Chess Structures in Practice (Part Two) by Mauricio Flores Rios

I am back for a second and final guest blog post here on the QC blog. You will be able to see a copy of this post, and all my future posts on, my new blog.

Just like many of you, I spent a fair amount of time last week going following the US Chess Championship played in St Louis. There was plenty of excitement, the live broadcast was very good and more important than anything, the tournament featured what was arguably the strongest combination of twelve players to ever compete in the US Championship. Despite having plenty of nice games to choose from, I think that the game I will show next was the nicest illustration of concepts from Chess Structures put into practice.

Alexander Onischuk (2655) – Daniel Naroditsky (2633)

US Chess Championship 2015

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Nf3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Bd6 6.Bg2 c6
The move order 6…0-0 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Qc2 and only now 8…c6 seems to be more precise, making it harder for White to take control of the center.

7.Nc3 O-O 8.Bg5! Nbd7
8…dxc4 would be met by 9.Nd2 followed by 10.Nxc4.

9.e4 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Bb4+ 11.Nc3!
In case of 11.Bd2? Bxd2 12.Nexd2 e5! and Black equalizes.
We have reached the Caro-Kann Formation (Chapter 3), where White has more space and a better control of the center. The assessment of this position depends almost exclusively on whether Black can find a way to break in the center to release his spatial disadvantage. Otherwise, White will enjoy a lasting positional edge.

Getting rid of the pin, aiming to create some counterplay with …Ne4.

It seems Black did not have better options, for example 11…c5 12. 0-0 cxd4 13. Qxd4 where White has superior coordination. Also 11…Qa5 12.Bd2 e5 is met by 13.a3! Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Qa6 15 0-0! with a big advantage.

12.Bf4 Ne4 13.Qc2 Nxc3 14.bxc3 Ba5 15.O-O

This is a good moment to evaluate the position. The structure has changed slightly since White now has doubled c-pawns (which also means he has a semi-open b-file). Black has been unable to release his position with either …c6-c5 or …e6-e5 and having his bishop trapped on c8 only adds to his misery. White has a very comfortable advantage.

Trading pieces is good, but this also gives up control of the dark squares, which is not so good…

16. Qe4 Bxf4 17. Qxf4 b6 18. Rfd1 Bb7 19. c5!
A thematic move in this structure, locking in Black’s bishop.

19…Rc8 20.Rab1 Ba8 21.Ne5!
Onischuk knows his advantage comes from his strong bishop on g2 versus the poor bishop on a8. Knights are only accessory pieces hence they can be traded.

21…Qe7 22.Nxd7 Qxd7 23.a4!

Notice how White does not capture Black’s pawn on b6, since this would release the bishop on a8.

23…Rfd8 24.Bf3 Qe7
Attacking the c5-pawn, hoping White will finally take on b6 allowing Black to liberate his position.

White’s also much better after 24… bxc5 25. dxc5 Qe7 26.Rd6.

25. Qe5! bxc5 26. Qxc5 Qc7?
Too passive; keeping queens on the board will not help Black

In case of 26…Qxc5 27.dxc5 Kf8 28.a5 Ke7 29.a6 Black’s bishop is trapped on a8, but his chances of holding are better than in the game since White does not have entry points at the moment.

White can improve slowly, a typical feature of this pawn structure when White’s central domination works out.

27…Rb8 28.c4 Qd7 29.h4 Rbc8 30.Kg2 Rc7 31.Rb3 Qc8
Black’s position continues to deteriorate. Now how should White create new weaknesses?

32. g4! White’s central domination allows for a risk-free kingside expansion 32…Rcd7 33. g5 hxg5 34. hxg5 Qc7 35. Re3 Qd6 36. Qxd6 Rxd6

37.c5! Rxd4 38.Rxd4 Rxd4 39.Rb3 Rd8 40.a6! Kf8 41.Be4
White has a rather picturesque position. He is a pawn down but has a great advantage due to the permanently trapped bishop on a8; Black’s position is critical.

The decisive mistake.

More solid was was 41…Ke7 though after 42.f4 White will improve slowly and win, as an example take: 42…Rd2 43.Kf3 Rd8 44.f5 e5 45 Rd3 Rh8 46 Rd6, to follow with f5-f6 with a huge advantage.

42. gxf6 gxf6 43. Rh3?!
Even stronger was the direct 43.Rd3! winning in similar style to the game.

More stubborn was 43…Rd4!, though after the precise forcing sequence 44.Rh8+ Kg7 45.Rh7+ Kg8 46.Bg6! Rg4+ 47.Kf3 Rxg6 48.Rxa7 Rg1 49.Rxa8+ Kg7 50.Rc8 Ra1 51.Rxc6 White is winning without any problems.

44.Rd3! Rxd3 45.Bxd3
Black is completely helpless because he is essentially playing without a bishop, and will be unable to prevent White from penetrating decisively on the center or kingside.

45…f5 46.f4 Kg7 47.Kf3 Kf6 48.Ke3 e5 49.Bc4 e4 50.Kd4

White’s king is coming to e5 to decide the game and Black decided it was time to resign.

Interestingly enough, Black could still try one last trick, which is 50…Kg6 51.Be6 Kf6 52.Bc8 Ke7 53.Bb7?? Kd7! and the game is drawn after 54.Bxa8 Kc7 as White cannot make progress. Of course, White would win easily with either 51.Ke5 or 53.Bxf5.

Final Remarks

  • It is hard to pinpoint exactly where things went so wrong for Black. After a slightly imprecise opening White was simply better for the rest of the game. The crucial point though is that Black did not find a way to carry out the standard central breaks.
  • Once again, similarly to the example Ivanisevic – Ascic (Chapter 3) the idea c4-c5 proved very effective in restricting Black’s bishop on c8, securing a lasting advantage for White.

5 thoughts on “Chess Structures in Practice (Part Two) by Mauricio Flores Rios”

  1. While studying these games we should never forget that strategic planning is always based on pawn structure and is dependent on it.

    Figuratively speaking, strategy is pawn play. Every pawn movement, a capture or advance, has a strategic character (if you remove all pawns from the board, it will be only tactics left).

    Strategy can be twofold: either you improve the strength of your position (or structure), or you work on weakening of the opponent’s structure. That’s what we call positional (statical), or combinative (dynamic) approach to play.

    What is your chess primarily like? Therapeutic, or surgical?
    as GM Igor Zaitsev put it in his “Attack on the Strong Point” chef d’oeuvre.

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