Saturday, April 9, 2016

Breaking the Fort Knox

In today's article we will look at the game Tiviakov vs Rustemov, St Petersburg 1998, featuring an unorthodox variation of the French Defense. It boiled down to an unusual position where White castled kingside and played Kh1, which turned out to be useful in his attack against the Black king!

Tiviakov, Sergei vs Rustemov, Alexander
St Petersburg 1998

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nd2 dxe4
4. Nxe4 Bd7
5. Nf3 Bc6

In the Fort Knox variation of the French Defense, Black gives up tempo to develop his light-squared bishop to a good position.

6. Bd3 Nd7
7. O-O Ngf6
8. Ng3

Since White enjoys more space in the centre, he wants to avoid trading too many pieces.

8... Be7
9. Qe2 O-O
10. Rd1 Bxf3

One of Black's key ideas in the Fort Knox is to trade on f3, avoiding Ne5 and giving himself more space. The downside is that it gives White the bishop pair.

11. Qxf3 c6 (D)

Position after 11... c6

Let's do a short analysis of the position. The pawn structure-- with Black pawns on c6 and e6-- is a common one in many Caro Kann and French games. White enjoys more space and has the bishop pair. However, Black has a rock-solid position and threatens to fight back with either c5 or e5. In order to prevent Black from creating significant counterplay, White needs to find a way to launch an attack.

12. c3

12. c4 is less solid than the main line but more aggressive, staking more centre space and threatening to push d5.

12... Qc7
13. a4 Rfe8

Can Black try to break with c5 or e5 immediately? Let's take a look: 13... c5 14. Bf4 Qc8 (14... Bd6 15. Bxd6 Qxd6 16. Qxb7 cxd4 17. cxd4 Rab8 18. Qxa7 Rxb2 the a-file passer is very dangerous.) 15. Rac1 (discouraging Black from exchanging on d4.) 15...  Re8 16. b4 c4 17. Bc2 (D)

Position after 17. Bc2

Although Black's position is still cramped, he has managed to keep the position closed, reducing the power of White's bishop pair and giving his own knight a good square on d5.

On the other hand, 13... e5 doesn't look very promising: 14. Nf5! Rfe8 15. Qg3 Nh5 16. Qh3 Nhf6 17.Bg5 Followed by the rook lift Re1-Re3 creating strong threats against Black's kingside.

Returning to the main line after 13... Rfe8

14. Bc2 Bd6
15. Be3 a5

Black faces a dilemma: He would like to open up the position to give his pieces more space, but an open game means White's bishop pair will become more powerful. This can be seen in the variation 15... c5 16. dxc5 Nxc5 (16... Bxc5?! 17. Bf4 overloading the queen.) 17. b4 Ncd7 where Black frees his position but
White's bishop pair is stronger.

16. Kh1!? (D)

Position after 16. Kh1

The purpose of this move is not obvious at first, and only becomes apparent later on. White is preparing to generate an attack against the enemy king.

16... Nd5
17. Bd2 g6

Before Black pushes e5, he takes control of f5 first.

18. Bb3!

Preventing the e5 push for now.

18... Bf8?!

An inaccuracy. I felt it was better to get rid of the knight: 18... Bxg3 19. Qxg3 Qxg3 20. hxg3 N7f6 although White has the bishop pair, it is not very effective in this closed position. In comparison, Black's knights are better placed. Black could try gaining some space with ... Ne4 followed by ... f5, while White can respond with Re1 and Bxd5 opening the position.

19. Ne4 b5
20. h4 h5
21. Rg1! (D)

Position after 21. Rg1

Now we know the purpose of 16. Kh1!

21... Bg7
22. g4 hxg4

22... f5 23. gxf5 exf5 24. Ng5 (threatening 25. Bxd5) N7f6 25. axb5! Ne4 26. Nxe4 fxe4 27. Qg2 $18 Re6 28. bxc6 Qxc6 29. c4 followed by d5 winning a piece.

23. Rxg4 N7f6
24. Nxf6+ Nxf6
25. Rg5

Exploiting another of Black's weaknesses on the other side of the board: The b5 pawn.

25... Qb6
26. axb5 cxb5
27. Rag1 (D)

Position after 27. Rag1

And now White's attack is simply crashing through.

27... Kf8
28. h5 Ke7
29. hxg6 Rh8+
30. Kg2 Bh6
31. gxf7 Nh7

Other variations are 31... Bxg5 32. Bxg5 winning the knight or 31... Kxf7 32. Kf1 Bxg5 33. Bxg5 Qd8 34. Bxf6 Qxf6 35. Qb7+ winning the Queen.

32. Rg6 Bxd2
33. Rxe6+ Qxe6
34. Bxe6 Ng5
35. Qe2 Nxe6
36. d5 (D)

Position after 36. d5

What can we learn from this game?

  1. When you have the space advantage, avoid trading pieces so as to keep your opponent cramped up.
  2. The bishop pair can be powerful in an open game, but ineffective in a closed game.
  3. The c5 and e5 breaks are potential plans for Black in the Caro-Kann and French defences.
  4. Attack when you have the advantage, so as to hamper your opponent's ability to equalize.
  5. Sometimes, the most effective moves are neither checks nor captures, but silent moves like 16. Kh1.

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