interesting endgames in the Slav

Tue, 2014-04-08 12:03 -- IM Max Illingworth

[pgn][Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2014.04.07"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Slav Endgames Intro"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "D10"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "4"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]

{For this blog post I'm going to examine a few endgames typically arising from
the Slav Defence. It is very easy to find opening theory on the Slav or a
collection of Slav games, but I don't know of any books that cover the key
endgame principles underlying the Slav, and it is this gap that I want to fill.
For those not in the know, the Slav arises after the moves} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 {
. My coverage won't include those lines where Black plays an early ...e6 with
the light-squared bishop still on c8, as these systems are a Semi-Slav, not
the Slav.} * [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2014.04.07"]
[Round "?"]
[White "A Positional Trap"]
[Black "Argentinian Variation"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "D10"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "30"]
[EventDate "2014.??.??"]

{I'll begin with an examination of the position arising after} 1. d4 d5 2. c4
c6 3. Nc3 dxc4 (3... Nf6 {is the most common continuation, but the text aims
to exploit the fact that ...b5-b4 will attack the knight.}) 4. a4 {This is a
very common move at club level, but it isn't the strongest move.} (4. e4 {is
the critical move, taking the central space left behind by Black's pawn grab.})
4... e5 {This is a strong reply, attacking the centre and taking the
initiative.} (4... Nf6 {is also possible if Black is satisfied with a
transposition to the Main Line Slav with} 5. Nf3 {.}) 5. dxe5 Qxd1+ 6. Kxd1 (6.
Nxd1 {is the other possibility. Then} Be6 (6... Na6 7. e4 Nb4 8. Ne3 Be6 9. Nf3
{is quite messy; Black can play} Nd3+ 10. Bxd3 cxd3 {but the d3-pawn fairly
well blockaded.}) (6... Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8. Kxd2 Be6 9. e4 Na6 10. f4 Nc5 11.
Ke3 Nb3 12. Ra3 {is equally unclear; Black's position looks nice but White's
kingside pawn mass is very strong and it is difficult for Black to keep
control of things.}) 7. e4 Nd7 {is perhaps the best way to handle the position;
play might continue} 8. Nf3 (8. f4 Nc5 9. f5 Bd7 10. Nc3 Nb3 11. Rb1 Nxc1 12.
Rxc1 b5 {with another really complicated position is perhaps best play for
both sides; personally I'd rather have Black's bishop pair though.}) 8... O-O-O
9. Ne3 Bb4+ 10. Bd2 Bxd2+ 11. Nxd2 Nxe5 12. f4 Nd3+ 13. Bxd3 cxd3 14. f5 Bd7 {
and Black is up a pawn and doing quite well, despite White's imposing centre.})
6... Na6 (6... Be6 7. e4 Na6 {transposes.}) 7. e4 (7. Nf3 {is the other
serious option, but this natural development lets Black take the initiative
with} Be6 8. Ng5 (8. Bf4 O-O-O+ 9. Ke1 Bb4 10. Ng5 Nc5 11. e4 Ne7 12. Be3 Nd3+
13. Bxd3 Rxd3 {gives Black really nice domination of the centre.}) 8... Rd8+ (
8... O-O-O+ 9. Kc2 {is weaker as now the e6-bishop will be traded off - it is
important for Black's king to keep f7 protected.}) 9. Kc2 Bc8 10. e4 h6 11. Nf3
Be6 {and Black is back in control with ...Nb4-d3 or ...Bb4 and ...Nc5-d3 to
follow.}) 7... Be6 (7... Bg4+ {might seem to lose a tempo but White probably
doesn't have better than to return it with} 8. f3 O-O-O+ 9. Bd2 Be6 10. f4 {.})
8. Be3 (8. f4 {Slav expert Vigus considers this the best move, threatening f5
and Bxc4 before Black can clamp down on the position.} O-O-O+ (8... Rd8+ 9. Kc2
(9. Bd2 Nc5 10. Nf3 Nb3 11. f5 Bd7 12. Ra2 Nxd2 13. Nxd2 g6 {is significantly
better for Black; if} 14. g4 h5 {.}) (9. Ke2 Nc5 10. f5 Bc8 {is also unlikely
to be a panacea for White.}) 9... f5 {challenging White's pawn mass is a very
interesting alternative which may well favour Black after} 10. Nf3 Ne7 11. Be2
Nb4+ 12. Kb1 Nd3 {. White finds it hard to get his kingside majority moving.})
9. Ke2 {This move seems counter-intuitive, but does get out of the way of
Black's forks.} (9. Kc2 f5 10. exf6 Nxf6 11. Nf3 Nb4+ 12. Kb1 Nxe4 13. Nxe4 Bf5
14. Nfg5 Rd4 {was clearly better for Black in one game.}) (9. Bd2 Nc5 10. f5 (
10. Nf3 g5 {is an interesting idea, as} 11. fxg5 Nb3 12. Ra2 Bg4 {would now
win for Black.}) 10... Nb3 11. Nf3 Bd7 12. Ra2 Nxd2 13. Nxd2 g6 {is quite good
for Black, as we've seen before (with the king on e8 instead of c8).}) 9... g6
10. Be3 Nb4 {- see 8.Be3. In my view this ...Nb4 move has been unjustly
ignored.} (10... Bc5 11. Nf3 f6 {is the main continuation that had been seen,
but} 12. Rd1 Rxd1 13. Nxd1 fxe5 14. Nxe5 Nf6 15. Nf2 {then seems somewhat
better for White, albeit still in a complicated position.})) 8... O-O-O+ 9. Ke2
({Not} 9. Kc1 Bc5 10. Bxc5 Nxc5 {when ...Nb3 is a massive pest.}) 9... Nb4 {
This is my attempted improvement over the previously seen} (9... Bc5 {, after
which} 10. f4 f5 11. Nf3 Ne7 12. Ng5 Bg8 13. Rd1 Rxd1 14. Nxd1 h6 15. Nf3 fxe4
16. Nd2 Bd5 {is extremely unclear but probably equal in the end.}) 10. f4 (10.
Bxa7 Nd3 11. Rb1 Nxe5 12. f4 Nd3 13. f5 Bd7 {is also quite murky, but I would
rather be Black as his king is safer and White is in danger of overextending.})
10... g6 (10... Nd3 11. f5 Bd7 12. Bxa7 g6 {may be better, sacrificing a pawn
but eroding White's centre.} 13. Bb6 Re8 14. fxg6 hxg6 15. Nf3 Bg4 16. h3 Bg7
17. Kd2 Bxf3 18. gxf3 Nxe5 {and the computer gives equality, but I would
definitely be happier in Black's shoes - he can clamp down on the kingside
dark squares with ...Nf6-h5-f4 coupled with ...Bh6 or ...g5, and White still
has problems completing development - the f1-bishop in particular is a lemon.})
11. Bxa7 Nd3 12. Bb6 Rd7 13. a5 Nxb2 14. Nf3 Bb4 15. Na2 Be7 {and the position
is still extremely unclear - neither side can properly complete their
development. One thing to keep in mind with this line is that White players
tend to stumble into it by accident, so if you are well prepared you can score
a lot of quick wins with 3...dxc4 at the club level.} * [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "NED-ch59"]
[Site "Leeuwarden"]
[Date "2004.07.06"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Van Wely, Loek"]
[Black "Sokolov, Ivan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D19"]
[WhiteElo "2651"]
[BlackElo "2690"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "103"]
[EventDate "2004.06.30"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "NED"]
[EventCategory "12"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2004.09.23"]

{Another game that is quite instructive is the following one from the Dutch
Championship ten years ago. The game has already been analysed heavily by
Huebner and Vigus, and I don't have much to add to their analysis, which you
can find yourself in Mega Database and 'Play the Slav' respectively.} 1. d4 d5
2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O O-O 9.
Qe2 Bg4 10. Rd1 Qa5 11. e4 Qh5 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 Qxf3 14. gxf3 Nbd7 {I'll
just note that this endgame is about equal, with Black's better structure
(White has doubled f-pawns and a weak b4 square) and White's space and bishop
pair being of equivalent merit.} 15. Be3 Rfd8 16. Na2 Be7 17. Nc1 Ne5 18. Be2
Ng6 19. a5 a6 20. Nd3 h6 21. b4 Rab8 22. Kh1 Ne8 23. Rac1 Kh7 24. Nc5 Nc7 25.
Bc4 Nh4 26. f4 Bd6 27. Be2 Ng6 28. Nd3 f5 29. f3 Nb5 30. Rg1 Bf8 31. Nc5 Nxd4
32. Bxd4 Nxf4 33. Be5 Nxe2 34. Nxe6 Nxg1 35. Rxg1 g5 36. Bxb8 Rxb8 37. exf5
Bxb4 38. Rd1 Bxa5 39. Rd7+ Kh8 40. f6 Bb4 41. h4 Re8 42. Nd8 Re1+ 43. Kg2 Bf8
44. Nf7+ Kg8 45. hxg5 hxg5 46. Nxg5 b5 47. f4 b4 48. f5 Re2+ 49. Kf3 Re5 50.
Kf4 Rd5 51. Rh7 Bd6+ 52. Kg4 1-0 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Wch World Cup (Women)"]
[Site "Khanty-Mansiysk"]
[Date "2012.11.11"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "Berezina, Irina"]
[Black "Sebag, Marie"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D11"]
[WhiteElo "2190"]
[BlackElo "2521"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "137"]
[EventDate "2012.11.11"]
[EventRounds "6"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2013.01.15"]

{I'll use this example to show the general worst-case scenario for Black in
the Slav - even when he (or she in this case) runs into pressure, Black can
normally go into a worse endgame where the 'restraint structure' with pawns on
c6 and e6 against a White pawn on d4 will let Black hold a draw with best play.
} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3 {This system is not exactly critical, and
I would be inclined to grab that c4-pawn now.} Bf5 (4... dxc4 5. Bg2 b5 6. O-O
Bb7 {gives Black a nice solid game and an extra pawn. The engines tend to
somewhat overestimate White's compensation in these positions.}) 5. Bg2 e6 6.
O-O Nbd7 7. Nc3 Be7 (7... dxc4 {is the correct way to exploit White's move
order, as now White doesn't have Nbd2 or Na3 to try and regain his pawn, and}
8. Nh4 Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10. g4 Nd5 11. e4 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Qxh4 13. gxh5 Be7 {
followed by ...0-0 does not give White full compensation for the pawn.}) 8. Nd2
{Moulthun Ly (who at the time of writing is on 3/4 at the Kuala Lumpur Open)
used this same setup against me a couple of years ago and achieved a very
decent game, and it's a good move, but better is} (8. Nh4 Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10. g4
Bg6 11. Qb3 Qb6 12. Nxg6 hxg6 13. g5 Nh7 14. cxd5 exd5 15. e4 Qxb3 16. axb3
dxe4 17. Nxe4 {with a small endgame edge for White, as Black's minor pieces
are a bit misplaced, though Black is quite solid and this isn't the sort of
thing that would worry most Slav players.}) 8... O-O 9. e4 dxe4 10. Ndxe4 Nxe4
11. Nxe4 {I'll skip past this structure (which is fairly balanced) to the
position where the queens come off.} Nf6 12. Nc3 Qb6 13. Na4 Qc7 14. Bf4 Bd6
15. Bg5 Ne4 16. Be3 h6 17. Rc1 Nf6 18. h3 Be4 19. Nc3 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 Rad8 21.
Qf3 Qe7 22. Rfe1 Nd7 23. Kh1 Rfe8 24. Qg2 Nf8 25. Re2 Qf6 26. f4 Qg6 27. Ne4
Nh7 28. Nf2 Be7 29. Qf3 Bf6 30. Rd1 Be7 31. a3 f5 32. b4 Nf6 33. Bc1 Bf8 34.
Bb2 Qh5 35. Kg2 Qxf3+ 36. Kxf3 Bd6 {Black is rock solid here - her only
weakness, the e6-pawn, is easily defended, and White's knight is tied to f2 to
defend against ...Ne4. The game ended in a draw.} 37. Rde1 Kf7 38. h4 Bc7 39.
Bc3 Bb6 40. Rd1 Bc7 41. Rde1 Bb6 42. Rd1 Kg8 43. a4 a6 44. a5 Ba7 45. Red2 Kf7
46. Re2 Bb8 47. Rd3 Rd7 48. Bb2 Ba7 49. Red2 Red8 50. Rd1 Bb8 51. Bc1 Bd6 52.
Bd2 Be7 53. Bc3 Ne8 54. Re1 Bf6 (54... Nd6 55. Rde3 Nxc4 56. Rxe6 Nd6 {was
Black's one chance to lay claim to the advantage.}) 55. Rde3 Nd6 56. Rxe6 Nxc4
57. Nd3 Bxd4 58. Bxd4 Rxd4 59. Re7+ Kg8 60. Nc5 Nd2+ 61. Kg2 Rxb4 62. Ne6 Rd6
63. Nxg7 Rd5 64. R1e6 Ne4 65. Nxf5 Rxf5 66. Re8+ Kg7 67. R8e7+ Kg8 68. Re8+ Kg7
69. R8e7+ 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Supreme Masters 2013"]
[Site "Sandnes NOR"]
[Date "2013.05.13"]
[Round "5.4"]
[White "Radjabov, T."]
[Black "Aronian, L."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D12"]
[WhiteElo "2745"]
[BlackElo "2813"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "62"]
[EventDate "2013.05.08"]

{I'll finish with a game from the Candidates showing that a backward pawn on
c6 on the half-open c-file need not be a positional problem for Black.} 1. d4
d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 (4... a6 {might well be Black's most solid
option, waiting for White to commit to a setup before playing ...Bf5, ...Bg4
or ...b5. Avrukh's recommendation in 'GM Repertoire' was} 5. Bd3 Bg4 6. Nbd2 e6
{, when White has a more flexible setup than usual in the Chebanenko.
Personally I wouldn't be afraid of this though.}) 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Qb3 {This
'Slow Slav Exchange' line has a reputation of being very solid.} Qc7 7. Bd2 (7.
Bb5+ Nc6 8. Bd2 a6 {(Black should play ...e6)} 9. Bxc6+ bxc6 10. Qa4 {favours
White slightly as it is hard to release the queenside pressure after White
plays Ba5.}) 7... e6 (7... a6 {is a very interesting idea worth exploring if
you want to avoid Bb5.}) 8. Bb5+ Nc6 9. O-O (9. Bb4 Bxb4+ 10. Qxb4 Qe7 11.
Bxc6+ bxc6 12. Qxe7+ Kxe7 13. Nc3 {would be another way to reach the structure
that occurs in the game.}) 9... Bd6 10. Bb4 O-O 11. Bxc6 bxc6 12. Nbd2 Rfb8 13.
Bxd6 Qxd6 14. Qc3 Qb4 15. Qxb4 Rxb4 16. b3 {This position may seem better for
White at first - the c6-pawn is backward and on an open file, where it can be
easily attacked with Ne5, Rfc1, Rc3 and Rac1. However, Aronian demonstrates
that Black has enough counterplay to maintain the balance.} Nd7 17. a3 (17.
Rfc1 Rb6 {had been seen before, when} 18. Rc3 a5 19. a3 f6 20. Rac1 Rc8 21. Nh4
g5 22. Nxf5 exf5 {sees Black hold the position, although he might have to
suffer a tiny bit to guarantee the draw.}) 17... Rb6 18. b4 {I'm not sure what
Radjabov's preparation was, as this leads to equality very quickly.} (18. Rfc1
a5 19. Rc3 {transposes to the previous note, when instead of 19...f6 Black may
also consider} h6 20. Rac1 Raa6 {, to counter} 21. Nh4 {with} Bh7 {, after
which Black's position is impregnable.}) 18... a5 19. Nb3 axb4 20. axb4 Rxa1
21. Rxa1 f6 (21... Rxb4 22. Nc5 Nb8 {is also fine for Black, but Aronian
prefers to liquidate the position towards a quick draw. In this case White's
strong c5-knight stops Black undertaking anything worthwhile.}) 22. Nc5 Nxc5
23. dxc5 Rxb4 24. Nd4 Rc4 25. Nxc6 Rxc5 26. Ne7+ Kf7 27. Nxf5 exf5 {This rook
ending is just a dead draw.} 28. Ra7+ Kg6 29. g3 h5 30. Rd7 Rc1+ 31. Kg2 Rd1
1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "Tashkent FIDE GP 2nd"]
[Site "Tashkent"]
[Date "2012.12.02"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Wang, Hao"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D10"]
[WhiteElo "2737"]
[BlackElo "2786"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "85"]
[EventDate "2012.11.22"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "UZB"]
[EventCategory "20"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2013.01.15"]

{Of course, the Slav is such a huge opening complex that I could only scratch
the surface of the different endgames in this opening, and I invite you to
study other instructive endgames in this opening, starting with the following
modern classic that shows that the Exchange Variation is not as boring and
toothless as many believe.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 cxd5 5. Bf4
Nc6 6. e3 a6 7. Bd3 Bg4 8. Nge2 e6 9. O-O Be7 10. Rc1 Bh5 11. Qb3 Na5 12. Qa4+
Nc6 13. Bg3 Bg6 14. Nf4 Bxd3 15. Nxd3 Nd7 16. Qd1 O-O 17. Na4 Rc8 18. Ndc5 Nxc5
19. dxc5 Na7 20. b4 Rc6 21. h3 a5 22. b5 Nxb5 23. Qb3 Nc7 24. Qxb7 Qa8 25. Rb1
Rc8 26. Qxa8 Nxa8 27. Rb7 Bf8 28. Rfb1 f6 29. Ra7 e5 30. f4 d4 31. fxe5 dxe3
32. exf6 gxf6 33. Kf1 Re8 34. Ke2 Rcc8 35. Rbb7 f5 36. Rxa5 Rcd8 37. Be1 Bh6
38. Nb2 Rb8 39. Raa7 Rxb7 40. Rxb7 Rc8 41. Nd3 Nc7 42. Rb6 Bg5 43. Rc6 1-0 [/pgn]