19 May 2012

Annotated Game #46: Maneuvers and Missed Opportunities

This fourth-round tournament game features an extended period of middlegame maneuvering, which is a feature of some English Opening variations in which neither side has obvious weaknesses; a head-on attack would simply hand the advantage to your opponent.  Black early on inflicts some positional and structural weaknesses on himself, including weakening his dark-square complex and locking his light-square bishop away.  White's choice of non-confrontational opening variation means that he ends up with a positional edge, but no obvious way to immediately punish Black.

In the middlegame, White's incorrect choice of strategy with 12. b4 leads him nowhere in particular, although Black continues an to make some positionally weakening moves.  White starts to go astray with his awkward move 22, essentially ceding the initiative - at least mentally - to Black.  A remarkable tactical idea for White on move 27 (and afterwards) is completely missed by both sides, which if the engines had a sense of humor would no doubt very much amuse them.  After a good deal of back-and-forth, Black's attempt to press White comes to naught and a draw is a agreed, with neither side seeing how to make progress.  It's worth noting that Black was rated around 100 points higher than I was, which I think weighed on my decision-making process and made me more inclined to look for a draw and pass up other opportunities.  With more mental toughness that wouldn't have happened.

Key points that can be drawn from this game:
  • Applying the plan of pushing the b-pawn, which is common in other variations, was not called for here.  Playing an opening on automatic and not critically evaluating different positions can lead to ineffectual play.
  • It is important to look for central pawn breaks and exchanges in the English.  The play here was typical of my past refusal to consider these types of moves, which I wrongly felt were uncharacteristic of the opening.
  • Similarly, I failed to consider key alternatives on move 25 and 26 which would have been superior and probably winning.  This was symptomatic of my failure to look for tactical options in many situations, as these did not fit with my self-imposed mental image of having a "positional style" as a player.
The last point on how my self-perceived playing style held me back is, I think, a common and major psychological flaw among amateur players.  More on this later.


  1. A very interesting game.

    I thought you were pretty much better at 18...Qb8 so maybe b4 was OK.

    It doesn't look like Black has a whole lot and there are some good targets like the hanging R on e7, possible pin of Nd7, and the pin on f7 which weakens g6.

    Also d6 looks good for a N and if exchanging the B on b7 then c8 looks like trouble for Black.

    I'm not sure what my plan would be but I'm thinking there might be time to reposition something like Nbd2, Qb3 and then Nc4 might offer some good opportunities.

  2. Thanks for the comments. I don't think 12. b4 was a bad move necessarily, but it didn't really do much for White and was symptomatic of a rather weak analysis of the position and resulting planning during the game (i.e. "I'll play b4 because that's what I always play in the English.")

    18...Qb8 definitely put Black in a weaker position. I particularly like the analysis variation for White on move 21 (Nd2).