This super-quick article is in my Engine Snacks series! Stockfish avoids an obvious recapture – that would be played by 99/100 players – to realize optimal development and activate its pieces to the maximum right out of the opening. Simple, and so useful to learn for your own games!
We join the game after 8 moves of a dodgy Polish Defense opening (1.Nf3 b5) White has a lead in development and the 2 bishops. White’s light-squared bishop on b3 is biting on granite and 9.c3 is natural to redeploy the bishop to the b1-h7 diagonal. Stockfish tries a more aggressive idea.
White opens the b1-h7 diagonal for the bishop and the follow-up will be c4-c5, gaining queenside space and preventing Black from ever playing the …c6-c5 central break. For this reason, Black plays
This gives Black an isolated c6-pawn but also isolates the d4-pawn and frees a solid outpost on d5 for a black knight. In earlier games, both Ethereal and ScorpioNN had played the obvious 10.Bxc4 with a slight advantage that led however to no more than a draw. Stockfish’s idea was much cooler!
I love this move! White’s idea is to recapture the c4-pawn with the knight on b1, bringing the knight to an excellent square (from c4, the knight can jump to e5 or a5) while gaining a tempo against the exposed black queen on a5. White’s light-squared bishop can be rerouted to e2 or f3 to join in the attack on the queenside light squares!
10…Nf6 11.Nd2 Qd8 12.Nxc4 Be7
12…Qxd4 13.Qb3 is awful for Black
13.Qb3 0–0 14.Qb7 Nbd7 15.Bf3
Here it is!
Clearing the black queen away from the queenside has enabled White to win a pawn which Stockfish converted with superb technique 80 moves later!
16…N7b6 17.Ne5 Rc8 18.Qb5 Nb4 19.Be3 N6d5 20.Rac1 a6 21.Rxc8 Qxc8 22.Qa5 Nxe3 23.fxe3 Bd6 24.h3 h6 25.Be4 Bxe5 26.Qxe5 Nxa2 27.d5 exd5 28.Bxd5 Nb4 29.Bb3 Nc6 30.Qe4 Nd8 31.Bc2 g6 32.Rf6 Qb7 33.Qe5 Qb5 34.Qxb5 axb5 35.Rb6 Kg7 36.Rxb5 Ne6 37.Kf1 Rc8 38.Be4 Rc4 39.Bf3 Ng5 40.Bd5 Rc2 41.Rb8 Ne6 42.Be4 Rc4 43.Ba8 Rc2 44.Ke1 Nc5 45.Kd1 Rf2 46.Rb5 Na4 47.Kc1 Rf1+ 48.Kc2 Rf2+ 49.Kb1 Re2 50.Rb3 Nc5 51.Ra3 Kf6 52.Bf3 Re1+ 53.Kc2 Nd7 54.Kd2 Rf1 55.b4 h5 56.Ra6+ Ke5 57.Kc2 Rf2+ 58.Kd3 h4 59.Kc3 Rf1 60.Kc2 Rf2+ 61.Kd3 Rf1 62.Bc6 Rd1+ 63.Kc2 Rd6 64.Kc3 Nb8 65.Ra5+ Ke6 66.Bf3 Rd8 67.b5 Rc8+ 68.Kd4 Rd8+ 69.Kc5 Rd2 70.Kb6 Kd6 71.Kb7 Nd7 72.Ra6+ Kc5 73.Kc7 Nf8 74.b6 Ne6+ 75.Kb8 Rd3 76.b7 Rxe3 77.Kc8 Rb3 78.Rxe6 fxe6 79.b8Q Rxb8+ 80.Kxb8 Kd6 81.Kc8 e5 82.Be4 g5 83.Bf3 Ke6 84.Kc7 e4 85.Bxe4 Ke5 86.Bf3 Kd4 87.Kd6 Kc3 88.Ke7 Kb4 89.Kf6 g4 90.hxg4 1–0