SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The traditional Capablanca Memorial takes place between May 4th and May 14. There are 2 sections, an Elite (players) and a Premier. Time control is 40 moves in 90 minutes (plus 30 sec/move), then 30 minutes to finish. Always a super organized tournament(s), it is Cuba’s annual gift to the rest of the chess world. It is surprising that Bruzon is not playing; the number 2 player in Cuba was invited but he withdrew just before the tournament was to begin.
WAITING FOR AND EXPLOITING OPPORTUNITIES
(This game was annotated several days ago, but only now do I have the time to put it on my blog) The following first round game is NOT a great game by any standards, but it is an exceptionally hard fought game, very typical of the modern way the young grandmasters approach the game.
By this I mean that neither player gets much out of the opening, and probably White did not expect to get much, but White consciously set little practical problems in the middlegame for his opponent to solve at each turn. Should he solve them, then the game should be a draw. But no more than that. At no time did White risk anything, which is also very typical of modern grandmaster play.
And it must be pointed out that Dominguez played exceptionally well at every stage of the game, cleverly maxing his practical chances, giving his opponent every chance to go wrong. It is true that Laznicka made the decisive error just before the first time control, but Dominguez must be credited for Laznicka’s finding himself short of time where there was no margin of error.
Today , when everyone has the same information and it is harder and harder to come by opening secrets, and where most of the top players play equally competently technically, it is by exploiting the clock (fast time controls) that the most number of wins are sought.
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 18th MOVE (18.Rac1):
White stands only superficially better; his Bishop on e4 creates some small difficulties on c6 should White double on the c-file. But Black is not without counterplay or targets: White’s e-pawn needs defence and his Queenside can be easily attacked. Any grandmaster would indicate that a draw is the logical result here.
But between properly evaluating the position as a draw and actually achieving a draw there is a long distance. There are more problems for Black to solve in this position than White must solve. And White has the initiative.
It is in this kind of position that Fischer and Karpov were like fish in water: they knew how to sustain the tension when having only the slightest of edges and keep playing for 50 moves before the position was completely lifeless.
Black can not simplify here with 18… Qb6?! 19. Qxb6 axb6 20. Bxc6 bxc6 21. Rxc6 Rxa2 22. Rxb6 Raa8 23. Rb1 Rab8 24. Rxb8 Rxb8 25. Kf1 as there is no guarantee that there will be a draw wating for Black at the end…
So Black plays more reasonably….
Creating luft before deciding on a plan of action. Playing …h6 instead is less good as White might change gears and play Bb1 and then try to invade along the h7-b1 diagonal.
19. Rc2 Qa5!
There is no point to sit around passively and wait for White to make progress along the c-file, Black takes the correct decision to play actively. After 19…Rac8 20. Rcf1 Qa5!? 21.a3! followed by b4 and Black gets boxed in. Worse still, he might later find that he is deprived of opportunities to get active play as in the game.
Now if 20. a3 Nxe5! solves all Black’s problems. White has little choice but to exchange on c6…
20. Bxc6 bxc6 21. Rxc6
As in many lines of the Grunfeld Defence, even though a pawn to the good, White’s exposed Queenside should offer Black enough counterplay to maintain the balance. But it is not so simple as there are some concrete problems that need to be solved and exact calculation is a must.
White always has some annoying threats of playing his Rook to the 7th, hitting the Bishop. On top of this, one must watch out for Qf4, often threatening Ng5. However, Black is quite solid and should not fear White’s little threats…. The most precise course is the active 21… Rab8! and White must now decide how to defend his Queenside pawns:
If 22. Rc2!? Qxa2 23. Rc7 Re8! and White has nothing but empty dreams to chase:
If White tries 24.Qf4 (threatening Ng5 in most lines) then he gets pushed back against a wall after 24…Rb4! 25.Qd2!? Rxb2! 26.Qd7 Kf8! 27.Ng5?! Rb1! taking the initiative. White’s weak back rank offers Black chances
Or if White tries the direct 22. Rfc1 (threatening Rc7) then he gets pushed back: 22… Rxb2! 23. Rc7? Bg5!;
Finally, if 22. b3 Qxa2 23. Rc7!?
Then once more the White back rank plays a significant role: 23…Rxb3 24. Qf4 Rb1! (24… Re8? 25. Ng5) 25. g3 (25. Rxe7 Rxf1 26. Kxf1 Rd1 27. Ne1 Qa6) 25… Rb4 26. Qh6 (26. Qe3 Qd5 27. Rxe7 Rb3 28. Qe2 Rxf3 29. Rxa7 h5) 26… Qd5 and only Black can try, but even then it is very little.
INSTEAD, BLACK PLAYED A SLIGHTLY LESS PRECISE MOVE:
This move has some logic behind it–not allowing any Rook infiltration on c7– and it should still be quite enough to draw with reasonably accurate play. However, this move means that White can still ”try” for some little tricks in the position…after all, White is up a pawn for the moment!
22. Rxc8 Rxc8
Now White must decide how to handle the defence of his extra pawn. If 23. Qb3 then 23…Bc5! 24. g3 Bb6 25. Kg2 Qc5! and White can make no headway: the pressure on f2 is annoying.
Wrong now would be 23…Bc5?! 24.Qf4! with Kingside threats via g5
23… Rc2 24. b4 Qa4
25…Rc3 26. Qb7!?
White tries to build up threats.
Now the correct plan is to use the Bishop in an active manner with 26… Bd8!
The Bishop is very flexible here. If the White Knight does not move (patiently waiting for the opportunity to go to g5) then the Bishop will stay on d8 and Black will calmly capture the a3 pawn. And if White tries , as in the game, to use his Knight via d4, then the Bishop goes to b6 from where it will pressure f2 and get counterplay against the White King.
I don’t see any way for White to make progress or cause problems. For example, 27. Nd4 (If now 27. h4 Rxa3 and Ra1; or if 27. Qb8 Qd7 28. Qd6 Qxd6 29. exd6 Rd3 30. Rc1 Rxd6 31. Kf1 Bb6; 27. h3 Rxa3) 27… Bb6! 28. Qe7 Bxd4 29. Qd8 Kg7 30. Qxd4 Rxa3 should be drawn, clearly. Finally, 27.h3 Rxa3 28. Nh2 h5! and Black is actually better!
Passive, but still adequate to hold the game. Black decides to use the Bishop mostly as a shield for his King.
White will have chances if his Knight can invade on c6. Even Nb5 can be interesing for White. In every case, Black must be careful.
27…Rxa3 28. Nc6 Bg5
Virtually forced as the Bishop must control the d8 square. Now unproductive would be 29.f4 as it opens up the White King postion: 29…Bh4 30.g3 Qb3! 31.PxB Qe3-ch 32.Kh1 Qe4-ch with perpetual check.
White does not have much better. He makes luft for the King and in some lines will play h4. There are no immediate threats. However, Black must not let his guard down: in this kind of position where ‘cat and mouse’ teasing is the order of the day, it is easy to mistake the lack of direct threats with your opponent sleeping…rest assure that Dominguez is not sleeping and very much wants to win!
Black has two approaches to maintain the balance here. I prefer the dynamic 29… h5! with the idea (in some lines) to play h4 and try to loosen the White King position. It appears to be fine and White must be careful not to over extend: if 30. f4 (30. h4 Rc3! 31. Nxa7 (31. b5 Bxh4!) 31… Be7 32. b5?? (32. Nb5 Rb3 33. Nd6 Qxb4 34. Qc8 Kg7 35. Ne8 Kh7 36. Qd7 Qc5) 32… Bc5!; 30. Nd4 Ra1) 30… Qb3! (30… Bh6? 31. Qc8 Kg7 32. Ne7) 31. fxg5 Qe3 32. Kg2 Qe4 33. Kh3 Qg4 with a draw.
Or Black can seek simplification with 29… Qa6!? 30. Qxa6 (30. Qb8 Kg7; 30. Qd7 Qb6 31. b5 Rc3) 30… Rxa6 with a likely draw 31. b5 Rb6 ( or 31… Ra2 32. Rd1 Ke8!)
INSTEAD, BLACK PLAYED LESS PRECISELY:
Perhaps Black was nervous about letting the Knight stay on c6, or perhaps he was hoping for the not very dangerous 30. b5 when 30…Kg7! 31. Nxa7 Qc4! 32. Nc6 (32. b6 Qc5 33. Qb8 Rc2 34. b7 Be3) 32… Rb3 and everything is under control.
The Knight might now head over to the Kingside via c8 and d6. Or perhaps White will simply advance the b-pawn. It is important for Black to now play very concretely as in this kind of position Black is walking the edge of a knife.
With this in mind, 30… Rc2! is the simplest solution, but not without some suffering involved. Now 31. b5 is too risky as after 31… Qc4 32. b6 Kg7 33. Qb8? Qe4 34. b7 Be3! Black even wins! and so that leaves 31.Nc8!?: here Black can hold a slightly inferior ending after 31… Qc6! 32. Qxc6 (32. Nd6 Qxb7 33. Nxb7 Rb2 34. Nd6 Rxb4 35. Ra1 is just slightly better for White) 32… Rxc6 33. Nd6 Be7 34. b5 Rb6 35. Rb1 Bxd6 36. exd6 Ke8 37. Rc1 Rxb5 38. Rc8 Kd7 39. Rc7 Kxd6 40. Rxf7 h5 41. Rf6 g5 and so on…
INSTEAD, BLACK PLAYED LESS PRECISELY AGAIN:
30… Be7?! 31.b5
Only now does Black relocate this Bishop to the a7-f2 diagonal when he could have done so earlier! Even so, Black is still probably alive. White must now watch out for attacks on his own King via f2.
32. Nc8 Qd4!
White must avoid 33.Qc7?? Rc1! when Black even wins! Also barking up the wrong tree is 33. b6?! Qxe5 34. Qa8 Kg7 35. b7? Rb3! and Black is on top. White must eliminate the Bishop.
33. Nd6! Bxd6 34. exd6 Qxd6
Heavy piece endings can contain notoriously subtle tactical motifs, and this position here is no exception. It appears as though the worse is over for Black as the b-pawn should be easy enough to contain. However, Black’s problem is not White’s passed pawn: it is the awkward position of his KIng…as we shall soon see.
A very simple but strong move prepares to advance the b-pawn quickly. Now 35…Rb3?! 36.RxR Qd1-ch 37.Kg2 QxR 38.h4! and the Queen ending should be a win for White. Black should avoid this kind of simplification to a pure Queen ending unless he can get his King over to the queenside so as to blockade the pawn.
35…Qd3! 36. Qa8-ch!
A tricky move that gives Black the opportunity to go wrong! Putting the Black King on the long diagonal is now fatal: 36… Kg7? 37. Qa1! Kh6 38. b6 Ra3 (38… Rc2 39. b7 Qe2 40. Qf6) 39. Qb2 (39. Qxa3 Qxb1 40. Kg2 Qxb6 41. Qf8 Kg5 42. Qxf7±) 39… Ra8 40. b7 Rb8 41. h4! and Black is close to the end.
So Black has no choice but to move his King closer to the centre, which is also not without dangers…
Now 37.Qa1 would be met with 37…Rc7 to blockade the pawn. Here White can force a pure Queen ending with 37. Ra1!? but the Black King will be close to the passed pawn: 37…Qd6! (37… Qxb5?? 38. Ra7 Kf6 39. Qh8 Kg5 40. Qxc3) 38. Ra7 Rc7 39. h4 Qc5 40. Rb7 Qc1 41. Kg2 Qc5 42. Rxc7 Qxc7 43. Qa3 Ke8 and Black is holding.
Not seeing a more advantageous continuation, Dominguez decides to see if his opponent will go wrong if he gives a check:
It is useful , especially when your opponent is short of time, to give your opponent enough rope to hang himself. Despite his numerous imprecisons, Black is still not lost. Dominguez is hoping that just one more little imprecision will be all he needs to add up to bagging the full point.
Here the only good move is the paradoxical 37… Kf6! putting his King on the long diagonal. Here, however, there is a substantial difference between being on g7 or f6, and Black might just be able to hang on on f6: 38. Qa1 (38. Qa2!? e5 39. b6 Rc2 40. Qa8 Rxf2 41. Qc6 Kg7 42. Kxf2 Qxb1 43. b7 Qd3! should be a draw) 38… e5 and it is still a hard fight.
HOWEVER, BLACK IS NOT UP TO THE SITUATION AND LOSES:
37… Ke8?! 38.Qa1!
The whole point! Black will get mated (!) if White can shift his Rook to the d-file.
The only way avoid getting mated is 38… Ra3! but I think Black will lose more slowly after 39. Qh8 (not 39. Qb2 Qc3!) 39… Ke7 40. Rc1 Ra7 41. b6 Rd7! (41… Rb7 42. Qc8 Qd7 43. Qc5 Qd6 44. Qg5 f6 45. Qh4 h5 46. Qe4) 42. Qb2 Qd2 43. Qxd2 Rxd2 44. Rc7 Kf6 45. Kg2 Rb2 46. b7
What can Black do to stop White transferring his King to the Queenside?
The final error. Black did not see that he was getting mated…
39. Rd1! Qxb5 40. Qh8 [1:0]
An excellent example of making something out of nothing!