08 March 2015

Annotated Game #143: Playing against your own defense is hard

In this fourth-round tournament game, I faced my own defense and did poorly in the opening as a result.  Not because the defense itself is overpowering, but because I was not well prepared to play against it either technically or emotionally.  I believe this is something common to chessplayers, especially amateurs, when we over-identify with a particular opening setup and invest it with emotional qualities.  Professionals often can play both sides of their favorite openings with virtuosity; for example, in the modern era Kramnik is often cited in this context.

As the game progressed, I managed to achieve equality via a strategic piece exchange, but then made another classic amateur error, that of assuming opening play was "safe" and moves made on principle would be sufficient, rather than always closely examining possible tactics and falsifying my moves.  This is a lesson that I have been presented with multiple times and need to take to heart for the future.

The other major lesson I take away from this game is to play out every endgame and not to give up on them.  Despite my opponent being a pawn up for most of the game, I was savvy enough to reach drawing positions, but let myself be affected by the accumulated pressure and repeated threats, eventually losing as a result.

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