This super-quick article is in our Engine Snacks series!
Leela unveils an amazing attacking scheme in a typical IQP position that I cannot wait to use in my own games!
Once you’ve read this, you’ll be able to do the same!
A fairly typical IQP position has been reached in the game Ethereal-Leela Zero, Viewer Submitted Openings bonus, TCEC Season 21. Black has sacrificed a pawn in return for the 2 bishops and a lead in development. However, White’s pieces are well-entrenched in the centre and it isn’t obvious how Black should start the next wave of its attack. In particular, the inclusion of h3 and …Bh5 is irritating for Black. The light-squared bishop would be much more potent on the c8-h3 diagonal so that after Black sets up a battery of Bb8+Qd6 on the b8-h2 diagonal, g3 would drop the h-pawn to …Bxh3.
Leela’s solution is frankly extraordinary! I’ve seen something similar once in an AlphaZero game (analysed in https://youtu.be/aayFwENovkE – AlphaZero g-pawn attack against the Queen’s Gambit Carlsbad structure – Opening Strategies #7)
16…Bb8 17.N2f3 Qd6 is my intuitive, blitz approach but Stockfish is completely unimpressed! 18.Bd2 Qd6 19.Bb4 Such an annoying move, knocking Black’s pieces from their ideal attacking posts! 19…Qg6 20.Rac1 is a +4.5 advantage for White! After such natural Black moves!
Black’s pieces are good where they stand: what they need is more scope! So Leela uses the “hook” on h3 to create extra space on the kingside. As we shall see in the next few moves, the …g5-g4 attack helps the knight on f6, queen on d8 and bishop on h5 to get much closer to the white king!
White needs to develop its c1–bishop and get the a1–rook into the game as a storm is coming!
17.N2f3 Ne4 18.Bd2 Bxf3 19.Nxf3 h5
is the approach when …g4 will drive away the knight from f3 after which …Qe7–e5 will be very hard for White to meet!
17…g4 18.hxg4 Nxg4
Bringing the knight into play and opening access to g5 and h4 for the black queen!
19.N2f3 Ne5 20.Nxe5 Bxe5 21.Bb2 Bxd4 22.Bxd4 Bf3!!
What a way to activate the bishop on h5!
23.gxf3 Qg5+ 24.Kh1 Re6 wins
23…Qg5 24.Qf1 h6 25.b5 Kh7 26.Rxc8 Rxc8
White finds a perpetual check to just hold the game!
27…f5 28.Qf1 Rg8 29.Rc1 and the threat of Rc7+ is nasty for Black; 27…Kg8 28.Qf1 and Black cannot bring the rook to g8 any more!
Threatening f3, cutting out Black’s pressure against g2
28…Bf3 29.Qb1+ Be4 30.Qf1 Bf3 ½–½