24 October 2023

Commentary: 2022 U.S. Women's Championship, Round 11 (Cervantes Landeiro - Eswaran)

This next interesting game features the recently-named Keymer Variation (1. Nf3 d5 2. e3) which like the previous commentary game's setup has various transpositional possibilities, but also some unique characteristics. White ends up in a reversed Dutch position in which Black is doing fine and probably has a small advantage in the first part of the middlegame. White's masterful strategy of liquidating her center, freeing her pieces, then challenging Black's central control works very well, however, putting Black under strain and soon leading to a quick reversal of fortune.

[Event "U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2022"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2022.10.17"] [Round "11"] [White "Cervantes Landeiro, Thalia"] [Black "Eswaran, Ashritha"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A06"] [WhiteElo "2272"] [BlackElo "2365"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2022.??.??"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. e3 {this is now known as the Keymer Variation and flexibly can lead to various setups.} Nf6 3. b3 {getting into Nimzo-Larsen territory...sort of.} Bf5 {heading for a reverse London setup, although technically this way of development for Black was advocated by Lasker a long time before the London became popular.} 4. Bb2 e6 5. Be2 {White has nowhere else useful to put the bishop, so an easy choice.} h6 6. O-O Bd6 7. Ne5 {c4 is most commonly played here, but has a dismal result in the database (24 percent). The text move leads to an interesting reverse Dutch setup.} O-O 8. f4 Nbd7 9. d3 {White prudently first takes control of e4 in a reverse Classical Dutch arrangement.} Bh7 {getting the bishop out of the potential future line of fire, for example with e4 or g4 pawn advances.} 10. Nd2 Bc5 {targeting the weak e3 square, so White's next is logical.} 11. d4 Be7 12. Bd3 {now White has a position very similar to the Colle-Zukertort (without a pawn on a3) or the Stonewall (without a pawn on c3).} c5 13. Qf3 {e2 is normally a better square for the queen. On f3 it blocks both the knights and the Rf1 from potentially using the square.} Qa5 {hitting the now-undefended Nd2, another drawback of the previous move.} 14. Rad1 Bxd3 (14... Qxa2 {is possible but no more advantageous for Black.} 15. Bxh7+ Kxh7 16. Nd3 {protecting the Bb2 and now threatening to trap the queen.} Qa5 17. g4 $11 {and White has compensation in kingside space and pressure for the a-pawn.}) 15. Nxd3 Rac8 {of course ...Qxa2?? is no longer possible, due to Ra1 trapping the queen.} 16. dxc5 {White makes a good choice to liquidate her center, which also frees up the long diagonal for the Bb2.} Bxc5 17. Nxc5 (17. c4 $5 {immediately also looks good.}) 17... Rxc5 18. c4 {finally challenging Black directly in the center.} b5 {this feels a little artificial, and White is able to respond effectively.} (18... Qxa2 {is now possible again, with similar ideas as in the above variation.} 19. Bd4 Rc7 20. cxd5 exd5 21. g4 $11) 19. a3 {with the obvious threat of the b4 pawn fork.} Rc6 (19... b4 $6 {would physically prevent White from gaining more space, but White's structure is better after} 20. a4 $16 {and ideas of e4, g4 and Bd4 coming into play.}) 20. b4 Qa4 {although this sidelines Black's queen, it is surprisingly the only move which maintains equality.} 21. cxd5 exd5 {best, but now Black's central pawn is isolated.} (21... Nxd5 $6 22. e4 $1 $16 {and White now dominates the center, with strong prospects for a kingside attack.}) 22. e4 Qc2 {the point behind Black's 20th move, allowing the queen to strive for counterplay deep in White's position. Both the Bb2 and e4 are targeted.} 23. exd5 {liquidating the threat to the pawn with gain of tempo on the rook.} Rd6 {necessary to regain the pawn. The engine evaluation is equal, but it's clear that White has the easier game.} 24. Bxf6 Nxf6 25. Nb3 {eyeing the c5 and d4 squares next.} Re8 $2 {too ambitious, given White's next move. A number of other moves were fine here, including ...Qe4 or doubling rooks on the d-file.} 26. Nd4 $1 {now this permanently wins White a pawn with the fork on b5, or after Black's next allows for even stronger posting of the knight.} Qc4 $6 27. Nf5 {forking the Rd6 and g7, which after Qg3 is a major problem for Black. Eswaran opts to lose the exchange instead.} Rxd5 28. Ne3 Rxe3 29. Qxe3 $18 {Black has no compensation for the lost material and White's pieces are placed excellently.} a6 30. Rxd5 {following the rule to simplify down when winning.} Qxd5 31. h3 {safety first, evidently White was thinking, creating another square for her king.} Ne4 32. f5 {clearing the f4 square and threatening to advance further once the knight leaves e4.} (32. Kh2 $5 {tucking the king away and guarding g3 again.}) 32... Nf6 {physically blocking the f-pawn, with nothing really better.} 33. Qf3 Qd4+ 34. Kh2 Ne4 {Black seems to be out of ideas, so White logically pins the knight against the queen.} 35. Qf4 Qd5 {breaking the pin, but lacking anything else to do.} 36. Rc1 (36. Re1 $5 {looking to go to the 7th rank is another good alternative.}) 36... Nd6 {Black's pieces are too exposed to the Q+R combo, but she refuses to give up just yet.} 37. Rc5 Qd3 38. f6 {with the assault on the king position on top of everything else, the position is now resignable for Black.} g5 39. Qe5 g4 40. hxg4 {winning with calmness.} Qe4 41. Qxd6 Kh7 42. Rc8 Qxg4 43. Qd3+ 1-0

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