17 September 2011

Annotated Game #10: Upset

This is my greatest tournament game upset.  At the time, I was a Class C player and my opponent was a strong Class A player rated 400 points above me.  He was also the tournament organizer, which perhaps added some insult to injury for him.  In the tournament itself, a four-round weekend Swiss, I had dropped the first two games as Black but won my third as White, thereby drawing a last-round White pairing.  This tournament marked the beginning of a sustained rise in my over-the-board performance, which lasted until I went to university and stopped playing competitively.

No doubt in part due to the ratings gap, I recall that my strategy was to simplify down and keep a drawish position.  My playing style then (as it more or less is today) was to aim for a solid game and then let my opponent make the first mistake.  The English opening is well suited to this as White, since there are usually no targets for Black to attack early on.

My opponent surprisingly chose the Symmetrical variation, which is by nature more drawish.  Perhaps he assumed (rightly) that I had less experience with it, but the ideas are not hard to grasp and if White is not looking to push for an edge (for example as could have been done by playing 7. d4) then Black cannot easily complicate matters.

In the game, I succeeded in exchanging off a pair of minor pieces early on, although could have more profitably focused on additional development.  In my assessment Black was overly aggressive with his h5-h4 push, as White could just as easily switch his own forces to the h-file after the g-pawn is exchanged; I'm sure the ratings difference helped dictate my opponent's choice of strategy.  Black set a trap on move 14 by exchanging his g7 bishop for my c3 knight and leaving the e7 pawn unguarded, which however I avoided.  I was positionally better but should then have refrained from executing my own bishop-for-knight swap, which would have allowed Black an attacking advantage had he recaptured with the queen on the long diagonal.  Black then attempted to force the issue on the h-file, leading to a successful counterattack by White.

My attitudes have shifted to the point where I no longer wish to take rating differences (either way) into consideration during play.  I find that I enjoy the games more that way, feel much less pressure, and usually play better chess.  However, I will say that an upset win like this never loses its satisfaction.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A38"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "1987.??.??"] {A38: Symmetrical English vs ...g6:4 Bg2 Bg7 5 Nf3 Nf6} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 c5 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O O-O 7. d3 Nc6 8. Bd2 Bg4 {Keeping the symmetry with ..Bd7 is more common and scores better for Black.} 9. Ng5 { Now out of the reference database. Standard developing moves are Rb1 and Qc1.} Qc8 10. Nge4 Nxe4 11. Bxe4 {The original idea of the knight maneuver, to exchange off a pair of minor pieces.} h5 {A bit overoptimistic on Black's part. } 12. Rc1 h4 13. Bg5 hxg3 14. hxg3 Bxc3 {Neither Fritz nor Houdini like this. Houdini prefers the attacking plan of f6 followed by Kf7 and Rh8.} 15. bxc3 { The bishop for knight exchange slightly favors white, who now has taken the d4 square away from Black and has the two bishops.} Kg7 $11 16. Bxc6 {I may not have seen the issue with taking the e7 pawn at this point, but was also looking to trade down further.} (16. Rb1 Rh8 $11 {would have been fine.}) 16... bxc6 {Missing the opportunity to seize the long diagonal and immediately increase the pressure on White's king position.} (16... Qxc6 17. f3 Bh3 18. Rf2 $15 f6 19. Be3 Rh8) 17. f3 $11 ({I didn't fall for} 17. Bxe7 Re8 18. f3 Rxe7 19. fxg4 Qxg4 $19) 17... Bh3 18. Rf2 {Houdini prefers Re1, leaving the f2 square open for other pieces in future variations.} f6 19. Be3 Qe6 20. Qd2 Rh8 21. g4 ({A more solid defense is} 21. Rh2 g5 $11 22. Kf2) 21... Rh4 (21... g5 { would keep Black more in control and lock away White's bishop. Houdini gives} 22. Bxg5 fxg5 23. Qxg5+ Kf7 24. Rh2 {as best for White, otherwise the piece is useless.}) 22. Rh2 $11 g5 {a move later, this causes Black problems due to the Rh4.} (22... Rah8 {is equal.} 23. Kf2 Kf7 $11) 23. Bxg5 $14 Rxg4+ $2 (23... fxg5 {would lead to a difficult but playable endgame featuring a small White advantage.} 24. Qxg5+ Kf7 25. Kf2 {guards e3 against the queen fork} Rah8 26. Kg3 R4h6 27. Qf4+ Kg7 28. Rch1 Bf1 29. Rxh6 Rxh6 30. Rxf1 Qxe2 31. Rf2) 24. fxg4 $18 Qxg4+ 25. Kh1 fxg5 26. Rg1 Qe6 27. Qxg5+ (27. Qxg5+ Kf8 28. Qg7+ Ke8 29. Qh8+ {wins the rook.}) 1-0

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