Thursday, November 27, 2008

Carlsen Plays the Stonewall

I did not have the time to follow the Chess Olympiad round by round. But this game I had to inspect. Seeing Norwegian top player Carlsen handle the Stonewall as Black obviously is obligatory for any self-respecting author of a Stonewall manual.
Rowson- Carlsen, Dresden Chess Olympiad 2008
Rowson is one of my favorite chess authors - even though I can normally digest only a couple of his pages a day. Yet I must admit to never having studied his games.
The Stonewall is more of an formation (or a 'system' if you like) than a specific opening line.
2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 e6 4.e3
In general Stonewall positions with e3, rather than the typical Dutch development with g3, are more attractive for Black, as there are some quite promising kingside attacking schemes available. However, this may be so mainly in amateur level chess as GMs generally know how to defuse the more direct attacking attempts.
4...Bd6 5.b3 f5 6.Be2 Nf6
Now we have a Stonewall position that could just as well have arisen from the Dutch. There also is an independent developing scheme with ...Qf6 and ...Nh6-f7 but this is less tempting when White has held back Nc3, so that he can play b3 and Ba3 without any artificial preparation.
7.0–0 Qe7!
This delays the exchange of dark-squared bishops which generally is considered favorable for White.
8.Bb2 b6 9.Qc1 Bb7 10.Ba3 Nbd7 11.Qb2?!
This must be an attempt to establish control over e5 but looks rather artificial. Probably 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.Qa3 would have been met by 12...c5 too but that position looks easier for White to handle.
Now White's bishop as well as his queen looks somewhat misplaced.
12.Nc3 a6 13.Rfd1 0–0 14.cxd5 exd5 15.g3 Rac8 16.Rac1 Kh8 17.Qb1 Ne4 18.dxc5 Nxc3 19.Rxc3 bxc5 20.Bf1 Nf6 21.Bg2 Ne4 22.Rc2 (Dia)
Sometimes when you watch Carlsen's games you get an impression that he plays more natural moves than his opponents. You may even think that this is his secret and conclude that chess actually is a simple game. What you should not forget is that in order to win by playing natural moves you need:
1) a strong belief in piece activity and a willingness to invest some material in order to achieve the kind of position you are looking for.
2) the ability to calculate accurately and quickly in order to confirm that your instincts are right
3) the tactical strength to actually exploit your good position when time has come.
For the next few moves Carlsen seems content to simply improve his position in various small ways. That is slightly surprising as his advantage seems to consist more of better piece co-ordination than of a better structure. However, despite Black's slow play White seems unable to improve his position much.
23.Bb2 Rf7 24.Ba1 Re8 25.Qc1 h6 26.Ne1 Kh7 27.Nd3 Rc8 28.Nf4 Bxf4 29.exf4 Qf8 30.Qa3 d4 31.Qxa5
Not all players would have had the confidence to let that pawn go.
31...Rd7 32.Qb5 Qd6 33.Qd3 Ba6 34.Qf3 d3 35.Rcc1 d2 36.Rc2 Qg6 37.Bf1 Bb7 38.Qe3 Re8 39.Be5 Rxe5!
Time has come for Black to cash in his advantage. I haven't checked the game in detail with a computer but the exchange sacrifice seems fairly convincing.
40.fxe5 f4 41.Qe2 Ng5 42.Rc3?
White had to prevent Black's next with 42.e6. I assume Black must still be better, but I am not sure how big his advantage is.
42...Qc6 43.f3 Nxf3+ 44.Kf2 Ng5 45.e6 Ne4+ 46.Qxe4+ Qxe4 47.exd7 Qd4+ 48.Ke2 Ba6+ 0–1

Probably an instructive game. Maybe I can still squeeze it - or at least a fragment of it - into 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' during the proof-reading stage?

1 comment:

Frank said...

Too bad it did not make your book on the Stonewall Dutch. However, that book is already outstanding and it is a small effort to include this game to my personal copy myself.