22 February 2017

Commentary: 2016 London Classic Round 4 (Topalov - Nakamura)

(The original ChessBase article including this game can be found at https://en.chessbase.com/post/london-chess-classic-rd-4)

This next commentary game between two Super-GMs (Veselin Topolov and Hikaru Nakamura, from the 2016 London Classic in December) is a great contemporary example of the 3...c5 variation in the Advance Caro-Kann.  It is the only real gambit continuation in the Caro-Kann defense and is a legitimate alternative to 3...Bf5, which however is much more popular (and theoretical).  Here both sides are spoiling for a fight, as shown especially by Black's 9th move and White's 11th move choices.  Topalov gets the worst of it, however, overextending his queenside which is undermined with the key 11...a5, which has a number of unpleasant consequences for White.  Topalov throws caution to the winds with a queen sac on move 18, going "all in" on his aggressive idea, but Nakamura then capably quashes White's counterplay and essentially cruises to victory.  A model game to study for Caro-Kann players and in general, as it contains some important thematic ideas in the opening, along with a slew of middlegame tactics and a virtuoso demonstration of the power of the queen when she is mobile and her opposition is uncoordinated.
[Event "8th London Classic 2016"] [Site "London ENG"] [Date "2016.12.12"] [Round "?"] [White "Topalov, V."] [Black "Nakamura, Hi"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2760"] [BlackElo "2779"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 10"] [PlyCount "106"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. dxc5 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 {the standard reaction after Nf3 in this version of the Advance variation. The ability to pin the Nf3 is one of the benefits of playing 3...c5 rather than ...Bf5.} 6. c3 {this deters . ..Qa5 and prepares the b-pawn advance.} (6. Bb5 {is the main move here.}) 6... e6 7. b4 a6 {preventing ...Bb5, but slowing development.} (7... Nge7 $5) 8. Nbd2 Nxe5 {this is an earlier and an easier recovery of the pawn than is normal for Black in the variation. White in this line has chosen to emphasize queenside play instead.} 9. Qa4+ Nd7 {now out of the database. This move choice preserves the queens on the board and indicates that Nakamura wants a middlegame fight.} (9... Qd7 {had been tried twice before in the database, both times resulting in a loss. Most recently:} 10. Qxd7+ Nxd7 11. Bb2 Bxf3 12. Nxf3 Be7 13. Be2 Bf6 14. O-O Ne7 15. Rab1 O-O 16. c4 a5 17. Bxf6 gxf6 18. a3 axb4 19. axb4 Ra2 20. Rfe1 Ne5 21. cxd5 Nxf3+ 22. Bxf3 Nxd5 23. Bxd5 exd5 24. Re7 Rb8 25. g3 Rd2 26. Rd7 Rd4 27. Rd6 Rc8 28. Rxf6 Rc6 29. Rd6 Rd2 30. Kg2 Kf8 31. Kf3 Rd4 32. Rd8+ Kg7 33. Rb2 Rf6+ 34. Kg2 b6 35. cxb6 Rxb6 36. b5 Rd1 37. Kf3 Kf6 38. Ke2 Rd4 39. Rb3 Ke7 40. Ra8 Re4+ 41. Kf3 Ree6 42. Ra7+ Kf6 43. Kg2 Kg6 44. Ra4 h6 45. Rd4 Red6 46. Kf3 Kf6 47. Ke3 Rd8 48. Rf4+ Ke5 49. Rxf7 d4+ 50. Kd3 Rd5 51. Re7+ Kf5 52. Re4 Rdxb5 53. Rxb5+ Rxb5 54. Rxd4 {1-0 (54) Nevednichy,V (2554)-Zelcic,R (2548) Tromsoe 2014}) 10. Ne5 Ngf6 {Nakamura is not concerned about the knight for bishop trade on g4 and continues with development.} 11. c4 $6 {while active-looking, the main problem with this move is that it leaves White's queenside pawns overextended, which Nakamura takes advantage of with his next move. Presumably Topalov was looking to exchange on d5 at some point and get rid of his doubled pawns.} (11. Nxg4 {is a more obvious follow-up, obtaining the two bishops, although it doesn't offer much for White beyond equality. Topalov is obviously trying for more, which requires the knight to stay on e5.} Nxg4 12. Be2 Qh4 $5 (12... Nge5 $11) 13. Bxg4 Qxg4 $11) 11... a5 {now White cannot take on a5 or advance the b-pawn without losing the c5 pawn.} 12. Nb3 (12. cxd5 axb4 13. Qb5 Bxc5 $15) 12... axb4 {this capture is made even more annoying for White because the Queen is tied to the pin of the Nd7, which otherwise could take the hanging Ne5, so recapturing on b4 is not possible.} 13. Qb5 {the only move.} Be7 14. c6 { this looks a bit scary at first, but Black emerges unscathed from the sequence rather better.} (14. cxd5 {doesn't seem to work any better for White, as after} O-O 15. Nxg4 (15. d6 Nxe5 $17) 15... Nxg4 {White either must accept the loss of the c5-pawn or allow Black to go into a dangerous-looking sequence with} 16. h3 Nxf2 (16... Nge5 {is the safe alternative}) 17. Kxf2 Bf6 18. Rb1 Rxa2+) 14... bxc6 $15 15. Nxc6 Qc7 {and the b-pawn is tactically protected. White does not have sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn and has no good choices at this point.} (15... Qb6 $6 {looks tempting, directly protecting the b-pawn, but is worse for Black after} 16. Be3 Qxb5 17. cxb5 $14 {and now the advanced b-pawn White has acquired is a strength rather than a liability.}) 16. f3 (16. Nxb4 $2 Rb8 {winning material.}) 16... Bf5 {so the bishop ends up on f5 after all, and is nicely placed there.} 17. Nxe7 Rb8 {a key intermediate move, preserving the b-pawn.} 18. Nxf5 $2 {now Topalov goes "all in" with the material sacrifice, which has some shock value but favors Black.} (18. Qa5 { this more solid alternative must have looked unappetizing to Topalov after} Qe5+ 19. Kf2 Kxe7 $15) 18... Rxb5 19. Nxg7+ Ke7 $17 {Black does not have to be in a rush to trap the knight with ...Kf8.} 20. cxb5 Nc5 {this allows time for White to seize the long diagonal.} (20... Qe5+ $1 21. Be2 Nc5 22. Rb1 Nd3+ 23. Kf1 Nxc1 24. Rxc1 Nd7 $17) 21. Bb2 Nxb3 22. axb3 $11 Qf4 23. Be2 {although White must be desperate to activate his pieces, this gives Black time to do the same, getting his rook into play very effectively.} (23. Ra7+ $5 Nd7 24. Nf5+ {now the bishop's presence on b2 is a saving grace for White.} exf5 25. Rxd7+ Kxd7 26. Bxh8 $11) 23... Rc8 24. Rd1 Qg5 {this looks quite threatening to both the Ng7 and g2 pawn, but moving the rook to c2 immediately appears stronger. The Ng7 is dead anyway and the Rc2 creates new threats.} 25. b6 $6 ( 25. O-O Qxg7 26. Bd4 {and Black may have a slight edge, but no immediate threats.}) 25... Rc2 26. Bxf6+ Qxf6 27. Nh5 {a nice try at extracting the knight, but now the Black queen and rook combine well in making new, decisive threats.} (27. b7 Qc3+ 28. Kf1 Qc7 {and the b-pawn is indefensible.}) 27... Qc3+ 28. Kf1 Qe3 $19 {now the power of the queen is demonstrated. Black will pick up both of White's defenseless queenside pawns, while the rook on the second rank helps paralyze White's pieces. Note how poorly they coordinate and the fact that the Rh1 is completely out of play, with the Nh5 not much better.} 29. Re1 Qxb6 {an easy path to victory, as White is essentially helpless.} ( 29... d4 $5 {is the engine's preference, ramming through the passed pawn and picking up the Be2. For example} 30. b7 d3 31. Ng3 dxe2+ 32. Nxe2 Qb6 $19) 30. Nf4 Qe3 31. g3 Qxb3 {Topalov now tries to put up a fight and activate his pieces, but it's too late. Just seeing the passed d- and b-pawns makes it rather obvious.} 32. Kg2 Kf8 33. Kh3 Qb2 34. Rb1 Qf6 35. Rhe1 (35. Rxb4 Qh6+ 36. Kg2 e5 $19 {and White loses a piece.}) 35... e5 {again, Nakamura chooses a straightforward winning path.} (35... Qf5+ {would allow Black to play a tactical trick using the h7-b1 diagonal.} 36. Kg2 e5 37. Nxd5 Rxe2+ 38. Rxe2 Qxb1 $19) 36. Nxd5 Qe6+ 37. Kg2 Qxd5 38. Rxb4 Qd2 39. Rb8+ {getting out of the queen fork} Kg7 40. Kf1 Qh6 41. Kg2 (41. Rb4 $5) 41... e4 {the correct break, opening White's position further.} 42. Rb3 Qe6 {White's king remains the more vulnerable one, due to Black's mobility and Q+R combination.} 43. Re3 exf3+ 44. Kxf3 Qh3 45. Rd1 (45. Rh1 $2 Qf5+ 46. Kg2 Qd5+ 47. Kg1 Rc1+ 48. Bf1 Rxf1+ 49. Kxf1 Qxh1+) 45... Qh5+ {a strong intermediate check that heightens the impact of the capture on h2, with tempo.} 46. Kf2 (46. g4 $2 {is no help} Qh3+) 46... Qxh2+ 47. Kf3 Rc6 {a strong redeployment of the rook. Black again has time to spare, with a lack of any White counterplay.} 48. Rd4 Rg6 49. g4 Rf6+ 50. Ke4 Qh1+ 51. Kd3 Qb1+ {note how White's two rooks actually hinder rather than help him, in the face of the queen's mobility.} 52. Kd2 Qb2+ 53. Kd3 Rc6 {and White loses material.} 0-1

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