Position: recognition, evaluation, analysis and calculation study.

(Diagram: White to move)

Black’s last move was 20… h6

Points for 20… h6:
- it made a plausible Qd1-h5 less effective
- it secured a flight-square for the king
- it somewhat weakened the a1-h8 and b1-h7 diagonals

General notes about the position:


• White has King-side and central pawn majority and he is a clear pawn up. Black seems to have compensation for that pawn, how much compensation? I’m not so sure but Black clearly has more space on the half-open e-file and as a result has better control over the centre.
• White’s h4-Knight is indeed on the rim but it is not clear whether the Knight is badly placed. It points towards key King-side squares and cannot easily be dislodged since …g5??? Is met by Nf6+ winning material.
• White’s a-pawn needs protection.
• White has a nice Knight on d5.


• Black is fully developed with almost all his forces centralized.
• Black has the Bishop-pair.
• Black’s DSB is a very useful piece which controls the f8-a3 Diagonal but its efficiency in dynamism is diminished in the Endgame since White has fair amount of pawns on dark squares.

Strategic and Tactical Squares and Diagonals

• A key Diagonal (which Black weakened) is the b1-h7 diagonal. It is likely (with support from White’s Knights) that White will be able to create tactical threats along this diagonal and some of its key squares.
• Key squares along the b1-h7 diagonal: e4, f5, g6. d3 is another key square but not in White’s favor! It can become a Black outpost.
• White has pressure along the h1-a8 Diagonal but that requires from him to keep his LSB safe or else Black may play … Bh3 or …Bd5 with either an exchange or stand off.
• The f6-square is quite weak, it stops Black from playing … g5 (which on some plans may help in a …g5 / … f5-f4 plan) but in some lines White can even “sac” his Knight with a Nf6+ and break Black’s King-side. For instance if Black moves his Queen then Nf6+ / Rxd6 is possible.
• Black’s DSB has control on the important diagonal f8-a3. Nearly all squares on this diagonal can be considered key squares!
• The c6- and b7-squares are weak and heavily controlled by White’s LSB (for instance if Black were to play …b6 White plays Nf6+!)
• The c3- and d3-squares are possible Black outposts and that makes them slightly vulnerable for positional plans. For instance, if White plays a premature f4 / e4 / Nf3 plan Black may answer that with … Bc5+ / … Nb4-d3.
• The Diagonal a1-h8 is a problematic diagonal. Since Black obtains the only DSB it is under his theoretical control but it is plausible for White to use it with Qa1 but not very likely.
• A key square for Black is a5, mostly for his Queen but also for his DSB and c6 Knight.

Outweighing one strategic element against another

1) Black's queen
1a) Positive: aggressively posted and supports the advance ...a5, ...a4 (which would enhance the mobility of Black's light-square bishop)
1b) Negative: far removed from the kingside
2) Black's d6 square is a hole (although it's heavily fortified)
3) White's knight versus Black's dark-square bishop
3a) Were all three White minor pieces on light squares, Black could exchange only two of them
3b) Knight is potentially the better minor piece if all else were eliminated except kingside pawns
4) White's d2-rook is "overworked" in having to protect a2 and d5 (which Black exploits in some lines)


• I’m not sure which are better the Knights or the Bishops. Black’s BP is strong but if one of them (I’m not even sure it matters which) is removed then I think White has better positional control in the Endgame. For instance, with Rook(s) on the d- or c-file(s) and a posted Knight on d4.
To take this further, if you remove all the pieces from the board but a White Knight on d4 and a Black Bishop on d7 then White has a very good Endgame with ideas such as h4-h5 to weaken Black’s KS pawns and prevent …g5 or …g6 / …f5. and then Kg2 / f4 / Kf3 / e4. Or a completely different approach, Kg2 / Kf3 etc.
• Unlikely to happen but still important to note is f4-f5 (attacking the Bishops) / f5-f6.

Theoretical black plans if he was the first to move
Black may attempt 1... Ne7 hoping for 2. Nxe7+ Bxe7 3. Rxd8 Rxd8 4. Qc2
b6 5. Nf3 Bf6 where his BP may prove the upper hand despite the material count.
Of course, White should not play 2. Nxe7+ but rather 2. Nc3
An imaginary continuation (purely for the fun of it but it does prove something about Black’s Weaknesses) is:
2... Qb4 3. Bxb7 Qxc3 4. Rxd6 Qc7 5. Rxd8 Rxd8 6. Qf3 g5 7. Ng2 g4 8. Qf6 Qxb7 9. Nf4 Rd6 10. Nh5 Nf5 11. Qe5 Qb6 12. h3, surprisingly White should win this imaginary line.
Black should play 2... Bc7 with the same ideas but less weaknesses.
Another likable Black plan is:
1... Ne5, eyeing the f3- and d3-square, centralizing the Knight and removing it from harms way.
If White tries the premature f4 / e4 plan Black obtains full positional compensation for his lost pawn.
2. f4 Nc6!!? 3. e4 Bxd5 4. Rxd5 Bc5+ 5. Kh1 Nd4

In reviewing the position it seems that white would like to:
- double Rooks on the d-file
- play Rfc1
- possibly to set Alekhine's-gun on the d-file.

Candidates move for white:

A) 21. Qe2
B) 21. Qc2
C) 21. Qh5
D) 21. Qb1
E) 21. e4

(I have completely disregarded both 21. Qc1 and 21. Qf3 because both disturb White’s game especially on the tactical level.

For instance:
21. Qc1 Qxc1 22. Rxc1 Bb4
{This does not only initiate the previously mentioned plan of later playing … Ba3 / … Nb4 but also to force White to abandon his plan as it no longer stand the tactics.}
23. Rdd1 Ba3 24. Rb1 (24. Rc2 Rd7 (24... g5 25. Nf6+ Kf8) 25. Rcd2 Red8 26. e4 Nb4) 24... Rd7 or 24… Bd6 {against Nf4}, White’s rearrangement is slightly more difficult.
23. Rd3 g5 24. Nf6+ Kf8

To my mind 21. Qf3 doesn’t make any sense at all since it disturbs the Bishop, doesn’t protect a2 and fulfill no purpose on f3.)

A) 21. Qe2. On e2 the Queen isn’t as vulnerable as she would be on the c-file (which one could argue for its misplacement as this would be the job of a Rook) while keeping the option of moving towards the King-side. A plausible plan is Rfd1 / h3 / f4 / e4 / Nf3 and a possible g4 that should utilize all the elements favoring White.

B) 21. Qc2 which, given enough time, may be best. It does serve the purpose of White’s plan yet it also controls the b1-h7 diagonal and the Rook-vacated c-file! Clearly, this “plus” may also prove a tactical minus if Black gets R-c8 in time. Black also has …Nc6-b4 ideas (attacking the Queen) as well as positional plans such as … Qa5 / … Ba3 / … Nb4 which may take too many squares around the Queen and unlike 21. Qe2 the Queen does not have the King-side to run to.

C) 21. Qh5 has its points too. Especially since a possible Bg2-e4 may become a stronger threat than having the Queen and Bishop in the other order as it would be in all the other Queen-moves! But 21. Qh5 leaves the a-pawn more vulnerable as well as the momentarily undefended d2 Rook.

D) 21. Qb1. the Queen serves the plan’s purpose, defends the a-pawn, obtains pressure over the b1-h7 diagonal and unlike 21. Qc2 it is not vulnerable for c-file Rook shifts or …Nb4. it also controls two semi-important key squares: d3 and f5.

! White may (in some lines) prefer to play the h4-Knight back to f3 and from there to d4, both 21. Qc2 and 21. Qb1 are immune to …Bg4 (which may not be that effective but it is certainly something to consider) while 21. Qh5 doesn’t allow it in the first place.

E) 21. e4. Despite the obvious pluses of 21. e4 I believe the inevitable isolated d-pawn (in case of …Be6xNd5) will (with black playing best moves) allow for a draw at best and possibly lose if he isn’t careful. There is no chance for a win. At least not in analytical terms, yes, possibly this is the best practical move white can make but surely not the best!

A few extra points on 21. e4

 Once White plays e4 he has given up (so to say) on several of his assets and since e4 in itself doesn’t guarantee a win and in fact adds tactical problems.

 White’s LSB is a powerful piece here. Much more than it usually is!
The tactics and pressure White exerts on the c6- and b7-squares are of extreme importance so to give up on these resources without the increase of another would diminish White’s assets.

 The b1-h7 diagonal is a key factor in this position. 21. e4 renders it irrelevant and even takes away the possibility of Qh5 / Be4.

 21. e4 creates weak squares as well: The c3- and d3- squares are now weaker and can easily be exploited by Black’s DSB (specifically with …Bc5 with or without the check) and Black’s Knight (specifically with ...Nb4 or ... Ne5. actually, it allows the Knight better activity altogether.) It also weakened the d4-sqaure, where upon …Bc5 (with the knight on c6) assumes control over what I can only describe as a short diagonal: c5-e3 and with it central control.

 The last point is the endgame.
A closer inspection should show that the isolated d-pawn (assuming Black captures the Knight on d5 and White recaptures with the e-pawn) doesn’t give White anything at all. I have not seen a single endgame (yet) where this pawn proved a decisive factor. Therefore 21. e4 would prevent White from recapturing on d5 with the Bishop (as a possible outpost) as well.

Variations for 21. e4:

21… Bb4 22. Rd3
Lines: A) 22…Bf8, B) 22… Bxd5, C) Main-Line – 22… Qa5

A) 22... Bf8
23. f4 Bc5+ 24. Kh1 Qxa2 25. Nc7 Rxd3 26. Qxd3 Rd8 27. Qb5 Bb6 28. Nxe6 fxe6 29. Bh3 (29. Nf3 Qc2) 29... Nd4 30. Qc4 Re8 31. Nf5 Qxb3 32. Qxb3 Nxb3 33. Nd6 Re7 34. Nc8 Re8 35. Nxb6 axb6 36. e5 (36. Rb1 Nc5 37. Rxb6 e5) 36... Nd4 37. Rb1 b5 38. Rb4 Rd8 39. Kg2 Kf7 40. Kf2 g5 41. fxg5 (41. Ke3 Nc2+) 41... hxg5 42. Bg2 Nf5 ( 42... b6 43. Be4) 43. Rxb5 Rd2+ 44. Kg1 (44. Kf3 g4+ 45. Kxg4 Rxg2) (44. Kf1
Ne3+) 44... Rd1+ 45. Kf2 Rd2+ 46. Kg1 Rd1+

B) 22... Bxd5
23. exd5 Ne5 24. Rd4 Bc5 25. Rd2 g6 26. Nf3 Ng4 27. h3 Nf6 28. Re1 Qa5

Main-Line C) 22…Qa5
23. a4
(23. f4 Bc5+ 24. Kh1 Qxa2 25. Nf3 Qa5, Black is probably winning)
23... Ne5 24. Rd4 Nc6 25. Rc4 a6
(25... Be7 26. f4? (26. Nf5 Bxf5 27. exf5 Bf8 should be ok) 26... Nb4 27. Qd2 Qb6+ 28. Nxb6 Rxd2 29. Nd5 Nxd5 30. exd5 Bxd5 31. Bxd5 Rxd5 32. Nf3 Rd3 33. b4 Ra3 34. b5 b6 35. Ne5 Bc5+ 36. Kg2 f6 37. Nd7 Re2+ 38. Kh3 Be7, Black is better)
26. Qc2

Branch: C1) 26… Bf8, C2) 26…Ne5, Main-Line C3) 26…Be7

C1) 26... Bf8
27. Qc3
(27. Rd1 Bxd5 28. exd5 Re1+)
(27. f4 Nb4 28. Qd2 Qb6+ 29. Nxb6 Rxd2 30. Rc7 (30. Nf3 Bxc4) 30... Nd3)
27... Qxc3 28. Rxc3 Nd4 29. Kh1 (29. Re1 Bxd5 30. exd5 Rxe1+) 29... Rc8 30. Rd3
(30. Rfc1 Rxc3 31. Rxc3 (31. Nxc3 Nxb3) 31... Bxd5 32. exd5 Re1+) 30... Bc5 31.
Rfd1 and now I’m not sure. Maybe 31… Nc6 or 31... b5 or 31... Ba7

C2) 26... Ne5
27. Rc7 Nd3 (27... b5) 28. Rxb7 ( 28. Rxf7 Ne1) 28... Bxd5 29. exd5 Nc5 30. Rxb4 Qxb4 31. Nf5 Nxb3 32. Qb2 f6 33. d6 Kf8 34. Bd5 Re5 35. Ne7 Rxd5 36. Nxd5 Qxd6 37. Nxf6 Nd4 38. Ne4 Qc6 39. Qb4+ Kg8 40. f3 a5 41. Qxa5 Nxf3+ 42. Rxf3 Rd1+ 43. Rf1 Rxf1+ 44. Kxf1 Qxe4, technical drawish endgame

C3) 26…Be7
27. Rd1 Bxh4
(27... Bxd5 28. exd5 Ne5)
(Quite interesting is: 27... Bd6 28. f4 Nb4 29. Qd2 b5 30. axb5 axb5 31. Rcc1 Qa7+ 32. Qd4 Qxd4+ 33. Rxd4 Nxd5 34. exd5 Bc8)
28. Rc5 Nb4 29. Rxa5 Nxc2 30. gxh4 Nb4 31. Rc5 Bg4
(31... b6 32. Rc7 Bxd5 33. exd5 Rd6)
(31... Kf8 32. Rc7 b6 33. Rb7 Bxd5 34. exd5 Rd6)
32. Rd2
(32. f3 Be6 33. f4 Bxd5 (33... b6 ) 34. exd5 Re3 35. Rc7 Rxb3 36. d6 Rd3 37. Rxd3 Nxd3 38. d7 Kf8 39. Bxb7 (39. Rc8 Ke7) 39... a5 40. f5 Ke7 41. Ba6 Ne5 42. Bb5 Nf3+
(42... Nxd7 43. Ra7 Kd6 44. Kf2 Ne5 45. Rxa5 Rc8)
43. Kf2 Nxh4 44. Rc5 Kd6 45. Rc6+ Ke7 46. f6+ gxf6 47. Ra6 Nf5 48. Rxa5 Nd4 49. Kg3 Nxb5 50. Rxb5 Rxd7 51. a5 Rd6, Draw)
32... b6 33.Rc3
(33. Rc4 Rxd5 34. exd5 Re1+ 35. Bf1 Bh3)
33... Kf8 34. f4 Be6
Seems like a draw at best no matter what.
21. e4 creates positional and tactical problems.

Evidently it appears that strategically speaking none but precise queen moves actually allow white to fight off black’s dynamics and keep his game safe and his positional assets grow until the positional assets take care of the win.

In the game I chose 21. Qb1 and I stand by my decision.

The full game:

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. g3 Nf6 6. Bg2 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. Nc3
O-O 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Na4 Bb6 11. b3 Bc7 12. Bb2 Re8 13. Rc1 Bd6 14. e3 Bf5 15. Bxf6 Qxf6 16. Nc3 Rad8 17. Nxd5 Qb2 18. Nh4 Be6 19. Rc2 Qa3 20. Rd2 h6 21. Qb1 Bb4 22. Rd3 Ne5 23. Nxb4 Qxb4 24. Rxd8 Rxd8 25. Nf5 Rd2 26. Nd4 Bd7 27. Qe4 Nc6 28. Nxc6 Qxe4 29. Bxe4 bxc6 30. a4 Kf8 31. Rc1 Be6 32. Rc3 c5 33. Kf1 Ke7 34. Bc2 Kd6 35. Ke1 Rd5 36. e4 Rd4 37. f4 f6 38. Ke2 Rb4 39. Rd3+ Kc6 40. Ke3 a5 41. h4 g6 42. Bd1 Bf7 43. g4 g5 44. h5 Be6 45. f5 Bf7 46. e5 fxe5 47. Rd8 Rd4 48. Bf3+ Kc7 49. Rh8 e4 50. Bxe4 Kd6 51. Rxh6+ Ke5 52. Bf3 Rb4 53. Kf2 Rxb3 54. Rh7 Kf4 55. Be2 Bd5 56. Ra7 Bf3 57. f6 Bxg4 58. Rg7 Rb6 59. f7 Rf6 60. h6 Ke4+ 61. Kg3 Bf5 62. h7 Bxh7 63. Rxh7 Kd4 64. Bh5 c4 65. Rh8 c3 66. f8=Q Rxf8 67. Rxf8 c2 68. Rc8 Kd3 69. Bg6+ 1-0

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