'Punishing Suboptimal Opening Play'

Wed, 2014-04-16 19:34 -- IM Max Illingworth
'[Event "Thailand Chess Open"]
[Site "Dusit Thani Hotel"]
[Date "2014.04.12"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "Vallejo Pons Francisco"]
[Black "Tuorila Kai"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B06"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "37"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "1:18:56"]
[BlackClock "0:56:55"]

{For this week's post I'll examine a miniature where Black did not follow
basic opening principles and lost the game quickly as a result. I haven't used
a computer in analysing this game, so you can appreciate how I would approach
the positions in an actual game.} 1. e4 {I think to get the most out of this
game you need to have the concept of the 'initiative' (the side who can make
threats that cannot be ignored by the opponent) firmly in mind for each move,
and appreciate how every move that wastes time makes it that much easier for
the opponent to take or maintain the initiative.} g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 c6 {This,
the Gurgenidze System, is objectively extremely weak, but one has to have
studied the forced win at home. Vallejo decides to instead play something his
opponent would be less familar with.} 4. Bc4 (4. f4 {is a forced win for White
- I will not go into details, but the main line is} d5 5. e5 h5 (5... Nh6 {
offers better drawing chances but should not affect the final result with best
play.}) 6. Nf3 Nh6 7. Be3 Bg4 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 Nf5 10. Bf2 h4 11. Bd3 e6 12.
O-O Nd7 13. Ne2 Bf8 14. b3 Be7 15. c4 {and White will advance on the queenside
with an eventual b4-b5, and Black is defenceless. I am not joking.}) 4... b5 (
4... d6 {is the main continuation, when} 5. Qf3 e6 6. Nge2 {is the starting
position of much theory. Personally I find White's system a bit hard to
understand as Black will play .. .d5 at some point and then most of White's
pieces will be misplaced. White is essentially relying on cheap tricks, but
that said, they are likely to work against a low-rated player.}) (4... d5 5.
exd5 b5 6. Bb3 b4 7. Nce2 cxd5 {is the other continuation, but} 8. Bd2 {
(better than the immediate 8.a3 as we want to lure Black's a-pawn forward to
make it easier to attack)} a5 9. a3 bxa3 10. Rxa3 {is just positionally better
for White, who will attack the a5-pawn by doubling or tripling on the a-file,
while holding his d4-pawn. Black is in serious trouble.}) 5. Bb3 b4 {At first
I did not believe this and Black's previous move could possibly be good, but
probably it is playable as long as Black develops soon and fights for the
centre. In the game he failed to do so.} 6. Na4 {Normally the knight would be
misplaced here, but it does help stop Black's pawn break of ...c5. That said,
Black normally goes for ...d5 instead.} (6. Qf3 e6 7. Nce2 d5 8. e5 c5 {
doesn't convince me - again White's pieces are totally misplaced in this
structure. Sure, Black has weakened himself with ... g6 too, but that is
normally not fatal in these French structures.}) (6. Nce2 {is the main move
and certainly solid, but White is probably only a bit better now. For instance:
} d6 (6... d5 7. exd5 cxd5 {was considered under 4...d5 as being good for
White.}) 7. Nf3 Nf6 8. e5 Nd5 9. Nf4 Nxf4 10. Bxf4 d5 11. O-O O-O 12. Qd2 a5 {
and White was better, 1/2-1/2 (27) Shaposhnikov,E (2474)-Kotsur, P (2511) St
Petersburg 1999. However playing on the queenside with 13.a3 was not the right
plan as this is the side of the board where Black is stronger. Instead,} 13.
Bh6 {would be an improvement to exchange our bad bishop for the sole piece
defender of Black's king, and also} (13. c4 bxc3 {(if Black played . ..Ba6 and
...dxc4 instead, the weakness of the c6-pawn would be more important than the
weakness of the d4 pawn, which can't be exploited as the e5-pawn makes the
g7-bishop quite passive.} 14. Qxc3 {would make sense to attack the backward
c6-pawn and prevent the freeing break ...c5, while making ...f6 ineffective.}))
6... a5 {This move does nothing to help Black's position. The b4-pawn does not
need immediate defence - what is needed is to develop the pieces and fight for
central control. If the b4-pawn is attacked, only then should we defend it.} (
6... d5 7. e5 {is better for White as the knight on a4 prevents the ...c5
break - this is the key difference.}) (6... Nf6 7. e5 Nd5 {is interesting but
the e5-pawn dominates the position:} 8. Nf3 O-O 9. O-O d6 10. h3 {(it is very
important to stop Black putting pressure on the e5-pawn with ...Bg4 - if we
keep this advantage we are at least slightly better)} Nd7 11. Re1 {and White
is better because of his space advantage.}) (6... d6 {is what I originally
thought to be the best move, to stop White's knight reentering the game.} 7.
Nf3 (7. a3 a5 8. Bd2 Na6 {defends the b4-pawn and should be OK for Black, as
long as he plays ...c5 at some point to activate his dark-squared bishop.})
7... Nf6 (7... Ba6 8. Bd2 {makes it impossible to properly defend b4.}) 8. e5
Nd5 9. O-O Bg4 {This is my novelty to avoid h3, but unfortunately it's not any
good.} 10. exd6 Qxd6 11. h3 {and White is better because of his control over
the c5-outpost and extra central space. If} (11. Nc5 Qf6 {would already favour
Black.}) 11... Bxf3 12. Qxf3 Bxd4 13. Rd1 {is strong.}) 7. Nf3 (7. f4 {would
be even more ambitious, but there is no need to try and refute the opponent's
first mistake - if we are patient, more will come.}) 7... Ba6 {See - another
mistake comes immediately! Many players think that you need to force mistakes
from the opponent. True, against good players you need to put some sort of
pressure on them to win, but against lesser folk you can just play healthy
building moves and they will make strategic mistakes.} (7... d5 {was better,
but still quite promising for White after} 8. exd5 cxd5 9. O-O {as Black's
queenside is overextended and will be undermined with a later a3 or c3.}) 8.
Nc5 {This is the point - a knight on the edge is not bad if the squares it
controls are very important - and certainly getting rid of Black's only decent
piece is a high priority. If it has to go to c8, then clearly Black's strategy
has failed. But the way he played in the game was tactically incorrect.} d6 {
The decisive mistake, but notice how hard it is for Black to develop if he
can't play this. Now do you see how White wins?} (8... Bc8 {is best, but then}
9. a3 d6 10. Nd3 bxa3 11. Rxa3 {is clearly better for White, who has a big
lead in development (4 to 1), a central space advantage, and a better pawn
structure (the Black a5-pawn is weak). If White were to win the a5-pawn (and I
don't see how Black avoids it in the long run), his advantages would be
sufficient for victory.}) 9. Bxf7+ {This is a tactic that every beginning
player should be able to see. The problem is that a lot of players, especially
adults, forget their times of attacks on f7 and therefore lack a trained eye
in protecting their 'weakest link'.} (9. Nxa6 Nxa6 {would still favour White
with the centre and bishops, but it isn't winning by force and Black might try
for counterplay with ...c5.}) 9... Kxf7 10. Ng5+ Ke8 (10... Kf6 11. Qf3# {is a
mating pattern every player should know by heart.}) (10... Kf8 11. Nge6+) 11.
Nce6 {White forks the queen and bishop. The knight is not going to be trapped
on g7 because at the very least it can come back to e6.} Qb6 {Other queen
moves don't make any difference.} 12. Nxg7+ Kf8 (12... Kd7 {can be met in
several ways, including} 13. Nf7 {winning the rook in the corner.}) 13. Qf3+
Nf6 ({or} 13... Kxg7 14. Ne6#) 14. N7e6+ Ke8 15. e5 {When the opponent's king
is in the centre and we are ahead in development, we must open the position to
take advantage! The most important pawn move for White in the entire Pirc/
Modern complex is e4-e5! - remember this.} dxe5 16. dxe5 Nd5 {By this stage it
doesn't matter too much what Black does - he is a pawn down and more
importantly, the e6-knight is an anchored paralyser.} 17. Be3 Qb5 (17... Nxe3
18. fxe3 {sees White ready to play 0-0-0 and Qf7 mate, and Black has no
defence.}) 18. O-O-O a4 {Time for a final puzzle. How does White win?} 19. Nc7+
{So what were the key themes of the game? 1) White attacked the weakest link -
f7 - and when Black did not play a ...d5 break at some point, this meant that
his position was vulnerable. 2) Ultimately, Black failed to develop his pieces
- he developed the bishops first instead of the knights and wasted time with
moves like 6...a5?. This meant he was defenceless against a brutal attack with
White's knights. 3) When you have a massive lead in development and the
opponent's king is stuck in the centre, we must open the position to win the
game. If we give the opponent time to catch up in development, they might be
able to survive. By keeping the initiative (not giving them the time), we win
easily. 4) You must always have a sharp tactical eye - the key is not to be
looking for the combinations, but to see them instantly - and this comes from
good pattern recognition. If you did not see the tactics in this game within 1
second, you should work through positions with this theme until you can solve
the puzzles faster than it takes to read what the engine says about the
position.} (19. Nc7+ Nxc7 20. Qf7# {is mate, and otherwise Black loses the
queen. This is a basic tactic everyone should be able to see instantly.}) 1-0