06 September 2014

Commentary: 2014 Sinquefield Cup, Round 5

The performance of GM Fabiano Caruana at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis has been legendary.  Here is a detailed look at his round 5 game against GM Hikaru Nakamura, with Caruana masterfully manuevering in a Slav Defense to obtain the win.  For a previous example of White's early opening divergence with 4. Nbd2, you can also see Annotated Game #58.

[Event "Sinquefield Cup"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.08.31"] [Round "5"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "134"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nbd2 {for some reason this is a "hot" line, as shown by the database, with a number of professional-level players using it in 2014 to good effect. It's hard to imagine this being an objectively strong threat to the Slav, however.} Bf5 {standard and best.} 5. Nh4 {the overwhelming choice lately for White, although the calmer g3 enjoys slightly more popularity historically. Here is a recent high-level example:} (5. g3 e6 6. Bg2 h6 7. Ne5 Nbd7 8. Nxd7 Qxd7 9. O-O Be7 10. b3 O-O 11. Bb2 Rfd8 12. e3 b5 13. c5 a5 14. a4 b4 15. f3 Bd3 16. Rf2 Qc7 17. Rc1 Nd7 18. e4 Qa7 19. Nf1 Ba6 20. e5 Rf8 21. f4 f5 22. exf6 Nxf6 23. Qc2 Rae8 24. Re1 Bd8 25. Nd2 g5 26. Bh3 g4 27. Bf1 Bxf1 28. Kxf1 Qh7 29. Qd1 Bc7 30. Rfe2 Qf5 31. Re3 Kf7 32. Kg1 Rg8 33. Qe2 Nd7 34. Nf1 Re7 35. Bc1 h5 36. Nd2 Rge8 37. Rf1 Kg8 38. Rf2 Rf7 39. Nf1 Rfe7 40. Re5 Bxe5 41. fxe5 Qe4 42. Qxe4 dxe4 43. Bf4 Rf7 44. Nd2 e3 45. Bxe3 Rxf2 46. Kxf2 Kf7 47. Nc4 Ra8 48. Bg5 Nf8 49. Nd6+ Kg7 50. Bf6+ Kg8 51. Ke3 Nh7 52. Be7 Kg7 53. Bh4 Kg6 54. d5 exd5 55. e6 Nf6 56. e7 Ne8 57. Kd4 Rb8 58. Ke5 Ng7 59. Bf6 Ne8 60. Nxe8 Rxe8 61. Ke6 Ra8 62. Bd4 Rb8 63. Be5 Rg8 64. Bc7 d4 65. Bxa5 d3 66. Bxb4 {1-0 (66) Krasenkow,M (2633)-Cramling,P (2525) Stockholm SWE 2014}) 5... Be4 {provoking White's next. Also, since the bishop will inevitably be traded for a knight, Black would have no problem doing this on e4 instead of g6.} 6. f3 Bg6 7. e3 e6 8. g3 {this doesn't seem natural. The engine makes it a top choice, however White never seems to follow up on the idea.} (8. Nxg6 {is the obvious move, but all four database games with this line are White losses, which undoubtedly was noted by Nakamura during his preparation.}) 8... Be7 9. a3 Nbd7 {Black continues developing naturally and unhurriedly.} 10. cxd5 cxd5 {Black chooses to keep the overall pawn structure as equal (5 and 2). Otherwise, White's kingside majority looks like it might be the source of potential attacking pressure, even if not decisive.} 11. Nxg6 {White finally finishes off the knight maneuver.} hxg6 12. Bd3 e5 {Black chooses an aggressive posture in the center, knowing that his lead in development (three pieces to two) and better structure would benefit from its opening.} 13. O-O O-O 14. Qb3 Qc8 $5 {this appears to be an attempt to avoid a possible drawing line. Placement on the c8-h3 diagonal is also advantageous for Black.} (14... Bd6 {or similar moves would try to bait White into taking the b-pawn, with a draw a likely result. For example:} 15. Qxb7 Rb8 16. Qxa7 exd4 17. exd4 Ra8 18. Qb7 Qe7 19. Kg2 Rfb8 {with a draw by repetition coming, as the queen cannot flee to safety but cannot be cornered either.}) (14... a6 15. Qxb7 exd4 16. exd4 Bc5 17. dxc5 Nxc5 18. Qb4 Nxd3 {is another interesting variation on this theme.}) 15. Nb1 {Houdini agrees this is the best move, in order to reposition the knight to c3, but this also points up the deficiency of developing the knight to d2 in the first place.} exd4 16. exd4 Nb8 {with the central pawn structure now resolved, Black decides his knight is also better off repositioned, to pressure d4.} 17. Nc3 Nc6 18. Be3 (18. Nxd5 Nxd5 19. Qxd5 Nxd4 $11 {; White cannot capture on d4 due to the bishop skewer on c5. }) 18... Qd7 19. Rad1 Rfd8 {overprotecting d5.} 20. Rfe1 Ne8 {Caruana is now able to reposition his other knight in an interesting maneuver, one that allows his bishop to spring to life.} 21. Bf2 Nc7 22. Bf1 (22. Qxb7 $2 Rdb8 $19 ) 22... Bf6 {after the bishop maneuver, it appears that White will have more long-term trouble with pressure against his d-pawn than Black.} 23. Qa2 { moving the queen out of the way of the b-pawn. White is looking to generate some activity on the queenside, with few prospects in the center or on the kingside.} g5 {this move often features in Black's plans in this type of position, as the advanced g-pawn is in fact not that weak and can usefully gain space. Here Caruana's idea is also to clear the 8th rank by subsequently fianchettoing the king.} (23... Rab8 {is a more prosaic alternative, preparing to push ...b5}) 24. b4 g6 25. Qd2 {getting the queen out of the corner to a more useful square.} Kg7 26. b5 Ne7 (26... Na5 {is also possible. For example} 27. Nxd5 Qxd5 28. Qxa5 Ne6 29. Qd2 Nxd4 30. Bxd4 Bxd4+ 31. Kg2 $11) 27. Be3 Ne6 28. Bh3 Nf5 {with Black's knights getting ever more active, White decides to exchange bishop for knight.} 29. Bxf5 gxf5 30. f4 {the kingside pawn structure is now defined by Black, who prefers to close it.} (30. Ne2 Qxb5 31. Qc2 $1 { with about equal position}) 30... g4 31. Qd3 Rac8 {Black has the easier game and it's hard to find something productive for White.} 32. Rc1 (32. Qxf5 $2 { doesn't work.} Nxd4 33. Qxd7 Nf3+ 34. Kf2 Rxd7 {and Black wins material.}) 32... Rc4 $15 {Black's pressure is making things very uncomfortable for White, who has to cover both d4 and b5.} 33. Ne2 Nc7 {Caruana shifts the knight again, making maximum use of his minor pieces.} 34. Nc3 {the engine now shows White at a significant disadvantage.} (34. Rxc4 {would lead to a rook endgame with Black a pawn up.} dxc4 35. Qxc4 Nxb5 36. a4 Nxd4 37. Nxd4 Bxd4 38. Bxd4+ Qxd4+ 39. Qxd4+ Rxd4) (34. b6 {Houdini suggests jettisoning the pawn in order to inflict structural damage on Black's queenside.} axb6 35. Rxc4 dxc4 36. Qxc4 Ra8 37. Qd3 Nd5) 34... Rc8 (34... Nxb5 35. Nxb5 Qxb5 36. Qxf5 Qd7 {is not as good for Black.}) 35. h3 {perhaps Nakamura thought he was already lost here and tried to generate counterplay in desperation.} (35. a4 {would hold things together temporarily, but Black can reposition his pieces again to further increase the pressure and achieve an advantage. For example} Ne8 36. Re2 Nd6 37. Rec2 Qe6 38. Bf2 Rb4 39. Qd2 Rcc4 $19) 35... gxh3 36. Kh2 Nxb5 37. Nxb5 Qxb5 38. Kxh3 (38. Qxf5 $2 Qb2+ {with mate to follow.}) 38... Qd7 $19 {Black is now a clear pawn ahead, with a 2-1 queenside majority and far superior piece placement.} 39. Kg2 b5 40. Rb1 a6 41. Rbc1 Qe6 42. Bf2 Rxc1 {Black is happy to take two rooks for the queen.} 43. Rxe6 fxe6 44. g4 {Nakamura probably had this in mind when playing 35. g3. White seeks to open lines on the kingside for his queen. His bishop is the wrong color, though, for this to be effective.} fxg4 {this is enough to maintain the endgame advantage, although a tactical option would have won quickly.} (44... Bh4 {is a non-obvious sacrifice. It works by making White's queen vulnerable, since his king, without the Bf2 for protection, can then be skewered.} 45. Bxh4 (45. Qe3 R8c2) 45... R8c3 46. Qe2 R1c2) 45. Qe2 Kf7 46. Qd3 {Black's g-pawn is tactically protected, given the rook skewer at g8.} R1c2 47. Qh7+ Ke8 48. f5 $2 {aggressive but losing.} (48. Kf1) 48... Bxd4 $1 {Black of course had to calculate the next sequence carefully.} 49. Qg6+ Kd8 50. Qxe6 Rxf2+ 51. Kg3 Rc3+ 52. Kxg4 Rg2+ 53. Kf4 Rf2+ 54. Kg4 Kc7 55. Qe7+ Kb6 56. Qd8+ Rc7 {by this point Black has marched his king into a safe zone, where White cannot further sustain any attacks.} 57. Qxd5 Bc5 58. Qd8 Kb7 59. f6 Bxa3 60. Qd5+ Kb6 61. Qd8 Bc5 {with the bishop and rook covering the f8 queening square, and Black's other rook dominating the back ranks, the game is hopeless for White.} 62. Qb8+ Rb7 63. Qd8+ Ka7 64. Qd5 Bb6 65. Kg5 Rc7 66. Kg6 b4 67. Qe6 Bd4 0-1

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