Post #1

Chess Structures in Practice – Carlsbad Structure

It’s been a while since I finished writing Chess Structures, but I like the topic so much that I keep coming back to it – I know how much it improved my understanding of chess. I follow games on Chessbomb pretty much daily and I really enjoy it when I see a nice ‘structure-concept’ being applied. Often these games reproduce ideas shown in the book almost identically, while sometimes there are small (yet very important!) differences. So I thought, why not start a blog in which I will, once in a while, post a game which builds upon the ideas I shared with the readers of my book. John Shaw was kind enough to publish this post on the Quality Chess blog.

Now let’s get started with some chess. As you may have realized, almost every game in my book was decisive (that is, not a draw) since drawn games (especially agreed draws) are like an unfinished story, and people just don’t like to read stories without an ending… Anyway, the only exception to this rule was Onischuk – Dominguez from the World Cup of 2013. This game was a Carlsbad structure (Chapter 5) which I thought was very instructive, as it shows how Black might completely neutralize White’s queenside plans. A few days ago, as I was following the Women’s World Championship in Sochi, I found a great example which pretty much takes off where Dominguez left off, and brings home the full point. The contenders: young star Guo Qi from China was White against World finalist Natalia Pogonina. Let’s see the game:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 c6 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.e3 Nh5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Be2 Nhf6  

White deviates from theory, possibly to prevent …Ne4. This is a little imprecise since quickly playing b2-b4-b5 should be the priority.
Normal was 11.0–0 to follow up with Rab1, b2-b4-b5, and if 11…Ne4 12.Nxe4 dxe4 13.Nd2 Nf6 14.Rab1!? we have transposed to Chapter 20, the French Type II (with colours reversed) where White’s prospects are good, since the break b4-b5 is easy to carry out, and Black lacks material (and moves) to create serious kingside threats.

11…Nb6 12.0–0 0–0 13.Bd3
If 13.Rab1 then 13…Bg4! 14.Bd3 Bh5 is similar to the game.

13…Bg4 14.Rab1 Bh5!
Black is aiming to trade light-squared bishops, which is a good idea.

15.b4 a6
A standard reply, to trade off a-pawns, getting rid of a potential weakness.

If 15…Bg6 then 16.Bxg6 hxg6 17.b5!? would typically create problems for Black, since both the a7- and c6-pawns can become weaknesses, however White’s play has been imprecise, and after 17…Rfc8 18.bxc6 Rxc6! Black has good counterplay (but not 18…bxc6? when White is a little better).

After 16.a4 Bg6 17.Bxg6 hxg6 the standard 18.b5?! is met strongly by 18…cxb5 19.axb5 a5! with an edge. Black has a passed pawn, making White’s entire enterprise a failure.

16…Nxa4 17.Qxa4 Bg6 18.Bxg6 hxg6 19.Qc2
My favourite moment in the game; Pogonina is doing well, but now how should she stop a4 and b4-b5?

19…Ne8! 20.a4 Nd6

Black is slightly better.
The position is almost identical to the game Onischuk – Dominguez (annotated in Chapter 5). White’s queenside play is no longer dangerous. The big difference between this game and the one in the book is that here Black has a half-open h-file, creating better prospects for kingside play.

White continues a futile attempt at queenside play. If instead 21.Rfe1, trying to simplify with e3-e4, then 21…Rfe8! and White is unable to escape from her inferior position.

21…Rfe8 22.Qd3 Rac8 23.Nb3 g5!
Black begins the kingside action!

24.Nc5 g6 25.Re1 g4

Black has an easy plan: …Kg7, …Rh8, …Qh4 and a checkmating attack. Meanwhile, has White made any progress on the queenside?

26.Qe2 Qh4


White neutralizes the kingside attack, at the cost of a permanent weakness on e4. More solid was 27.g3 Qg5 28.f3 gxf3 29.Qxf3 Kg7 when Black has just an edge.

27…Kg7 28.g3 Qh3 29.Qg2 Qh5 30.Rb2

30.e4? would not help after 30…dxe4 31.Nxe4 Qd5! 32.Nxd6 Qxd4+ 33.Kh1 Qxd6–+.

30…Re7 31.Qf1 Nc4 32.Rbe2 Rce8 33.Qf2 a5!

Black is clearly better. White’s forces are tied down, and Black creates a second front of attack. As it turned out, only Black was able to create threats on the queenside. The rest of the game bears less relevance to my topic, so I will leave it almost no comments.

34.bxa5 Qf5 35.Nb3 Qd3 36.Nc5 Qf5 37.Nb3 Kf8 38.Nc5 Nxa5 39.Rb2 Kg7 40.Rb4 Kg8 41.Re2 Qc8 42.Nd3 f6 43.Nb2 Qc7 44.Qe1 b6 45.Qc3 Kg7 46.Kf2 Nb7 47.Nd1 Nd6

All of Black’s dreams have come true and another diagram is in order!

48.Qd3 c5 49.dxc5 bxc5 50.Rbb2 Ne4+ 

51.Kg1 Qc6 52.a5 d4 53.Rb6 Qd5 54.a6 Rd7 55.Reb2 Nd6 56.Rf2 Nf5! 57.Re2 
Or 57.exd4 Re1+ 58.Rf1 c4! 59.Qd2 Rxf1+ 60.Kxf1 Qh1+ forces checkmate.

Black’s central pawns begin to roll, deciding the game nicely.

58.Qb1 d3 59.Ra2 Nxe3 60.Nc3 Qd4 61.Rb7 Nd5+ 62.Kf1 Nxc3 
White resigns.

I don’t know about you, but finding this game made me really happy!

Final Remarks

1. A tiny structural difference (the capture …hxg6) gave Black good kingside prospects at absolutely no risk.
2.To nobody’s surprise, placing a knight on d6 to stop White’s queenside play proved effective once again.

I shall return in about a week with another example of “Chess Structures in practice”. Next time I will also have an analysis board, I haven’t figured how to embed one, though you can see the game in this link:

Game Link,

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions or questions. If you liked this blog post, click “Follow” at the top of the page to receive an email once a new blogpost is out. I will try to post once per week.

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