I’ve been out playing chess again. This particular game appeals particularly to me, for various reasons: it was a win, against a much stronger player; it was a calm and steady win, not decided by some fluke error in either direction, just a steady pressure which gradually increased the positional advantage up to five pawns’ worth, while the material was still equal; and I managed to play through the whole middle game without throwing the whole thing on the floor, as I have a tendency to do.
As before, I present it here not as a demonstration of brilliance, but as an account of how a medium-class chess player thinks. The comments up to move 5 are mainly a synthesis of theory remarks, included mostly for my own sake.
So here we go: Faxe Chess Club Individual Tournament, round 4: White: yours truly, Black: Knud Hansen.
Meet my new best friend: the London System.
Considered to be a dull, predictable opening, and hated by the likes of Kingscrusher for that reason. Or as a less judgemental friend said: it may be a comfortable opening for white, but it is quite comfortable for Black too.
Be that as it may, I like it for three reasons:
1. The piece development and play is very fluent; no minor pieces blocking each other in, and the central control is formidable.
2. Great attacking possibilities. Common lines involve an open h-file after …Bd6, Bg3 BxB, hxB or …Nf6-h5, Bg3 NxB, hxN; or a hack-attack-type of h-pawn advance; or the Queen-and-Bishop battery Qc2/Bd3, which together with the Bishop on f4 may cause great distress for the Black king. And
3. many of the things one usually fears, such as losing a bishop to a knight or getting double pawn, are nothing to fear here, since they are actually part of the advantage….
This is not to say that it’s a winning machine, but it’s comfortable — very comfortable!
By far the most common reply, at least judging from the games I’ve played with this opening. At club-level, 1.d4 d5 players are probably so accustomed to the QGD lines that they automatically (after some thought, usually) go into this.
It should be said that there’s nothing wrong with the 2…e6 response; the advantage for white is that, given the predominance of this response, one can narrow down the number of lines one has to study…
12.Qxf4 was possible too, and the engine likes it better than what I played. It gets the queeen out of the way of the g pawn to advance more quickly than in the game, and it allows the queen to swing quickly to the queenside if needed, but it also leaves the e5 pawn slightly vulnerable, at least temporarily.
At least that’s what I thought during the game. On second thought (and with support from the engine), there is no danger of the queen ever being chased away from the defense of e5, and black really doesn’t have much more to attack that pawn with anyway.
The bishop is going to stay here for the rest of the game. At the moment, it just controls the black Knight’s forward movement, but it is going to be a decisive player in the end.
Another nice thing about the London System: the light-square bishop.
Clears the way for the g pawn, and takes part in the queen-side defense, even with some attacking possibilities (Nc4, for example).
After a deep thought, the engine agrees with me, to my delight (hence the “!”).
We had reached a “stage” here, so time to sum up some factors:
I have an open g file against a hanging pawn and a shaky king’s position, I have a passed e-pawn, I have some pressure on the d pawn, and I have options against black’s f pawn.
Black in return has … uh … I guess some pawn pushes on the queenside. IF he ever gets to do them. Mwahahah.
I could have taken the d pawn here, but I was worried that there might be trouble with two exposed rooks on the long diagonal should the bishop get to b7 (I actually thought I saw a way for black to force that, but now I can’t find it. Just a ghost, probably).
Anyway, I was quite happy with this “quiet move”, actually. It attacks c5 (thus virtually forces the next black move, which gives my knight a wonderful spot on d4), and gets the queen ready to swing to the g file. I was quite happy with this position…
Probably not the best move, but I’d make it again any day.
The reasoning was: “If I can advance the e pawn, I will win black’s f pawn. The only piece that can block that advance is the bishop (since 21. … Ne6 22.Nxf5 Rxf5 23.Bxf5 Qf7 24.Bxe6 Bxe6 25.Rhg1, and my lead is up to four pawns), and if the bishop goes to e6, I won’t have to fear anything along the long diagonal anymore. On e6 the Bishop is going to be staring up the asses of two pawns, and that’s the last we’re going to see of that bishop for a LOOONG time.
I also need some firepower on the g file. The ideal setup would be Rg6, Qg3 or g2, and Rg1. In any case, i don’t want the queen to be the avant guard in that trio; it would have to be rook.”
Which one? I wanted to advance the h pawn first. Qf3 would support that, AND attack the d pawn, but it also seemed kinda slow. So I decided to keep the h rook where it was and send the d-rook first into the fire, followed by Qg3 (possibly Qg2 from there, again attacking the d pawn).
And if it could send a bishop into oblivion on its way to the fireworks, I’d be all for it!
23. … b4 24.cxb4 Rxb4 25.Rg6 Rb7 26.Rhg1 Kh8
27.e6 would have been the quicker win, but I miscalculated the number of attackers and defenders… Fatigue.
Here, my opponent offered a draw. I would have done the same in his shoes.
I declined, however — I was wearing my own.
The club player’s dilemma: I want that pawn, I even moved the rook to d6 to get it, but can I actually take it? What if the rook is trapped out there? And the clock is ticking.
The only piece that could attack it lethally would be the bishop, and that would have to be from b7, and if the bishop left the defence of f5, I would probably manage to crash through even at the price of sacrificing the exchange. Besides, black would more or less have to play a6 next, I thought – otherwise I’d win the b pawn (turns out the engine disagrees
with me — and with my opponent…)
So it seemed safe enough. But man is it tough to move the rook to a spot like that with little time on the clock, little sugar in the blood, way too much caffeine in the system, and a lot at stake in the tournament.
White threatens Nd6, Ne7 (if black moves the queen to g8), and the queen/bishop battery mate on h7 wherever the knight goes. Some possible continuations:
There it is. Not a flashy display of brilliance, but a slow crush.
I was quite happy to receive the praise from the big guns in the club afterwards. One of them said: “I would have loved to get a position like that!” The answer I should have given was “One doesn’t get a position like that — one creates it.” :)