05 May 2012

Annotated Game #44: Queenside breakthrough in the English

This second-round tournament game features a classic queenside breakthrough in the English, even if it was somewhat messily executed by White.  Black does not appear to have much knowledge or faith in his opening play, avoiding the full King's Indian Defense (KID) setup by not playing ...e5 and furthermore not generating any meaningful counterplay.  I found it useful to examine moves like 12...c5 to see why they fail to stop White's queenside pressure.  It was also useful to see Houdini's alternative plans for White, which would have done away with distractions like 13. Bg5.

The game is an illustration of what can happen if Black fails to generate kingside or centrally-based counterplay against the standard English plan of queenside expansion against a KID-type setup.  Playing only on White's terms never ends up well for Black, who should either deliberately work to restrain White's plan on the queenside with moves like ...a5, and/or go for kingside expansion with ...e5 and likely an eventual ...f5.  What happens in this game, with the queenside breakthrough evolving into a kingside attack, is a typical outcome when White is able to dominate the position.

One of the benefits of playing the English Opening at the Class level is the relatively high probability of throwing your opponent on their own thinking resources early on.  It doesn't always end up being this one-sided, but it's usually obvious as White when Black is having trouble finding a response to your opening play, which among other things typically results in Black burning a lot of clock time early on in the game.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A16"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "61"] {A16: English Opening: 1...Nf6 with ...d5} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. d3 c6 {the third most popular move choice, after e5 and Nc6. Black indicates he is going to fight for the d5 square.} 7. O-O Bf5 {while a huge variety of moves have been played here, the text move (which misplaces the bishop) shows up exactly once, in a loss by a Class A player. The majority of games feature ...e5, taking it into a KID setup.} (7... Bg4 {would be a better option for developing the bishop at this stage.} 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Nbd7 10. Rb1 a5 11. Bg2 e5 12. e4 Nc5 13. Be3 Nfd7 14. f4 Ne6 15. f5 Nd4 16. h4 Rc8 17. Rf2 Rc7 18. Bh3 Kh8 19. Kh1 Rg8 20. fxg6 fxg6 21. Qd2 Rf8 22. Rbf1 { Rabar, B-Szilagyi,G/Reggio Emilia 1965/EXT 2001/1/2-1/2 (27)}) 8. Rb1 {White is undeterred from pursuing his queenside expansion plan.} Nbd7 (8... Qc8 { would be a more logical follow-up to the bishop development, aiming to play Bh3 to exchange off the Bg2.}) 9. b4 (9. Nd4 {on this move is preferred by the engines, as after the b4 push the Nc3 is also unprotected, allowing the response Nd5.}) 9... Rb8 {the rook would be better placed on c8, helping restrain the b4-b5 push because of its pressure down the c-file.} 10. Nd4 Be6 ( 10... Nd5 {would be a tactical way for Black to free his position up, for example} 11. cxd5 Bxd4 12. Bb2 Nf6) 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. b5 {White continues his expansionary plans. In contrast with the above variation, Black has little prospect for counterplay.} c5 {this temporarily prevents White from opening up the queenside, at the cost of opening up the lane for the Bg2 and weakening the surrounding squares.} 13. Bg5 {played with the intention of exchanging off the Bg7, although White never actually does this.} (13. Qa4 {is one alternative.} d5 14. cxd5 Nb6 15. Qxa7 Nfxd5 16. Ne4) 13... Re8 (13... h6 { simply creates a future target for White.} 14. Bd2 $14) 14. Qd2 Nf8 {this protects the doubled e6 pawn, but locks the knight away, so is a net positional loss for Black.} 15. a4 N6d7 16. Ne4 {the knight looks strong here, but is in fact doing very little, despite the immediate threat of Nxd6 due to the pin on the e7 pawn.} Nf6 {Black threatens to exchange off the Ne4 and free his game a little. Houdini favors a plan for White that preserves the knight and regroups his pieces.} 17. a5 (17. Nc3 {and now a possible continuation is} Qc7 18. Qc1 N6d7 19. Bd2 Ne5 20. a5 {and now if} Qxa5 21. Ra1 Qb6 22. Nd5 exd5 23. Ba5) 17... a6 {this only helps set up White's breakthrough on the queenside.} (17... Nxe4) 18. Rb3 {preparing to switch the heavy pieces to the b-file and dominate it.} Ra8 {now the rook isn't a target as it was on b8, but it's not doing much of use on a8 and White's Bg2 is looking hungrily at it.} 19. Rfb1 $18 Nxe4 (19... axb5 20. Rxb5 Ra7 21. Nxf6+ exf6 22. Be3 $18) 20. dxe4 (20. Bxe4 {would preserve the Bishop's pressure on the long diagonal, even after} d5 21. Bg2 Ra7 22. cxd5 exd5) 20... e5 {evidently played with the idea of preventing White from challenging the d6 pawn, but now the light-squre bishop springs to life on another diagonal.} (20... Nd7 21. bxa6 bxa6 22. Rb7 $18) 21. Bh3 Qc7 $2 {this makes the queen a target on the 7th rank after White's rooks crash through. Howver, Black is essentially lost by this point anyway, as he cannot stop White from breaking into his position and has zero counterplay.} 22. bxa6 Rxa6 (22... bxa6 {does not solve anything, says Fritz.} 23. Rb7 Qc6 24. Qd3 $18) 23. Rxb7 Qxa5 24. Qxa5 {White opts to simplify into a winning position.} ({The engines instead find a mating attack with} 24. Qd5+ { which is not obvious (at least for me) in looking at the position.} e6 25. Bxe6+ Rxe6 26. Be7 $18 Ra8 27. Bxf8 Rxf8 28. Qxe6+) 24... Rxa5 25. Bxe7 Ra2 26. e3 Rea8 (26... Rc2 27. Bxd6 Rxc4 28. Rc7 $18) 27. Rb8 (27. Bxd6 {is the simpler approach.}) 27... R8a3 $4 {removing the extra protector of f8.} (27... Rxb8 28. Rxb8 Kf7 29. Bxd6 Ra7 $18) 28. Be6+ Kh8 29. Bxf8 {missing the near-term mate.} (29. Rxf8+ Bxf8 30. Bf6+ Bg7 31. Rb8#) 29... Bxf8 $18 30. Rxf8+ Kg7 31. Rf7+ (31. Rf7+ Kh6 32. Rbb7 Ra1+ 33. Kg2 $18) 1-0

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