26 April 2015

Commentary - Shamkir 2015 round 3 (Caruana - Carlsen)

The super-GM tournament in Shamkir (Gashimov Memorial) recently finished, with Magnus Carlsen again besting the field.  This game from round 3 of the tournament sees Carlsen take advantage of a single mistake by his opponent (Caruana) during the transition from a Stonewall Dutch middlegame to the endgame.  I found the game instructive in all phases: Carlsen has used the Stonewall a number of times in the past, which is one of my interests; the middlegame could have taken a more challenging route had Caruana wanted it; and Carlsen's exploitation of his endgame advantage in pawn structure and rook activity is worthy of emulation.

[Event "Shamkir 2015"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.04.19"] [Round "3.3"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2802"] [BlackElo "2863"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "104"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 {Black indicates his intention to enter a Modern Stonewall, an opening with which Carlsen has a great deal of experience.} 4. c4 c6 5. Nf3 d5 6. O-O Bd6 {the standard Modern Stonewall position, which can be reached via a variety of move orders. Caruana now goes for a standard development plan.} 7. b3 Qe7 8. Bb2 {without the Black queen on e7, this bishop could have gone to a3 and exchanged off its counterpart, leaving Black's position weak on the dark squares.} b6 {the alternative to playing for the classical Stonewall light-square bishop development (Bc8-d7-e8-h5).} 9. Ne5 {a relatively aggressive continuation, targeting the c6 pawn.} Bb7 {aside from being an obvious follow-up to the previous move, it protects c6 and therefore allows the Nb8 to be developed.} 10. Nd2 O-O 11. Rc1 a5 {expanding on the queenside before developing the knight. Black scores well from here, over 54 percent in the database.} 12. e3 Na6 {with this move, Black commits to a queenside strategy. The knight is not available to help cover the center, but can be effective on b4 or supporting a potential ...c5 advance.} 13. Nb1 $146 { this may have been part of computer preparation; at least Komodo 8 likes it very much.} (13. Qe2 {is typical in this position, connecting the rooks, keeping an eye with the queen on c4 and also the kingside and center. Following is a high-level illustrative game, with some similar themes (such as the ...a4 push by Black) as in the main game.} a4 14. bxa4 Bxe5 15. dxe5 Nd7 16. a5 Nac5 17. Bc3 bxa5 18. Nb3 Nxb3 19. axb3 Nc5 20. Qc2 Ne4 21. Bb2 a4 22. bxa4 Ba6 23. f3 Ng5 24. cxd5 Bxf1 25. d6 Qa7 26. Bd4 Qa6 27. Rxf1 c5 28. Bxc5 Rfc8 29. Rc1 Rc6 30. h4 Rac8 31. d7 Rd8 32. hxg5 Rxd7 33. f4 Rc8 34. Bf1 Qb7 35. Bc4 Re8 36. Bb5 {1-0 (36) So,W (2656)-Reinderman,D (2573) Wijk aan Zee 2010 }) 13... Bxe5 {now that Black is prepared to move ...c5, the dark-square bishop is not indispensible.} 14. dxe5 Ne4 {chasing the knight away with f3 would not be terribly constructive for White, so it is well placed here while being ready to relocate to c5.} 15. Qe2 {White could try to challenge in the center and create an imbalance, although Black should still be fine:} (15. cxd5 exd5 (15... cxd5 16. Qd4 Nec5 17. Ba3 $14) 16. Nc3 Nec5 $11 (16... Qxe5 $2 17. Nxe4 Qxb2 18. Nd6 Rab8 19. Nxb7 Rxb7 20. Rxc6 $16)) 15... a4 (15... Nc7 16. f3 Ng5 17. h4 Nf7 18. e4 fxe4 19. fxe4 dxc4 20. Qxc4 c5 21. Rfd1 {1/2-1/2 (21) Komarov,D (2575)-Gleizerov,E (2540) Leeuwarden 1995}) 16. Nc3 {White still appears uninterested in complicating the situation in the center. This makes the position easier for Black to play, however.} (16. Ba3 $5 c5 17. f3 Ng5 18. cxd5 {looks more challenging.}) 16... axb3 17. axb3 Qb4 {Black now has a comfortable game on the queenside, with nothing to worry about from White.} 18. Nxe4 dxe4 19. Qc2 {protecting b3} Nc5 20. Bc3 {starting an essentially forced sequence.} Qxb3 21. Qxb3 Nxb3 22. Rb1 Nc5 23. Rxb6 Na4 24. Rxb7 Nxc3 {the end of the material-trading sequence. Caruana may well have been looking ahead to this on move 16, seeking simply an equal, drawish endgame against Carlsen.} 25. Re7 Rfe8 26. Rxe8+ Rxe8 27. Ra1 {it is indeed hard to see an obvious way for either player to make progress at this point.} Rd8 28. Bf1 {it's somewhat ironic that Black's "bad" light-square Stonewall bishop is criticized so strongly in this opening, when White often ends up with just as bad of a piece. } c5 {fixing White's c-pawn in the way of the bishop.} 29. Ra3 Nb1 30. Ra1 (30. Ra6 {seems logical here, keeping the rook active.}) 30... Nd2 31. Be2 $6 { White's first mistake in the game. Understandably he wants to activate the bishop, but the next sequence gives Black a positional edge.} (31. Kg2 { would prepare the idea, by controlling f3.}) 31... Nf3+ 32. Bxf3 {forced, otherwise the e5 pawn is lost.} exf3 $15 {the f3 pawn may be doubled and isolated, but it is very difficult for White to attack. Meanwhile, it controls g2 and White has to watch for back-rank mate threats. White's own equivalent doubled and isolated pawn on e5 is not nearly as effective.} 33. h3 {getting space for the king.} h5 {the only move that keeps the pressure on.} 34. g4 fxg4 35. hxg4 h4 {for the club player, it would be tempting to simply take the g4 pawn. However, creating the passed h-pawn is much stronger for Black, since he can quickly support it.} 36. Kh2 (36. g5 Kh7 37. Kh2 Kg6 38. Kh3 Kh5 39. Rg1 Rd2 $19) 36... Rd2 37. Kh3 g5 $19 {Black's structural pawn strengths and an active rook on the second rank mean that he has multiple threats and is on the winning path.} 38. e4 Rd4 39. Ra8+ Kf7 40. Ra3 (40. Ra7+ {doesn't save White, but it at least makes things more complicated.} Kg6 41. Ra6 Rd1 {threatening mate} 42. Kh2 (42. Rxe6+ Kg7 43. Kh2 (43. Re7+ Kf8 {and Black mates.}) 43... Rf1 44. Re7+ Kf8 45. Re6 Rxf2+ $19) 42... Rf1 43. Rxe6+ Kg7 44. Re7+ Kf8 45. Re6 Rxf2+ $19) 40... Rxc4 41. Rxf3+ Ke7 42. Re3 Rd4 {clearing the way for the c-pawn. Black has passed pawns on both wings and the win is near.} 43. f3 c4 44. Ra3 Rd3 45. Ra7+ Kd8 46. Kg2 c3 47. Ra4 c2 48. Rc4 Rd2+ 49. Kh3 Kd7 50. Rc5 Rf2 51. f4 Rf3+ 52. Kh2 Rxf4 0-1

18 April 2015

How Natalia Pogonina makes us feel better about chess

The 2015 knockout FIDE Women's World Championship finished earlier this month, with Natalia Pogonina coming in second.  She had some perceptive things to say about the mental side of chess in her follow-up interview with ChessBase; some of these points relate to an earlier post on mental toughness.  Others speak to the value of training and the need to focus on the task at hand when in a tournament situation.  Pogonina's calm, mature attitude combined with an intense fighting ability has served her well.
My preparation was more serious than usual. In early March I played a training match against a strong GM. We agreed to keep his name a secret, although if he finds it acceptable, I will gladly reveal the mystery. We played standard time control chess, rapid, blitz and even Armageddon. This was very interesting and useful. I believe the match helped me a lot, especially since I hadn’t played anywhere after the Russian Superfinal in December. I was rusty and lacking practice. Without such training it wouldn’t make much sense to participate in the [women's world championship].
One shouldn’t set any limits for oneself. I didn’t have any particular goals and didn’t treat it in the “the minimal task is to reach round X” way. I was mentally prepared to go home after the very first round. If I move on, it’s nice. If not, it’s also fine, because I will return to my family. Maybe this attitude helped me to focus on the game itself instead of dwelling on the results. My attention was on the game, not on the outcome.
...I demonstrated certain psychological weaknesses in the Final. I made blunders: not just chess ones, but human mistakes, so to speak.  Also, of course, I was very tired, so I wasn’t able to recover and readjust my game. I didn’t have a fresh head for the Final. I spent too much time studying theory. Even if we caught Mariya in preparation from time to time, I didn’t have enough stamina and mental strength to capitalize on it.
During the post-match press conference I was asked how I felt about being the Vice Women’s World Chess Champion and what expectations I had. My answer was that I don’t have any particular emotions and that I am already occupied with preparing for the upcoming World Team Championship. As to expectations, my reply was that now I have a chance to play the Grand Prix events and have secured a spot in the next World Championship. The audience has burst out laughing. Did I say anything wrong?
What are my expectations? The event has granted me valuable experience. It is also nice that some people watched me coming back over and over again and have arrived at their personal conclusions. Hopefully, they will be setting fewer mental barriers for themselves and will believe more in their own powers. One’s duty is to do one’s job well and to hope for the best.

06 April 2015

Annotated Game #146: Fog on the tactical horizon

This last-round tournament game is primarily interesting for the calculation error which leads to my loss.  I correctly spot the way to take advantage of White's move 19 oversight, but lose my way in the tactical complications.  First, I missed the very important in-between move that White has on move 20.  Second, I despaired once I saw that all of the options for Black were apparently bad.  I dismissed 20...cxd5 out of hand, once I saw that Black's knight could not escape following its pin against the queen with 21. Rc1.  However, this was a premature shortening of the calculation horizon, as Black has an impressive desperado tactic with the knight to end up with two rooks for a queen and a positional edge.  In the actual game, I picked the worst recapture option on d5, trying to complicate matters for White, who then showed impressive calm and skill to finish me off carefully, with a nice deflection tactic at the end.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D16"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2013.01.21"] [EventRounds "7"] {D16: Slav Defence: 5 a4: Lines with 5...Bg4 and 5...Na6} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Na6 {although this is the main line Slav, this is the first time I have had a chance to play it in recent memory. This is called the Lasker variation, after the world champion who employed it.} 6. e4 Bg4 7. Bxc4 e6 8. Be2 {breaking the pin, although a small waste of time.} (8. Be3 Be7 9. a5 O-O 10. Qb3 Bxf3 11. gxf3 Qc7 12. O-O Rad8 13. Rfd1 Ne8 14. f4 Nd6 15. Bf1 Kh8 16. f3 Qc8 17. Rac1 Nc7 18. Kh1 Qb8 19. Na4 Ndb5 20. Nc5 a6 21. Rd2 Ne8 22. Bh3 g6 {Schmidt,W (2430)-Smyslov,V (2550) Moscow 1980 1/2-1/2 (43)}) 8... Be7 $146 9. O-O O-O 10. Bg5 Nb4 $11 {the point of the Na6 development. The knight is well-placed on b4 and helps counterbalance White's space advantage in the center.} 11. Re1 a5 {with the idea of consolidating the b4 outpost.} 12. h3 Bxf3 {I felt the trade was worth it, given that the knight could go to e5 and be strongly positioned otherwise.} 13. Bxf3 Re8 {this is OK, but the engine points out that challenging in the center would be better.} (13... Nd7 14. Be3 e5 15. d5 Bc5 $11) 14. Qd2 $6 {this would allow Black to get in the ... e5 break for free, although I did not understand the idea myself at the time.} (14. Be3 Qc7 $11) 14... Qb6 (14... e5 {and now White's nice pawn center is disrupted. For example} 15. dxe5 Qxd2 16. Bxd2 Nd7 {and the advanced e-pawn will fall.}) 15. Rad1 Rad8 16. Be3 Qc7 {a repetition of moves would occur if White now played Bf4. Black's position is solid, but there is no obvious winning strategy to pursue.} 17. Qe2 {White correctly chooses to reposition his queen.} h6 {a prophylatic move that prevents intrusion on g5.} 18. e5 { although White gets more space, this simply drives the knight to a better square.} Nfd5 19. Bd2 $6 {blocking the defender of the d-pawn.} (19. Bc1 Rd7 $11) 19... Nc2 {This was the best move, but I calculated the follow-up incorrectly. I only saw after the the move the intermediate capture on d5 and then thought that after cxd5, White has Rc1 pinning and winning the knight.} 20. Nxd5 Rxd5 $2 {a hallucination from my incorrect calculation of the consequences of cxd5; I stopped calculating the variation too soon, once I spotted the knight would be pinned against the queen and could not be saved.} ( 20... exd5 {did not look good either, due to Bxa5 winning a pawn with the discovered attack on the Nc2. I thought the rook capture made in the game would at least complicate things for White, but I missed the bishop retreat on move 22 cutting off the knight.}) (20... cxd5 {in fact works, however, although I was unable to visualize it and simply assumed that there was no way to rescue the knight.} 21. Rc1 (21. Bxa5 Qxa5 22. Qxc2 Rc8 {and White picks up the a-pawn.}) 21... Rc8 22. Qd1 Nxe1 $1 {this desperado tactic gives Black at least equality, according to the engine.} 23. Rxc7 Nxf3+ 24. Qxf3 Rxc7 { and Black has two rooks for the queen, in a position well suited for them (domination of the c-file, limited attacking prospects for the queen).}) 21. Bxd5 $18 Nxe1 (21... exd5 22. Bxa5 $1 {Decoy: a5} Qxa5 23. Qxc2 $18) 22. Be4 { after this, which dominates the knight's escape squares, I try to play actively in hopes of a swindle, although I recognized the game was lost. My opponent played coolly and carefully to bring home the point.} f5 23. exf6 Bxf6 24. Qxe1 Rf8 25. Bxa5 Qf4 26. Bb4 Rd8 {by this point I could have resigned.} 27. Qe3 Qh4 28. Bc5 Bg5 29. Qf3 b6 30. Bxb6 Rf8 31. Bh7+ $1 {nicely seen by my opponent.} Kxh7 32. Qxf8 1-0