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Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Yifan Hou
Tata Steel Masters (2015), Wijk aan Zee NED, rd 1, Jan-10
French Defense: Alekhine-Chatard Attack (C13)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-10-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: I have to give it to Hou Yifan for playing the French Defence against Frenchman MVL, but MVL Is +47,=28,-4 with the French with white.

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/ches...

Interestingly enough, he has never played the French defence with black...

Jan-10-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  varishnakov: Wow, Hou was just positionally destroyed coming out of the opening.
Jan-10-15  Ulhumbrus: After 16 Rc1 Black is ahead in development but White has a greater number of pieces developed and Black's N on b6 seems a target instead of a weapon. Perhaps Black is advised better to avoid opening lines by 16...e5 and develop instead by 16...Bd7

After 19 Qb3 Black's N is a target and on 19...Qd6 20 Qc2!! threatens Qc7 and now Black's queen and knight are both targets instead of weapons.

Jan-10-15  Boomie: Looking at the Chess Bomb Stockfish evals, beginning with move 8, black had an advantage or was equal up to move 22. I've noticed that Hou tends to outplay her opponents in the openings. This is probably a tribute to her extraordinary memory.

For example, SF gave this variation for black's 13th move:

-0.37/21

13...Qb4+ 14. Qd2 Na4 15. Rb1 Nxb2 16. Rxb2 Qxa3 17. O-O b5 18. Rc1 Bd7 19. Rc3 Qe7 20. g3 Rc8 21. Rc1 O-O 22. Kg2 f6 23. Qe3 fxe5 24. Nxe5 Nxe5 25. Rxc8 Rxc8 26. Qxe5

Not a winning edge by any stretch but still a hefty eval for black after only 13 moves.

Jan-10-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  PhilFeeley: <varishnakov, Boomie>Your two comments contradict one another. I'm inclined to agree with Boomie, but Hou lost the battle. An interesting one nevertheless.
Jan-10-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  varishnakov: I was just referring to all her pawns being isolated.
Jan-10-15  Boomie: I probably should have added the proviso that engine evals are usually meaningless in the openings. We need to use our own spidey sense.

Whether an isolated pawn in an opening is a weakness or not can be debatable. Sometimes it allows tactical advantages.

Jan-11-15  achieve: <For example, SF gave this variation for black's 13th move:

-0.37/21

13...Qb4+ 14. Qd2 Na4 15. Rb1 Nxb2 16. Rxb2 Qxa3 17. O-O b5 18. Rc1 Bd7 19. Rc3 Qe7 20. g3 Rc8 21. Rc1 O-O 22. Kg2 f6 23. Qe3 fxe5 24. Nxe5 Nxe5 25. Rxc8 Rxc8 26. Qxe5

Not a winning edge by any stretch but still a hefty eval for black after only 13 moves.> My Rybka evals this, in a number of lines after Black winning that b-pawn, as 0.09-0.2 at most.

<Boomie> The SF line is just a pawn grab, an interesting one at that, because White can launch an initiative quite quickly, with much more active play than Black, eg:

17 0-0 looks solid, but there is a combo with Rb3 Bb1 and Rf1-c1 that will ensure multiple threats for a number of moves for Black to deal with. If that can be dealt with successfully, Black is still a pawn up, but hardly any winning chances; the pawn will have to be returned at some point, because White's initiative is quite lasting and persistent...

Hence, 1) different engines, different evals 2) there are several very promising alternatives for the moves in your SF line, 3) Yifan must not have liked the queen-chase, the deficit re development of pieces, the short castle that becomes problematic if Bb1 and queen zoom in on <h7> 4) assuming that Yifan in fact had some of these positions on the board in analysis, and indeed remembered them.

I'd be hesitant to enter a passive line, pawn up, where the engines of course navigate this much more precise, re defensive resources.

Your follow up proviso is right on point, btw.

Jan-11-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: <achieve, Boomie> An interesting discussion.

Instead of 21...Qf6, should Black have played 21...Qxc7 and maybe 22.Rxc7 Bc6 ...? White can maintain *some* pressure with, eg, 23.Re1 ... but this line must be better than just letting the b-pawn go.

Jan-11-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: I think that Black has a very pleasant position up to move 13. Perhaps problems begin with 14...f6. I know this move is thematic, or at least natural, in many variations of the French -- yet I find myself reluctant to play it these days. The drawbacks often seem to outweigh the advantages. Of course there are some French positions where ...f6 is absolutely proper. The trick is to understand which ones.

That said, I'm glad to see the Alekhine-Chatard still in business. Today, almost everyone seems to play the Advance Variation, and everyone else plays the Steinitz.

Jan-11-15
Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: The final mini-combo is both crushing and banal.
Jun-20-15  Memethecat: I've learnt a lot from this final position. At first I couldn't see the win, but its all in that simple box that you mentally draw, where the King must be inside if its gonna catch the past pawn. So

1,Blacks b5 can be caught.

2,The Black King can't take f3 as it puts itself outside of the box and Whites g4 charges home.

3,If the Black King tries to shepherd b5 home the White King can march over and block it or force it on to the b file giving Whites King side pawns all the time they need.

Number 2 was a real eye opener for me, I've used it when sacrificing a 5th rank Knight that's protecting a 6th rank pawn from a King and probably in tons of other positions, but I've never seen it so clearly with past pawns before, nice.

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