Master Chess Theatre: The Ever Grünfeld Game

[Event “U.S. Girls Junior Championship”]
[Date “2019.07.18”]
[Round “7.1”]
[White “Wu, Rochelle”]
[Black “Cervantes Landeiro, Thalia”]
[Result “1-0”]
[Annotator WIM Rochelle Wu, Chris Torres]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 {Playing c4 makes perfect sense for white as black did not match their center pawn but e4 is off the table because of the knight on f6.} 2…g6 {This could either lead to the King’s Indian Defence or the Grunfeld depending on black’s next move. In the King’s Indian Defence, black intends to play Bg7, pawn to d6 and the eventual pawn break on e5 or c5. The Grunfeld Defence may start the same way but is defined an early pawn to d5 so the two openings lead to vastly different styles of play.} 3.Nc3 d5 { So we have a Grunfeld. In the Grunfeld Defence, black gives white the opportunity of cxd5, while after recapturing with Nxd5 white is offered the possibility to kick the black knight with pawn to e4 while establishing a pawn center with both e4 and d4. Of course, if white does not capture the d5 pawn then black can play dxc4 and white will still get to play e4 and have the same powerful pawn center. Classically speaking, the pawns on e4 and d4 should give white a huge advantage in space, but the hypermodernists believe that achieving the ideal pawn center so soon in the game will actually be a liability for white instead of an advantage. so, every time this position is reached, the players are rehashing a centuries old argument as to which is better, direct control of the center through occupation or indirect control of the center with distant pieces instead of pawns.} 4.Nf3 { Rochelle develops a second knight. After cxd5, play would have likely continued with something like this: } ( 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 { Bc4 is also good. } 7…c5 { So as expected, white occupied the center as black tries to undermine it indirectly. } 8.Rb1 O-O 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+ 11.Bd2 Qxa2 { Such large imbalances are thematic in the Grunfeld Defence and it’s positions like this where white controls the center but black has connected passed pawns that make the opening an interesting choice for advanced players. } 12.O-O Bg4 13.Bg5 h6 14.Be3 Nc6 15.d5 Na5 16.Bc5 b6 17.Bxe7 { White evens up the material while creating her own passed pawn. } 17…Rfe8 18.d6 Nc6 19.Bb5 Nxe7 20.h3 Bxf3 21.Qxf3 Rec8 22.dxe7 Qe6 23.e8=Q+ Rxe8 24.Bxe8 Rxe8 25.Rfe1 Bf8 26.Qb3 Qxb3 27.Rxb3 Bc5 28.Kf1 a5 29.f3 a4 30.Rd3 a3 31.Rc1 Kg7 32.Rxc5 bxc5 33.Rxa3 { and Mariya Muzychuk agreed to a draw against her sister Anna in the 2015 Monte Carlo FIDE Women’s Grand Prix but not before accurately demonstrating the strategies for both white and black. } ) 4…Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 { and now we have reached the exact same position after seven moves as the aforementioned game between Mariya and Anna Muzychuk } 7…c5 8.Be3 { The main alternative to 8. Rb1. } 8…O-O { Black had several other possibilities here. But as we will now see from Rochelle’s own notes, Rochelle Wu was very prepared for the alternatives as well. } ( 8…Qa5 { after Qa5, Rochelle suggests: } 9.Qd2 ( 9.Nd2 { but also included the rare and interesting  9.Nd2 in her notes. } 9…cxd4 10.Nc4 Qd8 11.cxd4 ) 9…O-O 10.Rc1 Rd8 ( 10…Bg4 { is also playable } 11.d5 Bxf3 12.gxf3 Nd7 13.h4 h5 14.f4 c4 15.Rg1 $40 ) 11.d5 e6 ( 11…Nc6 { This dynamic variation was also included in Rochelle’s extensive notes. } 12.h4 e6 13.h5 exd5 14.hxg6 hxg6 ( 14…dxe4 $2 { would be a significant mistake. } 15.gxh7+ Kh8 16.Bh6 Bf6 17.Bg5 $18 { and white should be able to win. } ) 15.Bh6 Bh8 { A mistake. Re8 should be black’s preferred choice.} (15…dxe4 16.Bxg7 { and the queen sacrifice sets a nice mating threat. } 16…Rxd2 17.Bf6 $18 { [%cal Gh1h8] } ) 16.Bg5 Rd6 { and after this inaccuracy, black would again be in serious trouble. } 17.Rxh8+ Kxh8 18.Qf4 Qc7 19.Bf6+ { looks good but is suboptimal. Qh2 or even e5 should be considered instead.} ( 19.Qh2+ Kg8 20.Bf4 ) ( 19.e5 Re6 20.Bf6+ Kg8 21.Qh6 { and black is left with no happy options. } ) 19…Kg8 20.Qh2 $4 { a very tempting move but one that would be a huge mistake. } 20…Bh3 ) 12.Bg5 f6 13.Be3 Nc6 14.Bd3 exd5 15.exd5 c4 16.Bxc4 Be6 17.Rd1 Ne7 18.dxe6 Rxd2 19.Rxd2 Qxc3 20.Bb3 ) 9.Be2 { Rochelle is preparing to castle. } 9…b6 { While Thalia is preparing to put pressure on e4 with Bb7. } 10.O-O { definitely not: } ( 10.dxc5 $4 Bxc3+ { [%cal Gc3a1,Gc3e1] } ) 10…Bb7 11.Qc2 { unifies the rooks while guarding e4 and c3. } 11…Nd7 12.d5 { [%cal Ga1d1,Gc3c4]Rochelle pushes the d-pawn forward onto her opponent’s side of the board. I am sure Rad1 and then c4 will soon follow to cement white’s advantage in space.} 12…Qc7 13.Rad1 Rad8 14.c4 e6 { [%cal Gf8e8,Ge6d5]Thalia attacks her opponent’s spatial advantage. Black can plan on Rfe8 and then opening the file for the rook with exd5.} 15.Bg5 { [%cal Gg5h4,Gh4g3]Rochelle moves the bishop with a threat to g5 and possibly enroute to g3 where it can greatly trouble black. } 15…Rc8 16.Nd2 $5 { Rochelle moves the knight in preparation to play pawn to f4. Some interesting alternative plans here are: } ( 16.Bh4 Rfe8 17.Bg3 Qd8 18.Rfe1 exd5 { [%cal Gc4d5,Ge4d5] Where both pawn captures are legitimate moves for white leading to vastly different endgames. The more double edged choice would be cxd5 in which white would have mobile central pawns to thrust but at the expense of black’s queenside pawn majority.} ) (16.Qa4 exd5 17.exd5 Nf6 18.Bd3 a6 19.Rfe1 b5 ) ( 16.Rfe1 Ne5 17.Bh4 exd5 18.cxd5 Nxf3+ 19.Bxf3 Be5 20.Bg3 ) ( { [%cal Gc1h6] } 16.Qc1 { forming a queen and bishop battery should also be considered. } 16…exd5 17.Bf4 Qd8 18.exd5 Re8 { also leaves white with a position that is better than black’s. } ) 16…Rfe8 17.dxe6 { Rochelle takes before black has an opportunity exd5 and her pieces in the game. This coupled with the coming f4 pawn push is a beautifully executed plan by Rochelle Wu. } 17…fxe6 18.f4 Nb8 ( 18…e5 19.f5 { and now black will add an exposed king to her troubles. For example: } 19…gxf5 ( 19…Rf8 20.fxg6 hxg6 ) 20.Bh5 ) 19.e5 Nc6 20.Nf3 Bf8 21.h4 { [%cal Gh4h5]the h-pawn is now just one move away from causing mega issues for black’s king safety. } 21…Be7 22.Qb1 { Rochelle’s queen keeps Thalia from playing b5 to free up her pieces. } ( 22.h5 { is less subtle but indeed effective. } 22…Nb4 ( 22…gxh5 { white can unleash some fury after this immediate recapture. } 23.Bd3 Nb4 24.Bxh7+ Kh8 25.Qb3 Kxh7 26.Qb1+ Kh8 27.Qg6 Bxf3 ( 27…Bxg5 28.Nxg5 Re7 29.Qxh5+ Rh7 30.Nxh7 Qxh7 31.Qxh7+ Kxh7 32.Rd7+ Kg6 33.Rxb7 ) 28.Qh6+ Kg8 29.Qxe6+ Kg7 ( 29…Kh7 30.Qf7+ Kh8 31.Rxf3 Bxg5 32.Qxh5+ Qh7 33.Qxg5 { and we have the same position as after 29… Kg7 } ) ( 29…Kh8 30.Qh6+ Kg8 31.Qg6+ Kh8 32.Rxf3 Bxg5 33.Qxh5+ Qh7 34.Qxg5 { and again it ends up being just a slightly different path to the same position } ) 30.Qh6+ Kg8 31.Qg6+ Kh8 32.Rxf3 Bxg5 33.Qxh5+ Qh7 34.Qxg5 Rg8 35.Qf6+ Rg7 36.Rg3 Nc6 37.Rd7 { easily winning for white. } ) 23.Qb1 gxh5 24.f5 Bxg5 25.Nxg5 Qg7 26.f6 Qxg5 27.f7+ Kh8 28.fxe8=Q+ Rxe8 29.Rf2 Re7 ) 22…Bxg5 23.Nxg5 Nd4 { [%csl Gd4,Gb7]Thalia improves two pieces with one move. } 24.Bd3 { [%cal Gb1h7,Gg5h7,Gh4h5] But Rochelle Wu already is already setup for a nice attack. } 24…Qe7 25.Rf2 Rf8 26.Be4 { One of my favorite moves of this game because Rochelle allows her opponent to win the f4 pawn with a nice knight fork but for the steep price of abandoning the d4-outpost. } 26…Rxf4 { Thalia must have felt good after capturing this pawn however that feeling will soon change when she realizes that her knight will be permanently abandoning it’s beautiful outpost. } ( 26…Ba6 { is an interesting alternative for black. } 27.Bd3 ( 27.Qc1 Rcd8 28.h5 h6 29.Nf3 gxh5 { is a rich position. } 30.Nxd4 Rxd4 31.Rxd4 cxd4 32.Qd1 { [%cal Gd1h5] But with the coming Qxh5, I’d still prefer white. } ) 27…Bb7 28.Be4 Ba6 { could lead to a draw. } ) 27.Rxf4 { I suppose Thalia wasn’t forced to capture on f4. Once you understand the whole picture, Ba6 might be a better choice. For example: } 27…Ne2+ 28.Kh2 Nxf4 29.g3 { Superb punishment for black’s pawn grab. } 29…Bxe4 { a must play move for black. } ( 29…Nh5 $4 { moving the knight to h5 straight away would be a tremendous mistake for black. } 30.Bxg6 hxg6 31.Qxg6+ Qg7 32.Qxe6+ Kh8 33.Rd7 Rf8 34.Rxg7 { white wins the queen but let’s look a little further as black seems to have some dangerous initiative. } 34…Rf2+ 35.Kg1 Rg2+ 36.Kf1 Nxg3+ 37.Ke1 Rg1+ 38.Kd2 Rg2+ 39.Kd3 Be4+ 40.Ke3 Re2+ 41.Kf4 Nh5+ 42.Kg4 { but black’s attack is running out of steam and white has multiple checkmating threats. } 42…Bf3+ 43.Kxf3 Re3+ 44.Kxe3 Nxg7 45.Qf7 Nf5+ 46.Kf4 { and now black has run out of tricks. } 46…Nxh4 47.Qh7# ) 30.Qxe4 { much better than capturing with the knight. } 30…Nh5 31.Rd6 { perfect } 31…Ng7 32.Qd3 Rf8 33.Rd7 Qe8 34.Ne4 ( 34.Qd6 { is an alternative path to victory. } 34…Nf5 35.Qc6 Nh6 36.Qc7 Nf7 37.Re7 Nxg5 38.Rxe8 Nf3+ 39.Kg2 Ne1+ 40.Kh3 Rxe8 { and Thalia may have a rook and knight against a queen but there is no coordination between the rook and knight so the side with the queen is much, much better. } 41.Qd7 Kf8 42.Qd2 Nf3 43.Qf4+ ) 34…Qb8 35.Nf6+ { The knight says a “hello” which might as well be a “goodbye.” } 35…Kh8 36.Qe3 Rxf6 37.exf6 { with the pawn on f6, the threat of a back rank mate enters the discussion. } 37…Nf5 38.Qe5 { what an elegant finish! Thalia resigns here because: } 38…Qxe5 ( 38…Qf8 39.f7+ { [%cal Ge5h8] } 39…Ng7 ( 39…Qg7 40.Rd8# ) 40.Qd6 Qxd6 41.Rxd6 h5 42.f8=Q+ Kh7 43.Rd7 e5 44.Qxg7# ) 39.Rd8# 1-0

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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