My opponent in the current game is a retired surgeon who pleasingly spoke excellent English so, unusually for an International Correspondence Chess game, an interesting conversation took place during the game. He turned out to be very knowledgeable on many other matters apart from chess and these included, of course medical matters, but also broader scientific and political matters too. In addition, he is a strong Go players which a recent "Chess Monthly" Magazine article claims is actually harder than chess. It is curious that the pawn structure around move 33 of our chess game suggested to me some small feature of a Go game in which each player has "surrounded" a certain amount of territory. In the case of the chess game there was very surpisingly little difference in the number of squares controlled by each player despite the illusion that White had more space.
Its also interesting to note that Western Chess has gained a lot of ground in recent years in Japan and during the course of the current game my opponent came 4th in the Japanese Individual Championship, using Western chess rules, and also played on the ICCF web server.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Be7 A retreat with a good reputation. The question now is does the Bd2 fulfill a useful function or does White have to spent a tempo moving it to a better post.
5.Bg2 d5 6.Nf3 0-0 7.0-0 c6 8.Qb3 [8.Qc2 has been tried previously avoiding moving the bishop to f4. 8...b6 9.Rd1 (9.Bf4 is of course feasible here.) 9...Nbd7 10.b3 Ba6 11.a4 c5 12.a5 Donnelly-Catt, Ward-Higgs 2014. (and 12.Na3 Donnelly (ENG)-Blass (ISR), EU-Tch Final 2008.) ]
8...Nbd7 9.Bf4 a5 10.Rd1 Nh5 [10...b5 is the other main way to play the position.]
11.Bd2 [11.Bc1 is also possible when the bishop jockeying for position can continue with 11...f5 12.Nc3 Nhf6 13.Bf4 as e5 is now available.]
11...Nhf6 12.Nc3 a4 Mostly chosen here but Black has choices eg [12...h6 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Qc2 Bd6 15.Nh4 Re8 16.Nf5 Asanov-Kunte, Kish 2005.; 12...b6 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Bf4 Ba6 transposing to Kasimdzhanov-Gurevich, EU-ASIA rapid Barumi 2001.]
13.Nxa4 dxc4 14.Qc2 b5 15.Nc3 Ba6 This appears to be a new move and looks quite reasonable. Earlier games have gone [15...Bb7 16.e4 b4 17.e5 bxc3 18.exf6 Nxf6 19.Bxc3 Qc7 20.Ne5 c5 21.Nxc4 Gleizerov-Yegiazarian, Kolkota 2002.; and 15...Nd5 16.a3 Qb6 17.e4 Nxc3 18.Bxc3 Bb7 19.Qd2 Rfd8 20.Qf4 Gentius-Fier, Barcelona Sants open 2008.; or very recently 15...Qb6 16.e4 e5 17.d5 cxd5 18.Nxd5 Nxd5 19.exd5 Bc5 20.Be1 Gleizerov-Krzyzanowski, Suwalki Warakomska Memorial 2017.]
16.a3 h6 17.e4 Bb7 Minimising the chance of White making a central breakthrough with d5.
18.a4 Qb6 [A solid option rather than entering the complications that arise after 18...b4 19.e5 Nd5 20.Ne4 c5 21.dxc5 (and also 21.Qxc4 Ba6 ) ]
19.a5 Playing for a guarded passed pawn. In the very long term if lots of pieces were exchanged then the pawn would just amble to queen. However, this line did need some consideration as White needs to support the pawn with b4 when Black has the possibility of sacrificing a piece on a5 or b4. This would obtain two White pawns for the piece and also two dangerous passed pawns.
19...Qd8 [19...Rxa5 doesnt work as after 20.Nd5 Rxa1 21.Nxe7+ Kh8 22.Rxa1 Qd8 23.e5 Ne8 Black is unable to recover the piece due to the tactical blow 24.Bg5 which wins after 24...hxg5 25.Nxg5 ]
20.e5 Nd5 21.Nxd5 cxd5 22.b4 Nb8 Repositioning the knight to a more active square introducing the possibiity of taking on a5 or b4.
23.Bc3 At first sight this looks bad reducing the bishop to the worth of a pawn. However, the move does blockade c4 well, and secures the a5/b4 pawns as well as those on d4 and e5.
23...Bc6 24.Qd2 Be8 White's aim is a slow build up on the kings-side so Black moves the bishop to aid his defences since it wasn't effective on b7.
25.Re1 Importantly preventing Black breaking out with f6. This idea, supported by concepts such as Bh3, is common in Closed Openings, for instance, the Kings-Indian Attack especially when Black has a French type pawn structure of d5/e6 as is true in the present game.
25...Nc6 26.Re3 Qd7 [26...f6 27.exf6 Rxf6 28.Bh3 is awkward for Black.]
27.h4 Ra7 28.Bh3 Qc7 [Again Black struggles after 28...f5 29.exf6 Rxf6 30.Rae1 ]
29.Ne1 Allowing the f2 pawn to advance and aiming to secure the queens-side.
29...Bd7 [Exploding the queens-side does not yet work for Black after 29...Nxb4 30.Bxb4 ; or 29...Nxa5 30.bxa5 ]
30.f4 Bd8 Clearing the second rank and also the e7 square for defensive measures whilst retaining the options of a sac on b4 or a5.
31.Nc2 Ne7 32.Qg2 Nc6 33.Rf1 g6 34.h5 Kg7 35.Ref3 Rg8 36.hxg6 fxg6 [36...Kxg6 37.f5+ Kh7 38.Bd2 Bg5 39.Bxg5 Rxg5 40.fxe6 Bxe6 41.Bf5+ Bxf5 42.Rxf5+- as Rf6 follows.]
37.g4 Kh7 [Possibly better defensive options were 37...Be8 ; or 37...Kh8 but the first is very strongly answered by f5 and the second by Qh2.]
38.Qh2 Now h6 comes under attack as White has Bg2/Rh3/Bd2 to increase the pressure.
38...Qc8 39.Bg2 Kg7 40.Rh3 Rh8 It's difficult to suggest anything better since White has the breakthrough f5 coming.
41.Ne3 Ra8 [Again sacrifices on the queens-side fail: 41...Nxa5 42.bxa5 Bxa5 43.Bxa5 Rxa5 44.f5 ; or 41...Bxa5 42.bxa5 b4 43.Be1 Nxd4 44.Bxb4 ]
42.f5 Bg5 43.Nxd5 Now decisive since the long dormant Bc3 can join the attack and reinforce the advance of the d4 and e5 pawns.
43...exd5 44.Bxd5 Nd8 45.e6 [After 45.e6 Black has no defence to the advance of the central pawns as a few possible lines indicate: 45...Bc6 (45...Be8 46.f6+ Bxf6 47.g5 Bxg5 48.Qe5+ Kh7 49.Qxg5 h5 50.Rxh5+ gxh5 51.Be4+ ) 46.Bxc6 Nxc6 47.d5+ Kg8 48.dxc6 Qxc6 49.Qe5 Rh7 50.fxg6+- ] 1-0