[Event "Tata Steel Masters"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee"] [Date "2021.01.22"] [Round "6.7"] [White "Donchenko, Alexander"] [Black "Firouzja, Alireza"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D31"] [WhiteElo "2668"] [BlackElo "2749"] [Annotator "Bojkov,Dejan"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] 1. d4 d5 ({In order to understand better Firouzja's choice, let me remind you the fascinating recent game where practically the same pawn structure happened with reverse colors after} 1... Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. e3 c5 4. dxc5 e6 5. b4 a5 6. c3 axb4 7. cxb4 b6 8. Bb5+ Bd7 9. Bxd7+ Nbxd7 10. a4 bxc5 11. b5 Bd6 12. Bb2 O-O 13. O-O Qc7 14. Nbd2 c4 15. Bc3 e5 16. a5 e4 17. b6 {and later White won a beautiful game, Firouzja,A (2703)-So,W (2741) Skilling Open 2020}) 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. e3 b5 6. a4 c6 7. Bd2 a5 8. axb5 Bxc3 9. Bxc3 cxb5 10. b3 Bb7 11. bxc4 b4 12. Bb2 Nf6 {The Noteboom variation is considered very risky for Black from a positional point of view. He gives away the center almost completely and surrenders the bishop pair. But in return he gets a nice pair of advanced passers, controls the long diagonal and if he is not mated in the middlegame, he might well be able to promote those passers. All in all a risky, double-edged opening with excellent winning chances for both sides.} 13. Bd3 O-O 14. O-O Nbd7 15. Nd2 {One idea now is to prepare c4-c5 followed by Nd2-c4 and eventually Nc4-d6. The other one is to start rolling the kingside pawns. The drawback of the move is, however, that it loses control of the central e5 square.} (15. Bc2 {at once looks more solid.}) ({The immediate} 15. c5 {might be met with} Bxf3 16. Qxf3 Nxc5) 15... e5 $1 {It is mandatory to block the white pawns.} 16. Bc2 (16. dxe5 Nxe5 {is excellent for Black.}) ({ Whereas} 16. c5 $2 Nxc5 {drops a pawn.}) 16... Qc7 17. h3 ({The opening did not go well for White in the following game:} 17. Re1 Rfe8 18. d5 Nb6 19. e4 Nfd7 20. f4 f6 21. fxe5 Nxe5 22. Bd4 Nbxc4 23. Nxc4 Qxc4 24. Bb3 Qa6 25. Bxe5 Rxe5 26. Qd4 Qd6 {Sjugirov,S (2675)-Obolenskikh, D (2544) Chess.com 2020}) 17... Rfe8 18. Bb3 {This does not seem like the right plan.} ({Here} 18. d5 $1 {might have been strong. It seems that Black can block the position with} Nc5 { but White can put strong pressure on the dark squares then with} 19. f4 Nfd7 20. fxe5 Nxe5 21. Nf3 {eventually lifting the blockade with an edge for the first player.}) 18... h6 {N} ({An email game saw sharp kingside play after} 18... Ne4 19. Nxe4 Bxe4 20. Re1 Ra6 21. f3 Bf5 22. c5 Rg6 23. Kh1 Rh6 24. Bc4 Bxh3 25. gxh3 exd4 26. Bf1 Qg3 {and Black's attack was sufficient to maintain the balance after} 27. Re2 Ne5 28. exd4 Rd8 29. Qe1 Rxh3+ 30. Bxh3 Qxh3+ 31. Rh2 Qxf3+ 32. Rg2 Qh3+ 33. Rh2 Qf3+ 34. Rg2 Qh3+ 35. Rh2 Qf3+ {½-½ (35) Rudolf,M (2129)-Ress,J (2179) LSS email 2013}) 19. Nf3 {The knight returns, but threatens nothing...} ({At last} 19. c5 {is possible, but it brings White nothing after the blockading:} exd4 20. exd4 Bd5) ({Maybe} 19. f4 $5 exf4 20. exf4 Ne4 {with an unclear position should have been tested.}) 19... Ra6 $1 { A nice rook lift.} 20. Nxe5 ({The other capture} 20. dxe5 $2 Ne4 21. Bc2 Ndc5 { allows yet another powerful blockade and domination of the black pieces.}) 20... Nxe5 21. dxe5 Nd7 22. f4 {Donchenko decided to risk and keep the pawn.} ( {Perhaps from afar he intended} 22. Ba4 {but then Black can force a beautiful draw with} Nxe5 $1 23. Bxe8 Nf3+ 24. gxf3 Rg6+ 25. Kh1 Qc8 26. Kh2 Qc7+ { In hindsight, this might not have been a bad idea.}) 22... Nc5 $1 23. Bc2 a4 ({ Even stronger was} 23... b3 $1 {which would have forced the bishop to step to a worse position:} 24. Bf5 (24. Bxb3 $4 {loses a piece due to} Rb6) ({If} 24. Bb1 {as in the game:} Rd8 25. Qe2 Be4 {and the black rook makes it to the attacking g6 square after} 26. Rd1 Rg6) 24... a4 {Now White cannot push his f-pawn.}) 24. f5 $1 {Donchenko grabs the given chance and opens up the game on the kingside.} b3 25. Bb1 Raa8 ({Objectively best seems} 25... a3 $1 26. Rxa3 Rxa3 27. Bxa3 Qxe5 {when the situation remains somehow balanced. For example:} 28. f6 ({Black is better after} 28. Bxc5 Qxc5 29. Qd4 Qxd4 30. exd4 Ba6 $1 31. Rc1 Re2) 28... Qxe3+ {White has nothing else but to trade the queens with} 29. Rf2 ({Or otherwise he is mated:} 29. Kh1 $4 Qxh3+) ({Or} 29. Kh2 $2 Qe2) 29... Qe1+ 30. Qxe1 Rxe1+ 31. Rf1 {The draw seems like the most probable result here. }) 26. e6 $1 {Bringing the bishops out.} Qg3 ({Firouzja needs to be careful:} 26... fxe6 $2 {loses to} 27. f6 Rf8 ({Or} 27... gxf6 28. Rxf6) 28. Qg4 Rf7 29. Qg6 {and the attack cannot be parried.}) 27. Rf2 {But this is not the right way to defend the g2 spot. The rook was needed for the kingside attack.} ({ Therefore:} 27. Qe2 $1 {was called for, for example} f6 {Now the rook can be lifted:} (27... fxe6 {is still bad as the rook is free to move:} 28. f6 gxf6 29. Rxf6) 28. Rf4 h5 {and it is only White who can be better after} 29. Ba3 ({ Or} 29. Qf2)) 27... f6 {Black misses an excellent chance.} (27... fxe6 $1 { was possible now that the rook on f2 is stuck with the defense of the second rank. Then the endgame after} 28. f6 gxf6 29. Qh5 Qg5 30. Qxg5+ hxg5 31. Rxf6 Be4 $1 {should be close to won for Black.}) 28. Bd4 ({It was not too late for} 28. Qe2 $1) 28... Ne4 29. Bxe4 {Certainly a mistake after which Firouzja holds all the trumps.} ({As scary as it looks} 29. Rf4 $1 {was White's best idea. Then} Ng5 30. Qg4 Qxg4 31. Rxg4 a3 {looks winning for Black but White can actually hold this with the forcing sequence} ({Or} 31... h5 32. Rf4 a3) 32. h4 b2 33. Ra2 h5 34. Rf4 Be4 $1 35. Rxe4 $1 Nxe4 36. Bxe4 Reb8 37. Bb1 Rb4 38. Kf2 Rxc4 39. Bxb2 $1 Rb4 40. Bc1 Rxb1 41. Rxa3 Re8 42. Bd2 g6 {and it should be a draw.}) 29... Bxe4 30. Ra3 (30. Qh5 {is easily met with:} Re7) 30... Rec8 31. c5 Kh7 32. Qd2 ({Perhaps White can hold the endgame after} 32. Qg4 Qxg4 33. hxg4 {although this is certainly an ungrateful task.}) 32... b2 {One can hardly criticise a move that led quickly to the win, however White could have defended here.} ({Objectively, a move like} 32... Rd8 {would have kept large advantage for Black and good winning chances.}) 33. Qxb2 {The losing mistake.} ({Donchenko should have opted for} 33. Bxb2 $1 {with the idea to answer} Rxc5 { with} 34. Qd4 ({Or} 34. Qb4 {which would transpose.}) 34... Rxf5 35. Qxe4 $1 { White gives up the rook with a check, but manages to salvage half a point thanks to his powerful passer:} Qxf2+ 36. Kh2 Rc8 ({Nothing changes} 36... Re8 37. Rxa4) 37. e7 Re8 38. Rxa4 {The simple human choice.} ({Or the computer-like } 38. Bxf6 $1 gxf6 39. Rxa4 Kg7 40. Ra8) 38... Rxe7 39. Qxe7 Qxb2 40. Qe4 { with a draw.}) 33... Rab8 34. Qa2 Rb1+ 35. Rf1 Rcb8 36. Qf2 Rxf1+ 37. Kxf1 ({Or } 37. Qxf1 Rb1) 37... Rb1+ 38. Ke2 Qb8 $1 {This long move backwards might have been missed by Donchenko. The attack on the light squares is irresistible.} 39. Qf4 Qb5+ 40. Kd2 Qb4+ 41. Bc3 Qxa3 42. Qxe4 Qc1+ 43. Kd3 Qf1+ 0-1