28 July 2013

Annotated Game #99: Why it's bad to be positionally dominated

This final round tournament game saw Black achieve complete positional dominance by the early middlegame.  At the time, I thought I had played reasonably well against my higher-rated opponent until that point, but more objective analysis shows how I simply did not understand what was required in the position after playing some standard opening moves. I also had not learned much at all from my earlier round loss in the English where I mishandled the central pawn structure and failed to play e4 at a critical moment (see the recent Amateur Hour post for more on this).

Overall, it was bad to be White and good to be Black in this tournament (for me at least), since Black was the victor in all five of my games; I had Black twice.  Perhaps a contributing factor to this performance was a certain overconfidence in my experience with the English Opening and an unconscious assumption that the rest of the game should easily take care of itself.  As I was paired up by a significant margin each time I had White, this did not work out so well.

In this game, Black's central threats could have been nullified by White on move 14 with the prophylactic e4 push, but White fails to comprehend his weaknesses (including the hanging Nc3) and ends up with his pieces offside and ineffective by move 18.  Black's subsequent careful, relentless crushing of White is instructive and shows how this kind of positional dominance can nullify any hope of an opponent saving themselves with tactics, as none exist.

This was the last tournament game I played before starting this blog and getting serious about chess improvement.  Although for the next annotated game I plan to look at a specific game from earlier in my chess career, after that we will get to see more contemporary games and what lessons they may hold for my ongoing development as a player.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A24"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "90"] {A24: English Opening vs King's Indian: Lines without ...Nc6} 1. c4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O c6 {a key decision in the KID lines. The c6 pawn blunts White's bishop on the long diagonal, but also can become a target of White's b4-b5 push.} 7. d3 e5 8. Bg5 {the dark-square bishop can be difficult to develop in these lines. White decides to quickly trade it off.} ( 8. Rb1 {is typically played first, for example} a5 9. a3 Re8 10. Bg5) 8... h6 9. Bxf6 Bxf6 {Black has the pair of bishops, notes Fritz.} 10. Rb1 (10. b4 $5 { I rightly saw would lose the exchange, but Houdini thinks White has compensation for it.} e4 11. Nxe4 Bxa1 12. Qxa1 {White is the equivalent of a pawn down materially, but the beautiful a1-h8 diagonal and his development lead are worth it.}) 10... Be6 {joining the fight for d5.} 11. b4 d5 {at the time I felt this was a little premature, but Black does well to assert his strength in the center.} 12. Nd2 Qd7 (12... e4 $5 {would further pressure White and is the logical follow-up to the central push by Black. The move works because of the hanging Nc3. For example} 13. cxd5 cxd5 14. Na4 exd3) 13. cxd5 cxd5 14. a4 $2 {for the second time in the tournament, I fail to consider the best move on the board because it involves advancing the e-pawn.} (14. e4 { would stop Black's central threats and reassert White's control over d5. The blocking of the Bg2 is less important.} d4 15. Nd5 $14) (14. b5 $11 {is what my opponent thought would be best here, preventing the knight from coming out. It's certainly better than the text move.}) 14... Nc6 (14... Rc8 {looks a little unnatural, but would immediately attack White's weak points and give Black positional dominance, as both Fritz and Houdini show.} 15. Rc1 Nc6 16. b5 Nb4 $17) 15. Qc1 $2 {this is just asking for trouble. Again e4 would be best here, although not as good as on the previous move.} Bg7 (15... Rac8 {is the obvious way to exploit the Queen's vulnerability on the c-file.} 16. e4 Nd4 $17 ) 16. Nb3 b6 $17 (16... Nxb4 $2 {pawn snatching would backfire here on Black.} 17. Nc5 Qe7 18. Rxb4 Qxc5 19. Nxd5 Rac8 20. Qxc5 Rxc5 21. Ne7+ Kh7 22. Rxb7 $14 ) 17. Qa3 Rfc8 {Black's dominant positional advantage is apparent, with White's pieces contorting themselves to try and cover his weak points, while Black is admirably centralized and flexible, with multiple threats and the initiative.} 18. Rfc1 $6 (18. b5 $5 Ne7 19. Rbc1 $17) 18... Bf8 $19 {Black now puts the screws to White in a simple but effective manner.} 19. Na2 $2 { this will bury White's knight and effectively take the piece out of the game.} (19. Nd2 $19 {it would be better simply to abandon the pawn, although White has poor prospects in any case.}) 19... a5 20. Qb2 axb4 21. Rc2 Bd6 22. Rbc1 Na5 (22... Rxa4 {would be simpler.}) 23. Nxa5 bxa5 24. d4 {White desperately tries for some sort of counterplay.} e4 (24... Qxa4 {again taking the pawn would be the simple and most effective way to proceed. White would have no hope of stopping the two connected passed pawns.}) 25. Rxc8+ Rxc8 26. Rxc8+ Qxc8 {the material exchanges still don't provide White any relief, largely due to the out-of-play Na2. The engines evaluate black as being over the equivalent of a piece up.} 27. Qd2 Kg7 28. f3 f5 29. fxe4 fxe4 30. e3 Bd7 31. Qd1 Qc4 32. Nc1 Qc6 {Black finally gets around to picking up the a-pawn.} 33. Bf1 Qxa4 {from here the game is completely hopeless for White.} 34. Qe2 Qc6 35. Qd2 a4 36. Na2 Qb7 37. Qb2 b3 38. Nc1 Qb4 39. Kf2 Qa3 40. Qb1 Qb4 41. Be2 Qc3 42. h4 Ba3 43. Na2 Qb2 44. Qxb2 Bxb2 45. Nb4 a3 0-1


  1. First of all, I enjoy your blog! I like that you hang it all out by annotating your games!

    I am in the same boat as you and my blog is http://ontheroadtochessmaster.blogspot.com/

    I like the embedded player that you are using. I think I might have to give that a shot.

    Keep up the awesome work!

    1. Hello Chris, thanks for stopping by! Will have to check out your blog.

      While everyone has an ego, I think ego has no place (at least no useful one) in the training and improvement process. Analyzing and annotating my games is probably the most useful thing I'm doing.

      The ChessFlash player is the best all-around publishing app I've run across and if you don't like the color scheme etc. it's pretty customizable.