Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Chinese Invasion

My opponent in round 7 was a young Chinese rated just below 2400. I have beaten higher rated players but this felt a bit like wasting a white game:

Sv. Johnsen - Ziyang Zhang
BCC Thailand Open (7)

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c6 4.Nf3 Bg4

Lines with ...c6 and an early development of Black's light-squared bishop are particularly challenging to London players as White has to play c4 in order to fight for an advantage. That's perfectly fine if your general chess understanding is well developed. But if you only feel comfortable with your pawns on c3, d4 and e3 your task is harder.

5.c4 Nbd7 6.Nbd2 e6

6...Nh5 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 e6 10.Qc2 Nxg3 11.hxg3 Bf5 12.Bd3 Bxd3 13.Qxd3 g4 14.Nh4 Qg5 unclear Gomez Esteban-Magem Badals, Linares 1995.


A challenging decision. My co-author of 'Win with the London System' showed common sense in V.Kovacevic-Bisguier, New York 1989: 7.Bd3 Nh5 8.Bg3 Nxg3 9.hxg3 Bd6 10.Qb3 Rb8 11.Nh2 Bh5 12.Nhf1 Nf6 13.f3 Bg6 14.Bxg6 fxg6 15.g4 0–0 16.0–0–0 with complicated play.


Black has also tried 7...Bxf3 8.gxf3 with these options:

a) 8...Qb6 9.c5 Qxb3 10.axb3 Nh5 11.Bc7 Rc8 12.Ba5 a6 13.f4 g6 14.Bd3 Ng7 = Dos Santos-Miranda, Curitiba 1999.

b) 8...Nh5 9.Bg3 Qb6 10.c5 Qxb3 11.axb3 a6 12.b4 Nxg3 13.hxg3 Rc8 14.f4 g6 15.g4 Bg7 16.Bd3 f5 17.Ke2 +=Schlindwein-Pieper Emden, Gladenbach 1996.

8.Bg5 Qa5! 9.0–0–0?!

I cannot remember the last time I castled queenside so early in the London. I certaily looked for sensible alternatives and noticed that 9.cxd5 exd5 (9...cxd5 10.Bb5 Bb4 11.Bxd7+ Kxd7 12.Ne5+ Ke8 13.0–0 is very good for White) 10.Qxb7 Rb8 11.Qxc6 might be possible but I didn't even try to calculate the consequences of 11...f6 12.Be2 Rxb2 (12...fxg5 13.Ne5) 13.Rd1 Bb4 14.Qa8+ Kf7 15.Qxh8. According to Rybka White is able to keep a small advantage in some very complicated lines.

9...Bb4 (D)


For some strange reason I didn’t consider 10.e4! at all. I seems to work quite well and at least ensure equality - something I wasn’t really close to achieveing in this game.

10...Nhf6 11.h3 Bxd2+ 12.Rxd2 Bf5 13.Bd3 Ne4 14.Bxe4

In a way this is the source of my coming problems as we now are left with bishops of opposite colours.

14...Bxe4 15.a3 0–0 16.Be7 Rfc8 17.Bb4 Qa6 18.cxd5 cxd5+ 19.Bc3 Rc6 (D)

At this point I think my position is objectively lost. Black’s attack may not seem immediately decisive but the opposite coloured bishops ensure that what he attacks I cannot defend. The positive thing to say about this game is that I now for the rest of the game defends quite well. When I in the following sequence add an exclamation mark to almost all my moves it's because I found the only moves to continue the game. It should be said that my opponent too found very strong moves but in general he had a few more tempting options to choose from.

20.Kd1! Rac8 21.Ke1! f6 22.Rd1! Rb6 23.Qa2 Bc2 24.Rc1 Qd3 25.Nd2! f5 26.h4! Nf6 27.Rh3! Ne4 28.Nxe4 fxe4 29.Qa1! Ba4 30.f4 (D)


If Black hadn’t found this attacking idea (or the 30...Bb5 31.Kf2 e5! version of the same idea) I might have saved the game. Now I am unable to defend because my kingside is undermanned.

31.dxe5 Bb5 32.Kf2 Qe2+ 33.Kg1 Rg6 34.Rh2 Qxe3+ 35.Kh1 Qxf4 36.Rd1 e3 37.b3 e2 38.Rg1 Bd3 39.e6 Rxe6 40.Bxg7 e1Q 41.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 42.Qxe1 Rc1 0–1

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