27 April 2017

Annotated Game #173: I like the London System

For whatever reason, I've traditionally had good results (as Black) in London System type games.  It's quite popular now for White and certainly offers good development and play.  On the Black side, I've found it to be not as challenging as other White systems in the opening phase, essentially because less direct pressure is placed on Black, so I feel like I can equalize and then play a comfortable game.

The below tournament game follows this pattern, with me equalizing as Black by move 6 and having some easy ideas to follow in the middlegame.  By move 18 the position is drawish, but I chose to be patient, as I felt any (slight) chances would lie on my side.  I was able to target the one weakness in White's position (the b2 pawn), but then my opponent cannily fought back to create an unusual endgame fight (2N+R vs my two rooks).  I did have an outside passed pawn, though, which ended up being decisive, after some interesting tactics (see move 36).

This game isn't of very high quality - too many dubious (?!) choices on both sides - but was valuable to analyze, including identifying a thinking process lapse (move 23, where I could have consolidated my advantage if I had recognized my opponent's best response).

Class C - ChessAdmin

Result: 0-1

[...] 1.d4 d5 2.¥f4 evidently going for a London System type setup. 2...¤f6 3.¤f3 c6 4.e3 ¥g4 (4...¥f5 is a standard alternative.)
4...£b6!? may be a little premature, but it hits at White's queenside immediately, now that the dark-square bishop is away. Kramnik once gave it a try against Gata Kamsky: 5.£c1 ¥f5 6.c4 e6 7.¤c3 ¤bd7 8.c5 £d8 9.¥e2 ¥e7 10.h3 ¤e4 11.O-O g5 12.¥e5 ¤xe5 13.¤xe5 ¥f6 14.¤xe4 ¥xe4 15.£c3 ¥g7 16.b4 O-O 17.b5 cxb5 18.¥xb5 £c7 19.¦ac1 f6 20.¤d7 ¦fd8 21.c6 bxc6 22.£xc6 £xc6 23.¥xc6 ¦ac8 24.¥b5 ¥g6 25.¤c5 ¦d6 26.a4 ¥f8 27.¤a6 ¦c2 28.¦xc2 ¥xc2 29.¤c5 e5 30.¦c1 ¥f5 31.g4 ¥g6 32.¤d7 ¥e8 33.¤xf8 ¥xb5 34.axb5 ¢xf8 35.dxe5 fxe5 36.¦c7 d4 37.exd4 exd4 38.¢f1 d3 39.¢e1 ¦d5 40.¦xa7 ¦xb5 41.¦xh7 ¦b1+ 42.¢d2 ¦f1 43.¢xd3 ¦xf2 44.¢e4 ¦f4+ 45.¢e5 ¦f3 46.¢e6 ¢g8 47.¦h5 ¢f8 48.¦xg5 ¦xh3 49.¢f6 ¦a3 50.¢g6 ¢g8 1/2-1/2 (50) Kamsky,G (2671)-Kramnik,V (2729) Turin 2006
5.c4 e6 6.a3 this takes away the b4 square from Black, but is a rather slow approach, neglecting piece development. 6...¥d6 a natural developing move that challenges White's strong Bf4. 7.¥g3 O-O 8.¥e2 not bad, but not optimal. It also prompts me to play the next move. 8...dxc4 while not really a full tempo loss for White, it's still annoying to move the bishop twice in a row. For Black, the benefit is to re-establish the pin on the Nf3 and achieve a solid central pawn formation that restricts White's light-square bishop. 9.¥xc4 ¥xg3 the exchange of bishops is more or less obligatory at some point, given the tension on the diagonal. I thought this was a good time to do it and enable the subsequent pawn break. 10.hxg3 c5 challenging White's central pawn outpost. If White is takes the c5 pawn, having the king in the center after a queen exchange on d1 would be worth the sacrifice, plus the pawn is recoverable. 11.¥e2
11.dxc5 £xd1+ 12.¢xd1 ¦c8 13.¤c3 (13.b4?!13...a5 14.bxa5 ¦xa5³) 13...¦xc5 14.¥e2
11...¤bd7 with White preparing to castle, now the pawn is better off being protected. 12.O-O ¦c8 13.¤bd2 cxd4 exchanging the pawns opens the c-file and reduces White's central pawn formation. 14.¤xd4 ¥xe2 15.£xe2 ¤b6 the idea being to challenge control of c4 and give the option of hopping to d5. 16.¦ac1 £d5 the queen is now nicely centralized, but White lacks any weaknesses that it could attack. 17.£f3 a6 taking away a useful square (b5) from the Nd4, in anticipation of the exchange. 18.£xd5 ¤fxd5 the position now looks very drawish and the engine agrees. In the past, I've been impatient with such types of positions and might even have offered a draw. Now I treat such situations more as learning experiences and will not on principle offer a draw until a position is truly played out (or perhaps if I assess I am worse off). 19.¤2f3 a minor slip by my opponent. With my next move, I now have a slight edge and am creating threats. (19.¤e4!?) 19...¤a4 20.¦fe1? (20.b3 ¤ac3 21.¦c2 ¦c7 22.¦fc1 ¦fc8 23.¢f1 ¢f8) 20...¤db6?! played as the result of not fully calculating the capture on b2. I thought that White could get the pawn back easily with Rb1, so took the step to screen the b7 pawn with the other knight first.
20...¤xb2 21.¦b1 originally I stopped calculating here, just seeing the threat to the unprotected b7 pawn. 21...¤d3 a nice intermediate move threatening the Re1 and now 22.¦ed1?
22.¦f1 is best but after 22...b5−⁠+ Black is winning with a mobilized 2-1 queenside pawn majority.
21.¢h2 however, my opponent now gives me an extra tempo to execute the threat. 21...¤xb2 22.¦b1 ¤2a4µ23.¦b4 ¦c3?! here I didn't pay enough attention to my opponent's possible ideas, just going for the a3 pawn. (23...¦c4µ) 24.¦eb1 at this point I saw that he will get back some material. 24...¦xa3 25.¦xb6 ¤xb6 26.¦xb6 h6 right idea, but wrong timing, according to the engine. White could now play g4 and activate the king via g3. (26...¦a5 would be better, keeping the rook more active.) (26...¦a2 would also be good.) 27.¦xb7 we now have an interesting, dynamically balanced endgame. If White had two bishops instead of two knights I would certainly be in worse shape. I still have to watch out for attacking ideas for White that use his two minor pieces and rook in combination, but my passed a-pawn and rook activity mean that the position is equal. At this point I didn't know if I could win, but I felt that at least I could avoid losing. 27...¦a2 28.¢g1 ¦c8? too aggressive, neglecting the weak f7 square. 29.¦b1?! missing the threat he could make aginst f7, at least for now.
29.¤e5 h5 cutting off the exit square for the White king 30.g4 hxg4 31.¤xf7 ¦c5± looks rather ugly for Black.
29...a5 passed pawns must be pushed! 30.¤e5 ¦c7 now I am thinking more about defense. 31.¢f1 a waste of a tempo. 31...a4³ White isn't lost yet, but the initiative is with me now and the a-pawn keeps getting stronger. It's also hard to find the specific continuation for White that holds. 32.¦e1?
32.¦b8+ (playing Kg1 first is also fine) 32...¢h7 33.¢g1³ is the key according to the engine, which is rather hard for humans to see. White's king needs to get off the first rank, where it can be checked with tempo gain by a rook to facilitate the queening of the a-pawn.
32...a3µ33.¤d3 ¦d7?! right file, wrong rook. (33...¦d2!34.¤b4 a2−⁠+) 34.¤b4? after this I find a winning continuation. (34.¦d1³) 34...¦b2−⁠+35.¤dc2 a2 36.¦a1 this seemed to be an excellent defense and I spent a good deal of time coming up with the game continuation (which is the best according to Komodo). I had originally spotted the idea of the tactic ...Rb1+, which now doesn't work to break through. 36...¦d2
36...¦b1+ 37.¢e2 ¦xa1 38.¤xa1−⁠+ is still winning for Black, but with a lot more work to do.
37.¢g1 but now the ...Rb1+ tactic does work! (37.¦xa2 ¦xa2 38.¤xa2 ¦xc2−⁠+) 37...¦b1+ 38.¢h2 ¦dd1 the most effective continuation, now with a double attack on the Ra1 and on the h1 square threatening mate. 39.g4 ¦xa1 40.¤xa1 ¦xa1 41.¢g3 ¢f8 42.¢f4 ¢e8 43.¢e4 ¢d7 44.¢e5 White's king cannot venture onto the d-file without suffering a rook check, with the a-pawn then queening. 44...¢c7 45.f4 ¢b6 with the simple winning idea of threatening to chase away the knight, which will force its exchange for the a-pawn. 46.g5 hxg5 47.fxg5 ¢b5 48.¤xa2 ¦xa2 49.g6 fxg6 50.¢xe6 ¦xg2 at this point White cannot win and at worst I'll end up with K+R vs. K (an elementary mate). 51.e4 ¢c6 52.e5 ¦g5 53.¢f7 ¦xe5 54.¢xg7 g5 now there is no way of stopping the pawn from queening and making the Q+R vs. K mate very obvious. My opponent however was a junior who apparently didn't realize the etiquette of resigning when you are in such a situation. 55.¢f6 ¢d5 56.¢g6 g4 57.¢f6 g3 58.¢g6 g2 59.¢g7 g1=£+ 60.¢f6 £f1+ 61.¢g7 ¦e2 62.¢g6 ¦g2+ 63.¢h6 £h1#
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