23 January 2016

Commentary: Golden Apricot 2015, Round 1 (Cam - Volkov)

This game finishes off the 2015 master-level commentary cycle for me.  As a Stonewall Dutch, it's also useful to compare with other related commentary games on this site (and in the downloadable PGN database), including more recently featured wins by Carlsen over Anand and Caruana as Black.  (2015 was certainly a good year for the Stonewall at the top levels).

This particular game is a little different, coming from round 1 of the Golden Apricot tournament in Malatya, Turkey.  In an open tournament, the first round features mismatches between master and amateur players, which while rather hard on the amateurs can actually yield useful lessons for the improving chess player.  (The relatively recent book Grandmaster Versus Amateur for example looks at this theme, as does the classic book by Max Euwe Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur.) It's not often that these types of games are publicized or analyzed, however, so I'm grateful that this one was featured in the above ChessBase tournament news link (which contains some commentary as well by IM Alina l'Ami).

I find that studying these kind of "mismatch" games can help fill an important and often neglected niche in chess study, namely looking at how one should proceed against less-than-perfect play.  I believe this is especially important for opening study, since if you know your opening's key concepts and plans better than your opponent, you should end up in a more advantageous position.  That said, most opening references don't even look at the potential inferior moves by your opponent, even if they are the most commonly played by non-professional players.  The improving player can therefore lose out on a lot of opportunities, from a practical standpoint, by not being exposed to them.

In the game below, White (the amateur) plays a reasonable opening, but one that has some subtle strategic flaws, most notably the c5 advance releasing the tension against Black's central d5 pawn.  Once the queenside is locked up, Black turns his full attention and activity to the kingside, breaking in the center with ...e5 (also a theme in the Anand-Carlsen game linked above).  The end then comes remarkably quickly, as Black executes typical Stonewall attacking ideas that White is unable to understand and block effectively.

[Event "3rd Golden Apricot 2015"] [Site "Malatya TUR"] [Date "2015.08.25"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Cam, Vedat"] [Black "Volkov, Sergey"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A85"] [WhiteElo "1872"] [BlackElo "2589"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "40"] [EventDate "2015.08.25"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c6 {instead of following up with the standard QGD moves, Black heads for a Stonewall by transposition.} 4. e3 Bd6 {typically ... f5 would be played immediately when transposing to the Stonewall. The text move may try to tempt White into the c5 advance, which is normally in Black's favor because it leaves his central d5 outpost unchallenged.} 5. Nc3 f5 6. Bd3 Nf6 {Black has now reached the standard Modern Stonewall formation.} 7. Bd2 O-O 8. O-O Ne4 {the overwhelming favorite move in the database. Black follows the typical Stonewall plan with his knights, seizing the outpost on e4. With White's bishop on d3, the Nc3 cannot exchange off the Ne4 due to the resulting pawn fork.} 9. c5 {this move scores only 6 percent (!) in the database out of nine games, illustrating its strategic weakness.} Bc7 {Black's bishop is no less effective on c7, as its primary function is exerting pressure on the b8-h2 diagonal.} 10. b4 a6 {there are several different ways Black could play here. The game continuation is relatively straightforward, restraining further advance of the b-pawn, then getting the knight and queen developed.} 11. a4 Nd7 12. b5 {White's plan of rapid queenside expansion looks like it puts him ahead of Black in development. White's initiative is only temporary, however, as Black's position holds no weaknesses despite White's space advantage.} Qf6 { this does multiple things for Black, including adding support for the idea of the ...e5 break and positioning the queen well for further action on the kingside.} 13. b6 {this move is probably unavoidable, according to Komodo 8. Black is threatening to undermine the queenside pawns with ...e5, so maintaining the tension with the b-pawn could eventually lead to a collapse of White's extended pawn formation. However, once the queenside pawns are locked up, then the game becomes strategically much easier for Black; the only open play is on the kingside, which is the natural hunting ground for the Stonewall. } Bb8 {the bishop is still very much in play here, although the Ra8 is now locked to its square. The problem with the rook will be offset by the inability of White to transfer his queenside rook, or other needed forces, to the kingside in an effective manner.} 14. Rc1 e5 {illustrating the classic principle of reacting to a flank advance by breaking in the center. Note how Black's pieces are activated by this freeing advance. In addition to the strategic aspects, there is now a tactical threat of ...Nxc3 followed by the pawn fork ...e4.} 15. Ne2 (15. Nxe5 {disrupting Black's formation in the center is the only way to stay relatively equal.} Bxe5 16. dxe5 Nxe5 17. Bb1 Qe7 18. Be1 Nc4 (18... Nxc5 {?} 19. Nxd5 cxd5 20. Qxd5+)) 15... Nxd2 16. Nxd2 e4 {this is no longer a double attack, but is still a highly advantageous move. The pawn lever ...f4 is now an obvious future threat. ⩱} 17. Bb1 Qh6 { hitting h2. A standard follow-up plan for Black would now be ...g5, coupled with ...Nf6, ...Kh8 and ...Rg8, to get the kingside attack rolling.} 18. g3 { under pressure, White chooses poorly. Blunting the attack on the b8-h2 diagonal looks like an obvious choice, but now Black can end things much more quickly. ?} (18. h3 {⩱}) 18... Nf6 {usually, moving a knight to f6 is routine rather than devastating. Here, however, the light-square weakness on the kingside means that it can go to g4 and combine with the Qh6 on the attack. White has no good options to defend against this threat. −⁠+} 19. Kg2 (19. h4 Ng4 20. Rc3 g5 {−⁠+}) (19. f3 Qxe3+ {−⁠+}) 19... f4 {there's a reason this pawn advance is a key attacking concept in the Dutch. White's position now falls apart; Black has a significant preponderance of material participating in the kingside attack, having with f5-f4 just added the Bc8 to it (removing the blocking pawn on f5 and hitting h3). Meanwhile, White's pieces are barely in the game. !} 20. exf4 (20. Nxf4 {temporarily staves off defeat, but Black can then penetrate White's position at his leisure.} Bxf4 21. h4 (21. exf4 Qh3+ 22. Kg1 Ng4 {−⁠+}) 21... Bb8 22. Qe2 Bg4 23. Qe1 Qh5 24. f3 exf3+ 25. Nxf3 Ne4 {−⁠+}) 20... Qh3+ {and the follow-up ...Ng4 cannot be stopped.} 0-1

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