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.

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