01 June 2014

Annotated Game #125: One tactic is all it takes

This second-round tournament game followed Annotated Game #123 and features a fatal tactical shot on the kingside after an initially rather innocuous English/Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) opening.  The English can in fact often lead to kingside attacks, despite its image as a queenside-focused flank opening.  I could have initiated the action earlier, for example with 10. Ne5 or 12. Ne2, but played in a more quiet and perhaps stereotyped fashion.  Later, I spotted the key 19. Nxf7! possibility of undermining the defenses around Black's king, which my opponent failed to see, leading him to miss the earlier saving ...Ne4 idea to block the White queen's diagonal.

Missing one tactic is often all it takes to lose a game, regardless of your level.  I credit the tactical study I've undertaken since starting this blog for allowing me to be alert to this sacrificial idea while sitting at the board.  Other useful observations about the game came out of the analysis, particularly the idea of accelerating White's central and kingside play.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A13"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "47"] {A13: English Opening: 1...e6} 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 Nf6 4. Bb2 Nbd7 5. e3 Be7 6. Nc3 (6. cxd5 {is an interesting alternative, White can use it to go into a Hedgehog-type setup as in the following game featuring GM Jonathan Rowson:} exd5 7. Be2 O-O 8. d3 Re8 9. Nbd2 c6 10. a3 Nf8 11. O-O Ng6 12. b4 Bd6 13. Re1 Ng4 14. h3 N4e5 15. Bf1 Nxf3+ 16. Nxf3 Nh4 17. e4 Nxf3+ 18. Qxf3 dxe4 19. dxe4 Be5 20. Bxe5 Rxe5 {Rowson,J (2445)-Grinsell,L (2205) Walsall 1997 1-0 (32)}) (6. Be2 {is most consistently played at high levels, deferring placement of the queen's knight.}) 6... c6 {my opponent liked the reinforcement of d5, but didn't know how to subsequently develop the light-square bishop.} (6... O-O {seems indicated, but White also does quite well in the ensuing positions. Example:} 7. Qc2 c5 8. d4 b6 9. cxd5 exd5 10. Bd3 Bb7 11. O-O Rc8 12. Rad1 Qc7 13. Qb1 a6 14. Ne5 Bd6 15. f4 h6 16. Rf3 b5 17. Nxd7 Nxd7 18. dxc5 Bxc5 19. Rg3 f6 20. Bf5 Rce8 21. Qd3 Nb6 22. Ne2 Qe7 23. Nd4 Bxd4 24. Bxd4 Nd7 25. Qe2 {1-0 (25) Froewis,G (2329)-Kessler,L (2188) Linz 2011}) 7. Qc2 {d4 here scores best, but the text move also does quite well (75 percent) and keeps the game out of traditional queen pawn opening territory.} O-O 8. Be2 Re8 9. O-O (9. Rg1 {the "caveman" approach on the kingside does surprisingly well here, although the handful of database games features large ratings gaps between the opponents, for example:} Bd6 10. g4 Ne5 11. Nd4 dxc4 12. bxc4 c5 13. Ndb5 Be7 14. g5 Nfd7 15. Ne4 a6 16. Nbd6 Rf8 17. Qc3 f6 18. f4 Nc6 19. O-O-O e5 20. gxf6 Nxf6 21. fxe5 Nxe4 22. Nxe4 Bf5 23. e6 Nd4 24. exd4 Bxe4 25. d5 {1-0 (25) Ivanisevic,I (2563)-Blanco Acevedo,M (2150) Andorra 2003} ) 9... Nf8 {with this, Black vacates d7 for the bishop. However, this doesn't seem to improve things much, removes the guard of the e5 square, and takes valuable time.} (9... b6 {in order to develop the bishop on b7 is Houdini's preferred plan. There doesn't seem to be anywhere else potentially useful for the bishop.}) 10. Rac1 (10. Ne5 {would proceed immediately with a kingside attacking plan.} Ng6 11. f4 $14) 10... Ng6 11. Bd3 {the idea was to exchange off the less useful bishop for Black's knight covering e5.} (11. d4 {followed by Bd3 is an improved version of the idea.}) 11... Bd7 (11... Bd6 {instead would help control the key e5 square; the bishop is currently doing little on e7.}) 12. Bxg6 (12. Ne2 $5 {with the idea of activating the Bb2 and swinging the knight around to the kingside.}) 12... hxg6 $11 {Black has the pair of bishops, comments Houdini via the Fritz interface. That makes the engine evaluate the position as equal, albeit with a slight numeric plus to White.} 13. Ne5 {this is still a good idea, although with less impact than it could have had on move 10.} Bd6 14. Ne2 {also still useful, if late.} (14. d4 $5 { would support the e5 outpost and open up the 2nd rank for the queen.}) 14... b6 {Black begins to try and start some counterplay on the queenside with pawn advances. As he has no prospects on the kingside, this would seem to be his only available plan.} 15. f4 {with the idea of reinforcing the e5 outpost and allowing the rook lift.} Rc8 16. Rf3 c5 17. Rcf1 {bringing the other rook into the attack and also lining up against the weak f7 pawn, which tactically prevents an exchange on e5 due to the subsequent opening of the f-file.} b5 { during the game, Black's pawn advances had seemed to me to be awfully slow when compared to my developing kingside attack, but Houdini validates Black's play up until this point.} 18. Rg3 {I didn't see the ...Ne4 defense, which blocks the b1-g6 diagonal, until just after I played the move.} bxc4 $4 { my opponent misses the key threat from the Ne5.} (18... Ne4 19. Rh3 (19. Rff3 { an exchange sacrifice which I had considered as a possibility, does not in fact work:} Nxg3 20. Rxg3 Bxe5 21. Bxe5 {and White cannot break through.}) 19... Bxe5 20. Bxe5 $11) (18... Bxe5 19. fxe5 Ne4 20. Rgf3 $14) 19. Nxf7 $1 $18 {my opponent had seen that I had a possible sac on g6, but not on f7.} Qe7 ( 19... Kxf7 20. Qxg6+ {with mate in one.}) 20. Nxd6 Qxd6 21. Bxf6 Qf8 22. Rxg6 { I had for some reason thought that Qxg6 would not allow me to make further progress easily, but Houdini shows that it does. However, the tactical illusion didn't hurt, since the rook capture wins equally well.} Qxf6 {at this point Black is lost, although White has a completely won game regardless.} ( 22... cxb3 {what else?} 23. axb3 Re7 24. Bxe7 Qxe7 $18 25. f5 exf5 26. Ng3) 23. Rxf6 gxf6 24. Qg6+ {and the naked king plus a coming rook lift spell doom for Black.} (24. Qg6+ Kf8 25. Qxf6+ Kg8 26. Rf3 e5 27. Rg3+ Bg4 28. Rxg4+ Kh7 29. Qh4#) 1-0

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