06 April 2022

Commentary: U.S. Women's Championship 2021, Round 4 (Zatonskih - Lee)

This next commentary game is a look at a draw from round 4 of the 2021 U.S. Women's Championship. Black (WIM Megan Lee) gives up 200 rating points to her opponent, IM Anna Zatonskih, but is strategic about her opening choice and fights well for equality, leading to a drawn outcome. This is not a flashy game, but there are useful lessons and observations about piece exchanges and other positional aspects that made it worthwhile for study. Success is not always a brilliant victory, but a practical and solid outcome.

[Event "U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2021"] [Site "http://www.chessbomb.com"] [Date "2021.10.09"] [Round "04"] [White "Zatonskih, Anna"] [Black "Lee, Megan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [WhiteElo "2422"] [BlackElo "2211"] [ECO "D23"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon by Komodo 2.6.1"] [BlackClock "0:20:46"] [BlackFideId "2029618"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] [WhiteClock "0:06:19"] [WhiteFideId "14101572"] 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qb3 {this move does not have independent significance versus Qc2 if Black takes on c4, as is most common in the database, but would make a difference on other moves, for example ...e6 or ...Qb6.} 4...dxc4 {opening theory now calls this a Queen's Gambit Accepted, but this continuation is certainly consistent with the ideas behind the Slav Defense.} 5.Qxc4 Bf5 {developing the bishop on its most effective diagonal.} 6.g3 {this is by far the most common approach, with Nc3 the next choice. However as a Slav player, I am always fine with my opponent developing on the long diagonal, since the b7/c6 chain helps blunt the bishop.} 6...e6 {advancing now that the light-square bishop is developed.} 7.Bg2 Be7 ( 7...Nbd7 {is played more often here, retaining a bit of flexibility with the bishop, but lines often transpose after a future ...Be7, or vice versa.} ) 8.O-O O-O 9.Qb3 {provoking Black's next, which has been universally played.} 9...Qb6 {now both sides have to evaluate the trade-offs involved in trading pieces.} 10.Nbd2 {White is not in a rush to trade and continues development.} 10...Nbd7 {likewise for Black.} 11.Nc4 {this is White's only real try for an advantage.} 11...Qxb3 ( 11...Qa6 {both the engine and the database suggest this is a slightly better option for Black, however after Bf4 White will have a space advantage, as in the game continuation.} ) 12.axb3 {the trade-off here is that White gains the open a-file in return for the doubled b-pawns. Sometimes this can be quite advantageous for the player with the open file, other times it is less useful.} 12...Be4 {almost always played here in the database. Black centralizes the bishop and prepares to exchange more pieces.} 13.Bf4 Bd5 {this may be just a waiting move. Immediately developing the rook with ...Rfc8 seems more useful.} 14.Rfc1 Rfc8 {Black must have calculated the following exchange and judged it equal, since White essentially forces the bishop for knight trade.} 15.Nd6 Bxd6 {otherwise Black loses another tempo moving the rook and leaves the White knight on a dominating square.} 16.Bxd6 Ne4 {looking to trade minor pieces again, in reverse.} 17.Ne5 {this prompts further trades, which simplifies things for Black.} ( 17.Bf4 $5 ) 17...Nxd6 18.Nxd7 Bxg2 19.Kxg2 f6 {taking away the e5 square and forcing White's knight to retreat to c5.} 20.Nc5 Kf7 {protecting e6. At this point, with a double rook and minor piece ending, Black should feel comfortable about maintaining an equal game. White's knight is better positioned, but there is not enough material to sufficiently increase the pressure on Black's position.} 21.e3 Re8 {overprotecting the e-pawn and preparing to go to the 7th rank.} 22.Rd1 Re7 {further protecting the weakness on b7. It is difficult to see how White can make progress. She now starts some advances on the kingside, but these are not actually threatening.} 23.f4 Nb5 {done in order to free up the Ra8 from protecting the a-pawn.} 24.Kf3 h5 {covering the g4 square.} 25.h3 Rh8 {preparing to have the rook on an open h-file if the g-pawn advances and is traded off.} 26.Ne4 {White decides to try something else with the knight and exchange it off for its counterpart. After this, however, the double rook ending offers little scope for anything beyond a draw.} 26...Rd7 {more of a waiting move than anything.} 27.Nc3 {hoping for an exchange, which would un-double the pawns while still giving White the open a-file. Black smartly declines and chooses to effectively shut down potential threats.} 27...a6 28.Nxb5 axb5 {this is the best way to recapture. The open a-file yields White nothing with the current material on the board.} 29.Ke4 {White attempts to be aggressive.} 29...Rhd8 30.b4 {dominating c5 and freezing the Black b-pawn.} 30...Re7 {a waiting move. Black has no real weaknesses and from here to the end of the game simply has to not lose.} 31.g4 hxg4 32.hxg4 Rh8 33.Rh1 Rxh1 34.Rxh1 {now after the rook exchange it is even clearer that White has no breakthrough possibilities.} 34...Re8 35.Ra1 f5+ 36.Kf3 ( 36.gxf5 exf5+ 37.Kxf5 Rxe3 $10 ) 36...Ke7 37.e4 fxe4+ 38.Kxe4 Kd6 39.Rh1 Ke7 {Black's pawns are fragmented, but the king and rook cover all the weaknesses.} 40.Ke5 Rd8 41.Ra1 Rd5+ 42.Ke4 Rd7 43.Ra8 Kd6 ( 43...Kf7 {is more solid.} ) 44.Rg8 Rf7 45.g5 Rd7 46.Re8 Rf7 47.Ra8 Rd7 48.Rg8 Rf7 {White cannot make progress, so Black just marks time with the rook.} 49.Re8 Kd7 50.Rh8 Kd6 51.Rg8 Rd7 52.Re8 Rf7 53.Rd8+ Kc7 54.Rh8 Kd6 55.Rg8 {White admits that there are no winning chances.} 1/2-1/2

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.