something productive for White.} 32. Rc1 (32. Qxf5 $2 { doesn't work.} Nxd4 33. Qxd7 Nf3+ 34. Kf2 Rxd7 {and Black wins material.}) 32... Rc4 $15 {Black's pressure is making things very uncomfortable for White, who has to cover both d4 and b5.} 33. Ne2 Nc7 {Caruana shifts the knight again, making maximum use of his minor pieces.} 34. Nc3 {the engine now shows White at a significant disadvantage.} (34. Rxc4 {would lead to a rook endgame with Black a pawn up.} dxc4 35. Qxc4 Nxb5 36. a4 Nxd4 37. Nxd4 Bxd4 38. Bxd4+ Qxd4+ 39. Qxd4+ Rxd4) (34. b6 {Houdini suggests jettisoning the pawn in order to inflict structural damage on Black's queenside.} axb6 35. Rxc4 dxc4 36. Qxc4 Ra8 37. Qd3 Nd5) 34... Rc8 (34... Nxb5 35. Nxb5 Qxb5 36. Qxf5 Qd7 {is not as good for Black.}) 35. h3 {perhaps Nakamura thought he was already lost here and tried to generate counterplay in desperation.} (35. a4 {would hold things together temporarily, but Black can reposition his pieces again to further increase the pressure and achieve an advantage. For example} Ne8 36. Re2 Nd6 37. Rec2 Qe6 38. Bf2 Rb4 39. Qd2 Rcc4 $19) 35... gxh3 36. Kh2 Nxb5 37. Nxb5 Qxb5 38. Kxh3 (38. Qxf5 $2 Qb2+ {with mate to follow.}) 38... Qd7 $19 {Black is now a clear pawn ahead, with a 2-1 queenside majority and far superior piece placement.} 39. Kg2 b5 40. Rb1 a6 41. Rbc1 Qe6 42. Bf2 Rxc1 {Black is happy to take two rooks for the queen.} 43. Rxe6 fxe6 44. g4 {Nakamura probably had this in mind when playing 35. g3. White seeks to open lines on the kingside for his queen. His bishop is the wrong color, though, for this to be effective.} fxg4 {this is enough to maintain the endgame advantage, although a tactical option would have won quickly.} (44... Bh4 {is a non-obvious sacrifice. It works by making White's queen vulnerable, since his king, without the Bf2 for protection, can then be skewered.} 45. Bxh4 (45. Qe3 R8c2) 45... R8c3 46. Qe2 R1c2) 45. Qe2 Kf7 46. Qd3 {Black's g-pawn is tactically protected, given the rook skewer at g8.} R1c2 47. Qh7+ Ke8 48. f5 $2 {aggressive but losing.} (48. Kf1) 48... Bxd4 $1 {Black of course had to calculate the next sequence carefully.} 49. Qg6+ Kd8 50. Qxe6 Rxf2+ 51. Kg3 Rc3+ 52. Kxg4 Rg2+ 53. Kf4 Rf2+ 54. Kg4 Kc7 55. Qe7+ Kb6 56. Qd8+ Rc7 {by this point Black has marched his king into a safe zone, where White cannot further sustain any attacks.} 57. Qxd5 Bc5 58. Qd8 Kb7 59. f6 Bxa3 60. Qd5+ Kb6 61. Qd8 Bc5 {with the bishop and rook covering the f8 queening square, and Black's other rook dominating the back ranks, the game is hopeless for White.} 62. Qb8+ Rb7 63. Qd8+ Ka7 64. Qd5 Bb6 65. Kg5 Rc7 66. Kg6 b4 67. Qe6 Bd4 0-1