Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lopez vs Van De Mortel Annotated

Lopez vs Van de Mortel, USCL Week 2

Annotated by Matan Prilleltensky

In Week 2, Bruci Lopez continued his good start to the season with an attacking win over Chicago IM Jan van de Mortel. I'm quite out of my depth commenting on a game between such strong players so I'll try not to say too much! Any mistakes are the fault of the free version of Fritz (5.32) that I'm using.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 O-O 12. Nc2 Bg5 13. a4 bxa4 14. Rxa4 a5 15. Bc4 Rb8 16. Ra2

"This move frequently transposes to 16. b3; the advantage of 16. Ra2 is that in some lines, White can advance b4 in one go. As a general rule, however, plans with b4 are a bit too simple to try and gain the advantage, since they eliminate the a-pawn which is one of Black's main weaknesses, and thus reduce the number of threats Black has to deal with. On the plus side, of course, the move does create a passed pawn." - IM John Cox.

16... Kh8

Black's plan is to open the f-file with f5. The question is whether to prepare it with g6 or make the Pawn break a move sooner and recapture with a piece.

17. h4

"Without ... g6, 17. h4 would only weaken White's Kingside" - GMs Kolev and Nedev.
"17. h4 is pointless before g6 is played." - IM John Cox.

Luckily for the Miami Sharks, chess is a game of moves, not opinions! This Kingside thrust fits Bruci's aggressive style, and he was able to cause his opponent problems in the resulting positions.

17... Bh6 18. Qe2

The late GM Karen Asrian played differently here against Alexander Khalifman: (18. Nce3 Bxe3 19. Nxe3 Ne7 20. b3 f5 21. exf5 Nxf5 22. Nxf5 Bxf5 23. O-O Be4 24. Bd5 Bxd5 25. Qxd5 Qxh4 26. Qxd6 Qf6 =)

18... f5 19. exf5 Bxf5 20. g4 Bxc2 21. Qxc2 g6

This seems to justify h4 by giving White a target on the Kingside. I'd be surprised if it wasn't a mistake. (21... Bf4 looks much more natural and is the standard way to meet an h4+g4 plan from White in some other Sveshnikov lines. Black looks totally fine here.)

22. g5 Bg7 23. Qe4 Rf5

Black offers an interesting exchange sacrifice which I think Bruci was right to decline.

24. h5

(24. Ne3 Ne7 25. Nxf5 gxf5 would see Black take over the initiative.)

24... Rxg5 25. hxg6

I think White is better in light of Black's exposed King. However, Black plays very well in the next ten moves while White seems to lose control of the position.

25... h6 26. Ne3 Ne7 27. Bf7 Rb6 28. Rxa5 Rxb2 29. Ra8 Rb8 30. Rxb8 Qxb8 31. Qh4 Qb1+ 32. Kd2 Qb2+ 33. Nc2 Rg2 34. Ra1

I'm not sure where White dissipated his advantage; all of his moves looked fine to me. In any case, this tricky position should peter out to equality (34. Bd5 Rxf2+ 35. Qxf2 Nxd5 36. Rh3 e4 37. Qf7 Bxc3+ 38. Rxc3 Qxc3+ 39. Kc1 Qg7 also looks like a draw), but...

34... Nxg6 35. Ra8+ Nf8?

This lets White execute a nice finish. Black may have rejected 35... Kh7 because it would lead to a perpetual. Extrapolating from the ICC clocks, I think Becerra had already won his game, and Recio had won or was winning. This would mean Van de Mortel had to win to keep his team in the match. So, it's possible 35... Nf8 was "forced" under the circumstances, rather than being a blunder. It's also possible that Van de Mortel planned to play this way in advance, and blitzed out Nf8 since the alternative (drawing the game) was not acceptable. This is all complete guesswork, with apologies to both players!

36. Rxf8+! Bxf8 37. Qf6+ Kh7 38. Bd5!

Very nice! Black is defenseless.

38... Rg7 39. Qxf8 Rc7 40. Be4#


Jan van de Mortel said...

Thanks for looking at this game Matan. I had never played the Sveshnikov before, so reading your quotes/comments to the opening moves is enlightening!

As for the game, I had found Bruci's game against Ippolito from last year's USCL, but completely forgot to look at it!

I was on my own after 17.h4 and followed in Ippolito's footsteps until 21...e4, which loses for Black. My 21...g6 is the only move, as after 21...Bf4 I had seen 22.Bd3? Ne7 23.Nxe7 Qxe7 24.Bxh7 e4! 25.Bf5 g6!? 26.Bxg6 Qe6 with an unclear position, but saw too late that 22.Qe4! is killing, for example 22...Ne7 23.Bd3 g6 24.h5 Nxd5 25.hxg6! threatening 26.g7 with mate to follow.

All this means that 18...f5 is a mistake; I think Black is fine after 18...Ne7 (when the move h4 hasn't helped white).

Due to my poor preparation and sloppy calculations I ended up with no time (20 secs before 27...Rb6). At that point 28.c4 looks good, although White is also better in the game, until 30.Rxb8, where I was more worried about 30.Ra7.

Then there is some crazy stuff until I blundered with 35...Nf8, missing 38.Bd5! Black would actually have been better after 34...Qb7 when the g-pawn falls.

Had I played 35...Kh7 instead of 35...Nf8??, White should probably have taken the perpetual.

Matan said...

Thanks very much for commenting Jan! I'm glad you set the record straight on 21...g6, the middlegame complications, and the way the game ended. I should edit my annotations when I get the chance.