01 October 2011

Annotated Game #12: Denker Tournament of Champions

This is the best game from my participation (many years ago) in the Denker Tournament of Champions.  It occurred in the last round of the tournament and winning meant that I broke even overall (2.5 points out of 5), with a performance rating in the low 1900s.

I chose to annotate the opening with more detail than usual, since it is very representative of the closed English systems, with White pursuing a standard plan of queenside space expansion while Black does the same on the kingside.  Anyone who plays (or plays against) the English should recognize the key developmental ideas and plans.  As with most opposite-wing strategies, usually it's an exciting race as White takes an early lead on the queenside, while Black attempts to nullify White's plans and push his own attack on the kingside, which is the more deadly (but slower) of the two.

In this game, Black commits some early inaccuracies, playing too slowly on moves 15-16 and then attempting to react in the center with 17..d5 to White's queenside pawn push.  This, however, missed a neat tactical idea on move 20, allowing White to break through.  White avoids some pawn snatching pitfalls and consolidates his position, while Black only gets his pawns rolling on the kingside by move 28.  A last-ditch Black attack fails due to another tactical point from White.

The development of the game shows how it is important for White to focus on pressing hard early on, in order to preserve his small opening initiative, while Black must find a way to blunt this and get his kingside pawns moving forward.  It is easier for the White side to play this opening, as the basic plan is clear (Rb1-b4-b5 followed by pushing the a-pawn) and threats are developed earlier on the queenside.  I think most players of the English also have a practical advantage, as their opponents are much less likely to be familiar with this type of position, which is relatively easier to mishandle as Black.

[Event "Denker Tournament of Champions"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A26"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "1989.??.??"] {A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 {indicating a preference for a the closed variations; Nf6 is the other main choice.} 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6 {This is now the standard Closed Sicilian position with colors reversed (and White to move, giving him more of an initiative).} 6. Nf3 f5 {the most popular choice, although not obligatory. This sets the stage for a middlegame with queenside vs. kingside expansion plans.} 7. O-O Nf6 8. Rb1 {beginning queenside expansion operations} O-O 9. b4 h6 {removes the option of Bg5 for White} 10. b5 Ne7 11. Qb3 {a4 is the standard move here, deferring piece placement} Be6 12. a4 g5 {The most direct way of beginning Black's counterplan. Only two database games show this move, both losses for Black. Houdini prefers moves that help restrain White on the queenside such as Rb8 or a6.} 13. Nd2 {a standard idea in these types of English positions, unleashing the Bg2 and helping control e4.} Rb8 {now it's forced and White has more initiative.} 14. Ba3 {another standard idea, as it's the only good square for the dark-squared bishop and it exerts pressure on a valuable diagonal.} Qe8 15. Qb4 $146 {first move out of the database; only one other went to this point, that one featured Nd5 and was drawn.} Rf7 {a slow and a bit awkward idea for defending the 7th rank and/or doubling heavy pieces on the f-file.} (15... b6 16. a5 f4 {is suggested by Houdini, controlling c5 and starting the kingside pawn advance up again.}) 16. a5 {with the idea of pushing b6 and forcing queenside lines open.} (16. Qa5 {gains a pawn and is slightly preferred by Houdini, but after the continuation} Qc8 17. Qxa7 Nd7 18. Bb2 Nc5 19. Qa5 f4 {Black has the initiative and his pieces are better coordinated.}) 16... Bf8 {again slow and somewhat reactive. Houdini suggests f4 or Qd7, lining up on the kingside.} 17. b6 d5 $2 (17... axb6 {is considered best by both Fritz and Houdini.} 18. axb6 c6 {and White will need to regroup his pieces to make further progress.}) 18. bxa7 Ra8 19. Qxb7 c6 20. Qb8 { The idea missed by black on move 17.} Rxa7 21. Qxa7 Nc8 22. Qb8 Bxa3 {White emerges from the sequence a pawn and the exchange up.} 23. Qb3 ({Pawn snatching with} 23. Qxe5 $2 {would throw away the advantage by allowing the queen to be trapped.} Bd6 24. Qd4 c5 25. Qe3 f4 26. gxf4 gxf4 27. Qf3 Bg4) 23... Bc5 24. cxd5 cxd5 25. Qb5 {simplification seemed to be a good winning plan at this point.} ({The engines point out that White can snatch another pawn with} 25. Nxd5 Qd8 26. Nxf6+ Rxf6 $18 27. Qb5) 25... Qf8 26. Na4 Ba7 27. Nb6 Nd6 28. Qc6 e4 {Black finally starts some counterplay.} 29. Nb3 f4 30. Nd4 (30. dxe4 {would allow White to simplify, for example} dxe4 31. Nc5 Bg4 32. Rfd1) 30... Bd7 31. Nxd7 Nxd7 32. Ne6 ({Attempted pawn snatching with} 32. Qxd5 {is clearly worse, as Black can exploit the fact the queen is tied to the defense of the Nd4.} Nf6 33. Qe6 Bxd4 34. dxe4 Qe7 35. Qxe7 Rxe7) 32... Qe7 33. Qa8+ Kh7 34. Qxa7 ({I missed the desperado tactic of} 34. Nxf4 gxf4 35. Qxa7) 34... Qxe6 35. dxe4 dxe4 36. Qd4 f3 {a last-gasp attack by Black} 37. exf3 exf3 38. Qd3+ Ne4 39. Bxf3 Rxf3 40. Qxf3 Nd2 {a beautiful knight fork, if it weren't for} 41. Qd3+ Kg7 42. Qxd2 Ne5 43. Rb7+ 1-0

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