22 November 2015

Annotated Game #147: Simul vs. GM Shankland

I had the good fortune to have the opportunity to participate in a simultaneous exhibition given by GM Sam Shankland, one of the USA's top players.  In the following game, I venture into Stonewall Dutch territory, which was an excellent decision.  GM Shankland was unable to make any progress against it through the opening and middlegame phases.  I could have spiced up the game by offering a pawn sacrifice on move 9 and breaking the symmetry in the center, but chose instead to maintain the symmetry and keep things level.  GM Shankland made the excellent practical choice of heading for a level endgame, since Class players like myself often make poor choices and a GM can rely on their endgame knowledge without having to calculate too much.  This was the absolutely correct strategy, since under only mild pressure on the board I incorrectly chose to simplify the queenside pawn structure with an exchange, leading inevitably to losing a pawn and the game.  Well worth the experience, nonetheless.

Shankland, Sam - ChessAdmin

Result: 1-0
Site: ?
Date: ?
A84: Dutch Defence: 2 c4 Miscellaneous
[...] 1.c4 c6 2.¤f3 I was expecting a more committal follow-up such as e4. 2...d5 there seems no reason to delay this inevitable move 3.d4 now I could enter a mainline Slav with ...Nf6, but I choose to go for a Stonewall setup. 3...e6 4.£c2 f5 5.e3 ¤f6 6.¥d3 ¥d6 we now have the Modern Stonewall on the board, via a Slav move-order. I was happy with the opening and my prospects versus White's chosen setup. Among other things White's B+Q battery on the b1-h7 diagonal is blunted by the f5 pawn and Black's strong grip on e4. 7.O-O O-O again, I saw no reason to delay an essentially inevitable move. This is also a way to see what White will do before developing the queenside. 8.b3 White needs to develop the dark-squared bishop somehow, either to b2 or a3. 8...£e7 the standard response to b3. By controlling a3 it ensures White will have to spend another tempo with a4 if he wants to try and exchange the Bd6. Also, e7 is in general an excellent square for the queen. 9.cxd5 this was a surprise, as I had expected White to follow up with developing the bishop immediately, or playing a4 to prepare Ba3. 9...cxd5 there are only a couple of games in the database and Black wins them with either recapture. I decided to keep the pawn structure symmetrical and not offer to sacrifice the f-pawn, which however would give Black good compensation on the kingside.
9...exd5 10.¥b2 (10.¥xf5 ¥xf5 11.£xf5 ¤e4) 10...¤e4 11.¤e5 ¤d7 12.f3 ¤ec5 13.f4 ¤xd3 14.£xd3 ¤b8 15.¤d2 b6 16.¦f2 ¥a6 17.£c2 ¥b7 18.¤df3 c5 19.¥a3 a5 20.h3 ¤a6 21.g4 ¦ac8 22.£d2 ¤c7 23.¦c1 ¤b5 24.¥b2 ¥b8 25.dxc5 bxc5 26.£xa5 ¤d6 27.¦xc5 ¤c4 28.¦xc4 dxc4 29.¤xc4 ¦xc4 30.bxc4 £xe3 31.£c3 £xc3 32.¥xc3 fxg4 33.¤g5 0-1 (33) Zamfirescu,B (2108)-Posedaru,B (2318) Olanesti 2012
10.¤e5 now out of the database. This was again somewhat surprising to me, as White seems to neglect development on the queenside.
10.¤c3 ¤c6 11.a3 ¥d7 12.b4 ¦ac8 13.£b3 ¥e8 14.¤a4 ¥h5 15.¥e2 ¤e4 16.£d1 ¦f6 17.g3 ¥g4 18.¢g2 ¦h6 19.¤g1 ¦xh2 20.¢xh2 £h4 21.¢g2 ¤xg3 22.f4 ¤xe2 23.£e1 £h5 24.¦a2 ¤cxd4 25.exd4 ¦xc1 26.¦xe2 ¦xe1 27.¦exe1 £g6 28.¢h2 £h6 29.¢g3 g5 30.¤c5 ¥xf4 31.¦xf4 gxf4 32.¢g2 £h4 33.¢f1 f3 0-1 (33) Lazic,M (2220)-Shumiakina,T (2375) Ulcinj 1997
10...¤bd7 my instinct was to immediately challenge the Ne5, but this might not have been the best way to do it.
10...¥d7 Black would be perfectly happy if White exchanged his excellent knight for the "bad" light-square bishop. 11.¥b2 ¦c8 12.£d1 ¤c6
10...¤c6 is another pawn sacrifice with good compensation and the knight doesn't block d7. 11.¤xc6 bxc6 12.£xc6 ¥b7 13.£c2 ¦ac8 14.£d1 ¤e4 Black has a significant lead in piece development and the open c-file in exchange for the pawn.
11.f4 bringing more symmetry to the pawn structure and reinforcing the Ne5, so it can't be exchanged off. 11...¤e4 I saw no reason to delay this knight jump, which is standard in the Stonewall and clears f6, potentially for the other knight. Also, Black can now exchange on e5, since the pawn recapture will no longer fork pieces on f6 and d6. 12.a4 this is a slight error which I can use to improve my position in the center. (12.¤d2 a6) 12...¤xe5 13.fxe5 ¥b4 of course this would not have been possible without White's move a4 having left the b4 square weak. 14.¥a3 no doubt the original intent behind a4. 14...¥xa3 The piece exchange effectively gives a tempo back to White. Instead, it would have been better to use it for development. (14...¥d7!?15.¥xb4 £xb4) 15.¤xa3 a6 I preferred this as a more permanent way of denying White the b5 square, although developing with ...Bd7 might be preferable. 16.¥xe4 White's light-square bishop has relatively little prospect and my Ne4 is well-placed, so the exchange makes sense. 16...fxe4 (16...dxe4?!17.¤c4±) 17.¦xf8 ¢xf8 this felt a little dangerous - one always hates to put their king on an open file - but it keeps the position equal. Withdrawing the queen would be the wrong choice, allowing White to penetrate to the 7th rank. (17...£xf8 18.£c7²) 18.£c5 ¥d7 finally developing the bishop. Just as importantly the rook is now freed on the back rank. 19.£xe7 I thought this was a little premature, so welcomed it. The exchange is a good practical choice by the grandmaster, however, as he knew his endgame technique would be far superior to mine and give him winning chances, even in a balanced position. 19...¢xe7 20.¦c1 ¦c8 this is fine, although given the problems I later get myself into on the queenside, perhaps simplifying things with a pawn exchange would be best at this point.
20...b5!?21.axb5 axb5 22.¦a1 ¦c8 23.b4 this sequence is essentially forced and leaves White with no threats.
21.¦xc8 ¥xc8 22.a5 although the position is still dead even, White's more advanced pawns are a potential threat. 22...¥d7 23.¢f2 ¢f7 24.¢e1 ¢e7 25.¢d2 ¢d8 26.¢c3 ¢c7 27.¢b4 b6 28.¤b1 ¥b5 up to this point I have been successfully nullifying all of White's ideas. While the text move doesn't lose in itself, it does present a rather obvious target for White's knight. I would be better off playing a waiting move, since White cannot force a breakthrough. (28...g5) (28...¥e8) 29.¤c3 with the (limited) pressure now on, I go astray and commit to resolving the queenside pawn tension. This is a typical Class player mistake, prematurely exchanging in order to eliminate tension. 29...bxa5?? not seeing the rather obvious way that White will be able to win a pawn in the near future, after transferring his knight to c5.
29...¥e8 this (or another bishop retreat) is the best way to continue.
30.¢xa5+⁠− and just like that, White has a won game. 30...¥f1 31.g3 g5 (31...¢d7 does not improve anything 32.¤a4 ¢e7 33.¤c5+⁠−) 32.¤a4 ¢d8 33.¤c5 ¢e7 34.¤xa6 h5 35.¤c5 h4 36.b4 hxg3 37.hxg3 ¢f7 38.b5 ¥xb5 39.¢xb5
39.¢xb5 ¢g6 40.g4 ¢f7 41.¢c6 ¢e7 42.¢c7 ¢e8 43.¢d6 ¢f8 44.¤xe6 ¢e8 45.¤c7 ¢f7 46.e6 ¢f6 47.e7 ¢g7 48.e8=£ ¢h6 49.¤e6 ¢h7 50.£d7 ¢h6 51.£g7#
Powered by Aquarium

28 October 2015

FT: Interview with Magnus Carlsen - October 2015

             Image result for magnus carlsen chess 2015

The original interview can be found here at ft.com - you may have to register (for free) to read it at the Financial Times site.

Since it's a mainstream media site (although the FT is rather highbrow), there's not a lot of chess depth.  However, spending time with Carlsen always brings up some valuable and interesting points for further consideration.  One of the most relevant ones I thought was his view of himself as an athlete, including his training regimen.  This is in tune with some previous posts here and also with the modern understanding of mind/body optimization for athletes.  For example, sports such as tennis become very mental at the top levels; it's often not an athlete's physical training that makes the difference in their performance under pressure, it's their mental toughness.

Another interesting point is Carlsen's personal love of the game and its history.  It is by no means a prerequisite for master strength to have an encyclopedic knowledge of chess world champions and their games, but there is also little doubt that it can help inform and instruct one's play.

22 September 2015

The trouble with eliminating candidate moves

I've posted before on the importance of CCT (checks, captures and threats) in generating candidate moves, especially the importance of not eliminating any of them prematurely.  It's often easy to mentally eliminate or ignore possibilities simply because they don't work at the 2-ply (one move) level of thinking.  Of course it doesn't make sense in your thinking process to endlessly recalculate capturing protected pieces that would simply result in losing material.  But it is worth looking at tactics that might eventually work if the board situation changes, either through what you do or your opponent does.

IM Silman over at Chess.com just published the article "Deadly Mindsets: He Can't/I Can't" that offers a look at this phenomenon, including a very timely example from this year's World Cup (Adams - Laznicka).  In the case of this game, it really is a one-move threat, but it visually doesn't look at first as if it should work.  These types of moves are much harder to visualize as well, since the tactic involved (a pin) may not register as easily on the mental chessboard, which is what I'm sure Black was relying on at the beginning of the sequence.

In other news, I'll be on vacation for a couple of weeks from both work and chess.  Should be good to clear the mind and then return ready to work / play harder once more.

13 September 2015

Commentary: 2015 U.S. Championship, Round 10 (Nemcova - Paikidze)

I'll finish off my commentary on selected games from the 2015 U.S. Championship with the round 10 game featuring Katerina Nemcova (whose round 9 game was previously featured) and Nazi Paikidze (whose games in round 7 and round 8 were also examined). White in this game avoids the line in the Classical Caro-Kann (11...a5!?) that Paikidze used in round 8, instead deviating early with the interesting sideline 6. Nh3.  This has some aggressive potential, as shown by the 9. f4 advance, but White is a bit slow to develop and Black equalizes by the early middlegame. After that it is a strategic war with tactical undertones, as the position's pawn structure and minor pieces are significantly imbalanced.  Eventually White overreaches and Black calculates well to find a defense while waiting to execute her game-ending mate threat.

For Caro-Kann players of either color, this game holds a lot of interest, since a number of typical themes appear.  The results of the f-pawn advance for White and the decision to execute a pawn break on c5 for Black are perhaps the most important strategically, although other common structures and ideas are contained in the game.  The tactical threats (some executed, others not) are also important to pay attention to, especially what White could have done with a bishop on h2.

Original ChessBase news article and game commentary by GM Josh Friedel can be found here.

Nemcova, Katerina (2279) - Paikidze, Nazi (2333)

Result: 0-1
Site: Saint Louis
Date: 2015.04.11
[...] 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.¤d2 this move has little independent value, as Black almost always takes on e4 in response. However, an alternative is ...g6 followed by ...Bg7, in which case White will follow with c3, blunting the pressure on the long diagonal. 3...dxe4 4.¤xe4 ¥f5 the Classical Caro-Kann. 5.¤g3 ¥g6 6.¤h3 an unusual choice. The knight normally goes to f3 and the development N1e2 used to be another popular significant option. The text move is obviously offbeat, but it scores well (58 percent) and has been used in some recent high-level games. 6...¤f6 7.¥c4 (7.¤f4 would transpose to the N1e2 lines.) 7...e6 8.O-O ¥e7
8...¥d6 is often used in the N1e2-f4 lines to fight for the f4 square and is the normal choice here as well. The text move indicates that Black in this game may have had a greater concern for the h4-d8 diagonal and the g5 square. Here's a recent game that parallels White's plan in the main game, using the f4 advance: 9.f4 £c7 10.¢h1 O-O 11.f5 exf5 12.¤xf5 ¤bd7 13.¤xd6 £xd6 14.¥f4 £b4 15.¥b3 a5 16.c3 £b6 17.¥d6 ¦fe8 18.¤f4 ¥e4 19.¤h5 ¥g6 20.¤f4 ¥e4 21.¤h5 ¥g6 22.¤f4 ¥e4 1/2-1/2 (22) Rozentalis,E (2604)-Prohaszka,P (2599) Austria 2015
9.f4 now out of the database, although more because of Black's unusual bishop move. The text move is also usually played in response to ... Bd6 (as shown in the game quoted above). The f-pawn advance is a logical follow-up to Nh3 as an independent line, as White takes advantage of the f4 square being open (i.e. not occupied by a knight). It also influences g5 and e5 to White's advantage. (9.¤f4 is usually where the knight goes.) 9...£d7 this doesn't appear to be a bad move and reinforces f5. However, it blocks the Nb8's development temporarily and the f-pawn's advance is not to be feared. (9...O-O 10.f5 exf5 11.¤xf5 ¥xf5 12.¦xf5 c5) 10.¢h1 this gets the king off the now-weak g1-a7 diagonal and removes future potential tactics involving exchanges on d4 or c5. However, it's also a bit slow and should allow Black to fully equalize.
10.¥e3 played immediately should save a tempo and cover the diagonal.
10...c5!? whenever Black can get this pawn break in effectively without king safety issues, it's normally a good idea. White doesn't appear to have anything useful to do in response. For example, the engine can only come up with 11.f5 exf5 12.dxc5 £xd1 13.¦xd1 O-O
11.¥e3 this reinforces d4 and helps restrain ...c5. However, now that the king is off the diagonal, it's not the most effective use of White's time.
11.¤g5 would seem more to the point here, again logically following up on the presence of the Nh3. Otherwise the knight is effectively doing nothing. Chasing it away with 11...h6?! would simply waste a tempo helping the knight to a better square, from where it could then go to e5 (a much better square).
11...c5 White is now better positioned to combat this pawn break.
11...¤a6 gets the knight into the game and White has nothing better than to exchange it. This shatters the queenside pawn structure, but in Black's favor are the two bishops and a semi-open b-file. 12.¥xa6 bxa6³ Komodo 8 gives Black a small plus here. Black's pieces are, in addition to the above points, better coordinated.
12.f5 White chooses to try for some action on the kingside rather than trade in the center, which would lead to a more simplified position:
12.dxc5 £xd1 13.¦axd1 ¥xc2 14.¦c1 although the engine rates this position as equal, White seems to have the easier position to play, at least for the short term.
12...exf5 13.dxc5 £c8 would preserve the Bg6, unlike the text move. Although the bishop is more of a "big pawn", it does well as a defensive piece on the kingside and is certainly no worse than the Nh3. 14.b4 (14.¤f4 ¥xc5³) 14...¦d8 15.£e2 ¤c6
13.¤xf5 exf5 14.dxc5 ¤g4 Black at this point has achieved equality and just needs to complete her development. The text move is a nice way for Black to threaten the bishop and occupy a rare advanced outpost on the kingside. 15.¥g1 g6 Black should not be afraid to enter into this type of pawn structure when necessary, in this case to protect the advanced f-pawn. The dark square weakness can be covered by the bishop, while White's bishop is in no position to exploit it. 16.¥d5?! this looks overly aggressive. White needs to be careful about the weak c-pawn, which is easily attacked again, and also needs to bring the Nh3 into the game. (16.b4 a5 17.c3) 16...£c7 17.b4 the difference with the earlier variation is that the Qc7 is now pressuring c5 already. Also note the threat to h2 from the knight and queen, which means the Bg1 cannot currently move without allowing a mate. 17...¤c6 Black finally has all her minor pieces developed, and to effective squares. The queen's rook will also go to a nice square on d8.
17...a5!? would more directly attack the exposed queenside. 18.c3 axb4 19.cxb4 ¥f6 20.¦b1 ¤c6 and Black now has the initiative, for example 21.£b3 ¥d4³
18.¦b1 ¦ad8 19.c4 b6 Black has a number of reasonable choices here. (19...¥f6 preparing ...Be5 would redeploy the bishop effectively.) 20.¤f4 White wastes no more time in getting her knight back into the game. 20...bxc5 21.bxc5 The doubled c-pawns may be a long-term weakness, but they're also passed pawns. White's pieces are also now working together much better. 21...¦b8?! Black may have done this just on general principles, without looking at the tactics fully. If she could recapture on b8 with the rook, that would certainly help her position. Unfortunately it doesn't work out that way. (21...¥g5!?)
21...¦c8!? would free the d8 square for the other rook and also line up on the weak pawns.
22.¦xb8 ¤xb8 ugly, but better than the alternative.
22...¦xb8 the main problem with this is that now when the White bishop goes to h2, it has targets on both c7 and b8. 23.h3 ¤ge5 (23...¤f6 24.¥h2 £d7 25.¥xc6 £xc6 26.¤xg6 hxg6 27.¥xb8±) 24.¥h2 ¥f6 25.¤d3 ¦e8 26.£a4±
23.h3²23...¤e5 24.¦e1 White brings her rook to a more effective file and generates additional potential tactical problems for Black, now that the e-file is under pressure. The Qc7 is a bit overloaded, as it cannot protect the Ne5 and support an exchange on c5 at the same time. 24...¥h4 Black's best option, getting the bishop off the e-file and gaining a tempo with the attack on the Re1. 25.¦e2 ¤bc6 26.¥xc6 this dissipates some of White's pressure. The knight will now also get off the e-file. (26.¥h2± still looks very effective.) 26...¤xc6 27.£d6 £c8 Black naturally does not exchange on d6, which would create two monster passed pawns for White. 28.¤d5 this position is probably what White was looking at when she decided to exchange on c6. She still has an edge, but with fewer pieces on the board there are less attacking chances. 28...¦e8 29.¦xe8 £xe8 with the additional exchange, Black probably was looking to head into an endgame with a small disadvantage, but with good drawing chances. The c-pawns look like they can be blockaded effectively. 30.¤c7?! the idea behind this move is not clear to me. In the game, it results in Black's queen moving to a much more effective centralized position, without generating any evident threats.
30.¥f2 would be a clever tactical way to improve White's position and get the Black bishop off the h4-e1 diagonal. The bishop has to protect f6 due to the fork threat from the Nd5.
30...£e4 31.£d5 ¥g3 the bishop is now free to move and attacks the Nc7 "backwards" along the diagonal. 32.¤b5 £e1 with the threat of ...Bf2 33.¤d6? White chooses to counterattack with a threat to f7, but she runs out of threats first, losing the game. (33.¤d4 is the necessary defensive move. 33...¤xd4 34.£xd4) 33...¤e5! holds everything together for Black. 34.£a8 this starts a long sequence where Black's king is chased almost the entire length of the board, but eventually finds refuge.
34.¤xf5 gxf5 35.£d8 ¢g7 36.£g5 ¤g6−⁠+ is the best try for White, but still leaves Black winning. For example 37.£xf5 ¥e5 38.£f2 £c1 39.c6 £xc4 and Black's material advantage is decisive.
34...¢g7 35.¤e8 ¢h6 36.¤f6 ¥f2 Black had to calculate everything precisely to proceed with this move, but saw correctly that White would not be able to deliver mate or get a perpetual check. 37.£f8 ¢g5 38.¤xh7 ¢f4 39.£h6 ¢e4 40.¤g5 ¢d3 White has run out of moves and mate on g1 is coming.
Powered by Aquarium