30 July 2022

Commentary: U.S. Women's Championship 2021, Round 10 (Paikidze - Yip)


This commentary game closes out my personal review of games of interest from the 2021 U.S. Women's Championship, featuring the title-clinching win by IM Carissa Yip over IM Nazi Paikidze. This is one of those games where I assess psychology and meta-strategy played a large role.

What do I mean by "meta-strategy"? This has to do both with a player's opening selection and the type of game they want to play versus a particular opponent - really, these are synonymous things - rather than "pure" best play considerations. This type of strategic approach is often seen in top-level match play, when surprise is a factor and opponents have both a deep study of each other's games and recent practical experience. In tournaments where preparation and a player's recent games are a factor, such as the double round-robin championship format, "meta-strategy" can also enter into play.

The key to understanding this game's context is the round 7 loss by Paikidze, playing as Black in a similar Modern Defense / quasi-Hippopotamus setup. If you look at the linked analysis, it shows that Paikidze got a good game, but floundered in the middlegame and then had a somewhat traumatic ending where she could have saved a draw. Yip's selection of the Modern and then her adoption of a full Hippopotamus formation was likely a surprise and psychological shock for her opponent, both in terms of her not being prepared for Yip to use the defense, and also recalling the recent trauma of the loss. Beyond the surprise factor, the Modern/Hippo for Black is specifically designed to "turtle up" defenses via control of the 5th rank, then counterattack when the opponent overreaches. A more generally respectable version of this strategy can be seen in the Hedgehog formation.

Essentially this is exactly what happens in the game, as Paikidze plays directly into Black's strategy, with White's move 22 leading to the position breaking open and the appearance of game-winning tactics in Yip's favor. For me, this was an excellent illustration of how manipulating your opponent with "meta-strategy" can pay off on the board. Is it something that can and should be done every game? No. Can it be a successful strategy occasionally, including at key moments in a tournament? Yes.

[Event "U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2021"] [Site "http://www.chessbomb.com"] [Date "2021.10.17"] [Round "10"] [White "Paikidze, Nazi"] [Black "Yip, Carissa"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2374"] [BlackElo "2402"] [EventDate "????.??.??"] [ECO "B06"] [PlyCount "70"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon by Komodo 2.6.1"] [BlackClock "0:31:54"] [BlackFideId "2090732"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] [WhiteClock "0:00:41"] [WhiteFideId "13603620"] 1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 {In round 7, Paikidze played the Modern as Black and lost. An interesting psychological choice of Yip, to go into the same defense.} 3.Nc3 d6 4.Nf3 {the usual choices here are Be3 and f4.} 4...a6 {Black actually has a significant plus with this line in the database.} 5.a4 Nd7 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bg5 {White scores an astonishing 25 percent in the database with this.} 7...Ne7 {Black is going for the full Hippopotamus setup.} 8.Qd2 h6 9.Be3 {the bishop returns, having provoked ...h6, which is something Black likely wanted to do anyway.} 9...b6 10.h3 Bb7 {we now have the full Hippo. The round 7 game saw an earlier deviation by Paikidze as Black.} 11.O-O Nf6 12.d5 {breaking the symmetry in the center. Now Black must decide on whether she wants a more closed game.} 12...e5 {the answer is yes. Strategically, White has a significant space advantage. However, Black with a closed center can now start operations on the kingside without worrying about a breakthrough in the center by White.} 13.Nh2 Nh5 14.Rfe1 {this clears f1 for use by White's minor pieces, but the rook is doing less on the e-file and appears misplaced there.} 14...g5 ( 14...f5 $5 {is a natural-looking pawn break, but Black evidently prefers to continue emphasizing piece play on the kingside.} ) 15.g3 {while helping control f4, this pawn move does not seem necessary and weakens h3.} ( 15.Ne2 $5 ) 15...Ng6 {getting one of Black's other pieces developed or re-deployed seems more useful, for example ...Bc8 or ...Qd7.} 16.Qd1 {e2 seems like a better square, also targeting h5 while keeping the rooks connected and also forming a battery on the more useful f1-a6 diagonal.} 16...Nf6 17.Bf1 {covering the h3 weakness and with the idea of re-developing the bishop in a fianchetto.} 17...Bc8 {bishop was doing nothing on b7.} 18.a5 {logically playing on the queenside, where White has a space advantage. However, she then turns atteniton to the kingside and it becomes Black's game strategically.} 18...b5 {consistent with previous decisions, keeping the game closed.} 19.Bg2 ( 19.Bd2 {followed by Na2 with either c4 or Nb4 is the plan suggested by the engine, mobilizing White's queenside pieces.} ) 19...Bd7 {Black has limited ways to make progress. This allows the formation of a battery on the c8-h3 diagonal.} 20.Nf1 Qc8 21.Kh2 {forced, to protect the h-pawn.} 21...h5 {White can safely ignore Black's offer of the g5 pawn on the kingside and follow a queenside strategy, as the h/g pawn duo cannot break through. However, White chooses to focus on the kingside, with diastrous results.} 22.f4 $2 {now Black can open up the game to her great benefit, with the f4 square as the pivot.} 22...gxf4 23.gxf4 exf4 24.e5 {White must have over-estimated this move, which is immediately refuted by the game continuation. However, other continuations by Black also win.} 24...Ng4+ $19 {an excellent breakthrough sacrifice.} ( 24...fxe3 25.exf6 Bxf6 26.Rxe3+ Be5+ $19 ) 25.hxg4 hxg4+ 26.Kg1 dxe5 {with three connected, advanced passed pawns for the piece Black has a won game, with White's king position also a factor.} ( 26...Bxe5 $5 {also works, with Black not having to worry about the d-file.} ) 27.Bc5 Qd8 {time to mobilize the queen, heading for h4 at the earliest opportunity.} 28.Ne4 f5 {controlling e4, although Black has to be a little careful not to take prematurely.} 29.d6 {White's last hope. This opens the long diagonal and makes possible a bishop fork on e4, of the Ng6 and Ra8. Black therefore calmly eliminates the tactic.} 29...c6 30.Bb6 {White has nothing left except to harass Black's queen temporarily.} 30...Qh4 31.Bf2 Qh5 32.Qd3 ( 32.Ned2 Kf7 {and Black can consolidate her victory at leisure.} ) 32...fxe4 33.Bxe4 Nf8 {not necessary, but anything wins at this point. No reason not to be prudent.} 34.Bd4 f3 {naturally Black does not take the sacrifice and open lines to her king. Now ...Qh1+ is threatened.} 35.Bxf3 gxf3 0-1

Evaluation chart generated by HIARCS Chess Explorer Pro

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