23 June 2019

Commentary: Women's Candidates 2019, round 9 (Gunina-Goryachkina)

This game between GM Valentina Gunina and GM Aleksandra Goryachkina during the recently-completed Women's Candidates tournament is much more exciting than my Annotated Game #212, which featured the same unusual Caro-Kann opening. Goryachkina, the eventual winner of the tournament, also uses the idea of the knight exchange on e4, but then varies with the idea of ...Qa5 followed by ...Bf5, targeting White's queen. This idea (along with Magnus Carlsen's 5...Bf5, shown in the previous game) are good opening knowledge takeaways.

The main clash of ideas comes after Gunina's early, aggressive 13. g4. Pushing the g-pawn while your king is in the center or on the kingside is one of those ideas that can be great when it works, and terrible if it doesn't, so each case has to be evaluated individually. Here White starts to get in trouble a few moves later, once Black is prodded to swing her queen to the kingside to occupy the h4 square (a hole left behind by the g-pawn's advance). After that there is a ferocious struggle, but Black calculates bravely and well and keeps the win in hand the entire time. This type of fearless, dominating play is something to emulate.

[Event "FWCT 2019"] [Site "Kazan"] [Date "2019.06.10"] [Round "9.2"] [White "Gunina, Valentina"] [Black "Goryachkina, Aleksandra"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B11"] [WhiteElo "2506"] [BlackElo "2522"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "94"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Qe2 Nxe4 {Here Goryachkina follows my path (in Annotated Game #212) of exchanging on e4, rather than Carlsen's ...Bf5.} 6. Qxe4 Qa5 {now Black diverges from my game, which had ... Nd7. This is a rather new line, as my database games only go back to 2017.} ( 6... Qd5 $5 {is also often played here.}) 7. Bc4 {this would have been prevented by ...Qd5. However, now we see Black's main idea behind the previous move.} (7. Qf4 {is the engines' preference.} Qf5 8. Qe3 Qe6 {followed by a queen exchange on e3 may have been too drawish for Gunina as White, however.}) 7... Bf5 8. Qe2 e6 (8... Nd7 $5 {would control e5 and develop a piece.}) 9. Ne5 {now White has a potential sacrifice on f7 and also offers the c2 pawn, a theme that occurs in some other Caro-Kann lines. Usually the c-pawn is not taken by Black, because it loses too much time and can give White a strong attack. That is certainly the case here, given the weakness of the e-pawn.} (9. O-O {was played in a rapid game, the only other one in the database in this line.} Be7 10. Bb3 Nd7 11. d4 O-O 12. h3 Rfe8 13. Bf4 Qb6 14. Rad1 a5 15. a4 Rad8 16. Rfe1 Bb4 17. Bd2 Bxd2 18. Rxd2 h6 19. Qd1 Nf6 20. c3 Ne4 21. Rde2 Nf6 22. Rd2 Ne4 23. Rde2 Nf6 24. Bc4 Nd5 25. Ne5 Nf4 26. Rd2 Ng6 27. Nxf7 Kxf7 28. g4 Kf6 29. gxf5 exf5 30. Rde2 Rxe2 31. Qxe2 c5 32. h4 cxd4 33. Qe6+ Qxe6 34. Rxe6+ Kf7 35. Rd6+ Ke7 36. Rxg6 d3 37. Re6+ Kf8 38. Re1 d2 39. Rd1 Ke7 40. Kf1 Kf6 41. Ke2 Re8+ 42. Kf3 Re4 43. Bb3 Rxh4 44. Rxd2 g5 45. Rd6+ Kg7 46. Rb6 Rh3+ 47. Kg2 g4 48. Bd5 Rd3 49. Bxb7 h5 50. Bc8 f4 51. Rb5 Kh6 52. Rf5 f3+ 53. Kg3 Rd1 54. Ba6 Rg1+ 55. Kf4 h4 56. Bd3 Rd1 57. Be4 g3 58. Rf7 {1-0 (58) Ter Sahakyan,S (2563)-Grandelius,N (2647) chess.com INT 2018}) 9... Be7 (9... Bxc2 $2 10. Nxf7 $18) 10. c3 {preparing the d4 advance.} Bf6 11. d4 Bxe5 {Black considers that the exchange on e5 is better for her, although White now has the two bishops. The strong knight disappears and development is now equal.} 12. dxe5 Nd7 13. g4 {it's often difficult to evaluate an early g4 push. White seems set on aggression and will be looking to gain space and pressure on the kingside. Of course, now her own king won't be secure either.} (13. Bf4 { would be a more standard choice.}) 13... Bg6 14. f4 b5 {another thematic Caro-Kann move, hitting the bishop and with the idea of further queenside expansion, when possible.} 15. b4 {this in-between move stops a future ...b4, but allows Black to relocate her queen with tempo to the now under-protected White kingside.} (15. Bb3 $5) 15... Qd8 16. Bb3 Qh4+ 17. Kd1 (17. Qf2 Qxg4 18. Be3 $15 {is the engines' line, limiting the damage, but must have been unappetizing for Gunina.}) 17... Rd8 (17... O-O-O {looks even better, getting Black's king to a comparatively safer zone. White doesn't have time to play something like a4, because of the Nxe5 threat.}) 18. Bd2 h5 $17 {forcing the issue on the kingside. Now White has to respond.} 19. f5 {White at this point is committed on the kingside, so might as well press forward.} (19. g5 { doesn't solve anything, as Black can take her time to further strengthen her position while White no longer has any threats.}) 19... exf5 20. e6 {Perhaps White's best practical chance, forcing Black to find the one correct defense. Which, however, she does.} Nf6 21. exf7+ Kf8 22. Kc1 {breaking the pin. White has now run out of possible counterplay, though, and Black takes over the initiative.} Ne4 23. Be1 Qg5+ 24. Kb2 hxg4 $19 {securing the advantage. Black's passed f-pawn is now huge.} 25. a4 Bxf7 {Goryachkina chooses careful consolidation to preserve her winning advantage. This also requires good calculation of the following sequence.} (25... bxa4 {is the engine line, but that allows White more piece activity and open lines with the light-squared bishop.}) 26. Bxf7 Kxf7 27. axb5 cxb5 28. Rxa7+ Kg6 29. Qxb5 {White temporarily restores material equality and has her own pair of passed pawns, but her king position is too weak and Black immediately exploits this.} (29. Ra6+ Nf6 $19) 29... Rd1 {pinning the bishop and threatening ...Qc1+.} 30. Qc6+ Kh7 31. Qc7 Rg8 {overprotecting g7 before doing anything else. Black is not in a rush and the move would eventually be necessary anyway.} 32. Kb3 {nothing better.} Rb1+ 33. Ka4 Qe3 {threatening to win the Ra7 after ...Ra1+, as well as to capture the Be1, so forcing the win of material.} 34. Kb5 Rxe1 35. Rxe1 Qxe1 36. c4 {White pins her last hopes on the passed pawns.} Nc3+ 37. Ka5 Qa1+ 38. Kb6 Qg1+ {Black here maneuvers her queen to a central position to simultaneously pressure the White pawns and harass the White king.} 39. Ka6 Qd4 40. Qf7 Qd6+ 41. Ka5 Qg6 {by this point, Goryachkina has calculated the endgame win with the queens off the board, so would be happy to exchange.} 42. Qd7 (42. Qxg6+ Kxg6 {and now one continuation would be} 43. b5 Rh8 44. b6 Ne4 45. b7 Nc5 {the knight arrives just in time.} 46. Kb6 Nxb7 47. Rxb7 Rxh2 $19) 42... Rf8 {a simple winning choice, just getting behind the passed pawn and pushing it.} 43. c5 f4 44. Ra6 (44. c6 $2 {is not possible, due to the weakness of White's king and the great combination Black's knight and queen can make.} Qg5+ {with a mate in 5.}) (44. b5 {is just too slow.} f3 $19) 44... Qf5 45. Qd4 Qc2 46. Kb6 Rb8+ 47. Kc6 Qg2+ {and now White again loses material after Kd7 followed by ...Qb7+, so she resigns.} 0-1

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