14 July 2012

Annotated Game #54: Clubs and Stones

The third round of this tournament featured me doing a caveman impression with my attack on the Black king position.  However, this was not due to the "caveman attack" being my preferred style of play; rather, it reflected the shockingly basic level of my attacking skills at the time.

The opening is worth examining, being a good example of when the opponent (Black in this case) varies from standard opening play with a solid and reasonable, yet theoretically inferior move (4...d6).  There is of course no immediate punishment for the move; in fact, it transposes into an opening formation for Black - both knights developed plus the d6-e5 pawn chain - which can result from the Black Knight's Tango, Panther, or Old Indian Defense (the root of the previous two openings).  The difference between this game and the main line of the other defenses is that White has played e3 instead of d5; for more on the Panther setup, there's an interesting series of articles at the Kenilworthian.

Returning to the game, the first major decision occurs on moves 7-8, with Black exchanging central pawns on d4 and White deciding to recapture with pieces rather than the e3 pawn.  It's these sorts of decisions that will greatly affect the structure and flow of a game, although they may appear innocuous at the time.  It was interesting to see that the choice I made was supported by 100% of the master games in the database.  At the time, I went that route largely through a greater familiarity with the central structure in question, which is in fact not a bad reason.  From an objective standpoint, the alternative central pawn structure (pawns on c4+d4 with an open e-file) is a little loose for White and I think Black finds it easier to play against, with the idea of undermining White's pawns and eventually putting a rook on the e-file.

The early middlegame features some silly maneuvering on both sides, although Black's turns out to be a bit sillier, since he maneuvers his knight into a pin against g7 on the long diagonal from White's Q+B battery.  The threat of mate on g7 dominates the rest of the game, although analysis points out where both sides could have profitably broken out of this situation.  Things are finally brought to a head when White goes caveman starting on move 20.  After a rather lengthy sequence he manages to exchange off Black's defending knight, although analysis shows that by this point it had no real impact on Black's defenses.

One of Black's problems throughout this game was that he was evidently thinking only one ply ahead on a number of his previous moves - the antics of both the knight and the light-squared bishop are witness to that - and missing obvious replies from White.  Unfortunately for Black he does the same thing again on move 27, attacking White's "caveman" rook but failing to count the number of attackers against g7.  The end is brutal, with White throwing stones and then clubbing Black to death.

Moral of the story: brains can beat brawn, but only if they are used for thinking ahead more than one move.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A28"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "57"] {A28: English Opening: Four Knights Variation} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3 d6 {this move is normally not covered in opening books on the English, as developing with either Bb4 or Be7 is preferred. The text move locks in the bishop prematurely.} 5. Be2 (5. d4 {is normally played in this position, which is more active and immediately challenging; this would transpose to a Black Knight's Tango/Panther setup where White foregoes the push d5.}) 5... Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. d4 {now White transposes anyway.} exd4 {one of a wide variety of choices for Black here.} 8. Nxd4 {one of those seemingly arbitrary recapture decisions that in fact have a great deal of influence on the rest of the game. All of the master-level games in the database feature the knight recapture, rather than the pawn.} Nxd4 {Black eliminates the more active and centralized White knight.} 9. Qxd4 {if White had wanted to recapture with the pawn, he would have done so before. The Old Indian structure of Black's development (Be7, Nf6 and d6) is now evident.} c6 {Secures b5+d5, notes Fritz. Again, a wide variety of choices for Black here, with Be6 played most often.} 10. Bf3 { while this isn't bad, it's not clear that the bishop is better situated here in the long term.} (10. e4 {is the engines' preference, gaining space in the center, challenging again for control of d5 using another pawn, and opening the c1-h6 diagonal for the bishop.}) (10. b3 {is the humans' preference, developing the bishop to b2 and taking advantage of the queen's placement.}) 10... Qc7 11. b3 Nd7 {Black needs further his development here, rather than move away the only minor piece guarding the kingside. It seems that the knight's intention is to head for e5 to try and exchange off the Bf3.} 12. Ne4 $6 {White commits the same error, neglecting development. It's not clear what the knight is doing on e4, as d6 is adequately protected and it doesn't influence any other useful squares.} (12. Bb2 {is obvious and best.} Bf6 13. Qd2 Ne5 14. Be4 {and White will have a lasting initiative with pressure down the d-file and his pieces effectively pointing at Black's king.}) 12... Nf6 $6 {Black's idea seems to be to exchange off the Ne4, but this simply walks into the pin on the long diagonal after White's next move.} (12... f5 13. Nc3 $11 Bf6 {is preferred by the engines, which rate the position as equal.}) (12... Ne5 {is the logical follow-up to Black's previous move and is also rated equal. }) 13. Bb2 $14 {now the knight is pinned against the g7 mating square.} Rd8 14. Rfd1 {d6 draws heavy fire, comments Fritz.} d5 15. cxd5 Rxd5 {essentially forced, since after cxd5 the isolated queen pawn becomes a huge target and of course Nxd5 loses to the mate on g7.} 16. Qc3 (16. Nxf6+ $2 {of course fails to } Bxf6) 16... Rxd1+ 17. Rxd1 Be6 {the bishop is finally developed, although f5 would be a better square.} 18. Ng5 {the knight has this square thanks to the Nf6 blocking the Be7. However, it can be easily kicked away with h6.} (18. Nc5 {is preferred by Houdini, with a neat tactical threat against b7. For example, if Black continued} Bf5 {then} 19. Nxb7 Qxb7 20. Bxc6) 18... Bf5 {if my opponent was not willing to exchange the bishop on e6, this should have been played a move earlier.} 19. Be2 {White clears the f3 square for the Ng5 and prepare to redeploy the bishop, but in fact does neither of these things as a follow-up.} (19. e4 {is the vigorous move found by the engines. At this point in my career, attacking play was obviously not my strength.} Bg6 $14 20. e5 { a standard attacking theme increasing the pressure on Black.} Nd5 21. Bxd5 Bxg5 22. Ba3 {threatening to go to d6, which Black cannot stop:} Be7 23. Bd6 Bxd6 24. exd6 {and Qxd6 fails to Bxf7+.}) 19... Bg6 20. h4 h6 21. Nh3 Bf8 {Black defends g7 again, anticipating White's attempt to get rid of the Nf6.} (21... Rd8 {is the more active defense recommended by Houdini.} 22. Nf4 Rxd1+ 23. Bxd1 Qd7) 22. Nf4 Bh7 23. Nh5 Nxh5 24. Bxh5 {the ultimate point of the long knight maneuver, but the position is completely equal according to the engines.} Qe7 { here is where Black starts to go seriously wrong, evidently not anticipating White's follow-up maneuver. Rd8 was necessary.} 25. Rd4 Rd8 {a move too late.} (25... Be4 {instead would prevent White from making progress with the rook.} 26. Qc4 Bf5) 26. Rg4 {the "caveman" approach to attacking g7.} (26. Ba3 $1 { is the missed tactic here.} Qf6 27. Rxd8 Qxd8 28. Bxf8 Qxf8 29. Qd4 Qb8 30. Qd7 f6 31. Bf7+ Kh8 {and White has a significant endgame advantage.}) 26... Rd1+ $15 27. Kh2 Bf5 $4 {whoops! Black obviously miscounts the number of attackers against g7.} (27... f6 {and White can do nothing more with his attack on Black's king.} 28. Qxf6 Qxf6 29. Bxf6 Rd5 30. Be8 Bf5 31. Rg3 Rd2 {and Black regains the pawn with much better rook activity and an endgame advantage.}) 28. Rxg7+ Bxg7 (28... Kh8 {fails to} 29. Rh7+ $3 {Clearance to allow Qc3-h8, notes Fritz.} Kxh7 30. Qh8#) 29. Qxg7# 1-0

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