22 March 2014

Annotated Game #119: A slashing victory in the English

This fourth-round tournament game was played against an obviously aggressive opponent.  As early as his second move (2...f5) it was clear that he would be looking for a kingside attack as soon as possible.  Although I was more cautious and solid, my focus on play in the center and on development gave me a good game without allowing my opponent any significant threats; he did miss the idea of playing ...Ne4 at some point, however, which would have given him better play.

The position around move 14 illustrates the importance of positional factors and ease of play, especially at the Class level.  White does not have a significant advantage, but the advantages he does have (the two bishops, open diagonals, more queenside space) make the game much easier to play.  All it takes for Black to lose is one bad idea - the slow transfer of his queen to the kingside - and White is able to shift to tactical play, taking advantage of Black's light-square weaknesses to slash open the position.  Black in response stakes everything on an unprepared kingside attack, which fizzles when I carefully calculate to a safe (and winning) position.

While my opening play here was not necessarily optimal, it got me to a comfortable middlegame position with latent threats and easy play.  After that, it was simply a matter of recognizing opportunities in the position and keeping mentally focused.  Overall, this was a good example of how your positional advantages can be turned into concrete ones, after your opponent ignores them and simply tries to execute his own plan.

17 March 2014

Reloader tactic: Candidates 2014 - Round 2

I could not pass up the chance to highlight the following reloader tactic, which I think is an outstanding example of the concept, in this game from Round 2 of the ongoing Candidates tournament.  Conceptually, one can see that the Black queen has very few squares and is nearly trapped; it just requires understanding how to trap it, which in this case means moving a knight to e4 - twice in a row.  Also another useful example in a broader sense of the importance of CCT, in this case the threat being to trap the queen, regardless of the fact that the first knight can be taken.

15 March 2014

Annotated Game #118: A slip in the Slav; or, the case of the missing pawn capture

Two main features of this third-round tournament game stand out for me.  First is the seeming slip of 6...b4? which is a creatively bad pawn sacrifice in the opening.  Even though my opponent did not directly punish it, the decision led to problems in the initial phase of the game.  Second is the mutual blindness of myself and my opponent, lasting for a large chunk of the game, over the possibility of Black's pawn capture (bxa3) on the queenside.  At a number of points it would have given me a significant, perhaps decisive, advantage.  It is an interesting example of the importance of not dismissing CCT options, especially obvious ones.  I can say that this was primarily a thinking process failure on my part, since I failed to re-examine the possibilities in the position as the game went on, after dismissing the idea to begin with.

10 March 2014

A stress-free Slav Defense?

I found fascinating the idea presented in this Chess Improver post, which highlights a little-known and analyzed main line variation (5...a5) for Black.

In general, it's something of a Holy Grail for opening study to find sidelines - especially as early as move 5 - that are easy to learn and give good results, allowing you to avoid lots of complex theory to have to understand and memorize.  Even if such lines aren't technically the best, if they're sound and give you a good, easily playable position heading into the middlegame, then it's still a net plus for your chess study and practice; you can then spend your time and energy on other weaknesses in your game (and there always will be more weaknesses than you can comfortably tackle, at the amateur level).

In this particular case it's clear you still have to understand what's going on in the resulting position, but with relatively simple play it seems that Black can do well.  Perhaps I'll try it out the line myself later on.

08 March 2014

Annotated Game #117: A fight in the Dutch

In this second-round tournament game I had an extended fight against my opponent's Dutch setup, which eventually became a type of Stonewall.  For a long time his queenside pieces were shut out of the action and I had all the chances, but a few careless moves and my neglect of the center allowed Black to seize the initiative in the later part of the game.  As often happens at the Class level though, my opponent overextended his attack and then missed a key defensive tactic which left me with a winning position.

The notes with the game are extensive, but for improvement purposes I want to highlight the defensive resource I found on move 36 as a concrete example of how my training and studies have helped my game.  I correctly anticipated my opponent's threat and calculated the sequence, most importantly not prematurely ruling out the tactic, which immediately returns the sacrificed piece.  Before I would not have considered a broad enough spectrum of options, I believe, having previously been too closed-minded about tactical possibilities and my thinking process.

01 March 2014

Annotated Game #116: Back to School

My chess career has, like most people's, seen its ups and downs.  The latest "up" phase in terms of activity was marked by the start of this blog, although my opportunities to play in serious tournaments have still been limited.  With this annotated game, I return to analyzing my over-the-board (OTB) tournament games, which I will do in a series for each tournament.  As I continue playing in the Slow Chess League online, in between series of OTB tournament analysis, I intend to post more recent games worthy of review.

As you might expect after another long break in tournament play, my first round game felt like I was going "back to school" and was marked by some practical issues that I failed to solve.  One of these strategic issues was the fact that I gave my opponent easy play against me, primarily by entering into sequences that resulted in positional features with obvious plans, such as White's 2-to-1 queenside majority.  However, at minimum I did not blunder until the very end (missing a nice deflection tactic by my opponent) and played a reasonably solid game throughout.  This was my first tournament game since starting the blog, so I had hoped for a better result, but had to content myself with more of a learning experience.