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Player: United  KeSetoKaibaChessHere Gold Member Subject: Sveshnikov & The Dreaded Dark Squares

2021-01-01 05:14:27
Sveshnikov & The Dreaded Dark Squares

This game may very well be one of Sveshnikov’s most stylish games. Naturally, something like “stylish-value” is difficult to measure: I can let one determine for themselves. The game in question is from Moscow, 1991. Evgeni Ellinovich Sveshnikov is playing for the White pieces and Ruslan Vladimirovich Shcherbakov is playing for the Black pieces.

Shcherbakov is no easy opponent. At the time of this game, he was already an International Master (IM) and in 1992 he was awarded the title of Grandmaster (GM) by FIDE.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. O-O Nge7 5. c3 a6 This is a line in the Sicilian Defense called the “Nyezhmetdinov-Rossolimo Attack” according to the opening books.

6. Ba4 b5 Of course, 6. Bxc6 is well known too; however, it is more natural to retreat the threatened Bishop and maintain the tension.

7. Bc2 d5 This is all still studied opening theory. Relocating the Bishop to c2 foreshadows a strong Bishop Pair aiming at the Kingside. Meanwhile, Black contests the center right away with 7…d5.

8. e5 d4 Perhaps 8. e5 is playable, but it may be on the border of being considered dubious because of 8…d4. The point being that the e5 pawn can be cut off from its defending forces and attacked like an isolated pawn thematically can be. These are incredibly strong players though. Maybe Sveshnikov sensed something in the air, or wanted to try 8. e5 as a prepared line. I do not know. However, 8. d4 appears more standard. This way, White threatens to play e5 and secure a nice position in the center.

A possible line might be: 8. d4 cxd4 9. a4! to break up the Queenside pawns. then 9…b4 10. cxd4 and White is certainly not worse with the central influence. 8. d4 cxd4 9. cxd4 looks like the more logical way to recapture, but it isn’t so great on account of allowing 9…Nb4. White really doesn’t want to concede one of the powerful Bishops and 10. Bb3? drops a pawn to 10…dxe4 while also gaining a tempo on the f3 Knight.

9. Be4 Bb7 10. a4 Ng6 Now White plays for the a4 idea mentioned earlier. Black’s Queenside pawns may be dangerous if allowed to roam free. A move like a4 is in order to fight for influence on this side of the board.

11. axb5 axb5 12. Rxa8 Bxa8 Black likely chose this route because 12…Qxa8 would appear inactive in a corner of the chess board - all alone. This isn’t typically how one gets the pieces active; they should be fighting for key points. Central control of the chess board and advantages like that should be contested over. However, 12…Qxa8 would have been an interesting alternative. It doesn’t appear natural to move the Queen into the corner, but it would command the a-file as well as creating a battery with the b7 Bishop.

Anyhow, we shall return to the game text.

13. Na3 Na7 14. Bxa8 Qxa8 As if the state of inactivity on the edge of the board couldn’t look even more funny. However, these are good moves. The a3 and a7 Knights have an active role; they are supporting the b5 square. White is attacking the Black pawn there and the Black Knight on a7 is protecting it. As for the Black Queen on a8, the recapture was necessary and the scope of the Queen along the diagonal (a8 through e4) does influence the center from here.

Placing pieces near the edge of the board is usually not best due to pieces not doing much there. The action is usually closer to the center of the board. This is not always the case though. This position is a good example of this: all of the pieces on the a-file are actively doing something.

15. Qb3 Qb7 16. cxd4 cxd4 It seems that White’s initiative is important here. The pattern appears to be White creating a threat and then Black responding to it. Black must be careful; letting the opponent keep the initiative indefinitely is a good way to lose in high-level chess games. One must fight for the initiative just like one should fight for pawns and outposts and other assets. Chess really is a strategic war.

17. Nxd4 Bxa3 18. bxa3 Nxe5 It looks like both sides are roughly equal, but White gains a nice advantage with 19. Bb2 and influence on the long diagonal.

19. Bb2 Nc4 Logically attempting to capture the b2 Bishop. In the open position here, the Bishop commanding the long diagonal is much stronger than the c4 Knight. Knights generally perform better in closed pawn structures. Conversely, Bishops generally perform better in open pawn structures. If there were more pawns locking up the center, than perhaps the Knights would be superior to the Bishops.

20. Qg3!? O-O 20. Qg3!? is an interesting idea. The Bishop on b2 is not hanging. It is en prise because it is defended tactically. If 20. Qg3!? Nxb2? 21. Qxg7 Rf8 22. Nxe6! is crushing. Capturing the e6 Knight is not possible because then the b7 Queen falls.

To address the threat of Qxg7, Black chose well in simply castling. King safety is important too; the King certainly wanted to get out of the center. Castling on move 20 often times is too long of a wait.

21. Bc3 g6? Preserving the Bishop with Bc3 makes sense, but 21…g6? turns out to be trouble. White provoked something like this, but …g6 simply weakens the dark-squares too much near the King. Recommended is 21…Qb8 to offer a Queen exchange and enter an endgame with equal material. If not 21…Qb8 then maybe 21…Nc8 with the idea of relocating the Knight to somewhere more active than a7.

If 21…Nc8, then Black must be prepared for 22. Nxb5 since 22…Qxb5?? blunders mate in one with 23. Qxg7# Therefore, 22. Nxb5 should be met with 22…f6 and cutting down on some of the Bishop range. It is debatable which plan is the lesser of two evils. Black seems to be forced into compromising the Kingside by one pawn move or another. Black’s position feels like the Greek mythology of Scylla and Charybdis. Which sea monster scenario is safer? Black truly is caught between a rock and a hard place.

22. d3 Nb6 It would seem Black is okay here, but now White prepares to take aim at the weakened dark-squares on the Kingside via 23. Qe5.

23. Qe5 Nd7? 23…Nd7? is a mistake that loses on the spot, but the crushing blow is not so simple to spot. Nevertheless, White finds the stylish move that instantly wins.

24. Qg7+!! 1-0 The brilliant Queen sacrifice with 24. Qg7+!! is the first move of a forced mate in 3 sequence. Sveshnikov wins because of the dreaded dark-squares Black has around their Kingside; without these square weaknesses present, such an attack would not be possible.

In the game, Black resigned. I’ll continue to checkmate though; the idea is not immediately obvious to all. 24…Kxg7 is forced. There is no way to decline the Queen sacrifice; the Black King has no escape squares.

25. Nf5+! and the King must move again. The Knight move controls the important square h6 (another weakened dark-square that …g6 created) and Black can’t take the Knight because this is a double check! The c3 Bishop is also giving a check from the discovered attack of moving the Knight. 25…Kg8 is forced.

26. Nh6# is a picturesque checkmate that highlights Black’s square weaknesses on the Kingside. 26. Ne7# is an alternative that ends the game to the same effect.

Sveshnikov played a remarkable game with the White pieces. We got this amazing checkmate sequence with a Queen sacrifice too. It is important to note how this was made possible. Provoking the opponent to move pawns in front of their castled King opens up possibilities like this. We should all learn to exploit these themes like Sveshnikov displayed masterfully.
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