Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fortress: National Age Groups 2016 Round 4

As promised, here is the analysis of the game which we have discussed. I nearly died trying to figure out what both players were thinking; while there were some really excellent plans, there was also no shortage of dubious moves. But since I wasn't the one playing I won't be able to judge too much, so I will just write whatever I can infer from the moves.

Black's vigorous attack, triggered by White's mess-up in the opening, turned into a botch-up of his own. White's staunch defense allowed him to build a fortress and equalize in the endgame. It is definitely no boring draw, with so many missed opportunities to break down the defenses!

Or missed footings while trying to storm the fortress

I have hidden the identities of the players for their privacy:

1. e4 c5
2. Nc3 e6
3. Nf3 Nc6
4. Bb5 Nf6
5. d4?

Premature. It was not wise to open the position so early when White's king is still in the centre. A simple 5. O-O would have solved these problems.

5... cxd4
6. Nxd4 Bb4
7. f3?

It was not too late to admit the mistake: 7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3 (While retreating the bishop is a painful decision, at least White relives the tension on his centre.) 8... Qa5 9. Bd2

7... Qa5!

Now all 3 of White's developed pieces are under attack. To save his position he has to give up a pawn.

8. Nxc6

Any other form of protection doesn't work: 8. Qd3? Nxd4 9. Qxd4 Bxc3+ 10. Qxc3 Qxb5 loses a piece.

8... bxc6
9. Bd3 Bxc3+
10. bxc3 Qxc3+
11. Bd2 Qd4
12. Rb1 O-O
13. Rb4

White does not have all the fight squeezed out of him yet! While winning material Black allowed his lady to go for a long walk, leaving her vulnerable.

13... Qe5
14. f4

14. O-O followed by f4 was good too.

14... Qc7
15. g4!?

Since most of White's pieces are already positioned towards the kingside, it is natural to plan for an attack on that wing. But this is a risky maneuver; White's king is still exposed, and will crumble quickly in the face of a counterattack...

15... c5 (D)

Position after 15... c5

Which Black is quick to deliver.

16. g5?

The rook sacrifice, intended to tear apart Black's kingside, can be easily refuted.

16... Ne8?

Only that Black believes his opponent... and his own paranoid beliefs!

16... cxb4 17. gxf6 g6 ({Edit: Ben has pointed out that} 17... gxf6 $4 18. Qg4+ Kh8 19. Rg1 is unstoppable mate; I must be blind for not seeing this!) 18. Qg4 Kh8

This simple move allows for ... Rg8 discouraging White from attempting Qh6-Qg7#. Black can now consolidate his extra material, and continue the play against White's exposed king.

17. Rb1 c4
18. Bf1?

Turning the clock back on development.

18. Be2 was less cringe-worthy; 18... c3 (18... Bb7 19. Bf3) 19. Be3 Rb8 20. O-O White still has two main concerns to address: Strengthen his central pawns, and win back the weak pawn on c3. But his king is definitely much safer than in the main line. So for example: 21... Nd6 (Black places pressure on e4 and f4.) 21. Rxb8 (otherwise ... Rb2 follows.) 21... Qxb8 22. Bf3 Bb7 23. Qd3 f5 24. Bc5 $1 fxe4 25. Qxd6 Qxd6 26. Bxd6 exf3 27. Bxf8 Kxf8 with a rook vs bishop + 2 pawns endgame.

18... c3
19. Bc1

The only explanations I can find to choose this over 19. Be3 is that White wants some degree of control over b2, and retain the possibility of playing Ba3. It is dubious whether these reasons are worth weakening the coordination between White's pieces.

19... Rb8
20. Rxb8 Qxb8
21. Be3 Bb7
22. Bg2 Bc6
23. h4?

By now, it is too risky to leave your king behind and go all out; Black's forces on the queenside are becoming too strong. It was still possible to save the day with 23. O-O Nd6 24. Qd4 and Black cannot play 25. Qb2 without first addressing the awkward position of his knight.

23... Qb4!

Black's next few moves are basically forced.

24. Bd4 Nd6
25. Qd3 Nb5
26. Be3 Qb1+
27. Kf2 Qxa2 (D)

Position after 27... Qxa2

Black has complete dominance of the queenside, and can safely escort his outside passed pawn to the queening square. Surely he can't mess this up!

28. e5 Qb2
29. Bxc6!

Trading pieces to relieve pressure and damage the adversary's pawn structure. But it might not be enough to save White, provided Black knows what he's doing.

29... dxc6
30. Rc1 a5?

Too eager. The pawn needed sufficient support before it could advance. Black is quick to punish this...

30... Qb4 securing the area first, giving the pawn a safe path to the promised land.

31. Qc4! (D)

Position after 31. Qc4

Thanks to the bishop exchange, White finds counterplay by attacking the weakness on c6, at the same time holding the line on a4.

31... Na3
32. Qa4

Just look at all the tension around c2, c4 and a5! To break this stalemate Black brings in reinforcements.

32... Rb8
33. h5

33. Qxa5? Nxc2 followed by Nxe3 and c2 upon which White can resign.

33... Rc8?

Too passive. 33... Rb5! followed by Qb4 forces White to trade off a critical queenside defender, clearing the way for the a-pawn.

34. Kf3 Qb4

The only way to get rid of the pesky defender. However, removing the queens from the board gives White a much needed reprieve, giving him time to set up a queenside fortress.

35. Qxb4 axb4
36. Bc5! Rb8
37. Bd6

Keeping watch over b4, getting ready to hit a3 should Black push b3, and keeping the Black king trapped by taking away the f8 square. On top of that, an outpost with no pawns to chase it away. You can't ask for a better square for this bishop!

37.. Rb5
38. Ra1!

Pinning the knight, since Ra8+ leads to mate on the next move.

38... c5
39. Ke2 Ra5
40. Kd1 g6
41. h6 (D)

Postion after 41. h6

Black's once vigorous advance has fizzled out, with the enemy erecting a fortress in the centre and queenside. None of his pieces can move without hanging another pawn or piece, and his king is fenced in on the 8th rank. But White's job isn't easy either; his opponent's pieces and pawns are also ideally placed to prevent White's king from making any form of intrusion. By now both sides would be running low on time; in their eagerness to break the deadlock, they mark the endgame with multiple inaccuracies.

41... f5

Returning material to get the king out.

42. exf6 Kf7
43. Kc1 Rb5
44. Kd1 e5?

This sacrifice doesn't do much other than weaken the g5 pawn. In fact, it makes White's kingside stronger by giving him another passed pawn to play with.

45. fxe5 b3
46. cxb3 c2+?

46... Rxb3 47. Rc1 (47. Bxc5? is very tempting but after 47... Rb1+ 48. Rxb1 Nxb1 49. Kc2 Nd2 followed by Ne4 or Nf3 upon which White's pawns will fall like bowling pins.) 47... c2+ 48. Kd2 Rb5 with neither side being able to make progress.

47. Kc1? (D)

Position after 47. Kc1

Missing an opportunity to turn the tables. 47. Kd2 Rxb3 all seems lost after 48... Rb1 but White has a powerful resource 48. Re1! proving Black's mistake on the 44th move by threatening to advance the pawns. 48... Ke6 49. Bxc5 and suddenly White has the better endgame!

47... Rxb3

White must give up his rook to stop the threat of 48... Rb1+

48. Rxa3 Rxa3
49. Kxc2 Ra4?

It was important to keep the rook active. 49... Rg3! was better, keeping White's king further away from the action. 50. Bxc5 Rxg5 51. Bd6 Rg3 52. Kd2 Rh3 53. Ke2 Rxh6 54. Ke3 Rh4

By keeping the rook on the 4th rank the White monarch is unable to support his own pawns, while Black can advance his own pawns to victory.

50. Kc3 Rg4
51. Bxc5 Rxg5
52. Kd4

With the White king joining the battle the outcome is less clear.

52... Ke6
53. Bd6 Rh5
54. Kc5 Rxh6
55. Kc6 Rh5?

Now White can use his passed pawns to save himself.

Black still had one last road to victory: 55... g5! 56. f7 Kxf7 57. Kd7 g4 is game over.

56. f7! Kxf7
57. Kd7

To stop the remaining passed pawn Black has no choice but to sacrifice his rook. The game is essentially drawn from here onwards.

57... Rh1
58. e6+ Kg8
59. e7 Re1
60. e8=Q+ Rxe8
61. Kxe8 g5?

Black's final mistake in this crazy game is to advance the pawns without king support, although Deep Fritz analysis shows that it would still be a draw otherwise.

61... Kg7 62. Be7 Kh6 (62... h6 63. Bf8+ Kf6 64. Bxh6) 63. Kf7 Kh5 64. Kg7 h6 65. Kf6

62. Be5

King and bishop work together to fence in the enemy king; the pawns are devoid of any support.

62... h5
63. Ke7 g4
64. Kf6 h4
65. Kg5 g3
66. Kxh4 g2
67. Bd4 (D)

Position after 67. Bd4


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