29 December 2019

Annotated Game #232: Deja vu, only better

This third-round tournament game started very similarly to the second round one (Annotated Game #231), only my opponent - significantly higher rated - made fewer opening inaccuracies and the quality of the game was better on both sides. It's unusual to get two Whites in a row and I hadn't expected it. I was nonetheless able to immediately apply some lessons from the previous game, also an English vs. Slav setup. I had a clearer understanding of the needs of the position, for example using the superior d3/Nbd2 development instead of Nc3, and then correctly found the plan to push the e-pawn, thanks to the lesson learned from way back in Annotated Game #2.

One consistent problem I have is in identifying my opponent's resources before I make my move, which here led to problems after 15...Nc5 (forcing a bishop for knight exchange) and especially after the blunder on move 20, which simply drops a pawn. I still had a good strategic bind on the position, however, and concentrated on making the best of it, rather than beating myself up for the lost material and opportunity. The rest of the game is a good illustration of how some relatively subtle inaccuracies can be exploited by active piece play, and the power of an advanced passed pawn in cracking your opponent's position.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "59"] 1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 Bf5 {facing another Slav setup.} 5. O-O e6 6. b3 Be7 7. Bb2 O-O 8. d3 {here it is evident that b2 is a much better square for developing the knight than c3} Nbd7 9. Nbd2 h6 {making a retreat square for the bishop on h7} 10. Rc1 Re8 {a reasonable idea, positioning the rook for the longer-term idea of e6-e5 and also vacating f8 for possible occupation by a minor piece.} 11. Re1 {a reasonable waiting move, developing and opposing the rook on the e-file.} (11. Rc2 {is most played here. The idea is to follow up with Qa1 to form a battery on the long diagonal, with Rfc1 also then possible.}) 11... Kh8 $146 {this appears to be just a waste of a tempo. Now I can play e2-e4 and force things in the center, since the bishop on f5 is attacked, giving Black fewer options.} ({Relevant:} 11... Bh7 12. Qc2 Bf8 13. e4 dxe4 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. dxe4 Nc5 16. b4 Nd7 17. c5 a5 18. a3 axb4 19. axb4 Qc7 20. Re3 Ra2 21. Bf1 b6 22. Qb3 Raa8 23. cxb6 Qxb6 24. Rc4 Reb8 25. Qd1 Rb7 26. Rd3 Nf6 27. Bxf6 gxf6 28. Qc1 Ra2 29. Rd2 Rxd2 30. Qxd2 Rb8 31. e5 f5 32. Qc1 Rd8 33. Bg2 Rd5 34. h4 c5 35. bxc5 Rxc5 36. Rxc5 Qxc5 37. Qxc5 Bxc5 38. h5 f6 39. exf6 Bd6 40. Nd2 Kf7 41. Nc4 {Aghayev,N (2342)-Mammadova,N (2230) Baku 2016 1/2-1/2}) 12. e4 {a lesson learned from Annotated Game #2: don't be afraid to play e4 in the English!} (12. cxd5 $5 {first, opening the c-file, also looks good.}) 12... dxe4 13. dxe4 $14 Bh7 {the problem with this retreat is that it takes a better square away from the Nf6 for its own retreat.} (13... Bg6) 14. e5 $16 {the key idea. Black is forced to undevelop the knight and White establishes control of the center.} Ng8 15. a3 $6 {too passive. I was looking to prevent ...Bb4, but this is not in fact necessary.} (15. Ne4 $1 Bxe4 (15... Bb4 $6 16. Nd6 $18) 16. Rxe4 Nc5 17. Rd4 $16) 15... Nc5 {Black's best reaction, targeting the d3 square and a potential triple fork.} 16. Bf1 { essentially forced, to exchange the knight landing on d3. The one positive for White here is that the bishop was not doing a lot of good on the long diagonal anyway, so the exchange of minor pieces is not bad in itself.} Nd3 17. Bxd3 Bxd3 (17... Qxd3 $5 {my opponent was apparently reluctant to expose his queen in this manner, although I have no way of targeting it.}) 18. Nd4 $14 {Komodo shows a small advantage to White here. After N2f3, my forces are still better deployed than Black's.} Bh7 $6 {this appears to be a reasonable precaution, but again loses a tempo for Black and allows me to increase the bind on the dark squares.} (18... Bc5 $5 {would activate the bishop.} 19. Ne4 Bxe4 20. Rxe4 $14) 19. c5 $16 {now the Be7 has nowhere useful to go and I can think about landing a knight on d6.} Bf8 20. Nc4 $2 {this was just a blunder, with me being too eager to play to my advantage.} (20. b4 $16) 20... Bxc5 $11 21. b4 { after a blunder, one can either beat oneself up for the rest of the game or proceed as best as possible. After a short period of self-recrimination, I continued to try to press my opponent.} Be7 $6 {Black is still OK after this, but this gives me some ideas to play with on the kingside.} (21... Bf8 { is a better defensive move, leaving the 7th rank open and reinforcing g7.}) 22. Qf3 {targeting the weak f7 square.} Rf8 23. Red1 {played with the game continuation in mind, specifically the move 25-26 variation, which requires a rook on the c-file for the tactic to work.} (23. Rcd1 $5) 23... Qc7 $2 { this allows me to get in the desired Nd6, finally.} (23... Qd5) 24. Nd6 $14 Bxd6 {this gives me a strong passed d-pawn, which becomes decisive.} (24... Bg6 {defending f7 seems better, although Black is still under a lot of pressure.}) 25. exd6 $16 Qd7 (25... Qxd6 $2 26. Nxc6 $1 $18 {and nothing works for Black now, for example} Qc7 27. Ne5 Qe7 28. Rd7) 26. Nb3 {preparing to go to a5 or c5 } Qd8 {anticipating Nc5} 27. Na5 {I thought for a while on the alternative squares and decided that this was a simpler approach, increasing pressure on both b7 and c6.} (27. Nc5 {is preferred by the engine, but is more complicated. } b6 28. Nb7 Qd7 {and now} 29. b5 {is necessary. The winning idea in this variation is the two connected passed pawns on the 6th, which are worth giving up the knight.}) 27... Qb6 {covers both squares, but the queen is now exposed and the d-pawn free to advance.} (27... Rb8 28. Be5 f6 (28... Qd7 29. b5) 29. Bd4 $18) 28. Bd4 Qb5 29. d7 {neither rook can go to d8 without further material loss.} Nf6 {Black's weak kingside and White's domination of the d8 queening square now decide.} (29... Bf5 {is an interesting try.} 30. Rc5 Qa6 31. b5 Qxa5 32. bxc6 $18) 30. Bxf6 1-0

27 December 2019

Video completed - Greatest Games You've Never Seen: A Brilliant Miniature

The "Greatest Games You've Never Seen: A Brilliant Miniature" Chess.com video by Tatev Abrahamyan features Leko-Acs (2002) and is in fact an excellent lesson in attacking and defending the king position, not just a curiosity as a miniature at the GM level. Black comes up with an original knight sacrifice on f3, in front of White's bare king, and White simply cannot rally enough of his forces to avoid mate afterwards. It is devilishly hard to see the full attack through to victory, but Abrahamyan does an excellent job of breaking down the various elements of play and why both White and Black avoided certain moves or ideas. Well worth the 13 minutes for both attackers and defenders looking for ideas.

25 December 2019

How [LogoCzar] became a National Master

Six months ago, I was a blitz specialist and a relatively poor standard player. I consistently practiced chess for years without actively playing in USCF tournaments, allowing me to reach a 2500+ blitz rating on chess.com (typical for FMs) but because I wasn't regularly playing slow games or practicing my calculation, my USCF rating was only in the expert range. After the disaster of a tournament at the National Open, I realized that I couldn't rely only on training that improved my understanding of chess and intuition (especially since it is harder to improve your intuition as an adult), I also had to work on my calculation and my logical thought process.

17 December 2019

Annotated Game #231: Remember to pry open the king position

This second-round tournament game was instructive in terms of both missed and second chances. My opponent adopts a popular Slav Defense formation against my English with a double fianchetto, but neglects his kingside development. One important rule, emphasized for example in Mastering Opening Strategy, is for the side with better development to do whatever it takes to pry open the opponent's king position, if they have neglected castling and you have a development lead. The key opportunity was on move 12, which I did not even consider during the game. I then commit a major strategic error on move 14 by locking the center to Black's benefit, given his space advantage. My opponent gives me a second chance by withdrawing his forces (14...Nb8?) and I immediately take advantage of this by blowing open the center. The remainder of the game is quite tactical, which goes to show how a "positional" flank opening can turn active very quickly.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "65"] 1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Bf5 {Black continues to ignore the offer of the c-pawn and plays in the Slav Defense style.} 5. O-O Nbd7 ({Relevant:} 5... e6 6. Qb3 Qb6 7. d3 Nbd7 8. cxd5 Qxb3 9. axb3 exd5 10. Bd2 Bg4 11. Bc3 Bxf3 12. Bxf3 Bd6 13. b4 O-O 14. Nd2 a6 15. Nb3 Rab8 16. Rfe1 Rfd8 17. Rad1 Ne8 18. e4 Nc7 19. e5 Bf8 20. d4 Nb6 21. Kg2 Na4 22. Ra1 Nxc3 23. bxc3 f6 24. exf6 gxf6 25. Be2 Re8 26. Bd3 Rxe1 27. Rxe1 Re8 28. Rd1 Re7 29. f4 Ne8 30. Kf3 Nd6 31. g4 Nb5 32. Bxb5 cxb5 33. h4 Rc7 34. Rd3 b6 35. g5 {Grischuk,A (2766) -Aronian,L (2767) Saint Louis 2018 1-0 (122)}) 6. b3 {it's not hard to see the benefits of having a bishop on the long diagonal. This also protects c4.} h6 { with Black's last two moves - and his next one - I felt he was neglecting his kingside development. The h-pawn advance provides a retreat for the bishop on h7, but at the same time weakens the pawn shield.} 7. Bb2 Qc7 8. Nc3 {White has a number of reasonable moves here. In these structures, though, the knight may be better placed on a different square. Here it blocks the Bb2 and the squares it influences are all under Black control.} (8. cxd5 $5 {is Komodo's favorite. After a d-pawn advance, White can play for Nbd2 and Rc1 and have a comfortable game.}) (8. d3 {is another standard idea, also giving White the option of advancing with e4 and getting more influence in the center.}) 8... e5 $146 {now it's clearly best to take on d5, as otherwise Black gets a strong, mobile pawn center.} ({Predecessor:} 8... dxc4 9. bxc4 e5 10. d4 exd4 11. Nxd4 Bg6 12. e4 Bc5 13. e5 Nxe5 14. Re1 O-O 15. Ndb5 Bxf2+ 16. Kxf2 Neg4+ 17. Kg1 cxb5 18. Nxb5 Qxc4 19. Qe2 Bd3 20. Qd2 Qxb5 21. h3 Qb6+ 22. Kh1 Nf2+ 23. Kh2 Rad8 24. Bxf6 Qxf6 {0-1 (24) Nader,E (2048)-Dia,A Beirut 2004}) 9. cxd5 Nxd5 { this lets me improve my pieces significantly, by exchanging off the not-so-great Nc3 and quickly developing the rook to a nice post on c1.} (9... cxd5 10. Rc1 $14) 10. Nxd5 cxd5 11. Rc1 Qd6 $16 {Komodo already shows a significant advantage here for White. My pieces are more active and have better targets. Meanwhile, Black's kingside is still undeveloped with his king in the center. It's this last feature on which I should have focused my plan. One of the fundamentals of opening strategy is to do whatever is necessary to rip open the position when the opponent's king is in the center.} 12. d4 { safe but not best.} (12. Nh4 {kicks the bishop and allows the f-pawn to advance. Even if Black manages to exchange off queens and blunt the central and kingside pressure, White's rooks and the open c-file will keep an advantage.} Bh7 (12... Be6 13. f4 g5 $5 14. fxg5 hxg5 15. Nf5 $16) 13. f4 $1 e4 (13... Be7 14. fxe5 Qe6 15. e3 Bxh4 16. gxh4 O-O 17. Qf3 Be4 18. Qh3 Bxg2 19. Qxe6 fxe6 20. Rxf8+ Rxf8 21. Kxg2 Rf5 22. Rc7 $16) 14. d3 Nf6 15. dxe4 dxe4 16. f5 Qxd1 17. Rfxd1 $18) 12... e4 $14 13. Ne5 (13. Nh4 $5) 13... Be7 {exchanging on e5 is bad for Black.} (13... Nxe5 $6 14. dxe5 Qe6 15. Qd4 Be7 16. Rfd1 $16) 14. e3 $6 {the wrong idea. White should want to challenge Black's center and dissolve it, not freeze it in place.} (14. f3 O-O 15. fxe4 Bxe4 16. Bxe4 dxe4 17. Qc2 $11) 14... Nb8 $2 {I assume the idea is to redevelop the knight on c6, but it suddenly leaves Black vulnerable in the center and I see the opportunity to play a much improved version of the f2-f3 advance.} (14... O-O $15) 15. f3 O-O 16. fxe4 Bxe4 17. Bxe4 dxe4 18. Qh5 $16 {good enough for a healthy advantage and Komodo's number two choice.} (18. Nxf7 $1 {is found by the engine, a sacrifice that flows from White's domination of the c-file and Black shutting in his queenside pieces.} Rxf7 (18... Qb6 19. Qg4 {and Black has no reasonable defense, thanks to White's d-pawn, bishop on the long diagonal, and soon-to-be exposed king. For example} Rxf7 20. Rc8+ Rf8 21. d5 Qxe3+ 22. Kh1 Qg5 23. Rfxf8+ Bxf8 24. Rxf8+ Kxf8 25. Qc8+ {with mate to come.}) (18... Qg6 19. Ne5 Qe8 20. Qg4 $18) 19. Rc8+ Rf8 20. Rfxf8+ Bxf8 21. Qg4 $18) 18... Bf6 19. Ng4 $6 {reasonable, but there is better.} (19. Nc4 {is tougher for Black to deal with. For example} Qd8 20. Rf2 Nd7 21. Rcf1 $18 {and the Bb2 can get into the game on a3, or if the Bf6 moves, on the long diagonal after d4-d5.}) (19. Rc8 {engine line, based on deflecting the defender of f7 and then maneuvering for a queen fork.} Rxc8 20. Nxf7 Qe7 21. Nxh6+ gxh6 22. Qg4+ Kh7 23. Qxc8 $18) 19... Bg5 {defending against the sac threat on g6.} 20. Kg2 { steps up to protect g3, in anticipation of pushing the h-pawn.} Nd7 21. h4 { again the second engine choice. A good idea, but a better version is} (21. d5 { the pawn is tactically protected and the long diagonal is now open.} Nb6 (21... Qxd5 $2 22. h4 {and Black's Bg5 is won due to the lateral pin against the unguarded Qd5.}) 22. h4 Be7 23. Bf6 $1 {and the bishop can't be taken without dire consequences, for example} Bxf6 $2 24. Rxf6 g6 25. Qxh6 Qxd5 26. Rxb6 $18 {clearing f6 for the knight}) 21... Nf6 22. Nxf6+ Bxf6 23. Qg4 $14 Rfe8 { protecting the pawn, stepping off the a3-f8 diagonal, and clearing a square for the king.} 24. Rc2 Qa6 {this moves the queen further away from the action against the kingside. The prospects of capturing the a-pawn or penetrating at d3 are not good enough to compensate.} (24... Rad8 $5 $14 {with the idea of ... Qd7}) 25. Rcf2 $16 Kh8 $2 {this reasonable-looking move, breaking the g-pawn pin, in fact loses.} 26. Qh5 $18 {again the engine's second choice, but still winning. The threats are d5 and Rxf6.} (26. Rxf6 {is needlessly complicated for a human.}) 26... Re6 {preventing the capture on f6, but now the d-pawn advance decides the game.} (26... Rac8 27. Rxf6 gxf6 28. Rf2 {this would have been tricky to find at the board. The point is to protect the second rank before continuing the attack. Black cannot improve his position in response.} ( 28. Qxh6+ {is what I was looking at, but Black can defend.} Kg8 29. Rxf6 Rc2+ 30. Kh3 Re6 31. Qg5+ Kf8 32. Rf4 Rxb2 33. d5 Rd6 34. Qe5 $16) 28... Qd6 29. Qxh6+ Kg8 30. d5 $18) 27. d5 $18 Rd6 28. Bxf6 Rxf6 29. Rxf6 gxf6 30. Qxh6+ Kg8 31. Rxf6 Qxa2+ 32. Kh3 Rc8 33. Rf5 {with mate to come.} 1-0

08 December 2019

Annotated Game #230: Bishop vs. Queen

This next, first-round tournament game illustrates the practical value of tenacity in achieving results. My opponent varies from normal Caro-Kann Panov lines with 7. Be2, which is however a solid move. I play the opening well, but start going wrong on move 15, heading into a queenless middlegame, by mis-evaluating the results of a piece exchange. Following that, neither of us really understand how to deal with the pawn structure on the queenside, but I make the last mistake and end up an exchange down with no compensation by move 21.

The ensuing struggle of R+B vs. 2 rooks turns complicated and I miss the correct drawing line on move 36. However, my active play still provided counterchances and I end up with a bishop and 3 pawns versus White's new queen, which proved frustrating enough to secure the draw. An unorthodox way to fight back, but a practical success.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B14"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "98"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be2 {an uncommon but solid move.} O-O 8. O-O Nc6 (8... dxc4 $5) 9. c5 b6 10. Bb5 Bb7 ( 10... Bd7) 11. Bxc6 Bxc6 12. b4 Ne4 {it's good to play actively here.} 13. Ne5 (13. Nxe4 dxe4 14. Ne5 Bd5 {and Black is comfortable with the strong bishop, the doubled e-pawn being more of a help than a hindrance.}) 13... Nxc3 $15 { correctly continuing with active play.} 14. Nxc6 Nxd1 15. Nxd8 Rfxd8 $6 (15... Nc3 {preserves the knight, which is better than its White counterpart.} 16. Nc6 Ne2+ 17. Kh1 Bf6 $15 {The White knight looks menacing on c6, leading the pawn formation, but in fact has nowhere to go.}) 16. Rxd1 a5 $6 {with the next sequence, it becomes clear that neither of us know how to properly handle the queenside structure.} 17. bxa5 $6 (17. b5 bxc5 18. Ba3 $14 {this ability of White to force a recapture on c5 is what I missed, as it pins the c-pawn against the Be7.}) 17... Rxa5 $2 {here I am too afraid of the c-pawn, but inadvertently empower it using the rook to recapture and leaving the b6 pawn en prise. Capturing (but not recapturing on a5) with the pawn is perfectly fine and also eliminates some White tactics based on the a3-f8 diagonal.} ( 17... bxc5 $1 18. dxc5 (18. Ba3 $6 Rxa5 {now the rook capture makes sense} 19. Bxc5 Bxc5 20. dxc5 Rxc5 $17) 18... Rxa5 $17) 18. cxb6 $6 (18. Bf4 {now tactically punishes the pawn capture on c5, although Black has no better option.} bxc5 (18... Rd7 19. cxb6 $16) 19. Bc7 Rda8 20. Bxa5 Rxa5 21. dxc5 Bxc5 $16) 18... Rb8 $2 (18... Rb5 $11) 19. Bf4 $1 $18 {my opponent now sees this idea, which tactically ties me in knots, given the possibility of Bc7 and a skewer on the d8-a5 diagonal. However, there is nothing better, given the power of the advanced passed b-pawn, so I am forced to sacrifice the exchange.} Rxb6 (19... Rb7 20. a4 $18 {and the Ra5 can now be driven back, followed by a4-a5, which is winning for White.}) 20. Bc7 Rba6 21. Bxa5 $18 Rxa5 {Black has no compensation for the exchange. However, I did not give up on drawing chances, since my R+B combination can fight to restrain the a-pawn, and my structure otherwise is solid.} 22. a4 g6 23. Kf1 Kg7 24. Ke2 Bb4 25. Kd3 { my opponent is correctly bringing his king into the fight. Meanwhile, I am working to restrain it.} Ra7 {vacating the a5 square for the bishop and covering the 7th rank.} 26. Rdb1 Ba5 27. Rb5 Bd8 $6 {the bishop should continue blocking the pawn.} (27... h5 $5) 28. Kc3 (28. a5 {is more to the point.}) 28... Bf6 {my idea was to tie to the king to the defense of the d4 pawn. This is not a bad idea, although White can simply accept this fact and ram the a-pawn through eventually. However, in practice it is not so simple, as I can get counterplay without careful precautions by White.} 29. a5 Rc7+ 30. Kd3 Rc4 31. a6 $2 {this underestimates Black's counterplay.} Rxd4+ 32. Kc2 $14 Rc4+ 33. Kb3 Rc3+ {White has to somehow seek shelter from the rook while not losing material, for example the Ra1. The advanced a-pawn means that I must be careful about taking material, however, and can only do it if it helps with my goal of perpetual attack on White's king.} 34. Ka2 Rc6 {again not giving White time to consolidate.} 35. Ra5 Bxa1 {I had sufficient time to think this through and conclude that it led to a draw.} 36. a7 Bd4 $2 {this, however, is not the drawing line.} (36... Rc8 $1 37. Kxa1 (37. a8=Q Rxa8 38. Rxa8 Bd4 { with a comfortable draw for Black.}) 37... Ra8 38. Kb2 Kf6 39. Kb3 Ke5 40. Kb4 Ke4 {is the trick, keeping the balance with counterplay. Black's king can be shut out of the queenside by White's, unfortunately, but the passed d-pawn counterbalances this.}) 37. a8=Q $18 Rc2+ 38. Kb1 Rb2+ 39. Kc1 Rxf2 40. Ra2 Rxa2 {I judged that making my opponent prove the superiority of a queen to a bishop plus three pawns was my best practical chance.} 41. Qxa2 Bf6 42. Kc2 d4 (42... Be5 $5 {Komodo calculates that Black is better off not moving the central pawns and just making moves with the bishop, perhaps with ...h5 thrown in.}) 43. Kd3 e5 44. g4 Bg5 45. Qa6 h5 $2 {giving White the chance to open lines with a queen on the board is not the right idea. Specifically, this also will allow the king to penetrate via f5 after a pawn exchange.} (45... Be3) 46. h3 (46. gxh5 gxh5 47. Ke4) 46... hxg4 47. hxg4 Bf4 48. Qc6 Bg5 49. Qf3 f6 $2 { again opening lines unnecessarily, in this case the 7th rank, but my opponent was tired of trying to crack my position and offered a draw.} (49... Bf4) 1/2-1/2

Training quote of the day #28: Viktor Moskalenko

From Training with Moska by GM Viktor Moskalenko:
'My favorite piece is the one that wins' - Bobby Fischer
The value of a piece changes during a game, as it always depends on its placement on the board. On the other hand, the level of any player always depends on his knowledge and understanding of the properties of pieces, pawns and squares.

05 December 2019

Commentary: 2018 US Championship, Round 1 (Onischuk - Akobian)

As part of my opening and general chess studies, I save professional/master-level games that I run across with direct relevance to my opening repertoire. Even if they aren't in exactly the same variations that I may use, the ideas and high-level play in these games repay the time invested in analyzing and studying them. It's been a while since I formally did a commentary game, but I expect to continue mixing them in with my own analyzed games. Both PGN annotated game collections are kept up-to-date and available for download via the sidebar links.

This next commentary game features a Dutch Stonewall from round 1 of the 2018 US Championship, between veteran GMs Alexander Onischuk and Varuzhan Akobian. Their play highlights a number of useful themes in the Stonewall, middlegame and endgame, including:
  • The idea of dissolving the Stonewall center and its consequences, especially the need for active central play.
  • Black's positional exchange sacrifice, for which he gets the center and a strong advanced passed pawn as compensation.
  • The strength of that central advanced passed pawn, which eventually decides the game
  • Akobian's practical decisions to simplify play to a less advantageous position, but one that is more easily played, rather than go in for additional complications.
It's an entertaining and instructive game, which among other things shows how the Stonewall can in fact lead to varied, active positions rather than stereotyped closed ones.

[Event "US-ch Men 2018"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2018.04.18"] [Round "1"] [White "Onischuk, Alexander"] [Black "Akobian, Varuzhan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A90"] [WhiteElo "2672"] [BlackElo "2647"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] 1. d4 e6 2. c4 f5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g3 d5 5. Bg2 c6 6. Nh3 {an interesting side variation in the Stonewall. White normally looks to dominate and place a minor piece on f4, while happening to restrain ...g5 in the process.} Bd6 {this is the standard Modern Stonewall placement of the bishop. Black must be alert to not playing into White's plans for the Nh3 however, for example by exchanging bishops on f4.} 7. O-O O-O 8. Qc2 dxc4 {transforming the center and initiating complications.} (8... Na6 $5 {scores best in the database, although only based off three games, all of which were in the 1990s. It is also Komodo's preference. In all cases, it was followed by ...dxc4. The text move appears to be the modern choice, dispensing with the knight development, although the last occurrence was played some four years before this game.}) 9. e4 {White needs to play actively in response and strikes back in the center, now that the d-pawn no longer influences e4. The immediate threat is e4-e5.} e5 {blocks White's forking threat and challenges for the center.} 10. exf5 exd4 ( 10... Na6 {is the engine choice, getting another piece developed and eyeing the b4 square.} 11. dxe5 Bxe5 12. Qe2 Qc7 13. Bf4 Bxf4 14. Qxc4+ Kh8 15. Nxf4 Bxf5 $14) 11. Ne2 c5 $146 {choosing to protect the d-pawn over the c-pawn.} ( 11... d3 $2 12. Qxc4+ $16) (11... b5 {was previously played.} 12. Nxd4 Qb6 13. Ne6 Bxe6 14. fxe6 Na6 15. Ng5 Rae8 16. Be4 Nxe4 17. Qxe4 g6 18. Nf7 Nc7 19. Nxd6 Rxe6 20. Be3 c5 21. Nxc4 Rxe4 22. Nxb6 axb6 23. Rfd1 b4 24. Rd7 Rf7 25. Rad1 Nb5 26. Rd8+ Kg7 27. Rb8 Re6 28. Rdd8 Nd4 29. h4 Nf5 30. Bg5 Nh6 31. Rd2 Ng4 32. Bd8 Ne5 33. Re2 Nf3+ 34. Kf1 Nh2+ 35. Ke1 Nf3+ 36. Kf1 Rd6 37. Bxb6 Rd1+ 38. Kg2 Rg1+ 39. Kh3 Rh1+ 40. Kg2 Rg1+ 41. Kh3 Rc1 42. Kg2 c4 43. Re3 Rg1+ 44. Kh3 Rh1+ 45. Kg2 Rg1+ 46. Kh3 Rh1+ 47. Kg2 Rh2+ 48. Kf1 Rh1+ 49. Kg2 Rh2+ 50. Kf1 Rh1+ {1/2-1/2 (50) De Jong,J (2424)-Ulybin,M (2538) Alghero 2011}) 12. Qxc4+ Kh8 13. Ng5 $6 {White misses the chance to immediately undermine Black's center.} (13. b4 $5) 13... Nc6 $11 {defending against the b-pawn advance.} 14. Bf4 {although there is no longer a Nh3, the Ne2 plays a similar role in supporting the bishop on f4. White does not attempt to protect the f5 pawn, which would be too awkward.} (14. Nf7+ {seems like a good move, winning the exchange, but is passed up by Onischuk. None of the engines like it either, showing equality at best for White.} Rxf7 15. Qxf7 Ne5 16. Qb3 Rb8 {and Black has full compensation for the exchange with the protected passed d-pawn, 4-2 mobile queenside pawn majority, and active piece placement. White's doubled f-pawn is also a weakness.}) 14... Bxf5 15. Nf7+ {now White goes for the exchange, with similar results to the above variation. There is not much of a choice, however, since Black otherwise is just a pawn up.} Rxf7 16. Qxf7 Rb8 ( 16... d3 $5 {is recommended by both Komodo and Stockfish, showing full equality. Perhaps Akobian did not want to enter the complications afterwards; the text move simplifies the position and is more predictable to play. The idea is put into practice shortly, in any case.}) (16... Ne5 $2 {as in the above variation no longer works, as there is no Bc8 now and the b-pawn is hanging.}) 17. Bxc6 bxc6 18. Rfe1 d3 (18... Rxb2 $2 {is avoided by Akobian, who no doubt spotted the response by White to sacrifice on d4 and open up the e-file for the Re1. This type of response is likely to be missed by Class players, who would focus on grabbing the pawn and assume that the d-pawn is still well-protected, without further evaluation.} 19. Nxd4 $1 {the point is that Black is forced to deal with the knight, which is attacking the Bf5 and c6, while White also creates threats involving the e-file.} cxd4 20. Bxd6 $18 { this is White's ultimate idea, which works due to Black's back-rank problem.} Bg6 (20... Qxd6 $2 21. Re8+) 21. Qe7 Qxe7 22. Rxe7 d3 23. Be5 Rb5 24. Rd1 $18) 19. Bxd6 $2 {without the e-file open, this idea no longer works for White.} ( 19. Rad1 {was necessary.}) 19... Qxd6 $15 20. Nc3 d2 21. Re7 {Black is vulnerable on the 7th rank here, rather than the 8th rank, so the position is defendable.} Rg8 22. Rxa7 $6 {Onischuk evidently felt that he had time to snatch the pawn, perhaps with the goal of advancing the a-pawn. However, this gives an extra tempo to Black, whose own passed pawn is much farther along on d2.} (22. Rd1) 22... Bg4 (22... Qd3 {is the engine recommendation, powerfully centralizing the queen. This does multiple things, including allowing the advance of the c5 pawn, threatening to penetrate via c2, and forcing White to worry about his airy king position.}) 23. Qe7 (23. Re7 $15) 23... Qxe7 { as before, Akobian goes for a simpler position with less of an objective advantage. This is a common practical decision, especially taking into account things like fatigue and time management.} (23... Qb8 {is the engine recommendation. For example, if} 24. Rb7 Qc8 25. Rc7 Qf5 26. Rxc6 Bf3 $19) 24. Rxe7 $15 Nd5 {the only move for Black. Now the pawn threatens to queen, since Black is in a position to remove the Nc3 and White's Re7 cannot get to the d-file to defend.} 25. Re2 $2 (25. f3 {is the only saving move for White.} Bxf3 {deflecting the bishop from covering d7.} 26. Rd7) (25. Nxd5 cxd5 $19 {and White loses material after an eventual d1(Q).}) 25... d1=Q+ $1 0-1