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Vachier Lagrave, Maxime Vs Ding, Liren

[Event “Biel Breisacher Memorial”]
[Site “Biel”]
[Date “2013.08.01”]
[Round “10”]
[White “Vachier Lagrave, Maxime”]
[Black “Ding, Liren”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A41”]
[WhiteElo “2719”]
[BlackElo “2714”]
[Annotator “Vachier Lagrave,M”]
[PlyCount “149”]
[EventDate “2013.07.22”]
[EventType “tourn”]
[EventRounds “10”]
[EventCountry “SUI”]
[EventCategory “19”]
[SourceTitle “CBM 156”]
[Source “ChessBase”]
[SourceDate “2013.09.17”]
[SourceVersion “1”]
[SourceVersionDate “2013.09.17”]
[SourceQuality “1”]

{Despite many wasted opportunities throughout the tournament, I had won enough
games to still be in contention for a shared first place. But it was necessary
to win and even though I was confident I would get a playable position as
Liren is always up for a fight, I was feeling quite tired from the long games
and earlier disappointments. But I somehow managed to drum up all my energy
for this game.} 1. c4 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. d4 d6 4. Ne2 $5 {Found during the always
crucial last hour of my preparation. Having no really good idea on my intended
1.e4, I started to dig desperately on any King’s Indian subtle move order to
put my opponent out of his comfort zone very quickly, and I stumbled upon that
idea of Ivanchuk’s, which immediately gives Black food for thought.} Nf6 5.
Nec3 O-O ({Maybe an immediate e5 makes sense here, with the idea} 5… e5 6. d5
Na6 7. Be3 Nc5 8. Nd2 a5 {and Black gets a setup he cannot achieve with
immediate castling. Though there is more work to do afterwards to justify this
setup, like finding counterplay on the kingside before White manages to repel
the Nc5 with a3 followed by b4.}) 6. Be2 Nfd7 $5 {A very interesting and
refreshing way to play, though possibly not so good objectively.} (6… e5 7.
d5 Nbd7 8. Bg5 $1 {A rather big difference, provoking …h6 is generally a
good thing for White} h6 9. Be3 Nc5 10. Nd2 a5 11. a3 $14) (6… Nc6 {might be
a critical try as well with the idea} 7. d5 Ne5 8. O-O (8. h3 c6 9. Be3 e6 $1
$13 {and now White has to castle because} 10. f4 $2 Nxc4 11. Bxc4 exd5 12. exd5
Re8 13. Qe2 Qe7 14. Kf2 b5 $1 {gives too much play to Black}) 8… c6 9. h3 a6
$1 10. a4 $5 {with sharp play, but Black isn’t allowed his counterplay on the
queenside so things look rather good for White to me.}) 7. d5 $5 (7. Be3 $1 {
is the automatic answer and probably good, as Etienne Bacrot told me after the
game, this could be the right way to play for White.} e5 8. d5 f5 9. exf5 $1 (
9. f3 Bh6 $1 {now this is the main reason why Bg5 is often a good idea for
White, as Bh6 disrupts White’s setup} 10. Bf2 Nf6 $13) 9… gxf5 10. f3 (10.
O-O f4 11. Bc1 Na6 {not talking about the objective value of Black’s setup
here, in general I wanted to avoid the typical KID setups which I wasn’t sure
whether they would be to my advantage, as my opponent virtually plays only the
King’s Indian himself, I thought I shouldn’t play into his hand too easily.})
10… a5 (10… e4 $5 {typical stuff but maybe White is fine after} 11. fxe4 f4
12. Bf2 Ne5 13. Nd2 {followed with Nf3}) 11. O-O Na6 12. Nd2 $14) (7. O-O $6 {
on the other hand is bad as Black’s knight gets to d4 easily with} Nc6 8. Be3
e5 9. dxe5 (9. d5 Nd4 10. Nb5 $8 {otherwise …c5 with already an advantage
for Black} Nxe2+ 11. Qxe2 f5 $13) 9… dxe5 $13) 7… e6 $6 {This was played
perhaps too quickly.} ({I thought the best plan for Black was to play} 7… Nc5
8. Be3 (8. Qc2 f5 $1) 8… a5 9. O-O Nba6 {followed by f5, for instance} 10.
Nd2 f5 11. exf5 Bxf5 12. Re1 Qd7 $13 {with very sharp play, but I think Black
could be doing fine.}) 8. O-O exd5 9. cxd5 c6 $2 {Here I don’t have any
explanation why Ding Liren played so fast.} ({I thought he had to play} 9… f5
{to justify his idea with the following sequence} 10. exf5 (10. Be3 $6 f4 11.
Bd4 Ne5 $13) 10… gxf5 $1 11. f4 $5 {I would probably have gone for this way
of playing to keep control of the essential e5-square, though this move also
has his drawbacks :} (11. Nd2 f4 12. Nde4 Ne5 13. f3 Nbd7 14. Bd2 a6 $13 {
even if White is objectively on top, this is getting very tricky for White and
Black’s play looks rather easy as long as he doesn’t lose his whole queenside.}
) (11. Bf4 Ne5 12. Qd2 Ng6 $1 13. Bg5 Qd7 $1 $13 {with …f4 to come}) 11…
Nf6 12. Be3 Nbd7 13. Na3 Nc5 14. Bd4 Bd7 15. Bf3 Re8 16. Rc1 $14) 10. Bf4 {
White has a lot of good options here, but I thought I might as well attack the
weak pawn here.} Be5 $5 (10… Re8 11. Bxd6 Nf6 12. e5 $1 Nxd5 13. Nxd5 cxd5
14. f4 {my calculations didn’t let me down and White is much better after} Qb6+
15. Kh1 Qxb2 16. Na3 $16) (10… Ne5 11. Na3 (11. Qd2 {also gives White very
good play.}) 11… g5 12. Bxe5 $1 Bxe5 13. Nc4 $14) 11. Bxe5 dxe5 {Here
basically Black’s idea is to manage to develop as soundly as possible, knowing
he can never exchange pawns on d5 at it would leave White with a formidable
passed pawn on d5 – or even d6, supported by rooks and knights, and combined
with an open c-file, that would most of the time be devastating. Meanwhile,
White will take his chances to hinder Black’s development in response and try
to create weaknesses in Black’s position.} 12. Na3 {A very logical move as the
knight belongs generally on c4, and it doesn’t cover the important d-file from
the a3-square.} Nb6 $1 {Controlling the c4-square and pointing out the only
drawback of Na3, as now a4-a5 is not possible for White.} (12… Nf6 13. Nc4
Qe7 14. a4 {would give White a tremendous position}) (12… Qg5 13. Nc4 Nb6 14.
Ne3 Rd8 15. Qb3 $16) 13. Rc1 Qe7 (13… Qg5 $5 {I thought this might just be
the best square for Black’s queen.} 14. Nc2 $1 (14. Qd3 Na6 15. Rfd1 Nb4 $1 16.
Qg3 (16. Qf3 f5 $1 17. dxc6 Nxc6 $14) 16… Qxg3 17. hxg3 {with only a small
advantage for White here, Black’s position is suspect but the worst is over
with the exchange of queens}) 14… Rd8 15. Ne3 cxd5 16. exd5 Nc6 $1 17. Bd3
Nd4 18. Ne4 $16) 14. Qd3 Rd8 15. Rfd1 Bd7 {This move surprised me a bit as I
was expecting Na6 all the time, but maybe it is the best chance to hold things
together at the moment with the bishop on e8, then try to seize a decent
opportunity later to develop the rest of the queenside.} (15… Na6 16. Nc4 $1
(16. Bf3 Nb4 17. Qe3 {gives also White a clear advantage, but Nc4 gives more
concrete problems to Black and is logical since the development is finished.})
16… Nxc4 17. Qxc4 Rd6 {here concrete play is a viable option:} 18. dxc6 Rxc6
19. Nd5 Qg5 20. h4 $1 $16) (15… cxd5 $2 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. exd5 $18) 16. Nc4
Nxc4 17. Qxc4 Be8 18. Qb3 $1 {With the obvious idea of hindering more and more
Black’s development.} b6 (18… Kg7 19. d6 $1 {the other point of Qb3!} Qd7 20.
Nb5 $1 Na6 21. Na3 f6 22. Bxa6 bxa6 23. Qe3 $18) 19. a4 {Finally managing to
provoke weaknesses on the queenside.} Qc7 (19… Nd7 20. dxc6 Nc5 21. Nd5 $1
Nxb3 22. Nxe7+ Kf8 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. c7 $18) 20. a5 bxa5 (20… Nd7 21. Nb5 $1
Qb8 22. dxc6 Nc5 23. Rxd8 Qxd8 24. Qd5 {is the easy way to the win here.}) 21.
Qa3 a6 {A bit desperate but it is hard to offer another move to develop the
queenside as the N still can’t move.} 22. Na4 Qb7 23. Nc5 Qb4 {Here I had
mixed feelings, I knew that I had played more or less precisely and that I
still had a huge advantage, but at the same time I was not seeing any forced
wins yet and I had used up a lot of time on the clock. Given my history of
wasting great positions in the tournament, it would already not have surprised
me at all had I managed not to win this position…} 24. Qxb4 axb4 25. Nb7 Rd7
26. Na5 $1 {Up til here I did a great job overall, exploiting my opponent’s
inaccurate play in the opening.} Rc7 (26… Raa7 27. Rc4 $1 Rd8 28. d6 $18) 27.
d6 $6 {This was played too fast, as I was already lacking time.} ({
Nevertheless, had I spent 30 seconds more, I might have found} 27. Bg4 $1 {
which wins on the spot as d6 is a far more devastating threat. Black has no
choice but to play} Bd7 28. Bxd7 Nxd7 29. Rxc6 Rac8 30. Kf1 $18) 27… Rc8 28.
Nc4 Nd7 29. Bg4 Rd8 ({I had managed to calculate this variation:} 29… f5 30.
exf5 h5 31. Bf3 $1 gxf5 32. Ne3 e4 33. Be2 Bg6 34. Bc4+ Kf8 35. Be6 $18 {
, but I underestimated the technical difficulties remaining in the game,
thinking that my position was absolutely winning.}) 30. Bxd7 Bxd7 31. Nxe5 a5
$1 {Forced to create a passed pawn and some counterplay on the queenside.} 32.
Rd4 {But I thought this move was preventing it with great effect. My idea was
to follow with Nd3-c5 with an easy win.} b3 $1 {Now this move was an
unpleasant surprise; my position is still won but I have to allow some
unpleasant counterplay.} 33. Nxd7 (33. Nxc6 {The other choice, which I
rejected on the account of} Bxc6 34. Rxc6 a4 35. Rb4 $1 {the move I missed,
the Rc6 helps consolidate and after} (35. Rb6 Rdc8 $1 36. g3 Rc2 37. d7 Rd8 {
and Black holds because the king can now come to e7. So my thought that
Black’s rook is worse on d7 was almost right!}) 35… Rac8 36. Rxc8 Rxc8 37. f4
{White wins}) 33… Rxd7 34. Rxc6 Kg7 (34… a4 35. g3 $1 Kg7 (35… a3 36.
bxa3 Rxa3 (36… Rb8 37. Rc1) 37. Rb4 $1 $18) 36. Rc7 $1 Rxc7 37. dxc7 Rc8 38.
Rxa4 Rxc7 39. Rb4 $18) 35. Rb6 $6 (35. Rc7 $1 {was probably the easiest win
here, with the idea} Rxc7 36. dxc7 Rc8 37. Rc4 Kf6 38. Kf1 Ke6 39. Ke2 Kd7 40.
Kd3 {and the pawn endgame is winning. For some unknown reason I decided
against it though.}) 35… a4 36. e5 $1 {I thought that now nothing really bad
could happen as my position looks very solid, but here Ding Liren again
defended resourcefully.} g5 $1 (36… Re8 37. f4 f6 38. Rb5 $1 $18) 37. h4 $6 {
Too hasty, I miscalculated something in my time trouble.} (37. g3 {would have
been the right way to play as after} Ra5 38. f4 gxf4 39. gxf4 Kg6 40. Kf2 Kf5
41. Rb8 $1 a3 42. bxa3 Rxa3 43. h4 h5 44. Ke2 {and White wins without too much
trouble. But I didn’t really like the idea of weakening my king as it would
allow some counterplay with no time to calculate.} Ra2+ 45. Kd3 Rh2 46. Rxb3
Rxh4 47. Kc4 $1 Rxf4 48. Rxf4+ Kxf4 49. Kd5 Ra7 50. Rb1 $1 {with an easily won
endgame.}) 37… Ra5 $1 38. Re4 Kg6 $1 (38… h6 39. h5 $1 {cuts off Black’s
king and now after g3-f4 White has an easy win as Black has no counterplay
anymore.}) 39. g4 h5 $1 {And now suddenly things are not easy at all for me.}
40. gxh5+ (40. e6 fxe6 41. Rxe6+ Kf7 {I thought I had seen a win in this
position, but suddenly I realised there was none.}) 40… Kxh5 {Now with more
time on the clock I thought I had time to be precise again and not to let the
win slip.} 41. Rbb4 Rda7 $1 {Another precise defence to give me a hard time.} (
41… Kg6 42. Rxa4 Rxa4 43. Rxa4 gxh4 (43… f6 44. Ra7 $1 {I actually managed
to see this idea which leads to an easy win} Rxa7 45. e6 Ra1+ 46. Kg2 Rd1 47.
d7 $18) 44. Rf4 $1 $18) 42. Kg2 gxh4 43. Rxh4+ Kg6 44. Rhd4 Rd7 45. Rxa4 $2 {
I don’t know if this move lets the win slip, but it was obviously better to
play} (45. f4 a3 46. bxa3 Rxa3 47. Rb8 Kf5 48. Kf2 {after which it seemed to
me that White should win, but the consequences were anything but easy to
calculate:} Ra2+ 49. Ke3 b2 50. Rdb4 f6 $1 {creating some new counterplay} 51.
Kd4 $1 (51. Rf8 Ke6 $1 52. Rxf6+ Kd5 53. Rf8 Ra3+ 54. Kf2 Rh7 $1 55. d7 $8 Rxd7
56. Rxb2 Rh7 {and the win is probably only a matter of very good technique.})
51… Ra1 52. Kd5 $1 fxe5 53. fxe5 Rd1+ 54. Kc6 Ra7 55. Rxb2 Kxe5 56. Re2+ Kf6
57. Rf8+ Kg6 (57… Kg7 58. Re7+ $1 Kxf8 59. Rxa7 $18) 58. Rg2+ Kh7 59. Rf6 {
and White should find a way to win somewhere there, probably by managing to
exchange one pair of rooks.}) 45… Rxe5 46. Rab4 Re6 47. Rb6 {Now here I was
again with not much time on the clock, and this time a position I thought was
drawish. But at least the situation changed and it is Ding Liren who has to
play precisely, while I have all the time in the world to improve my position
gradually and come up with a plan.} Kf5 48. Kf3 Kg5 49. Rd5+ (49. Rb5+ Kf6 50.
Rbd5 Re1 51. Rd1 Re8 52. R1d3 {this is another setup for White which I think
is drawish.}) 49… Kf6 50. Rd4 Kg5 51. Rd3 Kf6 52. Rd5 Kg6 53. Rd2 {Winning a
lot of time and trying to get to move 60 without any complication or committal
pawn move.} Kg7 $6 (53… Kf5 54. Rb5+ Kf6 55. Rbd5 {Probably it would have
been wiser to prevent the king from coming to the 4th rank and instead allow
both rooks on the d-file. But it was not easy to foresee White’s plan next,
and it was also not easy to consider entering that position, even though after}
Re8 56. R2d3 Rb8 {Black should hold as White’s king cannot enter the queenside
quite yet} 57. Ke4 Rb4+ 58. R3d4 Rb6 59. Kd3 Rc6 $14) 54. Kf4 Kg6 55. f3 Kf6
56. Rd5 Rd8 57. Rf5+ Kg6 58. Rd5 Kf6 59. Rd3 Rd7 60. Kg4 Kg6 (60… Ke5 61.
Rb5+ Kf6 62. Rf5+ Kg7 63. Rfd5 Kf6 64. f4 $1 Kg7 65. Kf3 $1 $16 f5 $8 66. Rxf5
Rexd6 67. Rxd6 (67. Rxb3 $2 Rd3+ 68. Rxd3 Rxd3+ 69. Ke4 Rb3 $11) 67… Rxd6 68.
Rb5 Rd3+ 69. Ke4 Rh3 70. Ke5 $1 Re3+ 71. Kf5 $1 {Here White is winning easily
as Black’s rook is committed to the third rank.} Kf7 72. Rb7+ Ke8 73. Kf6 Rh3
74. f5 Rf3 $8 75. Re7+ Kf8 76. Rf7+ Ke8 77. Rb7 $1 $18 {Black is in zugzwang:}
Rh3 (77… Kd8 78. Ke6 Re3+ 79. Kf7 $18) 78. Rb8+ Kd7 79. Kg7 Rg3+ 80. Kf7 $18)
61. f4 {I convinced myself that this was the only way to make progress now.}
f5+ 62. Kf3 Rd8 63. Rd2 $1 {Important waiting move} Rd7 64. Rd5 Rd8 65. Rbb5 $1
{And now Black has a very tough decision with little time on the clock. Anyway
it was at that time that I thought that my position was winning again. And
probably I was right.} Rdxd6 (65… Rexd6 66. Rxf5 Rd2 $1 67. Rg5+ Kf6 68. Rxb3
$1 {simplest} R2d3+ 69. Rxd3 Rxd3+ 70. Ke4 Rb3 71. Rg2 Rb4+ 72. Kd5 $1 Rb8 $1 (
72… Rxf4 73. Re2 $18) 73. Rf2 Kf5 74. Kc6 $1 {and Black is in zugzwang:} Rc8+
75. Kb7 Rc4 76. Ka6 $1 {and Black can’t prevent the advance of the b-pawn to
b4 with an easy win.}) (65… Rf6 $2 66. d7 $1 {this is why the waiting move
was important, to put Black’s rook on d8.}) 66. Rxf5 Re1 (66… Rd3+ 67. Kg4
Re2 68. Rb6+ Kg7 69. Ra5 $1 {combining the weaknesses of Black’s king and b3
with perfect effect.} Rg2+ 70. Kf5 Rd7 71. Rxb3 {and this is probably a
technical win. But I thought keeping both pairs of rooks on the board was
Black’s best bet.}) 67. Rg5+ Kf6 68. Rbf5+ Ke6 69. Re5+ $1 {This was the
simplest. Now White is probably winning though there is still some work left.}
Rxe5 70. Rxe5+ Kf6 71. Ke3 $1 (71. Re3 Kf5 $1 {forces White to go back as after
} 72. Rxb3 $4 Rb6 {Black manages to save himself.}) 71… Rb6 $6 (71… Rd1 {
was the best chance, but after} 72. Rb5 Rh1 73. Kd4 Rh3 74. Kc4 (74. Ke4 {
should be winning as well but it is far more complicated, while 74.Kc4 is a
textbook win.}) 74… Rf3 75. Rxb3 Rxf4+ 76. Kc5 {This is a textbook win: here
are some variations but it is always useful to try and work it out in more
detail.} Ke7 (76… Ke6 77. Rb7 $1 {cutting the black king off in this fashion
is often effective. 77.Rd3 also wins but in a much more complicated manner.}
Rf2 78. b4 Rc2+ 79. Kb6 Kd6 80. b5 {and Black cannot prevent the march forward
of the b-pawn.}) 77. Rd3 {and this position is a rather easy win, as I somehow
remembered, the b-pawn finally manages to get to b5:} Rf8 78. b4 Rc8+ 79. Kb5
Rb8+ 80. Kc4 Rc8+ 81. Kb3 Rb8 82. Rd4 $1 Ke6 83. Kc4 Rc8+ 84. Kb5 Rb8+ 85. Kc6
{and finally the b-pawn manages to advance.}) 72. Kd3 Rd6+ 73. Kc3 Rd1 74. Re4
Kf5 75. Rd4 1-0

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