25 March 2019

Commentary: Dortmund 2017, round 1 (Kramnik - Fedoseev)

Continuing with the commentary theme of the Caro-Kann Exchange variation at the super-GM level, the below game is from the first round of Dortmund 2017, featuring Kramnik as White. He makes a non-standard choice of 6. Na3!? which leads to some unbalanced play and a clash of ideas in the middlegame. Black (Fedoseev) deliberately leaves his king in the center and weathers a White attack with some classic Caro-Kann themes, including the half-open e-file and sacrifice on e6. Black's cool nerves give him the victory in the end.

[Event "45. Sparkassen Chess-Meeting"] [Site "Dortmund"] [Date "2017.07.15"] [Round "1"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Fedoseev, Vladimir"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [WhiteElo "2812"] [BlackElo "2726"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Qc7 {immediately seizing the b8-h2 diagonal. Remarkably, Black has a plus score in all variations after this in the database.} 6. Na3 {a rare continuation, but with precedent.} a6 { essentially forced, in order to keep White out of b5. One could argue that the time-wasting moves cancel each other out in terms of tempi, but I would say that ...a6 is more useful to Black than White's knight moves are for him.} 7. Nc2 {where else?} Nf6 8. h3 {now White considers it best to prevent a future pin on f3 after ...Bg4, as Be2 would be a time-wasting retreat. Ne2 has also been played here.} e6 {shutting in the Bc8, but now there's nowhere for it to go on the kingside.} 9. Nf3 b5 {making room for the bishop on the queenside.} 10. O-O Bb7 {while it doesn't look well-placed here, in fact the bishop is able to influence the e4 square to good effect.} 11. Re1 Bd6 {the most dynamic option for bishop development. Black reinforces his control of the b8-h2 diagonal and doesn't worry about Bg5, which under other circumstances would be annoying. However, there is a tactical reason why it's not best for White, as we'll see.} 12. Bg5 (12. a4 {played immediately is what the engines recommend.} bxa4 13. Rxa4 O-O 14. Qe2 Ne7 15. Bxa6 Qb6 16. Bb5 Rxa4 17. Bxa4 Ba6 18. Qd1 Ng6 $11 {with compensation for the pawn. White's Ba4 is out of the action and Black's minor pieces are all better than their counterparts, while Black also is much better positioned to take advantage of the open a-file.}) 12... Ne4 $1 13. a4 (13. Bxe4 dxe4 14. Rxe4 h6 15. Bd2 Na5 16. Re1 Nc4 $11 {and again Black has compensation for the pawn, based on his superior piece placement and scope. The two bishops in particular are very nice in this position.}) 13... bxa4 $5 ( 13... O-O {is a pawn sacrifice that the engines evaluate as dead even.} 14. axb5 axb5 15. Bxb5 Rxa1 16. Qxa1 h6 17. Be3 Ra8 18. Qc1 Na5 $11 {The two bishops and Black's dominating piece play provide full compensation for the pawn. However, I can understand how Fedoseev might not think that the best course in the long run, given White's extra passed b-pawn.}) 14. c4 {it appears here that Kramink didn't want to go down the road of capturing on e4 or a4, which did not promise more than equality. White also hopes to take advantage of Black's uncastled king position.} (14. Bxe4 dxe4 15. Rxe4 h6 16. Bc1 Ne7 17. Re1 O-O $11) (14. Rxa4 h6 15. Be3 O-O $11) 14... Nxg5 15. Nxg5 dxc4 {otherwise cxd5 is threatened, with a pin on the e-pawn.} (15... Be7 {is an interesting alternative.} 16. Qh5 Bxg5 17. cxd5 Ne7 18. Qxg5 Bxd5 {is evaluated as equal by Komodo, with White now choosing among various ways of recapturing a pawn. However, it's not much fun to play as Black, with your king in the center and your opponent having open lines and initiative.}) 16. Bxc4 {White has sacrificed a pawn for open lines and an attack. The half-open e-file and sacrificial possibilities on e6 are classic Caro-Kann themes for white.} Nd8 $5 {visually this seems rather strange, retreating the knight and leaving the king in the center, but perhaps gives better chances for Black than the alternative.} (16... O-O {is a rather difficult line for Black, with a narrow path to holding the game.} 17. Qh5 h6 18. Nxe6 fxe6 19. Rxe6 Bh2+ 20. Kh1 Rf7 21. Ne3 Nxd4 22. Rb6 Raf8 23. Rxh6 gxh6 24. Qg6+ {with a perpetual check}) 17. Ne3 {bringing the knight into the attack, although this does let Black exchange off a piece.} Bf4 (17... h6 18. Nf3 O-O $11 {might be a simpler approach.}) 18. Qh5 $2 {White apparently misses Black's available defensive resources. This however is the most natural-looking move, bringing the queen into the action.} (18. Qxa4+ {regains the pawn and is evaluated as equal, although a long dance of the pieces ensues.} Bc6 19. Nd5 Qd7 20. Qa5 Nb7 21. Qa2 Bxg5 {to prevent the knight sac on e6. So far it's all been normal moves, but more complicated calculation and evaluation would be necessary to see it through.} 22. Nb6 {White's only move that doesn't lose} Qxd4 23. Nxa8 O-O { and now for example} 24. Qxa6 Bh4 25. Qxc6 Bxf2+ 26. Kh1 Bxe1 27. Qxb7 Bg3 { looks like an eventualy draw, but it's an imbalanced (albeit evaluated as equal) position.}) 18... Bxe3 $1 {removal of the guard of the Bc4.} (18... Bxg5 $6 {is inferior, giving White a reasonable game after} 19. Qxg5 O-O) 19. Rxe3 Qxc4 20. Rxe6+ Kf8 {this move requires steady nerves, but is the best. White can no longer make progress.} (20... Nxe6 21. Qxf7+ Kd8 22. Nxe6+ Kc8 23. Qxg7 Re8 $17 {still ultimately in Black's favor, but White is a lot more active.}) 21. Re5 h6 {well calculated by Fedoseev, the only move that wins. Once the knight is pushed back and Black follows with ...g6, his king is safe.} 22. Rae1 g6 23. Qh4 Kg7 $19 24. Nxf7 {a last, desperate attempt on the king. White does not have enough material left to successfully attack, however.} Nxf7 25. Re6 { with the threat of Qf6+} g5 {another instance of cold-blooded calculation.} 26. Qh5 {the queen is now headed to g6.} Rhe8 27. Qg6+ Kf8 {leaving White with no more threats, as the Nf7 holds the position.} 28. f3 Qxd4+ 29. Kh1 Rac8 0-1

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