Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Instructive Moment in the French

Kevin Cao (2127) - Rashawn Williams (1675)
Grade Nationals 7th grade
round 1

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. e5 c5
4. c3 Nc6
5. Nf3 Qb6
6. Be2 cxd4
7. cxd4 Nge7
8. Na3 Nf5
9. Nc2

I love talking about the Advanced French with kids, because it illustrates a lot of important strategic/ positional themes. There's a lot to talk about, rather than analyze. The pawn structure gives white a space advantage, but also a big weakness on d4 and sometimes trouble on b2 and f2 as well. There are good and bad bishops, outposts for knights (c5, d6 for white, f5 for black), open and half open files (c, f), pawn breaks (f4-f5, g4-g5, h4-h5, ...f6) and positions that you can choose to open or keep closed.

An interesting moment. How should white get out of check?

picture of Rashawn to cover the answer

White should play 10. Kf1, which looks weird, but is a kind of common idea in the advanced French. The Rh1 is often useful on the g or h files, since white often pushes one or both of those pawns. Sometimes the rook is lifted via h3.

Taking the bishop (10. Nxb4) would be a good move (since it's black's good bishop), except it loses a pawn after 10...Qxb4 (D):

Now if 11. Bd2, black can take on b2: Qxb2 and the queen doesn't get trapped: 12. Rb1 Qxa2 13. Bc3 Qa3 and it can escape on the a3-f8 diagonal.

11. Nd2 loses the d4 pawn

11. Qd2 hangs d4 because of where the white king is: 11... Nfxd4 12. Qxb4 Nxf3+ 13. Bxf3 Nxb4 and black's just up a nice pawn.

So 11. Kf1.
Next question: What should black do here?

Black should play 10... h5, so that his knight won't get kicked from the good f5 square, or 10... Be7, to save his good bishop. Instead, he played 10.. Bd7.

After 10.... Bd7 from the above diagram, rank the following moves in order of goodness: 11. b3, 11. h3, 11. g4, 11. Nxb4.

Rashawn and Mr Galvin, 318's Assistant Principal

11. b3? is a silly move that weakens the dark squares and loses the d pawn:
11...Bc3 12. Rb1 Nfxd4.

11. g4! is the best move, kicking the knight from its excellent outpost and forcing it to h6 rather than e7:

11...Nh6 (If 11... Nfe7 12. a3 traps the Bb4) and now white takes the good bishop:
12. Nxb4 Qxb4
13. h3 O-O

14. Kg2 and white has everything: a good vs bad bishop, freedom for the Rh1, a kingside attack, and black's Nh6 is uncomfortable.

Taking the bishop first isn't as good, because without the threat to trap the bishop, the Nf5 can retreat to e7, and from there come back to g6/ f4, or transfer to the queenside:

11. Nxb4 Qxb4
12. a3 (not 12. g4? right away because black can steal the pawn: 12...Nfxd4 13. a3 Qb3!)
12... Qb6
13. g4


White made the mistake of playing 11. h3 rather than 11. g4, and black correctly played
11... h5 on his next move, stopping g4.
12. a3 (12. Nxb4! was better)
12... Be7
13. b4

Black had a nice position here but eventually lost.


Anonymous said...

why is black's position so good? can't white play something like bb2 and bd3xf5, or bb2 and ne3, or kg1-h2... black's k-side has been weakened and it's hard for him to add attackers to d4. if he plays f6, white allows f6xe5, or possibly can play ef6 and then Bd3, if tactics permit...

just askin' :-)

Anonymous said...

great post. very interesting and instructive. your players are very lucky to have such an engaged instructor.