Not Everyone's Cup of Tea

Время публикации: 29.06.2012 17:44 | Последнее обновление: 29.06.2012 19:19

(СN translation)
From the games of the Russian premier League, Vladimir Potkin's win over Evgeny Alekseev impressed the commentator nearly most of all. Wouldn't you agree that the celebration of the European ex-Champion's thirtieth birthday and his achievement of a place in the Super Final are also good reasons to give attention to one of his creative accomplishments.

Vladimir POTKIN - Evgeny ALEKSEEV
Tyumen 2012 (Round 8)
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6

White wants to play d2-d4-d5, that's why Black is almost forced to go into not the most reliable variation of the Panov Attack in the Caro-Kann Defence.
4...Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5
From the point of view of the opening classification, it can still, of course, considered to be the English Opening.

The alternative continuation 8.Qb3 recently had a number of significant games with 8...e6 9.Bb5 Bg7 10.Bg5 Qb6 (Ragger - Volokitin, Austria 2012, Leko - Nepomniachtchi, the Russian League 2012, Nepomniachtchi - Potkin, Havana 2012).
In the round 10 of the Premier League,
 after 8Qb3, Khismatullin chose an 'old' move 8...Nxc3 against Grachev, which was followed by 9.Bc4. This idea is well-known since the times of the game Botvinnik - Petrosian of the 1963 match; it also happened earlier at the high level. Without going into the depth of it, it's worth pointing out  that the same variation can happen when Black takes 8...Nxc3 in response to 8.Bc4.

8...Nb6 9.Bb3 Bg7 10.d5 Na5 11.0-0 0-0

The idea not to allow ...Bg4 is logical, but most games were played as follows: 12.Re1 Bg4 13.h3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3.
12...Nxb3 13.axb3!

White needs to secure a favourable pawn structure in case the opponent plays 13...Bxc3 and takes on d5 with the queen. After 13.Qxb3 Black has no problems.

13...e6 N
Here 13...Bxc3 14.bxc3 Qxd5 (Grishchenko - Bojarinov, Voronezh 2006) doesn't guarantee an easy life to Black.
Having looked at another option, 13...Qd6!? (this move is not without controversy due to the rule that the queen is a bad blocker), I made this conclusion: the play is complex and it doesn't look like an easy equality for Black. 14.Re1 (there is also 14.Be3!?, insisting on sacrificing the d5 pawn) 14...Rd8 15.Ra5 Bf5 16.g4!? Bd7 (on 16...Bc8 it's good to play 17.Ng5!) 17.Bg5 (17.Ne4 Qc7 with the idea 18.Rc5? Bc6; after 17.Be3, probably 17...e6 equalises) 17...Nc8. Anyway, let those who must figure it out in depth.

Here, the d6 pawn guarantees White some initiative: he's a bit better. But Black also has own trumps: the bishop pair and no weaknesses. It's far from clear that he's risking to get into big trouble at all. That's why our attention is drawn to Potkin's further energetic, constructive actions. If the position was already clearly bad for Black, then there wouldn't have been much to talk about in this game.
After 14...Nd5 15.Nxd5 exd5 White can think of 16.Bf4!? (although it's necessary to look at 16.Qxd5 Be6 as well), and it would be hard for Black to fight against the d6 pawn.
15.Bg5! f6 16.Be3 Bc6 17.Bc5!

The previous series of moves is logical, but here Black already had a more serious choice to make. Alekseev's move is ambitious and obvious. The f3 knight is restricted. But at the same time the squares of the diagonal a2-g8 are weakened, which was underlined by White's response. So, there's a bit of doubt about this.
The problem with 17...Nd7 is the capture 18.Bxa7!. Although it's possible to somehow play Black's position after 18...f5, it's unpleasant.
In the variation 17...Nd5!? 18.Nd4! Qd7 19.Nxc6 Qxc6 (after 19...bxc6 Black's position is suspicious) 20.Nxd5 Qxd5 21.Qxd5 exd5 22.Rfd1 Rfd8 23.Rxd5 Bf8 the position turns into an endgame where Black, perhaps, has good drawing chances. But, in any case, he's guaranteed to be tortured.
Of course, it's a wonderful move with multiple plans. One push of a pawn and White has straight away strengthened all over the board.

Alekseev decides to move his king away from the draft, but now White pushes away his proud white-squared bishop. 18...a6 wasn't going to solve Black's problems. For example, 19.b5 axb5 20.Rxa8 Nxa8 21.Nd5 Kh8 22.Qb3!? - White has an initiative.
19.b5 Bd7
Black's position should be considered strategically dangerous.

This is the moment when it's possible to try improving Potkin's play. It would have made sense to straight away aim for the positioning of the pieces with the queen on b4: 20.Qb3 Re8 21.Qb4 (21.Rfd1!? with the same idea, but gives Black an additional option 21...e4) 21...Be6 22.Rfd1.

With this significant variation: 22...Qd7 (Perhaps, the lesser evil was 22...Nd7!?, although it's clear that Black is the weaker side here) 23.Bxb6! axb6 24.Rxa8 Rxa8 25.Na4! Qd8 26.Nd2!. Coordinated actions of the knights and the queen pose big problems for Black. In case of 26...Bf8 27.Nc4 Bxc4 28.Qxc4 Bxd6 29.Qe6 Qe7 30.Qxd6 Qxd6 31.Rxd6 Rxa4 32.Rxf6 the position transforms into, probably, the winning rook endgame for White with an extra pawn.
We now return to the flow of the game itself.

Black should have chosen 20...Be6!, freeing up a bit. It's not necessarily the case that White has a serious advantage here. It can be clarified by starting with 21.Rfd1.
A good alternative is 21.Rfd1, not worrying about 21...e4 22.Nd2! f5 23.Qe3!. And in the case of 21...Be6 22.Bxb6 Qxb6 (22...axb6?! misses the push 23.d7!) White has two ways to develop an initiative: 23.Nd5 Bxd5 24.Rxd5 and 23.Na4 Qd8 24.Nc5.
Black could have tried 21...Qc8, and then: 22.Qb4 Be6 23.Rfd1 Nd7!?. This version of giving up the pawn on a7 looks to be more suitable.
22.Rxa7 f5 23.Qe3! Nc4 24.Qe2

Black's position has worsened once again; there's no real compensation for a pawn.
Perhaps, the best chance was 24...Be6!? 25.Rd1 Nb6, after all, transferring the knight to d7.
25.Qxc4 exf3 26.Bd4

White won the strategic battle. Now the game starts to slowly move into the technical stage.
After 26...Qg5 with the idea 27.g3 f4 Black could have had more to catch on to and more practical chances of survival.
27.Rd1 f4 28.Nd5

28...Qg5 was more stubborn because, in the case of (not forced, though) 29.Nxf4, Black has an extra tempo as compared to the game.
29.Nxf4 Qg5
It's not possible to take 29...Qxf4?? because of 30.Bxg7+.
30.Nd5 Qh5 31.Bxg7+ Kxg7 32.Qd4+ Kh6

Timely involvement of the rook answers remaining questions.
33...Rf8 34.Re1 Rf7 35.Re5 g5 36.f4

36...Rg8 37.Rg3 Bxh3 38.Qe3 Bg4 39.Rxg2 Ra8 40.Rh2 Ra1+ 1-0

[Event "65th ch-RUS HL"] [Site "Tyumen RUS"] [Date "2012.06.24"] [Round "8"] [White "Potkin, Vladimir"] [Black "Alekseev, Evgeny"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A30"] [WhiteElo "2642"] [BlackElo "2677"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2012.06.16"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. e3 Nf6 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bc4 Nb6 9. Bb3 Bg7 10. d5 Na5 11. O-O O-O 12. h3 Nxb3 13. axb3 e6 14. d6 Bd7 15. Bg5 f6 16. Be3 Bc6 17. Bc5 e5 18. b4 Kh8 19. b5 Bd7 20. Qe2 Re8 21. Qe4 Rb8 22. Rxa7 f5 23. Qe3 Nc4 24. Qe2 e4 25. Qxc4 exf3 26. Bd4 fxg2 27. Rd1 f4 28. Nd5 Qh4 29. Nxf4 Qg5 30. Nd5 Qh5 31. Bxg7+ Kxg7 32. Qd4+ Kh6 33. Ra3 Rf8 34. Re1 Rf7 35. Re5 g5 36. f4 Rg8 37. Rg3 Bxh3 38. Qe3 Bg4 39. Rxg2 Ra8 40. Rh2 Ra1+ 1-0 


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