26 July 2014

Commentary: Dortmund 2014 - round 5

The following game from round 5 of the prestigious Dortmund tournament caught my eye.  Like the previous commentary game, it falls into the Slow Slav opening category, but with a significant difference in development due to the modern 4...Bg4 variation.  Elements that were particularly useful to see were the kingside development for both sides in the early stages; the jockeying for central position and pawn structure around move 14; Black's tactical maneuver that nets him a pawn and seizes the initiative on move 25; and the endgame play which negates the material advantage.  This game is also another excellent example of the importance of evaluating the effects of piece exchanges.

19 July 2014

Commentary: Plovdiv (European Women's Individual Championship) - Round 7

There have been a number of high-level international events recently, including the ongoing Dortmund tournament from which I'll select a commentary game for the next post. The following game is from round 7 of the European Women's Individual Championship held in Plovdiv.  GM Valentina Gunina dominated the event with the strength of her play and did not flag in the final rounds, as so often happens with tournament leaders.  In the below game she finds a way to win in the "Slow Slav" variation as Black, which is a crucial test of the opening at the top levels; encounters such as these are therefore well worth studying.

12 July 2014

Annotated Game #130: A tactical finish

This last-round tournament game featured some major swings in the initiative.  Neither myself nor my opponent were on familiar ground in the opening, but we both acheived reasonable positions.  Unfortunately I lost my way first, not having a suitable middlegame plan while allowing Black to take over the initiative and start pressing on the queenside.  The key sequence of the middlegame portion took place in moves 17-19, where Black could have established dominance but failed to see his way through the complications.  After this, Black overpressed and dropped first one pawn, then two, although it appeared like the endgame would be long and hard-fought.  To my pleasant surprise, Black continued to be over-aggressive and lined himself up for a discovered skewer against his king and rook, ending the game immediately.

Although I was a bit fatigued from the previous six rounds' worth of games and bungled the transition into the middlegame, I was able to immediately recover and then successfully calculate several different key sequences, which lead to the eventual victory.  Analyzing this game provided me with a boost to my opening knowledge and a much better idea of what to do in these types of positions, along with how to avoid the same problems in the future.

Having won my last three games, I ended up in the money for the first time in quite a while, which I felt was a vindication of my training efforts and new focus on chess.  We'll see in the next tournament analysis whether that was completely justified (hint: not entirely).

08 July 2014

Grandmaster Q&A at Quality Chess

The latest commentary on training to take off in the chess blogosphere is Grandmaster Q&A at the Quality Chess blog.  The post by GM Jacob Aagaard emphasizes the following aspects of a training program:
a) Analyse your own games (and those of others)
b) Solve exercises
c) Improve your openings
d) Study the endgame
I highly recommend reading the original post (and the commentary, although it is all over the place).

For those looking for past commentary on these topics here, for comparison or just for curiosity, relevant posts are:

05 July 2014

Commentary: Lopota Women's Grand Prix - Round 3

Going backwards in time a short while from the round 5 trio of English games, in round 3 of the Lopota Women's Grand Prix we see Antoaneta Stefanova on the Black side of an unusual and unbalanced Slav.  White's 4th move choice cannot be recommended on its merits, but it is a decent try at a surprise move designed to avoid regular book lines.  The database shows that it appears to have been used this way a number of times in the past, with success largely predicated on a large rating gap in White's favor.  In this case, it did not work out so well for White.

Before fully getting out of the opening phase, Zhao Xue decides to enter into a series of complications, allowing Black's queen to take the rook on a1 in the hopes of trapping it.  However, White's pieces are awkwardly placed and Black is able to extricate herself in the end, keeping the exchange as her reward.  Black then makes the decision to exchange off her minor pieces, freeing her king and allowing her to mobilize her extra rook.  White's attempt to make progress with her passsed b-pawn comes to naught and Black's king triumphantly penetrates to escort her a-pawn to victory.

04 July 2014

Commentary: Lopota Women's Grand Prix - Round 5 (an English trio)

The recently-completed Lopota FIDE Women's Grand Prix tournament featured fighting chess, an outstanding performance from GM Hou Yifan, and a number of games of direct interest to me.  Out of the six games in round 5, three of them saw wins in the English Opening.  The first saw eventual champion Hou strategically outplay her opponent, GM Antoaneta Stefanova, and achieve a central dominance leading to a quick victory.  In the second game, Ju Wenjun simply kept pushing on the kingside until her opponent buckled under the pressure, showing the power of the initiative and threats even in objectively balanced positions.  Finally, the third game, a loss by GM Humpy Koneru, offers some useful insight into what works well (and what does not) for both sides in typical English formations, with a turning point that occurs due to a tactical complication typical of those faced by Class players, not just 2600+ GMs.