21 May 2016

Annotated Game #158: Openings that aren't as bad as you think

The next tournament game features a provocative opening from my opponent (White), which however unusual, was not in fact bad.  This is a common theme in tournament play, where it can be easy to underestimate your opponent based on an unfamiliar or goofy-looking opening choice.  This can be as early as the opening move (1. b4!?) or, as in the below game, an early divergence.  These lines need to be evaluated critically and carefully and not simply dismissed as inferior, especially if your opponent has experience playing their pet lines.

In this game, the divergence comes quite early (3. g4) and is aggressive in nature, so had to be taken seriously; passive moves that diverge from standard "book" ones are obviously less of a threat.  I responded unevenly to the challenge and would have benefited from playing more according to opening principles, as shown in the annotations.  Among other things, I should have focused more on checking tactics in the openings (a recent theme) and concentrating on development and a central breakthrough once my opponent's king was stranded in the center.  Despite a flash of brilliance (moves 22-23) which should have led to a win, I let the game slip away and also missed a chance to win the resulting king and pawn endgame.  All in all, a very uneven performance, but I also give credit to my opponent, who played significantly stronger than his rating.

Class D - ChessAdmin

Result: 1/2-1/2
D00:1 d4 d5: Unusual lines
[...] 1.d4 d5 2.e3 ¥f5 played early to avoid White getting in Bd3 first. This has the disadvantage of allowing the game continuation, however. 3.g4 although this looks like a strictly beginner move, it's not as bad as it seems at first glance. 3...¥e4 the obvious "retreat" (forward) for the bishop, provoking the next move. 4.f3 ¥g6 5.h4 h6
5...h5 6.g5 e6 7.¥d3 ¥xd3 8.£xd3 ¥d6 9.f4 ¤e7 10.¤e2 ¤f5 11.¤d2 O-O 12.¤f3 c5 13.b3 ¤c6 14.c3 a6 15.¥d2 b5 16.O-O c4 17.£c2 £c7 18.b4 a5 19.a3 ¦a6 20.a4 axb4 21.axb5 b3 22.£b2 ¦xa1 23.¦xa1 ¤a7 24.£b1 ¤xb5 25.¥c1 £b7 26.¢f2 ¦a8 27.¦xa8+ £xa8 28.¥b2 ¥a3 29.¥a1 ¤bd6 30.¤g3 ¤xg3 31.¢xg3 ¤e4+ 32.¢g2 b2 33.¥xb2 £b7 0-1 (33) Budrewicz,H (1603)-Mietek,L (1959) Mazowsze 2009
6.h5 ¥h7 7.¥d3 ¤f6 a slightly unusual idea, but it gets Komodo's approval. The more conventional ...Bxd3 would also be fine, but I didn't want to leave White having the only piece developed and more space. 8.c4 (8.¤e2 c5)
8.¥xh7 ¤xh7 controlling the g5 square is actually a valuable mission for the knight here
8...e6 played as an "obvious" move, in order to develop the dark-square bishop. In the game I mis-evaluated the capture on d3 as benefiting White more, by developing the queen, but this is simply not the case. Taking on c4 and making the bishop effectively waste a tempo by recapturing is also a good option. (8...¥xd3 9.£xd3 ¤c6) (8...dxc4 9.¥xc4 e6) 9.c5?! this is a classic Class player mistake. The pawn chain is over-extended and can be immediately challenged and broken...although unfortunately this is not something I do. (9.¥xh7 ¦xh7 10.cxd5 ¤xd5) 9...¥e7 again played automatically, although it is not bad in itself.
9...¥xd3 10.£xd3 b6 11.cxb6 (11.b4 a5µ) 11...axb6µ Black will now be able to challenge for central control and gain space with ...c5, while the dark-square bishop will find a good home on d6 or e7 and help dominate the dark squares.
10.¤c3 ¤c6 again, not a bad move, but I am simply not understanding the needs of the position (challenge the advanced c-pawn and trade off the Bd3, as in the previous variation). 11.¤ge2 e5 this is a bit premature. (11...¥xd3 12.£xd3 O-O better prepares Black for the central struggle.) 12.¥xh7 ¤xh7 13.£b3 this was very annoying and something that I had not spotted, which resulted from a failure to check tactics in the opening phase. Now I place too much emphasis on the material, rather than development, which is a mistake. The fact that White's king is in the center should signal that development and a quick central breakthrough is the key to the position. 13...¥h4+?! taking advantage of White's dark-square holes, but in a premature way. The major problem with the move is that the Qd8 is now tied to the Bh4's defense.
14.£xb7?!14...£d7 15.£b3 ¦ad8µ with ... Ng5 to follow, giving Black major pressure in the center and the kingside.
14...¥f6 and Black has full compensation for the pawn, for example 15.£xd8 ¦axd8 16.dxe5 ¤xe5 17.O-O ¦fe8 18.¢g2 ¤d3
14.¢d1²14...O-O?! this would now allow a legitimate snatch of the b7 pawn by White, but my opponent does not take advantage of the opportunity.
14...exd4 can be played immediately. 15.exd4 ¦b8 16.£xd5 ¥f2 17.¥f4 ¥xd4 18.£xd8+ ¢xd8²
15.¤xd5?! taking the wrong pawn. (15.£xb7 exd4 16.exd4 £f6 17.¦xh4 £xh4 18.£xc6±) 15...exd4³16.e4 although the previous move correctly supported the Nd5, the d4 pawn is now a thorn in White's side. 16...¤a5
16...¤f6!? bringing the knight back into play is better, as the b7 pawn is tactically protected. For example 17.£xb7??17...¤xd5 18.exd5 £xd5−⁠+ and Black is dominant.
17.£d3 ¥e7? played to get the bishop out of the line of fire, but ignoring White's potential threat. (17...c6!?18.¤df4 b6) 18.b4
18.¥f4!18...¥xc5 19.¥xc7 £d7 20.¥xa5 £a4+ 21.¢c1 £xa5 22.a3 £a6 23.£xa6 bxa6± gives White an easy plus, as Black finds the d4 pawn hard to protect and has doubled a-pawns.
18...¤c6 19.¥b2 threatening the d-pawn, but this is not so critical.
19.¥f4!? is best, but no longer packs the same punch as in the previous variation. 19...a5 20.¥xc7 £d7 and White has too many things to worry about (the b4 pawn, the c7 bishop, etc.) to be able to consolidate the pawn advantage. Not to mention that his king is stuck in the center.
19...¤f6³20.¤xe7+ my opponent understands that simply capturing the d-pawn is not good, but this actually makes things worse for him. Part of his problem is that the Qd3 is hanging, giving Black some tactical ideas. (20.¤xd4 ¤xd5 21.¤xc6 bxc6 22.exd5 ¦b8µ) 20...£xe7µ21.a3? an obvious move, to reinforce the b-pawn, but now Black's forces swing into action. (21.¤g3!?µ) 21...¤e5 22.£b3 d3−⁠+23.¤d4 ¤xf3! this should have been the winning move, cracking open the center. 24.£xd3 (24.¤xf3?24...£xe4) 24...¤xd4 25.¥xd4 ¦ad8 26.¢c2 ¤xg4µ obvious, but not best. Conceptually, it would be better to bring other pieces into the attack first. Also, White has an obvious response that generates a threat. (26...£e6!?27.¦he1−⁠+) (26...¦fe8−⁠+) 27.¦hg1 ¦xd4?! this was unnecessary.
27...£e6!?µ is something that I completely missed, a subtle queen move that solves Black's problems.
28.£xd4³28...¦d8 29.£xd8+ £xd8 30.¦xg4 at this point I started thinking draw, although the engine shows an advantage for Black. Queen endings are tricky in general. In this case, I had an ideal one, with White's king being in the open and lots of space for my queen to maneuver. 30...£d4 31.¦ag1 £f2+ (31...¢f8!?µ) 32.¢b3 £d4 showing a lack of imagination. (32...£f3+ 33.¢a4 ¢f8 34.¦xg7 £xe4µ) 33.¦xg7+ £xg7 heading for a drawn K+P ending. 34.¦xg7+ ¢xg7 35.e5? I knew this was a mistake, although I didn't take full advantage of it. The pawn is unsupported and can be traded off to Black's benefit. (35.¢c4!? might be a viable alternative) 35...f5 (35...f6!36.exf6+ ¢xf6−⁠+) 36.¢c3 correctly not exchanging. 36...¢f7 37.¢d4 ¢e6 38.a4? unfortunately my lack of endgame familiarity leads me to miss the win. (38.b5 c6 39.a4 f4³) 38...f4 (38...a6−⁠+ and Black gets the upper hand.) 39.¢e4 f3 40.¢xf3 ¢xe5 41.¢g4 b6 (41...c6!?42.¢f3 a6 43.¢e3 ¢f5 44.¢d4 ¢f4 45.b5 a5) 42.c6 (42.cxb6 cxb6 43.a5 b5³) 42...a5 (42...a6!?³) 43.b5 and now there's no escaping the draw, for either player. 43...¢e4 44.¢g3 ¢e3 45.¢g4 ¢e4 46.¢g3 ¢e3 Twofold repetition 47.¢g4 ¢e4
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