QGA - Hard to Lose, Even Harder to Win.
Today we will look at an opening-endgame transition resulting from the Queen's Gambit Accepted (QGA). We will see the analysis of three games, the first one being from my game a few years ago. In this opening it is usually white who chooses to go into the endgame hoping to outplay the opponent there. As we can see in the last two games it is not an easy task but nevertheless it can be accomplished.
I am playing a fierce opponent, knowing that the QGA is one of her main opening weapons. Of course I dug out all of her games played in it and mapped out the possible continuations that would lend me a comfortable position. I am very predictable when it comes to QGA favoring e3 instead of e4 and Bb3 instead of the more typical a4. This is a disadvantage and Irina could have saved some energy before the game not having to prepare as much as I did – as she plays several set- ups in the QGA. Let us look at the opening stage of the game.
Irina won the opening battle as after her 8th move I had no idea what to play. There is no direct threat but I have to develop the bishop on c1 and the only way to do it is to push e4. However, black’s last move was intended against the e4 move as the d4 pawn hangs and there are possible b4 attacks. I spent 20 minutes in this position calculating the logical d5 and barely browsing through the other moves such as Qe2 and d:c. After spending tons of energy figuring out why the natural d5 move does not work despite looking so correct, I had little left for the other continuations. This is not the best way to manage your energy or to make decisions over the board.
There was an element of surprise I had to face, and figure out which continuation to choose to get Irina out of her preparation. The idea of d:c came to my mind – a move that I would almost never play being quite an uncompromising player. The move leads to an endgame, which is familiar to Irina and which I have not analyzed before. By playing white I naturally have some minimal edge which will avoid getting me into trouble right away. From a practical point of view I think this is the right decision given the circumstances, although from the spectators' point of view it looked like me being an underdog trying desperately to draw one of the tournament favorites by trading queens and going into this peaceful endgame.
White finished the development and it is time to find a plan. My pieces are a bit crowded and I would like to trade a pair of knights to get the dark-squared bishop into the game. There is an option to trade the knight on f6 or the knight on c6. Black’s queenside is weakened by the b5 push and by the fact that my two rooks occupy the open c- and d-files. The knight on c6 is a key defender of the queenside, therefore I decided to trade it. If I had asked myself what is black’s next move, my decision might have been different. With Ke7 black will connect the rooks and keep the king in the center – it will give her comfortable equality. By playing Be1 I could have prevented Ke7 because Ng5-Ne4 would put the bishop on d6 in an uncomfortable position.
Playing this endgame for the first time I did very well – I cannot think of a single significant mistake. The Bd2, Rc1 plan was good and Ne2- Nd4 followed by a4 was good enough to maintain equality. If you look into a database you will notice GM Tregubov has two wins with white in this opening. It is worth examining both of the games to enrich our arsenal of ideas. The first game is from a rapid tournament which does not promise the high quality of standard time-control but can still be useful to study. After 12… Be7 the position is the same as from the game above. Black retreated with the bishop to e7 intending short castling. Tregubov played Ne2-Nd4, which turned out to be a better decision in his game compared to mine as Ke7 is no longer possible.
What can we learn from the above game? If black castles then he will have an extra weakness on e6, which Tregubov exploited masterfully. Black’s defense was not so simple, so we can conclude that Irina’s plan of keeping the bishop on d6 seems more logical. Ten years later Tregubov scored another win in the QGA. In the following game black kept the bishop on b6, instead of the a3-f8 diagonal. Since the bishop stayed on the queenside white resorted to putting pressure on the kingside by trading the knight on f6. White also fixed the potential weakness on a6, which was felt later on in the game. The e6-square turned out to be weak in this game too. For many moves the position was equal but in the end black did not manage to defend well and lost.
Today we looked at an endgame arising out of the QGA opening. White has a minimal edge that can be lost easily if black chooses the right plan. To me it seems that Irina’s plan of keeping the bishop on d6 is the most logical one. As we saw in the two last games black experienced some problems with the e6- pawn when retreating the bishop to the other squares.