10 April 2022

Commentary: U.S. Women's Championship 2021, Round 5 (Cervantes Landeiro - Paikidze)

This next game is essentially the opposite situation from the previous commentary game: Black is the higher-rated by 200 Elo here and goes into a highly imbalanced opening, the Leningrad Dutch, which by its nature creates more winning chances. Of course imbalanced positions also create more losing chances, but IM Nazi Paikidze - one of the strongest female players in the U.S. - shows no fear of that, focusing instead on the opportunity to outplay her opponent. The initiative changes multiple times, but in the end the tactical potential of the Leningrad Dutch comes through.

It is unclear whether FM Thalia Cervantes Landeiro as White was surprised by Black's opening choice and therefore chose the Nh3-based sideline to avoid preparation. The Karlsbad Variation of the Leningrad Dutch, usually starting earlier with 4. Nh3, often features a subsequent aggressive deployment of the knight to f4 and an h-pawn push; however, that does not occur in this game. Incidentally, the best treatment of this sideline that I found in my Dutch books was contained in Steffen Pedersen's The Dutch for the Attacking Player.

[Event "U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2021"] [Site "http://www.chessbomb.com"] [Date "2021.10.11"] [Round "05"] [White "Cervantes Landeiro, Thalia"] [Black "Paikidze, Nazi"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2175"] [BlackElo "2374"] [ECO "A86"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon by Komodo 2.6.1"] [BlackClock "0:06:15"] [BlackFideId "13603620"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] [WhiteClock "0:01:07"] [WhiteFideId "3520498"] 1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 g6 {the Leningrad Dutch.} 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nh3 $5 {the Karlsbad Variation.} 5...O-O {Pedersen is more in favor of delaying castling. The database supports his preference.} 6.O-O d6 ( 6...Nc6 {is the other major choice for Black's development here.} ) 7.d5 Na6 {a thematic idea, the knight is not "dim on the rim" but will go to c5.} 8.Nc3 Nc5 9.Be3 {this looks a little strange for the bishop, but it does not have a good choice of squares to develop to. White's e-pawn has little scope for advancing, so the bishop blocking it is of less consequence.} ( 9.b4 {Black is not afraid of this, since the knight can hop to e4 and exchange itself usefully for one of White's key minor pieces.} ) 9...e5 {another thematic Leningrad idea, gaining space in the center unless white takes the e-pawn off.} 10.dxe6 Nxe6 11.Ng5 c6 {another standard formation in the Leningrad, trading the weakening of the d-pawn for more influence on d5 and blunting the Bg2 on the long diagonal. Komodo Dragon prefers the more forcing ...Ng4, however, as in the following game by Ed Formanek.} ( 11...Ng4 12.Nxe6 Nxe3 13.Nxd8 Nxd1 14.Nxb7 Nxc3 15.bxc3 Rb8 16.Rab1 Bxc3 17.Rfc1 Bd4 18.Bd5+ Kg7 19.e3 Bb6 20.Na5 Bd7 21.Nc6 Rbe8 22.h4 h6 23.Kg2 g5 24.hxg5 hxg5 25.Kf3 Rh8 26.Rh1 Kf6 27.Rxh8 Rxh8 28.Ke2 f4 29.gxf4 gxf4 30.Rg1 Rh2 31.Rg2 Rh3 32.Rg8 Bxc6 33.Bxc6 fxe3 34.fxe3 Rxe3+ 35.Kd1 Ra3 36.Rg2 Be3 37.Rb2 Rc3 38.Bd5 Ke5 39.Rb3 Rc1+ 40.Ke2 Bd4 41.Rd3 Bc3 42.Re3+ Kd4 43.Re4+ Kc5 44.Kd3 c6 45.Bf7 Be5 46.Re2 Kb4 47.Rc2 Rf1 48.Be6 a5 49.Bd7 Kc5 50.Rd2 Rf3+ 51.Ke2 Rf7 52.Be6 Re7 {0-1, Zvonko Vranesic 2400 - Edward W Formanek 2410, Lloyds Bank op 01, London (4), 1977.08.29} ) 12.Nxe6 Bxe6 13.Qb3 $6 {White responds to the threat against the c4 pawn, but this significantly limits the scope of the queen. The pressure on b7 is not a real threat.} ( 13.b3 {is the engine's preference.} ) 13...Qe7 $15 {laterally protecting b7, clearing the back rank for the rooks, and keeping the Queen close to the central action.} 14.Rad1 {a normal-looking developing move, but now Black takes over the initiative.} 14...Ng4 {with the positional threat of taking on e3 and doubling White's pawns.} 15.Bf4 Ne5 {blocking the added pressure to d6 and threatening c4.} 16.Qb4 {keeping up the counter-pressure on d6.} 16...Rfd8 {shoring up d6. The alternative is to liquidate by taking on c4, which would give Black an endgame advantage. However, Paikidze prefers to play on in the middlegame.} ( 16...Nxc4 17.Bxd6 Nxd6 18.Qxd6 Qxd6 19.Rxd6 Kf7 $17 {Black has the two bishops in an open position, a more active king, and a 3-2 queenside majority, which add up to a significant positional advantage, but not necessarily decisive.} ) 17.b3 {correctly solidifying the c4 pawn's protection, which however is a clear illustration of the awkwardness of the original (unnecessary) queen move.} 17...g5 {in keeping with the needs of the position, Black attacks and expands on the kingside.} 18.Bd2 Rd7 {keeping things solid, as the rook now defends both d6 and b7, potentially freeing up the Qe7 to move.} 19.Qa3 {White's worst piece is her queen, so in the absence of anything better, she redeploys it.} 19...Rf8 20.Qc1 ( 20.Qxa7 {is a viable option, but then Black's f-pawn advance has a little more bite and she does not miss the a-pawn.} 20...f4 $10 ) 20...h6 {choosing to protect the g5 pawn and let White come to her.} ( 20...f4 {thrusting forward another, more complicated option recommended by the engine, sacrificing material for an attack.} 21.gxf4 Ng6 22.fxg5 d5 {it's hard to see a human playing this way, two pawns down without much visible compensation. However, after something like} 23.cxd5 cxd5 24.e4 Nh4 25.Nxd5 Bxd5 26.exd5 Nxg2 {Black is even and can force a perpetual after Kxg2 and ...Qe2. However, Paikidze certainly was not looking for a draw here.} ) 21.f4 gxf4 22.Bxf4 Kh7 {protecting the h6 pawn and clearing the g8 square.} ( 22...Qf6 {is also possible.} ) 23.e4 {the e-pawn gets into the action and challenges the f-pawn.} 23...Ng6 {the correct retreat, threatening to take off White's strongly-placed bishop. This also opens up the long diagonal for the Bg7.} 24.Be3 Qd8 $6 {this allows White to seize back the initiative.} ( 24...f4 {is again preferred by the engine as a pawn sacrifice.} 25.Bxf4 Bg4 26.Rd3 Qe6 27.Qd2 Be5 28.Bxh6 Rxf1+ 29.Kxf1 Rf7+ {with compensation.} ) 25.Bh3 {the correct response, attacking and pinning the f5 pawn.} 25...Rdf7 26.Qc2 $6 {in a complicated position, White goes astray and gives back the initiative.} ( 26.c5 {taking advantage of the pin on the d-pawn.} 26...d5 27.exd5 cxd5 $16 {and Black is positionally in trouble with her isolated pawns and bottled-up pieces.} ( 27...Bxd5 28.Nxd5 cxd5 {is even worse, giving White the two bishops advantage.} ) ) 26...Qe7 {with Black's queen no longer pinned against the d-pawn, White's advantage evaporates.} 27.Bf4 ( 27.Bxa7 $2 {pawn snatching would be a mistake, allowing Black's f-pawn to advance with purpose.} 27...f4 {now White's hanging Bh3 proves to be a tactical liability, even if exchanged. For example} 28.Bxe6 Qxe6 $19 {and now ...Qh3 is threatened, while the Qc2 is tied to protecting the Nc3.} ) 27...fxe4 {the engine evaluates the position as still equal, but now Black has opened up the position for her pieces.} 28.Bxe6 {forced} 28...Qxe6 29.Nxe4 {now Black can (and must) advance the d-pawn.} 29...d5 30.Nc5 ( 30.Nf2 {looks awkwardly defensive, but White does need to think about her kingside weaknesses.} ) 30...Qg4 31.Nd3 Bd4+ {the bishop takes advantage of the screening Nd3 and goes to an excellent central square with check.} 32.Kh1 Re8 {the e2 square is the obvious target for placing a rook, with mate threats to follow. White must think about defense now.} 33.Rde1 {White chooses to take on the e-file threat directly.} ( 33.Ne1 $5 {and the queen can go to d3 if needed, while the knight has g2 and f3 available.} ) 33...Rfe7 {the obvious follow-up, building up on the e-file. Now White needs to exchange rooks to blunt Black's pressure.} 34.cxd5 $2 {not seeing the danger.} ( 34.Rxe7+ Rxe7 35.Nc1 dxc4 36.bxc4 b6 $17 {and Black has the advantage, but there is no knockout blow.} ) 34...Re2 $1 35.Rxe2 Rxe2 {now nothing can save White.} 36.Qd1 Qh5 {keeping protection of the Re2 while threatening mate on h2.} 37.g4 Qxd5+ {with mate to follow immediately.} 0-1

Evaluation chart generated by HIARCS Chess Explorer Pro


  1. Hey there I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to thank you for such an impressive and inspiring creation. I had a quick question for you on your experience with your Slav and Caro-Kann repetoire ... you mention in passing in your post on Why I Play Slav that you liked that both openings yield semi-open position but that seemed like a minor observation not a driving factor in repetoire selection. So my quesetion is whether you have found, as Soltis claimed in his "Defensive System" book, that it is a good idea for an intermediate player to use these two openings because they are thematically similar and lead to overlapping ideas and plans.

    1. Hello Andrew, thanks for stopping by and for the question. I'm not sure that "driving factor" is necessarily the right phrase, but by nature I felt more comfortable in semi-open type positions, so that was certainly one significant reason I settled on both the Caro-Kann and the Slav as my primary defenses. I'd say there are some similar pawn structure themes and plans because of the b7/c6/d5 chain and potential for queenside play down the c-file if the c-pawn is exchanged. It's also nice to have a few transposition ideas such as with the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. However, I wouldn't say it's an overriding reason to pair the openings in your repertoire.


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