Monday, July 9, 2007

More Round 2

Current tournament leader (3/3), GM Nigel Short, of England, had a smooth win in Round 2 against Cuban GM, Frank de la Paz:

de la Paz - Short: Giuoco Piano

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 a6 6.Bb3 Ba7

Both sides anticipate central pawn advances with gain of tempo, and safeguard against this. White also wants to avoid ...Na5 in some moment, which might force an exchange of bishop for knight.

7.h3 d5!?

Most direct. Black doesn't always have the option to play this move in one go, as ....d6 has been played earlier in many lines. The drawback of this two-step advance is the relative vulnerability of Black's e5-pawn, no longer defensible with the d-pawn. Play revolves around these observations for the next few moves.

8.exd5 Nxd5 9.0–0 0–0 10.Re1 f6

Careful judgement required. Certainly this is the most efficient method to defend the pawn from capture, but the opening of the light-squared diagonal towards his King cannot be taken lightly.
White tries to open lines quickly to exploit this.

11.d4 exd4 12.cxd4 Na5 13.Nc3!

Completing development is more important than maintaining the bishop.

13...Nxb3 14.Qxb3 c6 15.Bf4! Rf7!

Nice. This not only breaks the pin, but defends b7 and makes it possible to get the c8-Bishop into the game.

16.Bg3 Bf5 17.a4?! **D**

This slip, and White's only serious error of the game, as far as I could see, hands the initiative to Black. My preference at the site during the game yesterday was 17.Re2!, planning to simply double on the e-file and force Black to take precautions against Re8+. It should be noted that on 17.Re2 Qb6 (as in the game), White has an alternative that was not available to him after 17.a4.

17...Qb6! 18.Qxb6

With the a-pawn still on a2 (after 17.Re2, say), White could have played 18.Nxd5! Qxb3 19.Nxf6+, and 20.axb3, with an extra, albeit doubled, pawn. Now, of course, White has little choice but to exchange Queens, and this favours Black who wants to simplify the position and build up an endgame advantage against White's isolated d4-pawn.

18...Nxb6 19.Re2 Rd8 20.Rae1 Rfd7 21.Bf4 g5!

Without the presence of Queens, White's rooks on the e-file make far less of an impression, and Black is freer to expand aggressively on the K-side, gaining space, as there is far less fear of an attack against his King.

22.Bc1 Kf7

Even the slightly weakening ...f7-f6 has little significance with the Queens gone. Black's King is perfectly placed now on f7, and he has a clear advantage here. White has little to do, while Black can continue to build his position, and aim for an eventual win of the d-pawn.

23.b3 Nc8 24.Ne4 **D**


Well judged. There is no point in allowing this knight to c5 (24...Bxd4?! 25.Nxd4 Rxd4, 26.Nc5) where there is very real counterplay against Black's Q-side. The d4-pawn is not going anywhere, and every exchange brings Black one step closer to a winning endgame.

25.Rxe4 Rd5 26.Bb2 h5!

Black continues to build and improve his position while White has little to do but wait.

27.g4 h4 28.Re6 Bb6 29.Ba3 R8d7 30.Re8 Nd6 31.Rb8 Ba7 32.Bxd6 R5xd6 33.Rh8 Bxd4

Finally, Short is ready to take the material. The game has been strategically decided for some moves, and the end result is never really in doubt.

34.Ree8 b5!

Moving pawns off the 7th rank has some tactical significance in a few lines. It should also be noted that White cannot deliver perpetual with his rooks as Black can always place his King on g6, say, and interpose a rook along the 7th.


A variation like 35.Rhf8+ Kg6 36.Rg8+ Rg7 37.Rxg7+ Kxg7 38.Re7+ no longer picks up the b-pawn (see note above), so White looks for counterplay behind Black's Q-side pawn mass.

35...bxa4 36.Rxa6!? axb3 37.Nxd4 Rxd4 38.Rb8 c5

Black cannot save both of his pawns, but only needs to maintain one passer to decide the game in his favour.

39.Rxb3 R7d6 40.Ra7+ Ke6 41.Rc7 Kd5

Black's last fighter is on the scene. There is no hope of saving this.

42.Rc3 c4 43.Kg2 Rc6! 0–1.

Black tucks his King on c5, plays ....Rd4-d3, and starts the remorseless advance of his c-pawn. A fine game by Short, and a nice illustration of how to play against an isolani.

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