22 September 2012

Annotated Game #64: What was that opening, again?

This game is a seesaw battle in an English-QGD (Queen's Gambit Declined) setup that illustrates nicely how neither side knew the correct way to handle the position out of the opening.  This was in fact the fourth time I had faced the variation in my tournament career - see Annotated Game #50 for an earlier example -  and I had a general notion of how I wanted to play the opening (which was in fact successful).  The problem was that I still had no real idea of how to approach the resulting middlegame.  This is a typical result of amateur-level opening preparation, which fails to answer the question, "what next?" after the repertoire lines are completed.  Under these circumstances, it's as if you're seeing the opening for the first time - again and again.

Getting back to the game, White selects a positional treatment of the opening with an early b3 that aims for quietly exploiting some small advantages in development and exploitation of the c-file.  However, I rather blindly decide to pursue the b4-b5 push, which makes less sense here.  Black plays very solidly, albeit overly defensively, and then sees an opportunity to make a push in the center starting on move 16.  However, the result of this, following some "obvious" (but not obligatory) exchanges, is a vastly improved scenario for the White pieces by move 22.  Black makes a huge error on the following move by not exchanging White's advanced knight, which then leaps into an outstanding outpost and sets off an attack that plays itself.

Unfortunately for me, once the moves are no longer completely obvious, I fail to find the key attacking themes (including a threatened mate on g7) which would have resulted in a won game.  Instead, exchanges are made and the position is reduced to equality.  As happens so often, this negative change in trend continues with a rapid downhill slide by White, who fails to see a mate threat, then it's all over.

Analyzing this game was useful, as it pointed up the fact that I still need to work on handling QGD structures, which my database tells me occur more often than I think; I simply haven't studied and prepared against them enough.  The missed tactical opportunities are something that I hope I would be able to spot now, having had a great deal more training in that area.  In any case, the potential tactics against the king position and against the Be5 were well worth reviewing, for future application.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A14"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {A14: English Opening: 1...e6 with b3 by White} 1. c4 e6 {usually the signal that Black is looking for a QGD setup.} 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 Nf6 4. g3 (4. e3 { is not favored, as the bishop normally can be more effective on the long diagonal after g3 and Bg2. However, it is a solid alternative, taking away the d4 square from Black. Here is an interesting victory in the line by GM Jonathan Speelman over Shredder in '97.} c5 5. Bb2 Nc6 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Bb5 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. d4 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Bd7 11. Nc3 Re8 12. Nf3 a6 13. Be2 Bf5 14. Nd4 Nxd4 15. Qxd4 Bd6 16. Rfd1 Be5 17. Qd2 Qb8 18. g3 Qd6 19. Bf3 Rad8 20. Ne2 Ne4 21. Bxe4 Bxe4 22. Bxe5 Qxe5 23. Nd4 Qh5 24. Rf1 Rd7 25. Rac1 Rde7 26. Rc3 f6 27. a4 Kh8 28. a5 Kg8 29. b4 Qe5 30. Rfc1 Qd6 31. Rc8 Qe5 32. Qc3 Qh5 33. Qc5 Kf7 34. Rxe8 Rxe8 35. Qd6 Re7 36. f3 Qg5 37. Qf4 Qxf4 38. exf4 Bd3 39. Kf2 Bc4 40. Re1 Rxe1 41. Kxe1 g6 42. h4 Ke7 43. Kd2 f5 44. g4 Kf6 45. g5+ Ke7 46. Ke3 Kd6 47. h5 Ba2 48. h6 Ke7 49. Kd2 Kf7 50. Kc3 Bc4 51. Nc2 Ke6 52. Kd4 Bb3 53. Ne3 Ba2 54. Ng2 Bb3 55. Nh4 Kf7 56. Ke5 Bc4 57. Ng2 Be2 58. Ne1 Bc4 59. Nc2 Bd3 60. Nd4 Ke7 61. Kxd5 Kd8 62. Kc5 Kd7 63. Kb6 Kc8 64. Ne6 Bc4 65. Nc5 Bd5 66. Nd3 Bc4 67. Ne5 Bg8 68. b5 axb5 69. Kxb5 Kd8 70. Kb4 Kc8 71. Kc5 Kc7 72. Nd3 Bb3 73. Nb4 Bf7 74. Nc2 Be8 75. Nd4 Bd7 76. Kd5 Kd8 77. Kd6 Bc8 78. Nb3 Bd7 79. Nc5 Bc8 80. Nd3 Ke8 81. Kc7 Be6 82. Nc5 Bc4 83. Nxb7 Be2 84. Nc5 {1-0 (84) Speelman,J (2610) -Comp Shredder The Hague 1997}) 4... Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O c6 {a solid defensive move, Black signals that he is not looking to set up a strong center.} (6... c5 {is normally favored, as this top-level game shows.} 7. Bb2 Nc6 8. e3 b6 9. Nc3 Bb7 10. cxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 Qxd5 12. d4 Rad8 13. Ne5 Qd6 14. Rc1 Nxe5 15. Bxb7 Qb8 16. Be4 cxd4 17. Bxd4 Bf6 18. Qc2 h6 19. Bb2 Rc8 20. Qe2 Rxc1 21. Rxc1 Rc8 22. Rc2 Rxc2 23. Qxc2 Qd8 24. h4 g5 25. hxg5 hxg5 26. Kg2 Kg7 27. Qe2 Nd7 28. Ba3 Nc5 29. Bf3 Nd3 30. Qd1 a5 31. Qh1 Bc3 32. Qd1 Bf6 33. Kf1 Nb4 34. Qe2 Qc7 35. Bxb4 axb4 36. Kg2 Qd6 37. Be4 Qe5 38. Qc2 Qb2 39. Qxb2 {1/2-1/2 (39) Ivanchuk,V (2786)-Carlsen,M (2786) Cap d'Agde 2008}) 7. d3 ( 7. Bb2 {is probably more logical to play immediately, developing the piece to where it should go and controlling d4. White then has more flexibility in seeing where he wants to put the d-pawn.}) 7... Nbd7 8. Bb2 Qc7 {the queen development seems a little premature. Black typically looks to get the light-square bishop out by ...b6 here, or alternatively develops the rook to e8.} 9. Nbd2 Re8 10. Rc1 {White continues playing logical developing moves.} Bf8 {Black continues to choose solid, defensive options, in this case also looking for future play down the e-file. He is slightly behind in development, however.} 11. a3 $146 {Consolidates b4, notes Fritz.} b6 12. b4 Bb7 13. Qb3 { White plans b5, correctly comments Fritz. It's around here, however, that it becomes clear White is inexperienced with this type of position, planning to move ahead with the b4-b5 push without a real purpose behind it.} (13. cxd5 { is in fact the key move and could be played as early as move 11. Note how it was played in both the Speelman-Comp Shredder and Ivanchuk-Carlsen games earlier. The exchange of c for d pawn leaves Black with less central pawn control.}) 13... Rac8 14. Rfe1 Qb8 15. a4 {White prepares the advance b5} (15. e4 {is what the engines prefer, striking in the center to exchange one of Black's pawns.} dxe4 16. dxe4 {is fine for White.}) 15... c5 (15... e5 { would initiate central counterplay for Black immediately.} 16. b5 $11) 16. b5 { although the b-pawn no longer has a target, it still serves a useful function by seizing control of the c6 square. Later, this gives White an outstanding knight outpost.} d4 {Black gets more space, notes Fritz, but locking the center does not deter White from further queenside play.} 17. Ra1 (17. a5 { without preparation is recommended by Houdini, as Black cannot hold the pawn.} bxa5 18. Ra1 Qc7 19. Qa2 a6 20. bxa6 Bxa6 21. Qxa5) 17... e5 (17... a5 { would have been a try to neutralize White's chances on the queenside.} 18. bxa6 Bxa6 19. a5 bxa5 20. Rxa5 Qd6) 18. e3 {White starts to lose his nerve here and play switches to the center, which in relative terms should favor Black.} (18. a5) 18... dxe3 {this and the following decisions by Black open up the center - but to good effect for White, as several of his pieces now become active. Maintaining the tension would have allowed Black to keep things under control.} (18... Qc7 $5) 19. Rxe3 e4 (19... Rcd8 {would at least have re-activated the rook.}) 20. dxe4 (20. Nxe4 {was the correct way to initiate the sequence, as Black is not obliged to take on e4 after the pawn capture, which would leave the Nd2 without much to contribute.}) 20... Nxe4 21. Nxe4 Bxe4 22. Rae1 { now compare the reach and activity of White's pieces versus where they were on move 18.} Bf5 {the Bishop is hanging on f5 and should have been retreated to g6 immediately, as will be seen.} 23. Ne5 Bd6 $4 {according to Houdini, what should have been the losing move, equivalent to dropping a piece in the engine evaluation. The knight now can reposition itself on the beautiful c6 outpost and Black's kingside lacks adequate defenders.} (23... Nxe5 24. Bxe5 Bd6 $16 { is the engines' line.} 25. Bxd6 Rxe3 26. Qxe3 Qxd6 27. Qe7) 24. Nc6 $18 Rxe3 25. Qxe3 Qc7 26. Qg5 Bg6 27. Bh3 Rf8 28. Ne7+ Kh8 (28... Bxe7 {does not solve anything} 29. Rxe7 Qd8 30. Bxd7 f6 31. Qe3 $18) 29. Bf5 $2 {White up until here has been playing obvious moves, without fully understanding the position. He thus misses the underlying tactical threat, which is the mate on g7.} (29. Bxd7 {ends the debate, notes Fritz.} Bxe7 (29... Qxd7 30. Qh6 f6 31. Nxg6+ Kg8 32. Nxf8) 30. Qxe7 $18) 29... Ne5 30. Nxg6+ {unimaginatively trading down, again missing some useful tactical threats (to e5 and h7).} (30. Bxe5 $5 Bxe5 31. Bxg6 Bf6 32. Qh5 $18 h6 33. Bxf7 Bxe7 34. Bd5) 30... fxg6 $16 31. Bxe5 Bxe5 32. Bh3 {again missing the desperado tactic. Now the position is back to equal, judges the engines.} (32. Bxg6 hxg6 33. Qxe5) 32... Bd4 $11 33. Re7 {sensing no danger.} (33. Re2) 33... Bxf2+ 34. Kh1 $6 {never a good idea to give your king fewer squares than necessary.} (34. Kg2 Qd8 35. Qe5 Bd4 $11) 34... Qd8 $15 35. Qe5 $4 {still no sense of danger.} (35. Bd7 $142 $15 {would hold things together.}) 35... Qd1+ 36. Kg2 Qg1# 0-1

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