26 July 2014

Commentary: Dortmund 2014 - round 5

The following game from round 5 of the prestigious Dortmund tournament caught my eye.  Like the previous commentary game, it falls into the Slow Slav opening category, but with a significant difference in development due to the modern 4...Bg4 variation.  Elements that were particularly useful to see were the kingside development for both sides in the early stages; the jockeying for central position and pawn structure around move 14; Black's tactical maneuver that nets him a pawn and seizes the initiative on move 25; and the endgame play which negates the material advantage.  This game is also another excellent example of the importance of evaluating the effects of piece exchanges.

[Event "42nd GM 2014"] [Site "Dortmund GER"] [Date "2014.07.18"] [Round "5.4"] [White "Meier, Georg"] [Black "Adams, Michael"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D11"] [WhiteElo "2632"] [BlackElo "2743"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "120"] [EventDate "2014.07.12"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bg4 {this modern move (in place of the formerly standard deployment to f5) is an interesting alternative. The bishop is harder to exchange off for White and of course pins the knight. However, the bishop is missed on the h7-b1 diagonal, where it is strong (and one of the reasons why White normally immediately spends extra time in the opening to exchange it off).} 5. Qb3 {immediately taking advantage of the bishop's absence from the queenside.} Qb6 {the strongest response. Black does not care if he ends up with doubled b-pawns after a queen exchange, with a half-open a-file and the extra pawn on b6 influencing the c5 square.} 6. Nc3 {White continues his development and focuses on the action at the d5 square, rather than worrying about the potential exchange on f3.} e6 {as does Black.} (6... Bxf3 {it would seem useful to inflict doubled f-pawns on White and weaken the kingside structure, but White gets dynamic compensation in the center and the half-open g-file, as the following recent game illustrates.} 7. gxf3 e6 8. e4 Qxb3 9. axb3 Bb4 10. e5 Ng8 11. Ra4 Be7 12. Rg1 g6 13. b4 Nd7 14. c5 f6 15. f4 Nh6 16. b5 Nf5 17. bxc6 bxc6 18. Bd3 Nxd4 19. Rxd4 fxe5 20. fxe5 Nxe5 21. Be2 Bxc5 22. Rf4 Rb8 23. h4 Ke7 24. h5 Rhf8 25. Na4 Bb4+ 26. Kf1 c5 27. hxg6 hxg6 28. Rg5 Kd6 29. Rh4 Rb7 30. f4 Nc6 31. Rxg6 Ne7 32. Rg5 Nf5 33. Rh3 Ba5 34. Kg2 Bd8 35. Rg4 c4 36. b3 cxb3 37. Ba3+ Kc6 38. Rc3+ Kd7 39. Nc5+ {1-0 (39) Wiedenkeller,M (2475)-Efimov,I (2395) Larnaka CYP 2014}) 7. Nh4 {White now turns to the kingside and drives the bishop away to be exchanged, a common plan in master play.} Be7 8. h3 {remarkably played 100 percent of the time in the database.} Bh5 9. g4 Bg6 10. Nxg6 hxg6 11. Bg2 {the logical follow-up for development.} g5 {while this loosens Black's kingside pawns, it is more important to fix White's h-pawn by controlling h4. Black scores 50 percent from this position and appears to be fully equal.} 12. Bd2 Nbd7 13. Qa4 Qc7 { moving the queen to a better diagonal and anticipating a possible c5 advance. The b2 pawn is en prise, but tactically protected (after Rb1).} 14. cxd5 Nxd5 { choosing to emphasize piece play slightly more with this recapture, rather than doing it with the e-pawn.} (14... cxd5 {would simply give White an easier game and more open lines on the queenside.} 15. Rc1 Qd8) 15. O-O O-O 16. Rac1 Rad8 {the a-pawn is tactically protected for Black, similar to how the b-pawn was for White earlier on.} 17. Qc2 Qb8 18. Rfd1 Rfe8 {Black's maneuvers seem rather slow, but White does not seem to have any way to take advantage of that. } 19. Ne2 Nf8 20. a3 {a prophylactic move in order to take the b4 square away from Black's pieces.} Ng6 21. b4 Nh4 {the point of Black's (slow) plan.} 22. Qb3 e5 {of course Black could also exchange on g2 prior to playing the pawn advance. The idea is to exchange the d-pawn and weaken White's center.} 23. Bh1 a6 24. a4 (24. Nc3 $5 {the point being that now if} exd4 (24... Nxc3 {is better but after} 25. Bxc3 exd4 26. Bxd4 Bd6 {White has a more comfortable game.}) 25. Nxd5 cxd5 26. Bxd5 $14) 24... exd4 25. Nxd4 Nf4 {a nice tactically-enabled maneuver that forces the indirect exchange of the knights and gives Black the initiative.} 26. exf4 Rxd4 27. fxg5 Red8 28. Be3 Rxb4 { Black now has the advantage of a 3-1 queenside majority, but the position is also more open for White's bishops and Black's Nh4 is mostly out of play.} 29. Qc2 Qe5 {a strong centralizing move that gets the queen in the game and also pressures the g5 pawn.} 30. Rxd8+ Bxd8 31. Rb1 a5 {this move gives White a chance to avoid the threat to the h-pawn from a penetrating Black queen, but White either failed to recognize this or decided that he did not like how the variation would turn out.} (31... Rxb1+ 32. Qxb1 Bc7 33. Kf1 Qh2 34. Ke2 Qxh3 $17) 32. Bd2 (32. Rxb4 axb4 33. Qe4 Qa1+ 34. Kh2 Bc7+ 35. Bf4 Bxf4+ 36. Qxf4 { Black's queenside majority looks quite threatening here, but White's active, centralized queen helps compensate, especially with Black's king being open to harassment and White being able to bring the bishop into play via e4.}) 32... Bc7 {a threat for a threat. Black's threat to the king is the most urgent, so White is forced to address it first.} 33. Kf1 Qh2 34. Ke2 Qe5+ 35. Kf1 Qh2 36. Ke2 {a repetition of the sequence which White is perfectly happy with. Black probably did not mind getting close to making time control either.} Rxb1 37. Qxb1 Qxh3 38. Qe4 Ng6 {Black must activate his knight in order to have any chance of realizing his advantage.} 39. Qe8+ {as noted in the above variation, White's queen is well positioned to harass Black's king and its activity partially compensates for Black's material advantage.} Nf8 40. Bf3 Qh2 41. Be3 Qe5 {by exchanging, Black benefits by getting rid of his queen's more active counterpart and allowing the Nf8 to get moving again. However, White's two bishops now come more fully into their own.} 42. Qxe5 Bxe5 43. Be4 Ne6 44. g6 Bf4 45. Bb6 {of course White is not interested in breaking up his bishop pair.} Bc7 46. Be3 Kf8 {Black could of course repeat moves, but he is still trying to find some way to make progress.} 47. Kd3 {White now mobilizes his king and heads it for the most crucial sector of the board, to pit it against Black's pawns.} Ke7 (47... fxg6 $5 48. Bxg6 Nf4+ 49. Bxf4 Bxf4 {would get rid of White's bishop pair but end up with opposite-colored bishops. Black evidently felt this was too drawish, but the game continuation ends up offering nothing better.}) 48. Kc4 fxg6 49. Bxg6 Kf6 50. Bf5 g6 51. Bxe6 {preserving the bishop would seem better, but White decides to rely on the opposite-colored bishop dynamic and his kingside pawn majority to offset Black's pawn and achieve a draw.} Kxe6 52. f4 Bb8 {both sides now indulge in bishop maneuvers and Black shuffles his king between e6 and f7, to restrain White's pawn majority. Black decides not to potentially overpress his advantage and the game ends peacefully.} 53. Bd2 Bc7 54. Be3 Bd6 55. Bd2 Kf7 56. Be3 Bb4 57. Bc1 Ke6 58. Be3 Kf7 59. Bc1 Ke6 60. Be3 Kf7 1/2-1/2

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