Monday, August 18, 2014

Exploring the French McCutcheon: Janowski Variation

This relatively rare line of the McCutcheon arises after the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Be3

According to MegaDatabase 2014 (updated to August 2014), it scored 61.3% based on 843 games, compared to the main line 6.Bd2, which weighted in at 52.6% based on 4826 games. The Silicon Genius (Houdini 4 pro 64 bit - 8 cores with 32GB ram and 8GB allotted to the hash tables) dislikes this variation, all the way up to 30 ply, probably because in most lines White gives up a pawn for active play. While Houdini may have complete confidence in it's ability to navigate through the murky waters whilst maintaining material supremacy, it is very difficult for a human to do so.

After 6...Ne4 7.Qg4 g6 (slightly more popular and scores about the same as the alternative 7...Kf8) 8.a3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Nxc3 (SG gives -0.55@28ply) 10.Bd3, Nakamura played 10...b6!?


Black's idea is to try to exchange of his light-squared bishop for White's counterpart, thereby reducing the direct attack against his king. After 11.h4 Ba6 12.h5 g5 13.f4 gxf4 14.Bxf4 (SG prefers the intermezzo 14.Qg7, and after 14...Kd7 (14..Rf8?? 15.Bxf4 and soon the h6 pawn will be collected with an unstoppable attack!) 15.Qxf7+ Qe7 16.Qxe7+ Kxe7 17.Bxf4=) Kd7! (it takes Houdini awhile to appreciate this) 15.Bd2 Ne4 16.Bxe4 dxe4 17.Qxe4 Kc8!

18.Nf3 (18.Qxa8?? Qxd4 19.Rd1 Qxe5+ 20.Kf2 Bb7 21.Qxa7 Rg8 22.Qa4 Qg3+ 23.Ke2 Qxg2+ and White is completely lost)

 analysis diagram

 18...Bb7 19.Qf4 Rh7 20.0-0-0 Qd5 21.Qg4 Kd7? (to avoid the check from the White Queen, but not in time. Instead 21...Qa2 22.Qg8+ Kd7 would transpose to the text.) 22.Qg8? (Here White missed 22.Bxh6! Rxh6?? 23.Qg7 and Black's rook is lost.) 22...Qa2! (threatening mate) 23.Bc3 Be4 (renewing the mate threat) 24.Bb2 Qc4 25.Rd2 Na6 26.Qg4 Bd5  Black maintains his central blockade, although the weak h6 pawn will be a permanent liability.

 27.Rd3 Qc6 28.Nd2 Rf8 29.Rc3 Qb7 30.Re3 b5 31.Ne4! (An interesting positional decision. The b2 bishop is passive for now, but slowly White will break down Black's central blockade and get real attacking chances.) Bxe4 32.Rxe4 c6 (with the idea of bringing the knight to d5) 33.Bc3 Qc8 34.Rf1 Rg8 35.Qh3 Nc7 36.Ref4 Rgg7 (This strange-looking defensive idea proves to be effective, since ...Nd5 and ...Qg8 will follow, creating a harmonious coordination of Black's forces.) 37.Bb4 Nd5 38.R4f2 Qg8 39.Bc5 a5 40.Qd3 a4 41.g4 Qd8 42.c4 Qg5+ 43.Rd2 bxc4 44.Qxc4 Qe3 45.Qa6 Nc7 46.Qxa4 Rxg4 47.Qc2 Rg2 48.d5 Qxd2+ 49.Qxd2 Rxd2 50.Kxd2 exd5 51.Be3 Ne6 52.Rf6 Rg7 53.Bxh6 Rg2+ 54.Ke1 Ke7 55.Rf2 Rg1+ 56.Rf1 Rg3 57.Rh1?? (The decisive mistake. Better was: 57.Bc1 Rh3 58.h6, and now the a-pawn helps create counterplay.) Rxa3 58.Bc1 Ra1 59.Kf2 Ra2+ 60.Kg3 Kf8! - + 61.h6 Kg8 62.Rf1 Ra7 63.Rd1 Rd7 64.Kg4 c5 65.Kf5 Kh7 66.Be3 d4 67.Bf2 c4 68.Ke4 c3 69.Kd3 Nc5+ 70.Kc4 c2 71.Rc1 d3 72.Be3 Ne4 73.Kb3 d2 74.Bxd2 Rxd2 75.Rxc2 Rxc2 76.Kxc2 Kxh6 0-1  Gashimov - Nakamura (Amber-Rapid 20th March-03-2011)