31 January 2016

Annotated Game #148: A Tale of Two Players

It's time once again to turn my attention to analyzing my own games, looking at some of the more recent tournaments I've played in.

The following first-round game occurred after a two-year break in OTB (over-the-board) tournament games.  I call it a tale of two players, since in the first half it appears as if I were a different player as White: showing poor judgment, performing weak calculation and ignoring basic strategic principles.  Black, who played stronger than his rating (as many juniors do), had a fine game but then failed to find the best move to take advantage of my weaknesses (11...Ng4!).  He then made the strategic error of trying to respond directly to my advances on the queenside, rather than strike back in the center or kingside, where he had naturally better play.  Once the situation had been clarified on the queenside and the momentum had swung back my way, I played much more strongly, showing much better judgment about things like piece exchanges, and also was able to calculate correctly and find tactics (27. b6!) that leveraged my positional advantages.  The game came to a satisfying conclusion as I was able to quickly shift my pieces' attention to the kingside and take advantage of Black's absent defenders.

This is a good example of a typical "shake-off-the-rust" type of game for tournament players, in which it takes a while to warm up mentally and for things to come together across the board in a real game, which is always a different experience than training conditions.  Nevertheless, I found analyzing my early mistakes instructive and hope to avoid such issues in future games.

ChessAdmin - Class E

Result: 1-0
Site: ?
Date: ?
A13: English Opening: 1...e6
[...] 1.c4 e6 although Black can easily transpose to different types of structures, including a Nimzo-Indian, usually this move telegraphs his intent to play a QGD. 2.¤f3 d5 3.b3 ¤f6 4.¥b2 ¥d6 unusual but not unheard of (...Be7 of course would continue the standard QGD approach). 5.e3 ¤bd7 6.¥e2 so far standard development for White in this setup. 6...c6 this is now looking like a Semi-Slav setup for Black, presumably his original intent. 7.O-O (7.d4!?) (7.¤c3 scores the best in the database, 58 percent.) 7...e5 a logical follow-up to the previous moves, and standard procedure in this type of formation for Black. He moves the same pawn in the opening twice, but gains central control in return. 8.d4 not a terrible move, but the time to play this was on the previous move. Now Black is much better prepared to react in the center and pose immediate problems for White. 8...e4 9.¤e5 an aggressive reaction. (9.¤fd2!?) 9...£c7 10.f4?! this move was based on wishful thinking about maintaining an e5 strong point and inaccurate calcuation.
10.cxd5 ¤xd5
10...cxd5 11.¤c3 this may seem to neglect the sequence on the e5 square, but in fact works tactically. 11...¤xe5 12.dxe5 ¥xe5 13.¥b5+ ¥d7 14.¤xd5 ¤xd5 15.¥xd7+ £xd7 16.¥xe5
11.£c2
10...exf3µ11.¤xf3
11.¦xf3 is objectively better, simply leaving White a pawn down but without giving Black an attack. 11...¤xe5 12.dxe5 ¥xe5 13.¥xe5 £xe5 14.£d4 £xd4 15.exd4µ
11...¤e4? with this move Black loses the initiative.
11...¤g4! forks the hanging e3 pawn and adds weight to the attack on h2. 12.cxd5 ¥xh2+ 13.¢h1 ¤df6−⁠+ with a strong attack. (13...¤xe3 is also good, of course.)
12.¤c3 ¤df6 13.c5 ¥e7 14.¤e5 this continues my fixation on the e5 outpost and looks reasonably well-justified, although perhaps not best. The engine considers it more prudent to focus on e4 and exchange off the Ne4, either immediately or on the next move. 14...O-O 15.b4 the queenside is the obvious (and really only) place for White to play, so I start to get my pawns rolling there. 15...b6 this is not a bad move in itself, but it marks the decision by Black to focus on queenside play, responding to White rather than looking for better play in the center and on the kingside. (15...¤xc3!?16.¥xc3 ¤e4 looks simpler and more flexible.) 16.a4 White prepares the advance b5 16...a5?! this move continues to play into White's plan of opening lines, gaining space and creating Black weaknesses to target on the queenside. (16...¥e6 17.¤xe4 ¤xe4 18.¦c1) 17.cxb6 £xb6 18.b5 ¤xc3 a good exchange choice. The Nc3, as a result of the breakup of Black's pawn formation, was now much more effective and influential over b5 and d5. 19.¥xc3 c5? really the losing move for Black. Now I gain an excellent outpost for the knight on c6 and a protected passed pawn on b5.
19...cxb5 is the best option Black has, notes the engine via the Fritz interface. 20.axb5 ¤e4
20.¤c6+⁠−20...¥d8 21.dxc5 £xc5 22.¥d4 £d6 now that the exchanges are complete, it's clear that White has a strategically won game, thanks to the b-pawn and the ability of the minor and major pieces to support it on the queenside. 23.¦c1 ¤d7 defending against the threat of a Bc5 skewer. (23...¥d7 24.¤xd8 ¦axd8 25.¥xf6 gxf6 26.£d4+⁠−) 24.¤xd8 although the knight looks ideally placed on c6 (and it is), there is nothing more that it can do to further White's plans. By exchanging itself for the dark-square bishop, this act by knight majorly empowers the now-unopposed Bd4. 24...¦xd8 25.¦c6 the other benefit of the knight exchange was freeing the c6 square for occupation by the rook. 25...£e7 26.¦c7 pinning the Nd7 and preventing Black from playing ...Bb7. At this point, Black's pieces are almost entirely tied down on the back two ranks. 26...£d6 27.b6! now I take tactical advantage of the fact that the Nd7 is still in fact pinned by the Rc7 against the f7 square (which is targeted by the Rf1 as well). 27...¦b8
27...¤xb6??28.¦fxf7 and White mates or wins Black's queen.
28.¥d3 I was pleased to find this move, which is quiet but effective. The bishop is centralized and now threatens action on the kingside against Black's weakly defended king. Black's pieces are too tied up on the queenside to be able to defend against White's sudden threats. 28...¤e5
28...¦xb6 is not the saving move 29.£c2 ¥a6 30.¥xh7+ ¢f8 31.¥c5+⁠−
29.¥xh7+
29.£h5 the engine correctly notes is the best continuation, leading to White picking up a piece quickly, although the text move wins as well. 29...g6 30.£xe5 £xe5 31.¥xe5+⁠−
29...¢h8
29...¢xh7 is the only way to continue, but is still hopeless. 30.£h5+ £h6 31.£xe5 ¥e6 32.¦fxf7 ¥xf7 33.¦xf7 ¦g8 34.¦f3 and Black is going to lose the queen.
30.£h5
30.£h5 ¥g4 31.£h4 ¦d7 32.¥g6+ ¢g8 33.£h7+ ¢f8 34.¦xf7+ ¤xf7 35.£xg7+ ¢e8 36.¥xf7+ ¢e7 37.¥g6+ ¢d8 38.¥f6+ £xf6 39.£xf6+ ¦e7 40.£xe7#
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27 January 2016

DVD completed: Improve Your Tactics with Tania Sachdev


"Tactics flow from a positionally superior game"
  -- Robert Fischer, My 60 Memorable Games

The above quote, which IM Tania Sachdev paraphrases a couple of times during her commentary on this DVD, sums up well the approach to tactics that it takes.  Most of the content is centered around the idea of incorporating tactics and positional play, in a number of real-world game examples. Along with major combinations and ideas that are demonstrated for you (or that you are asked to find) are a number of useful recurring minor concepts that you will see (even if they are not always explicitly highlighted).

This kind of "extra" learning through observation is a feature of any level of game analysis you may practice.  However, the interactivity of the computer DVD format is explicitly intended to help you think actively when you are going through all of the games.  One of the more useful reminders for me, as seen in several of the games, was the importance of the concept of tactically defending pieces (i.e. if the technically unprotected material is taken, then a tactic will result); this is a common feature in master games, but an idea that is often neglected (or poorly executed) at lower levels.

The DVD's content includes:
  • 7 classic top-level games with tactical concepts presented.  The best for me was Karpov-Kasparov (1985 World Championship, 16th game), although seeing Short-Timman (Tilburg, 1991) never gets old, with the idea of the king march.
  • 17 tactics quiz games.  Key themes include cutting off flight squares in king hunts, sacrificing material to restrict opponent's development/piece activity (as in the above Karpov-Kasparov game), sacrifice for a positional advantage (where you need to be able to evaluate the resulting position as favorable), and using "quiet moves" in order to shut off an opponent's counterplay before executing a tactic (often necessary for its success).  There's even a nice recent example of a smothered mate tactic in a high-level game.
Comments based on my experience:
  • I considered it a bonus that IM Sachdev uses her own games (including one loss) for a majority of the tactics quiz examples.  As is common in analyzing your own games, it's thereby easier to pick out key moments and explain your thinking process.
  • The tactics quizzes are presented in a "what's the best move" format and positional ideas are also included in the commentary. While these are not hardcore tactics drills, this approach helps illustrate more of the "real world" considerations for evaluating a position.  The quizzes often go through multiple moves in sequences from the same game, thereby providing more depth than one-off tactics problems.  I was able to get most of them, although a couple of the longer and more complex combinations escaped me.  While it's always a little frustrating and disappointing not to get a solution, it's always good for training to be exposed to the ideas that you weren't able to see, which helps fill in the holes in your game.  It was especially useful for me to further concentrate on mating nets, for example, which for a long time has been a weakness in my board sight.
  • The emphasis is on exposing you to a variety of tactical ideas, presented in no particular order, rather than having a more structured analysis of tactical themes and patterns.  For that type of approach, it's best to look at resources such as Martin Weteschnik's Understanding Chess Tactics or Ward Farnsworth's Predator at the Chessboard.
  • Sometimes explicit analysis of other options and variations are included besides the game continuation, although this is hit-or-miss.  One benefit of the database DVD format is that you can always look at the games directly and analyze variations outside the recorded DVD presentation.
  • The presentation has some technical issues, including a more stream-of-consciousness game presentation style and a few mistakes made "live" when replaying games.  Although they are always subsequently corrected, occasionally after a bit of a delay, it makes you wonder why ChessBase won't allow (or insist on) more preparation, and/or a second take of the recording session when a significant error is made, especially for segments that are just a couple minutes long.  This has been a general practice for ChessBase DVD recordings, though, so I'm not picking on IM Sachdev here.

24 January 2016

Exercise the thing you are bad at


From AoxomoxoA wondering:
Most people exercise the things they are already good in and dont want to do any exercise where they are bad and would benefit most. They like where they are good and are good in what they like, they dont like where they are bad and are bad in what they cant do good. Thats an other reason why it is so important to change method and subject of the training drastically from time to time.
The above observation I think is particularly relevant to my own practice and should resonate with a lot of improving chessplayers.

My two principal "bad" areas when I started this blog were tactics and endgames.  Despite having a busy scholastic playing record and periodic tournaments as an adult, I had never looked at studying tactics in a serious, organized way.  I think a large part of it was the mental trap of "playing styles" - I considered myself a "positional" player, to the detriment of my overall game.  While I'm not a tactics genius now, I have a far, far better appreciation for tactical possibilities and attacking play, which has translated into being able to beat stronger players and find additional successful tactics over the board (on defense as well as attack).  This was done by:
  • Doing regular training in chunks of 10-15 minutes at the Chess Tactics Server, for hands-on practical experience.  This has been supplemented by using the tactics trainer at Chess.com, which provides more complex examples but is also a bit inconsistent at times.
  • Going through Understanding Chess Tactics by FM Martin Weteschnik, which gave me a much better conceptual foundation for recognizing tactical ideas.
  • Working through much of Predator at the Chessboard, which is a site (and companion book) by Ward Farnsworth.
As a result, tactics training is now something I should continue to do, but tactics ability is no longer a gaping hole in my overall game.  

Endgames, however, continue to be that way, above all since I don't like them and am not as good at them (getting back to the original observation from above).  I've made several false starts at more comprehensive endgame study for exactly that reason, but have decided that this year will be one of endgame success.  I therefore pledge to finish all the endgame DVDs I have in my possession (Essential Endgame Knowledge by IM Danny Kopec and GM Karsten Muller's Chess Endgames 1, 2 and 3), as well as making it through IM Jeremy Silman's Essential Chess Endings Explained Move by Move (vol. 1), which has defeated me more than once to date.

23 January 2016

Commentary: Golden Apricot 2015, Round 1 (Cam - Volkov)

This game finishes off the 2015 master-level commentary cycle for me.  As a Stonewall Dutch, it's also useful to compare with other related commentary games on this site (and in the downloadable PGN database), including more recently featured wins by Carlsen over Anand and Caruana as Black.  (2015 was certainly a good year for the Stonewall at the top levels).

This particular game is a little different, coming from round 1 of the Golden Apricot tournament in Malatya, Turkey.  In an open tournament, the first round features mismatches between master and amateur players, which while rather hard on the amateurs can actually yield useful lessons for the improving chess player.  (The relatively recent book Grandmaster Versus Amateur for example looks at this theme, as does the classic book by Max Euwe Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur.) It's not often that these types of games are publicized or analyzed, however, so I'm grateful that this one was featured in the above ChessBase tournament news link (which contains some commentary as well by IM Alina l'Ami).

I find that studying these kind of "mismatch" games can help fill an important and often neglected niche in chess study, namely looking at how one should proceed against less-than-perfect play.  I believe this is especially important for opening study, since if you know your opening's key concepts and plans better than your opponent, you should end up in a more advantageous position.  That said, most opening references don't even look at the potential inferior moves by your opponent, even if they are the most commonly played by non-professional players.  The improving player can therefore lose out on a lot of opportunities, from a practical standpoint, by not being exposed to them.

In the game below, White (the amateur) plays a reasonable opening, but one that has some subtle strategic flaws, most notably the c5 advance releasing the tension against Black's central d5 pawn.  Once the queenside is locked up, Black turns his full attention and activity to the kingside, breaking in the center with ...e5 (also a theme in the Anand-Carlsen game linked above).  The end then comes remarkably quickly, as Black executes typical Stonewall attacking ideas that White is unable to understand and block effectively.

Cam, Vedat (1872) - Volkov, Sergey (2589)

Result: 0-1
Site: Malatya TUR
Date: 2015.08.25
[...] 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.¤f3 c6 instead of following up with the standard QGD moves, Black heads for a Stonewall by transposition. 4.e3 ¥d6 typically ... f5 would be played immediately when transposing to the Stonewall. The text move may try to tempt White into the c5 advance, which is normally in Black's favor because it leaves his central d5 outpost unchallenged. 5.¤c3 f5 6.¥d3 ¤f6 Black has now reached the standard Modern Stonewall formation. 7.¥d2 O-O 8.O-O ¤e4 the overwhelming favorite move in the database. Black follows the typical Stonewall plan with his knights, seizing the outpost on e4. With White's bishop on d3, the Nc3 cannot exchange off the Ne4 due to the resulting pawn fork. 9.c5 this move scores only 6 percent (!) in the database out of nine games, illustrating its strategic weakness. 9...¥c7 Black's bishop is no less effective on c7, as its primary function is exerting pressure on the b8-h2 diagonal. 10.b4 a6 there are several different ways Black could play here. The game continuation is relatively straightforward, restraining further advance of the b-pawn, then getting the knight and queen developed. 11.a4 ¤d7 12.b5 White's plan of rapid queenside expansion looks like it puts him ahead of Black in development. White's initiative is only temporary, however, as Black's position holds no weaknesses despite White's space advantage. 12...£f6 this does multiple things for Black, including adding support for the idea of the ...e5 break and positioning the queen well for further action on the kingside. 13.b6 this move is probably unavoidable, according to Komodo 8. Black is threatening to undermine the queenside pawns with ...e5, so maintaining the tension with the b-pawn could eventually lead to a collapse of White's extended pawn formation. However, once the queenside pawns are locked up, then the game becomes strategically much easier for Black; the only open play is on the kingside, which is the natural hunting ground for the Stonewall. 13...¥b8 the bishop is still very much in play here, although the Ra8 is now locked to its square. The problem with the rook will be offset by the inability of White to transfer his queenside rook, or other needed forces, to the kingside in an effective manner. 14.¦c1 e5 illustrating the classic principle of reacting to a flank advance by breaking in the center. Note how Black's pieces are activated by this freeing advance. In addition to the strategic aspects, there is now a tactical threat of ...Nxc3 followed by the pawn fork ...e4. 15.¤e2
15.¤xe5 disrupting Black's formation in the center is the only way to stay relatively equal. 15...¥xe5 16.dxe5 ¤xe5 17.¥b1 £e7 18.¥e1 ¤c4 (18...¤xc5?19.¤xd5 cxd5 20.£xd5+)
15...¤xd2 16.¤xd2 e4³ this is no longer a double attack, but is still a highly advantageous move. The pawn lever ...f4 is now an obvious future threat. 17.¥b1 £h6 hitting h2. A standard follow-up plan for Black would now be ...g5, coupled with ...Nf6, ...Kh8 and ...Rg8, to get the kingside attack rolling. 18.g3? under pressure, White chooses poorly. Blunting the attack on the b8-h2 diagonal looks like an obvious choice, but now Black can end things much more quickly. (18.h3³) 18...¤f6−⁠+ usually, moving a knight to f6 is routine rather than devastating. Here, however, the light-square weakness on the kingside means that it can go to g4 and combine with the Qh6 on the attack. White has no good options to defend against this threat. 19.¢g2 (19.h4 ¤g4 20.¦c3 g5−⁠+) (19.f3 £xe3+−⁠+) 19...f4! there's a reason this pawn advance is a key attacking concept in the Dutch. White's position now falls apart; Black has a significant preponderance of material participating in the kingside attack, having with f5-f4 just added the Bc8 to it (removing the blocking pawn on f5 and hitting h3). Meanwhile, White's pieces are barely in the game. 20.exf4
20.¤xf4 temporarily staves off defeat, but Black can then penetrate White's position at his leisure. 20...¥xf4 21.h4 (21.exf4 £h3+ 22.¢g1 ¤g4−⁠+) 21...¥b8 22.£e2 ¥g4 23.£e1 £h5 24.f3 exf3+ 25.¤xf3 ¤e4−⁠+
20...£h3+ and the follow-up ...Ng4 cannot be stopped.
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19 January 2016

The importance of CCT: example #8 - Tata Steel 2016, Round 3

Another timely example of the importance of CCT (checks, captures, threats) to your thinking process recently happened at the super-GM Tata Steel tournament.  Below, if you go to move 37, Black (Eljanov) has just played ...Rc8.  White (Mamedyarov) fails to see what has changed in the position now in terms of new threats (in this case, the Black Qe4 to the unprotected Rb1), so blunders on the next move.  White had temporarily postponed the threat with his own threat (37. Qg5) but then proceeded to ignore his own hanging rook.

Why does this type of blunder occur?  One problem with trying to achieve 100% accurate board sight is that our internal, mental picture of the position and its key features can be too static.  In other words, we proceed with our plans, relying on the mental assumption that nothing important about the position has changed.  In some cases, this may be a useful and perhaps even necessary thought process shortcut, since we are not computers and should not be explicitly calculating everything on the board each move.  However, the below game is a reminder of the utility of "stepping back" mentally - something I incorporated into the simplified thought process I worked out a while ago - by taking at least a brief moment to update your internal, mental view of the position's characteristics and compare it with the reality of your opponent's move on the board in front of you.

In this specific case, I suspect that pattern recognition - normally a chessplayer's friend - may even have played a negative role in reinforcing White's play.  The Qe4 is in an unusual place for a queen and it's rare to see this particular threat, along a diagonal to an unprotected Rb1, actually on the board.  White may also have focused on the threat to the c-pawn, without even noticing the other attack.  So there was no automatic danger signal for White, who failed to ask the mental question (or forgot the answer) regarding all of the new checks/captures/threats that Black's move 36...Qe4 generated.

One shouldn't give too much weight to a one-off blunder, which is also a comforting thought for improving players.  We're not alone in blundering, but at the same time it's important to identify why it occurs and reduce the phenomenon, even if it can't be completely eliminated - including at the top levels.

Mamedyarov, S. (2747) - Eljanov, P. (2760)

Result: 0-1
Site: Wijk aan Zee NED
Date: 2016.01.18
[...] 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.¤c3 ¤f6 4.e3 a6 5.¤f3 e6 6.b3 ¥b4 7.¥d2 O-O 8.¥d3 ¤bd7 9.£c2 £e7 10.¤e5 ¤xe5 11.dxe5 ¤g4 12.f4 ¥c5 13.¢e2 ¦d8 14.h3 ¤xe3 15.¥xe3 ¥xe3 16.¢xe3 d4+ 17.¢f3 dxc3 18.¦ad1 ¥d7 19.¥xh7+ ¢h8 20.¥d3 f5 21.£xc3 c5 22.¢f2 ¥c6 23.¥e2 b5 24.£e3 bxc4 25.¥xc4 ¥b5 26.¥e2 ¥xe2 27.¢xe2 c4 28.bxc4 £b4 29.£b3 £c5 30.£c3 ¦ac8 31.¢f3 ¢g8 32.¢g3 a5 33.¦xd8+ ¦xd8 34.¦b1 a4 35.¢h2 £c6 36.£g3 £e4 37.£g5 ¦c8 38.c5 £xb1
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18 January 2016

Commentary: Dortmund 2015, Round 6 (Kramnik - Nisipeanu)

I've been working on finishing off my 2015 collection of commentary games, with only one remaining after this one.  The below game nicely complements Nakamura - Harika by allowing us to examine a similar opening structure for White.  Black here chooses a somewhat different approach and we end up with a position similar to a Nimzo-Indian in reverse, in which White has comfortable play against Black's isolated queen pawn (IQP).  This game is something of a classic IQP strategic fight, in which Kramnik (as White) squeezes Black relentlessly, but in the end he is unable to convert the rook endgame.  ("All rook endgames are drawn" is a technically incorrect, yet wittily insightful remark attributed to Tarrasch.)  Although Nisipeanu made a few possibly dubious strategic decisions in the middlegame, including the strategic no-no of exchanging minor pieces unnecessarily while possessing an IQP, he had the mental toughness to resist the resulting pressure and found a saving tactical resource (60...f2+!) in the endgame to reach a technically drawn position.

Kramnik, Vladimir (2783) - Nisipeanu, Liviu Dieter (2654)

Result: 1/2-1/2
Site: Dortmund GER
Date: 2015.07.04
[...] 1.¤f3 d5 2.e3 an unusual approach, but not a bad one. Should Black proceed in a classical fashion, for example, White can play a Nimzo-Indian in reverse and with an extra tempo. 2...¤f6 3.c4 e6 4.b3 now the game is in English Opening territory. 4...c5 5.¥b2 ¤c6 6.cxd5 otherwise Black is strong in the center and can even think about ...d4. 6...exd5 7.¥b5 White now has a similar structure to a Nimzo-Indian (reversed). One point of the move is to restrain .. .d4 by pinning the Nc6. 7...¥d6 the most active square for the bishop. Black does not need to worry about the d5 pawn at the moment; the only drawback of the bishop's presence on d6 is blocking the Qd8's defense of the pawn. 8.d4 an unusual decision at this point, as White normally castles and may not necessarily follow up with d4. 8...cxd4 9.¤xd4 White now has a classic (reverse) IQP position. 9...O-O the obvious move for Black here would be to protect the Nc6, but if White takes it and the pawn after double captures on c6, the resulting positions would be unfavorable. 10.O-O
10.¤xc6 bxc6 11.¥xc6 ¥g4 this is the problem with White's choice in this line. Black now develops his pieces with tempo and forces White into an awkward situation. 12.f3 compromising the pawn shield around White's king. 12...¦c8 13.O-O is ugly but may be best. (13.¥b7 ¥b4+ 14.¤d2 ¦c7µ) (13.¥xd5?13...¥b4+−⁠+) 13...¦xc6 14.fxg4 £b8³
10.¥xc6 bxc6 11.¤xc6 £c7 threatening the Nc6 and forming a battery against h2. Now White will not be able to castle and Black has a lead in development, which add up to more than a pawn's worth of compensation. For example 12.¥xf6 £xc6 13.¥d4 ¥b4+ 14.¢f1 ¥f5³
10...£c7 11.h3 now we are out of the database. Kramink may have used this prophylatic move as an improvement to the following game:
11.¤f3 ¥g4 12.¥xf6 gxf6 13.¤c3 ¥xh2+ 14.¢h1 ¥e5 15.¤xd5 £d6 16.¤f4 ¥xf4 17.exf4 £xf4 18.¥xc6 bxc6 19.£d4 £h6+ 20.¤h2 ¥e6 21.¢g1 ¦fd8 22.£c3 £g6 23.¦fd1 ¦xd1+ 24.¦xd1 ¥d5 25.f3 ¦e8 26.¤g4 ¢g7 27.¢f2 h5 28.¤e3 h4 29.¦h1 £g3+ 30.¢f1 ¦e5 31.¦h3 £g5 32.¢f2 ¥e6 33.g4 ¦c5 34.£d2 ¦d5 35.£c3 ¦c5 36.£d2 ¦d5 1/2-1/2 (36) Agzamov,G (2485) -Geller,E (2545) Yerevan 1982
11...¥h2+ 12.¢h1 ¥e5 this sequence involving forcing the king to h1, instead of simply moving ...Be5 to pin the knight, results in a position where white's king has fewer potential flight squares. 13.£c2 protecting the Bb2 and therefore unpinning the knight, while exerting pressure down the c-file. 13...¥d7 14.¤f3 this quasi-forces the exchange of bishops, as Black does not want to give White the long diagonal for free. 14...¥xb2 15.£xb2 ¦ac8 16.¦c1 this move is rather committal, as White's heavy pieces are now all on the queenside. 16...£d6 unpinning the Nc6. 17.¤c3 White finally gets all of his pieces developed; the queen's knight has been rather neglected until now. 17...¤e5?! the normal strategic rule in playing IQP positions is for the player NOT possessing the IQP to exchange pieces; this leads to fewer complications and causing the pawn's weakness to become more pronounced. It's not clear why Black chose to ignore this rule, since the piece exchanges that follow are entirely voluntary.
something like 17...a6 18.¥d3 ¦fe8 looks simple and balanced for Black.
18.¥e2!?
18.¤xe5 is the more obvious approach to the position. 18...£xe5 19.¥xd7 ¤xd7 20.¦c2² with the idea of following up with Rd1 and Ne2 to pressure the IQP and control the space in front of it.
18...¤xf3 again unforced, but a logical follow-up to the previous knight move. 19.¥xf3 the engine rates the position as equal, although it's clearly easier for White to play against the IQP than it is for Black to come up with any real counterplay. 19...£e5 20.£d2 unpinning the Nc3. 20...¥e6 the bishop being used as a "big pawn" is ugly but effective in supporting d5. 21.¤b5 ¥d7 Black appears content to shuffle pieces at this stage, since he doesn't have anything better than a draw as a prospect. 22.£d4 continuing to exchange pieces. (22.¤xa7?22...¦a8 and the knight is out of squares.) 22...£xd4 23.¤xd4 a5?! this seems to excessively loosen Black's position and grant White some initiative. The pawn becomes a significant weakness later in the endgame. (23...a6) (23...¤e4) 24.g4 This is the type of move that is sometimes difficult for Class players to envision, since it weakens the pawn shield in front of the king. However, Kramnik reacts appropriately to the situation and judges that the game has now reached the stage, with the queens off the board, of an endgame where his king needs to be activated. The advanced g-pawn also controls additional space. 24...h6 25.¢g2²25...¦xc1 26.¦xc1 ¦c8 27.¦b1 an interesting choice. Basically, if White exchanges the rooks, he technically has a slight edge, but it's very doubtful he'll be able to do anything significant to compromise Black's position with only the two minor pieces remaining. With the text move, White retains the rook and Kramink evidently still hopes to squeeze out a win if Black falters. 27...¦a8 perhaps this is intended as a threat to advance the a-pawn, although it doesn't seem very significant. 28.¤e2 White switches plans and repositions the knight to directly pressure the IQP. 28...g5 I'm not sure what this was supposed to accomplish, as White's g-pawn was already restrained and the Ne2 can simply go to c3 instead of f4. It was probably better to use the tempo to get the rook back in the game. (28...¦c8) 29.¤c3 ¥e6 back to static defense of the pawn. 30.¦d1 ¦d8 play is predictably revolving around the IQP. With the Rd8 unprotected, however, White can use this tactical situation to force the issue with his next move. 31.e4 d4 otherwise the pawn is lost. 32.¢g3 Kramnik does not rush to take the pawn, first removing the king from a potential tactic involving a check from a future ...Nf4.
For example 32.¤b5?!32...d3 33.e5 ¤d5 and the d3 pawn is tactically protected by the knight fork on f4.
32.¦d3!? is also possible, blocking the pawn from advancing. The knight still cannot be taken due to the pin against the unprotected Rd8.
32...¦c8 33.¤b5 ¤d7 as the d-pawn is lost, black repositions the knight to a better square in the center, also blocking the e-pawn. 34.¤xd4 ¤e5 although White is now a pawn up, Black has some positional compensation in the form of his better-placed pieces. In particular, the Rc8 threatens to penetrate White's back ranks. 35.¥e2 (35.¤xe6?!35...fxe6 36.¥e2 ¦c2) 35...¦c3+ 36.f3 ¢g7 37.¦d2 relieving the Nd4 of the burden of guarding the c2 square against Black's rook. 37...¢f6 Black is looking to get his king into the fight. 38.¤f5 ¥xf5 a good decision by Black to exchange. The knight would be powerful on the 5th or 6th ranks (f5 or d6) and White's pawns are doubled as a result, making it a little harder for him to make progress. 39.exf5 ¢e7±40.¦d5 correctly and aggressively striking at the centralized knight and the undefended, advanced a-pawn. 40...¤c6
40...¢f6!? is possible, for example 41.¦xa5 ¦c2 and Black will regain the pawn. One sample continuation: 42.¢f2 ¤c6 43.¦d5 defending against ... Nd4, winning the pinned Be2. 43...¦xa2±
41.¥b5 b6 42.h4 getting the kingside majority moving. 42...f6 shoring up g5 and creating a potential knight outpost on e5. 43.¥xc6 done in order to eliminate the knight, which otherwise would become strongly centralized on the dark square e5 and help restrain White's kingside advance. 43...¦xc6 44.hxg5 hxg5 "all rook endings are drawn" is a saying that is not technically true, but is often the case because they are so hard to win. White's extra pawn is doubled and Black's rook and king are active, so it's not simply "a matter of technique" to win from this point. 45.a4 ¦c3 46.¦b5 ¦c6 47.f4 Kramnik decides to force the issue on the kingside immediately. 47...¦c3+ in order to drive the king away from supporting f4. Of course, the drawback is abandoning the b6 pawn. As typical in rook endgames, one cannot get something for nothing. The engine assesses that conducting a straight exchange on f4 and continuing to protect the b-pawn would be better for Black. 48.¢f2 gxf4 49.¦xb6+⁠− Komodo 8 shows White at over +4 at this point. 49...¢f7 the king heads back to the kingside, with the evident idea of trying to make it to g5. 50.b4 this was an unnecessary concession.
50.¦b5 ¢g7 51.¦xa5 ¢h6 (51...¦xb3 52.¦a8+⁠− and the a-pawn cannot be stopped by Black.) 52.¦a8+⁠−
50...¦c2+ 51.¢f3 ¦c3+ 52.¢f2 this seems to be where Kramnik passes up a good winning chance. (52.¢xf4 ¦c4+ 53.¢f3 axb4 54.a5+⁠−) 52...¦c2+ 53.¢e1 ¦c1+ 54.¢d2 f3 compared with the variation above, Black is doing much better. The Rc1 of course cannot be taken, since the f-pawn would then queen. 55.¢e3 ¦c3+ 56.¢f2 axb4 57.¦xb4 ¢g7 Black's king slowly gets closer to its goal. 58.¢g3
58.¦b8!? is the best chance for White, according to the engine. 58...¦c4 59.¦a8 ¦xg4 60.¢xf3
58...¦a3 59.¦b7+ ¢h6 60.¦a7 f2+! the key move for Black, which allows him to draw. 61.¢xf2 ¢g5 the combination of the Ra3 cutting off the White king and the blockade on f6-g5 mean that White can no longer make progress. If White simplifies to having a passed pawn, Black's king and rook position mean that it will not be able to queen, lacking the White king's support. 62.¢e2 White nevertheless continues the game in the hopes of his opponent committing an error. (62.¦g7+ ¢f4 63.¦g6 ¦xa4 64.¦xf6 ¢xg4) 62...¢xg4 63.¦a5 ¢f4 64.¢d2 ¢e4 65.¢c2 ¢d4 66.¦a6 ¦c3+ 67.¢b2 ¦c4 68.¦a5 ¦b4+ 69.¢a3 ¢c4 70.¦a6 ¦b3+ 71.¢a2 ¦b4 72.¦a8 ¢c5 73.¢a3 ¦f4 74.¦b8 ¦f1 75.¦b5+ ¢c4 76.¢b2 ¦f2+ 77.¢b1 ¢c3 78.a5 ¢c4 79.¦b7 ¦xf5 80.a6 ¦a5 81.a7 ¢c5 82.¦f7 ¢b6 83.¢c2
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