21 May 2016

Annotated Game #158: Openings that aren't as bad as you think

The next tournament game features a provocative opening from my opponent (White), which however unusual, was not in fact bad.  This is a common theme in tournament play, where it can be easy to underestimate your opponent based on an unfamiliar or goofy-looking opening choice.  This can be as early as the opening move (1. b4!?) or, as in the below game, an early divergence.  These lines need to be evaluated critically and carefully and not simply dismissed as inferior, especially if your opponent has experience playing their pet lines.

In this game, the divergence comes quite early (3. g4) and is aggressive in nature, so had to be taken seriously; passive moves that diverge from standard "book" ones are obviously less of a threat.  I responded unevenly to the challenge and would have benefited from playing more according to opening principles, as shown in the annotations.  Among other things, I should have focused more on checking tactics in the openings (a recent theme) and concentrating on development and a central breakthrough once my opponent's king was stranded in the center.  Despite a flash of brilliance (moves 22-23) which should have led to a win, I let the game slip away and also missed a chance to win the resulting king and pawn endgame.  All in all, a very uneven performance, but I also give credit to my opponent, who played significantly stronger than his rating.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class D"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "94"] {D00:1 d4 d5: Unusual lines} 1. d4 d5 2. e3 Bf5 {played early to avoid White getting in Bd3 first. This has the disadvantage of allowing the game continuation, however.} 3. g4 {although this looks like a strictly beginner move, it's not as bad as it seems at first glance.} Be4 {the obvious "retreat" (forward) for the bishop, provoking the next move.} 4. f3 Bg6 5. h4 h6 (5... h5 6. g5 e6 7. Bd3 Bxd3 8. Qxd3 Bd6 9. f4 Ne7 10. Ne2 Nf5 11. Nd2 O-O 12. Nf3 c5 13. b3 Nc6 14. c3 a6 15. Bd2 b5 16. O-O c4 17. Qc2 Qc7 18. b4 a5 19. a3 Ra6 20. a4 axb4 21. axb5 b3 22. Qb2 Rxa1 23. Rxa1 Na7 24. Qb1 Nxb5 25. Bc1 Qb7 26. Kf2 Ra8 27. Rxa8+ Qxa8 28. Bb2 Ba3 29. Ba1 Nbd6 30. Ng3 Nxg3 31. Kxg3 Ne4+ 32. Kg2 b2 33. Bxb2 Qb7 {0-1 (33) Budrewicz,H (1603)-Mietek,L (1959) Mazowsze 2009}) 6. h5 Bh7 7. Bd3 Nf6 {a slightly unusual idea, but it gets Komodo's approval. The more conventional ...Bxd3 would also be fine, but I didn't want to leave White having the only piece developed and more space.} 8. c4 (8. Ne2 c5 $11) (8. Bxh7 Nxh7 $11 {controlling the g5 square is actually a valuable mission for the knight here}) 8... e6 {played as an "obvious" move, in order to develop the dark-square bishop. In the game I mis-evaluated the capture on d3 as benefiting White more, by developing the queen, but this is simply not the case. Taking on c4 and making the bishop effectively waste a tempo by recapturing is also a good option.} (8... Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Nc6 $11) (8... dxc4 9. Bxc4 e6 $11) 9. c5 $6 {this is a classic Class player mistake. The pawn chain is over-extended and can be immediately challenged and broken...although unfortunately this is not something I do.} (9. Bxh7 Rxh7 10. cxd5 Nxd5 $11) 9... Be7 {again played automatically, although it is not bad in itself.} (9... Bxd3 10. Qxd3 b6 11. cxb6 (11. b4 a5 $17) 11... axb6 $17 {Black will now be able to challenge for central control and gain space with ...c5, while the dark-square bishop will find a good home on d6 or e7 and help dominate the dark squares.}) 10. Nc3 Nc6 {again, not a bad move, but I am simply not understanding the needs of the position (challenge the advanced c-pawn and trade off the Bd3, as in the previous variation).} 11. Nge2 e5 {this is a bit premature.} (11... Bxd3 12. Qxd3 O-O {better prepares Black for the central struggle.}) 12. Bxh7 Nxh7 13. Qb3 {this was very annoying and something that I had not spotted, which resulted from a failure to check tactics in the opening phase. Now I place too much emphasis on the material, rather than development, which is a mistake. The fact that White's king is in the center should signal that development and a quick central breakthrough is the key to the position.} Bh4+ $6 {taking advantage of White's dark-square holes, but in a premature way. The major problem with the move is that the Qd8 is now tied to the Bh4's defense.} (13... O-O $5 14. Qxd5 (14. Qxb7 $6 Qd7 15. Qb3 Rad8 $17 {with ... Ng5 to follow, giving Black major pressure in the center and the kingside.}) 14... Bf6 {and Black has full compensation for the pawn, for example} 15. Qxd8 Raxd8 16. dxe5 Nxe5 17. O-O Rfe8 18. Kg2 Nd3 $11) 14. Kd1 $14 O-O $6 {this would now allow a legitimate snatch of the b7 pawn by White, but my opponent does not take advantage of the opportunity.} (14... exd4 {can be played immediately.} 15. exd4 Rb8 16. Qxd5 Bf2 17. Bf4 Bxd4 18. Qxd8+ Kxd8 $14) 15. Nxd5 $6 {taking the wrong pawn.} (15. Qxb7 exd4 16. exd4 Qf6 17. Rxh4 Qxh4 18. Qxc6 $16) 15... exd4 $15 16. e4 {although the previous move correctly supported the Nd5, the d4 pawn is now a thorn in White's side.} Na5 (16... Nf6 $5 {bringing the knight back into play is better, as the b7 pawn is tactically protected. For example} 17. Qxb7 $4 Nxd5 18. exd5 Qxd5 $19 {and Black is dominant.}) 17. Qd3 Be7 $2 {played to get the bishop out of the line of fire, but ignoring White's potential threat.} (17... c6 $5 18. Ndf4 b6 $11) 18. b4 ( 18. Bf4 $1 Bxc5 19. Bxc7 Qd7 20. Bxa5 Qa4+ 21. Kc1 Qxa5 22. a3 Qa6 23. Qxa6 bxa6 $16 {gives White an easy plus, as Black finds the d4 pawn hard to protect and has doubled a-pawns.}) 18... Nc6 $11 19. Bb2 {threatening the d-pawn, but this is not so critical.} (19. Bf4 $5 {is best, but no longer packs the same punch as in the previous variation.} a5 20. Bxc7 Qd7 $11 {and White has too many things to worry about (the b4 pawn, the c7 bishop, etc.) to be able to consolidate the pawn advantage. Not to mention that his king is stuck in the center.}) 19... Nf6 $15 20. Nxe7+ {my opponent understands that simply capturing the d-pawn is not good, but this actually makes things worse for him. Part of his problem is that the Qd3 is hanging, giving Black some tactical ideas.} (20. Nxd4 Nxd5 21. Nxc6 bxc6 22. exd5 Rb8 $17) 20... Qxe7 $17 21. a3 $2 {an obvious move, to reinforce the b-pawn, but now Black's forces swing into action.} (21. Ng3 $5 $17) 21... Ne5 22. Qb3 d3 $19 23. Nd4 Nxf3 $1 {this should have been the winning move, cracking open the center.} 24. Qxd3 (24. Nxf3 $2 Qxe4) 24... Nxd4 25. Bxd4 Rad8 26. Kc2 Nxg4 $17 {obvious, but not best. Conceptually, it would be better to bring other pieces into the attack first. Also, White has an obvious response that generates a threat.} (26... Qe6 $5 27. Rhe1 $19) (26... Rfe8 $19) 27. Rhg1 Rxd4 $6 {this was unnecessary.} (27... Qe6 $5 $17 {is something that I completely missed, a subtle queen move that solves Black's problems.}) 28. Qxd4 $15 Rd8 29. Qxd8+ Qxd8 30. Rxg4 {at this point I started thinking draw, although the engine shows an advantage for Black. Queen endings are tricky in general. In this case, I had an ideal one, with White's king being in the open and lots of space for my queen to maneuver.} Qd4 31. Rag1 Qf2+ (31... Kf8 $5 $17) 32. Kb3 Qd4 {showing a lack of imagination.} ( 32... Qf3+ 33. Ka4 Kf8 34. Rxg7 Qxe4 $17) 33. Rxg7+ Qxg7 {heading for a drawn K+P ending.} 34. Rxg7+ Kxg7 35. e5 $2 {I knew this was a mistake, although I didn't take full advantage of it. The pawn is unsupported and can be traded off to Black's benefit.} (35. Kc4 $5 $11 {might be a viable alternative}) 35... f5 (35... f6 $1 36. exf6+ Kxf6 $19) 36. Kc3 {correctly not exchanging.} Kf7 37. Kd4 Ke6 38. a4 $2 {unfortunately my lack of endgame familiarity leads me to miss the win.} (38. b5 c6 39. a4 f4 $15) 38... f4 (38... a6 $19 {and Black gets the upper hand.}) 39. Ke4 f3 40. Kxf3 Kxe5 41. Kg4 b6 (41... c6 $5 42. Kf3 a6 43. Ke3 Kf5 44. Kd4 Kf4 45. b5 a5) 42. c6 (42. cxb6 cxb6 43. a5 b5 $15) 42... a5 (42... a6 $5 $15) 43. b5 $11 {and now there's no escaping the draw, for either player.} Ke4 44. Kg3 Ke3 45. Kg4 Ke4 46. Kg3 Ke3 {Twofold repetition } 47. Kg4 Ke4 1/2-1/2

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