27 April 2017

Annotated Game #173: I like the London System

For whatever reason, I've traditionally had good results (as Black) in London System type games.  It's quite popular now for White and certainly offers good development and play.  On the Black side, I've found it to be not as challenging as other White systems in the opening phase, essentially because less direct pressure is placed on Black, so I feel like I can equalize and then play a comfortable game.

The below tournament game follows this pattern, with me equalizing as Black by move 6 and having some easy ideas to follow in the middlegame.  By move 18 the position is drawish, but I chose to be patient, as I felt any (slight) chances would lie on my side.  I was able to target the one weakness in White's position (the b2 pawn), but then my opponent cannily fought back to create an unusual endgame fight (2N+R vs my two rooks).  I did have an outside passed pawn, though, which ended up being decisive, after some interesting tactics (see move 36).

This game isn't of very high quality - too many dubious (?!) choices on both sides - but was valuable to analyze, including identifying a thinking process lapse (move 23, where I could have consolidated my advantage if I had recognized my opponent's best response).

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 10"] [PlyCount "126"] 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 {evidently going for a London System type setup.} Nf6 3. Nf3 c6 4. e3 Bg4 (4... Bf5 {is a standard alternative.}) (4... Qb6 $5 {may be a little premature, but it hits at White's queenside immediately, now that the dark-square bishop is away. Kramnik once gave it a try against Gata Kamsky:} 5. Qc1 Bf5 6. c4 e6 7. Nc3 Nbd7 8. c5 Qd8 9. Be2 Be7 10. h3 Ne4 11. O-O g5 12. Be5 Nxe5 13. Nxe5 Bf6 14. Nxe4 Bxe4 15. Qc3 Bg7 16. b4 O-O 17. b5 cxb5 18. Bxb5 Qc7 19. Rac1 f6 20. Nd7 Rfd8 21. c6 bxc6 22. Qxc6 Qxc6 23. Bxc6 Rac8 24. Bb5 Bg6 25. Nc5 Rd6 26. a4 Bf8 27. Na6 Rc2 28. Rxc2 Bxc2 29. Nc5 e5 30. Rc1 Bf5 31. g4 Bg6 32. Nd7 Be8 33. Nxf8 Bxb5 34. axb5 Kxf8 35. dxe5 fxe5 36. Rc7 d4 37. exd4 exd4 38. Kf1 d3 39. Ke1 Rd5 40. Rxa7 Rxb5 41. Rxh7 Rb1+ 42. Kd2 Rf1 43. Kxd3 Rxf2 44. Ke4 Rf4+ 45. Ke5 Rf3 46. Ke6 Kg8 47. Rh5 Kf8 48. Rxg5 Rxh3 49. Kf6 Ra3 50. Kg6 Kg8 {1/2-1/2 (50) Kamsky,G (2671)-Kramnik,V (2729) Turin 2006}) 5. c4 e6 6. a3 {this takes away the b4 square from Black, but is a rather slow approach, neglecting piece development.} Bd6 {a natural developing move that challenges White's strong Bf4.} 7. Bg3 O-O 8. Be2 {not bad, but not optimal. It also prompts me to play the next move.} dxc4 {while not really a full tempo loss for White, it's still annoying to move the bishop twice in a row. For Black, the benefit is to re-establish the pin on the Nf3 and achieve a solid central pawn formation that restricts White's light-square bishop.} 9. Bxc4 Bxg3 {the exchange of bishops is more or less obligatory at some point, given the tension on the diagonal. I thought this was a good time to do it and enable the subsequent pawn break.} 10. hxg3 c5 {challenging White's central pawn outpost. If White is takes the c5 pawn, having the king in the center after a queen exchange on d1 would be worth the sacrifice, plus the pawn is recoverable.} 11. Be2 (11. dxc5 Qxd1+ 12. Kxd1 Rc8 13. Nc3 (13. b4 $6 a5 14. bxa5 Rxa5 $15) 13... Rxc5 14. Be2 $11) 11... Nbd7 {with White preparing to castle, now the pawn is better off being protected.} 12. O-O Rc8 13. Nbd2 cxd4 {exchanging the pawns opens the c-file and reduces White's central pawn formation.} 14. Nxd4 Bxe2 15. Qxe2 Nb6 {the idea being to challenge control of c4 and give the option of hopping to d5.} 16. Rac1 Qd5 {the queen is now nicely centralized, but White lacks any weaknesses that it could attack.} 17. Qf3 a6 {taking away a useful square (b5) from the Nd4, in anticipation of the exchange.} 18. Qxd5 Nfxd5 {the position now looks very drawish and the engine agrees. In the past, I've been impatient with such types of positions and might even have offered a draw. Now I treat such situations more as learning experiences and will not on principle offer a draw until a position is truly played out (or perhaps if I assess I am worse off).} 19. N2f3 {a minor slip by my opponent. With my next move, I now have a slight edge and am creating threats.} (19. Ne4 $5) 19... Na4 20. Rfe1 $2 (20. b3 Nac3 21. Rc2 Rc7 22. Rfc1 Rfc8 23. Kf1 Kf8 $11) 20... Ndb6 $6 {played as the result of not fully calculating the capture on b2. I thought that White could get the pawn back easily with Rb1, so took the step to screen the b7 pawn with the other knight first.} (20... Nxb2 21. Rb1 {originally I stopped calculating here, just seeing the threat to the unprotected b7 pawn.} Nd3 {a nice intermediate move threatening the Re1 and now} 22. Red1 $2 (22. Rf1 {is best but after} b5 $19 { Black is winning with a mobilized 2-1 queenside pawn majority.}) 22... Nc3 $19) 21. Kh2 {however, my opponent now gives me an extra tempo to execute the threat.} Nxb2 22. Rb1 N2a4 $17 23. Rb4 Rc3 $6 {here I didn't pay enough attention to my opponent's possible ideas, just going for the a3 pawn.} (23... Rc4 $17) 24. Reb1 {at this point I saw that he will get back some material.} Rxa3 25. Rxb6 Nxb6 26. Rxb6 h6 {right idea, but wrong timing, according to the engine. White could now play g4 and activate the king via g3.} (26... Ra5 { would be better, keeping the rook more active.}) (26... Ra2 {would also be good.}) 27. Rxb7 $11 {we now have an interesting, dynamically balanced endgame. If White had two bishops instead of two knights I would certainly be in worse shape. I still have to watch out for attacking ideas for White that use his two minor pieces and rook in combination, but my passed a-pawn and rook activity mean that the position is equal. At this point I didn't know if I could win, but I felt that at least I could avoid losing.} Ra2 28. Kg1 Rc8 $2 { too aggressive, neglecting the weak f7 square.} 29. Rb1 $6 {missing the threat he could make aginst f7, at least for now.} (29. Ne5 h5 {cutting off the exit square for the White king} 30. g4 hxg4 31. Nxf7 Rc5 $16 {looks rather ugly for Black.}) 29... a5 {passed pawns must be pushed!} 30. Ne5 Rc7 {now I am thinking more about defense.} 31. Kf1 {a waste of a tempo.} a4 $15 {White isn't lost yet, but the initiative is with me now and the a-pawn keeps getting stronger. It's also hard to find the specific continuation for White that holds.} 32. Re1 $2 (32. Rb8+ {(playing Kg1 first is also fine)} Kh7 33. Kg1 $15 {is the key according to the engine, which is rather hard for humans to see. White's king needs to get off the first rank, where it can be checked with tempo gain by a rook to facilitate the queening of the a-pawn.}) 32... a3 $17 33. Nd3 Rd7 $6 {right file, wrong rook.} (33... Rd2 $1 34. Nb4 a2 $19) 34. Nb4 $2 {after this I find a winning continuation.} (34. Rd1 $15) 34... Rb2 $19 35. Ndc2 a2 36. Ra1 {this seemed to be an excellent defense and I spent a good deal of time coming up with the game continuation (which is the best according to Komodo). I had originally spotted the idea of the tactic ...Rb1+, which now doesn't work to break through.} Rd2 (36... Rb1+ 37. Ke2 Rxa1 38. Nxa1 $19 { is still winning for Black, but with a lot more work to do.}) 37. Kg1 {but now the ...Rb1+ tactic does work!} (37. Rxa2 Rxa2 38. Nxa2 Rxc2 $19) 37... Rb1+ 38. Kh2 Rdd1 {the most effective continuation, now with a double attack on the Ra1 and on the h1 square threatening mate.} 39. g4 Rxa1 40. Nxa1 Rxa1 41. Kg3 Kf8 42. Kf4 Ke8 43. Ke4 Kd7 44. Ke5 {White's king cannot venture onto the d-file without suffering a rook check, with the a-pawn then queening.} Kc7 45. f4 Kb6 {with the simple winning idea of threatening to chase away the knight, which will force its exchange for the a-pawn.} 46. g5 hxg5 47. fxg5 Kb5 48. Nxa2 Rxa2 49. g6 fxg6 50. Kxe6 Rxg2 {at this point White cannot win and at worst I'll end up with K+R vs. K (an elementary mate).} 51. e4 Kc6 52. e5 Rg5 53. Kf7 Rxe5 54. Kxg7 g5 {now there is no way of stopping the pawn from queening and making the Q+R vs. K mate very obvious. My opponent however was a junior who apparently didn't realize the etiquette of resigning when you are in such a situation.} 55. Kf6 Kd5 56. Kg6 g4 57. Kf6 g3 58. Kg6 g2 59. Kg7 g1=Q+ 60. Kf6 Qf1+ 61. Kg7 Re2 62. Kg6 Rg2+ 63. Kh6 Qh1# 0-1

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