29 June 2013

Annotated Game #96: A Return to Chess

This next game marked another "return to chess" after a several-year gap following Annotated Game #94.  I had moved again for my job and did little in the way of chess study or play at my new location.  Before playing in this tournament, I spent several weeks getting back into the game and reviewing my openings, primarily, in order to prepare.  At the start of the tournament, I was pleased to be paired up in the first round against a strong Expert, since I felt no real pressure to perform and could just concentrate on the game.

Several points came out of this game analysis:
  • Unusual openings are unusual for a reason.  Simple, principled and powerful play would have given White an earlier edge.
  • My repeated neglect of development issues led to losing the initiative by move 15, even with Black's rather passive opening play.
  • I correctly identified the game's major turning point and critical move (22), but flubbed the calculations in a complex position.  At critical points like that, a player needs to take as much time as needed to calculate clearly and understand the ideas of the position (which I did not)
  • While defending, always look to get back in the game and take advantage of any errors by the attacker.  This is often difficult to do because of psychological factors, for example when Black erred on move 26.  I still felt the same amount of pressure, though, which contributed to a failure to objectively evaluate the situation.
  • Materialism is bad, even when defending.  Jettisoning a pawn in exchange for dynamic compensation or long-term positional benefit would have allowed me to equalize after Black's error.
  • Computer analysis must always be viewed critically.  The original Fritz 12 analysis showed exaggerated evaluations of a White advantage at several points in the first part of the game, where Houdini showed either a small advantage or equality, which seems more reasonable to me.
Not a terrible effort for being out of tournament practice for several years and the game itself is instructive, both for the errors and how Black tactically exploits White's positional weaknesses in the final phase of the game, even after White had managed to temporarily keep material equality and get the queens off the board.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Expert"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "100"] {A10: English Opening: Unusual Replies for Black} 1. c4 Nc6 {this was a first for me. Perhaps my opponent was hoping for a transposition into the Chigorin Defense with d4 and d5 played next, although the game continuation suggests he would have played similarly after d4.} 2. Nc3 g6 {a very unusual start, as of move 2 less than 30 games with this position are in the database.} 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 (4. d4 {would give White a favorable version of a more standard queen pawn opening (or Modern Defense if Black goes that route).}) 4... d6 (4... e5 { is more challenging and also more consistent with Black's setup, controlling d4 and establishing a central bastion with the pawn. Black scores quite well with it at 57 percent.}) 5. Bg2 Bd7 6. O-O (6. d3 {would anticipate and combat Black's next idea, as shown in the following game.} Qc8 7. h4 Nf6 8. Bd2 h5 9. a3 a6 10. b4 Ng4 11. Rb1 Nd4 12. Nxd4 Bxd4 13. e3 Bg7 14. Qc2 Bc6 15. Nd5 Bxd5 16. cxd5 Qf5 17. f3 Ne5 18. Ke2 O-O 19. Rbc1 c5 20. d4 Qxc2 21. Rxc2 cxd4 22. exd4 Nd7 23. Rc7 Nb6 24. Kd3 Rab8 25. Rxe7 Nxd5 26. Rd7 Rfd8 27. Rxd8+ Rxd8 28. f4 Nc7 29. Bxb7 Rb8 30. Bc6 Ne6 31. Be3 Bf6 32. Rc1 Ng7 33. Bd7 Bd8 34. Rc8 Rxc8 35. Bxc8 a5 36. b5 d5 37. Kc3 Ne8 38. Bb7 Nf6 39. Kb3 Bb6 40. Bd2 Ne4 41. Be1 Bxd4 42. Bxd5 Nd6 43. Bxa5 Nxb5 44. Kc4 Bb2 45. Kxb5 Bxa3 46. Kc6 Bb2 47. Kd7 Kg7 48. Ke8 f6 49. Bb4 g5 50. Bf7 gxh4 51. gxh4 Bc1 52. f5 Be3 53. Bf8+ Kh8 54. Bxh5 Bf2 55. Kf7 {1-0 (55) Pribyl,J (2460)-Oberndoerfer,F (2175) Schwaebisch Gmuend 1997}) 6... Qc8 7. Nd5 {while this is a somewhat creative way of addressing the ...Bh3 idea, it is not the most effective opening play. Among other things, it loses White time with the repeated piece moves and delays his development. I had some rather fuzzy ideas about what was going on at this point in the game, including perhaps over-valuing Black's "threat" to exchange on g2.} (7. d4 {would be a straightforward way to seize space and continue developing effectively.} Nf6 (7... Bh3 8. Re1) 8. d5 $14) 7... e6 { this is what White was trying to provoke.} 8. Nc3 e5 {of course Black now simply is a tempo up on the move 6 position, with...e5 being a useful move for him. White in compensation has gained the possibility of reoccupying d5 without being able to be challenged by the e-pawn, which is useful later.} 9. d3 Bh3 {this of course is the idea behind Black's Q+B battery, but is not the best. Exchanging the light-squared bishops will remove the potentially strong Bg2, but also leave Black unable to cover the light squares as effectively.} ( 9... Nge7 10. Bd2 $11) 10. Rb1 {a rather committal move, with the idea of pushing b4.} (10. Bxh3 Qxh3 11. Qb3 Rb8 {and Fritz thought White had a significant advantage here, although Houdini considers the position equal.}) ( 10. Bd2 {would develop a piece and keep White's options open for his heavy pieces.}) 10... Bxg2 11. Kxg2 f5 {this allows White to exploit the d5 square.} (11... Nge7 12. Bg5 $11) 12. Nd5 Nf6 $11 13. b4 (13. Bg5 {would be better, as White needs to think more about getting his last minor piece into the game on an effective square, rather than pushing the pawn.}) 13... Nxd5 14. cxd5 { this type of exchange on d5 is normally not feared by White in the English, since the doubled pawn that appears on d5 serves as more of a strength than a weakness due to its influence on e6 and c6.} Ne7 15. e4 {I continue to neglect piece development in favor of pawn moves.} (15. Qb3 $5) 15... h6 {at this point Black has equalized and his coming kingside attack is clearly outlined. White has lost the initiative and should think about neutralizing Black's play. } 16. Re1 (16. Qa4+ Qd7 17. Qxd7+ Kxd7 18. Bd2 {and White should have little to fear.}) 16... O-O 17. Qb3 {a good idea, just executed two moves later than it should have been.} (17. Rb3 {is what the engines prefer, which would allow development with Bb2 and give the rook a useful lateral role on the third rank. }) 17... Kh7 18. b5 Rf7 19. Ng1 {the knight was becoming a liability on f3 as a target of Black's advance. This will also allow White to shore up his position with f3.} Qd7 20. f3 g5 {Black plans f4. comments Fritz.} 21. a4 Ng6 22. Bd2 {White really shouldn't wait until move 22 to develop his bishop.} g4 { This is the critical move in this phase of the game, pressuring White's defenses directly and creating complex possible outcomes. Unfortunately I mishandle the response.} 23. h4 $2 {this was played in a spirit of desperation and leads to the loss. I needed to more objectively evaluate the position and calculate more effectively.} (23. exf5 {would keep White alive, rhymes Fritz.} gxf3+ (23... Qxf5 24. Rf1) 24. Nxf3 Rxf5 25. Rf1 $11) (23. fxg4 {is also possible.} fxg4 (23... fxe4 24. Rxe4 Raf8 25. Kh1) 24. Rf1) 23... f4 $17 (23... Raf8 {would be most effective here, preparing Black's breakthrough.} 24. fxg4 fxe4 25. Qd1 exd3 $17) 24. h5 Ne7 25. Rf1 Ng8 26. Qd1 {I bring the queen back to defend.} (26. d4 {is a more sophisticated way of doing this, freeing up White along the third rank and threatening to undermine the black pawn chain. It also complicates things more for Black, which is a good idea in general - give the attacker more ways to go wrong.} Nf6 (26... exd4 27. Ne2 fxg3 28. f4 Nf6 29. Qd3 {and the position is messy but White holds.}) (26... fxg3 27. dxe5 dxe5 28. fxg4 Rf2+ 29. Rxf2 gxf2 30. Ne2 Qxg4+ 31. Ng3 $11) 27. dxe5 dxe5 28. fxg4 Qxg4 29. Qf3 Qxh5 30. Qxh5 Nxh5 31. Ne2 $15) 26... fxg3 $2 {releasing the pressure on the opponent, comments Fritz.} (26... Nf6 27. fxg4 Nxg4 $17) 27. fxg4 $11 Rxf1 28. Kxf1 $6 {this exposes White to additional threats from Black and reflects inaccurate calculation. White seeks to protect the g4 pawn to avoid being material down, but can in fact recover the pawn while keeping the king in a safer spot. Black will also be able to pick up the g-pawn in any case.} (28. Qxf1 {is both optically and objectively better.} Qxg4 29. Qf3 Qxf3+ 30. Nxf3 $11 {the g3 pawn cannot be saved and if Black goes for the h5 pawn White is still OK, as Black will not be able to get anywhere with the extra rook pawn.} Nf6 31. Rc1 Rc8 32. Kxg3 Nxh5+ 33. Kh3) 28... Nf6 29. Kg2 $2 { this move is a waste of time that could be spent on shoring up defenses. The g3 pawn will fall, but at too high a cost.} (29. g5 {is the defense Houdini finds. The difference from the game continuation is that Black's own pawn will now block the g-file for his pieces.} hxg5 30. Kg2 Rf8 31. Bxg5 Ng4 32. Nh3 $11 ) (29. Qf3 {is not as good as g5, but still is a more active defense.} Rf8 30. Qf5+ Kh8 31. Kg2) 29... Nxg4 30. Kxg3 {White's materialism will be his downfall.} Rg8 $17 31. Qf1 (31. Qxg4 {is the best White can do here.} Bf6 32. Qxg8+ Kxg8 33. Bxh6 $17) 31... Bf6 $19 32. Qf5+ Qxf5 33. exf5 {White (temporarily) has material equality and the queens are off, but Black's pieces now dominate in an instructive manner.} Ne3+ 34. Kf3 Nxf5 35. Rc1 $2 (35. Ne2 Nh4+ 36. Kf2 Rg2+ 37. Kf1 $19) 35... Bd8 (35... Nh4+ {wins more quickly.} 36. Ke2 Rg2+ {and White cannot defend both the Bd2 and Ng1, losing a piece.}) 36. Ne2 Nh4+ 37. Kf2 Rg2+ (37... Rf8+ $5 {makes it even easier for Black} 38. Kg3 Rf3+ 39. Kg4 Rxd3 40. Rc2 $19) 38. Kf1 Rg4 39. Rc4 Nf3 (39... Rxc4 40. dxc4 Nf5 $19) 40. Be3 (40. Rxg4 Nh2+ 41. Kg2 Nxg4 $17 42. Kf3 {was probably White's best shot.}) 40... Rg7 (40... Nh2+ $5 41. Ke1 Bh4+ 42. Kd1 Rxc4 43. dxc4 b6 $17 ) 41. Kf2 Rf7 42. Kg3 Ne1 43. Bxa7 {this appears to be an elementary error (trapping the bishop behind the pawns) but is still White's best attempt here.} b6 ({Weaker is} 43... Nxd3 44. a5 c5 45. dxc6 Bxa5 46. b6 bxc6 47. Rxc6 $11) 44. Bb8 $2 {unfortunately I lacked the patience to find a better follow-up, believing that Black could simply win the bishop otherwise. The variations show that White gets compensation for it, however.} (44. Rc3 Nf3 (44... c5 $2 45. dxc6 Rxa7 {Black picks up the bishop, but according to Houdini it's now White who has an advantage, as the protected passed c-pawn and Black's awkward Ne1 are positive factors.} 46. Kf2 Bh4+ 47. Ng3 Rf7+ 48. Kxe1 Bxg3+ 49. Ke2) 45. Rc6 $15) 44... Rg7+ 45. Kh3 Nxd3 46. Kh2 Nc5 47. Ng3 Rf7 48. Kh3 (48. a5 { is an interesting try found by Houdini.} bxa5 49. b6 cxb6 50. Bxd6 {would at least give White some activity, although probably only delaying the inevitable. }) 48... Nd3 49. Ne2 e4 $1 {a great tactical way to get the passed pawn moving, given the fork tactic at f2.} 50. Kg3 Rf3+ {and now White loses either the Ne2 or the Rc4.} 0-1

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