Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Queen's Gambit Declined: The Quixotic Jouney of the f-Pawn

It is said there comes a moment of delight in every chess player's life when he or she discovers the Queen's Gambit. This saying is based on the idea that it is the King's Pawn opening which new chess players almost always play, and one is not introduced to the Queen's Gambit until somewhat later.

I learned the Queen's Gambit fairly early on, and since then have fluctuated between using it an the King's Pawn opening. I use both now, depending on the strength of my opponent.

The Queen's Gambit leads to play at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Dragons I annotated earlier. It is a positional game, often leading to a major piece endgame as the minor pieces tend to get traded off early in the game.

This game was played on 11/18/06 against zoroastro. We are both rated in the middle 1500's, and it is played at an initial two minutes plus a ten-second increment.

1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6

Black can also accept the "gambit" with 2...dxc4, which leads to a somewhat more open game. Note that White will recover the Pawn, so it is a gambit in name only, not a true gambit. 2...e6 is the classical, time-honored way to play this opening. The height of popularity of this opening was the titanic 1927 world championship match between those two giants, Alekhine and Capablanca. Going into the match, Alekhine had never beaten Capablanca in a tournament game, but he studied hard and was ready for their match, held in Buenos Aires. This match lasted a record 34 games, because the rule was one had to win six games to win the match. Alekhine won the match, 6-3, with 25 draws, and became the new world champion. The amazing thing is, the opening in 32 of the 34 games was the Queen's Gambit Declined!!

3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7 5 e3 0-0 6 Rc1 c6 7 Nf3 Nbdf7 8 Bd3 dc 9 Bxc4 Nd5 10 Bxe7 Qxe7 11 0-0 Nxc3 12 Rxc3 e5

The usual freeing move which allows Black to equalize by opening a line for his Queen Bishop to develop.

13 dxe5 Nxe5 14 Nxe5 Qxe5 15 f4 Qe4 16 Qe2

This is essentially the starting point for this opening. Black usually plays 16...Bf5 next, but there is no one way to proceed. The only real theme in this opening is that White will try to push his f-Pawn to f6, creating threats in conjunction with his major pieces.

16...Be6 17 Bd3 Qd5

The four database games with this position had Black playing 17...Qb4.

18 e4

Perhaps not objectively best, but my plan is to push the f-Pawn, and toward then end the support of his next-door neighbor is needed. In chess, as in life, it is important to have a plan and act on it. In that regard this opening is a lot more like life than the Dragon is; i.e., in the QGD the right course is not clear, so we must formulate a plan based on limited information, just as in life, whereas in the Dragon one can win or lose based on a single faulty move because it is so tactical. Life is more strategic than tactical, as is the QGD.

18...Qd4ch 19 Kh1 Rfe8 20 e5

Again, not objectively best, but in accordance with my master plan.

20...Bd5 21 Qh5 g6 22 Qh6 Be4 23 BxB QxB 24 f5?

24 Rh3 gains a nice advantage.

24...Qxe5 25 Rcf3

Only now do I realize to my horror that my planned 25 f6 is not possible due to 25..Qxf6! 26 Rxf6 27 Re1ch and I am mated on the back rank!


Black seeks to trade Queens, after which his Pawn advantage will stand him in good stead, plus my f6 move would no longer be a threat (without Queens on the board the Pawn on f6 would be more of a weakness than a threat).

26 Qh4

I avoid the trade of Queens for the same reason Black seeks it. However, the computer favors trading Queens on g7, then Pawns on g6, after which my Rook checks on f7 and then takes the Pawn on b7, giving me a small advantage due to my control of the 7th rank, always a goal in Rook endgames. I am still fixated on my plan of getting a Pawn to f6.

26...Re5 27 f6


27...Qf8 28 Qd4 Rd5 29 Qc4 Rad8

At this point Black has pretty well consolidated his Pawn advantage.

30 Rb3 R8d7 31 h3

Takes away the back rank mate.

31...Qd6 32 Re3 h6 33 Qh4 Kh7 34 Re8 Rh5 35 Qe4 Qd5 36 QxQ

I finally acquiesce in the trade of Queens.

36...RhxQ 37 Re7 Rd1?

He finally blunders. 37...g5 with the idea of ...Kg6 next retains his advantage. I actually get a small advantage now.

38 Rxd1 Rxd1ch 39 Kh2 Rd2?

Another blunder. 39...Kg8, guarding the Pawn on f7, was necessary.

40 Rxf7ch Kg8 41 Rxb7 a5 42 Kg3 g5 43 Kg4!

Tempting Black to take on g2 with check, which he does. But then I sneak my King into the g3 square, setting up a mating net.


43...Rf2 would at least leave him in the game, but he is lost now.

44 Kh5 Re2 45 Kg6 Kf8 46 Rb8ch Re8 47 RxRch KxR 48 Kg7 Black resigns 1-0

The King will now escort the f-pawn to the Queening square, completing its quixotic journey to the promised land!

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