12 December 2015

Commentary: Gibraltar 2015, Round 1 (Vojinovic - Nakamura)

With the next Gibraltar tournament coming up soon in 2016, it seems fitting that I continue my commentary games from 2015 with the following highly entertaining game from round 1 of the last tournament.  GM Hikaru Nakamura, currently the world number 2, often plays provocative, unbalanced openings when he believes it suits him strategically.  Here, against an opponent not in the same class, he deliberately passes up a balanced and objectively better / more equal game in favor of reaching a highly imbalanced position - sort of a strange Poison Pawn variation in the 2. Bg5 sideline of the Dutch Defense.  It's instructive to see how White is unable to find his way through the complex position, then turns over the initiative to Black, who is able to convert that into a concrete advantage and win relatively quickly afterwards.

[Event "Gibraltar Masters 2015"] [Site "Caleta ENG"] [Date "2015.01.27"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Vojinovic, Jovana"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A80"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "66"] [EventDate "2015.01.27"] 1. d4 f5 {Nakamura is one of the few top GMs who uses the Dutch on a regular basis. He's currently the world number 2, so it seems to be working for him.} 2. Bg5 {like with the Trompowsky Opening after Black plays 1...d5, this early Bishop sortie can be unexpected and highly annoying.} c6 {this is only the fourth most popular move (...g6 being the primary choice in the database), but scores the best for Black (45 percent).} 3. e3 Qb6 {this is the idea behind the previous move. Since White has developed his bishop early, Black will seek to take advantage of its absence on the queenside. This is also analagous to other "poison pawn" variations (such as in the Najdorf Sicilian) involving taking the b-pawn with the queen.} 4. Nd2 {this scores much better in the database than the cautious defensive move b3. Here's a sample of how Black could play in that variation:} (4. b3 g6 5. Bd3 Bg7 6. Nd2 h6 7. Bf4 d6 8. c3 Nf6 9. Ne2 O-O 10. Qc2 Nbd7 11. Bc4+ Kh7 12. Be6 c5 13. h4 cxd4 14. exd4 Nh5 15. Nf3 Ndf6 16. Bc4 e5 17. Bd2 d5 18. dxe5 Ng4 19. Bxd5 Qxf2+ 20. Kd1 Qc5 21. c4 Nf2+ 22. Kc1 Nxh1 23. Kb2 Nf2 24. Bc3 Ng4 25. Bd4 Qe7 26. Qc3 Be6 27. Re1 Rfd8 28. Bxe6 Qxe6 29. Nc1 Ng3 30. Nd3 Ne4 31. Qb4 Rxd4 32. Nxd4 Nxe5 33. Nf4 Qd7 34. Rd1 Nc6 35. Qb5 a6 36. Qa4 Bxd4+ 37. Kc2 Nc5 38. Qa3 Qe7 39. b4 Qe4+ { 0-1 (39) Amura,C (2303)-Claverie,R (2517) Mar del Plata 2014}) 4... Qxb2 { following up by taking the offered pawn, otherwise the early queen move doesn't make much sense.} 5. Rb1 (5. Bd3 {is the other popular way to play. !?} ) 5... Qc3 6. g4 {a novelty that is obviously very aggressive. Apparently no one else has tried it in international play since this game.} (6. Ne2) (6. Bd3) 6... Qa5 {unconventional play from Nakamura, for which he is well known. I suspect he was being deliberately provocative with his lower-rated opponent.} ( 6... fxg4 {is the engine recommendation. Of course the computer has no fear of the consequences to Black's kingside and considers the position level.} 7. Qxg4 {does appear premature ?!} (7. Rb3 Qa5 8. Qxg4 {is an improved version of the idea for White.}) 7... Qxc2 8. Ngf3 Nf6 9. Qh4 d6 {now White does not seem to have any way of breaking through to Black's king and therefore does not have enough compensation for the pawns. ⩱}) (6... d6 {is another, somewhat more conventional option. !?} 7. gxf5 Bxf5 8. Rxb7 Qxc2 {and Black should be OK.}) 7. gxf5 Qxf5 8. h4 (8. Ngf3 {!? has the advantage of developing a piece while protecting the Bg5.}) 8... Qa5 {at this point Black's only developed piece is his queen, but he has the extra pawn and is threatening the a-pawn. Meanwhile, White is ahead on development but has a weaker pawn structure overall as well. The position in any case is quite imbalanced, probably what Nakamura was going for.} 9. Nh3 {this leaves f3 open for the queen, but is a bit awkward development of the knight, even if it can go to f4.} g6 {another provocative, apparently weakening move.} (9... Nf6 {seems perfectly fine here.} 10. Nf4 Ne4 11. Bd3 Qxd2+ 12. Qxd2 Nxd2 13. Kxd2 d6 {however, while Black is equal, the dynamic chances in the position are certainly with White, so again this is probably not what Nakamura was looking for.}) 10. Bd3 (10. Qf3 {seems more to the point here. !?}) 10... d6 11. Qf3 Nd7 {finally, another piece developed!} 12. h5 {this is premature and lets Black equalize without difficulty. Having additional forces / pressure would have been good for White before making the pawn advance.} (12. Rg1) (12. Nf4) 12... Ndf6 13. hxg6 hxg6 14. Bxg6+ {while visually the position looks scary for Black, after the king sidesteps to d8, White has no further attacking prospects. Black however had to calculate carefully to understand this.} Kd8 15. Bf4 {this appears to be the turning point where Black takes over the initiative.} (15. Bxf6 Nxf6 16. Nf4 Rxh1+ 17. Qxh1 Bg7) 15... Kc7 {wisely evacuating the king and protecting b7, freeing up the Bc8.} 16. Ng5 Rxh1+ (16... Bg4 17. Rxh8 Bxf3 18. Ngxf3 {looks all right for Black, but White has compensation for the material and would have the more active position, again something Nakamura would not prefer. For example} Qxa2 19. c4 Bg7 20. Rh1 Nd7 21. Rh7) 17. Qxh1 Bh6 {this is a strong and (for White) annoying move. The Ng5 is threatened, but cannot simply retreat to f3 without allowing a bishop exchange on f4 that would shatter White's center.} 18. Qh4 { the only move.} (18. Qg2 {?} Bg4 {interfering with the queen's defense of the Ng5.}) (18. Nh3 {?} Bxh3 19. Qxh3 Bxf4) 18... Bd7 (18... Nd5 {immediately is preferred by the engine. !?}) 19. Bd3 {?!} (19. c4 {would now take away use of the d5 square by the knight.}) 19... Nd5 {now Black has a solid advantage, as White has run out of threats. Black meanwhile is threatening Nxf4, White's king position is significantly worse and Black can also pick up the a-pawn at his convenience. ∓} 20. Ne6+ {White attempts to solve his problems by tactical means, and fails.} (20. Nh3 Nxf4 21. Nxf4 Bxf4 22. Qxf4 Nf6 {∓}) 20... Bxe6 21. Bxh6 Nc3 (21... Ngf6 {is also good, preparing ... Rg8.}) 22. Ra1 Qb4 {moving the queen out of the pin on the a-file and preparing to take the a2 pawn.} 23. Kf1 Nxa2 {Black has realized his advantage on the board and White has no counterplay. The passed a-pawn will now prove decisive for Black.} 24. Rd1 Nc3 25. Re1 Nxh6 {finally the other knight moves! And an effective one at that, removing the two bishops' advantage from White and further simplifying down material.} 26. Qxh6 Bd7 {it's now clear that White can do little to stop Black's queenside plans, but he nevertheless tries. −⁠+} 27. f3 a5 28. Kf2 a4 29. Qg5 Rh8 {the rook is not in fact needed behind the a-pawn and this also helps keep White's rook out of the game by preemptively seizing the h-file.} 30. Qg3 Nd5 {with a discovered attack against the Nd2.} 31. Rd1 c5 (31... a3 {might be simpler.}) 32. Bc4 Nc3 33. Re1 b5 {nothing can save White, so he stops the game.} 0-1

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