24 November 2012

Annotated Game #71: Mate in Never

Once the 2012 Round Turkey tournament is completed, I'll post analyses of those games.  This time, I'll continue my past tournament game analysis with this heartbreaker.

Following the relative success in Annotated Game #70 against a higher-rated opponent, in the next round of the quad tournament I faced another Class A player.  My opponent employed an offbeat defense as Black, starting with a queenside fianchetto; see Annotated Game #30 for a similar start.  Although White could have made some early improvements in play, he gets a favorable position out of the opening.  By move 11 there is an opposite-sides castling situation, which even without queens on the board can be dangerous for the player (in this case Black) with a weaker king position.

The course of the rest of the game demonstrates how weak my thinking process was at the time and the dangers of passive play once a winning advantage has been obtained.  Black in the middlegame ignores White's potential threats down the half-open c-file, which eventually are realized on move 22.  Breaking into Black's king position, White misses a mate in 3 on move 26 - a shocking rook sacrifice to shut off the king's escape - but nevertheless emerges with a comfortable winning material advantage.  Here is where things start going wrong, ironically.

Black refuses to go quietly and instead plays the most threatening moves possible, which is the best (and usually only) way to aim for a swindle.  White's key mistake is on move 35, where instead of calmly taking Black's h-pawn, he backs his king into h1. Objectively he is still fine, but the conditions for the swindle have now been created.

Black's immediate next move gives White a mate in 2.  I recall thinking hard about the position, knowing that there must be a winning possibility, but I was simply unable to see it.  The psychological pressure - all self-inflicted - simply got to me.  This is also another example of the importance of CCT (checks, captures and threats) in the thinking process.  The failure to see the mate is also symptomatic of a more general weakness of mine in visualizing mating nets.  I've gotten better at it, especially in the last year, but it's still an area for improvement.  The ratings gap (around 300 points) also contributed greatly to the psychological pressure; I've subsequently learned to put aside ratings fear and instead treat it as an opportunity.

The remainder of the game - still won for White up until move 43 - is a classic example of the winning side making a series of passive moves and failing to calculate the more active ones, for fear of losing.  This is punished effectively by Black, who never stops looking for aggressive continuations and finally traps White's king on the back rank.

I remember that after the game, one of the kibitzers mentioned to me that I had missed a mate.  I told him, feeling somewhat bitter, that I knew that.  Too bad that as it happened, it was a mate in never.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "88"] {A10: English Opening: Unusual Replies for Black} 1. c4 b6 2. Nf3 Bb7 3. g3 Bxf3 4. exf3 d5 $146 {that's right, out of the database on move 4. This can't really be good for Black.} (4... c5 {is overwhlemingly played here.}) 5. Bg2 ({ The obvious} 5. cxd5 Qxd5 6. Nc3 {is also good for White's development.}) 5... dxc4 6. Qa4+ {White is in a bit too much of a hurry to recover the pawn.} (6. f4 {looks strong here, will be necessary at some point anyway, and gains a tempo with the attack on the Ra8.}) 6... Qd7 7. Qxc4 Qc6 8. Na3 (8. d3 { would be the alternative choice to help White's development. I preferred the idea of the central knight placement, however.}) 8... Qxc4 {while the queen exchange simplifies down material, it also leaves Black with weaknesses on the queenside and in the center.} 9. Nxc4 Nd7 10. f4 O-O-O 11. O-O {White has a much better king position, by comparison. Even without the queens on the board, Black has to worry about king safety.} Ngf6 {developing knights before bishops, but ...e6 would have allowed Black to cover b4 with the bishop.} 12. Rd1 (12. b4 {would have taken advantage of Black's failure to play ...e6 by gaining space on the queenside.}) 12... g6 {Black prefers developing his bishop on the long diagonal. This should not be a surprise, considering his first two moves.} 13. Ne5 {this prematurely gives up White's hold on e5; the minor piece exchange also favors Black, since the Nc4 is superior to the Nd7.} Nxe5 14. fxe5 Ng4 $2 {this is tactically unsound due to a pinning theme, which I unfortunately failed to find.} (14... Nd5 {is the logical central spot for the knight, which cannot be chased away by a pawn.} 15. d4 $11) 15. d4 $6 { focusing on the "obvious need" to protect the e5 pawn.} (15. Bh3 {a shame that White overlooked this excellent chance, says Fritz.} h5 16. f3 $18) 15... Nxe5 $11 {the only way to get the knight back in the action. This works due to the hanging Rd1.} 16. Bf4 {White is unfazed by the sacrificed pawn, which allows him some useful initiative.} Nc4 17. Rac1 Nd6 18. a4 $6 (18. Rc2 {sometimes the obvious plan is the best. Black is going to be on the defensive due to the half-open c-file and White's bishops pointing in his direction.} Kb8 19. Rdc1 Rc8 20. Bh3 f5 21. Re1) 18... h5 {with opposite-side castling, the middlegame can be a race to see who gets in their attack first. Black here makes his first aggressive move.} 19. Re1 e6 {this solves Black's immediate problem of freeing the bishop from protecting the e-pawn, but also creates other positional weaknesses.} 20. Be5 {obvious but not best.} (20. a5 {is Houdini's attacking choice. White advanced the pawn already, so why not use it?} bxa5 ( 20... b5 {is assessed as best by Houdini, declining the second pawn.}) 21. Be5 Bh6 22. Ra1 Bd2 23. Re2 Bb4 24. Bxh8 Rxh8 $14) 20... Rg8 (20... Bh6 {as in the above variation would more creatively help solve Black's problems by getting the bishop out.}) 21. Rc6 Bg7 $4 {ignoring White's threats on the c-file.} ( 21... Ne8 $11 {is the defense preferred by the engines, also removing the knight from potential tactics involving the pin of the c-pawn.}) 22. Rec1 $18 { now the doubling of rooks is obvious.} Bxe5 $2 (22... Ne8 23. Bxc7 Rxd4 24. Bxb6+ Kd7 25. Bxa7 Rd3 $18) 23. Rxc7+ (23. dxe5 $6 {is clearly worse} Ne8 $14) 23... Kb8 24. dxe5 Nf5 {this allows a mate in four. Let's see how far White goes along the mating path...} (24... Ne4 {no good, but what else? Says Fritz.} 25. Bxe4 Rd1+ 26. Rxd1 Kxc7 $18) 25. Rb7+ {so far so good...} Ka8 26. Rxb6+ { not leading to mate, but still winning.} (26. Rc8+ $1 {at this point in my career, I would not have even considered this type of tactical, sacrificial move.} Rxc8 27. Rxb6+ Rc6 28. Bxc6#) 26... Rd5 $18 27. Bxd5+ exd5 28. Rbc6 { White emerges an exchange and a pawn up. Unfortunately, Black does not just roll over and die and I start getting careless as a result.} Rg7 29. b4 (29. Rc8+ {and White can already relax, comments Fritz.} Kb7 30. R1c7+ Kb6 31. Rc6+ Ka5 32. Rb8 $18) 29... Nd4 30. Rc8+ Kb7 31. R1c7+ Kb6 32. Kg2 g5 33. Rd7 h4 34. Rxd5 h3+ 35. Kh1 {Although this move still wins in objective analysis, it is the root of White's coming loss, giving the king no escape squares off the back rank.} (35. Kxh3 {was perfectly fine, but I didn't bother calculating it because it superficially looked too dangerous.} g4+ 36. Kg2 $18) 35... Ne6 { this gives White another mating opportunity, this time a mate in 2. An excellent example of where using CCT would have made the difference.} 36. Rd7 ( 36. Rb5+ Ka6 37. Rc6#) 36... g4 $18 37. a5+ (37. Re8 {would have made excellent use of the pinned pawn on f7.} Rg5 38. Ree7) 37... Kb5 38. Rxa7 Rg5 39. Rc1 Rf5 {Black continues to play for a swindle, setting up the most aggressive and threatening continuation possible.} 40. Kg1 (40. Ra8 {the engines aren't afraid of the threat to f2.} Rxf2 41. a6 Ra2 42. Rb8+ Kxa6 43. Ra8+ Kb5 44. Rxa2) 40... Nd4 41. Rb1 {White continues to make passive moves and does not calculate more active possibilities.} (41. Rb7+ Ka4 42. a6 Ne2+ 43. Kf1 Nxc1 44. a7 $18) 41... Nf3+ 42. Kh1 Nd2 43. Rb2 {the careless, losing move.} (43. Rb7+ {again wins, but is not as easy to see here.} Ka6 44. Rb6+ Ka7 45. Rd1 Rxf2 46. Rh6 $18) (43. Rc1 {would have kept the win in hand as well, more simply.}) 43... Rxf2 (43... Rxe5 {is the quicker mate.} 44. Rb7+ Ka6 45. Rb6+ Ka7 46. Ra6+ Kxa6 47. b5+ Ka7 48. Rb1 Nxb1 49. b6+ Ka6 50. b7 Re1#) 44. Rxf7 (44. Rb1 {does not improve anything} Nf3 45. Rb7+ Ka4 46. Ra1+ Kb3 47. Rb1+ Ka2 48. Ra1+ Kxa1 49. e6 Rxh2#) 44... Rxf7 (44... Rxf7 45. Rb1 Nxb1 46. Kg1 Nd2 47. e6 Rf1#) 0-1

1 comment:

  1. A tough loss. You played well until the end.

    Maybe a thing to consider is that why CCT is useful is that it provides a tempo. The tempo gives the player one more move to set up the pieces to gain another advantage, either material or position or another tempo.

    I noticed that after 31...Kb6 it didn't seem you used your rooks to check, and a check always gains a tempo. With rook checking and then using the tempo to position the rooks for mate or a pin on f7, there were many ways to win the game.

    On the other hand, Black at the end, once he had your weakness. played many moves that gained tempo.

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