h2-h3 Or Not h2-h3?

Yesterday This Day’s Madness did prepare. – Omar Khayyam

A weak move prepares a bad move, because a weak move is where the rubber of a faulty positional plan meets the road.

In the White fianchetto positions that arise from the King’s Indian Attack or the Modern Reversed / Benko’s Opening as in today’s game, “h2-h3 or not h2-h3” is often the question.

Black is tempted by the queen’s bishop’s freedom and often yields to temptation and plops that piece down on g4, attacking the unpinned Knight with the semi-plan of maybe trading for the White fianchetto bishop after Black’s queen gets into position.

White is tempted to play h2-h3 by the semi-plan to win the advantage of two bishops and avert the trade of his own king’s bishop. In reality, Black is threatening nothing, because any attempt to trade the White KB is met with Rf1-e1 guarding the e-pawn so the White queen and king’s knight can depart at will, after which Bg4-h3 is met by Bg2-h1.

Today after Black achieved little up to and including 10… Nd7-b6, White managed to create a weakness in his own position and simultaneously waste precious time by playing 12. h2-h3? Instead of wandering off into the weeds with 12… Bg4-h5, Black quite properly played 12… Bg4-d7 with influence both on h3 and on the increasingly attractive diagonal e8-a4.

White responded with the ripe positional lemon 13. b2-b4, abandoning his b3 and c3 squares, which really should have lost the game. Black continued soundly and after trading knights on e4 could have harrowed White in Kafkaesque fashion on the queen side with the knight, bishop and rook and that advanced d-pawn controlling c3. White cannot even safely trade rooks on the c-file and was barely clinging to life with 16. Kg1-h2.

Instead, Black decided to win the doubled pawn on e4 and played 16… Bc6?! which gave White a chance. Black cooperated nicely with White’s new plan to weaken Black’s kingside and traded the powerful Black king’s bishop displacing the Black’s king’s rook, since recapturing with the king looked dangerous.

Now all was ready when Black won the pawn whilst expecting White to play 26. f4xe5? Instead White played 26. Nd3xe5! and suddenly White’s horrible position is reasonable again. Black has no real attack on the long white diagonal, his queen’s pawn is weak, and White’s rooks are going to get into play by his knight’s threatening to win the exchange, with Black’s king position as weak to the N+Q as White’s own is to the B+Q.

Black now blundered and found one of several ways to lose the exchange (26… Qf6-b6??) transforming the game into a technical exercise.

Jacques Delaguerre