17 March 2016

Annotated Game #152: To the pain


The quote from The Princess Bride is apt to describe this last-round tournament game, which for me was one long torture session.  I misplay the opening, which took a rather weird (or at least unfamiliar) turn in an English Four Knights around moves 8-9.  I ended up with a painfully inferior position where my opponent had all of the chances.  I then spent a long time simply surviving, then clawing my way back into having real chances, but fell just short of a positive result, in large part due to the mental exhaustion of the effort required in getting to that point.

These types of games are very tough to play and also difficult emotionally to analyze, since you get to relive some of that pain along the way.  However, on the positive side, doing that can help burn into your mind how not to play like that the next time you face a similar situation.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A28"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 9.3"] [PlyCount "96"] {A28: English Opening: Four Knights Variation} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bb5 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Bd6 8. d4 e4 {this is the first time I had faced this move, which is unusual but not necessarily bad. From Black's perspective, it gives up the center but gains space on the kingside for further operations.} 9. Nd2 Qg5 {this move discombobulated me a bit, since it was unexpected, although it's a natural follow-up to Black's previous one. Normally the queens don't come out this early in an English.} 10. Bxc6+ $6 (10. Bf1 {an example of where concrete considerations override standard opening principles. Here White moves a piece twice, back to its starting square, but it's clearly the best move. The king is secure enough on e1 and White can get play on the kingside and in the center. Eventually I hit on this characteristic of the position in the game, but only in desperation and after digging myself a large hole.} Qg6 $11) 10... bxc6 11. g3 $15 {weakening the light-square complex and making the king much less secure.} Qg6 (11... Bg4 $5 { is more challenging, immediately exploiting the holes in White's position.}) 12. c4 $6 {a slow move that also opens the a5-e1 diagonal, further weakening the king. Black with his two bishops is much better placed to exploit a more open position.} (12. Qa4 {hitting the weak c6 square} Bd7 13. Ba3 $11) 12... c5 13. Bb2 {here the bishop on the long diagonal isn't very effective. Ba3 would still be better, also keeping the b-file open.} (13. O-O $5 $15) 13... O-O $17 {White has an awful position strategically speaking, as it's full of holes and none of the pieces are really doing much, while Black's are well positioned. The engine gives Black a full pawn equivalent advantage.} 14. Rb1 Bg4 15. Qc2 Rae8 (15... cxd4 16. Bxd4 c5 17. Bc3 Bh3 $17) 16. d5 {locking the center here looks useful, since the pawn advance gains White space and opens the long diagonal, but in concrete terms it actually does nothing for my game and in fact reduces my dynamic possibilities.} (16. dxc5 Bxc5 17. Bc3 $17) 16... f5 { normally an f-pawn advance at this stage would be a weakening move for Black, even if it has a good attacking purpose, but none of my pieces can do anything in the center or elsewhere to counter it.} 17. Nb3 $2 {there's not a lot that I can do here, but this is still bad. The idea was to activate the knight and get it to c6 via a5, but this is a slow plan and takes the knight away from a defensive role on the kingside.} (17. h3 Bh5) 17... Qh6 {an effective move, looking to penetrate the kingside. The immediate f-pawn advance would be even more effective:} (17... f4 18. gxf4 Bh3 {at the cost of a pawn, Black has pried open the kingside and White's destruction is imminent. Let's see how that would play out:} 19. Kd1 Qg2 20. Re1 Bg4+ 21. Kc1 Rxf4 $1 22. Qc3 (22. exf4 $2 Bxf4+ 23. Nd2 e3 24. fxe3 Rxe3 25. Rd1 Bxd1 26. Qxd1 Rf3) 22... Be5 23. Qc2 Rxf2 $19) 18. Qc3 {sadly, my only counterplay at this point is threatening a rather obvious mate on the long diagonal.} Re7 (18... Bf3 19. Rf1 Rf7 $19) 19. Qa5 $2 {by this point I'm playing rather randomly and desperately.} (19. h4 $5 {would at least try to address Black's threats on the kingside.}) 19... Bf3 {keeping a steady advantage.} (19... Bxg3 $5 {is an effective tactical blow.} 20. Qxc5 Bxf2+ 21. Kd2 Ref7 $19 {and with ...f4 coming, White's position will collapse.}) 20. Kd2 {at least by this point I understand the seriousness of my position and make the correct choice to sacrifice the exchange for defensive reasons. Although Black still has a won game, this marks an initial psychological turning point in my climb back into the game.} Bxh1 21. Rxh1 Qh3 22. Re1 {it would have been wiser to continue my king's flight.} (22. Kc1 Rb8 23. Qd2 $19) 22... Qxh2 23. Re2 {I've now "turtled up" my position so there is no imminent breakthrough by Black, although the material deficit means I should still lose.} h5 24. Nxc5 $2 (24. Kc2 {continuing the king flight is what the engine recommends.}) 24... f4 (24... h4 $5 25. Nb3 h3 26. c5 Qg1 $19) 25. gxf4 h4 {here my opponent misses the ...Qg1 idea, which would seal the win. } (25... Qg1 26. Nb3 Qb1 $19) 26. Ne6 {although Black is still winning by far, I finally am starting to have some potential threats appear on the board.} Rb8 27. Kc2 {protecting the Bb2 and opening the diagonal for the queen to return.} c5 {here my opponent starts to go astray. His winning advantage is on the kingside, but he shifts play back and forth now between that and the queenside, to the detriment of both.} (27... h3 $5 {and further material loss by White is inevitable, as the pawn can't be stopped otherwise.}) 28. Qd2 $4 {this should lead immediately to a loss. Furthermore, White can actually obtain a winning position, but it would have required me to sacrifice the Ne6, which I didn't even consider.} (28. dxc6 $1 {is possible and White now causes serious headaches for Black, using the open lines around his king.} Rxe6 29. Qd5 Qh3 30. f5 {this is the tactical point of the sequence.} Rbe8 31. Rd2 {it's important not to pull the trigger too soon on the Re6, which is going nowhere.} Bc7 32. Rd1 R8e7 33. fxe6 Qxe6 34. Rh1 $18 {and shockingly White is now winning.}) 28... Qg1 (28... h3 {again is more to the point.}) 29. Ng5 {with the idea of preventing ...h3, but Black could still in fact play it. Black also has a win using tactics on the b-file, but ignores it.} (29. Re1 Qg2 30. Qe2 h3 $19) 29... Reb7 {with Black having delayed this, I can still (desperately) defend.} (29... Rxb2+ 30. Kxb2 Rb7+ 31. Ka3 Qb1 32. Qc3 h3 $19) 30. Bc1 Qh1 $2 {this allowed me a chance to get closer to equality, but I didn't see it at the time.} (30... Rb4) 31. Re1 $2 (31. Qe1 {had to be tried to avoid defeat, notes Komodo via the Fritz interface.} Qxe1 32. Rxe1 Rb1 33. Nxe4 Bc7 34. Rd1 h3 $17) 31... Qg2 $19 32. Re2 $2 (32. Qe2 Be7 33. f3 Qxe2+ 34. Rxe2 Bxg5 35. fxe4 $19) 32... Qg4 $2 {this time, however, I seize the chance to claw my way back into the game.} (32... Rb1 {finishes off the opponent, says the engine with no sympathy whatsoever.} 33. Ba3 Ra1 $19) 33. Nxe4 $15 Qd7 {and now I can even equalize.} 34. Nc3 $11 {it was an exhausting struggle to get to this point. Material is now roughly balanced and my defenses after the king walk are holding. The h-pawn is no longer a threat, either, as it does not have enough support to get past my second rank.} Rf8 {letting up pressure on the b-file, which is a mistake.} (34... Rb4 35. Qd3 Qb7 36. Qe4 $11) 35. f3 $14 {the correct response. The second rank is opened for the Q+R battery and I can start mobilizing my central pawns.} Rf5 (35... Qf5+ 36. Qd3 Qh5 37. Rh2 $14 ) 36. Qe1 (36. Rh2 $16 {first is better, keeping the h-pawn firmly in check.}) 36... Rh5 37. e4 h3 38. Qg3 Bc7 (38... Rb4 39. Kd3 $16) 39. Rh2 Rb6 $6 { this does nothing for Black.} (39... Ba5 $5 {was necessary here.} 40. Qg4 Qe8 41. e5 $14) 40. e5 $16 Rbh6 {I don't understand what my opponent was thinking with this maneuver. I believe he was rather exhausted himself by this point.} ( 40... Qf5+ 41. Ne4 Rg6 42. Qf2 $16) 41. e6 {this is too impatient.} (41. Qg4 { is much better, supporting the pawn advance first.} Qe8 42. d6 Bxd6 43. exd6 Rxd6 44. Rxh3 Rxh3 45. Qxh3 $16) 41... Qe8 $14 42. Qf2 {shifting attention to the c-pawn.} Qg6+ $2 {a check for a check's sake, seemingly. The next move centralizes my knight to good effect, making it significantly more powerful despite the pin.} (42... Rg6 $5 $14) 43. Ne4 $18 {now once the king moves, the knight is very well placed to support the d6 push, as well as controlling f6 and attacking c5 again.} Qf5 44. Qxc5 Bxf4 45. Bxf4 $2 {with this move White loses his initiative} (45. e7 {passed pawns must be pushed!} Kf7 46. Bxf4 Qxf4 47. Re2 $18) 45... Qxf4 $11 {now the best I can do is a draw, which was a significant letdown.} 46. Qf2 {necessary to protect f3.} Rg6 47. d6 Rxe6 { and now, after a long, tiring battle, I fail to falsify my next move and check my opponent's tactics.} 48. Rh1 $4 (48. d7 {was possible} Qb8 49. Qd2 $11) 48... Rxe4 {this capture removes the guard of the Qf2 and so the pawn recapture isn't possible. Game over.} 0-1

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