07 June 2024

Annotated Game #285: A failed Stonewall leads to a queenside crush

In this last-round tournament game, my opponent did well out of the opening, gaining central control and a significant developmental lead after exchanging my Stonewall pawn on d4. However, I patiently continued bringing out my pieces and developed reasonably well, with a breakthrough occurring due to a positional blunder on move 17. This is a notable example of how strategically important piece exchanges can be. In this case, it gave me full control of the outpost on c5 and allowed me to establish a crushing dominance on the queenside, which I eventually converted.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "87"] [GameId "497982781165"] 1. d4 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Bd3 c5 4. c3 {establishing a partial Stonewall structure.} (4. Nf3 $5 {it seems has been played a lot in blitz, for example} Nc6 5. h3 e6 6. b3 cxd4 7. exd4 Bb4+ 8. c3 Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. Re1 Qc7 11. Bg5 Nh5 12. c4 Nf4 13. Bf1 h6 14. Bxf4 Bxf4 15. c5 e5 16. Nc3 exd4 17. Nxd5 Qb8 18. Nxd4 Be5 19. Nxc6 bxc6 20. Ne7+ Kh8 21. Nxc6 Bh2+ 22. Kh1 Qc7 23. Ne7 Be6 24. Rxe6 fxe6 25. Ng6+ Kg8 26. Nxf8 Rxf8 27. Qe2 Be5 28. Re1 Bc3 29. Qxe6+ Kh8 30. Rc1 Bd4 31. Bd3 Qf4 32. Re1 Bxc5 33. Qg6 Kg8 34. Qh7+ Kf7 35. Bc4+ {1-0 Nakamura,H (2775)-Holt,C (2540) Titled Tuesday intern op 09th May Late Chess.com INT blitz 2023 (3)}) 4... Nc6 5. Nd2 {still holding out for a Stonewall Attack formation, but Black's next spoils that.} (5. Nf3 {would transpose into a Colle System and may be the best option.}) (5. f4 Bg4 {scores very well for Black.}) 5... e5 $17 {unfortunately there's no good response to this. White taking either the c5 or e5 pawn gives Black a nice center along with good development, following the recapture, while Nf3 is no longer possible due to the pawn fork on e4.} 6. Bb5 {this is an idea I had seen in previous similar positions with engine analysis. Here it's not great, but does at least fight for the e5 square.} (6. Ne2 {is the engines' choice, admitting that there's no better square to develop to.}) 6... cxd4 7. cxd4 {this maintains the symmetry of the pawn formation and I felt more like solid play at this point.} (7. exd4 {the engines all prefer this recapture, which means ...e4 is less stifling for White.}) 7... e4 {now I do not have a pawn lever available against the d5 pawn.} 8. Ne2 Bd7 9. O-O Bd6 {Black at this point has a classically nice position with excellent development and a space advantage, thanks to the d5-e4 pawn chain. So it's time to start doing something about that.} 10. f3 {Dragon 3.2 agrees this is the best chance for White, playing analagous to a reversed French and attacking the head of the advanced pawn chain.} Qc7 11. f4 {the engine does not like this, but in practical terms it shuts down Black's ideas on the kingside for now and gains a bit of space for me, at the cost of leaving the e4 pawn in place.} (11. fxe4 {I admit I didn't even consider, since it looks like it just loses a pawn at first.} Bxh2+ 12. Kh1 dxe4 13. Rxf6 $5 {this exchange sacrifice, however, significantly changes the landscape.} gxf6 14. Nxe4 $11 {and now Black has to be careful. The f6 pawn is doomed, getting some material back for White, and the bishop on h2 is hanging by a thread.} O-O-O (14... Bd6 {a simple retreat loses.} 15. Nxf6+ {and now e3-e4 is coming as a central pawn roller. For example} Kd8 16. e4 a6 17. Bg5 $18 {with the threat of Nd5 with discovered check.}) 15. Nxf6 (15. g3 $2 {trying to trap the bishop does not work after} f5 16. Kxh2 fxe4 $19 {the White king will not have enough protection against the coming onslaught of the h-pawn and all of Black's pieces.}) 15... Be6 {White's strong central d-pawn provides compensation.}) (11. h3 $5 {is the solid alternative, although I didn't like the weak dark squares around the king.}) 11... O-O 12. h3 {the idea being to take the g4 square away from Black as a prophylactic measure. The engine prefers White exchanging first on c6.} a6 13. Bxc6 {the bishop has no future on the light squares, so gladly exchanges itself.} bxc6 $6 $15 {the backward pawn on the half-open file now gives me a weakness to play against.} 14. Nb3 {first step is to restrain the pawn's advance. I would be happy to exchange pawns after c6-c5, get Black's bishop off for my knight, and then have the backwards d-pawn to play against.} Rab8 15. Bd2 {simple development, also clearing c1 for the rook.} Qb7 16. Rc1 $11 {by this point my piece activity has significantly picked up and Black's backwards c-pawn offsets his advanced e-pawn structurally.} Rfc8 17. Rc2 {protecting b2 and also looking to potentially double on the c-file.} Bb4 $2 {a positional blunder. I expect my opponent had no idea about a plan, other than to exchange pieces. This was the wrong one to go with, however, since my knight now goes into a very strong outpost.} 18. Bxb4 Qxb4 19. Nc5 $16 Qb6 {the queen has to avoid being potentially trapped.} 20. Nc3 (20. g4 $5 {played now this may have a bit more impact than later, as there's no hurry to move the Ne2. Black will have to spend a tempo defending or moving the Bd7, as the threat is g4-g5 removing the Nf6 as a defender.}) 20... Qa7 21. Qe2 {pressuring a6 and opening the first rank for the Rf1.} a5 {logically dodging the pressure.} 22. N3a4 {this is what I was looking to do on move 20. Black can no longer evict a knight from c5, since exchanging there will now simply replace it.} Rb5 23. Rfc1 $18 {with the immediate positional threat of taking on d7 and removing a key defender of c6.} Be8 24. g4 {the engine validates this choice, which gains space on the kingside and threatens to start operations there, with the queen and rooks easily switched over. At the time, I felt it was a bit risky, but I did not see any way to make immediate progress on the queenside.} Nd7 {proactively fleeing the g-pawn advance, but this has a major tactical flaw that I did not spot.} 25. b3 $18 {I thought for a while here and came up with the second-best move, according to the engine. This consolidates a4 and c4 while making sure I don't have to worry about protecting the b-pawn.} (25. Nxd7 $1 {Black has a back-rank problem, which makes this possible. The knight is tactically defended, so Black simply loses a piece.} Bxd7 (25... Qxd7 {appears to solve things, but in fact the queen can get chased away.} 26. Qxb5 $1 cxb5 27. Rxc8 bxa4 28. R1c7 Qe6 29. f5 $1 $18) 26. Qxb5 $1 $18 {and the c6 pawn is pinned against the mate on c8.}) 25... Nb6 {exactly what b3 was intended to combat, this knight trying to get to c4. I could simply exchange it off, of course, but now the Rb5 is trapped after} 26. Nc3 Rxc5 27. dxc5 Nd7 {at this point I'm a full exchange up with no weaknesses, so should win. My opponent attempts to construct a blockade, though, with success in delaying things.} 28. Na4 (28. Qd2 {followed by Nc3-e2-d4 is a superior idea.}) 28... Rb8 29. Qd2 Rb5 30. Kh1 {this was basically a waiting move, also clearing g1 for a rook if I wanted to start kingside operations.} f6 {this clears a square for the king, which I presume was my opponent's primary intent, but also creates a weakness in the pawn shield, which becomes critical later.} 31. Qc3 Rb7 32. h4 {it's not clear to me how to make progress on the queenside, so I try the kingside first.} h5 {a good practical try, but I keep the advantage in hand with} 33. g5 f5 {with the kingside locked up, although with more space and a very nice open long diagonal for me, I turn my attention to the queenside again.} 34. a3 {I need to mobilize the pawns and open a file, but it takes some time.} (34. Nb6 {looks like it's pointless, but the engine spots a nice tactic after} Nxb6 35. Qe5 Re7 36. cxb6 $1 Qd7 37. Qd4 $18) 34... Qb8 35. Rb2 (35. b4 {immediately is possible.} axb4 36. axb4 Rxb4 37. Nb6 Rb5 38. Nxd7 Bxd7 39. Qa1 {followed by Ra2 achieves a winning breakthrough on the a-file.}) 35... Rb5 36. Qc2 {this just wastes time.} Qa7 37. Qc3 {admitting the queen is better placed here, eyeing the long diagonal.} Nb8 $2 {I debated whether immediately going Qe5 was best, eventually deciding on hopping the knight to its new outpost first. Both should win.} 38. Nb6 Na6 (38... Qc7 {covering e5 allows the breakthrough with b4.}) 39. b4 axb4 40. axb4 Qb7 41. Ra1 {now it's clear Black cannot stop the rooks penetrating on the a-file, causing destruction in the back ranks.} Nc7 42. Rba2 Bd7 43. Ra7 Qb8 44. Qe5 {now I finally pull the trigger on the e5 penetration with the queen.} 1-0

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