22 February 2015

Annotated Game #141: A long struggle

This second-round tournament game is not particularly long in terms of the total number of moves, but the struggle involved certainly felt long-lasting and intense.  As the middlegame kicks off on move 16 with White and Black playing on opposite wings, my opponent and I engage in a tense maneuvering battle which builds to a flurry of tactics around the move 40 time control.

This game is a good illustration of how important it is to spot key ideas and play them in a timely fashion.  In my case, spotting the idea of using an exchange sacrifice to clear the way for my advanced a-pawn should have been the winning one, but it was initiated one tempo later than ideal, a fact which gave Black his own advanced pawn on d3 that eventually won the game for him.

Despite the eventual disappointing result, I still felt that this type of game, which revolved around an exciting strategic struggle and tactical clashes, was a great experience and central to why I play chess.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A26"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2013.01.19"] [EventRounds "7"] {A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6 {the Closed variation} 6. Nf3 h6 {a bit unusual, designed to keep the bishop out of g5. Might be a waste of a tempo.} 7. O-O Be6 8. Rb1 Qd7 {clearly intending to trade off the Bg2.} 9. b4 Nge7 10. Re1 { I make the strategic decision to keep the light-square bishops on the board, with far-reaching consequences.} Bh3 {a rare move at this point, as Black typically castles first; see the below game featuring Yasser Seirawan as White from the classic Lone Pine tournament.} (10... O-O 11. Nd2 Bh3 12. Bh1 Rab8 13. b5 Nd4 14. Qa4 a6 15. bxa6 Qxa4 16. Nxa4 bxa6 17. Nc3 Rxb1 18. Ndxb1 Rb8 19. e3 Kf8 20. Na3 Ne6 21. Nc2 Nc5 22. Rd1 Bg4 23. f3 Bf5 24. Ne1 e4 25. d4 exf3 26. Bxf3 Nd7 27. Ba3 Ke8 28. Be2 h5 29. Nf3 Bh6 30. e4 Bg4 31. Kg2 Nc6 32. Nd5 Kd8 33. c5 dxc5 34. dxc5 Bg7 35. Bc1 Bxf3+ 36. Bxf3 a5 37. Be2 f6 38. Bf4 Nce5 39. c6 Rb2 40. Kf1 Nxc6 41. Nxc7 g5 42. Bd6 Bf8 43. Ne6+ Ke8 44. Bxh5# {1-0 (44) Seirawan,Y (2405)-Tarjan,J (2510) Lone Pine 1978}) 11. Bh1 {although this is the immediate logical follow-up to the rook move and was my reason for it, it may not be best. The rook is better placed on e1 regardless of what the bishop does and retreating the bishop takes a tempo that could be used to pursue White's queenside play (b4-b5).} (11. b5 Nd8 12. Bxh3 Qxh3 13. e4 {is an alternative way of playing on the light squares for White. Although the Qh3 looks threatening, Black's pieces are not in a position to assist it on the kingside.}) 11... O-O $11 12. b5 Nd8 13. a4 f5 {the opposite-wings race begins. } 14. Qb3 Kh8 {moving off the queen's diagonal and preventing the c4-c5 break.} 15. Ba3 {renewing the idea of pushing the c-pawn.} Ne6 16. Nd5 {this is the first major decision by White in the middlegame. Here I would be willing to accept doubled d-pawns in return for the advanced, supported d5 pawn and the half-open c-file that would result from an exchange. In the game, Black declines to go down this road.} g5 17. e3 {this weakens d3, which is important in a number of variations, but also strengthens f4, prevents the Black knight from entering d4, and offers the chance of opening the e-file for White if the e-pawn is exchanged.} Ng6 18. Nd2 {this could have been played earlier as well. It's necessary to activate the bishop on the corner and eventually do something useful with the knight.} c6 {a surprise from my opponent, as I did not think he would want to allow the opening of the b-file.} 19. bxc6 (19. Nb4 $5 {is a more sophisticated idea, retaining pressure on c6.}) 19... bxc6 { now it's clear that the open b-file does not in fact give White anything. In fact, the pawn exchange has simplified the queenside structure and thereby reduced White's potential for active play.} 20. Nc3 {Nb4 is still best here.} Rac8 (20... e4 {interestingly is possible and the engine considers it best, as the pawn sacrifice gives Black the initiative. For example} 21. dxe4 f4 22. exf4 Nd4 $15) 21. Qc2 Rf7 22. a5 {the idea occurs to me of using the a-pawn to try and pressure Black further.} h5 $6 {Black continues single-mindedly with the kingside pawn advance.} (22... e4 $5 $11 {is still possible here, although there is no real advantage now as a result.} 23. a6 $11) 23. a6 $14 h4 24. Rb7 {the point of the plan. The rook is established in Black's back ranks.} Rc7 25. Reb1 Nd8 26. Rxc7 {this is not bad, but not ideal either. At the time, I didn't see the advantage of keeping the rook as an irritant to Black.} (26. Rb8 Rf8 27. Qd1 $16) 26... Qxc7 27. Ne2 {I felt I needed to get this knight back into active play and shore up the kingside.} (27. Qb3 {would be better, continuing to exploit White's advantage on the b-file.}) 27... Bf6 {getting out of the way of the rook on the 7th rank.} 28. Qa4 {pressures c6 and prevents ...Qa5, by my original thinking. It is still better placed on b3, however.} Ne7 (28... Kg7 29. Bb4 Qd7 30. Ba5 $14) 29. Qb4 {the other point behind the queen maneuver, targeting the d6 pawn. However, the idea would be even better if the B+Q battery were reversed.} (29. Bb4 Rf8 30. Qa3 $16 { with central pressure and again the idea of Rb7 after playing Ba5.}) 29... Nc8 {Black covers the weak point and I must again think about how to make progress. } 30. Nb3 c5 31. Qe1 {Qa5 was the other option I considered.} Nb6 32. Bc1 { the idea was to redeploy the bishop to a more useful square.} (32. Nc3 $5 { improving the knight, however, looks more effective at the moment. This would take control of the key d5 square.}) 32... Nc6 (32... hxg3 {would be more to the point of Black's kingside strategy, posing White more problems.}) 33. Bd2 { a useful maneuver. However, I was not adequately considering the threat to the isolated a-pawn, which leads to trouble.} Qc8 {the threat to the pawn is not real (see below variation), but I was disheartened during the game by the prospect of being a pawn down. Both my opponent and I were feeling time pressure as well.} (33... Bg4 34. Na5 e4 35. Nxc6 Qxc6 36. Bc3 $11) 34. Ba5 $6 (34. Na5 {is a possibility that I did not look at sufficiently. The knight was essentially dead on b3; this activates it and the a-pawn is tactically defended.} Nxa5 (34... e4 35. Nxc6 Qxc6 36. Bc3) 35. Bxa5 Bd8 $14 (35... Qxa6 $4 {the pawn is safe and cannot be captured without dire consequences} 36. Bxb6 axb6 37. Ra1 Qc8 38. Ra8 $18)) 34... Bd8 $6 (34... Nxa5 35. Nxa5 Qxa6 {in this variation, White cannot punish Black for pawn-grabbing.} 36. Qd2 $15) 35. Ra1 { simply thinking of protecting the a-pawn.} (35. Nc3 $11 {is a much more active move, centralizing the knight to good effect.}) 35... Nxa5 36. Nxa5 Qe6 { Black plans e4. My opponent was very low on time by this point and I was getting down to my final minutes.} (36... f4 $5 37. Bb7 Qd7) (36... Qxa6 $2 37. Nb7 {trapping the queen.}) 37. Nc6 {Nb7 was the other option I was looking at. I was not able to clearly calculate them, so went with the variation that seemed on the surface more active.} Bf6 (37... Qd7 38. Nxd8 Qxd8 39. Nc3 $11) 38. Nc3 {played without a clear intent.} (38. Rb1 {is the key idea here, threatening an exchange sacrifice on b6 in order to allow the a-pawn to advance. I should have played it immediately.} Qc8 39. Rxb6 axb6 $16) 38... e4 $14 {this was a surprising and challenging move from my opponent at this point, which shows my lack of awareness of his threats.} 39. Rb1 {now I saw the idea of sacrificing the exchange with the idea of promoting the a-pawn.} exd3 { this would not have been available to Black a move earlier.} 40. Rxb6 {perhaps this could have been delayed. It offered my opponent an obvious recapture in order to make the time control.} (40. Bd5 $5 Qe8 41. Bxf7 Qxf7 42. Qd1 Qxc4 43. Rxb6 $11) 40... axb6 $11 41. Bd5 {at the time I debated between this and immediately pushing a7.} (41. a7 $2 Rxa7 42. Nxa7 Qxc4 43. Nb1 Qa2 $19 { and White cannot stop the Black pawns.}) 41... Qc8 $2 (41... Qe8 42. Bxf7 Qxf7 $11) 42. Nb5 $4 {played under the assumption that Qxa6 would not occur due to the hanging rook and missing the subsequent tactic. The idea was to better prepare the a7 push.} (42. a7 $1 Rb7 43. Qd2 Rxa7 44. Nxa7 $18) 42... Qxa6 $19 43. Bxf7 (43. Nc3 {is no salvation, comments Houdini via the Fritz interface.} Rh7 44. Qc1 hxg3 45. hxg3 Kg7 $19) 43... Qa1 {the tactical shot that I had missed. I had looked at some similar moves by Black in earlier variations, when they were with check, but failed to consider the possibility of this forcing line with the back rank problem. Now the d-pawn is unstoppable, the key element that I missed.} 44. Qxa1 Bxa1 45. Ne7 (45. Bd5 {is not much help} g4 46. Bg2 d2 47. Bxh3 gxh3 48. f4 d1=Q+ 49. Kf2 hxg3+ 50. hxg3 Qd2+ 51. Kf1 h2 52. Nc3 h1=Q#) 45... d2 46. Bh5 g4 (46... g4 47. Bxg4 fxg4 48. Nc3 Bxc3 49. Ng6+ Kg7 50. f4 d1=Q+ 51. Kf2 Qe1#) 0-1

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