Grandmaster 'miniatures'

Wed, 2013-09-04 10:50 -- IM Max Illingworth

[pgn][Event "FIDE World Cup 2013"]
[Site "Tromso NOR"]
[Date "2013.08.28"]
[Round "6.3"]
[White "Vachier Lagrave, M."]
[Black "Kramnik, V."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C45"]
[WhiteElo "2719"]
[BlackElo "2784"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "44"]
[EventDate "2013.08.11"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "NOR"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.09.03"]

{In this week and over the next few weeks I'll be analysing a number of recent
master and Grandmaster 'miniatures' (games ending in 25 moves or less). A
close study of several such games brings many benefits: a) You can train your
tactical ability by trying to find the winning move(s). b) Your confidence
greatly increases as you understand that even very strong players can play
badly in a given game. c) You can quickly pick up new, dangerous ideas due to
the brevity of the games. d) Quick games tend to be easier to understand than
long drawn out affairs. Our first game sees World Cup winner Vladimir Kramnik
trounce France's top player Maxime Vachier Lagrave who had a rare off day.} 1.
e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bb4+ (4... Bc5 5. Be3 Qf6 6. c3 Nge7 {is
one of the main lines.}) 5. c3 Bc5 {At first it seems crazy to give White the
extra tempo c3 defending the d4-knight (compared to the immediate 4...Bc5),
but the point is that the best square for the White queen's knight (c3) is no
longer available.} 6. Be3 Bb6 7. Bd3 {With this quiet move White wishes to
avoid Black's opening preparation.} (7. Qg4 {attacking the weak g7-pawn is the
critical continuation, when} Nf6 $5 8. Qxg7 Rg8 9. Qh6 Rg6 10. Qf4 Qe7 {is a
little-explored but interesting way to play; Black has sacrificed a pawn but
it's hard for White to keep e4 defended, especially when Black follows up with
...d5 to open the centre for his agile pieces.}) (7. Nf5 Bxe3 8. Nxe3 {on the
other hand is a simpler continuation.}) 7... Nf6 8. O-O O-O 9. Nxc6 {This is
an ambitious continuation but it only helps Black develop.} (9. Nd2 d5 {might
be what White was afraid of, but White can try to make something of his better
pawn structure with} 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Re1 {, when it's not so easy for Black
to find counterplay to compensate for his doubled c-pawns. He also has to
watch out for a sudden change in the pawn structure with e5.}) 9... bxc6 {
Recapturing towards the centre is very logical indeed.} (9... dxc6 {is the
computer preference but I prefer White's position after} 10. Qe2 Bxe3 11. Qxe3
Ng4 12. Qg3 {as White is effectively half a pawn up (Black's queenside
majority can't be used to create a passed pawn) and Black doesn't even have a
lead in development to compensate this structural defect.}) 10. e5 {This is
consistent with White's previous move, but Black will be able to liquidate the
centre with a future ...d6.} (10. Bg5 $1 {would be a little bit unpleasant for
Black, for example:} d6 11. Nd2 (11. Qf3 h6 12. Bxf6 Qxf6 13. Qxf6 gxf6) 11...
h6 12. Bh4 Re8 13. h3 {and White is slightly better as Black hasn't succeeded
in contesting White's space advantage, and meanwhile White has the easy plan
of Qf3, Rad1 and Rfe1 followed by either an e5 break or a knight transfer to
f5 (via. c4-e3 or f1-e3). Note that breaking the pin with ...g5 would weaken
Black's kingside and leave him more vulnerable to the aforementioned Nc4-e3-f5
plan.}) 10... Nd5 (10... Bxe3 11. exf6 Bh6 12. fxg7 Kxg7 {is interesting,
giving up some king safety for the bishop pair, but the text is better.}) 11.
Bd2 (11. Bxb6 axb6 {leaves Black with a very chunky pawn structure on the
queenside.}) 11... d6 12. c4 Ne7 13. Qc2 {After the game Vachier Lagrave
criticised this move but it's probably the best continuation!} (13. Bc3 dxe5
14. Bxe5 Ng6 15. Bg3 Bd4 $1 {would have given Black a genuine initiative. Note
that trying to solve White's problems tactically with} 16. Bxg6 fxg6 17. Bxc7 {
fails to} Bxf2+ {.}) 13... Ng6 14. exd6 cxd6 (14... Qxd6 {is interesting to
accelerate Black's development, but the pawn recapture is much more cohesive.})
15. Nc3 {White's main advantage in this pawn is his better pawn structure -
Black has three pawn islands to White's two. However Black's pieces are very
active, meaning White will first have to contain Black's little initiative.}
Qh4 {In a rapid game this is probably the strongest continuation, as it
immediately pressures White with ideas of ...Ne5 (attacking the c4-pawn as
well as the d3-bishop) and looks very aggressive.} ({That said, simple
development with} 15... Be6 {is in no way inferior.} 16. Kh1 $5 {would then be
a very interesting option to prepare f4-f5, not that this should worry Black
unduly.}) 16. Rae1 {I watched this game live and was surprised that White
didn't go for} (16. Ne4 {which exploits the one defect of 15...Qh4: the
d6-pawn is undefended. As I've stated before, a good way to minimise the risk
of a tactical accident is to keep all your pieces defended! In any case,} d5
17. Nd6 $1 Ba6 {(if White is allowed to take on c8 then I definitely prefer
his position)} 18. Nf5 $5 Qf6 19. cxd5 Bxd3 20. Qxd3 cxd5 21. a4 $1 {looks
very pleasant for White, as the passed d-pawn is well blockaded and Black
can't take on b2 now because of Bc3, when a later capture on g7 will leave
Black's king very exposed.}) 16... Ne5 {Even here White should play 17. Ne4,
but it's very common for a player to miss a strong move a second or even a
third time after missing the same move the first time. An extreme example of
this was my game against David Beaumont last weekend where we both missed a
very strong Rxf4 tactic for about ten moves!} 17. Re4 $6 {This rook lift only
succeeds in misplacing the rook.} Qh5 {Now the immediate threat is ...Nxd3 and
...Bf5 winning the exchange.} (17... Ng4 $5 {was also quite good - the
self-pin isn't a worry as} 18. h3 Bxf2+ 19. Kh1 f5 {leaves White unable to
safely capture on g4 anyway due to the h-file pin.}) 18. Be2 $2 {Only here
does White's position become sour.} (18. Rf4 {is awkward looking but it's not
clear how Black traps the rook. If Black plays} g5 $6 {he runs into} 19. Ne4 $1
{threatening a fork on f6.}) 18... Qg6 {Now Black also threatens ...Bh3.} 19.
Qd1 Bh3 20. Bf3 (20. g3 Bxf1 21. Qxf1 Rae8 {is obviously hopeless for White.})
20... Bf5 21. Rh4 $2 {A blunder, but even the correct} (21. Rf4 Bc2 22. Qc1 Bd3
23. Rd1 Rac8 {keeps White on the back foot.}) 21... Bc2 22. Qxc2 (22. Qe2 Bd3 {
doesn't affect the final result.}) 22... Nxf3+ {White is about to lose his
queen, so he resigned.} 0-1[/pgn]

[pgn][Event "14th Karpov GM"]
[Site "Poikovsky RUS"]
[Date "2013.09.02"]
[Round "5.5"]
[White "Cheparinov, I."]
[Black "Inarkiev, E."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E15"]
[WhiteElo "2678"]
[BlackElo "2693"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "33"]
[EventDate "2013.08.28"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[EventCategory "18"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.09.03"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 c5 $6 {I've played this system
myself but objectively its value is limited.} 6. O-O {After this move play
transposes to an innocuous version of the Symmetrical English.} (6. d5 $1 {is
the strongest move, as White's pawn sacrifice is only temporary. I won't
reveal the refutation so I can spring this system on an unsuspecting opponent
in five years time!}) 6... cxd4 7. Qxd4 (7. Nxd4 Bxg2 8. Kxg2 Qc8 {(attacking
the c4-pawn) is known to be harmless.}) 7... Nc6 8. Qf4 {With the moves ...Be7
and Nc3 included this is a very standard position.} d6 (8... Ne7 $5 {with the
idea of ...Ng6 is a very way to reorganise Black's minor pieces. Then} 9. Nc3
Ng6 10. Qd4 Bc5 11. Qd3 O-O {gives Black a more active position than he gets
in a garden variety Hedgehog.}) 9. Rd1 Be7 {Black now plays the standard
Hedgehog moves, though normally he'd prefer his queen's knight on d7 so that
the b7-bishop has an unobstructed diagonal.} 10. b3 Qc7 (10... O-O 11. Nc3 {
followed by Ba3 would place unpleasant pressure on the d6-pawn.}) 11. Nc3 (11.
Ba3 {is a very interesting alternative here, immediately putting pressure on
the d6-pawn. Now the obvious} Rd8 (11... Ne5 12. Nc3 a6 {would transpose to
the game.}) 12. Nc3 a6 13. Rac1 {is already tricky for Black as} O-O $6 {fails
to the standard trick} 14. Nd5 $1 exd5 15. cxd5 {which is a positional
disaster.}) 11... a6 12. Ba3 Ne5 13. Ng5 {While this move intends Nge4 to
attack the d6-pawn some more, I would have preferred} (13. Nxe5 dxe5 14. Qc1
Bxg2 15. Bxe7 Qxe7 16. Kxg2 O-O 17. Qe3 {when White's better pawn structure
has to give him a plus.}) 13... Bxg2 14. Kxg2 O-O 15. Nge4 Nxe4 16. Nxe4 Ng6 {
If it wasn't for this counterattack, Black would be in trouble.} 17. Qf3 $4 {
Now it's puzzle time: what move did Black play here to force White's
resignation? Once you see the win, suggest a better 17th move for White.} 0-1[/pgn]

[pgn][Event "2nd Paleros Open"]
[Site "Paleros GRE"]
[Date "2013.08.27"]
[Round "5.3"]
[White "Goritsas, C."]
[Black "Gogolis, A."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B01"]
[WhiteElo "2277"]
[BlackElo "2236"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "18"]
[EventDate "2013.08.24"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "GRE"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2013.09.03"]

{To conclude, here's a game that should be an eye-opener for those of you who
wonder how it's possible to beat a player rated x+200, x being your rating.
But having a high rating doesn't insure you against making blunders.} 1. e4 d5
2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 {The old main line, which was a favourite of Rogers.}
4. Bc4 Nf6 5. d3 {With this setup White wants to avoid giving Black a target
in the centre, but it's more accurate to start with} (5. Nf3 {, so that after}
Bf5 6. d3 $1 {the f5-bishop hits a brick wall. Probably 5...Bg4 is better but
I'm not entirely convinced that Black equalises there.}) 5... Bg4 (5... c6 {is
more common, so that the queen can retreat to c7 or d8 after White plays Bd2
and Nd5(e4).}) 6. f3 {This move leaves White's position a little bit more
exposed; I would have preferred the compact} (6. Nge2 {followed by h3, which
is a lot less loosening.}) 6... Bd7 7. Bd2 Qc5 {Black gets out of the way of a
discovered attack with Nd5.} 8. a3 {This is a logical enough move to give the
c4-bishop a retreat square on a2 and also prepare b4 to acquire queenside
property.} (8. Ne4 Nxe4 9. fxe4 {might have been better mind, as White now has
a central majority and Black's pieces are a little bit misplaced in the new
structure.}) 8... b5 9. b4 $4 {This move is unfortunate.} (9. Ba2 {is the
simple and good reply.}) 9... Qe5+ {White resigned as a piece for a pawn is
too large a disadvantage to overcome at this level. Solution to Puzzle: After
17.Qf3 Black played 17...d5!, when 18.cxd5 loses material to 18...Bxa3 and 18.
Bxe7 dxe4 19.Qxe4 (19.Bd6 exf3 is check!) 19...Qxe7 is decisive. Therefore
White resigned. Almost any other queen move would be better, but the best of
them is probably 17.Qd2.} 0-1[/pgn]