25 April 2016

Annotated Game #156: It's never too late to equalize (redux)

This next game has a similar theme to Annotated Game #153.  One of the valuable outcomes of analyzing your own games is seeing patterns in your play that you had not been aware of before, and hopefully improving your performance as a result.  We've previous seen an example of this in Annotated Game #63: Third Time's the Charm (?)

Here in this fourth-round tournament game we see (similar to other recent games) how I was struggling out of an unfamiliar opening and gave my opponent the initiative and a significant edge.  However, I didn't give up and kept searching for active counterplay, using an exchange sacrifice on move 19 to sabotage my opponent's initiative.  On moves 28 and 31 I again employ these principles and achieve equality - only to overlook the best way I could have made it concrete.  After move 35 White is winning and that becomes obviously so after the endgame is reached, although I struggle on for a while down the exchange.

One of the other themes to emerge from these game analyses is that against Class competition, it's likely that your opponent will make enough mistakes to eventually let you back in the game, if the situation is sufficiently complicated and if you have sufficient potential for activating your pieces and creating threats.  Conversely, I think it's a good lesson for when you have the advantage, in that it's important to keep your opponent shut down and their pieces out of the game as much as possible.

Class A - ChessAdmin

Result: 1-0
B25: Closed Sicilian: 3 g3, lines without early Be3
[...] 1.f4 the first time I've faced a Bird's Opening in tournament play. 1...c5 2.¤f3 ¤c6 3.g3 this reverse Leningrad Dutch setup is called the "Polar Bear" in the U.S. 3...g6 4.¥g2 ¥g7 5.O-O d6 6.e4 ¤f6
6...e6 is more common here, although the text move scores over 50 percent in the database.
7.d3 ¥g4
7...O-O is uniformly the choice of top players here. No need to commit the bishop early.
8.h3 is more challenging and would essentially force Black to exchange on f3, otherwise the bishop moves would be lost tempi. Creating a target on h3 would not be enough compensation in the opening.
8...¤d4!? looking to exchange off minor pieces appears to be a good idea. Example: 9.¥e3 O-O 10.£d2 ¤xf3+ 11.¥xf3 ¥xf3 12.¦xf3 ¤g4 13.¤d1 d5 14.e5 d4 15.¥f2 £d5 16.£e2 f6 17.h3 ¤xf2 18.¤xf2 fxe5 19.£e4 £xe4 20.¤xe4 exf4 21.gxf4 e5 22.¦af1 exf4 23.¦xf4 ¦xf4 24.¦xf4 ¥e5 25.¦f2 ¦c8 26.b3 b5 27.¦e2 c4 28.bxc4 bxc4 29.¤d2 cxd3 30.cxd3 ¦c1+ 31.¢f2 ¥f6 32.¦e8+ ¢f7 33.¦a8 ¦c7 34.¢f3 ¢e6 35.¤c4 ¢d5 36.¦f8 ¥g5 37.¢g4 ¥e7 38.¦h8 ¥f6 39.¦f8 ¥e7 40.¦h8 h5+ 41.¢f3 ¥h4 42.¦f8 ¦e7 43.¦f4 ¥g5 44.¦f8 ¦e6 45.¦b8 ¦f6+ 46.¢e2 ¢c5 47.¦c8+ ¢b5 48.¦b8+ ¢c6 49.¤a5+ ¢d6 50.¤c4+ ¢c7 51.¦a8 ¢b7 52.¦g8 ¢a6 53.¤e5 ¢b5 54.¦xg6 ¦xg6 55.¤xg6 ¢b4 56.¤e5 ¢c3 57.¤c6 a6 58.a4 ¥h4 59.a5 ¥f6 60.¤b8 ¥e7 61.h4 ¥b4 62.¤d7 ¥xa5 63.¤f6 ¢c2 64.¤xh5 ¥d2 65.¤g7 ¥f4 66.¤e6 ¥e5 67.¤c5 a5 68.h5 ¢c3 69.¢d1 ¥f4 70.¢e2 ¥h6 71.¤e4+ ¢b3 72.¤d2+ ¢b4 73.¢d1 ¢c3 74.¤e4+ ¢xd3 75.¤f6 a4 76.¤g4 a3 77.¤xh6 a2 0-1 (77) Trifunovic,M (2320) -Arsovic,Z (2440) Niksic 1996
9.¤e2 £c8 I thought here about where to best put the queen. With the text move, the d7 square is available for the knight, but the queen blocks the rooks from the c-file. 10.c3 ¥h3 while this exchanges off the White bishop on the long diagonal, there was not necessarily an immediate need to do this. 11.¥d2 ¥xg2 12.¢xg2 ¦d8 13.h3 Secures g4, notes the engine. 13...h5 here I thought a long time about the various possibilities and made a strategically incorrect decision. While the engine shows this as still equal, the restraint of the g4-g5 push at this point is not crucial and the pawn on h5 becomes both a target for sacrifices and weakens the squares around the king. In broader terms, Black needs to be thinking about his own counterplay on the queenside at this point, not playing on the kingside where White is stronger. (13...c4!?) 14.¤h4 ¢h7?! waste of a tempo, giving the initiative fully to White.
14...c4!? again would be beneficial for Black. 15.¥e3 (15.f5 cxd3 16.¤d4 ¤e5³) 15...e6³
15.f5²15...¤e5 not a bad idea in general, as seen in the above variation, but not enough to shore up Black's defenses here.
15...d5!? should be considered, reacting in the center and attacking the e4 square. White still has the upper hand, however. 16.exd5 ¤xd5 17.fxg6+ fxg6 18.c4±
16.¥g5± now it just gets uglier for Black. 16...£c6
16...¥h6!? is a good practical defensive try. 17.fxg6+ fxg6 18.¥xh6 ¢xh6±
17.¤f4+⁠− by this point the engine shows Black down almost the equivalent of a piece. 17...d5? again, not a bad general idea, just too late to make a difference. (17...£e8 18.£e2 ¦ac8+⁠−) 18.¥xf6 exf6 19.¤xd5? this is an unnecessary diversion from White's breakthrough attack on the kingside.
19.fxg6+ and it becomes clear that White will call all the shots, says Komodo via the Fritz interface. 19...fxg6 20.¤hxg6 ¤xg6 21.£xh5+ ¢g8 22.£xg6+⁠−
19...¦xd5± I'm pleased that I spotted this, admittedly desperate, chance at counterplay. 20.exd5 £xd5+ White is the exchange up but at least my position is no longer critical, even if my long-term prospects are worse. 21.¢h2 ¦d8
21...¦e8!? might be better, considering that the added pressure on the d-pawn is essentially meaningless after the game continuation.
22.d4 the best move. White is unafraid to give back a pawn in order to improve his position and simplify down on material, at which point his being up the exchange becomes more meaningful. 22...cxd4 23.£xd4 £a5 (23...£xd4 24.cxd4 ¦xd4 25.¦ad1±) 24.£f2 g5 25.¤f3 ¤d3 26.£c2 g4?! I thought for a while here and moved the incorrect pawn. It looked more obvious to kick the Nf3 and I did not seriously look at moving the h-pawn, which is possible tactically.
26...h4 27.gxh4 gxh4 28.¦ad1±
28.¤xh4 £c7+ 29.¢h1 ¥h6± and Black has more counterplay due to the active bishop and the potential to use the open g-file for his rook.
27.¦ad1+⁠− the correct response and one that I did not consider, given the obvious threat to the Nf3. A more sophisticated concept was employed here by my opponent, that of exchanging pieces at a distance (the Nf3 for the Nd3). 27...¥h6? desperation, but my opponent again does not go for my throat as he should have. (27...£a6 28.c4 ¤b4 29.£b3 ¦xd1 30.¦xd1+⁠−) (27...gxf3 28.¦xd3 ¦e8 29.¦fxf3+⁠−) 28.¤d4?! having rightly ignored the hanging Nf3 the previous move, my opponent reverses course and does not follow up with the logical continuation.
28.¦xd3 and White has it in the bag, comments the engine. 28...gxf3 29.¦xd8 £xd8 30.£f2+⁠− the endgame is dead lost for Black.
28...¤e5± I am again granted a good deal of positional compensation for the exchange. The Ne5 is in an excellent position and cannot easily be dislodged. 29.£b3 £c7 this ignored White's obvious follow-up.
29...¦d7 and now 30.¤b5 ¦e7 is significantly better for Black than the game continuation.
30.¤b5 ¦xd1 31.£xd1?!
31.¦xd1!? maintains an advantage. 31...£c6 32.¤d4 £c7²
31...£b6 after fighting for so long, I'm able to regain equality, putting my piece activity to good use. The Nb5 is skewered against the b-pawn. 32.£e2 ¤f3+ the centralized knight again proves its worth. 33.¢g2 £c6
33...¤d2 34.hxg4 (34.¦d1 £c6+ leads to a perpetual.) 34...¤xf1 35.¢xf1
34.¤xa7 is OK for White, since unfortunately I have no discovered checks with the knight that help my situation. My opponent probably did not want to risk it, however. 34...£c5
34...¤d4+??35.¤xc6 ¤xe2 36.¦e1 and the Ne2 has no squares left.
35.¤b5 ¤d2
34...£c5+ "patzer sees check, patzer gives check" - sigh. Here I miss a key to the position, the threat of creating an outside passed h-pawn.
34...¤d2!? must definitely be considered 35.¤d4 (35.¦d1??35...gxh3−⁠+) (35.hxg4 ¤xf1³) 35...£d5 36.hxg4 ¤xf1 37.£xf1 hxg4
35.¤d4± the moment of danger for White is now past. 35...¤xd4 36.cxd4 £xd4+ 37.¢g2 £d5+ 38.¢h2 £xa2 39.hxg4 hxg4 40.¦f2 up to now, part of an obvious sequence. I thought that I had some practical chances to draw, but now I give up too much to my opponent. 40...£d5?! worrying about protecting the b-pawn, but losing the g-pawn and giving White too much scope with his pieces in the process.
40...£a4 41.£e7 ¢g7 42.¦e2²
42.£xb7? is something that I thought was obviously good for White, but I did not calculate further. 42...¥e3 43.¦g2 £e8 and now the White king is threatened on the h-file. 44.¢h1 ¥b6 45.£d5 £e1+ 46.¢h2 £c1 47.£d2 £c8 48.¢h1 £xf5³ and Black is having all the fun in the position.
41.£xg4± really the final turning point in the game, after this my resistance is increasingly futile. 41...b5 42.£f3 £c5 43.¢g2 a5 44.£c3 £xc3?
44...£b6!?± would have kept the queens on the board, my only real chance for trying to hold a draw. I was tired by this point, however, and put too much faith in the bishop's ability to combat the White rook.
45.bxc3+⁠−45...b4 46.cxb4 axb4 47.¦c2 ¥f8 48.¦c7 ¢g7 49.¢f3 ¢g8 50.g4 my opponent has an ideal situation, knowing that he has all the time he needs to maneuver his king into the position, while mine is trapped and the bishop is also tied to protecting the b-pawn. 50...¢g7 51.¢e4 ¥d6 52.¦b7 ¥c5 53.¢d5 ¥f8 54.¦b8 ¥e7 55.¦e8 ¥f8 56.¢c6 ¢g8 57.¢d7 ¢g7 58.¦c8 ¢g8 59.¦c6 ¢g7 60.¢e8 this position is fully resignable. 60...b3 61.¦b6 ¥c5 62.¦xb3 ¢h6 63.¦c3 ¥d4 64.¦c4 ¥e5 65.¢xf7 ¢g5 66.¦a4 ¥c3 67.¢e6 ¥e5 68.¦a8 ¢xg4 69.¦g8+ ¢h5 70.¦g6 now all White has to do is exchange the rook for bishop and pawn, into a winning K+P endgame.
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24 April 2016

Magnus Carlsen vs. Muhammad Ali

The matchup isn't a direct one, of course, but over the weekend I saw the new(*) Porsche commercial that features alternating sequences of Ali and Carlsen warming up and then fighting matches...against themselves.  The marketing point is that only a champion can defeat another champion - there are also dueling Porsches intercut - and that there's nothing better than a Porsche.  The commercial ran during coverage of the Stuttgart Open tennis tournament (sponsored by Porsche), which is another parallel of chess vs. tennis.

It's always interesting to see how chess sometimes surfaces in popular culture, in this case in the luxury market.  It's also cheering as a chess aficionado to see Carlsen up there with Ali as a contemporary icon of what a world champion can be.

(*) the original version of the commercial, from December, also featured Maria Sharapova, but she got dropped after the drug test issue surfaced.  Honestly I like the newer version better, it's punchier with the intercuts and from the standpoint of total percentage of screen time has relatively more chess content. ;)

17 April 2016

Annotated Game #155: Wrong side of a Stonewall

The following third-round game had me on the "wrong" side (White) of a Stonewall.  Of course I was fine on principle in the opening, but it's often tough to play against defenses that you yourself use.  In this case, the game becomes quite sharp in the early middlegame and Black takes over the initiative.  Instead of finding some interesting tactical options (especially on move 18, with a deflection possibility), I play some "obvious moves" (as in Annotated Game #149) and get in trouble in the complications.  Despite some desperation-type pressure from my end, my opponent consolidated in time trouble to the point where the win was obvious, so I resigned.  Not my best effort, but it was a useful learning experience in dealing with an unfamiliar opening setup (Semi-Slav versus the English, which morphed into a Stonewall).

ChessAdmin - Class A

Result: 0-1
D45: Semi-Slav: 5 e3
[...] 1.c4 ¤f6 2.¤c3 e6 3.¤f3 d5 4.e3 c6 this is the first time I've encountered a Semi-Slav type setup against the English. 5.b3 ¤bd7 6.¥e2 this may be a premature development of the bishop. 6...¥d6 7.O-O O-O 8.d4 this move puts the game firmly in Semi-Slav territory (although not for long). Alternate approaches may be better. Here's one from Mikhail Tal:
8.£c2 ¦e8 9.¥b2 e5 10.cxd5 ¤xd5 11.¤e4 ¥c7 12.a3 a5 13.¥c4 ¤f8 14.¤g3 ¥g4 15.¤e1 ¤g6 16.h3 ¥e6 17.¤f3 ¤f6 18.¥xe6 ¦xe6 19.¦ad1 ¦e8 20.e4 ¤d7 21.d4 exd4 22.¤xd4 ¥xg3 23.fxg3 £b6 24.¢h2 £c5 25.£e2 ¤de5 26.¤f5 ¦ad8 27.¦xd8 ¦xd8 28.¦d1 £f8 29.¥d4 ¦d7 30.¥c3 ¦xd1 31.£xd1 h6 32.h4 f6 33.h5 ¤e7 34.¤h4 £b8 35.¥xe5 £xe5 36.£d7 ¢f8 37.¤g6+ ¤xg6 38.hxg6 £h5+ 39.¢g1 £xg6 40.£xb7 £xe4 41.£a8+ 1/2-1/2 (41) Tal,M (2560)-Bagirov,V (2505) Riga 1981
8...£e7 9.¥b2 ¤e4 10.£c2 f5 now we have a classic Stonewall Dutch formation for Black. 11.¤xe4 starting a somewhat complex sequence. I had to think here for a while and also again on move 14 to make sure that I had it right. 11...fxe4 12.¤e5 the only move that doesn't give Black a positional edge. 12...£g5 the counter-threat by Black, which requires White to further support the Ne5. Exchanging on d7 is possible, but just benefits Black by freeing up the Bc8 and connecting his rooks. 13.£c3 ¦f5 increasing the pressure again on Black's side. 14.f4 exf3 15.¦xf3
15.¤xf3!? is the other major option. I thought that the text move seemed to keep the balance more easily.
15...¤xe5 16.dxe5 ¦xe5 17.¦g3 an obvious move with an obvious threat that I made quickly. I should have considered other options as well, since there's no urgency to play the text move. For example, Black's Re5 is awkwardly placed and is a target for White's bishops.
17.¥d3!? starts a wild line: 17...¦xe3 18.¥xh7+ ¢h8 19.¦xe3 ¥c5 20.¦ae1 d4 21.£d3 dxe3 22.¥e4²
17.c5 is a safer version of the idea. 17...¥c7 18.¥d3 and Black's Re5 is trapped and will have to give itself up for the exchange, although this is not losing.
17...£e7 18.¦f1 another "obvious" move played when there was a not-so-obvious good alternative.
18.¥a3 deflection tactic. 18...¥xa3 19.£xe5 ¥d6 20.£g5 £xg5 21.¦xg5
18...¦g5 Black now effectively takes over the initiative. His pieces are well placed to make threats on the kingside, while mine are not coordinating as well. 19.¦xg5 £xg5 20.¥h5 I did well to find this move, although I followed up on it poorly, essentially overestimating my threats and underestimating Black's. 20...¥xh2+ 21.¢h1??
21.¢xh2 I dismissed this move since I thought it just lost a pawn, but it keeps the position equal due to White's threats on the f-file and against the g7 square. 21...£xh5+ 22.¢g1 £g5 23.£b4 £xe3+ 24.¦f2
21...¥g3−⁠+ only now did I see the problem of the mate threat. 22.¥f7+ the best practical chance for White, although I am already lost by this point. However, my opponent was running very low on time in the first time control, so I played on and tried to complicate matters as much as possible. 22...¢h8 23.¢g1 ¥d7 24.¥e8 ¦xe8 25.¦f7 e5 26.¦xd7 £f5 the game is effectively over, due to Black's mate threats. Under time pressure, however, he decides to pick up the material and just play safely. 27.£d2 £xd7 (27...¦f8 28.£e1 ¥xe1 29.¥xe5 ¥f2+ 30.¢h1 £h5+ 31.¥h2 £d1+ 32.¥g1 £xg1#) 28.e4 d4 29.£d3 £g4 30.¥a3 ¥f4 31.¢f1 ¥e3 32.£e2 £f4+ 33.£f3 £xf3+ 34.gxf3 h5 at this point Black could easily make random moves to reach the time control successfully, so I resigned.
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