14 October 2013

Commentary - Sinquefield Cup 2013, round 2

This next commentary post is from the second round of the inaugural Sinquefield Cup tournament in St. Louis; you can go here for the original ChessBase commentary.  (Over the past month I've saved several eye-catching international tournament games for review and am starting to work my way through them.)

While doing commentary on master-level games can't replace the analysis of your own games for improvement purposes, I've found that the two practices complement each other nicely.  The higher level of play involved in master games allows you to better see and understand how they choose and execute plans, something especially useful for me when looking at new opening ideas and making transitions to the middlegame.   While I do not (yet) play the Leningrad Dutch, I've studied it a fair amount and Carlsen (Black) in this game effectively takes advantage of some of Aronian's non-standard ideas to achieve a middlegame advantage, even if he was in the end unable to turn it into a victory.

[Event "Sinquefield Cup"] [Site "Saint Louis"] [Date "2013.09.10"] [Round "2"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A85"] [WhiteElo "2813"] [BlackElo "2862"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1. d4 f5 {Carlsen has multiple variations of the Dutch Defense in his repertoire.} 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 {Carlsen opts for the Leningrad variation, the most combative.} 4. Nc3 {g3 and the bishop fianchetto are normally standard at the master level, as this is considered most challenging to Black's setup.} Bg7 5. Bf4 {an atypical move, but lately the idea has enjoyed some popularity against the Dutch. White only scores around 44 percent with this, however.} d6 {continuing the standard Leningrad setup.} 6. e3 Nc6 { Black has tried a wide variety of moves in this position, with castling being preferred and ...c6 also popular. Playing ...Nc6 in the Leningrad can be viable, but is largely ignored by popular theory.} 7. Be2 (7. d5 {is the typical reaction against the Nc6 setup and why many Black players avoid the knight move, since it can be immediately chased away with uncertain repercussions. However, with the bishop on f4, Black would have the counterstroke} e5 {which is a core strategic idea that also works tactically here. For example:} 8. dxc6 (8. Bg5 Ne7 9. Be2 h6 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 $11) 8... exf4 9. cxb7 Bxb7 10. exf4 Qe7+ {looks good for Black, whose pieces all have excellent prospects, despite being a (doubled) pawn down.}) 7... O-O 8. O-O Ne4 $1 {while the knight placement is certainly good for Black, the main idea here is to uncover the Bg7 and allow the key move ...e5 to follow.} 9. h3 e5 { also winning a tempo by hitting the Bf4. Black appears to understand very well how to exploit White's unusual bishop placement.} 10. Bh2 exd4 {by exchanging here, Black will remove the e3 pawn from the defense of f4 and the kingside.} 11. exd4 Ng5 {Black follows this up by targeting the d4 pawn via an attack on the defending Nf3.} 12. Nxg5 Qxg5 13. f4 {White pre-empts a Black ...f4 push and also chases Black's queen away from the king, although at the price of cutting off the Bh2 from the action.} Qf6 14. d5 {necessary to avoid the pressure, although this simply chases Black's knight to a good square.} Nd4 15. Kh1 c5 {an excellent idea, reinforcing the central outpost, or if White chooses to exchange on c6, opening the b-file and eliminating the central pawn. } 16. Bd3 {White chooses to get on with the re-development of his pieces, rather than exchange.} (16. dxc6 bxc6 17. Bd3 Rb8) 16... Bd7 17. Bg1 Rae8 ( 17... Rfe8 {would seem indicated if Black wants to play a subsequent ...Rb8. Perhaps Carlsen wanted to maintain the latent pressure on the f-file in the meantime.}) 18. Qd2 a6 {looking to play the undermining ...b5 push.} 19. Rad1 Rb8 20. a4 {Houdini considers this White's first significant error.} (20. Rfe1 $5) 20... Qd8 $15 {the queen is repositioned to take advantage of the weakened White queenside.} 21. Rb1 {White is now clearly on the defensive and Black's next series of moves powerfully capitalizes on his initiative.} Qa5 22. Qd1 Qb4 23. Bf2 Rbe8 24. Be1 Qb3 {Aronian now apparently felt he had little choice but to exchange off the dominant Qb3; however, Black's remaining pieces will continue to have a qualitative advantage.} 25. Qxb3 Nxb3 26. Bc2 Na5 $17 { switching to target the c-pawn, rather than return to d4.} 27. Bd3 Re3 28. Rd1 Rb8 $15 {instead of consolidating in the center, Carlsen tries to go for the .. .b5 break again.} (28... Nb3 29. Bf2 Re7 30. Bc2 Na5 31. Bd3 Bd4 {is one alternative possibility for central play.} 32. Bxd4 $2 cxd4 33. Ne2 Nb3 { and White loses a pawn.}) 29. Bf2 Ree8 30. Ra1 {positions the rook to take advantage of any exchange involving the a-pawn.} Bd4 31. Kg1 Be3 {Black here seems to accept the idea of a draw, with a number of exchanges now occurring.} 32. Bxe3 Rxe3 33. Rad1 Rbe8 34. Kf2 Nb3 35. Rfe1 Rxe1 36. Rxe1 Rxe1 37. Kxe1 Nd4 $11 38. Kd2 Kf7 39. Be2 Kf6 40. Bd1 a5 {and it is clear that neither side can make real progress.} 1/2-1/2

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