04 November 2012

Annotated Game #70: Early endgame struggle

This next tournament game is from the first round of a quad.  My Class A opponent chose early to head for a queenless middlegame, which I think mostly benefited Black.  Some interesting tactical and positional themes arose at various points and in the final position I had the only winning chances, but accepted a draw due to the ratings difference (over 250 points).  While an understandable decision, this really isn't the way to improve one's chess, which requires the mental toughness to take on and defeat superior opponents.

Some highlights of the analysis:
  • The White line with 4. a4 is considered a sideline of the Slav with 3. Nc3, apparently with good reason.  Black scores quite well in it and is not seriously challenged.  The counterblow 4...e5 is quite effective here.
  • The tactic on move 9 that White missed is instructive.  The White knight can simply run roughshod over Black's queenside, which is undeveloped, with the dual threat of Nc7+ and Nb6.  The intermediate bishop capture on d2 for Black doesn't help.
  • Black shied away from concrete analysis on move 18 of the obvious pawn advance, kicking the Nc3 and winning a pawn on d5 after the exchanges are through.  The actual move played, 18...Nd4, in fact invalidates Black's potential tactic by blocking the pin on the d-file.  This shows how my thinking on tactics was in the past much more muddled; I was unable to clearly break down the tactical elements in a position.
  • Black keeps plugging away, however, and makes the good strategic choice to simplify down into a minor piece endgame where by move 27 his pieces are relatively stronger.
  • The move 33 variation with ...h5 is an excellent example of endgame strategy and tactics.  Black could have assured his superiority on the kingside with this tactic.
  • The move 39 variation has a game-winning tactic based on promotion and a unique X-ray motif.  Another useful pattern, along with the move 33 variation, to keep in mind for potential endgame tactics.


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