04 December 2016

Commentary: 2016 Russian Women's Team Championship Round 1 (Lagno - Goryachkina)

The following commentary game (Lagno - Goryachkina, from May's Russian Women's Team Championship) is the first of the last series on this blog of such games in 2016.  It features what can be a very annoying White choice against the Caro-Kann (by transposition).  Original ChessBase report and commentary can be found here.

For me the game has several standout lessons for training purposes:
  • The trickiness of the variation and Black's need to carefully consider how to neutralize White's early pressure.  Goryachkina's innovative choices in the opening (7...g6 and 8...Qd6) required careful calculation up front but paid off in the end.  8...Nb6 also looks like a fine choice for Black, with full compensation for the pawn sacrifice.
  • Black's potential piece activity was evident as of move 11 and by move 20 she was completely dominating her opponent positionally.  All of White's pieces had retreated from Black territory, while Black's knights had established outposts on the other side of the board.  This high level of fluidity in the position was possible due to the lack of central control by White and her underdevelopment, particularly evident regarding the d-pawn and the blocked-in dark-square bishop.
  • Black's ability to accurately and fully calculate for the entire game was impressive, including in the above-mentioned sequence after 8...Qd6, but also at turning points such as move 21.  Seeing moves such as 21...Nf4 and their consequences ahead of time is what master-level chess is about.
  • Finding winning moves rather than necessarily "best" moves.  Black's move 23 is a case in point, where the engine evaluation is much stronger after 23...e4, but Black goes with a more humanly understandable path (23...Nc5), playing ...e4 anyway two moves later.

Lagno, Kateryna (2529) - Goryachkina, Aleksandra (2485)

Result: 0-1
Site: Sochi RUS
Date: 2016.05.01
[...] 1.c4 c6 2.e4 now we have a Caro-Kann 2...d5 virtually the only response that makes sense after 1...c6, although I suppose one could transpose eventually into a Modern Defense or the like without ...d5. 3.exd5 cxd5 4.cxd5 this keeps the opening in its own unique variation.
4.d4 is another transpositional alternative, this time to the Panov-Botvinnik Attack.
4...¤f6
4...£xd5 is the main alternative, but White scores 68 percent in the database afterwards. The Black queen will inevitably lose time relocating from d5.
5.¤c3 ¤xd5 6.¤f3 ¤c6 7.¥b5 all natural developing moves by White so far. 7...g6 although not used very often, this variation scores far better than its more classical counterparts, ...Nxc3 and ...e6. 8.£a4 £d6 an interesting choice that requires careful evaluation of the next sequence.
8...¤b6!? is almost always played here. 9.¥xc6+ bxc6 10.£xc6+ ¥d7 11.£e4 ¥g7 almost all of the database games from this point end in a draw, with Black's compensation for the pawn including the two (outstanding) bishops, play against the isolated d-pawn, and good avenues for the rooks.
(8...¥d7??9.¤xd5+⁠−) 9.¤e4 now we are in new opening territory. 9...£e6 10.¤fg5 £d7 11.¤c5 £c7 at the end of the forcing sequence, White has kicked around the Black queen, but Black is not really behind in development, as she will have an easy time getting her bishops out, compared to the Bc1. White's minor pieces are all forward deployed, but not working together particularly well. Komodo assesses the position as equal, but White is the one who can misstep more easily here. 12.O-O
12.£d4!? is the engine's recommendation. 12...¤f6 13.£c4 e6
12...¥g7³ Black is now starting to look more dangerous, as the Bg7 is now a monster on the long diagonal and White has no real threats. 13.¥c4 £d8 the best way of maintaining the tension in the center, not afraid of the following sequence. 14.¤xb7 ¥xb7 15.£b5 O-O a cold-bloodedly correct move. 16.£xb7 ¤db4 eyeing the c2 square and restricting the White queen. 17.£b5 ¦b8 18.£a4 ¤e5 for the cost of the sacrificed b-pawn, Black has far more piece activity, while for White the Bc1 and Ra1 are not playing. 19.¥e2 this is too passive.
19.d3!? would give back material in order to get the Bc1 and Rf1 into the game. 19...¤bxd3 20.¦d1 ¤xc4 21.£xc4 ¤e5³
19...¤ed3ยต (19...¤bd3!? also looks good.) 20.¤f3 it is remarkable to compare this position with the one on move 11, as all of White's pieces have retreated while Black's have advanced, and now White is behind in development. 20...e5 Black has an excellent position, but it's not clear exactly what plan is best. Dominating the c-file looks good, while taking the b2 pawn at this point does not. In the game, Goryachkina with this move chose to occupy the enter with the e-pawn. She must have also calculated the next sequence as part of it, perhaps even playing the text move to encourage her opponent to challenge the Nb4. (20...¦c8!?) (20...¤xb2?!21.¥xb2 ¥xb2 22.¦ab1 ¤d5 23.£xa7) 21.a3?! White must have been feeling a little desperate by this point.
21.¥xd3 would have helped White gain some maneuvering room and eliminated one of the two forward-deployed knights, at the cost of a pawn. 21...¤xd3 22.¤e1 ¤xb2³
21...¤f4 a forced move for Black in response, creating a counter-threat against the Be2 while the Nb4 is hanging. 22.¥d1 ¤bd3 now the Nb4 has a place to go and Black is even more dominant. White has no good moves available, although the engine suggests Ne1 as the best defense. 23.g3 ¤c5 a "good enough" type of move that preserves Black's advantage.
23...e4 is what the engine prefers. It would take advantage of the e-pawn's position and launch a decisive attack. For example 24.gxf4 exf3 25.¥xf3 ¦e8 and the f-pawn will eventually fall while Black remains dominant positionally. However, this requires a number of moves to fully unfold and in practical terms it does not look easy to clearly evaluate the situation at the board.
24.£c4 ¤fd3 25.¥c2 e4!−⁠+ now the pawn advances to good effect, sacrificing itself to achieve Black's complete piece dominance. 26.¥xd3 ¤xd3 27.£xe4 ¦e8 28.£a4 this immediately lets Black's queen into d5, but White has severe problems in any case.
28.£c4 ¦c8 29.£b3 ¦e4 and now the rook can transfer to the c-file and pressure the trapped Bc1.
28...£d5 29.¤h4 (29.¢g2 ¦e1−⁠+) (29.£d1 ¥xb2 30.¥xb2 ¤xb2 31.£c2 ¦ec8 32.£b1 £xf3−⁠+) 29...¤xf2 and Black can follow up with ...Re1 and/or ...Bd4 to end the game.
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