12 December 2015

Commentary: Gibraltar 2015, Round 1 (Vojinovic - Nakamura)

With the next Gibraltar tournament coming up soon in 2016, it seems fitting that I continue my commentary games from 2015 with the following highly entertaining game from round 1 of the last tournament.  GM Hikaru Nakamura, currently the world number 2, often plays provocative, unbalanced openings when he believes it suits him strategically.  Here, against an opponent not in the same class, he deliberately passes up a balanced and objectively better / more equal game in favor of reaching a highly imbalanced position - sort of a strange Poison Pawn variation in the 2. Bg5 sideline of the Dutch Defense.  It's instructive to see how White is unable to find his way through the complex position, then turns over the initiative to Black, who is able to convert that into a concrete advantage and win relatively quickly afterwards.

Vojinovic, Jovana - Nakamura, Hikaru

Result: 0-1
Site: Caleta ENG
Date: 2015.01.27
[...] 1.d4 f5 Nakamura is one of the few top GMs who uses the Dutch on a regular basis. He's currently the world number 2, so it seems to be working for him. 2.¥g5 like with the Trompowsky Opening after Black plays 1...d5, this early Bishop sortie can be unexpected and highly annoying. 2...c6 this is only the fourth most popular move (...g6 being the primary choice in the database), but scores the best for Black (45 percent). 3.e3 £b6 this is the idea behind the previous move. Since White has developed his bishop early, Black will seek to take advantage of its absence on the queenside. This is also analagous to other "poison pawn" variations (such as in the Najdorf Sicilian) involving taking the b-pawn with the queen. 4.¤d2 this scores much better in the database than the cautious defensive move b3. Here's a sample of how Black could play in that variation:
4.b3 g6 5.¥d3 ¥g7 6.¤d2 h6 7.¥f4 d6 8.c3 ¤f6 9.¤e2 O-O 10.£c2 ¤bd7 11.¥c4 ¢h7 12.¥e6 c5 13.h4 cxd4 14.exd4 ¤h5 15.¤f3 ¤df6 16.¥c4 e5 17.¥d2 d5 18.dxe5 ¤g4 19.¥xd5 £xf2 20.¢d1 £c5 21.c4 ¤f2 22.¢c1 ¤xh1 23.¢b2 ¤f2 24.¥c3 ¤g4 25.¥d4 £e7 26.£c3 ¥e6 27.¦e1 ¦fd8 28.¥xe6 £xe6 29.¤c1 ¤g3 30.¤d3 ¤e4 31.£b4 ¦xd4 32.¤xd4 ¤xe5 33.¤f4 £d7 34.¦d1 ¤c6 35.£b5 a6 36.£a4 ¥xd4 37.¢c2 ¤c5 38.£a3 £e7 39.b4 £e4 0-1 (39) Amura,C (2303)-Claverie,R (2517) Mar del Plata 2014
4...£xb2 following up by taking the offered pawn, otherwise the early queen move doesn't make much sense. 5.¦b1 (5.¥d3!? is the other popular way to play.) 5...£c3 6.g4 a novelty that is obviously very aggressive. Apparently no one else has tried it in international play since this game. (6.¤e2) (6.¥d3) 6...£a5 unconventional play from Nakamura, for which he is well known. I suspect he was being deliberately provocative with his lower-rated opponent.
6...fxg4 is the engine recommendation. Of course the computer has no fear of the consequences to Black's kingside and considers the position level. 7.£xg4?! does appear premature (7.¦b3 £a5 8.£xg4 is an improved version of the idea for White.) 7...£xc2 8.¤gf3 ¤f6 9.£h4 d6³ now White does not seem to have any way of breaking through to Black's king and therefore does not have enough compensation for the pawns.
6...d6!? is another, somewhat more conventional option. 7.gxf5 ¥xf5 8.¦xb7 £xc2 and Black should be OK.
7.gxf5 £xf5 8.h4
8.¤gf3!? has the advantage of developing a piece while protecting the Bg5.
8...£a5 at this point Black's only developed piece is his queen, but he has the extra pawn and is threatening the a-pawn. Meanwhile, White is ahead on development but has a weaker pawn structure overall as well. The position in any case is quite imbalanced, probably what Nakamura was going for. 9.¤h3 this leaves f3 open for the queen, but is a bit awkward development of the knight, even if it can go to f4. 9...g6 another provocative, apparently weakening move.
9...¤f6 seems perfectly fine here. 10.¤f4 ¤e4 11.¥d3 £xd2 12.£xd2 ¤xd2 13.¢xd2 d6 however, while Black is equal, the dynamic chances in the position are certainly with White, so again this is probably not what Nakamura was looking for.
10.¥d3 (10.£f3!? seems more to the point here.) 10...d6 11.£f3 ¤d7 finally, another piece developed! 12.h5 this is premature and lets Black equalize without difficulty. Having additional forces / pressure would have been good for White before making the pawn advance. (12.¦g1) (12.¤f4) 12...¤df6 13.hxg6 hxg6 14.¥xg6 while visually the position looks scary for Black, after the king sidesteps to d8, White has no further attacking prospects. Black however had to calculate carefully to understand this. 14...¢d8 15.¥f4 this appears to be the turning point where Black takes over the initiative. (15.¥xf6 ¤xf6 16.¤f4 ¦xh1 17.£xh1 ¥g7) 15...¢c7 wisely evacuating the king and protecting b7, freeing up the Bc8. 16.¤g5 ¦xh1
16...¥g4 17.¦xh8 ¥xf3 18.¤gxf3 looks all right for Black, but White has compensation for the material and would have the more active position, again something Nakamura would not prefer. For example 18...£xa2 19.c4 ¥g7 20.¦h1 ¤d7 21.¦h7
17.£xh1 ¥h6 this is a strong and (for White) annoying move. The Ng5 is threatened, but cannot simply retreat to f3 without allowing a bishop exchange on f4 that would shatter White's center. 18.£h4 the only move.
18.£g2?18...¥g4 interfering with the queen's defense of the Ng5.
(18.¤h3?18...¥xh3 19.£xh3 ¥xf4) 18...¥d7 (18...¤d5!? immediately is preferred by the engine.) 19.¥d3?! (19.c4 would now take away use of the d5 square by the knight.) 19...¤d5µ now Black has a solid advantage, as White has run out of threats. Black meanwhile is threatening Nxf4, White's king position is significantly worse and Black can also pick up the a-pawn at his convenience. 20.¤e6 White attempts to solve his problems by tactical means, and fails. (20.¤h3 ¤xf4 21.¤xf4 ¥xf4 22.£xf4 ¤f6µ) 20...¥xe6 21.¥xh6 ¤c3 (21...¤gf6 is also good, preparing ... Rg8.) 22.¦a1 £b4 moving the queen out of the pin on the a-file and preparing to take the a2 pawn. 23.¢f1 ¤xa2 Black has realized his advantage on the board and White has no counterplay. The passed a-pawn will now prove decisive for Black. 24.¦d1 ¤c3 25.¦e1 ¤xh6 finally the other knight moves! And an effective one at that, removing the two bishops' advantage from White and further simplifying down material. 26.£xh6 ¥d7−⁠+ it's now clear that White can do little to stop Black's queenside plans, but he nevertheless tries. 27.f3 a5 28.¢f2 a4 29.£g5 ¦h8 the rook is not in fact needed behind the a-pawn and this also helps keep White's rook out of the game by preemptively seizing the h-file. 30.£g3 ¤d5 with a discovered attack against the Nd2. 31.¦d1 c5 (31...a3 might be simpler.) 32.¥c4 ¤c3 33.¦e1 b5 nothing can save White, so he stops the game.
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