03 March 2017

Annotated Game #167: As bad as it gets

This game followed after Annotated Game #166 and showed that the only thing worse than a frustrating short draw in a tournament is a frustrating short loss.  While my play was a little sub-par in the previous game, in this game it was simply atrocious on a positional level.  I failed to grasp the essence of the unfamiliar position and relied on a rather facile understanding of it, starting with 6. Ba3!? - not a bad idea, but only if followed up with the key move c4-c5.  Instead I focused on trying to target the diagonals pointing towards Black's kingside, which was not enough of a threat, and made a poor decision on development of the king's knight via e2 (and a severely weakening pawn move) rather than f3.

I hate excuses in chess and readers of this blog will note that I never explain away losses, because that's a practice that makes training rather pointless to my mind.  In this particular case, the playing conditions were a lesson to take away for the future.  This and the previous game had been played at a much more rapid time control than standard - not my strength - and my opponent this time was allowed to arrive close to a half-hour late without penalty, so I was very unhappy with the situation.  It's worth noting that the above is no excuse for poor understanding of the position early on, however, and analysis provides some other useful lessons besides the fact I will never play again under similar tournament conditions if I can help it.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A25"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 10"] [PlyCount "44"] {A25: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 but without early d3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 Bb4 {mixing up opening system types. Here the bishop sortie to b4 does nothing direct to challenge White, with a pawn still on d2. However, there are still a number of high-level games with this.} 4. Bg2 { the obvious continuation.} Bxc3 {Black gives up the two bishops without any pressure. In return, the benefit is removing a good knight from the board that helps control d5 and doubling White's pawns. I'm still happy as White here.} 5. bxc3 f5 {an aggressive seizure of space.} 6. Ba3 $146 {not a bad idea, if followed up properly.} (6. d4 {seems to work quite well in this position.} Qe7 7. c5 Nf6 8. Nf3 e4 9. Nd2 b6 10. Nb3 O-O 11. O-O Ba6 12. Qc2 Qe6 13. Bh3 Bc4 14. Bg5 h6 15. Bxf6 Rxf6 16. f3 exf3 17. Rxf3 Bxe2 18. Rf2 Bg4 19. d5 Qxd5 20. Bxg4 Ne5 21. Qd1 {1-0 (21) Winants,L (2515)-Thesing,M (2415) Nettetal 1992}) 6... d6 {the obvious (and necessary) blocking move.} 7. Qb3 {not a terrible move, with the idea of putting the queen on a good diagonal, but the early development to the queenside does not bring enough benefits when compared to the alternatives.} (7. c5 {I recall considering, but did not like the look of the position after} d5 {however, the advanced c5 pawn at least exerts some control over Black territory, otherwise the Ba3 is having no effect at all on the position.} 8. Nf3 $11 {is equal as} e4 $6 9. Nd4 {gives the knight a nice outpost.}) 7... Nf6 {Black's development is classic and good, while mine is suffering a bit, even with the two bishops. Giving one back is the engine's suggestion, reducing Black's developed pieces and inflicting a parallel pawn structure.} 8. e3 $6 {this gives me unnecessary long-term weaknesses. I was far too sensitive to developing the knight to f3, not considering that ...e4 would simply push it to a better square.} (8. Bxc6+ bxc6 9. c5 {again the key idea} d5 10. Nf3 $11) 8... O-O (8... e4 {played immediately would solidify Black's space advantage.} 9. Ne2 Ne5 $17 {and the weaknesses on the light squares are glaring (d3, f3 and g4)}) 9. Ne2 $6 (9. c5+ {was necessary here. Unfortunately, not having found the initial idea of the pawn advance, I keep ignoring it.}) 9... e4 (9... Na5 10. Qc2 Be6 11. d3 c5 $17 {and Black is well on his way to stifling any sort of remaining play from White, while preparing his own breakthrough with ...e4.}) 10. h4 $6 Ne5 11. Nf4 c5 $17 {my opponent finds the key idea to shut down the c5 idea. From this point on my position becomes increasingly strangled, with the Ba3 and Bg2 doing almost nothing for me and big holes on the light squares for Black to exploit.} 12. Ke2 {I'm already getting desperate.} a5 {my opponent is neglecting some development, but the plan is still a good one because of my general helplessness.} (12... Qe8 {followed by ...Bd7 and ...Ba4 is an improved version of the idea of chasing the Qb3 away, as taking the b7 pawn would just cause White more problems. For example} 13. Kf1 Bd7 14. Kg1 (14. Qxb7 $2 Rb8 15. Qxa7 Nxc4 16. Bc1 Bc6 {and the queen is trapped.}) 14... Ba4 $19 {and the c4 pawn falls.}) 13. d4 {at this point nothing is good, so I try to at least get some activity in the center.} (13. Rhb1 Qe8 $19) 13... a4 (13... exd3+ $5 14. Nxd3 a4 15. Qc2 Nxc4 16. Bc1 Ne4 $19) 14. Qc2 Nxc4 15. Qc1 {hoping to keep at least some possibility of activity with the Ba3.} b6 $19 {my opponent wisely completes the shutdown of any counterplay, now dominating the dark squares as much as the light.} 16. Rb1 Re8 (16... Ba6 {makes it even easier for Black} 17. Ke1 Qd7 $19) 17. Rd1 Ba6 18. Ke1 Qc7 19. Bf1 {there is almost literally nothing I can do here. White's pieces all lined up on the first rank, including the king back to the original square, is telling.} h6 {Black can now pry open my position at his leisure.} 20. Be2 (20. h5 $5 $19) 20... Qc6 (20... g5 {is much more effective and a logical follow up.} 21. Nh3 Ng4 $19) 21. h5 $17 {the best defensive idea, although not enough.} Rab8 22. Ng6 $2 (22. Bb2 $17 {would have better continued the (painful) defense.}) 22... Nxa3 $19 {here I resigned, since I now inevitably lose another pawn and Black will have an easy, crushing win.} (22... Nxa3 23. Qxa3 Bxe2 24. Kxe2 Nxh5 $19) 0-1

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