20 October 2018

Annotated Game #198: Winning the queenside race

This last-round tournament game was another much-needed win for me.  Strategically, it is a good illustration (at least at the Class level) of how dangerous the English Opening can be when White can get their blows in first on the queenside, without a real response from Black.  His 12...f4 looks aggressive, but I can simply ignore it and create a series of threats on the queenside that give me the initiative, which I never relinquish. 

Positional pluses for White that helped lead to the win included developing the queen to an ideal square and getting the bishops on very effective diagonals; the dark-square bishop, which is sometimes not as effective in these lines, moves from d2 to b4 at a critical juncture, providing a knockout blow due to its latent pressure on a lineup of Black's pieces on the a3-f8 diagonal.  Other effective maneuvers include seizing the a-file and achieving a dominant, centralized knight by exploiting Black's hole on d6.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A26"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "71"] {A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 g6 4. d3 Bg7 5. g3 Nge7 {a somewhat unusual development for the knight, but not terribly uncommon either. The idea is not to block the f-pawn.} 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O d6 8. Rb1 a5 9. a3 f5 10. Bd2 {up to this point I've followed White's standard plan of development. Deciding where to put the queen's bishop is often not clear-cut, but I felt that d2 was a reasonable square here. It's also the top database choice and scores well (54 percent). The bishop gets out of the way of the heavy pieces on the first rank and the e1-a5 diagonal could be useful in the future, influencing b4 and possibly transferring the bishop to c3.} (10. Nd5 $5 {is another interesting idea.} h6 11. b4 axb4 12. axb4 Nxd5 13. cxd5 Na7 14. Qb3 Nb5 15. Bb2 Bd7 16. Ra1 Qe7 17. e3 g5 18. Qc4 g4 19. Rxa8 Rxa8 20. Nh4 Qg5 21. Bc1 Rf8 22. f4 exf4 23. Rxf4 Nc3 24. d4 Nb5 25. Bf1 Kh8 26. Qc2 c6 27. dxc6 bxc6 28. Bd3 Nc7 29. Bxf5 Nd5 30. Ng6+ Kg8 31. Nxf8 Nxf4 32. Nxd7 Ne2+ 33. Qxe2 Qxf5 34. Nb6 Qe4 35. Nc4 {1-0 (35) Leer Salvesen,B (2365)-Shtivelband,V (2170) Pula 2011}) 10... Bd7 11. b4 {no reason not to proceed with the plan.} axb4 12. axb4 f4 $146 {Black gains space, as Komodo notes via the Fritz interface, but without an immediate threat. I decided to keep going on the queenside.} (12... h6 13. Qc1 Kh7 14. b5 $11) 13. b5 $16 { the engine gives a significant edge in its evaluation to White here. The main problem for Black is that his queenside pawns are weak and White is in a good position to immediately begin operations.} Nb8 (13... Na5 14. Ra1 $16) 14. Qb3 {the natural square for the queen, where among other things it supports a potential b-pawn advance and lines up on the a2-g8 diagonal against Black's king.} Kh8 15. Ra1 Rxa1 {forced} 16. Rxa1 {with sole possession of the a-file, White has future threats to deploy the rook to either the 7th or 8th ranks.} fxg3 {trying to generate some kingside counterplay.} (16... Bc8 $5 $16 { is the engine's recommendation, going for pure defense.}) 17. hxg3 {sometimes it is difficult to chose which pawn to recapture with on g3. In this case, with White's rook away from the f-file and Black not being able to do anything in the near future on the h-file, recapturing with the h-pawn is indicated.} c6 {this looks like a reasonable try, but White has too many weapons on the queenside.} 18. Ra8 $18 {pinning the Nb8} Qc7 {getting out of the pin, but only temporarily.} 19. b6 {a great illustration of how White's space advantage can be applied concretely.} Qd8 {now the queen is back in the pin.} 20. Ne4 { a good move, but not the most accurate way of targeting the weak d6 pawn.} (20. Qa3 {makes it even easier for White, as the queen pressures d6 and is also able to penetrate on the a-file, where it can do further damage to Black's crumbling queenside; both the Nb8 and b7 are vulnerable.} Bg4 21. Qa7 {and material loss is inevitable for Black.}) 20... d5 {this again looks like a reasonable try, but White has too many good options.} (20... Nf5 $5) 21. Nd6 { taking advantage of the gaping hole on d6.} Be6 22. Nxb7 {the first material gain for White.} Qd7 {this allows me to gain a tempo with the knight withdrawal, but Black is essentially already lost.} (22... dxc4 23. dxc4 Qe8 24. Nc5 $18) 23. Nc5 Qd6 24. Bb4 {increasing the pressure on the a3-f8 diagonal, where Black has multiple pieces lined up, before doing anything else. } dxc4 25. dxc4 {I thought about my options here and considered the text move the simplest path to a win.} (25. Nxe6 Qxe6 (25... cxb3 26. Bxd6 $18) 26. Qxc4 Qf6 $18) 25... Bf5 26. Na6 {this knight is doing an outstanding job of creating threats with every leap. Now the discovered attack on the a3-f8 diagonal is devastating to Black.} Qe6 27. Rxb8 Rxb8 28. Nxb8 {by this point White's positional advantage has been converted into a materially winning position.} Qc8 29. Bxe7 {I'm happy to exchange down while a piece up and with the b6 passed pawn looming as a threat.} Qxb8 30. c5 Qb7 31. Qf7 {threatening a back-rank mate, now that the Black queen has moved away from the defense.} Qb8 32. Bd6 Qa8 33. b7 {the final nail in the coffin.} Qa6 34. b8=Q+ (34. Qe8+ Bf8 35. Qxf8#) 34... Bc8 35. Qe8+ Bf8 36. Qxf8# 1-0

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