Zhao Xue’s impressive victory at the recent Grand Prix in Nalchik reminded me of some pleasant memories at the Candidates tournament in Shanghai, where I also had a notable start of 9.5 out of 10 and eventually ended up finishing first with three points ahead of the field. Xue played in Nalchik with a lot of energy and inspiration. Here is one example:

Zhao, Xue (2497) – Kosintseva, Nadezhda (2560) [E15]

Nalchik WGP 2011 Nalchik RUS (8), 17.10.2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qa4 Once a “side-variation” in recent times has become a popular alternative to the old main line with 5.b3.

5…Bb7 6.Bg2 c5 7.dxc5 bxc5 8.0–0 Be7 9.Nc3 0–0

10.Rd1 Now the focus of the game is the d-file. White will try to put pressure on Black’s d-Pawn.

10…Qb6 The Queen gets out of the pin and clears the d8 square for the Rook at the same time.

11.Bf4 Rd8 12.Rd2 White is ready to double the Rooks against the target on the d-file.

12…d6 Of course the natural question is why not play 12…d5 immediately? I think the following game gives the answer: 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Ne5 Na6 15.Rad1 Nc7 (If 15…Qe6 White gets a clear advantage after 16.Nc4! Nc7 17.Na5) and now the energetic 16.e4! gives White the advantage. After 16…dxe4? White wins a piece right away after 17.Nc4. In the Lautier – Macieja 2005 game White later converted his advantage to a full point.

13.Rad1 White now has a clear target in Black’s Pawn on d6.

13…h6 Black has some difficulties developing her Knight without losing the Pawn on d6. The game move intends to prevent the Bishop (of f4) moving to g5 after an e6-e5 advance (13…e5 14.Bg5). After seeing the challenges that Black faced in this game, it is probably more advisable to play 13…Ne8 instead, as many top players have tried in the past couple of years.

14.h3 The beginning of an interesting idea which will be revealed with White’s 16th move. In most games that reached this position, White here has to choose between offering trade of Queens with 14.Qb3 or with 14.Qb5. In one of the recent games, Black was fine after 14.Qb5 Ne8 15.e4 g5 16.Be3 Nd7 17.h4 g4 18.Ne1 Kg7 19.Bf4 Bc6 20.Qxb6 axb6 Wang Yue – Bacrot, Pearl Spring, 2010.

14…e5 Black has to try to chase the Bishop away from f4 in order to be able to develop the Knight to c6 or d7.

15.Be3 Nc6

16.Nh2 This is a new and creative move compared to the earlier played 16.Qb5 or 16.Qc2. The Knight is heading to g4 to offer the exchange of Knights to enhance the weakness of the d5 square.

16…Nd4 A very logical and good looking response.

17.Ng4 Nd7 White would have a solid plus after the trades with 17…Nxg4 18.hxg4 Bxg2 19.Kxg2 Qb7+ 20.Nd5 due to the weakness of the d5 square.

18.Nd5 Both Knights are centralized on d4 and d5 respectively. The big difference strategically is that White at some point will have the opportunity to chase Black’s Knight away with e2-e3, while Black on the other hand will not have a similar option.

18…Bxd5 The only move. It is true that White’s Knight is gone from the outpost on d5, but the arriving Bishop (while in a different way) will be just as powerful there.

19.Bxd5 Rab8

20.Bxh6! A powerful sacrifice which is more complex then it seems at first.

20…Qc7! The best answer, preparing Nd7-b6. Accepting the sacrifice will lead to trouble as after 20…gxh6 21.Nxh6+ Kg7 22.Nxf7.

21.Rxd4! Elegant play! After 21.Be3, White would not be able to hang on for too long to her extra Pawn. Black then would respond with 21…Nb6 22.Qa3 Nxd5 23.cxd5 f5 24.Nh2 and White’s d5 Pawn is rather weak. After 24…Bf6 (followed by e5-e4) or even the immediate 24…Qb7 Black gets a fine position.

21…exd4 Black needs to clear the e5 square for the Knight. Therefore, this recapture was much better than with the other Pawn: 21…cxd4? 22.Qc2! Nf8 23.Qf5 and White has a winning attack.

22.Qc2! Threatening with the deadly 23.Qg6.

22…Ne5! 23.Bf4! One has to know when to retreat, and here this was certainly the time. White’s attack would run out of steam after 23.Nxe5 dxe5 24.Qg6 Bf6.

23…Rb6 A resourceful defensive move to prepare against the Qg6 idea in case White exchanges on e5. The following two options would have been a lot worse:

a) 23…Bf8? would be met by 24.Bxe5 dxe5 25.Qg6 (threatening 26.Nf6+) and Black cannot save herself from the killer pins.

b) 23…Nxg4 24.hxg4 would just help White with two additional attacking resources g4-g5-g6 advance (to use the pin) or Kg2 followed by Rh1 to prepare a strong attack on the h file.

24.Qe4 Putting further pressure on the Knight on e5.

24…Bf8 25.Bg5 An interesting alternative idea was 25.b4!? cxb4 (If 25…Rxb4? 26.Bxe5 dxe5 27.Qg6 and White wins) 26.Nxe5 dxe5 27.Bxe5 Qd7 28.Bxd4 with an excellent position for White due to their powerful pair of Bishops.

25…Re8? This makes White’s life much simpler. Better was 25…Rdb8 although White is better anyway. 26.Rd3 Rxb2 (26…Nxd3? allows a forced checkmate after 27.Nf6+! gxf6 28.Qg6+ Bg7 29.Bxf6 Kf8 30.Qxg7+ Ke8 31.Qg8+ Kd7 32.Qxf7+ Kc8 33.Qe8+) 27.Nxe5 dxe5 28.Rf3 R8b7 29.Rxf7 Qxf7 30.a3 with a superior endgame.

26.f4 Nxg4 After 26…Be7 27.fxe5 (but not 27.Bxe7? Nxg4) 27…Bxg5 28.Rf1 White is winning.

27.Qxe8 Ne3? Now, it is “game over”. After 27…Nf6 28.Bxf6 gxf6 29.b3 the game would be still going for a while even if the outcome would be quite predictable.

28.Bd8 Rb8 29.Qxf8+! And a final “petite” combination.

29…Kxf8 30.Bxc7 Rxb2 31.Bxd6+ Ke8 32.Rc1 Nxd5 33.cxd5 Rxe2 34.Bxc5 d3 35.Rd1 A great game by Xue! 1–0

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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