06 October 2012

Annotated Game #66: How do I hate thee, let me count the ways...

For this fourth-round tournament game, I won't dwell too much on the opening, as it's been the subject of previous posts, such as Annotated Game #63: Third time's the charm (?) - for this fourth time, I shall simple count the ways I hate it.

The rest of the game is in fact worthy of analysis, as the balance swings back and forth between the two sides' plans.  Black's inferior opening gives White an easily superior position and the initiative, but White fails to find the idea of pushing h6, which Black eventually blocks.  Black then strikes back on the queenside, although the basic idea of pressuring the c5 pawn is flawed.

Just as things seem completely locked up, White brashly sacrifices a knight on the queenside in order to get three connected passed pawns.  However, Black spots a key idea (35...d4!) which allows him to demolish the pawns via a deflection tactic.  By move 43 Black has also won the a-pawn and is on the road to victory. Sadly, he is unable to find the active ideas necessary to realize the advantage of the piece and accepts a draw on move 58.

In terms of bigger themes, this game shows:
  • How class-level players often make unsound sacrifices in hopes of winning.
  • How class-level players can fail to realize winning late middlegame/endgame advantages.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "106"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {B12: Caro-Kann: Advance Variation} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Be3 cxd4 6. cxd4 e6 $146 {and once again, Black reaches a tempo-down French defense.} (6... Bf5 {scores at least 50% for Black from here, according to the database.}) 7. Nc3 {White continues with comfortable, natural development to take advantage of this.} Nge7 8. Bd3 Qb6 {better would be to concentrate on development of minor pieces. The queen in fact threatens nothing.} 9. Nf3 Ng6 { this gives White a target later on and moves an already-developed piece.} (9... Qxb2 $2 {would be worse after} 10. Nb5 {and the threat to fork on c7 or trap the queen, along with White's lead in development, far outweigh the pawn.}) ( 9... g6 $5) 10. h4 a6 {Secures b5, but Black is getting further and further behind in development.} 11. h5 Nge7 12. Na4 Qc7 13. a3 {takes away b4, but White could increase the pressure with Rc1, for example.} Nf5 {a somewhat desperate defensive idea, which works due to White not continuing the attack in the most accurate manner.} (13... h6 $5 $14) 14. Bxf5 $18 exf5 15. Qb3 $6 $14 (15. h6 g6 $16 16. Bg5 Be7 17. Bxe7 Nxe7 {and Black's position is full of gaping holes.}) 15... b5 16. Nc5 (16. Nc3 $5 Be6 17. h6 $14 (17. Nxd5 $2 { fails because of} Qa5+ 18. Bd2 b4 $19)) 16... Bxc5 17. dxc5 Be6 {The original idea behind ...Nf5. The bishop is a "big pawn" here, but usefully so, since it blocks the e-pawn and supports the f5 and d5 pawns.} 18. Qc3 a5 $6 (18... h6 19. O-O O-O {would better address Black's kingside weaknesses.}) 19. b3 $6 (19. h6 $5 g6 20. Nd4 Nxd4 21. Qxd4 $16) 19... h6 $11 {Black finally gets this move in, preventing White's advance and controlling g5.} 20. O-O O-O 21. Bd4 { Here White starts going off the track. The idea is to overprotect e5 in order to free the Nf3 to move, but this in fact accomplishes little and gives Black a chance to launch a counterattack. Houdini strongly prefers activating the Rf1 instead, as it is currently doing nothing.} Qb7 {Black prepares the advance b4, notes Fritz.} (21... f4 {is what the engines prefer, leading to active play on the kingside if followed up with ...Bg4, or if Nh2 removing the knight from the action.}) 22. Nd2 {the point of the previous move, which however simply misplaces the knight.} (22. Qd2 $5 {would place the queen to cover more useful diagonals.}) 22... Rfb8 {continuing with the plan of pushing b4.} 23. Qd3 b4 {Black gets more space, finally making an incursion into enemy territory.} 24. a4 Rc8 (24... Qa6 {would be a nice way to activate the queen here, for example} 25. Qe3 f4 26. Qxf4 Qd3 27. Bb2 d4 {and now it is Black who has pressure and the initiative.}) 25. Rac1 Nxd4 {with the plan of subsequently pressuring the c-pawn.} 26. Qxd4 Rc6 27. Nf3 {illustrating the waste of time the earlier Nd2 was.} (27. f4 $5 {would at least give the knight maneuver some meaning and help support e5.}) 27... Qa6 28. Rc2 Rac8 29. Ne1 ( 29. Rfc1 {is more natural.}) 29... Qa7 {Increases the pressure on c5} (29... f4 {is still a theme favored by the engines, as White cannot capture it without losing the c5 pawn.} 30. Nd3 f3 {and White's kingside pawn structure will be disrupted.}) 30. Nd3 $11 Qe7 31. Rfc1 {now Black's plan is shown to be defective, as White is capable of overprotecting the pawn on c5.} Qb7 {Black simply wants to maintain a fortress and block any progress by White.} 32. f3 Qc7 33. Nxb4 $4 {White decides to sacrifice the knight, hoping for a win with the connected passed pawns. The engines disagree.} (33. Nf4 $14 {would instead safely activate the minor piece.}) 33... axb4 $19 34. Qxb4 Rb8 {at this point I felt snatching the pawn on e5 was too risky, although the engines are happy with that, since it allows Black to push d4 with additional support.} (34... Qxe5 $5 {keeps an even firmer grip, says Fritz.} 35. Qd2 $19 d4) 35. Qc3 d4 $1 {I nevertheless found the key idea, which shatters White's pawn formation. The b3 pawn is now doomed and the Be6 activated.} 36. Qxd4 Rxb3 37. Ra1 Qb8 (37... Qa5 $5 {makes more sense here. I suppose I didn't like the idea of using the queen as a blockading piece and preferred exchanging down.} 38. Rcc1 $19) 38. a5 Rb1+ 39. Kh2 Rxa1 40. Qxa1 Qa7 (40... Qc7 {immediately is better.}) 41. Qc3 Qc7 42. f4 Ra6 {thanks to the Be6, White cannot sufficiently protect the a-pawn.} 43. Rc1 Rxa5 44. Qd4 Ra6 {Black around here becomes overly conservative.} (44... Qe7 $5 {would be more active. With the Be6 covering the queening square, Black has little in the way of risks.}) 45. Kg3 Rc6 (45... Ra3+) 46. Rc3 Qd7 47. Qe3 (47. Qxd7 Bxd7 {would be a preferable endgame for White, if still losing.}) 47... Qd5 48. Kh3 Bc8 49. Qc1 Bb7 50. Qc2 Bc8 { Black is having trouble figuring out how to make progress.} (50... Qd4 { seems even better} 51. Qc1 $19) 51. Kh4 {ironically, this helps Black decide to play more actively.} Qd4 $19 52. Kg3 Ba6 (52... g5 $1 {was the key, to rip open the position in front of White's king.} 53. Qc1 $19) 53. Qc1 Bc8 {sadly, Black was exhausted and out of ideas and took the draw.} 1/2-1/2

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