13 October, 2010

Team League 4545 : T46 Playoff 1 : Checks help you out of nasty situations

This was a good game for me, with lots of interest.

It was probably only the second player I had met in this TL season who was close to me in ratings, so even though I had Black I felt that this would be more of an even chance.

His game history told me that he was an e4-player, which was good : I could try the Philidor again !

On to the game...

  1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. Nf3 This is the 'book' move, and is the most popular in TL, but I actually expected f4, as my opponent plays this against the Pirc.  In TL, 4.f4 is the second most popular move against the Philidor, but scores a miserable 18% for White. Not sure why that should be so, as it is a good and respected move. However, because it is not so popular, you probably don't need to prepare much against it.

4...e5 Also good against f4. In that case just exchange and dare White to offer a pawn for the Queen exchange ! 5. Bc4 Be7 The best move. Although move orders are not so strict in the Philidor, if Black forgets it here and plays c6 he loses material  (5... c6 6. dxe5 Nxe5 (6...dxe5 7. Ng5)7. Nxe5 dxe5 8. Bxf7+). Don't play by rote, think.

6. O-O O-O This ( or possibly the position after 7...c6) is the 'standard' Philidor Hanham position. Surprisingly, I have only reached this twice in my ICC "career".

7. Re1 c6 Alternatives such as b6 and a6 have not occurred so far in the TL games I have. 7...a6 might actually be a good choice if Black wanted to 'move-order' the game, as it will probably transpose back to the main-line, but will be a interesting move interposition.

7...c6 : Standard Philidor Hanham

8. a4 b6  The main line.  Also very playable is 8...a5 intending to gain the c5-square for Black's Knight: played only twice in TL. I've played this before, but it is a bit more committal than b6, and I think I prefer the b6 line now.

9. d5 This is the most played move in the Hanham in this position, and is a strong one, attempting to control the d5 square and use it for future attacks. Lacking a pawn on b7, Black cannot recapture on c6 with a pawn, so it gives White some good chances.
There are alternatives...
      9.Ba2 Anticipating dxe5, Nxe5 when the Bishop would have to move. The Bishop on a2 is a common tactic, waiting for possibilities to play Bxf7+, and revealing an attack on the a-Rook !
      9.b3 is an interesting choice, and mentioned by my opponent in post-match analysis in connection with his later b4. I think it allows moves like Bb2, Ne2 and c4, building up White's space advantage and attacking on the Queen-side.
      ...but 9.d5 is probably the best.

9...cxd5 This immediately challenges White on the d5-square, and adds to pressure on e4. Despite e4 seeming to be well-protected, it is actually hard to defend for White during the game.
      Alternatives...9..Bb7 probably transposes to the mainline, but 10.dxc6 Bxc6 11.Bg5 might give White a small advantage ( See Jansa - Mokry, 1987 below )
                            9...c5 probably breaks up Black's Queenside pawns after 10.a5 bxa  ( see Miles - Gelashvili, 2000 below, which started off 1.d4 !)

10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11. Bxd5 Rb8
This is an interesting position, with lots of possibilities for Black.

Despite the fact that White appears anchored on d5, Black has ideas such as a6 and b5, plus Bb7, Nf6 and even f5 : lots of good moves.

White, however, despite having the strong Bishop on d5 has to move a bit more before things come through. In the post-match analysis, White said he struggled to find a plan here, hence what I think was his tame response. There are ideas such as b3, intending Bb2, or Qd3, protecting e4 and attacking the Queen-side as well. Even h3 is possible....

12. b4  Not the best. It stops Nc5, but then why play Nc5 when the Queen is still on d1 ?
12...Nf6 Also a5 is possible here
13. Bb3 This didn't seem the best either, but  then Ba2 is not much better and Nd2 is hit by13... Bg4 14. f3 Nxd5  and eventually Black's two Bishops will come into play as part of a Kingside attack. After the game I checked for previous games and the move 13. Bc6 came up, which neither of us had considered.

 13...Bb7 14. Qd3 a5 15. c3  15... Rc8  A planned move on my part, which bore fruit later.
16. Bg5 A mistake. Rc8 aims at the c-pawn, and this needs to be defended. Bg5 just plays into Black's hand.
16... Nxe4 17. Bxe7 Qxe7 18. Rxe4 Bxe4 19. Qxe4 Rxc3 The point of Rc8 : a pawn gained.

20. Bd5 Rfc8 Black has an important file ( as well as a pawn advantage )
21. Re1 axb4 (21... Rc1 22. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 23. Ne1 Qc7) 22. Qxb4 I don't that think not capturing the pawn makes any difference here

22...R8c5 23. Nd4?

This just loses. It takes away the defence of the rook on e1 and Black can easily exploit it. Although it appears to offer a later Nf5 attacking the Queen, there is a very effective escape route !

23... Rc1 24. Nf5 Rxe1+  Checks help you out of nasty situations.... 
25. Qxe1 Qc7 The escape square - neat, isn;t it ! 26. Ne3 Forced, to save the bishop
26... Rc1 27. Nd1 Forced again  
27...Qc2 28. Bf3 and another forced move
28...e4 29. Be2 d5 30. g3 d4 Just keep advancing those pawns 31. Kg2 d3 32. Bf3 I was getting too confident here and it could have been dangerous, but yet again a check for a nasty situation and White is totally lost
32...exf3+ 33. Kh3 Nice try, but the Black Queen is in the right place ! (33. Kxf3 Qxd1+ 34. Qxd1 Rxd1) 33... Qc8+ 34. g4 h5 35. Qd2 Qxg4# 0-1

Overall, enjoyable. Decided by a mistake from White ( 23.Nd4 ) but not to take away anything from Black's play, it was a hard-fought game where the strength of the solid Philidor is easily seen.