12 May 2012

Annotated Game #45: The Slav Punished

In this third-round tournament game, it seems that I took the solidity of the Slav Defense for granted.  Playing an opening on automatic may not always be punished by your opponent, but this time mine quickly spotted the flaws in my play, particularly those caused by Black's 9th move.  While White's execution of his plan wasn't perfect, the apparent helplessness of Black in the face of White's simple attacking ideas makes a strong impression.

What could Black have done better?  The sixth move was perhaps not ideal, although it did not lead inevitably to Black's difficulties.  Rather, it was symptomatic of Black not thinking through his piece development.  9...Bd6 also was not directly disastrous, but betrayed the sloppiness of Black's thinking and planning in the opening.  Interestingly, it was exchanging White's Bd3 that really got Black into trouble.  One of the rules in evaluating the result of a piece exchange is to ask yourself who has the better positioned/more active pieces at the end of the sequence.  Clearly, White replacing the bishop on d3 with his queen leads to a major positional advantage for him, which he then uses to initiate an attack on Black's king.

The simplicity with which White conducts his attack also illustrates how development and effective piece placement can translate into a successful offensive.  By move 17, for example, White has four pieces (queen, knight, bishop, rook) all with great prospects on the kingside, while Black does not have a single piece that is effective there.

In sum, this short game is an excellent illustration of 1) the perils of neglecting development, 2) the importance of evaluating piece exchanges, and 3) the benefit of having a local material superiority during an attack.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "45"] {D10: Slav Defence: cxd5 (without early Nf3) and 3 Nc3} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. e3 {normally White plays e4 here.} b5 {the intention here is not to try to hang on to the gambit pawn, but rather chase White's knight to a worse square.} 5. a4 b4 6. Na2 a5 (6... e6 {is greatly preferred in the database and scores well for Black. This is the first point where Black could have pursued faster development, opening the path for his dark-square bishop.}) 7. Bxc4 Nf6 8. Nf3 e6 {by this point we are looking at a transposition back to standard lines, which feature White developing Nf3, Nc3 then playing 5. e3 after dxc4.} 9. O-O Bd6 {this sub-standard move throws off Black's game. Two database games feature it, both losses. While the bishop looks actively posted, the likelihood of it ever usefully targeting the h2 pawn is in fact quite low. It also creates a vulnerability to a pawn fork on e5.} (9... Nbd7 {followed by ...Be7 and ...O-O would be solid.}) 10. Bd3 {White has already spotted the idea of pushing e4-e5. However, he could have prepared this and also developed another piece by Qe2, Qc2 or Re1.} Ba6 {this unfortunately allows White to push the e-pawn without opposition.} (10... Nbd7 11. e4 e5) 11. e4 Bc7 { now either the bishop or knight has to retreat.} (11... Be7 {is a better defensive move, preventing a possible Bg5 pin of the Nf6.}) 12. Re1 {White prepares the advance e5, says Fritz.} (12. Bg5 h6 13. Bxf6 Qxf6 14. e5 Qd8 { and White's space and development advantage is obvious.}) 12... O-O 13. e5 Bxd3 {while this exchanges off White's dangerous bishop on d3, it's replaced with the even more dangerous queen.} (13... Nd5 $5 $14 {immediately is what the engines prefer.}) 14. Qxd3 $16 Nd5 {while beautifully centralized, this knight no longer contributes to the kingside defense, which is what Black needs to focus on.} (14... Ne8 {is a better defensive try.}) 15. Ng5 $1 g6 {forced} 16. Qh3 h5 17. g4 {White's attacking play is simple, obvious and effective. Note how four of White's pieces are available for the attack, while Black's pieces are poorly placed for the defense.} Kg7 {Black attempts to get a defender on the h-file.} 18. gxh5 Rh8 19. h6+ {the obvious follow-up, although not the best one, according to the engines.} (19. Qf3 {targets the weak f7 square} Qe8 20. hxg6 fxg6 21. Qg4 {with Nxe6 to come.}) 19... Kg8 ({not} 19... Rxh6 20. Nxe6+ fxe6 21. Qxh6+) 20. Re4 {correctly bringing another piece into the attack.} Ne7 21. Nxe6 {Demolishes the pawn shield, says Fritz.} (21. h7+ Kg7 22. Nxe6+ {is an improved variation, according to Houdini, although would be difficult to see over-the-board.} fxe6 23. Qh6+ Kf7 24. Rf4+ Nf5 25. Rxf5+ exf5 26. Bg5 Qf8 27. e6+ Kxe6 28. Qxg6+ Kd7) 21... Qd7 {this allows a nice finish by White.} (21... fxe6 {is no good:} 22. Qxe6+ Kf8 23. Qf6+ Ke8 24. Qxh8+) ( 21... Qc8 {is a better defensive square, as it leaves the d7 square open for the king; also, the queen is protected there by the Ne7.}) 22. h7+ $1 Rxh7 23. Qxh7+ $1 {a beautiful, forced end to the game, says Fritz.} (23. Qxh7+ Kxh7 24. Nf8+ Kg7 25. Nxd7 Nxd7 26. Bg5 $18 {White would now be a pawn and the exchange up, with no counterplay for Black.}) 1-0

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