In the previous edition, we saw White follow the main line through the first 10 moves, and then deviate. Here, we are going to see White deviate two moves earlier. We will be looking at what White's odd 9th move does from a theoretical perspective, and we will see two very important concepts. The first sees Black falling for an enticement tactic which lead to an advantage for White, but later on, we see White trying to get too cute, and surrenders his light-squared Bishop. As you might recall in the previous edition of the French Connection, we saw Black have total control of the light squares through the use of his central pawn chain. This time, we will see Bishops of opposite color on the board with the heavy pieces still in action, leading to an important concept on color complexes. We will see White have near total control of the dark squares while Black will have total domination over the light squares. Given the initial positioning of the Black pawns combined with the frequent surrendering of the Dark-Squared Bishop in the McCutcheon and Winawer Variations, along with the White central pawns occupying dark squares, this combination of dark-square domination by White and light-square domination by Black is nothing unusual in the French Defense.
So without further ado, let's take a look at the game.
Potomac Open, Round 2
W: Michael Kats (1921)
B: Patrick McCartney (2050)
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.bxc3 Ne4 8.Qg4 g6
Thus far, everything is identical to the previous McCutcheon game played in Kansas the previous weekend.
This raises major question as to whether or not White can claim any kind of advantage. In Felgaer - Moskalenko, Barcelona 2005, White played 9.Be3, and had problems after losing the vital tempo. This move, 9.Bc1, can't be any better, especially in the 8...g6 lines. If Black played 8...Kf8, there might be more validity in preserving the Bishop, but here it's a waste of time.
Accepting the pawn with 10...Nxc3 followed by 11...Qa5 is interesting, but even stronger is a concept that a McCutcheon player needs to know. When White does not pressure the Knight on e4 immediately, such as in the main line with 9.Bd3, when Black is forced to take on d2, he should take advantage of the fact that the Knight covers g5 and play 10...h5! 11.Qf4 g5! 12.Qf3 and then taking on c3 with 12...Nxc3 with a strong position.
11.Ne2! cxd4 12.Bxe4 dxe4 13.Qxe4 Nc6 14.Bf4 dxc3 15.O-O
Black realizes that e5 is well covered, and that there is no future for the Black Knight at d4 or b4, and nothing to really prevent on those squares, and so the Knight on c6 is actually a poorly placed piece, and so Black proceeds to relocate it to a better square on d5 or f5.
This is a sneaky move by White, enticing Black to do what he intended to do.
And Black falls right into it. A Black Knight on d5 or f5 is much stronger than a Black Knight on c6. However, White's last move gets the Bishop out of the way of the f4-square for the Knight. White's idea is simple. He wants to keep his Knight on e2 until Black decides to put the Knight on d5 or f5, and then White immediately wants to set the stage to trade the Knights off, and so if the Black Knight goes to d5, White will play Nf4, and if it goes to f5, White will play Nd4. So both side need to try to keep their Knight in place in Mexican Standoff fashion. Try to make the other player move his Knight first.
That said, the downside to White's 16th move is that it weakens the pawn on e5, and so Black should have played 16...Bd7! here where 17.Qxb7 can be answered by 17...Bc6 followed by 18...Qxe5, regaining the pawn with a slightly better position.
17.Nf4! Nxf4 18.Qxf4 Bd7 19.Qf6 Rh7 20.Bxh6
Much stronger would be for White to realize that with the Opposite Colored Bishops and all the heavy pieces, this is a case where White is primed for an attack on the dark squares. It also doesn't help that Black's h7-Rook is out of play while the a8-Rook is undeveloped and the Black King is still in the center. The move 20.Rad1! is very strong, and Black doesn't have time to be grabbing pawns as 20...Qxh2?? leads to fatal consequences on the dark squares after 21.Bc5!!.
With the move in the game, White has to be very careful. He will win an exchange, but his Queen will be out of play, and the light squares around the White King will be very weak.
20...Rxh6 21.Qg7 Rh5 22.Qg8+ Ke7 23.Qxa8 Qxe5
Out of the four legitimate moves here, this has got to be by far the worst of the four moves. Black has total control of the light squares. The last thing that White can afford to do is weaken the light squares even more. 24.f4 is also bad because of 24...Qe3+. That said, the other two moves draw.
- 24.h3 Rxh3 25.gxh3 Qg5+ 26.Kh2 Qf4+ 27.Kg2 Bc6+ 28.f3 Qg5+ 29.Kh1 Qg3 30.Qxa7 Qxh3+ 31.Kg1 Qg3+ 32.Kh1 Qh3+ is a draw.
- 24.h4 Bc6 25.Rad1 Qa5 26.Qb8 Rxh4 27.Rfe1 Kf6 28.Qf8 Qh5 29.Rxe6+ Kxe6 30.Rd6+ Kf5 31.Qxf7+ Kg5 32.Qe7+ Kh6 33.Qf8+ Kh7 34.Qe7+ Kh6 is also a draw.
White threatens mate in one, but Black was prepared for this, and takes the time to get the Queen off of both the back rank and the light squares.
The Queen will prove useless here as there is nothing she can do about the light squares around her majesty.
The final nail in the coffin. There is nothing that White can do to stop Black's attack on the light squares. Of course, White can't take the Rook as it's mate in two for Black starting with 27...Qh8+ (or 27...Qh5+).
Now there is absolutely nothing that White can do. When the light squares are a major problem, and an out of play Queen on a dark square does little to cover the light squares near to King.
28.f4 Rg2+ 0-1
It's mate on the next move, and so White Resigned.
The following ideas should be picked up from this game:
- Remember this idea of ...h5 and ...g5 against the Queen on g4 if White has not taken or forced away the Knight from e4.
- Be aware of enticement tactics, and take the time to figure out if your opponent has a strong move before just assuming an outpost for your pieces.
- Initiative is critical when in a middlegame with opposite colored bishops and/or having total control of a particular color complex.
- When you are weak on either the dark squares or light squares, do everything you can to avoid making those squares even weaker.
Well, that concludes this article. Until next time, good luck in all your French games, Black or White!