15 May 2016

Annotated Game #157: Halfway tournament turning point

This round 5 game - now over the halfway mark - was a performance turning point for me in the tournament.  I had been struggling a lot in previous games and generally speaking played more fluidly from this point forward.  Given that it had been several months since my previous tournament, perhaps this was simply the necessary "warmup" time required.  In any case, my opponent in this game was significantly lower-rated and did not seem to be as focused on fighting as hard as possible, also moving faster than she should have.

In the game, a tactical mistake on move 8 (which I did not catch until move 9) gave me a significant advantage and I was able to consolidate and expand it going forward.  The win was relatively easy, but still interesting given the position, so it helped put me in a better frame of mind for subsequent rounds.  A lesson reinforced for me, however, was to always check tactics in the opening when in an unfamiliar position, even if elements of it are common to my experience.  This also cropped up later on (see move 26), pointing out the importance of examining checks, captures and threats (CCT).

ChessAdmin - Class C

Result: 1-0
A11: English Opening: 1...c6
[...] 1.c4 c6 2.¤f3 d5 3.g3 ¤f6 4.¥g2 White is taking a gambit approach here, rather than worrying about the c-pawn, in the spirit of Queen's Gambit type positions. 4...g6 Black decides to fianchetto the king's bishop as well, leading to a largely symmetrical position. 5.O-O ¥g7 6.d3 I played this primarily to keep the game out of traditional queen's pawn opening territory. Of course it is a helpful move in itself, reinforcing c4 and contesting e4. I wanted to play b3, but at the time I believed that the Bg7 on the long diagonal would make that impossible. However, this is not the case.
6.d4 would be a straight transposition to a Schlecter Slav variation, which is normally very good for White (and scores 61 percent from this position).
6.b3!?6...¤e4 7.d4 O-O 8.¥b2 a5 9.¤bd2 ¥f5 10.¤h4 ¤xd2 11.£xd2 ¥e6 12.f4 dxc4 13.f5 gxf5 14.¤xf5 ¥xf5 15.¦xf5 e6 16.¦h5 cxb3 17.axb3 ¤d7 18.¦g5 f6 19.¦gxa5 ¦xa5 20.£xa5 £xa5 21.¦xa5 ¤b6 22.e4 ¦d8 23.¦a7 ¦d7 24.¢f2 ¢f7 25.¥h3 ¤c8 26.¦a8 ¤d6 27.¢f3 ¤b5 28.¦a4 ¦d8 29.¥g4 f5 30.¥h5+ ¢e7 31.e5 ¥h6 32.¢e2 ¥g5 33.¥f3 ¥h6 34.¥g2 ¥g5 35.¥f1 ¥h6 36.¢f3 ¥f8 37.¢e3 ¢f7 38.¥c4 ¥e7 39.¢e2 ¦d7 40.¢e3 ¦d8 41.¥xb5 cxb5 42.¦a7 ¦d7 43.¦a8 b4 44.¦h8 ¢g7 45.¦c8 ¢f7 46.¢d3 h5 47.¢c4 h4 48.¥c1 hxg3 49.hxg3 ¥f8 50.¥g5 ¥g7 51.¦d8 ¦c7+ 52.¢xb4 ¥f8+ 53.¢a4 ¦c3 54.¥f4 b5+ 55.¢xb5 ¦xb3+ 56.¢c4 ¦a3 57.¦d7+ ¢e8 58.¦b7 ¦a4+ 59.¢c3 ¦a3+ 60.¢c4 ¦a4+ 61.¢c3 ¦a3+ 62.¢c2 ¥e7 63.¦c7 ¦f3 64.¦a7 ¢d8 65.¦a5 ¢d7 66.d5 exd5 67.¦xd5+ ¢e6 68.¦a5 ¦f2+ 69.¢d3 ¦f3+ 70.¢c4 ¦f1 71.¦a6+ ¢f7 72.¦a7 ¢e6 73.¦a6+ ¢f7 74.¢d5 ¦d1+ 75.¢c6 ¢e6 76.¢c7+ ¢f7 77.¦h6 ¥d8+ 78.¢c6 ¥e7 79.¦h7+ ¢e6 80.¦h6+ ¢f7 81.¢c7 ¥d8+ 82.¢c8 ¥e7 83.¦c6 ¦d5 84.e6+ ¢f6 85.¥c1 ¦c5 86.¥b2+ ¢g5 87.¦xc5 ¥xc5 88.¥e5 f4 89.gxf4+ ¢f5 90.¢d7 1-0 (90) Mikhalevski,V (2535)-Rozhko,D (2313) Minsk 2015
6...O-O 7.¥g5 I thought that it would be too awkward to try and develop the bishop via b2, so this is an alternative. The text move also tempts Black to play h6 and create a potential target of the h-pawn, although ...h6 is not bad in itself.
7.£c2 tends to be the choice of high-level players in this position, opting for flexible development.
7...¤bd7 this is rather restrictive for Black, although solid.
7...h6 8.¥d2 ¤bd7 9.¥c3 dxc4 10.dxc4 £c7 11.¤bd2 b6 12.¦c1 ¥b7 13.£c2 ¦fe8 14.e4 e5 15.¦fd1 ¦ad8 16.¤f1 ¤h7 1/2-1/2 (16) Angyal,F (1958)-Kovacs,I (1820) Hungary 2014
8.£c1 a rather obvious approach to the position, but I felt exchanging the Bg7 would be strategically advantageous.
8.cxd5 is an interesting idea. 8...¤xd5 9.£d2 £b6 10.¤c3 ¤xc3 11.bxc3 ¦e8 12.¦ab1 £c7 13.d4 ¤b6 14.¥f4 £d8 15.e4 ¥e6 16.¦fd1 £c8 17.¥h6 ¥g4 18.£f4 ¥xf3 19.¥xf3 e5 20.£c1 ¥xh6 21.£xh6 £e6 22.d5 cxd5 23.exd5 £d6 24.¦b4 f5 25.h4 ¦ac8 26.£e3 e4 27.¥e2 ¦c5 28.h5 ¦ec8 29.hxg6 hxg6 30.£d4 ¦xc3 31.¢g2 ¦c1 32.¦b1 ¦xb1 33.¦xb1 ¦c7 34.¦d1 ¦e7 35.a4 a6 36.a5 ¤d7 37.¦b1 £e5 38.£c4 £d6 39.¦xb7 e3 40.f4 ¢f7 41.£c6 1-0 (41) Saulina,V (2253)-Romanko,M (2404) Magnitogorsk 2011
8...¤c5? not seeing the tactical problem with the "loose" knight. (8...dxc4 9.£xc4 ¤d5 10.£c2) 9.¥h6?! here I was simply playing on automatic in the opening phase and continued with the idea of the minor piece trade, without first checking tactics.
9.cxd5 simply wins a pawn, due to the hanging Nc5. 9...£d6 10.dxc6±
9...¥d7 my opponent however also fails to pay sufficient attention to the position and catch her previous mistake, so I finally spot the tactic, which now requires exchanging bishops first. (9...¥xh6!?10.£xh6 dxc4) 10.¥xg7±10...¢xg7 11.cxd5 ¤a4
11...£b6 would be at least temporarily more challenging for White, creating a more awkward position for me. 12.dxc6 ¥xc6 13.¤a3±
12.dxc6 ¥xc6 I'm now a pawn up with no compensation for my opponent, but it's hardly an overwhelming position. 13.¤c3 ¤b6 The knight maneuver has mostly wasted time for my opponent. Looking at the position, the Bc6 is well placed for Black, so I decide to gain some space on the queenside and chase it off the long diagonal. (13...¦c8 14.£d2±) 14.b4 a6 15.£b2 supporting an eventual push of the b-pawn and placing the queen on the long diagonal. 15...¢g8 getting the king off the long diagonal. Prudent, but Black continues to lose time. 16.a4 ¤bd7 the knight returns to its original developed square, having consumed a number of tempi to get there. The extra time for development has given me a significantly better position in comparison, which the engine evaluates as nearly two pawns up (one for the material, the other for positional factors). My queen and minor pieces are well-placed, while Black's (apart from the Bc6) aren't doing much. (16...a5 17.¦fc1±) 17.b5 ¥d5 I'm happy to make the minor piece trade, giving me an unopposed light-square bishop on the long diagonal. (17...axb5 18.axb5 ¥xf3 19.¥xf3±) 18.¤xd5 ¤xd5 19.¦fc1+⁠− there's an ironic saying in analysis that it's always the "wrong rook" you pick when you have a choice of which one to move to a square, here it seems obvious that White can best employ both rooks on the queenside. 19...£b6 (19...a5 20.¤e5 e6 21.¤c4+⁠−) 20.£d4 I was perfectly fine with getting the queens off the board and heading into an endgame with both a material and positional advantage.
20.e4 is preferred by the engine. 20...¤5f6 21.e5 ¤d5 22.¤d2 e6 23.¤c4+⁠−
20...e6 (20...£xd4 21.¤xd4 ¤7f6 22.a5+⁠−) 21.£xb6 ¤7xb6 22.a5 this seemed the simplest approach to gaining space and further harassing Black's pieces. 22...¤d7 23.b6 this may not be necessary at this point, but I wanted to not have to worry about pawn exchanges and also get a lock on the c7 square. (23.e4 ¤b4 24.¦c7+⁠−) 23...¦fc8 24.¤d2 ¤c3 for once, I had spotted this knight move as a potential threat to e2 in advance and had calculated that moving the king would be good for me as a response. 25.¢f1 ¦ab8 (25...¤d5!?) 26.¦c2 a good enough move, but not the best.
26.¥xb7! is an example of how I should have been using CCT to find winning tactics. 26...¦xb7 27.¦a3+⁠− - this situation combines a deflection tactic (the defending rook to b7) with a pin and double attack on the Nc3. White wins material.
26...¤d5 27.¦ac1 ¦xc2 28.¦xc2 being a pawn up and having a stranglehold on the c-file, along with the strong Bg2, gives me a winning game. However, it still has to be won. 28...¢f8 29.d4 here I want to take away the e5 square from Black's knight and use my central pawn to gain space. 29...¢e8 30.¦c4 looking to prevent ...Nb4-c6.
30.e4!? can also be played immediately. 30...¤b4 31.¦c7 ¤c6 32.¤c4+⁠−
30...¢d8 31.e4 ¤e7 32.¤b3 proactively protecting a5 from a potential ...Nc6 from my opponent, and also allowing a possible jump to c5. Not the most effective move, however.
32.e5!? is also a good way of preventing ...Nc6. 32...¤d5 33.¤e4+⁠−
32...¤c6 so a knight ends up on c6 anyway, but it doesn't last long there. (32...¦c8 33.¦xc8+ ¢xc8 34.¢e2+⁠−) 33.d5 ¤ce5 34.¦c7 by this point it's obvious White will eventually crack Black's position, although not necessarily quickly. Black now gets desperate and the game slips away much faster. 34...¤d3?! (34...¦c8 35.¦xb7 ¦c3 36.¤d4+⁠−) 35.dxe6
35.¥h3 played immediately makes it even easier for White. 35...¦c8 36.¦xb7 ¤3c5 37.¤xc5 ¦xc5 38.dxe6 fxe6 39.¥xe6 ¤f8+⁠−
35...fxe6 36.¥h3 this is a move that all English players - or anyone who likes to fianchetto the king's bishop - should keep in mind as a possibility; sometimes it is too easy to simply leave a bishop on its originally developed square without thinking of making the slight adjustment in position to h3. Here it has a great effect, guaranteeing material loss for Black. 36...¢e7 37.f4 cutting off Black's pieces from the e5 square. 37...h6 38.¢e2 and Black will lose either the d3 or the d7 knight, for example after ...Nb4 39. Nc5
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