Thinking Outside of the Box
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Ivanchuk, Vassily – Aronian, Levon, Linares 2007
What is thinking “outside of the box”? Before I answer to that question, we should analyse this position first.
Black has just taken on c5 with his R. He has an isoliani which can easily reconstruct into the hanging pawns if White takes on c5 at some point. Having in mind the simplicity of the position, we can easily conclude that White enjoys a permanent slight edge mainly due to fact that Black hasn’t got any dynamic potential left.
How to continue? We can start calculating 17.Rxc5 which will get us to the following crossroad ( diagram )
If 17..Nxc5 then 18.Nd4 ( diagram )
With a slight edge for White, but the second player should be able to hold this as one weaknesses is usually not enough to win a game.
In case of 17..bxc5 18.b4! would be the key move ( diagram )
This strong move is putting some pressure on those hanging pawns. It’s quite clear that 18..c4? cannot be recommended ( diagram )
The usual rules about hanging pawns apply here as well; the player with the hanging pawns should avoid any kind of blockade.
Here the pawns are being totally blocked, exposed, and totally dried out of any dynamic potential. White has an easy, and effective plan: Nd4-Ne2-Nc3-Bf3-Rd1 with a savage pressure on d5 pawn. In that case Nc3 would be placed very nicely: it would attack the pawn on d5, block the pawn on c4, and support White’s pawn majority. Black cannot allow this scenario to happen.
So, instead of 18..c4, Black should focus on 18…Rc8 ( diagram )
Black simply wants to cover his weak pawns, and get his K to the center.
19. Rc1 Kf8 20.Kf1 Ke7 ( diagram )
And again, White can get the typical position after 21.bxc5, but Black, with only one weakness, should be able to hold that.
This was all “inside the box”: an old stuff, well known to everyone with nothing new to show, something that has been chewed, and rechewed many times before.
Chucky unleashed something different, something really interesting, something “outside of the box”: 17.Rcc1! Rfc8 18.Rd1! ( diagram )
What on Earth was that? White has deliberately abandoned his c-file, just to fully focus on the d-file.
18..Rc2 19.Bb5 Nf8 20.Rab1 ( diagram )
Let’s draw some conclusions: Black has the c-file, which is totally useless…and that’s it. On the other hand, White has a clear plan of pressing the isoliani: Rd2-Rd1-Bb3-Nf4. Notice that Rc2 can be pushed back easily by Ba4. The B won’t be misplaced at all, in fact it will do a wonderful job of both covering c2 square, and pressing the isoliani.
20..R2c7 21.Ba4 Ne6 22.Bb3 Kf8!? ( diagram )
White is having a chance to take on d5: 23.Bxd5 Bxd5 24.Rxd5 Rc1+ 25.Rd1 Rxd1+ 26.Rd1 but after 26..Rc2 Black should be fine.
23.h3! ( diagram )
Very cool! White is not interested in taking the pawn, why would he allow any counterplay?
23..Rc5 24.Kh2 Ke7 25.Rd2 ( diagram )
So, Rd1 is just around the corner.
25..Rb5! 26.Ba2 Rbc5
Hoping to get some play with ..Rc2.
27.Ne1 ( diagram )
Not allowing that to happen.
27..a5 28.Rbd1 Rd8 ( diagram )
This is a huge success for White because Black was forced to abandon his open file. White has everything under control, so he can take his time. The nearest plan involves relocation of the N to f4.
29.Kg3 Rb5 30.f3 Rc8?
According to my engine, this is a major mistake although it’s a bit hard to understand why. Black should have played 30..Rc5, but after 31. Nd3 Rc7 he is just worse; The N can jump to f4, but White might even consider Nd3-Nc1-Ne2-Nc3 plan.
31.Nd3 ( diagram )
Suddenly Black is having problems with his Rb5.
A tough choice, Black is hoping to get some activity for his pawn.
32.Bxe6 Kxe6 33.Nf4+ Ke7 34.Rxd4 Rc7 35.R1d2 ( diagram )
And White has everything covered, Black is just a pawn down without any concrete play.
35..Rbc5 36.e4 Rc4 37.Rd6 R4c6 38.e5 Rc2 39.Rxc2 Rxc2 40.Rxb6 ( diagram )
And Black resigned soon.
So, in order to think outside of the box, first you need to be sure that you familiar with the content of the box, you need to know every single fiber of the box, and every single texture. Chucky was familiar with this, and he knew that with the best play Black will get his draw, so he started searching for something else.
This is obviously an advanced concept; comparing the old stuff with something original, trying to figure out which one is better, and making the right choice is an uneasy thing to do. This comes with experience. Just don’t be on autopilot, and keep in mind that every game, and every position has its own life, with its own rules. It’s good to have rules, but rules exist to be broken.