17 March 2016

Annotated Game #152: To the pain

The quote from The Princess Bride is apt to describe this last-round tournament game, which for me was one long torture session.  I misplay the opening, which took a rather weird (or at least unfamiliar) turn in an English Four Knights around moves 8-9.  I ended up with a painfully inferior position where my opponent had all of the chances.  I then spent a long time simply surviving, then clawing my way back into having real chances, but fell just short of a positive result, in large part due to the mental exhaustion of the effort required in getting to that point.

These types of games are very tough to play and also difficult emotionally to analyze, since you get to relive some of that pain along the way.  However, on the positive side, doing that can help burn into your mind how not to play like that the next time you face a similar situation.

ChessAdmin - Class A

Result: 0-1
Site: ?
Date: ?
A28: English Opening: Four Knights Variation
[...] 1.c4 e5 2.¤c3 ¤f6 3.¤f3 ¤c6 4.e3 d5 5.cxd5 ¤xd5 6.¥b5 ¤xc3 7.bxc3 ¥d6 8.d4 e4 this is the first time I had faced this move, which is unusual but not necessarily bad. From Black's perspective, it gives up the center but gains space on the kingside for further operations. 9.¤d2 £g5 this move discombobulated me a bit, since it was unexpected, although it's a natural follow-up to Black's previous one. Normally the queens don't come out this early in an English. 10.¥xc6+?!
10.¥f1 an example of where concrete considerations override standard opening principles. Here White moves a piece twice, back to its starting square, but it's clearly the best move. The king is secure enough on e1 and White can get play on the kingside and in the center. Eventually I hit on this characteristic of the position in the game, but only in desperation and after digging myself a large hole. 10...£g6
10...bxc6 11.g3³ weakening the light-square complex and making the king much less secure. 11...£g6
11...¥g4!? is more challenging, immediately exploiting the holes in White's position.
12.c4?! a slow move that also opens the a5-e1 diagonal, further weakening the king. Black with his two bishops is much better placed to exploit a more open position. (12.£a4 hitting the weak c6 square 12...¥d7 13.¥a3) 12...c5 13.¥b2 here the bishop on the long diagonal isn't very effective. Ba3 would still be better, also keeping the b-file open. (13.O-O!?³) 13...O-Oµ White has an awful position strategically speaking, as it's full of holes and none of the pieces are really doing much, while Black's are well positioned. The engine gives Black a full pawn equivalent advantage. 14.¦b1 ¥g4 15.£c2 ¦ae8 (15...cxd4 16.¥xd4 c5 17.¥c3 ¥h3µ) 16.d5 locking the center here looks useful, since the pawn advance gains White space and opens the long diagonal, but in concrete terms it actually does nothing for my game and in fact reduces my dynamic possibilities. (16.dxc5 ¥xc5 17.¥c3µ) 16...f5 normally an f-pawn advance at this stage would be a weakening move for Black, even if it has a good attacking purpose, but none of my pieces can do anything in the center or elsewhere to counter it. 17.¤b3? there's not a lot that I can do here, but this is still bad. The idea was to activate the knight and get it to c6 via a5, but this is a slow plan and takes the knight away from a defensive role on the kingside. (17.h3 ¥h5) 17...£h6 an effective move, looking to penetrate the kingside. The immediate f-pawn advance would be even more effective:
17...f4 18.gxf4 ¥h3 at the cost of a pawn, Black has pried open the kingside and White's destruction is imminent. Let's see how that would play out: 19.¢d1 £g2 20.¦e1 ¥g4+ 21.¢c1 ¦xf4!22.£c3
22.exf4?22...¥xf4+ 23.¤d2 e3 24.fxe3 ¦xe3 25.¦d1 ¥xd1 26.£xd1 ¦f3
22...¥e5 23.£c2 ¦xf2−⁠+
18.£c3 sadly, my only counterplay at this point is threatening a rather obvious mate on the long diagonal. 18...¦e7 (18...¥f3 19.¦f1 ¦f7−⁠+) 19.£a5? by this point I'm playing rather randomly and desperately.
19.h4!? would at least try to address Black's threats on the kingside.
19...¥f3 keeping a steady advantage.
19...¥xg3!? is an effective tactical blow. 20.£xc5 ¥xf2+ 21.¢d2 ¦ef7−⁠+ and with ...f4 coming, White's position will collapse.
20.¢d2 at least by this point I understand the seriousness of my position and make the correct choice to sacrifice the exchange for defensive reasons. Although Black still has a won game, this marks an initial psychological turning point in my climb back into the game. 20...¥xh1 21.¦xh1 £h3 22.¦e1 it would have been wiser to continue my king's flight. (22.¢c1 ¦b8 23.£d2−⁠+) 22...£xh2 23.¦e2 I've now "turtled up" my position so there is no imminent breakthrough by Black, although the material deficit means I should still lose. 23...h5 24.¤xc5? (24.¢c2 continuing the king flight is what the engine recommends.) 24...f4 (24...h4!?25.¤b3 h3 26.c5 £g1−⁠+) 25.gxf4 h4 here my opponent misses the ...Qg1 idea, which would seal the win. (25...£g1 26.¤b3 £b1−⁠+) 26.¤e6 although Black is still winning by far, I finally am starting to have some potential threats appear on the board. 26...¦b8 27.¢c2 protecting the Bb2 and opening the diagonal for the queen to return. 27...c5 here my opponent starts to go astray. His winning advantage is on the kingside, but he shifts play back and forth now between that and the queenside, to the detriment of both.
27...h3!? and further material loss by White is inevitable, as the pawn can't be stopped otherwise.
28.£d2?? this should lead immediately to a loss. Furthermore, White can actually obtain a winning position, but it would have required me to sacrifice the Ne6, which I didn't even consider.
28.dxc6! is possible and White now causes serious headaches for Black, using the open lines around his king. 28...¦xe6 29.£d5 £h3 30.f5 this is the tactical point of the sequence. 30...¦be8 31.¦d2 it's important not to pull the trigger too soon on the Re6, which is going nowhere. 31...¥c7 32.¦d1 ¦8e7 33.fxe6 £xe6 34.¦h1+⁠− and shockingly White is now winning.
28...£g1 (28...h3 again is more to the point.) 29.¤g5 with the idea of preventing ...h3, but Black could still in fact play it. Black also has a win using tactics on the b-file, but ignores it. (29.¦e1 £g2 30.£e2 h3−⁠+) 29...¦eb7 with Black having delayed this, I can still (desperately) defend. (29...¦xb2+ 30.¢xb2 ¦b7+ 31.¢a3 £b1 32.£c3 h3−⁠+) 30.¥c1 £h1? this allowed me a chance to get closer to equality, but I didn't see it at the time. (30...¦b4) 31.¦e1?
31.£e1 had to be tried to avoid defeat, notes Komodo via the Fritz interface. 31...£xe1 32.¦xe1 ¦b1 33.¤xe4 ¥c7 34.¦d1 h3µ
31...£g2−⁠+32.¦e2? (32.£e2 ¥e7 33.f3 £xe2+ 34.¦xe2 ¥xg5 35.fxe4−⁠+) 32...£g4? this time, however, I seize the chance to claw my way back into the game.
32...¦b1 finishes off the opponent, says the engine with no sympathy whatsoever. 33.¥a3 ¦a1−⁠+
33.¤xe4³33...£d7 and now I can even equalize. 34.¤c3 it was an exhausting struggle to get to this point. Material is now roughly balanced and my defenses after the king walk are holding. The h-pawn is no longer a threat, either, as it does not have enough support to get past my second rank. 34...¦f8 letting up pressure on the b-file, which is a mistake. (34...¦b4 35.£d3 £b7 36.£e4) 35.f3² the correct response. The second rank is opened for the Q+R battery and I can start mobilizing my central pawns. 35...¦f5 (35...£f5+ 36.£d3 £h5 37.¦h2²) 36.£e1 (36.¦h2± first is better, keeping the h-pawn firmly in check.) 36...¦h5 37.e4 h3 38.£g3 ¥c7 (38...¦b4 39.¢d3±) 39.¦h2 ¦b6?! this does nothing for Black. (39...¥a5!? was necessary here. 40.£g4 £e8 41.e5²) 40.e5±40...¦bh6 I don't understand what my opponent was thinking with this maneuver. I believe he was rather exhausted himself by this point. (40...£f5+ 41.¤e4 ¦g6 42.£f2±) 41.e6 this is too impatient.
41.£g4 is much better, supporting the pawn advance first. 41...£e8 42.d6 ¥xd6 43.exd6 ¦xd6 44.¦xh3 ¦xh3 45.£xh3±
41...£e8²42.£f2 shifting attention to the c-pawn. 42...£g6+? a check for a check's sake, seemingly. The next move centralizes my knight to good effect, making it significantly more powerful despite the pin. (42...¦g6!?²) 43.¤e4+⁠− now once the king moves, the knight is very well placed to support the d6 push, as well as controlling f6 and attacking c5 again. 43...£f5 44.£xc5 ¥xf4 45.¥xf4? with this move White loses his initiative
45.e7 passed pawns must be pushed! 45...¢f7 46.¥xf4 £xf4 47.¦e2+⁠−
45...£xf4 now the best I can do is a draw, which was a significant letdown. 46.£f2 necessary to protect f3. 46...¦g6 47.d6 ¦xe6 and now, after a long, tiring battle, I fail to falsify my next move and check my opponent's tactics. 48.¦h1?? (48.d7 was possible 48...£b8 49.£d2) 48...¦xe4 this capture removes the guard of the Qf2 and so the pawn recapture isn't possible. Game over.
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