The Danish Championship is ongoing with the 5th round being played today. Mads Andersen looks like the clear favorite and is also leading the table with ½ point – this young GM is a complete player and is set to cross the 2600 barrier at some point.
However, a game from yesterday’s round caught my attention. A young IM displayed great strategical skills in a position with a Double-Edged Bishop (DEB). Apparently, his bishop was looking passive, but the other factors of the position made up for it, and in general, he treated the position skillfully. My recent book from Quality Chess – The Secret Life of Bad Bishops – is filled with complex bishop vs. knight positions like this one.
Mikkel Antonsen – Bjørn Møller Ochsner (4) 2017
With the knight on d4, this looks promising for White, but there are many factors to take into account here. A mistake that White should not make, is to underestimate Black’s bishop on the false assumption that it is bad. Here there are additional 4 rooks on the board, which make a huge difference. In the coming moves, the bishop looks passive on the same color as the pawns, but this is where the rooks become important to support this DEB as I call it: to help support the dark squares. As long as Black’s position overall does not become passive, it is OK for Black to have one piece that is (temporarily or even permanently) passive. With 2 additional rooks for Black, it is still possible to put pressure on the dark squares e3, c3 and a5/b6 (see later in the game). The key for Black is to avoid rook exchanges for now. Otherwise we notice that Black has space with the pawns on d5 and g5. Even if the d-pawn is isolated, it still gives Black space in the center. Black also has ideas of pushing the h-pawn to gain more space. For White, pushing the a-pawn is a way to gain space and perhaps create weaknesses in the Black camp.
22.Rhb1 Rc7 23.Rb4 Bd7 24.a4 h5 25.a5
25.Nb5 Bxb5 26.axb5 b6 leads to an equal rook endgame.
25…h4 26.g4 a6
Black places the pawns on the same color as the bishop, as they are then easy to defend. Again, it’s OK to have a slightly passive bishop for some time, as long as the position does not become passive overall. Think of the goal keeper in European Soccer: he is primarily there to defend the goal (he can even use the hands), whereas the remaining 10 players can try to score the goals and lead the team to victory. For Black, the presence of additional rooks prevents his position from being passive overall.
However, many commentators focus too much on the visual impression of the bishop: it is so easy to call it a bad bishop based on a thumb of rule that it is placed behind its own pawns, on the same color of the pawns etc., not taking the other factors of the position into account. Other factors such as additional pieces and space are important for the evaluation of the position. My book is an attempt to give a more complete picture, and an ambitious try to fully understand the bishop. First, it is important to understand that the bishop is a team player that depends on the cooperation of other pieces.
27.Rb6 Bc8 28.Rd6 Rc5
Defending d5 and attacking a5.
The Black rook is useful on b5, eyeing b3, a5, b7 and d5.
30.Ra3 f5 31.gxf5 Bxf5
The turning point of the game: now Black takes over. White gets the desired exchange of a rook, but the pawn on b6 becomes a target, and the a-pawn is a passed pawn for later. It turns out that the pawn on b7 is fairly easy to defend with the long-range bishop on c8. And: Black still has one rook to support the color-blind bishop.
Instead, 32.Nd4 Rb2+ 33.Kc1 Rb1+ 34.Kd2 Rb2+ is equal.
There was a tactical solution in the position that more or less wins outright, but even so, Black is better after the rook exchange. In the game Black prefers to approach the b6–pawn with the king, which keeps an advantage in the endgame.
33…g4! 34.Nd4 Bg6 35.fxg4 Be4 36.Ne6+ (36.Nf3 h3–+) 36…Kf6 37.Nf4 Bxg2! A well-known trick. 38.Nxg2 h3–+ White will lose the exchange and the game.
34.Nd4 Bh7 35.Rb3 Kf8
The engine suggests 35…Kf6! still with the idea of g5–g4 in mind. Bjørn wants to bring the Black king closer to the b6–pawn, which is not a bad idea.
36.Ke2 Ke7 37.Rb4 Kd6 38.Kf2 Rf6 39.Nb3 Bf5
Black is transferring the bishop to the c8-h3 diagonal. From c8, it will work on both sides of the board.
White could try to get in e3–e4 earlier, for instance: 40.Na5 Bc8 41.e4 dxe4 42.Rxe4 but the following transformation favors Black: 42…Kc5 43.Re5+ Kxb6 44.Nc4+ Ka7 45.Rxg5 Rc6 with a clear advantage.
40…Bd7 41.Nb3 g4 42.Na5 Bc8 43.e4 g3+ 44.Kg1
The following line is important: 44.Ke3 dxe4 45.Rxe4 (45.fxe4 h3–+) 45…Re6!–+
With the help of the rook, Black has improved the position a lot. And now he is ready to exchange the last pair of rooks – something that he has skillfully avoided for a long time, to support the bishop.
45.Rxe4 Re6!–+ Again, the right moment has come for the rook exchange. 46.Rxh4?? Re1 is mate.
The triumph of Bc8 as both defender and attacker.
46.e5+ Kxe5 47.Nc4+ Ke4!
Black is not afraid of ghosts.
48.Nd6+ Kd5 49.Nxc8 h2+ 50.Kh1 Rf1#
White resigned here because of 49.Rb1 Kd3–+ or 49…g2 50.Kh2 Rf1–+
A very good game by Black!