Engine Snacks! Conquering space with g4!

November 1, 2021 Matthew Sadler No comments exist

This super-quick article is in our Engine Snacks series! We see two power plays from Stoofvlees and Stockfish, expanding a queenside space advantage across the whole board with a powerful g4 kingside thrust! These are great examples of whole board play: a major theme I examine in “The Silicon Road to Chess Improvement” and it’s definitely something we should try and emulate in our own games!

We start with Stoofvlees – Stockfish, TCEC Season 21 DivP

Position after 20.a5 (game)

Recently a TCEC chatter suggested that modern grandmasters had become much keener on positions with a space advantage because engines love space so much. I don’t know whether that’s true, but in my practice games against engines I have often been surprised by the boldness engines show in grabbing space against a cramped position.

Stockfish played 20…Ned7

Position after 20…Ned7 (game)

White has the 2 bishops and a queenside space advantage due to the pawns on a5 and d5. Black’s last move – the clever retreat 20…Ned7 – supports the freeing …b7-b6 break and even introduces the Ulf Andersson-like exchange sac …Rxe3 into the position.
I was looking at subtle ways to prepare for Black’s freeing attempts; Stoofvlees played a move that hadn’t entered my consciousness but that I instantly approved

21.g4

Position after 21.g4!

Stoofvlees exploits an opportunity to spread its queenside space advantage to the kingside with the concrete threat of g5 winning a knight, as Black’s 20…Ned7 to support …b6 took away the knight on f6’s only retreat square. Stockfish was forced to abandon its plan and retrace its steps with

21…Ne5

after which Stoofvlees had a pleasant advantage with

22.Rfc1 Qd8 23.g5 Nfd7 24.Ne4

Position after 24.Ne4 (game)

Stockfish of course managed to hold, but any move like 21.g4 that forces the opponent to abandon its plan and come up with something new is very powerful in human chess. You only have a limited amount of energy and calculating power during a game: an opponent who keeps crossing your plans will eventually exhaust you!

24…Nc5 25.Bxc5 dxc5 26.Qxc5 Ng6 27.Qxc7 Rxe4 28.Qxd8+ Rxd8 29.Kf1 Nf4 30.Bg4 Kf8 31.Rc8 Rxc8 32.Bxc8 Rb4 33.d6 Rxb2 34.Re1 Rd2 35.d7 Ne6 36.Re5 Ke7 37.Bxb7 Rxd7 38.Bxa6 Kd6 39.Rb5 Ra7 40.Bc8 Kc6 41.Rb6+ Kc7 42.Ra6 Rxa6 43.Bxa6 Nxg5 44.Ke2 Ne6 45.Bc4 Nd8 46.a6 Kb6 47.Kf3 Nc6 48.Kf4 Nb4 49.Bxf7 Nxa6 50.Bg8 h6 51.Kf5 Nc5 52.Bc4 Nd7 53.Ke6 Nf6 54.Be2 Ne4 55.f4 Kc5 56.Ke5 Nf2 57.f5 h5 58.h4 Ng4+ 59.Bxg4 hxg4 ½–½

Our next game is Stockfish-ScorpioNN from the same tournament

Position after 17…Qb7 (game)

White enjoys a significant queenside space advantage and my hand was reaching out for something routine like Rfd1 or Rac1. Stockfish’s choice was much more creative!

18.g4 Nf6 19.g5

Position after 19.g5 (game)

Just like Stoofvlees in the previous game, Stockfish grabs the opportunity to expand its space advantage on one wing across the whole board.

19…Ne8 20.Rfd1 Rac8 21.Qe4 f5 22.Qf4 Bf8 23.Qg3 g6 24.Bf4

Position after 24.Bf4 (game)

and with the g5–pawn controlling the f6–square, Stockfish had achieved control of a whole complex of dark squares all over the board! The finish was powerful as always!

24…a6 25.Nd6 Nxd6 26.Bxd6 Bg7 27.Rac1 Be8 28.c5 bxc5 29.Bc4 Bf7 30.bxc5 Qb2 31.a4 e5 32.Rb1 Qc2 33.Bxa6 Ra8 34.Bb5 Rxa4 35.Rdc1 Qa2 36.Bxa4 Qxa4 37.Bxe5 Ba2 38.Bxg7 Bxb1 39.Rxb1 Kxg7 40.Rb7+ Kg8 41.h3 Qd1+ 42.Kh2 Rd7 43.Rb6 Qd5 44.Rxc6 Qxc6 45.Ne5 Qa4 46.Nxd7 Qxd7 47.Qb3+ Kg7 48.Qc3+ Kf7 49.c6 Qc7+ 50.Kg2 Ke6 51.Qc5 Qd8 52.Qc4+ Kd6 53.Qd4+ Kxc6 54.Qxd8 Kc5 55.Qd3 h6 56.gxh6 Kb6 57.h7 g5 58.h8Q g4 59.Qb8+ Kc5 60.Qbd6# 1–0

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