02 December 2012

Annotated Game #73: Round 2 - Round Turkey Tournament

Round 2 of the 2012 Round Turkey Tournament featured a struggle with Rocky Rook in the English.  The first three moves produced an Old Indian-style formation on Black's part, as was previously seen in Annotated Game #35.  Unlike with that game, where White played an early d4 to exchange in the center and then fianchetto his bishop on g2, this time a central strategy is followed, with a very different-looking game.

Rocky's decision to push 5...e4 I think determined the whole strategic character of the game.  I was reasonably familiar with the idea, having looked at it in other closed-type English positions, so it didn't bother me too much.  Here I thought it was going a little too far out on a limb for Black, since the pawn would be difficult to support properly.  That is in fact what occurred, as White in the early middlegame is able to pick up the pawn.

I was worried about some of Black's counterplay shortly afterward, for example if he had chosen to penetrate on the second rank with 19...Rc2.  By the time he decides to try for counterplay a bit later on the kingside, however, I was able to calculate - after some initial trepidation - that it would come to nothing.  Once Black's threat was dealt with, I was able to find active, attacking continuations that increased White's positional advantage and eventually led to a mate threat.  This is in contrast to earlier in the game, where I passed up several interesting, aggressive continuations (8. g4!? and 19. e4 stand out) in order to put safety first.

Thanks again to Rocky for an interesting game and of course for his good work organizing the tournament.  I plan on participating in the next one on FICS, the Double My Egg Nog tournament, which still has one space free for an interested player.

[Event "rated standard match"] [Site "Free Internet Chess Server"] [Date "2012.11.21"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "RockyRook"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A22"] [WhiteElo "1556"] [BlackElo "1682"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [TimeControl "3600+5"] {A22: English Opening: 1...e5 2 Nc3 Nf6} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 d6 { Black thought for a bit before playing this, so I figured he was out of his personal book.} 4. e3 {the obvious alternative for an English player is g3, but I wanted to stick with a central strategy, having looked at similar position-types before. Previously (in annotated game #35) I had played d4 immediately.} Be7 5. d4 e4 {the big strategic decision in the game. Now play will revolve around attacking Black's central pawns. White scores over 85 percent in the database after this, although the sample size is very small.} 6. Nd2 (6. Ng5 {is also viable.}) 6... Bf5 7. Be2 (7. Qc2 {would force the issue in the center immediately, although I didn't particularly like some of the implications. For example} Bg6 {to remove the hanging bishop as a potential tactical weakness} 8. Ndxe4 Nxe4 9. Nxe4 d5 10. cxd5 Bb4+ 11. Bd2 Bxd2+ 12. Kxd2 {the king is forced to recapture, because of the hanging Ne4 if Qxd2.}) 7... c6 $146 {Secures b5+d5, observes Houdini through the Fritz interface.} ( 7... O-O 8. Qc2 d5 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. Ncxe4 Bg6 11. Qc4 f5 12. Nc5 Bxc5 13. Qxc5 Nc6 14. O-O Re8 15. Bf3 Bf7 16. a3 Nce7 17. Nc4 b6 18. Qb5 a6 19. Qb3 Rb8 20. Ne5 Be6 21. Qd3 b5 22. Bd2 {Werts,R-De Vries,B Weijers 2004 1-0}) (7... Bg6 { is Houdini's pick.} 8. b4 $11) 8. O-O {I decided on safety first.} (8. g4 { is something that I actually did consider, however, and is Houdini's preference.} Bg6 $14 9. g5 Ng8 10. Ndxe4 {and now} Bxg5 {doesn't restore equality} (10... h6 $5) 11. Nxg5 Qxg5 12. h4 Qe7 13. h5 $16) 8... d5 9. cxd5 ( 9. Qb3 {immediately does seem best here, attacking b7 and not releasing the tension in the center.} Qd7 $14) 9... cxd5 $11 {at the time, I felt that this exchange opened up the queenside to White's eventual advantage while allowing White to pressure the center.} 10. Qb3 b6 $6 {the main problem positionally with this move is that it loses control of c6.} (10... Nc6 11. f3 (11. Qxb7 { would see White pawn-hunting without sufficient support for his queen. For example} Nb4 12. Bb5+ Kf8 13. Nb3 Rb8 14. Qxa7 Ra8 {and now Black gets a perpetual on White's queen.}) 11... exf3 12. Bxf3 $11) 11. f3 $14 {I was focused on getting in this break, as without it White's pieces will be smothered. The idea of course is also to break up Black's central pawns and keep pressuring them.} (11. Bb5+ {I underestimated the strength of this alternative, not realizing that blocking with Bd7 wouldn't work. White simply wins a pawn by force.} Nbd7 $16 (11... Bd7 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. Qxd5) 12. Nxd5 O-O 13. Nxe7+ Qxe7) 11... O-O (11... exf3 {I thought would leave Black with an OK game, although I'd prefer White's position. In any case, it was necessary to avoid the loss of a pawn in the game continuation.} 12. Bb5+ Bd7 13. Nxf3 Bxb5 14. Qxb5+ Qd7 15. Ne5 Qxb5 16. Nxb5 $14) 12. fxe4 $16 {the problem for Black now is his hanging Bf5, so he has no choice but to recapture with it.} Bxe4 13. Ndxe4 dxe4 (13... Nxe4 {is worse due to} 14. Nxd5) 14. Qc2 {I felt that Black must have missed this when initially calculating the exchange sequence. It's a bit counterintuitive that the e4 pawn would have no possible additional defenders. Also, retreats (in this case b3-c2) are typically harder to see mentally.} Re8 $2 {despite the engine's question mark, during the game I thought that this was the best practical try for Black, setting up some possible tactics along the e-file.} (14... Qc8 $5 $16 {is the defense found by Houdini, which postpones the fate of the e-pawn due to the pin on the Nc3. The engine still rates White with a strong positional plus, however.}) 15. Nxe4 $18 Nbd7 (15... Nxe4 16. Qxe4 Bg5 {is a possibility that I looked at for some time before taking the e-pawn, since if White snatched the Ra8 it looked like it could lead to some trouble. However, the simple Qf3 retreat would also be fine, so I made the practical decision to go ahead with the pawn capture. Black chose a less tactical line, in any case.}) 16. Bf3 {I didn't think that Black would actually miss the Nxf6+ discovered attack on the Ra8, but thought the bishop would be better on the long diagonal anyway. This comfortably holds White's advantage. Houdini however points out the attacking value was better on c4.} (16. Ng5 $5 {would set up a potential sacrifice on f7.} Rf8 (16... h6 $2 17. Nxf7 Kxf7 18. Bc4+ Kf8 19. Qg6 {with mate coming.}) 17. Bc4 $18) 16... Rc8 $16 17. Nxf6+ Nxf6 18. Qf2 {this was the other reason for moving the bishop to f3, to clear the second rank for the queen move. I was not thinking creatively enough, however; the same benefits from moving Qf5 later would apply here, as well as removing the potential pin on the second rank after Bd2. } (18. Qf5 $16) 18... Rc7 {Houdini doesn't like this, for reasons which will shortly become apparent.} (18... Bd6 $5 19. g3 $14) 19. Bd2 {this is part of what should be a simple plan - connecting the rooks and dominating the c-file - but I had to look at the possible rook invasion on c2.} (19. e4 $5 $16 { I considered this, which would get the central pawn roller moving, but thought it would be too risky.}) 19... Bd6 (19... Rc2 20. Rfc1 $5 {was my primary line} (20. Qe1 {is better}) 20... Rxb2 21. Qe1 {with the idea that now Black has to watch out for his rook being trapped.}) 20. Rac1 $16 {now White can dominate the c-file, since Black's rook on c7 - while defended twice - can be exchanged off at will and Rc1 then played.} Ne4 {I had seen this possibility and decided that it wasn't worth trying to avoid. The exchange is essentially forced, but leaves White that much closer to a winning endgame. The trade also removes an obstacle to White pushing e4.} 21. Bxe4 Rxe4 22. Qf5 {I selected this because it was the most active option for the queen and posed several problems - the immediate attack on e4, the potential control of c8 in tandem with a rook (which is what eventually happens), and an attack on h7. Regarding the last possibility, White has some threats involving a rook lift (Rf1-f3-h3) and the Bd2 would be a great help in a kingside attack once e4 is played.} Rh4 $6 { I had looked at this variation and thought it was superficially attractive, but in the end lead nowhere for Black.} (22... Re8 23. Qf3 $16) 23. g3 { the obvious response, blocking the attack on h2 and kicking the rook.} Rh6 $2 { now if Black had the time to play Rf6, he could solve his problems. But he doesn't have that crucial tempo.} (23... g6 24. Qf6 Qxf6 25. Rxf6 Rxc1+ 26. Bxc1 Be7 $16) 24. Rxc7 $18 Qxc7 25. Rc1 Qb7 {loses by force, although even after something like . ..g6 Black has a hopeless endgame.} (25... g6 {there is nothing better in the position, says Houdini.} 26. Rxc7 gxf5 27. Rxa7 Bf8 $18) 26. Rc8+ Bf8 27. Bb4 {I have to admit that I stopped calculating at this point, seeing no viable way out for Black.} g5 {I told Rocky in the post-game discussion that this was a fiendishly clever try. It certainly made me work for the win. the point is that the rook can now contribute defensively, unlike after ...g6.} 28. Bxf8 {not the quickest way, but still a mate.} Rc6 {stopping Bh6 delivering mate.} 29. Qxg5+ {it took me a while to figure out an accurate continuation. Among other things I considered bailing out into a won queen endgame by exchanging rooks on c6, which however would have been a real struggle. The necessary follow-on Qd8 was not obvious to me, at first.} Rg6 { forced. Now White finds the move that protects the rook and keeps the back rank mate threats alive. Black will have to either give up the queen or accept mate immediately.} 30. Qd8 {RockyRook resigns} 1-0

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