17 April 2022

Commentary: U.S. Women's Championship 2021, Round 6 (Eswaran - Lee)

This game from the 2021 U.S. Women's Championship demonstrates some of the themes we've been looking at, particularly the relative value of pieces and the importance of evaluating every exchange. Black does well out of the initial opening phase, but misplaces her queen and then, more seriously, trades off her dark-square bishop and heightens her long-term vulnerabilities. Essentially Black, who probably does not have a lot of experience against the King's Indian Attack (KIA) system, does not find a good plan and fails to get all of her pieces into play, while White does better with both planning and development. As so often happens when one player accumulates positional advantages and pressure, the game ends with a tactical flourish.

[Event "U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2021"] [Site "http://www.chessbomb.com"] [Date "2021.10.12"] [Round "06"] [White "Eswaran, Ashritha"] [Black "Lee, Megan"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2244"] [BlackElo "2211"] [EventDate "????.??.??"] [ECO "A07"] [PlyCount "51"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon by Komodo 2.6.1"] [BlackClock "0:08:09"] [BlackFideId "2029618"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] [WhiteClock "0:53:10"] [WhiteFideId "2080788"] 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 {technically speaking, it's not too late after this to transpose to an English with c4 or a Queen's Pawn opening, but generally this means White intends to go for the full King's Indian Attack.} 3...Bg7 {Black chooses to develop the bishop and then put the knight on e7 instead of f6.} 4.O-O e5 {Black already has a small edge (around 2 percent) in the database in this line. One problem with the KIA, versus the KID for Black, is that Black in the KIA can better pursue a pattern of development that minimizes White's strengths, since White has committed early to the formation.} 5.d3 Ne7 {from here the knight reinforces d5 and helps control f5, while not obstructing the Bg7 in its protection of e5.} 6.Nbd2 O-O 7.e4 {and now we have reached the standard KIA setup for White.} 7...c6 ( 7...Nbc6 $5 {scores much better in the database and is also the most popular. The text move reinforces d5 and blunts the long diagonal, but is worse for black's minor piece development.} ) 8.Re1 {continuing the standard moves.} 8...Qd6 {the queen is a little too vulnerable in the center here.} ( 8...d4 {is most played here, locking the center. If c3, then ...c5 will maintain the structure.} ) ( 8...Qc7 {is the second most popular and generally played if Black wishes to move the queen. The text move has very few examples.} ) 9.c3 $14 {this supports either the d4 or b4 pawn advance, with d4 being the general plan. Also, now Black cannot play ...d4 to good effect, since the pawn can be immediately exchanged off there. White possesses has a small advantage, with a clear plan of disrupting the center, while Black must struggle to complete her development.} 9...f5 {a thematic pawn lever in a KID, somewhat ironically, but it is not good here, as Black's center is too weak and a key diagonal to her king is opened. However, White reacts with a similarly stereotypical move in response.} 10.d4 {not bad in itself, but it lets Black get back on even footing in the center.} ( 10.b4 {is Komodo Dragon's preference, seizing space on the queenside with a solid central presence. Black has little productive she can do, and the exchange on e4 or pushing the pawn to f4 are better for White. For example:} 10...fxe4 ( 10...f4 11.Qb3 $18 {and Black's center will collapse under pressure.} ) 11.dxe4 dxe4 12.Ng5 $18 {and White will now regain the pawn with a large positional advantage against the isolated e-pawn, as well as Qb3 to come against the open a2-g8 diagonal.} ) 10...fxe4 11.Nxe5 Bxe5 $6 {this seems like a hasty choice. The problem is that it leaves Black vulnerable on the dark squares, without the bishop to cover them.} ( 11...Nd7 ) 12.dxe5 Qxe5 13.f3 $16 {a safe choice for the advantage, pressuring and dissolving Black's center. Komodo Dragon finds a more tactical blow:} ( 13.Nxe4 dxe4 14.Bh6 {now Black has to give up the exchange.} 14...Nd7 ( 14...Re8 $2 15.Rxe4 Qd5 16.Qe2 Qf7 17.Re1 $18 ) 15.Bxf8 Nxf8 16.Rxe4 Qf6 17.Qb3+ Kg7 18.Rae1 Nf5 $16 ) 13...Qf6 {getting the queen out of the sights of the Re1.} 14.Kh1 {another slower and more prudent move. Now Black could do better by developing a piece, for example with ...Be6, but instead opens things up to her detriment.} ( 14.Qe2 $5 ) 14...exf3 $6 15.Nxf3 Nf5 $18 {resolutely continuing not to develop her bishop. Now White can move onto the attack and the engine already shows a winning advantage.} ( 15...Bg4 ) 16.Bg5 {now all of White's pieces are in effective play, while Black has three stuck at home and an unfilled gap around her king.} 16...Qg7 17.Qd2 h6 {Black successfully drives back the bishop, but leaves further holes behind.} 18.Bf4 g5 19.Be5 {beautifully centralized and demonstrating just how badly Black is missing her dark-square bishop and f-pawn.} 19...Qg6 20.c4 $1 {an outstanding, master-level idea. This clears the c3 square for the bishop in the event it is challenged with ...Nd7 and thereby maintains White's dominant piece.} 20...Be6 {nothing better. Contrast the effectiveness of the two bishops. White now continues the attack and ignores the threat to the c-pawn.} 21.g4 {driving the defending knight away to an awkward square. The g-pawn is of course weak, but Black cannot take advantage of this.} 21...Ne7 {now White has several tactical ideas based on the hanging Ne7 and pressure down the e-file.} 22.Qb4 {good enough, but not the most effective follow-up. If Black had gotten another piece into the game with ...Nd7, perhaps play could have continued.} ( 22.Bc3 $5 {with the idea of Qd4} ) ( 22.Bxb8 Raxb8 23.Nd4 {wins material.} ) 22...c5 23.Qxc5 {munching the free pawn.} 23...Nbc6 24.Nd4 ( 24.Bc3 {would give White similar tactical possibilities while preserving the outstanding bishop, but the text move is certainly good enough.} ) 24...Bxg4 25.Bd6 b6 {Black's best practical chance, but White finds the correct continuation.} ( 25...Nxd4 26.Rxe7 Ne6 27.Qxd5 $18 ) 26.Nxc6 $1 {and White will be up too much material after ...bxc5 and Nxe7+} 1-0

Evaluation chart by HIARCS Chess Explorer Pro

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