07 July 2013

Annotated Game #97: A dubious Slav

This second-round tournament game featured a Slav Defense that could be considered dubious from multiple angles.  The first one is White's 4. Bg5, which is almost never played for a reason.  It gives Black immediate equality by making the bishop a target, weakening the dark squares on the queenside (particularly the e1-h6 diagonal and b2) and if as occurs in the game the bishop is exchanged off, then Black sits quite well with the bishop pair and the doubled f-pawn which covers e5 and g5.

The second dubious feature is the middlegame struggle, which gets a lot of "?!" and some "?" annotations.  This might be somewhat unfair, given the relative complexity of the positions and how understandable it is that in several cases the obvious moves are made rather than the best ones.  However, it is also a wake-up call for us Class players that just because a move is obvious does not mean it should be played automatically.

The attack and defense dynamics are, despite the flaws, interesting to see, starting with White's 16th move. The game becomes quite tactical and the evaluation of the winning side swings back and forth several times.  Some key ideas for future use are highlighted in the analysis, in particular how Black could have improved with 16...Nf8, using solid defense, and then with 18...c5! in order to answer White's flank attack with a break in the center.  In the end, White is too materialistic, being unwilling to sacrifice material in order to break through on the kingside, so Black is able to turn the tables on his attacker.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "112"] {D11: Slav Defence: 3 Nf3 sidelines and 3...Nf6 4 e3 Bg4} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Bg5 {a rare move. Black is fine with this, as he need not fear the BxN trade and the early bishop move weakens White's queenside.} dxc4 {Black has now fully equalized, as White will have to take additional time to recover the pawn while Black has a comfortable game. The Bg5 rather than being a threat can be a target.} (4... Ne4 {would also be strong here.}) 5. Bxf6 { giving up the two bishops here leaves White particularly weak on the dark squares.} exf6 {the doubled f-pawn is actually rather strong here, taking away e5 and g5 from the Nf3.} 6. e4 (6. e3 {is what the engines prefer as a more solid option.}) 6... Bb4+ $15 {the advantage of the two bishops can be quickly realized here.} 7. Nc3 Be6 8. a3 Ba5 9. Be2 b5 10. O-O O-O 11. Qc2 {coming out of the opening, White has more harmonious development and a cleaner pawn structure, but this is not enough to compensate for the pawn.} Bxc3 {this gives up the two bishops, but at the time I was more concerned about preventing a potential d5 advance by White.} (11... Na6 {is recommended by the engines, as the variation shows that pushing d5 will temporarily succeed, but then the d-pawn will become a huge target for Black.} 12. Rfd1 Qb6 13. d5 cxd5 14. Nxd5 Bxd5 15. exd5 Rad8 $17) 12. bxc3 $15 Nd7 13. a4 a6 14. a5 $6 {this takes away the b6 square from Black, but the pawn is now permanently weak and in need of protection. White could have more usefully mobilized a rook with Rf1 to e1 or d1.} Qc7 {playing Re8 immediately would be better, as it's not yet clear where the best square for the queen would be.} 15. Nh4 Rfe8 16. f4 { this is a critical position for the game. White is attempting to generate a kingside attack that is not fully justified, but Black nevertheless has to think defense on the next few moves.} f5 $11 (16... Nf8 {is the defensive resource found by the engines that preserves Black's advantage. The knight is not wasted there, as it covers h7 without Black having to weaken the pawn shield in front of the king, while White's own knight is out of place on h4 if it cannot further an attack.} 17. Qd2 $17) 17. e5 $6 {White misses his opportunity to open lines.} (17. d5 fxe4 (17... cxd5 18. exf5 d4 19. fxe6 d3 20. exf7+ Kxf7 21. Bxd3 cxd3 22. Qxd3 $11) 18. dxe6 Rxe6 $11) 17... g6 $15 18. Rf3 $6 {this gives Black an opportunity to strike back in the center, which unfortunately I pass up in favor of more passive defense.} (18. g4 fxg4 19. f5 gxf5 20. Nxf5 $15 {would be the way for White to continue an attack, although the engines still give Black the advantage.}) 18... Qd8 {Black needs to think more about activating his other pieces here.} (18... c5 $1 {a classic example of how striking in the center is the correct response to a flank attack. This will activate pieces and mobilize Black's queenside pawn majority, for example} 19. Rd1 cxd4 20. cxd4 b4) (18... Bd5 {would also be good to play immediately.} 19. Rg3 Be4 20. Qd1 Rad8) 19. Rh3 Nf8 20. Nf3 {this allows Black to make the next strong bishop maneuver.} (20. Bf3 $5 Rc8) 20... Bd5 $17 21. Ng5 (21. Rg3 Ne6 22. Qxf5 b4 $19) 21... Kg7 (21... f6 {would be more effective in freeing Black's game while defending.} 22. exf6 Qxf6 $19) 22. Bd1 $6 (22. Rg3 $17) 22... h6 $19 {the point of Black's previous move.} 23. Nf3 Ne6 {now Black is rolling along nicely, with his pieces springing to life and the kingside attack beaten off.} 24. Qd2 Rb8 (24... c5 $5 {again would be a strong move.}) 25. Bc2 $6 {objectively this is somewhat dubious, but it does generate a tactical threat that throws Black off his game.} (25. Ne1 $19) 25... Re7 $2 { this is unnecessary, wasting time on executing the pawn breaks (...b4 or ...c5) and also effectively removing a kingside defender while blocking the diagonal for the queen. Later on, it also sets up a pawn fork tactic for White on f6.} ( 25... b4 $5 {and Black can already relax, comments Fritz.} 26. cxb4 Bxf3 27. Rxf3 Qxd4+ 28. Qxd4 Nxd4 29. Rf2 Rxb4 $19) 26. Rg3 $2 (26. Nh4 b4 27. Bxf5 { taking advantage of the potential knight fork on f5} bxc3 28. Qe3 $17) 26... Be4 $4 {instead of simply winning the game, says Fritz. The primary problem is that I fail to calculate the following sequence correctly. It's a complex one, so that is perhaps not surprising. However, just using general principles, this is a bad move, as it breaks up the defending pawns in front of the king. I was too worried about the threat of Bxf5, which could have been otherwise avoided.} (26... Bxf3 {secures the point} 27. Rxf3 {now Bxf5 will have to wait until the rook repositions itself on the g-file, giving Black enough time to defend by simply moving his king.} Rd7 $19 {and now Black will break through after playing ...b4.}) 27. Bxe4 $16 fxe4 28. Nh4 $6 {the obvious choice, but not the best.} (28. f5 $1 Reb7 $16 (28... exf3 29. f6+ Kh7 30. fxe7 Qxe7 31. Rxf3 $16)) 28... Kh7 $2 {again an obvious choice that is not best. I focus on getting the king away in order to break the pin and avoid the pawn fork on f6, but moving the rook would have accomplished the same thing and generated potential counterplay on the queenside.} (28... Rd7 29. Nxg6 fxg6 30. f5 Nf8 $11) 29. f5 $16 Ng5 {the situation is complicated and White fails to find the correct attacking continuation, which would involve sacrificing material.} ( 29... g5 {is the other possibility, also very difficult for Black.} 30. f6 (30. fxe6 gxh4 31. Rg4 Rxe6 32. Qf4 $14) 30... gxh4 31. fxe7 Qxe7 32. Rg4) 30. fxg6+ (30. Rxg5 $5 hxg5 31. Qxg5 $18 {with play possibly continuing} Qe8 32. Rf1 e3 33. f6) 30... fxg6 $16 31. Qf4 $2 {this swings the game back to winning territory for Black.} (31. Nxg6 Kxg6 32. Rf1 $16 {with the threat of h4.}) 31... Rf7 $19 32. Qg4 $2 {if Black had recognized the opportunity, this would have allowed a breakthrough on the b-file with some nice tactics.} (32. Qd2 { is better, but can't stop the b-file breakthrough either.} b4 33. cxb4 Rf4 34. Qxf4 Qxd4+) 32... Qc8 {Black is still in control here, although the b-file idea is superior.} (32... b4 33. Rd1 Qxa5 34. cxb4 Qxb4 35. Qe2 $19) 33. Re1 $2 {this effectively ends White's chances in the game. A better alternative would be} (33. Qxc8 Rxc8 34. Nxg6 Kxg6 35. h4 c5 36. hxg5 hxg5) 33... Qxg4 34. Rxg4 Rbf8 {Black now dominates the position, is ahead material and White has no counterplay.} 35. Rg3 $2 {this hastens the end by allowing Black to trap the knight.} Rf4 36. Nxg6 Kxg6 {now the h4 idea from a previous variation doesn't work because of the Rf4.} 37. Rge3 h5 38. h3 h4 39. Kh1 {this allows Black to further simplify and consolidate his material edge.} Rf1+ 40. Rxf1 Rxf1+ 41. Kh2 Rf2 42. Kg1 Ra2 43. Re1 (43. e6 {doesn't work.} Rxa5 44. e7 Kf7 $19) 43... Rxa5 44. Kf2 Ra2+ 45. Re2 Rxe2+ 46. Kxe2 a5 {the position is now completely resignable, as White cannot possibly stop the separated passed pawns.} 47. Kd2 a4 48. Kc2 a3 49. Kb1 e3 50. e6 Nxe6 51. d5 cxd5 52. g4 e2 53. Ka2 e1=Q 54. g5 Qd2+ 55. Ka1 Qxc3+ 56. Ka2 Qb2# 0-1

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