09 March 2013

Annotated Game #86: A ratings draw

This third-round tournament game is about as clear an example of a "ratings draw" as there is.  The final endgame position should be a win for White, or if not I certainly had all the winning chances, so why didn't I continue?  Psychological factors, of course.
  • I was relieved to have secured a draw with a much higher-rated (by 300 points) player, which I viewed as a positive outcome in itself, regardless of the board position.
  • I was mentally tired by that point and did not see an easy way to make progress. (One way would be to play h3 on the next move to kick the Black knight, then work the king to the center and have the rook attack laterally from the flank.)
  • The tournament situation - a first-round loss to a much higher-rated player followed by a win over a much lower-rated player - left me wanting some stability in results.
  • Most importantly, I did not have a winning mentality.
Unless there was some other significant factor at play, for example a big time clock deficit, I would not repeat the decision today.  While I now focus much less on the ratings factor than I did previously in my chess career, I've also realized that if I want to make real progress and gain strength, I can't take the easy way out.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A16"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "77"] {A16: English Opening: 1...Nf6 with ...d5} 1. c4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. Nc3 Nf6 { Black decides to go for a KID setup.} 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Na6 $6 { a rarely-played move, White scores 63 percent against this in the database. Hard to see a real benefit to it, compared with more normal developing moves.} 7. Rb1 c5 {if Black wants to restrain White's plan of pushing the b-pawn, an early ...a5 instead of the knight move might have made more sense.} (7... Nc5 $5) 8. a3 Bf5 9. d3 $14 {White already has a comfortable game with better-cooperating pieces and an obvious plan to gain space with pawn pushes.} Qc8 $146 {this simply takes away the c8 square from the rooks.} (9... Qd7 10. Re1 e5 11. Bg5 Bh3 12. Bh1 Nh5 13. Qd2 f5 14. Nd5 f4 15. Be7 Rf7 16. Ng5 fxg3 17. Nxh3 Qxh3 18. fxg3 Qd7 19. Bg5 Raf8 20. Rf1 Nc7 21. Nxc7 Rxf1+ 22. Rxf1 Rxf1+ 23. Kxf1 Qxc7 24. Qe3 {Tikander,T-Nivala,T/Lahti 1997/EXT 99/1/2-1/2 (53) }) 10. Re1 (10. b4 {immediately seems better, as White can wait to see where the rook is best placed.}) 10... Nc7 11. Bg5 {again White is being a little premature with his piece placement.} Rb8 (11... h6 12. Bd2 $14 {is actually a standard idea behind Bg5 for White, who provokes the advance of the h6 pawn to create a target on the c1-h6 diagonal.}) (11... Bh3 $11 {seems more consistent with Black's earlier ...Qc8.}) 12. Qc1 {White pursues the same idea of threatening to exchange his opponent's fianchettoed bishop, rather than getting on with queenside expansion.} Re8 13. b4 {finally!} Nd7 {the intention is to reinforce c5 and enable a possible hop to e5.} 14. b5 {White gains space, notes Fritz, but it is unclear if he has good enough prospects for a breakthrough.} (14. Bh6 {for White would be the logical follow-up to Bg5 and more threatening, now that Black kindly withdrew the defending Nf6.}) 14... b6 {this locks in White's space advantage on the queenside and gives him a future outpost on the c6 square.} (14... Ne5 $5) 15. a4 {an unnecessary move. Bh6 again looks good here.} e5 $6 {Black is effectively ceding the light squares to White and creating holes in his own position while not getting any compensation. Black is not going to be able to push ...e4 any time soon.} ( 15... Nf6 {would return the knight to the action.}) 16. Nh4 {driving the bishop away and increasing White's central control, while also opening up the powerful Bg2 on the long diagonal.} (16. Nd2 {may be an improved version of the idea, keeping a lock on the e4 square with the idea of using it as an outpost for the knight.}) 16... Be6 17. Bc6 $16 {A classical outpost, notes Fritz. It is interesting to see at this point that none of Black's pieces are doing anything useful.} f6 18. Bh6 Rf8 {with the e-file effectively closed for further action, Black needs to switch to the f-file in order to have any counterplay.} 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Nf3 {bringing the knight back from the rim.} ( 20. Qd2 {might have been more useful, connecting the rooks and getting on the potentially useful e1-a5 diagonal.}) 20... f5 21. Ng5 (21. a5 $5 {is an interesting alternative plan, as White can immediately break through on the queenside.} bxa5 22. Ra1 a6 23. Rxa5 axb5 24. Nxb5 Nxb5 25. cxb5) 21... Bg8 { choosing to preserve the bishop, although it currently looks like a rather "bad" piece.} 22. f4 $6 {this is a superficially aggressive but wrong-headed move that simply offers some relief for Black from the bind that White has established.} Nf6 $6 (22... exf4 23. Qxf4 Ne5 $11) 23. Ra1 Ne6 (23... a5) 24. Nxe6+ Bxe6 25. e3 (25. a5 {immediately would be better, preventing the ...a5 idea from Black.}) 25... Rf7 26. a5 bxa5 $2 {this makes White's task of exploiting the breakthrough much easier.} (26... Qc7) 27. Rxa5 Rb6 (27... Qc7 28. Ra3 $16) 28. Qa3 (28. fxe5 {would exploit the overloaded d-pawn.} dxe5 29. Na4) 28... Rxc6 $2 {Black defensively sacrifices the exchange.} (28... e4 { is an interesting try, but doesn't work.} 29. dxe4 Bxc4 30. Ra4 Qe6 31. exf5 gxf5 32. Rxa7 $18) (28... a6 29. Rxa6 Rxa6 30. Qxa6 Qxa6 31. bxa6 $16 {is Black's best defensive try, according to Houdini.}) 29. bxc6 $18 Qxc6 30. Rxa7 {not optimal for White, who overlooks some additional pressure he can bring to bear on the d-pawn.} (30. fxe5 dxe5 31. Qxc5 Qxc5 32. Rxc5) (30. Ra6 {might be the simplest idea, for example} Qd7 $2 31. Nb5) 30... Qf3 {Black prepares the advance e4} 31. Rxf7+ Bxf7 32. Qa2 $6 {one square off makes a large difference in the position.} (32. Qb2 {and now ...e4 loses.} exf4 (32... e4 33. Nb5 exd3 34. Nxd6 {and Black cannot protect his d-pawn.}) 33. exf4 Qxd3 34. Nd5 Bxd5 35. cxd5 Qd4+ (35... Qxd5 $2 36. Re7+ Kh6 37. Qxf6) 36. Qxd4 cxd4 37. Rd1 $18) 32... e4 33. dxe4 $6 {this gives Black the chance to get his knight into the game.} (33. Qd2 exd3 34. Qxd3) 33... fxe4 $2 (33... Nxe4 34. Nxe4 Qxe4) 34. Nd5 $6 (34. Nb5 $1 {and White is on the road to success, comments Fritz.} Ne8 35. Qd2 {and the d-pawn is lost for Black.}) 34... Bxd5 $16 35. cxd5 Ng4 36. Qg2 Qxg2+ 37. Kxg2 Nf6 38. Rd1 Ng4 39. Re1 1/2-1/2

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