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7.15.10 King’s Indian Defense Fianchetto Variation with …c6
by John Cope

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. c4 d6 5. 0-0 0-0 6. d4 c6

This is the fianchetto variation of the King’s Indian Defense, which is one of White’s most dangerous lines against this popular defense. White believes that the bishop on g2 will help defend against any kingside attacks, which Black often gains in the King’s Indian after the center locks up and Black plays the pawn break f7-f5.

In this variation, White has a space advantage while Black has flexibility and two potential pawn breaks (e7-e5 and b7-b5) to challenge the White pawn center.

 

7. Nc3 Bg4

Black has many plausible plans on the move, and 7 … Bg4 is one of them. Other interesting moves include 7 … Qa5, 7 … Qb6, and 7 … a6. By putting his bishop on g4 Black develops the piece actively, but also needs to be ready to trade the bishop for the f3-knight if the bishop is prodded by h2-h3.

8. Bg5

Probably better is 8. h3 forcing Black to give up the light squared bishop immediately or lose time retreating it. After 8 … Bxf3 9. Bxf3 White has gained the two bishops. While this is not a major factor in the game at the moment, it may become so if the game opens up later on. Furthermore, White’s strong bishop on the long diagonal now has no opponent, which suggests that White may have a slight advantage here.

8 … Nbd7 9. Bxf6

White trades his bishop for Black’s knight immediately. This is a relatively unexplored plan for White in this variation in tournament practice. While the knights will be more useful if the game stays closed, Black’s pawn breaks may now come with more effect, as if Black can blow open the game he will have the advantage of the two bishops. Furthermore, this trade ignores the guideline of not trading pieces when you have more space, which will become apparent on the next move.

Note that in open games having both bishops is very beneficial. Bishops are long range pieces that enjoy open positions, as they can move from one side of the board to another in one fell swoop. The knight, which is a more plodding piece, prefers closed positions because while it cannot move across the board in one move, it can hop over other pieces.

9 … Nxf6 10. h3 Bd7

Normally this bishop would be awkwardly placed on d7, interfering with the development of Black’s queen’s knight. However, White’s early bishop trade on f6 allows the bishop to slot itself here without clogging up another piece’s development, which again shows why it is often beneficial for the side with more space to keep more pieces on the board.

Also possible was 10 … Bxf3 11. Bxf3 Qd7 (Attacking h3) 12. Bg2 when Black can play 12 … Rae8 preparing an e7-e5 push.

11. e4 Qc8 12. Kh2 Qc7 13. Rc1

An alternative plan was to play 13. e5 dxe5 14. dxe5 Nh5 when Black’s pieces look somewhat awkwardly placed. Black has resources to keep the position equal, but practically the position looks slightly easier for White to play.

13 … Rac8

This looks to be a case of the power of suggestion. The black rook isn’t doing much on c8, but perhaps the players on the Black side were somewhat influenced to put the rook here by White’s previous move. More purposeful is 13 … Rad8 trying to gear up for the thematic push of the King’s Indian: e7-e5. Putting the rook opposite White’s queen also makes strategic sense in the long run.

14. d5

Again, the plan with 14. e5 dxe5 15. dxe5 Nh5 looks slightly more promising for White due to the awkward placement of Black’s king’s knight.

14 … c5

This move keeps the position locked down, which makes sense given the position of the Black queen relative to the rook on c1.

15. Nb5?

This move overlooks that after a trade on b5 the e4 pawn is hanging. White is not following a plan with this move, but is attracted by the one move attack on the queen. Even if …Bxb5 were not possible, this attack on the queen does little to bother Black. Instead, White should have focused on continuing to improve each piece while keeping everything protected. Thus, 15. Re1, which protects e4, leads to a very evenly balanced position.

15 … Bxb5! 16. cxb5 Nxe4  -/+

Black now has a clear advantage. Not only does Black have an extra pawn, but the Black minor pieces are more active than White’s—in particular, the bishop on g7 is a monster cutting down the a1-h8 diagonal.

17. Nd2 Nxd2

Also discussed at the board among some of the members of the Black team was 17 … Bxb2? However, this move allows trades away two of Black’s strong minor pieces for a White rook that was only marginally active. Thus, White can equalize after 18. Nxe4 Bxc1 19. Qxc1 when White has two pieces for a rook and two pawns, which is a roughly equal material situation. However, while the material is roughly equal, the most dangerous Black minor pieces have come off the board, which limits Black’s chances to gain the advantage.

The text move is correct and keeps Black’s advantage, trading into an interesting middle game where the only minor pieces are opposite colored bishops. This typically favors the side that is attacking, as the neither bishop can defend squares attacked by the opponent’s bishop.

18. Qxd2 b6 19. Rce1

This move is a bit strange, but its point is clear in a few moves. White plans to ram the f-pawn down Black’s throat in an attempt to gain attacking chances on the kingside, which is why the second rook staying on f1 rather than c1 makes some sense.

19 … Rfe8

While this move is not objectively bad, I thought it showed that Black was drifting a little bit. While placing a rook on e8 makes a lot of sense, the c8 rook is doing very little at the moment and the kingside is beginning to look just a tad short on defenders. While this shouldn’t be a major problem with accurate play, there is no reason to get White’s hopes up about a kingside advance. As such, I thought that 19 … Rce8 was a stronger defensive move, keeping the other rook on f8 to protect f7 and contest any kingside gestures if necessary.

20. h4 Qd7

I didn’t like this move much at all. It seems to justify White’s previous move by giving the opportunity to play Bh3 at the right moment. More active is 20 … c4 with the idea of pushing the c-pawn as far as possible to open up lines for Black’s rooks, especially since he has decided to keep one on c8!

21. a4

The Bh3 idea doesn’t pan out just yet, as Black can block with …e6.

21 … Qd8 22. f4 e6 23. b3 Qd7 24. Bh3

This is a critical move, attacking the pinned pawn on e6. Black needs to respond sensibly to retain the advantage.

24 … Qd8?

This move is horrible, and Black’s team shows that they have been playing without a plan. The queen shuffle between d7 and d8 has done nothing to improve the Black position, while White has undertaken positive action with Bh3 and advancing the f-pawn. Furthermore, this move simply drops a pawn as it leaves e6 short on defenders.

25. dxe6

This pawn is now a bone in Black’s throat, threatening f7. Worse, the pawn cannot be taken as 25 … fxe6 allows 26. Bxe6+ winning the exchange by forking the Black king and the rook on c8. White would have a winning position due to control of the open file and a material advantage.

25 … Rc7?!

It is hard to criticize this move—Black’s team knows that they need to defend f7, and they want to get the c8-rook out of the line of fire of the h3-bishop. However, this move allows White a very strong attack, as there is a tactical problem with the rook’s defense of the f7 pawn.

A better defense would have been 25 … f5!, hemming in the h3-bishop and removing the pawn from danger. However, White still has a clear advantage after 26. Qd5! Qe7 27. h5 with a stronger position in the center and a potential attack on the kingside.

26. exf7+!  +-

Absolutely correct! White presses the attack and sees that 26 … Rxf7? loses material because of 27. Be6 pinning the rook to the Black king.

26 … Kxf7

This move is forced to avoid the line discussed in the previous note in which Black loses the exchange. However, Black’s king has been forced to step out towards the battle, and White now had the chance to make the king feel the heat!

27. f5!?

This move has a very strong idea, but it looks to be out of order. White correctly tries to open up the open up files for the attack on the Black king, but this move order misses a chance to trap Black’s king in the center.

27. Qd5+! looks strongest, forcing 27 … Kf8. After that, White has the pleasant choice between now playing 28. f5 or instead cashing in with 28. Rxe8+ Qxe8 (28 … Kxe8? 29. Qg8+! Bf8 30. f5! and Black’s king will not survive.) 29. Qxd6+ with an enduring attack and a material advantage.

27 … Rxe1

More accurate was 27 … Be5! bringing the bishop to a strong centralized square, blocking the e-file, and allowing the king a flight square on g7.

28. fxg6++!

This strong intermezzo move allows Black no rest. The rook on f1 is immune because the Black king is in double check, meaning that the only way to escape is to move the king. If the Black king moves to the e-file, than White has the pleasant choice of which piece to recapture with on e1, giving check in the process. This means that Black’s king needs to move to the g-file to escape.

28 … Kg8

Also possible is 28 … Kxg6 29. Rxe1. White still has an extremely strong attack, but at least Black has one more pawn for his troubles.

29. gxh7+!

Again correctly delaying the recapture of the rook on e1 to bag another pawn and eliminate another defender of the Black king.

29 … Kxh7 30. Qxe1 Be5!

The team playing Black finds the best move in a bad situation. This move blocks the e-file, brings the bishop to a strong post, and prepares to swing the rook over to the kingside to defend.

31. Bf5+ Kh8 32. Kg2 Rf7 33. Qd1 Kg7 34. Qg4+ Kf8 35. Qh5

Stronger is 35. h5! planning to either push the h-pawn as far as it will go or to secure White’s light squared bishop on g6 at some point.

35 … Qf6

An interesting alternative was 35 … Qa8+!? 36. Rf3 Qd5 centralizing the queen and trying to tie down White’s rook to defense.

36. Qxf7?

This combination does nothing to help White. Instead, it trades away his attacking chances for an endgame with opposite colored bishops—one that would likely peter out into a draw if not for the happenings over the next few moves.

36 … Kxf7

Also possible is 36 … Qxf7 37. Bd3 also leading to an endgame where White is better but where a draw looks to be the likely result.

37. Bg6+??

The last move of the game for White is a terrible blunder! It seems that White panicked because adjudication was likely to occur after this move due to time constraints. After sacrificing the queen, the team playing White sees that there is little follow up. However, instead of playing the calm 37. Bd3, which would have maintained a small advantage for White, the White team throws a piece away for nothing and loses the game.

37 … Kxg6 -+

Here the game was adjudicated as a win for Black. This game was an interesting tactical battle, but it also showed the downfall of playing without a plan. After obtaining a tremendous position after winning the e4-pawn, Black played without a plan and allowed White to develop a very strong (and likely winning) attack. However, White missed the most decisive move order on move 27 and then later played an incorrect combination. Despite all of this, White would have obtained a draw in adjudication with the calm 37. Bd3 instead of the panicked 37. Bg6+. Overall, this was an interesting battle, especially for the format of the game, and it had many interesting tactical ideas. Black managed to pull out a hard fought win right at the de facto buzzer!

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