An Exemplary Berlin

Fri, 2014-09-05 15:51 -- IM Max Illingworth

[pgn][Event "2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014"]
[Site "Saint Louis USA"]
[Date "2014.09.04"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Black "Topalov, Veselin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C67"]
[WhiteElo "2787"]
[BlackElo "2772"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "114"]
[EventDate "2014.08.27"]
[Source "ChessPublishing"]
[SourceDate "2013.03.07"]

{In a recent column I offered some suggestions on how to meet the Berlin Wall,
but for this post I'll even the scores by showing a nice win for Black in this
opening, which is basically a model of everything he is aiming for. It's often
believed that this is basically a 'drawing opening' like the Petroff, and
while Black can interpret it in this way, he also has more ambitious options
where all three results are possible.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O
Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. h3 Ke8 10. Nc3 Ne7 {
This is the old way of playing this opening, bringing the knight to g6 to tie
the White knight on f3 to the defence of the e5-pawn (so there's no Nd4 and f4,
for example). The disadvantage of such a manoeuvre is that it takes a lot of
time, and the way for White to exploit this is to prepare a central break (e6)
and not let Black complete his development.} 11. Ne4 Ng6 12. Re1 h6 {Diagram
[#]} 13. Kh2 $6 {This is a waste of time - White's idea is to play g4 and meet
...h5 with Kg3, but we'll see that this does little more than weaken his
position.} ({White should prefer} 13. Bd2 {, when after} c5 {we should stop
Black playing ...Kd7-c6, as then he would achieve a completely harmonious
position:} 14. a3 ({or} 14. Rad1 {immediately, but I think inserting the
a-pawn moves is in White's favour.}) 14... a5 {(stopping b4)} 15. Rad1 Be6 16.
g4 {This is the correct execution of the plan - if Black plays normal moves,
White will play Ng3, Nh2 and f4-f5, or else Nh5 first, and if Black plays like
Topalov with} h5 $6 {, it doesn't work here because of} 17. Nfg5 $1 hxg4 18.
Nxe6 fxe6 19. hxg4 Nh4 20. Ng5 $1 Be7 21. Nxe6 Nf3+ 22. Kg2 Nxe1+ 23. Bxe1 Kf7
24. Nxc7 Rhd8 25. Nd5 {and the powerful kingside pawn majority crushed Black
in Efimenko-Levin, Lvov 2001.}) 13... c5 {Now the problem for White is that
Black only needs to play ...Be6 to establish a complete fortress, and if he
gets his king to c6, not only will it be completely safe there, it will also
be out of the way of the other pieces. It's very typical for Black to aim to
control all the squares from which a White knight can attack a bishop on e6,
as he's done here.} 14. c4 {I'm not sure if this move is a mistake, but it is
certainly dangerous if White ever loses control of the position, as then the
d4 and d3 squares become quite weak. Having said that, I don't know what would
be preferable.} (14. Be3 b6 15. Rad1 {does stop ...Kd7, but then the bishop on
e3 obstructs the e-file, ensuring that Black doesn't have to worry about e6 or
Nd6/Nf6 tactics in response to ... Be7. After} Be6 16. b3 Be7 {and ...Rd8
Black might already be better. The plan of ...a5-a4 is also valid in a number
of positions to create a weakness on the queenside (including if White tries
to lock it up with a4).}) 14... Be6 (14... Kd7 15. h4 Kc6 16. h5 Ne7 17. b4 $1
{was probably Nakamura's idea, when the king is not so safe on c6.}) 15. b3 b6
$1 {This move is actually quite clever; the point is that if} (15... Kd7 {
instead, White has} 16. Ng3 Kc6 17. Nh5 {, when Black has to play} Rg8 {to
enable ...Be7, but then} 18. g4 Be7 19. Ng1 {and f4 gives White a very mobile
kingside majority, and thereby a real advantage.}) 16. g4 $6 {White is trying
to play against the unopposed light-squared bishop in the same way that Black
positioned his pawns on dark squares to take them away from White's knights,
but it creates a few too many gaps in White's formation.} (16. Bb2 Nf4 17. Rad1
Rd8 18. Rxd8+ Kxd8 19. Bc1 Ng6 {would be a pretty normal continuation - the
exchange of rooks eases Black's game but he doesn't have clear pressure yet as
he did in the game. If White tries the same idea of} 20. Ng3 {and Nh5 now,} Ne7
{is a flexible reply.} 21. Nd2 g5 {is the main idea to dissuade f4 and hold
back White's kingside majority. The e7-knight might also come to d4 or b4 via.
c6. Another point to remember about these positions is that an
opposite-coloured bishop position won't automatically be a draw as the Black
light-squared bishop is almost always stronger than the White dark-squared
bishop.}) 16... h5 $1 {Diagram [#] A very important reply, forcing White's
king to the awkward g3 square.} 17. Kg3 (17. g5 {is awful as now White's
kingside majority is merely a set of weak pawns.}) 17... Rd8 18. Neg5 $6 {All
this does is force Black's bishop to an even nicer diagonal. I think Nakamura
wanted to follow through with e6 and missed something.} (18. Bg5 Be7 19. Re3 {
is a better option, intending to exchange the dark-squared bishops then
exchange the e6-bishop for a knight if possible. Black is still better though.}
) 18... Bc8 19. Bb2 (19. e6 {is the follow-up White needs if he is to make
Neg5 work, but} Bd6+ 20. Kg2 f6 $1 21. Nf7 hxg4 22. hxg4 Ke7 23. Nxd8 Rxd8 {is
a very strong exchange sacrifice - if} 24. Kf1 (24. Ng1 {is the other way out
of the lethal ...Bb7 pin, but} Rh8 25. f3 Rh2+ 26. Kf1 Be5 27. Rb1 Rxa2 {then
collects a pawn or two for the exchange, and in such a closed position a minor
piece isn't much worse than a rook.}) 24... Bb7 25. Ke2 Kxe6 26. Bd2 Kf7 {and
the threat of ...Re8 (Be3 Nf4) forces White back with} 27. Ng1 {, after which
Black has a very strong initiative; for instance,} Re8+ 28. Kf1 Rh8 {followed
by ...Ne5 makes it very hard for White to avoid the loss of a second pawn.})
19... Be7 20. Rad1 Rxd1 21. Rxd1 hxg4 (21... h4+ 22. Kh2 Bb7 {is the other way
to resolve the tension, and also looks quite good after} 23. Re1 Nf4 24. Bc3
Ne6 25. Bd2 Nd4 26. Nxd4 cxd4 {, when Black even managed to undouble his pawns.
Black is clearly better.}) 22. hxg4 f6 23. exf6 gxf6 24. Re1 Kf8 25. Ne4 Kf7 {
Diagram [#] It's easy to underestimate Black's chances in these positions -
White's pieces all look reasonably placed and the bishop pair aren't raking
the board - but White's g4-pawn is a bit loose, plus Black's bishop pair are a
long-term advantage that will increase in value if he can get his bishop to
the h7-b1 diagonal (as then all White's queenside pawns will be in danger).
Still, White made things quite easy for Black in the game.} 26. Bc1 Rg8 27. Rh1
$2 {White's position is too shaky to afford to leave any of his pieces
unprotected for a move.} (27. Bd2 {also fails to keep the position together
mind:} Nf8 $1 28. g5 ({or} 28. Nh2 f5) 28... Ne6 {and White loses the g-pawn,
though he can keep the game going with} 29. Bc3 fxg5 30. Ne5+ Kf8 31. f3 {and
White has lost a pawn but regained some control of the position.}) 27... Bb7
28. Re1 {The e4-knight couldn't move because of} (28. Ned2 Bd6+ {, however}) (
28. Nfd2 Ne5 29. f3 f5 {is also terrible for White.}) 28... Re8 $1 {The threat
is ...Bxe4 and ...Bd6.} 29. Nfd2 Ne5 {White's pieces have been forced to very
passive squares, and already we can speak of a winning position for Black.} 30.
Bb2 Nd3 31. Rb1 Rg8 32. Kf3 Nxb2 33. Rxb2 Bc8 {The g-pawn is lost, and White
can't even trade off Black's bishop pair for it.} 34. g5 f5 35. Nf6 Rxg5 36.
Nd5 Bb7 37. Rb1 (37. Ke2 Bd6 38. Nf3 Rh5 39. Rd2 {stops Black winning a second
pawn as he does in the game, but the bishop pair in an open position plus an
extra pawn is usually more than enough to win, and with} Bc6 40. Kf1 f4 {
followed by ...b5, White's pieces will soon be forced back, and further
targets to attack will be created.}) 37... Rg4 38. Rh1 Bd6 39. Ke2 Rd4 40. Rh7+
Kg6 41. Rd7 Bxd5 42. cxd5 Rxd5 (42... b5 {was technically even better,
spurning the second pawn in favour of keeping control of White's pieces with ..
.c4-c3 to come.}) 43. Nc4 b5 44. Nxd6 cxd6 45. Rxa7 b4 {Diagram [#] This rook
endgame is quite an easy win.} 46. a4 bxa3 47. Rxa3 Re5+ $1 {Wherever the
White king goes, he will be cut off from one side of the board.} 48. Kd3 (48.
Kf3 Kf6 49. Ra8 Ke6 50. Re8+ Kd5 {sees Black ready to penetrate on the
queenside.}) 48... Kg5 49. Ra6 Re1 50. Kd2 Re6 51. Rb6 Kg4 52. b4 cxb4 53.
Rxb4+ Kf3 54. Kd1 f4 55. Rd4 Re4 56. Rd2 (56. Rxd6 Kxf2 {is an easy win.})
56... d5 57. Ra2 Kg2 {The key points from this game are: 1) After Black plays
the ...Ne7-g6 manoeuvre (to tie up the f3-knight and thereby stop f4-f5),
Black's dream position is: ...h6, ...c5, ... Be6 and ...Kc6. That way, White
cannot exchange the best piece on the board - the unopposed light-squared
bishop - and thereby can't easily advance his kingside majority. 2) White
should stop the last part of this plan (... Kd7-c6) by developing rapidly, and
when all the pieces are developed, playing g4 as then the response that worked
so well in the main game, ...h5, will see White better prepared for the
transformation of the position. 3) The position after the exchange of the
e5-pawn was clearly better for Black - the resulting position is much more
open for Black's bishop pair, and in the game Black combined threats against
the weak g-pawn with the exploitation of the weak squares down the d-file,
created by the move c4 earlier. 4) In the later part of the endgame, bear in
mind the ideas of ...Rg4-d4 to eliminate White's d5-knight, and the check on
e5 to force White's king to choose one side of the board, so that Black can
easily win on the other side.} 0-1 [/pgn]