When players decide to advance pawns, particularly to attack, they must by fully committed to their strategy.
Arkadij Naiditsch, Germany’s former top player, who recently switched federations to play for Azerbaijan, can be very creative and aggressive, as in this game, where he essays the very blunt idea h4 on Move 4! I always feel tempted to play h4 whenever I see g6, but it is a double-edged move that commits the player who tries it to attacking because his compromised pawn structure is no longer good for a strategic battle.
There was a particularly interesting moment in this game when Black had to decide between spoiling his pawn structure or coming under heavy attack and chose the latter. In some ways, it seemed like a natural decision, but if he had calculated the possibilities more carefully, it seems that spoiling the pawn structure wasn’t really a big deal. That is a common problem: Players are often a little too obssessed with keeping their pawn structures pristine and, as in this game, that can be a mistake.
Naiditsch, A. vs. Todorov, Todor
TCh-FRA Top 12 2016 |Drancy FRA |Round 2.2 |29 May 2016 |ECO: C46 |1-0
1. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. Nc3g64. h4!?Usually such an aggressive move isn't the best because even though the threats behind such a move are scary, the player initiating the attack on the h file is irreparably damaging his kingside structure. Also, White will almost certainly have to resort to tactics in the future to justify his advance on the kingside because he can no longer play a slow, simple game. So White is under additional pressure as well. Still, h4 is definitely an entertaining move and leads to some fun chess. 4... Nf65. Bc4Bg7
( 5... h6will just be a waste of time. 6. d4! )
6. d3d6I quite like the idea of preventing h5 altogether with
( 6... h6!And then d6, etc., would lead to
a fairly typical position. Black has to be careful not to castle because of the following line: 7. Nd5O-O?8. h5!g59. Bxg5!hxg510. h6Bh811. h7+Kg712. Nxg5Black can avoid castling after playing h6. For example: )
( 6... h67. Nd5d6!and I think Black is doing fine. )
( 7... O-Oisn't neccessarily bad, but it looks pointless and dangerous to castle kingside when there is the possibility of White playing h5. I have a feeling that Black didn't even consider this move during the game and I guess that is the correct thing to do as playing Rf6 seems better than castling in almost all cases. )
8. h5The crucial moment that I referred to earlier. 8... h6?
( 8... gxh5!Black isn't going to castle kingside so
I don't see why Black was so worried about spoiling his pawn structure. True, it looks a little ugly, but with so many pieces on the board that shouldn't have been a very big consideration. 9. Nd5Trying to
win back the pawn. White could also play more slowly but after something like h6 and Be6, Black seems to be doing just fine. 9... Bg4provoking some weaknesses on the White side, too. 10. f3Bd711. Nxf6+Qxf6and 0-0-0, Qg6, etc. Black seems to be doing well. )
( 9... fxg610. Ne6Bxe611. Bxe6is obviously not a pleasant position. )
10. gxf7+Rxf7Black probably thought that two pieces for the rook and two pawns isn't so bad, but with his king so exposed it wasn't so hard to see that White
has little to worry about. At the same time, with 9...gxh5, the only concession Black was making was getting a bad pawn structure. 11. Bxg5!?White chooses to be a piece down instead of having a rook for two pieces! In terms of the material balance, this might not be the best decision, but the bishop on c4 is an excellent attacking piece. It is also quite hard for Black to develop. So from a practical perspective, Naiditsch's intuition made sense. Luckily for him, it all worked out well otherwise he might have rued not just taking a more long-term approach with Bxf7.
( 11. Bxf7+Kxf712. Bxg5Be613. f4 )
11... Qd712. Bxf6Rxf613. Qh5+Kf814. Nd5Rf7There doesn't seem to be anything
wrong with this, while playing Qf7 seems to be very shaky. But White now has a brilliant refutation, while after Qf7, Black could have held everything together.
( 14... Qf7!15. Nxf6Qxf6again, we have two pieces for a rook, but Black is a lot more developed and moves like Nd4 and then b5, etc., might be quite annoying for White. )
( 14... Qf715. Qh7is another move that looks quite dangerous for Black, but he has a simple antidote to the threatened knight jumps -- go after the main culprit: the bishop on c4! 15... b5!16. Bb3Nd4and Black seems safe for now. )
15. Ne3Rf616. Nd5Rf717. Ne3Rf618. Qh7Ne719. Rh5!!The rook lift works perfectly. It is particularly surprising, and aesthetically pleasing, because usually the rook lift is Rh3 and Rg3.
( 19. O-O-Oc6!20. Rh5d5 )
( 19. Rh3Qxh3!was the reason Black may have felt safe. 20. gxh3Rh6 )
( 19... Rg620. O-O-OThe Black pieces are basically completely stuck. 20... c6is too slow. White
has many tempting options like f4 or d4 or even just 21. Nf5Qe8now d5
isn't really a threat so White can just continue improving his position. Maybe 22. f4 )
20. Rg5!Rf721. Nxd5Nxd522. Bxd5Blacks position is collapsing. 22... Qe823. Rxg7Rxg724. Qh8+Ke725. Qxg7+Kd6
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