Lessons from Eljanov-Nakamura FIDE World Cup Baku 2015

Lessons from Eljanov-Nakamura FIDE World Cup Baku 2015

Nov 27, 2015, 11:14 PM |

The second highlighted game from Chessbase Magazine 169 was between Pavel Eljanov vs Hikaru Nakamura from the FIDE World Cup Baku 2015 1-0.


This is the first game I've seen from Eljanov, and his annotations are clear and concise (void of unnecessary variations). 


The biggest theme I took away from this game is the trading of one advantage for another. White first uses his passed a-pawn, but then trades this for Rook activity coupled with King penetration.


What is strangely haunting to me is Black's fortress like possibilities had he played the suggested improvement of 21. ... Qa7 leading to 30. ... Ra6. Such foresight is unbelievable to me.


Lesson 1: Preventing the ... c5 break


I really like this logical thinking. Black's thematic play in such positions is the freeing c5, so Qc1 prevents this expansion.

Lesson 2: Fighting against your opponent's outpost
I really like the explaination of this sequence, as when I first played through this game I did not see a difference between 15. Nc3 and 15. Nbd2.
Now I appreciate that White's play is geared towards not allowing Black to settle his Knight to the b4 outpost (made possible by a4 which was to restrict ... b5).

Lesson 3: Dynamic Imbalance to fight for Initiative
This sequence with 20. Nxb7 highlighted to me that modern chess is the fight for the initiative. I particularly like the exchange of Nc6 for Bd8 which removes a defender of the a-pawn (which will be a trump for White).
The sidelines suggested by Eljanov with 21. ... Qa7 offer extremely instructive ideas of defensive resources and configurations.

Lesson 4: Removing the Guard
This tactic is taken from the variation of 21. ... Qa7. Black's Queen is the sole defender of the Rook, and can only defend it from b7 (unprotected) should she be harrassed. This gives rise to a "Remove the Guard tactic" exploiting a Knight check at e7.

Lesson 5: Impregnable Defensive Structures
Eljanov's analysis beginning with 21. ... Qa7 ultimately leads to this assessment where White can not break through.
This made a deep impression on me. The Knight on b4 is untouchable. It supports the Bishop at c6 which is reinforced with a Rook at a6.
White's Rooks have no open files to make inroads.
The possibility of such blockades is something I'll be mindful of in my own play.

Lesson 6: Reducing the scope of your opponent's pieces
More than once in this game does Eljanov demonstrate deep care of his opponent's piece activity (previously preventing the Knight to b4).

Lesson 7: Favourable Exchanges
Strategically endgame play is the one area I'd like to improve the most. This little sequence provides an excellent lesson!
White assesses Black's King is far from the centre. White activates his a-Rook but more so exploits that Black can not exchange off his most active piece.
Hence he identifies that an exchange of the White c-pawn for Black's a-pawn is to White's advantage (as the a-pawn now becomes dangerous).

Lesson 8: Trading one advantage for another
Some may say this looks simple, others may find it deep. I like how White threatens to get behind the a-pawn with 40. Ra2 and gives up the d-pawn, only to then take the c-file which Black just occupied. Somewhat of a deflection tactic. This c-file gives him an inroard into Black's camp later via Rc8. White had traded material for positional gains.

Lesson 9: Principle of Two Weaknesses
Very instructive is 43. h4! which Eljanov remarks as being typical of play on the principle of two weaknesses. 
Compare the starting position to the final position. White has essentially exchanged his a-pawn for piece activity/invasion.
His King has reached g5 into the heart of the Black camp, and the Rooks are rampant on the 8th rank.
Two weaknesses: the a-pawn and the Kingside invasion (started by h4).

Lesson 10: Rook mating nets
Eljanov didn't play this sequence (instead chose 50. Rh8). I had found Kf6 but didn't see the nice idea of 52. Rcg8 threatening mate at g6.
Instead I wanted to follow up with ideas of how to get g4 going, and instead looked to deflect the Bishop in some way.
I really like this elegant finish with White's King and two Rooks working in unison, and the trapped nature of Black's King giving rise to mating possibilities at g6.

Game Score: Eljanov-Nakamura, Baku 2015 1-0