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

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