Sunday, May 15, 2016

Attacking the fianchettoed kingside: Timman vs Kasparov, Tilburg 1991

I'm sure many of you enjoy attacking chess. Recently, I came across an article featuring methods of attack against a kingside containing a fianchettoed bishop. Therefore, I will treat y'all to a nice game executed by one of the greatest attacking players of all time: Garry Kasparov. His opponent is Jan Timman, one of the world's strongest non-Soviet players from the 1970s to 1990s.

Timman, Jan H vs Kasparov, Garry
Tilburg 1991

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 g6
3. Nf3 Bg7
4. g3 O-O
5. Bg2 d6
6. O-O Nbd7
7. Nc3 e5
8. Qc2 c6
9. Rd1 Qe7
10. b3 exd4
11. Nxd4 Re8 (D)

Position after 11... Re8

Black has liquidated White's centre, and gained control of the semi-open e-file. He needs to get his light squared bishop in the game, and come up with a suitable middlegame plan. Kasparov first brings his d7 knight to e4, before using it to assist a kingside attack.

12. Bb2 Nc5
13. e3

White decides on a queenside advance, but first he solidifies his position. He could try 13. b4 immediately, but after 13... Nce4 it is not wise to exchange all the pieces: 14. Nxe4?! (14. e3 would be better, and play would be similar to the main line.) 14... Nxe4 15. Bxe4 Qxe4 16. Qxe4 Rxe4 and Black has the double threats of capturing the e2 pawn, or playing 17. .. c5 winning a minor piece. Notice that the pawn on e2 was weak, thus pushing it would be a better idea.

13... a5?!

Not the best move; probably played to delay White from pushing b4 and attacking the knight. However, Black had to move his knight to e4 anyway so a5 wasn't necessary. He could have saved time and commenced his attack: 13... h5 14. b4 Nce4 15. b5 Bd7 with h4 to follow.

14. a3 h5
15. b4 Nce4
16. b5!?

A courageous decision, ignoring the imminent threats and creating his own threats on the opposite wing. Black must defend c6. If White wanted to liquidate Black's attack he could trade safely on e4 now: 16. Nxe4 Nxe4 17. Bxe4 Qxe4 18. Qxe4 Rxe4 and Timman can play 19. c5! parrying Black's threats against his knight. Notice he doesn't have to worry about a weak pawn on e2 as compared to the previous variation. However, White still needs to be extra careful against the pin on the long diagonal, as well as Black's bishop pair.

16... Bd7
17. Rac1 (D)

Position after 17. Rac1

Both sides have employed ideas typical in the King's Indian Defense: White with his queenside advance, while Black has pushed his h-pawn to attack the kingside.

17... h4
18. a4?

Timman was hoping for an effective counterattack, but underestimates the power of Kasparov's h-pawn break. 18. Re1 {was necessary, indirectly pinning Black's knight to the queen.

18... hxg3
19. hxg3 Nxf2!

Sacrificing a knight to tear apart the pawn structure. It was likely Timman had missed this.

20. Qxf2

20. Kxf2? loses even faster: 20... Ng4+ 21. Kg1 (21. Kf1 Nxe3+ winning the queen) 21... Qxe3+ 22. Kh1 Qh6+ -+

20... Ng4
21. Qf3 Nxe3
22. Re1 Bxd4
23. Nd5 (D)

Position after 23. Nd5

It seems Black is in trouble. But Kasparov finds a deadly response:

23... Ng4+!!

Great calculation! The knight is very strong on g4, and the resulting discovered attacks ensure Black wins material.

It is very easy to go wrong here: 23... Nxd5+? 24. Bxd4 Qxe1+ 25. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 26. Kh2! (White cannot play this king retreat had the knight been on g4) (Not} 26. Bf1? Bh3 winning the bishop.) 26... Nb4 27. Qf6! and White has strong counterplay.

Another variation is 23... Nd1+ 24. Bxd4 Qxe1+ 25. Kh2 now the threat of Nf6+ forces Black to play 25... cxd5 26. Rxd1 Qe7 (D)

Position after 26... Qe7

White, despite being an exchange down, still has a fighting chance due to his bishop pair. This is what Kasparov wants to avoid as well.

24. Bxd4 Qxe1+
25. Rxe1 Rxe1+
26. Bf1

Black's powerful knight limits the White king's options. This is why Kasparov played the knight to g4.

26... cxd5
27. Qxd5 Rae8
28. Bf2 Be6

Even stronger was 28... Ne3! 29. Bxe3 Bh3 $1 30. Kf2 Rxf1+ 31. Ke2 Ra1 32. Qxb7 Ra3 -+)

29. Qxb7 Rc1
30. Qc6 Rc8

White has a passed pawn, but his material deficit and pawn weaknesses are too much to handle. Black is simply winning.

31. Qe4 R8xc4
32. Qa8+ Kh7
33. b6 Rb4
34. Qxa5 Rbb1
35. Kg2 Rc2 (D)

Position after 35... Rc2

The threat is Rxf2+ followed by Rxf1#.

So what can we learn from this game?

  1. It is good practice to eliminate weaknesses in your position before attacking (unless you are very confident that your attack will succeed). White got rid of his weakness on e2 before advancing on the queenside.
  2. When attacking an enemy kingside that has a fianchettoed bishop, pushing the h-pawn is a commonly used weapon. By exchanging it on the g-file it opens the h-file and weakens the enemy g and f pawns.
  3. As always, a good, tactical vision like Kasparov's helps you in calculation of variations!

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