14 August 2012

Annotated Game #58: The importance of CCT - example #3

The following first-round tournament game featured an early deviation from normal Slav lines with the Nbd2 development.  White's unchallenging setup gives Black a small plus out of the opening with comfortable development.  Some interesting analytic points come up in the opening and early middlegame where it was revealed that I could have made better decisions:
  • Move 7, where Black could have played less stereotypically and obtained an advantage in the center.
  • Move 12, where Black should have thought twice about moving the rook off the h-file instead of automatically castling.
  • Move 13, where Black could have opened up the center to his advantage.
In the middlegame, a premature pawn thrust from White is mishandled by Black, who could have obtained an easy game by redeploying the Nf6 to a better square. This inaccuracy was however offset by White allowing what kingside pressure he had to be nullified.  Black on move 23 again passes up the chance to open the center to his advantage, focusing only on the immediate material gain of a pawn.  As a result, the kingside and center become closed and play shifts to the queenside.  Black is too slow in redeploying his forces, however, and White gains a winning advantage before missing the best continuation and sliding into a draw.

Recent posts have highlighted the importance of CCT (Checks, Captures and Threats).  Here, White could have won the game by using CCT as part of his thinking process on move 37.  There are only two captures on the board and one wins by force (Bxa6), as the resulting series of recaptures ends with a knight fork.  Once you consider the possibility of Bxa6, the rest is actually rather easy to see and calculate.  However, the pawn is "obviously" protected and if a player does not force themselves to consider non-obvious moves like that, they will be overlooked.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "83"] {D11: Slav Defence: 3 Nf3 sidelines and 3...Nf6 4 e3 Bg4} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nbd2 {I don't play these types of queen pawn openings, but this can't be the most challenging continuation for White. Among other things, his dark-square bishop will now have to be developed to b2 or a3, unless the knight goes to b3 (not a great square for it).} Bf5 {Black continues with the standard Slav setup, with no reason to vary from it.} 5. b3 $146 {out of the database on move 5! Either fianchettoing the king's bishop with g3 or playing Nh4 followed by Qb3 are the most popular continuations here.} e6 $15 {by transposition, we are now back in the database, although with just a handful of games; Black wins 2/3 of the time.} 6. a3 {Prevents intrusion on b4, notes Fritz. Although have played Nd2 instead of Nc3, this seems rather a waste of a tempo.} Be7 7. Nh4 Bg6 (7... Be4 {is the active alternative favored by Houdini. White will be able to exchange knight for bishop if he wants to; if it's done on e4, Black gains more central control.}) 8. Nxg6 hxg6 9. e3 Nbd7 10. Bd3 Qc7 11. h3 {Covers g4} O-O {Black should perhaps think twice about moving the rook off the h-file, given its greater scope there and potential White threats along it.} 12. h4 (12. Bb2 dxc4 13. Bxc4 Bd6 $14) 12... e5 {the correct reaction to a flank attack, a countermove in the center that creates activity for Black.} 13. cxd5 {White continues making unnecessary pawn moves rather than developing, with say Bb2 or O-O.} cxd5 (13... exd4 {should have been considered, with White's king still in the center.} 14. exd4 Nxd5 {and White cannot castle immediately due to the hanging h4 pawn.}) 14. Bb2 e4 {this gains space and highlights the problem with White's dark-square bishop development.} 15. Bb5 a6 16. Bf1 {this looks strange, but with the center pawns now fixed, White's king is in no immediate danger. The bishop having exhausted its possibilities on the queenside can now be redeveloped on the kingside.} Rac8 17. Rc1 Qd8 18. g4 $6 {this pawn thrust is premature and weakening.} (18. g3 { with the idea of Bh3 instead looks playable.}) 18... Rxc1 19. Bxc1 Nh7 { the right idea, but wrong square. Now the knight will either be locked away or waste additional time redeploying.} (19... Ne8 {is clearly superior.} 20. g5 Nd6) 20. g5 f6 21. h5 Qe8 {Black finds the correct (and only) defensive idea.} 22. Bh3 (22. hxg6 $5 {would be a more logical follow-up.} Qxg6 23. Qc2 $11) 22... f5 $15 {now White's bishops have almost nowhere useful to go.} 23. f4 gxh5 {the obvious choice for a material grab, but not the best.} (23... exf3 { would break open the center and make White's king position a major liability.} 24. Nxf3 gxh5 $17) 24. Bf1 {literally back to square one.} g6 {this prevents any further ideas of a kingside attack by White. The theater of battle now shifts to the queenside.} 25. Be2 Qf7 {clearing the way for the rook to get to the c-file.} 26. Nb1 Rc8 27. Kf2 Nhf8 28. Bd2 Ne6 29. Bb4 Ng7 (29... Bxb4 $5 { is preferred by the engines. The resulting doubled pawns would be weak and allow Black significantly better chances of breaking through on the queenside by targeting the pawns.} 30. axb4) 30. Qd2 $17 Nb8 $6 {this is too slow, as the other knight needed to be brought into the game with either Ne6 or Ne8.} 31. Bxe7 Qxe7 32. Rc1 Qd7 $2 {this is the pivotal move. Black is complacent and thinks only of recapturing on c8 with his queen, giving him the c-file. Even if that were sound tactically, White could easily play Qc3 afterwards, negating Black's control.} (32... Rxc1 {and Black retains his edge.} 33. Qxc1 Qd8) 33. Rxc8+ $16 Qxc8 34. Nc3 {the d5 pawn now inevitably falls, as neither knight can protect it and the queen if it did would be skewered against the king by Bc4 after recapturing on d5.} Qc7 {a move which does less than nothing, giving White a free tempo. Black should try to bring more pieces into the queenside battle with Ne8. Black was clearly shellshocked by his late realization of the tactic leading to the loss of the d5 pawn.} 35. Nxd5 $18 Qd6 36. Qc3 Nc6 37. Qc4 {here White fails to see the winning tactic and provides another good example of where using the CCT thinking process would have led to a victory.} (37. Bxa6 {it's the only capture White has on the board.} bxa6 38. Qxc6 {a classic psuedo-sacrifice, diverting the queen to a square where it will be forked.} Qxc6 39. Ne7+ Kf7 40. Nxc6 $18) 37... Kf8 $14 {now the forking tactic no longer exists.} 38. Nf6 (38. Nb6 $5 {with the idea of d5 would have put more pressure on Black.}) 38... Ne7 {fighting for the key d5 square.} 39. a4 Ne8 {forcing White to exchange.} 40. Nxe8 Kxe8 $11 41. Kg3 Qc6 42. Kf2 1/2-1/2

1 comment:

  1. The winning 37.Bxa6 raises an interesting question. (1) Should this move be found by first spotting the potential Knight fork and subsequently deducing that Bxa6 is a safe capture, or (2) Should Bxa7 be found by examining every CCT and their resulting positions? I always thought the former, but am curious what others believe.