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In the last round of last month's 4th EJCOA IM Norm tournament this interesting game was played. White plays the Jobava London and Black plays the "copycat" line with 4...Bf5. Black then plays a manoeuvre to exchange queens. The engine doesn't like it that much but it's understandable against someone rated almost 200 points higher. The problem after that is that White seemed to play planlessly and Black punished him.

What should White's plan(s) be after the queen exchange? It seems to me that White's pieces don't end up on good squares. What setup should White be aiming for?

[Title "Tim Wall (2290) vs Matthew Wadsworth (2467) 4th EJCOA IM Norm 2022"]
[fen ""]
[Startply "21"]

1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bf4 c6 4. e3 Bf5 5. f3 e6 6. g4 Bg6 7. h4 h5 8. g5 Ng8 9. Qd2 Bd6 10. Bxd6 Qxd6 11. Qh2 Qxh2 12. Rxh2 Nd7 13. O-O-O Ne7 14. e4 a6 15. Bh3 b5 16. Re2 Nb6 17. Ree1 b4 18. Nb1 a5 19. Nd2 a4 20. Ne2 O-O 21. Nf4 Rfd8 22. Nf1 b3 23. Kb1 dxe4 24. fxe4 e5 25. Nxg6 Nxg6 26. c3 Nf4 27. Re3 Nc4 28. Rf3 a3 0-1
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  • "Black then plays a manoeuvre to exchange queens." I don't think that is forced. What about 11. Nge2 to protect the g3 square
    – gtgaxiola
    Nov 15, 2022 at 20:38

2 Answers 2

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The setup with 14.e4 was the correct choice by White as it prevents Nd7-f5 hitting the h4 weakness and restrains the light bishop's activity.

The error was 15.Bh3 because it wastes a tempo by misplacing the bishop in the h3 square, whose active diagonal c8-h3 can be neutralised by evacuating the pieces as in the game.

Instead, the most accurate play for White (according to the engine and my understanding) was to play Nge2 (quickly eyeing the f4 square from where we hit the g6 bishop), and only after Black long castles, then Bh3 is effective.

With this setup, if Black follows the same plan, we reach a long-term comfortable position for White with a superior bishop:

[Title "Tim Wall (2290) vs Matthew Wadsworth (2467) 4th EJCOA IM Norm 2022"]
[fen ""]
[Startply "21"]


1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bf4 c6 4. e3 Bf5 5. f3 e6 6. g4 Bg6 7. h4 h5 8. g5 Ng8 9. Qd2 Bd6 10. Bxd6 Qxd6 11. Qh2 Qxh2 12. Rxh2 Nd7 13. O-O-O Ne7 14. e4 a6 15. Nge2 b5 (15... O-O-O 16. Bh3) 16. Nf4 b4 17. Na4 dxe4 18. Nxg6 Nxg6 19. fxe4 
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  • Why would Black play 16...b4 ? And why 17...de4 ? Isn't he fine after, say, 16...Nb6 or 16...a5 ?
    – Evargalo
    Nov 17, 2022 at 8:03
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    16... b4 is justified when I say "if Black follows the same plan". If not, the position is about equal and 16... Nb6 seems a good move–but not 16... a5 because exd5 and the e-file opening is going to hurt.
    – db_max
    Nov 17, 2022 at 8:17
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    ok, that makes sense. But the plan played in the orginal game is ...b5 and ...Nb6 (controlling a4) before ...b4.
    – Evargalo
    Nov 17, 2022 at 8:21
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    That's true, although I didn't think of a4 as good square for the knight, but to show an example on how to react if Black wants to immediately put pressure on the e4 pawn (i.e., kicking away the defender). Anyways I think you are right, Nb6 seems like a good inclusion!
    – db_max
    Nov 17, 2022 at 8:28
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First one could debate White's decision to exchange queens. Since the Black king has no perfect shelter (the short castle has being weakened by ...h5) White might have had better attacking chance in a middlegame.

After the queen exchange, I think the plan with e4 was completely misguided. It weakens several dark squares, the Bg2/Bh3 still doesn't find employment and White doesn't have enough ressources to pressure d5 nor to create threats on the e-file.

edit: the other answer correctly mentions that e4 is meant to prevent ...Nf5. That reinforces my feeling that Qh2 wasn't adequate...

Much more logical would have been to eventually play f4, paying respect to Capablanca's rule about putting pawns on squares of different color from one's bishop. Then White can play for space by bring a knight on e5 (very London-like).

But beforehand I would complete development and probe the target on h5 with 14.Nge2, heading for g3 or f4. The idle Nc3 should probably be redirected to g3/f4 as well, and Bd3 (or sometimes Be2/Bh3) intending cd3 if Black exchanges bishops, followed by f4, Nf3-e5, and rook(s) on the c-file, is another possible ressource.

White has a slight advantage (space counts) but Black remains very solid.

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