01 June 2013

Annotated Game #94: How to defeat yourself in the last round of a tournament

This last-round tournament game followed Annotated Game #92 and is a great example of how to defeat yourself using (bad) attitude alone.  I was generally more concerned with getting the game over and the logistics of departing after the tournament, rather than winning the game or playing well.  Since then, I have always made sure to not have any outside considerations affect my last-round games.  This means when traveling I'll stay over in the hotel, which is much more mentally relaxing in any event.

The game itself deserved much better than the attention I gave it.  There are a lot of thematic ideas for both White and Black in a Classical Caro-Kann, including: the sacrificial variation 17. Nxf7!? and what Black could have done to prevent it; the ...c5 break, which could have given Black some initiative even after queenside castling; the dynamic value of minor pieces and the advantage of the two bishops (which Black unusually acquires); and what not to do in a bishop vs. knight endgame.

This was also another game that illustrated the drawbacks of not having a systematic thinking process with an important but subtle example on move 25, where Black should have asked "what changed?" after White's move and then could have found a much stronger continuation.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "109"] {B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. Bc4 {White is mixing and matching variations here. If Bc4 is intended, normally it is played the move before and followed up with N1e2, in order to target the f4 square.} e6 8. h4 {although this scores very well for White (with a small database sample), most of the games appear to have a large ratings gap in White's favor.} Nh5 {now out of the database. Black takes advantage of his knight placement to stop the h5 pawn advance. A more standard approach would be to play ...h6, as in the following example.} (8... h6 9. Ne5 Bh7 10. Qe2 Nd5 11. c3 a6 12. Bd2 Nd7 13. Nxd7 Qxd7 14. Bd3 Bxd3 15. Qxd3 Nf6 16. Ne2 Qd5 17. Nf4 Qe4+ 18. Qxe4 Nxe4 19. Be3 Bd6 20. Nd3 O-O-O 21. O-O-O Nf6 22. Bf4 Bxf4+ 23. Nxf4 Ng4 24. Nd3 c5 25. f3 Ne3 26. Rde1 cxd4 27. Ne5 Rhf8 28. cxd4 Nf5 29. Kb1 Nxd4 30. Rc1+ Kb8 31. Rhd1 f6 32. Nc4 e5 33. Rd2 Nf5 34. Rh1 b5 35. Rxd8+ Rxd8 36. Na5 Rd2 37. g4 Nd4 38. Rf1 Rd3 {0-1 (38) Ehret,R (2105) -Buhmann,R (2315) Schwaebisch Gmuend 1999}) 9. Ne2 {avoiding the knight exchange. Black by this point has equalized, as White does not have any active threats and Black is free to continue developing.} Nd7 10. Be3 {this invites Black to take advantage of the bishop development by checking on the a5-e1 diagonal, as occurs in other Caro-Kann variations. Black may get a "free" developing move by making White move his bishop again, or create the possibility of repeating the position. If White blocks with c3, this is a small positional victory for Black, as that hems in White's dark-square bishop and make castling queenside a less desirable option.} Nb6 {while not a bad move in itself, it makes the position less flexible for Black and does not do anything in particular for his development.} (10... Qa5+ 11. c3 (11. Bd2 Qc7) 11... Bd6) 11. Bb3 Nd5 12. Qd2 {a clear sign that White is considering castling queenside.} Nhf6 {Black decides to bring the knight on the rim back into the game, eyeing the e4 square.} 13. Bg5 {the pin does nothing for White. Black now forces the bishop for knight exchange.} (13. Ne5 $5) 13... h6 (13... Qc7 {would be another way to play, developing the queen and moving out of the pin. White cannot kick the Nd5 because of} 14. c4 Bb4 15. Nc3 Ne4) 14. Bxf6 Nxf6 {Black now has the advantage of the bishop pair, which is rather unusual in this variation.} 15. Ne5 Bh7 16. g4 {this thrust is premature and Black should be able to handle it. However, it looks aggressive and dangerous and I played a passive move in response.} (16. O-O-O Nd5 $11) 16... Nd7 (16... Bd6 { is the primary antidote, using the tactical idea of removing the g4 pawn's protector. It also defends against a possible Nxf7 sacrifice, as the f4 square would be covered, allowing Black to exchange there after a Nf4 follow-up. During the game however, I did not even consider it. Perhaps I was too wedded to the idea of keeping the two bishops.} 17. f4 Bxe5 18. fxe5 Nxg4 19. Qf4 h5 $15) 17. Nd3 (17. Nxf7 {is a typical sacrificial idea that can result in wild complications. I recall looking at it and considering it to be White's best option, being relieved when my opponent declined to pursue it (after taking a significant amount of clock time).} Kxf7 18. Nf4 {this line was originally evaluated by Fritz with a significant advantage to White, but Houdini shows equality, for example} Qf6 19. Nxe6 Nb6 20. Nc7+ Nd5 21. Nxd5 (21. Nxa8 $2 Qf3) 21... cxd5 22. Bxd5+ Ke8) 17... Qc7 (17... Be7 {is simpler and better, developing the piece and targeting the h4 pawn.}) 18. O-O-O O-O-O {Black's king position is now as safe as White's and the two bishops should give him an edge.} 19. Qe3 Bd6 (19... c5 {Both Fritz and Houdini like the idea of playing this pawn break. It appears to loosen Black's king position, but White (especially with the lack of a dark-square bishop) cannot exploit this and the move would help activate Black's pieces.} 20. dxc5 Nxc5 21. Nxc5 Bxc5 $15) 20. Kb1 {a typical "sidestep" that gets the king off the same file as the Qc7 and gives White more flexibility.} Kb8 21. f3 {this continues to leave White vulnerable to the ...c5 pawn break.} (21. Nc3 $5) 21... Rhe8 {Black however continues to look to play solid moves rather than active ones.} 22. Nc3 Nf6 { around here I recall simply wanting the game to be over and end in a draw. This kind of mentality means, among other things, that you are likely to overlook good moves that might actually give you winning chances.} 23. Qf2 Nd5 24. Bxd5 $6 (24. Ne4 $5 $11) 24... exd5 $15 {now Black's remaining minor pieces are clearly superior to White's.} 25. Qd2 (25. f4 Bxd3 26. Rxd3 Bxf4 27. Rf3 g5 $15) 25... Bxd3 {this is a little premature.} (25... Qe7 $5 {is found by the engines. White's last move weakend the f-pawn and one threat is ...Qf6, attacking d4, f3 and h4 all at the same time. Black can now exploit the e-file as well, for example} 26. Qg2 Bxd3 27. Rxd3 Bf4 28. a3 Rd6 29. Rdd1 Re6 $17) 26. Qxd3 Re7 (26... Re6 {would leave the Bd6 a retreat.}) 27. g5 Rde8 {this allows White to weaken Black's pawn structure and penetrate with the queen, giving White the initiative, although Black still enjoys a small advantage.} ( 27... hxg5 28. hxg5 g6 {would be the simple way to deal with White's idea.}) 28. gxh6 (28. Qh7 hxg5 29. Qxg7 gxh4 30. Rxh4 Bb4 $15) 28... gxh6 29. Qh7 Bf4 30. Rhg1 Be3 31. Rg8 (31. Rg4 $5) 31... Qd8 $6 {Black starts to revert to more passive play again, becoming preoccupied with White's threats rather than looking for objective (and active) best moves.} (31... Qf4 $17 {is pointed out by the engines, freeing c7 for the king and targeting the f3 pawn.}) 32. Rg7 Qd7 {I was still thinking draw here. Houdini assesses the position as a half-pawn in Black's favor.} 33. a3 {sensibly creating "luft" for the king.} f5 {Black looks to simplify down and get the draw he wants.} (33... Qe6 $5 34. Rg8 Qf6 {has a similar ideas as in the above variation, as Black's queen helps bottle up White's queen and targets the f-pawn.}) 34. Rxe7 Rxe7 35. Qg8+ Kc7 $6 {this hands the initiative to White, who now also has some prospects for usefully employing the Nc3, which has been on the sidelines all game.} (35... Qc8 36. Qg6 Re6 $11) 36. Qa8 $11 Bf2 {another dubious decision, the idea being to trade the a-pawn for White's h-pawn. This gives White too much initiative on the queenside, however.} (36... a6 {would be simpler:} 37. Na4 Qc8 38. Qa7 Qb8) 37. h5 (37. Qxa7 Re1 38. Rxe1 Bxe1 39. Qc5 Bxh4 40. Nb5+ {would make Black's life difficult, although he should be able to hold with} Kc8) 37... Qe8 38. Qxa7 Re1 ({Less advisable is} 38... Qxh5 39. Na4 Qe8 40. Nc5 $16 {comments Fritz.}) 39. Rxe1 Qxe1+ 40. Ka2 Qd2 $11 {now this really should be a draw, despite Black being a pawn down.} 41. Qc5 Kb8 42. Qf8+ {White forks: b8+f5} Ka7 43. Qxf5 Bxd4 $14 (43... Qxd4 {would make Black's life easier, centralizing the queen and making it much more active.}) 44. Qd3 Qxd3 45. cxd3 {here Black's task is difficult but he should have drawing chances due to his bishop and White's weaker pawn structure (4 islands vs. 2 for Black).} Kb6 46. Kb3 Kc5 47. Kc2 Be3 $6 (47... Bf2 $11) 48. Ne2 {ingenious use of White's knight to dominate the bishop, which is now revealed to be awkwardly placed.} Kd6 49. d4 Ke6 50. Kd3 Bf2 51. b4 Kf6 {Black needs to think about activating the bishop here, perhaps with ...Bh4.} 52. a4 b6 $4 {an elementary endgame blunder. Black's pieces now cannot stop White's a-pawn after it advances.} (52... Be1 $5 ) 53. a5 $18 bxa5 54. bxa5 Be1 55. Nc3 {this wins, but simply pushing a6 does as well.} 1-0

1 comment:

  1. Oops. I guess I posted my comment after a May entry. See below. J