SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The game below was played this past weekend in the German Bundesliga and features two very strong grandmasters, both simultaneously dealing with the theme of attack and defence in the Breyer variation of the Spanish Opening. I especially like the tiny practical problems that White constantly posed to the Black player…sometimes it is more difficult when one is faced with small, but tricky obstacles than large but more direct threats.
POSITION AFTER 26 MOVES:
gm BARAMIDZE (2610)
gm MOTYLEV (2655)
Those who have some experience in the Breyer Varation of the Spanish will instantly recognize the distinctive features in the position above. Both sides are battling it out on the Queenside: White has doubled his Rooks, ready to open the file at any (favourable) moment, while Black is dug in deep. Especially, Black’s Knights are tempting the exchange.
It is well known that one can rarely win by playing on only one side of the board, and– as Alekhine taught so often in his own games–creating play on the other side of the board can lead to the defence being drained of manpower and other important resources.
It appears that White’s possibilities are exhausted on the Queenside, and so it is quite natural to start looking for opportunities on the Kingside. Standard themes include playing for f4 (opening the f-file) or bringing in the Queen (Qf3). I very much like the approach chosen by Motylev….
An original solution to White’s problem! White does not want to do any more manoeuvring and instead directly tries to force open a file towards the proximity of the Black King.
Black must now decide upon a course of play. Dubious is simply advancing the h-pawn: 27… h4?! 28. axb5 axb5 29. Ndf3 and sooner or later White will capture the stray pawn and be a pawn up for nothing.
More interesting is the attack on the Knight on g5: 27… Qd8!? 28. h4! Nbxa4 (28… hxg4 29. axb5 axb5 30. Rxa8 Nxa8 31. Qxg4 is similar to the actual game continuation) 29. Bxa4 Nxa4 30. Rxa4!? bxa4 31. gxh5 with good compensation for the Exchange because the Black king is not entirely safe. For example, 31…Bxg5 ( or 31… Kg7 32. h6 Kg8 33. Nxc4 with control of the game) 32. Bxg5 f6 33. Be3 gxh5 34. Kh! Re7 35. Qxh5 Rh7 (35… Rg7? 36. Bh6) 36. Rg1 Kh8 37. Bh6 and Black must still be very careful.
Perhaps a bit more accurate is 27… Qe7!? , but after 28. h4 hxg4 29. axb5 axb5 30. Qxg4 play is similar to the …Qd8 lines.
While neither of these last 2 lines are necessarily bad, nor are they entirely comfortable for the Black player.
Black decides to immediately take on g4:
27… hxg4 28. Qxg4
White now has a number of attacking themes to consider. The obvious path is to play Qh4 and attack along the h-file. Another possibility is to advance his h-pawn and use it to break open further the King side. And then, ofcourse, there is the f4-lever (which actually occurs in the game continuation and proves to be very effective) to open the f-file. It is not clear which of these themes is the most dangerous to Black (Black’s continuation must help answer that to some extent), but there is no doubt that each of these ideas carries some degree of danger to Black.
Now Black must make a critical decision on how to proceed. Ignoring the coming storm on the Kingside and instead play on the Queenside will not work: after 28… Nbxa4 29. Qh4 Nxb2 30. Qh7 Kf8 31. Bxc5! dxc5 (31… Bxg5 32. Qh8 Ke7 33. Qxe5 Kd7 34. Qxg5 Qxc5 35. Qf6 keeps White’s pressure) 32.d6! Qd7 33. R3a2 and Black must avoid the trap 33…Nd3? 34.Nxc4! PxN 35.Ba4! winning;
Neither is taking the pawn with the other Knight much different: 28… Ncxa4 29. Qh4 Nc5 30. Qh7 Kf8 31. Bxc5 dxc5 32. Ne6! Rxe6 33. dxe6 Bg7 34. Nf3 and Black can not be entirely satisfied.
Playing solidly in the centre is reasonable, but White also keeps the pressure: 28… Nbd7!? 29. h4 Bg7 30. Bxc5 Nxc5 31. h5 f6 32. Ne6 Nxe6 33. dxe6 gxh5 34. Qxh5 Rab8 (34… Rxe6 35. axb5) 35. axb5 axb5 36. Ra5
While these last two lines (28…Ncxa4and 28…Nbd7) may not be losing by force for Black, and might even be perfectly defensible, they are not completely satisfactory either when considering the time controls. White keeps the pressure up in both cases, and one slip by Black can become fatal.
BLACK TRIES ANOTHER IDEA
Mostly aimed against White’s Qh4-h7 theme, which can often now be met by …Rh8.
White now realizes that it might be to his favour to Exchange all the Rooks. He continued:
29. axb5 axb5 30. Rxa8!
In the Spanish Black must often decide which piece to capture the Rook on a8. Taking with the Bishop means that it will take several additional moves (to extract from the corner) before this Bishop will see some action and in the meantime it might be missed: for instance 30… xa8!? 31.f4! exf4 32. Qxf4 Nbd7 33. Rf1 and the threats begin to gel and the Bishop is missing in action…
Taking with the Rook leads to White’s original expectations: 30… Rxa8 31. Rxa8 Bxa8 32. Qh4! Qe7 33. b4! Ncd7 34. Qh7 Kf8 35. Ngf3 See diagram
Despite reduced material, White has a lot of ways to improve his position and build up pressure against Black’s position. For instance, he can play N-b1-a3 hitting b5. Plus he can tansfer his King Bishop via d1 to g4 with pressure. And let us not forget about the lever h3-h4-h5. Black must also not forget that …Bg7 almost always loses to Bh6!
In short, Black would have to play with great precision to hold things together. Therefore it is perfectly understandable that Black wanted to avoid this.
That leaves the game continuation:
Once more Qh4 will be answered by …Rh8. White must now pursue his attack utilizing other themes.
A very typical concept in the Spanish. Black must not allow White to play f5.
While more or less forced, the move has both plusses and minusses. Black gains the e5-square for his pieces and the e-file might be useful for the defence. On the other hand, the f-file is now open for the White Rook and he gains the d4 square for his minor pieces.
How should White take back on f4? Both are tempting
My first choice would be 32. Qxf4!? Be5 33. Qf2! (Certainly not 33. Bd4? f6 when White is even worse!) See diagram
White has a promising atack. After 33… Bf6 (33… Nb6? 34. Rf1 Rf8 (34… f6 35. Ne6 Nxe6 36. Bxb6) 35. Qh4 Rh8 36. Rxf7 Qxf7 37. Qxh8! Ouch! ) 34. Rf1 Qe7 35. Ndf3!? Rh8? 36. e5! winning immediately
Motylev was attracted by the Bishop capture, which is also quite strong:
32. Bxf4 Nb6 Other lines lead to problems on d6: 32… Nd3?! 33. Bxd3 cxd3 34. Rf1 Rh8 35. Qg3!; or 32… Bc8? once more 33. Qg3 is hard to meet 33. Rf1!
Considerable firepower is now aimed towards the Black King
An attractive line that is probably winning for White follows 33… Rf8 34. Qh4 Rh8
35. Qxh8!! Kxh8 36. Bxd6! Qc8! 37. Rxf6 and Black has no play while White simply keeps gobbling things up 37… Nbd7 38. Rxf7 Qa8 39. Ne6 Qa1 40. Nf1 Kg8 41. Rg7 Kh8 42. Rxg6 etc.
No better seems 33… Nbd7 34. Nxf7! Kxf7 35. e5!
The flood gates are opened: 35… Rxe5 (35…Nxe5? 36. Bxe5 Rxe5 37. Qxg6 Ke7 38. Qxf6) 36. Qxg6 Ke7 37. Bxe5 dxe5 38. Rxf6 etc.White must win.
Even worse still is 33…Bc8 34. Qg3 Rd8 35. Nxf7! Qxf7 36. Bxd6!; Finally, the prophylatic 33… Rh8 is met by 34.Qg3 winning a pawn: 34…Nbd7 35. Bxd6 Qb6 36. Kg2 Bxg5 37. Bxc5 Nxc5 38. Qxg5 Qd6 39. Nf3and Black’s position is positively depressing
Lacking a clearly satisfactory alternative, Black decides to play more creatively and sets a subtle trap for White
33…Nd3!? 34. Bxd3 cxd3
Black is now hoping that White will be interested in his d-pawn: 35. Qg3?! Nxd5! 36. exd5 Qc5!
Surprisingly, Black has turned the tables and might even be better now! 37. Rf2 Re1 38. Nf1 Re2! 39. Bxd6? (39. Nd2! Is the only chance to hold) 39… Qxf2 40. Qxf2 Rxf2 41. Kxf2 Bxg5 when Black should win.
Avoiding Black’s , White pursues his attack and sets his own trap!
If now 35… Nc4 then 36. Qh7 Kf8 37. Nxc4 bxc4 38. Bxd6 Qxd6 39. Qxf7# Or if instead 35…Rh8!? 36. Ne6! fxe6 37. Bh6!
Surprise! 37… Rxh6 38. Qxf6 Kh7 39. Qf8! and the threat of Rf7 is too much
HOWEVER, truthfully, Black has no satisfactory alternative:
A: 35… Bxd5 36. Qh7 Kf8 37. Be3! Is very strong: 37… Bxg5 (37… Bg7 38. Qxg6 Ba2 39. b3; 37… Qe7 38. Nxf7 Qxf7 39. Rxf6) 38. Bxg5is a forced mate
B: 35… Qc5 36. Rf2 (36. Kh2 amounts to the same thing) 36… Rh8 (36… Bxd5 37. b4 Qc6 38. Qh7 Kf8 39. exd5 Qxd5 (39… Re1 40. Kh2 Qxd5 41. Nde4 Rxe4 42. Nxe4 Qxe4 43. Bxd6 Ke8 44. Rxf6 Qe2 45. Kg1 Qe1 46. Rf1 Qe3 47. Rf2) 40. Bxd6) 37. Ne6 wins as it did earlier in another variation.
With such depressing lines, it is perfectly understandable that Black lost even more quickly
36. Qh7 Kf8 37. Bxd6!
It is mate next move
A very interesting attack!