Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pressure play

There are certain players who seem to possess an innate ability to spot the key vulnerabilities in the opponent's position and then find the precise moves to apply pressure. This is a valuable ability to have and a difficult one to oppose in practice. If I had to name the single greatest talent in this regard it would be Bobby Fischer.

The other day I was studying a game played at age 15 by the Ukrainian GM Sergey Karjakin. In a position that was hardly out of the opening Karjakin found a very simple and powerful strategic idea.

The diagrammed position arose in the game Karjakin – Bricard, France 2005, after Black's 11th move. The experienced player will recognise this as a line of the Modern Defence featuring the exchanging manoeuvre ...Bg4xf3. White has more space and better development but it is not clear what plan he should adopt. The advance 12.e5 is met by 12...dxe5 13.fxe5 Nxe5, 12.d5 compels White to reckon with 12...Bxc3, and the alternative 12.f5 appears unpromising because a later fxg6 can be met by ...hxg6 and pressure down the h-file. Nevertheless there is a way forward and Karjakin finds it.
White's pawn goes to f5 for two reasons: to prevent Black from starting a blockade with ...f5 and to add pressure to the central light squares that will be augmented by White's unopposed bishop on f1.
According to Karjakin, Black should have continued to develop with 12...Ngf6. Opening the position is not a good idea but Black was no doubt intent on extending the range of his fianchettoed bishop.
13.dxc5 Nxc5 14.Bd4!
Neutralising Black's most dangerous piece whether it is exchanged or not.
Black loses at least a pawn after 14...Bxd4 15.Qxd4 Nf6 16.b4 Qb6 17.e5!
This forces Black to reckon with the double attack b2-b4 at almost every move.
15...a6 16.Bc4!
The traditional weakness of f7 is exacerbated by the departure of Black's king and the disappearance of his light-squared bishop, and by White's strategic advance 12.f5!
16...e6 17.Qg5!
A fourth successive hammer move against the weaknesses in Black's position.
No better is 17...h6 18.Qe3 e5 19.Bxc5 Qxc5 20.Qxc5 dxc5 21.Rxd8+ Rxd8 22.Bxf7 g5 23.h4 Nh7 24.Bg6 and White wins.
18.fxe6 Qxg5 19.Rxg5 fxe6 20.Bxe6
As Roman Dzindzichashvili likes to say, White now has the pawn and the compensation. Black resigned on move 37.

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.