27 January 2019

Commentary: Tata Steel 2019, Round 1 (Van Foreest - Anand)

As mentioned in my previous game post, I'll again start working in commentary on master-level games to my rotation of training analysis. I think it's useful to alternate that with analysis of your own games, at least to some extent.  Different lessons can be learned, in part because the overall quality of play tends to be (much) higher.  I've found that with master games, often it's analyzing why they didn't play a particular line that is illuminating, in addition to critical turning points in games.

The below game is from round 1 of this year's (still currently ongoing) Tata Steel tournament. I selected it because Anand adopts an aggressive setup as Black in the Caro-Kann Exchange Variation that is deliberately designed to cause interesting dynamic and structural imbalances.  Essentially Black wants to exchange bishops on f5 and thereby open the g-file, while castling queenside.  I find Black's typical ideas to be more straightforward and understandable, although not necessarily easy to execute.  The dark-square weakness and White's space on the queenside serve to counterbalance things and engines give White a small plus out of the opening.  However, in the middlegame White runs out of productive ideas, then critically weakens his own dark squares, after which Black finds a threat using his advanced doubled f-pawn that White cannot handle.  Anand's finish is quite strong and worthy of remembering.

[Event "81st Tata Steel Masters 2019"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee"] [Date "2019.01.12"] [Round "1"] [White "Van Foreest, Jorden"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [WhiteElo "2612"] [BlackElo "2773"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "56"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 {the Exchange Variation has been making a comeback at high levels.} Nf6 (4... Nc6 {is the main line, forcing White to play c3 in response.}) 5. c3 {White plays it anyway, which eventually leads to a transposition back to the main line, at least for Black.} Qc7 {placing the queen on c7 this early used to be a quirky sideline. It's now more mainstream, I'm sure in large part due to its practical success. The main idea is straightforward, to take over the b8-h2 diagonal and prevent White from playing Bf4. As the queen wants to go here in most lines anyway, playing it early and preventing White's bishop from seizing the diagonal makes a lot of sense.} 6. h3 {this is seldom played. The evident idea is to take away the use of the g4 square from Black, for either the knight or bishop.} g6 {a new move in this position according to the database, but not a new idea in the Exchange Variation. Black looks like he is fianchettoing his bishop, but in fact the main idea is to play play ...Bf5 and then open the g-file.} 7. Nf3 Bf5 8. Ne5 { White holds off on the bishop exchange and places his knight on the e5 outpost, ready to take back on d3. This also potentially opens up f3 for his queen.} Nc6 {although this position isn't in the database, for Black it's a standard setup in the Exchange Variation. In this game, White is further behind in development than normal, with only two pieces out to Black's four.} 9. Bf4 { now White has essentially caught up, as Black will have to move the queen again either immediately or after an exchange on e5.} Qb6 (9... Nxe5 {it might seem under general principles that exchanging off White's central knight is a good proposition. However, leaving the a4-e8 diagonal open results in a small plus for White. For example, this continuation leaves Black's king in the center:} 10. Bxf5 Nd3+ 11. Bxd3 Qxf4 12. Bb5+ Nd7 13. Bxd7+ Kxd7 14. O-O $14) ( 9... Bxd3 {engines like this move, but it betrays the original idea of the variation.} 10. Nxd3 Qb6 11. O-O {and White has an easy game, while Black is solid but without real prospects.}) 10. Bxf5 gxf5 {this is what Anand was going for with the variation.} 11. Nd3 {this avoids a possible exchange on e5 and protects b2, but is still a backwards move of the same piece in the opening. Moreover, exchanging on e5 or taking on b2 for Black does not look dangerous.} (11. Nd2 Nxe5 (11... Qxb2 $6 {going pawn hunting will leave Black dangerously behind in development.} 12. Rb1 Qxa2 13. O-O Qa6 14. Ra1 Qb5 15. Qf3 $16 {with Rfb1 a threat.}) 12. dxe5 Nd7 13. O-O Rg8 14. Nb3 $14) 11... e6 { the standard consolidating move for Black in this structure.} 12. Nd2 {getting the final minor piece out.} Rg8 {by this point Black has achieved a dynamic equality. He has some longer-term structural weaknesses (including the h7 pawn and dark-square holes) but in return he has dynamic piece play and the half-open g-file.} 13. O-O O-O-O {the only real place to put the Black king, also developing the queenside rook.} 14. a4 {now that Black has committed with his king, White grabs some space on the queenside. This is not dangerous for Black, though, as a4-a5 is not yet possible.} Ne4 {improving this piece considerably, as the most it was doing on f6 was guarding h5. With Black's king tucked away on the queenside, though, that is not critical.} 15. Rc1 (15. Qh5 Rg7 $11) (15. f3 Ng3 16. Rf2 Be7 $11) 15... Bd6 {a case where exchanging minor pieces is clearly indicated for Black. White's dark-square bishop would otherwise help dominate the dark squares, while the Black counterpart has nowhere else as useful to go.} 16. Bxd6 Nxd6 17. b4 {this type of position is important for Caro-Kann players to understand. White's pawn thrusts on the queenside look scary, but Anand deals with them effectively.} Kb8 {taking the king off the c-file and removing it from potential tactics involving the rook opposite it. Also vacates the c8 square for another piece. This is a good example of a move that "doesn't do anything" immediate but is valuable in the long run, with White not having a concrete threat in the meantime.} 18. Qe2 ( 18. a5 Qc7 19. Nc5 Ne4 $11) 18... Qc7 {proactively retreating the queen. It was doing no good on b6 anyway, now it can move along the 7th rank and also is well-positioned on the b8-h2 diagonal.} 19. Qe3 {White with this move basically admits he has nothing on the queenside and tries to generate some action in the center.} Ne7 {improving his weakest piece. On c6 the knight was shut down by White's pawns.} 20. f3 $6 {perhaps attempting to be prophylactic and shut Black's knight out of e4. However, now White has a more serious dark-square weakness, absent his bishop, and it affects the space in front of his king, with g3 and e3 now becoming more vulnerable.} (20. Kh1 {would step away from the g-file and keep the balance.}) 20... Ng6 {Black's knight immediately gets into play. The threat is now f5-f4, as we shall see.} 21. Ne5 $2 {White must have miscalculated the impact of Black's next move.} (21. Kh1 { as in the previous note is more prudent, but Black still gets an edge.} f4 { the pawn is tactically protected, due to a "removal of the guard" being available if White takes with the knight.} 22. Qe1 (22. Nxf4 $2 Nf5 $1 { chasing away the queen and the Nf4's only protection.}) 22... Nf5 23. Rf2 { and White's pieces are awkwardly tied up.}) 21... f4 22. Qe1 Nf5 23. Nxg6 { this just clears the way for Black on the g-file, but White appears to be losing in all variations.} (23. Rf2 {would be analagous to the above variation, but now White has a lot more problems. The Ne5 is vulnerable to ...f6, among other things.} Ngh4 $1 {and White has no good response to Black's threats, including piling up on the g-file and playing ...Ne3.} 24. Nf1 (24. c4 { doesn't gain White anything after} Rc8 $19) (24. Ng4 h5 25. Nf6 Rg6 26. Qe5 Ne3 {and White loses material.}) 24... f6 25. Ng4 h5 26. Ngh2 Rg6 $19 {it's looking grim for White on the g-file and Black also has the ...e5 pawn lever coming.}) 23... Rxg6 24. Rf2 Rdg8 {simple and effective.} 25. c4 (25. Qe5 { exchanging queens won't help White.} Qxe5 26. dxe5 Nh4 $19 {and the g-pawn falls.}) 25... Ne3 {Black correctly ignores the attempt at counterplay on the c-file.} 26. cxd5 Nxg2 {no need to wait for the capture, as White's queen is now also en prise.} 27. Qe5 Qxe5 28. dxe5 Ne1+ {with the fork ...Nd3 to follow. A strong finish to the game by Anand.} 0-1

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