2008 Club Champion's Address|
2008 Club Champion's address presented by Tristan Boyd on 17 January.
Final round game from the 2008 Australian Championship.
Tristan Boyd (2233) – Sam Chow (2316) 2008 Australian Championship Round 11
Although neither player would be satisfied with their performance in this game, it contains some instructive points for club players.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 (a)
4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 c5 (b)
7.Nf3 Bg7 8.Rb1 (c)
8…0–0 9.Be2 b6 10.0–0 Bb7 11.Qd3 (d)
11…Ba6 12.Qe3 cxd4 13.cxd4 Bxe2 14.Qxe2 Qd7 (e)
15.Rd1 Qa4 (f)
16.Bg5 Re8 (g)
17.Rbc1 Na6 (h)
18.Rc4 Qa5 (i)
19.Rdc1 Rad8 20.Be3 Nb8 (j)
21.Qc2 (threatening Ra4) Qa6 22.Rc7 Nd7 23.Qb3 h6 (k)
24…e6 25.Qb5 Qxb5 26.axb5 Nf6
27…Ra8 28.f3 a6 (n)
29.bxa6 Rxa6 30.Rb7 Raa8 (o)
31.Rcc7 Rf8 32.Rxb6 Rfc8 33.Rbb7 Rxc7 34.Rxc7 Rd8 (p)
35.Nc4 (simply Nb3 was appropriate, probably followed by advancing the kingside pawns e.g. g4 and h4, supported by the king) Ne8 (this was a recurring theme throughout the latter part of the game – remember to consider backward knight moves, especially as they often look unnatural) 36.Rb7 Draw Agreed ½-½ (as after Bxd4 the position is completely equal).
(a) The Grunfeld Defence is a hypermodern opening. Black encourages white to occupy the centre with pawns, aiming to put pressure on them. However Black must play actively or he can easily slide into an inferior and passive position.
(b) The exchange variation a critical test of the Grunfeld. White should try to maintain the pawn centre on d4 and e4. Taking on c5 would create weak doubled isolated c-pawns. Also, white will usually only advance d5 or e5 if he can force black’s pieces backwards, because in each case (particularly the latter) black can then occupy the other square with a piece.
(c) This move has several points. Firstly it removes the rook from the pressure from black’s fianchettoed bishop on the a1-h8 diagonal. Secondly it makes it more difficult for black to play Bg4, pinning the f3 knight which is supporting the d4 pawn.
(d) 11.e5 is bad; see the comment to move 6. Black would swap on d4 and play Bd5.
(e) 14…Bxd4? walks into a nasty pin. After 15.Rd1 e5 is forced (Nc6 loses to 16.e5! followed by Qe4 or Be3). Then 16.Nxe5 Qe7 17.Rxd4 Qxe5 18.Bb2 is clearly better for white. The bishop is superior to the knight in an open position, especially with black’s weak kingside dark squares.
(f) This wastes time and does not accomplish anything. Black should complete development with Nc6 but white retains a nagging edge as his centre is under little pressure. He may even consider d5 followed by Nd4 and/or f4.
(g) e6 allows white to create a passed d-pawn with d5, a perennial problem for Grunfeld players, or just take the c file uncontested with Rbc1.
(h) To prevent Rc7, but it places the knight offside. Nc6 would be met by Qc4 to force a favourable endgame where white will have more active pieces, the c-file and the centre. In the game Qc4 could be met by a queen swap and b5 (the knight is not attacked), which may be defensible for black.
(i) Qb5? Is met by 19.Bxe7! as Rxe7 20.Rc8+ is a discovered attack winning the queen.
(j) Black must waste more time re-routing this piece. Through simple, logical moves white has a clear advantage due to the c-file and centre which remains under little pressure.
(k) Weakening the kingside. Both players thought Ng5 was a strong threat, but e6 was better. White should then play 24.a4, which would have been better the previous move. 24.Bg5 looks strong, but black has the surprising move Rc8! contesting the c-file. 25.Rxd7 is then bad because of Rxc1+ 26.Bxc1 Qc8. Tactics like this are often “beneath the surface” of a position for both sides, who should be constantly looking out for them.
(l) 24.R1c4, threatening Ra4, looks tempting, because if b5 25.R4c6 is a double attack on the queen and the g6 pawn. The f7 pawn is pinned to the king by white’s king and is no longer protected by the h-pawn. However 24.R1c4 weakens white’s back rank, which black can exploit by Nc5! If 25.dxc5 Qxa2! 26.Qb4 Rd1+ 27.Ne1 a5! wins for black. After Qc2 black can put pressure on white’s centre with Ne6 followed by doubling rooks on the d-file. Finally Nc5 is also useful if white plays 24.Qc4 (Qxc4 25.R1xc4), so white plans to swap queens on b5.
(m) In winning positions it is important to minimise the opponent’s counterplay. However, it is unrealistic to expect to keep the opponent bottled up completely for the entire game. White tries to keep things clean and loses most of his advantage.
27.Ne5 was winning. If Rf8 white can then play f3 and black can hardly move. I was worried about 27…Nxe4 28.Nxf7 Rd5 but white can play 29.Nxh6+ followed by a combination of Rxa7, f3 and Rcc7. Black’s activity is short-lived.
Finally white could win a pawn with 27.e5 and 28.Rxa7 but this creates a backward d-pawn and gives black a great Nd5 outpost. It would be extremely difficult to then create a passed pawn.
(n) The previous comment also applies to white’s 28th move. 28.Ra1 was better, after Rec8 29.Raxa7 Rxa7 30.Rxc8+ followed by Rc1 white has more winning chances than in the game. This is because the b-pawns stay on the board – black’s is weaker because it is on a dark square (like the bishops). White’s minor pieces are also closer to the queenside.
After 28.f3 black could play Red8. You should always look for active possibilities even when defending. Black now threatens Ne8 and white will probably have to retreat the c7 rook to c4, after which most of his advantage is gone.
(o) Black does not bother trying to hold the b-pawn, but Rd8 was better and probably forces e5 after 31.Rc6 Ne8, which reduces white’s winning chances.
(p) This endgame may be a draw with best play, although this is only an educated guess. However white can torture black for a very long time (with no risk of losing) and the practical task of constantly finding accurate defensive moves is quite difficult.
Instead white blundered away his extra pawn immediately. How did this happen? Firstly when the position undergoes a significant transformation or you arrive at an endgame it is a good idea to spend a few minutes calmly assessing the new situation. But white decided to play a seemingly active move (with the idea of Ne5) quickly, to save time for the ‘torture’. White forgot that he too has a weakness (the d-pawn can only be protected by pieces) and black too can create threats, even though he has made very few in the whole game.
A simple check just before making the move would have picked this up, especially as for some reason I did not expect the seemingly passive move Rd8, having anticipated the rook to go to one of the squares down the a-file. It is even more unwise to make a quick ‘threat’ without real analysis in response to an unanticipated move. Tactics lurk beneath the surface!
Click here to obtain the PGN score of this game.