14 February 2020

Commentary: 2019 Cairns Cup, Round 5 (Abdumalik - Krush)

With the current (2020) Cairns Cup ongoing, it's fitting that this next commentary game between IM Zhansaya Abdumalik and GM Irina Krush is an interesting struggle from last year's tournament. I selected it for analysis because it features an unnamed Caro-Kann sideline - essentially an Exchange Variation paired with the aggressive idea Nf3-e5 - that surprisingly often has appeared in high-level games (Carlsen, Anand and Kramnik top the list of White players) and can crop up at the club level. I suspect that the top players use it largely for surprise value and to avoid long book lines, while club players may more often use it out of lack of knowledge or experience in facing the Caro-Kann. As with any opening approach that is not unsound, it shouldn't simply be dismissed as a sideline and ignored by Caro-Kann players.

Remarkably, I've faced the move 4 position six times during my own tournament career, most often opting for a setup with ...Nf6 and ...Nc6 in response. Krush's play with ...Nf6, ...g6 and ...Nbd7 I think is superior to that and lets her equalize quickly. How she handles the strategic tension in the center, play on the light squares, and taking advantage of a missed idea by her opponent (liquidation of queenside tension with c3-c4) is worth the time for study.

[Event "Cairns Cup 2019"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2019.02.10"] [Round "5.2"] [White "Abdumalik, Zhansaya"] [Black "Krush, Irina"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [WhiteElo "2468"] [BlackElo "2435"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Nf3 {this unnamed sideline can also arise from a 2. Nf3 move order. I've actually had this position six times in my tournament praxis.} Nf6 {this is what I played five times out of six.} (4... Nc6 {is as equally popular as the text move in the database and is more in keeping with standard Exchange Variation development. It blocks the diagonal to Black's king and helps guard e5. Used in Annotated Game #171.}) 5. Ne5 { White is attempting to chart an independent course in the opening, rather than sticking to normal development. This approach has been used successfully by a number of top-level players, although the surprise factor likely plays a role.} g6 {this has seen more success, scoring around 50 percent, than the other main alternative ...Nc6.} 6. Bb5+ Nbd7 {now Black has this more flexible and slightly less awkward response to the bishop check.} 7. O-O Bg7 {continuing to develop pieces. White's Ne5 is in a good position, but moving it twice has allowed Black to catch up in development.} 8. c3 {supporting the d4 pawn and looking to blunt Black's bishop on the long diagonal.} O-O 9. f4 {in keeping with the aggressive play featuring the Ne5. One can see this f-pawn push in some other Caro-Kann variations as well, having gained popularity in recent years. As with all pawn advances, it also leaves weaknesses in its wake, and Black now occupies the e4 outpost.} Ne4 10. Bd3 {this is where the bishop normally goes in the Exchange Variation, so arguably White has simply lost a tempo in development. Black's knight in turn has been diverted to d7 instead of c6, which seems more helpful for Black, as it can now move to f6 and support the Ne4.} Ndf6 11. Nd2 Bf5 $146 {making the strategic decision to maintain the Ne4. The Bf5 development is also normal in variations with ...g6.} (11... Nd6 {was previously played.} 12. Qe2 Bf5 13. Re1 Rc8 14. Ndf3 Bxd3 15. Nxd3 Nfe4 16. Nf2 Nxf2 17. Qxf2 Rc7 18. Qh4 e6 19. Qh3 b5 20. a3 a5 21. Ng5 h6 22. Nf3 b4 23. axb4 axb4 24. Ne5 bxc3 25. bxc3 Ne4 26. Bb2 Qb8 27. Re2 Rfc8 28. Rc1 Rb7 29. Ba1 Qa7 30. Qe3 Rb3 31. Rec2 Ra8 32. h3 Rc8 33. Kh2 Kh7 34. Qe1 Nd6 35. Qe2 Nc4 36. Nxc4 Rxc4 37. Ra2 Qc7 38. Rf1 h5 39. Qd1 Rb7 40. Kh1 Bh6 41. Qf3 Rb5 42. Qf2 Rc6 43. Re2 Rcb6 44. Ree1 Kg8 45. Rd1 Qb8 46. h4 Rb1 47. g3 Rxd1 48. Rxd1 Bf8 49. Qc2 Rb3 50. Rg1 Qb5 51. Rc1 Ba3 52. Rd1 Bd6 53. Rg1 Kg7 54. Rd1 Qc4 55. Kg2 Ra3 56. Bb2 Ra2 57. Rd2 Ba3 58. Qc1 Bxb2 59. Rxb2 Ra3 60. Rc2 Qa6 61. Qe3 Ra1 62. Rf2 Rb1 63. Qe5+ Kg8 64. f5 exf5 65. Qxd5 Qa1 66. Qc5 Rg1+ 67. Kh2 Rh1+ 68. Kg2 Qg1+ 69. Kf3 Qe1 70. Qc8+ Kg7 71. Qc6 f4 72. Qe4 Qxc3+ 73. Kxf4 Re1 74. Re2 Rf1+ {0-1 (74) Tomic,G (2216)-Andersen,A (2225) Djenovici 2018}) 12. Ndf3 e6 {stiffening Black's position on the light squares and also locking the bishop on the kingside. I admit I would be hesitant to play this kind of restrictive move, although objectively the Bf5 will have an out after ...Nd6.} (12... Nd6 $5 {is also an idea here.}) 13. Qe1 {this seems to waste time and put the queen on a less mobile square, although perhaps the idea was to enable the queen to eventually swing over to the kingside. Meanwhile, two queenside pieces remain undeveloped.} Nd6 14. Be2 {the bishop moves again, this time to avoid an exchange which would lessen White's ability to fight for the light squares.} b5 {with White retreating forces from the center, Krush now opts to mobilize her queenside.} 15. h3 {threatening g2-g4, but the bishop has the fine e4 square to go to.} Qc7 {connecting the rooks and adding to White's potential pressure on the queenside.} 16. b3 {this weakens c3, but gives White the idea of pushing the c-pawn, while keeping Black out of c4. It also opens up the c1-a3 diagonal for the bishop to get out.} Be4 { Krush now chooses to go for the exchange of bishop for knight.} (16... Rfc8 $5 {would activate the rook.}) 17. Ba3 Bxf3 18. Rxf3 {this is awkward-looking, but helps support the c3 pawn and gives the rook some mobility along the third rank, perhaps anticipating an eventual g2-g4.} (18. Bxf3 $5 {would instead fight for the e4 square.}) 18... Nfe4 {now the results of the bishop for knight trade look good for Black. Once again there is a strong Ne4, which in this position has greater reach than the bishop, targeting key squares such as c3 and g3.} 19. Rc1 {further reinforcing the c-pawn and preparing to advance it.} Rfc8 (19... f6 {is favored by the engines, which show a slight Black plus, but would represent a shift in strategy and require ...Rfe8 to support the e-pawn.}) 20. Kh2 {now White deliberately avoids the critical idea of c3-c4, to her detriment.} (20. c4 dxc4 21. bxc4 bxc4 22. Bxc4 $11) 20... a5 (20... Qa5 {is the engines' choice, forcing White to exchange on d6 or drop a pawn. However, White in return could get some activity and counterplay on the queenside.} 21. Bxd6 Nxd6 22. b4 (22. Bd3 Qxa2 23. Ra1 Qxb3 24. Ra6) 22... Qc7 23. a4) (20... Qb7 $5 {seems like a good practical choice as well, getting the queen off the c-file, reinforcing the Ne4, and keeping options open on the queenside.}) 21. Bd3 {this and White's next seem like waiting moves, with the idea perhaps of Qc1 afterwards. However, this gives Black too much time.} Qa7 22. Rc2 {this was the last chance to liquidate the tension by playing c4.} b4 $1 $17 {now Black's buildup pays off. The problem for White is that his Rc2 is overloaded, trying to cover both the a2 and c3 pawns, while the d4 pawn is also under pressure.} 23. cxb4 Rxc2 24. Bxc2 axb4 25. Bxb4 Qxa2 {breaking up White's queenside pawn duo, but limiting the reach of Black's queen.} (25... Qxd4 {is the choice of the engines, giving Black central control with a 5v3 majority and a centralized queen.}) 26. Bd3 {the bishop moves yet again, and again it seems to be hurting rather than helping White. Perhaps she is hoping in some long-run compensation for having the two bishops, but the light-square bishop is hobbled in this structure.} (26. Bxe4 Nxe4 27. Qc1 $17) 26... Qb2 { this gets the queen out of the way of the rook on the a-file and also targets the d4 pawn. Although material is even, White's two isolated, weak b- and d-pawns and awkward piece placement give Black a significant edge.} (26... Qxb3 $4 27. Bxe4 $18) 27. Bxd6 {this must have been played with some regret, exchanging White's better bishop, but it helps de-congest White's pieces and removes the Ne4.} Nxd6 28. Qb4 {finally giving the queen some scope and at least some theoretical hope for counterplay.} Bf8 {Krush improves her worst piece, with tempo, given its lineup on the White queen.} 29. Qb6 Qd2 (29... Ra2 {played first would keep the initiative and avoid the rook getting cut off by a potential Ba6.} 30. Bf1 Qd2 $19) 30. Bf1 (30. Ba6 $5 {would now interfere with Black's piece coordination and make her readjust her plans and pieces.} Qa2 31. Bd3 Kg7 $17) 30... h5 (30... Ra2) 31. Qc6 {White again misses the key idea of Ba6.} Ra1 $19 {now the rook moves into the attack and White is in trouble.} 32. Qd7 (32. Qb6 {would hold the pawns, at least for now.}) 32... Qxd4 {White's position now collapses.} 33. Nc6 $2 {White must be getting desperate at this point.} (33. Qd8 Rc1 $19) 33... Qf6 {controlling the e7 square.} 34. b4 {might as well push the passed pawn.} Ne4 35. Bd3 h4 {now Black takes advantage of White's kingside holes, preparing another square for the knight.} 36. Qc7 Ng3 {forcing the issue and winning material, with the threat of ...Rh1#} 37. Rxg3 hxg3+ 38. Kxg3 Ra3 {an exchange up with excellent activity for the rook and queen, and an exposed enemy king, the rest of the game is just mopping up for Krush.} 39. Ne5 Bh6 {pretty much everything wins here.} (39... Qf5 $5) 40. Qc1 Kg7 41. Qe3 Rb3 42. b5 Rb4 {now f4 falls to the Black forces.} 43. Ng4 Bxf4+ 44. Kf3 Qc3 45. Qe2 e5 {faced with further material loss, White resigns.} 0-1

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments and ideas on chess training and this site are welcomed.

Please note that moderation is turned on as an anti-spam measure; your comment will be published as soon as possible, if it is not spam.