If White begins 1. d4, Black’s ability to equalize often is based on whether he can play c5. Many times when it seems he cannot, that is not true, as World Chess’s columnist explains.
In many d-pawn openings, Black’s ability to play c5 at some point is often a key element in the fight for equality. So White tries to make the break come at a cost, or better still, to prevent it altogether. Sometimes when it looks as if White has succeeded in stopping c5, it turns out that he has not. Here is a beautiful example from several years ago:
Topalov, Veselin vs. Kasimdzhanov, Rustam
London FIDE GP 1st |London |Round 3 |23 Sep 2012 |ECO: D46 |1/2-1/2
1. Nf3d52. d4Nf63. c4c64. Nc3e65. e3Nbd76. Bd3dxc47. Bxc4b58. Bd3Bb79. a3Bd610. O-OO-O11. Qc2Rc8Obviously intending ...c5, so White
puts his foot down and stops it for good. 12. b4No more ...c5, right? 12... c5!?Wrong. Kasimdzhanov devised an amazing novelty, though subsequent analysis
has cast some doubt upon the idea.
( 12... a5was the original move here, and
the move to which players have returned in light of White's improvement on
move 14 after 12...c5. )
13. bxc5Bxf314. gxf3The obvious move, but now as
both theory (i.e. computers) and practice (15 out of 15) have shown, the game
is simply a draw.
( 14. cxd6!Nd515. gxf3seems to favor White, who enjoys
a plus score and the computer's blessing here after both 15...Qg5+ and 15...
14... Nxc5!!15. dxc5Rxc516. f4Saving the knight allows a speedy
16... Nd517. Bb2Nxc318. Bxc3Qc719. Rfc1Rc8Black regains the piece, White regains the pawn (on h7), and a draw quickly
ensues. 20. Bxh7+Here's another drawing variation that has occurred (at
least) seven times:
For several years, Rustam Kasimdzhanov worked as the second for Viswanathan Anand, the former World Champion, and he may have been responsible for the idea in the following game, one of the most beautiful played in this decade. In the same variation as the previous example, White tries to prevent the c5 break by more indirect means, and once again it comes up short.
Aronian, Levon vs. Anand, Viswanathan
Tata Steel-A 75th |Wijk aan Zee |Round 4 |15 Jan 2013 |ECO: D46 |0-1
1. d4d52. c4c63. Nf3Nf64. Nc3e65. e3Nbd76. Bd3dxc47. Bxc4b58. Bd3Bd69. O-OO-O10. Qc2Bb711. a3Rc812. Ng5This avoids ...c5, as the move
hangs both h7 and b5. (Or so it seems.) On the other hand, it might appear
that White has blundered a pawn to ...Bxh2+ Kxh2 Ng4+ followed by ...Qxg5.
( 12. b4was played in the previous game, Topalov-Kasimdzhanov, played
approximately four months earlier. )
12... c5!!Once again this idea! The
lines are even more complicated than in the previous game, and there are also
more dangers for White.
( 13. Bxh7+Kh814. f4is another try, and the computer's first
choice. 14... g6It takes a while for the computer to come around to this move,
which has scored brilliantly for Black: 3.5/4. 15. Bxg6fxg616. Nxb5Bb817. Nxe6Qb618. Nxf8Nxf8 )
13... Ng4!Again not the engine's immediate choice (that was 13...c4),
but after a little while it comes around. 14. f4
( 14. h3has been tried in
all the subsequent games, though both moves are good for nothing more than
equality. 14... Bh2+15. Kh1Qh416. d5Rfd8The position remains
14... cxd415. exd4?!From here Anand couldn't remember his
preparation, but he managed to reconstruct and figure out what to do.
( 15. Nxf8Bxf816. h3dxc317. hxg4gives Black adequate compensation after 17... Qh4or ... )
16... Nde5!!While the move's logic is clear once one sees the move,
walking into a self-fork like this is both rare and beautiful. 17. Bxg4
( 17. fxe5?Qxd4+18. Kh1Qg1+!19. Rxg1Nf2#is a nice if simple variation. )
17... Bxd4+18. Kh1Nxg419. Nxf8f5!
( 19... Qh4?looks wonderful until
one spots 20. Qh7+, which allows White to escape his problems. )
20. Ng6Qf6!21. h3
( 21. Ne5wins against everything but 21... Nxh2!, and this keeps
Black on top. )
21... Qxg622. Qe2Qh523. Qd3?
( 23. Rf3was absolutely
necessary. 23... Nf2+24. Kh2Bxf325. Qxf3Qxf326. gxf3Nd3looks like an amazing escape for White for a couple of
seconds, until one realizes that although material is equal and White's king
won't be mated any time soon, the resulting endgame is completely winning for
The third example is not from practice, but was perhaps inspired by it. I was looking through Boris Avrukh’s 1.d4: The Queen’s Gambit 1B, and, as in the previous examples, the battle revolves around Black’s attempts to play c5. Avrukh says in his his analysis of the following position that White has prevented the break, but I don’t think that is true.
( 10... c5probably doesn't
equalize: 11. cxd5exd512. Rfd1Qe713. Rac1Avrukh also likes ...g614. Bb5!Rac815. Qe2Ba816. Rc2"White had nice
pressure", says Avrukh, though he agreed to a draw a move later. 16... h617. Rcc11/2-1/2 (17) Dreev,A (2668)-Grachev,B (2652) Sibenik 2009 )
11. e4dxe412. Nxe4Nxe413. Bxe4Nf6If Black tries to take care of h7 first and then play
...c5, he'll discover that he's too late.
( 13... h614. c5!Be715. Rfd1Qc716. Bh7+The following is Avrukh's improvement over S.
Savchenko-Itkis, Ilichevsk 2006. 16... Kh817. Bd3bxc518. dxc5Nxc519. Be5Qa520. Bf1Rfd821. Qb2Threatening both b4 and Bxg7+. )
14. Bd3Qe715. Rac1Here Avrukh asserts that "Black cannot do much against the upcoming
c4-c5, locking in his light-squared bishop." But what about simply pushing the
pawn? 15... c5!Instead,
( 15... Ba316. c5Bxb217. Qxb2are the lines given by Avrukh. Both lines are logical and result in
a slight but very usable White edge. Surprisingly, however, he doesn't look at
Black's most direct and most principled reply. )
16. d5!Certainly the best
move, and the most dangerous move for Black to face.
16... exd517. cxd5White could first move the rook of his choosing to e1; for
simplicity's sake we'll start with the exchange on d5. 17... Bxd518. Rfe1!
( 18. Rce1Qd819. Ng5h620. Bh7+!Kh821. Bf5Rc6!22. Bxf6Qxf623. Nh7It looks like Black is in trouble, but some attractive and
subtle tactics come to the rescue: 23... Bxh2+!24. Kxh2Qh4+25. Kg1Rd8!26. Qe2Re6!27. Bxe6fxe628. f4Kxh729. Qf2Qxf2+30. Rxf2 )
18... Qd819. Nh4!Re8!This time
( 19... c4isn't as good. 20. bxc4b521. Nf5bxc4?22. Qd2!shows
why Rfe1 is correct and Rce1 isn't. Black is already in big trouble, and if 22... cxd3?then 23. Rxc8Qxc824. Qg5is crushing. )
20. Nf5Qc7!Not an easy move to make. White has the initiative in what follows, but with
precise play it seems that Black can maintain equal chances.
( 21... Bxh2+?is tricky, but if White plays correctly he comes
out on top. 22. Kf1!Qc623. Rxe8+Rxe824. Ne7+Rxe725. Bxe7Bxg2+26. Ke1Bf427. Bxh7+Kh828. Rd1Qe6+29. Qe2Qh330. Rd8+Kxh731. Qd3+Qxd332. Rxd3/+- )
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
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