18 October 2019

Annotated Game #224: Play on both sides of the board in the Dutch

This final-round game in the Stonewall Dutch features highly entertaining, if not particularly accurate, play. The main battleground is the kingside and the f-file, largely due to White's strategic choices. I do quite well out of this as Black and by move 18 have a decisive advantage built up on the board. This is also the point where I start missing chances to dominate on the queenside as well, focusing solely on kingside play.

The Dutch (in its various forms) often possesses this strategic tension, in which Black needs to properly evaluate if/when to switch to queenside play, or (in the Stonewall especially) when to dissolve the central pawn structure to obtain an advantage (see move 24). These kinds of decisions I expect will become easier with more experience; the below was only my third tournament game with a Stonewall.

In the game, I come late to the party on the queenside and take a kind of caveman approach to it, which results in my opponent getting a dangerous, then what should be a winning, attack on the kingside. Nevertheless, I don't give up, find a key defensive exchange sacrifice, distract my opponent with active defense, and at the end of a long, exhausting battle play a queen fork that ends the game.

I'll follow up in a later post with some reflections on the overall lessons learned from this tournament and the previous one, which when combined led me to break through the Class A ratings barrier.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A85"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "82"] {[%mdl 8192] A85: Dutch Defence: 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 e6 4. e3 f5 {this move-order is known as the 'Slav Stonewall'} 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. O-O O-O 8. Ne5 {the second most popular move here, after b3. White immediately occupies the hole on e5.} Ne4 (8... Bxe5 $5 {is an interesting option for Black that takes the game in a very different strategic direction.}) 9. f4 {White chooses a near-symmetrical structure, reinforcing e5.} (9. f3 $5 { has scored well for White, but on a very small sample (9) of lower-rated games. After the piece exchanges, a draw seems most likely.} Nxc3 10. bxc3 Bxe5 11. dxe5 Qc7 12. f4 Rd8 13. Qf3 Qa5 14. Bb2 Nd7 15. cxd5 cxd5 16. Rac1 Nc5 17. Bb1 Bd7 18. c4 Bc6 19. Qe2 Ne4 20. Bd4 Rac8 21. Qb2 {1/2-1/2 (21) Neunhoeffer,H (2281)-Ungerer,M (2144) Germany 2009}) 9... Nd7 10. Rf3 {White goes for an aggressive plan with the rook lift. This mirrors Black's usual strategic options in the Stonewall, since that is essentially what White is playing on his side as well.} (10. Nxe4 fxe4 11. Be2 Nxe5 12. fxe5 Rxf1+ 13. Qxf1 Be7 14. Bd2 Bd7 15. Bh5 g6 16. Bg4 Qf8 17. Qd1 Qh6 18. Qb3 b5 19. cxd5 cxd5 20. Rc1 Qf8 21. Rc7 Qd8 22. Ba5 a6 23. a3 Rc8 24. Qc3 Rxc7 {Adamski,J (2470)-Sydor,A (2395) Krakow 1978 1/2-1/2}) (10. Bd2 Ndf6 11. c5 Bc7 12. b4 Bd7 13. a4 b6 14. Nxe4 dxe4 15. Bc4 bxc5 16. bxc5 Nd5 17. Rb1 Bxe5 18. fxe5 Rb8 19. Rxb8 Qxb8 20. Bxd5 cxd5 21. Qc2 Qc8 22. Rb1 Qa6 23. a5 Bb5 24. Rb2 g5 {Izijk,J (2027)-Ramirez Gonzalez,M (2188) Aruba 2017 0-1 (35)}) 10... Nxe5 $146 {I judged that it would be best to eliminate White's strong knight, a choice validated by Komodo. The arrival of a pawn on e5 is somewhat cramping, but gives White fewer attacking chances.} (10... Ndf6 {had been universally played in the database prior to this.}) 11. fxe5 Be7 $11 12. Rh3 {continuing with the rook lift idea, focusing on pressure down the h-file.} Bd7 {time to activate the Stonewall bishop, or at least get it out of the way of Black's major pieces.} 13. Bxe4 { exchanging the centralized knight. This has the result of increasing the relative strength of my light-square bishop, however, as well as opening the f-file.} fxe4 $15 {Black has the pair of bishops, observes Komodo via the Fritz interface, along with a small positional plus.} 14. Qh5 {I'd had to calculate this far on move 12, given the threat on the h-file, but it is now easily refuted.} h6 $17 {under normal circumstances in the Stonewall this might be a weakening concession, but after the elimination of the Ne5 White has no minor pieces available to threaten g6 or sacrifice on h6. Black's control of the dark squares and g5 in particular means that a g-pawn thrust by White would also not work. My opponent is therefore lacking a good plan to make progress.} 15. Bd2 {activating his own 'Stonewall bishop'} Rf5 {although this harrasses the queen, the main point is to clear f8 for another heavy piece.} 16. Qe2 Bg5 {although e3 is well protected, the pressure is still annoying for White, and the bishop further blocks any ideas of a g-pawn thrust. More immediately, the move also clears the e7 square for my queen.} 17. Be1 $6 {White is having trouble activating his dark-square bishop. This maneuver only highlights Black's relative greater piece mobility.} (17. Qd1 $5) 17... Qe7 $17 18. Qg4 $2 {still dreaming of a kingside attack, it seems.} (18. Bf2) 18... Raf8 $19 {now the rooks have a stranglehold on the f-file and a mate in one is threatened on f1.} 19. Bh4 Qf7 $6 {in the Dutch, the Black player should be flexible in terms of kingside and queenside play. Here I make the same error on my opponent and fixate on the kingside, when my queen could make a decisive foray on the opposite wing.} (19... Qb4 $1 20. Rb1 Qxb2 {this is possible due to the back rank mate threat} (20... Bxh4 {is also sufficient for a major advantage.} 21. Qxh4 Qxc4 22. Qe1 c5 $19) 21. Qxf5 Qxc3 22. Qg4 Bxe3+ 23. Kh1 Qd3 $19) 20. Qe2 $17 Bxh4 21. Rxh4 Rf2 22. Qe1 $6 {a more practical-looking defense than the one given by the engine.} (22. Rf4 Rxf4 23. exf4 Qxf4 $17) 22... Qe7 {I thought for a while and played this somewhat less effective move. The idea was to hit the Rh4, but I did not have much of a follow up to it.} ( 22... Qf5 {this is more patient and threatens ...Qg5.} 23. Rf4 Rxf4 24. exf4 Qxf4 $19) 23. Rg4 {again, a reasonable-looking defense.} (23. Rf4 R8xf4 24. exf4 Rxb2 $17) 23... Rxb2 {an "obvious" move.} (23... Qb4 $5 24. Rb1 Qxc4 $19) 24. Ne2 {this is the main problem with Black's previous. Now the Rb2 is screened from the kingside action and White's knight can come into play.} Qa3 { this is too basic of an approach, simply targeting the a-pawn. I felt this at the time, but for whatever reason could not come up with something better.} ( 24... dxc4 $5 {having opted for queenside play, Black should logically follow up. I was illogically resistant to breaking up the Stonewall pawn formation, however. Knowing when to do this to your advantage is a key skill when playing the opening.} 25. Ng3 Qb4 26. Qxb4 Rxb4 27. Nxe4 Kh7 $19) (24... Qb4) 25. Nf4 { White is now successfully reorganizing his pieces for play on the kingside, which I have significantly weakened.} Rxa2 $2 {not a good decision, because now the opponent is right back in the game, comments Komodo via the Fritz interface.} (25... dxc4 {still preserves a Black advantage.} 26. Nh5 Rf7 27. Nf6+ Kh8 28. Nxe4 $17) 26. Rxa2 $14 {now we see that I have exchanged an active, dominant rook for White's previously inactive one, shifting the strategic balance. The extra pawn is not worth it.} Qxa2 27. h4 dxc4 $4 { throws away the game, notes the engine. An example of a good idea, but played too late.} (27... Rf7 {I had to think about defense first. On the 7th rank the rook covers both g7 and d7, which will come under pressure.}) 28. Qg3 $18 { now this comes with tempo, due to the attack on g7, and is crushing.} Rf7 ( 28... g5 {hardly improves anything} 29. Nh5 Kf7 30. hxg5 hxg5 31. Rxg5 $18) 29. Nh5 {White adds more attackers than Black can defenders.} Kf8 {the only way to keep playing.} 30. Rxg7 Qb1+ 31. Kh2 Qf1 {this maneuver added a defender on the f-file. I felt this was the best practical chance for me.} 32. Rg8+ Ke7 33. Nf6 c3 {for the moment, White has no immediate kill, so I decide to try to generate some counterplay, as a distraction if nothing else.} 34. Rg7 {my opponent thought for some time here. Black's formation is not easy to crack.} ( 34. Rh8 {is the non-obvious best move for Komodo. The point is that when Black sacrifices the exchange on f6 (as occurs in the game), White is better positioned with the rook.} Rxf6 35. exf6+ Qxf6 36. Rh7+ $18) 34... Be8 { this is what I had calculated and it appeared to frustrate my opponent.} 35. Rg8 Bd7 36. Rb8 $2 (36. Qg6 {in addition to the Rh8 idea, this would have kept the winning pressure on, although the path is complicated. For example} Qf5 37. Qxh6 c2 38. Rg7 c1=Q 39. Qh8 Qxf6 40. exf6+ Kxf6 41. Qh6+ Ke7 42. Qg5+ Kd6 43. Rxf7 $18) 36... Rxf6 $14 {another surprise for my opponent. This defensive exchange sacrifice is Black's only move to stay in the game.} 37. exf6+ Qxf6 38. Rxb7 c2 $16 {although White still has a slight plus in the endgame here, largely due to the active rook placement, it must have been very disappointing for him after having such a crushing attack going. Now he is forced to play some defense himself against the advanced passed c-pawn.} 39. Qe1 e5 40. Qc3 { I was happy to see this.} (40. d5 {is what I was concerned about as a response. } cxd5 41. Rc7 $16) 40... exd4 $11 {the engine evaluates this as equal. I had seen that there was a tactical trick lurking, however, and my opponent incorrectly goes for the "obvious move" of recapturing on d4.} 41. exd4 $4 { this now opens the c1-h6 diagonal and allows a queen fork of White's king and the c-pawn's queening square.} (41. Qxc2 $11) 41... Qf4+ 0-1

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