17 April 2017

Annotated Game #171: A matter of technique

This next tournament game, which started my win streak, recalls a number of previous themes from my analyzed games.  The problem of going ahead and playing an "obvious move" without checking tactics is present - for both White and Black, in this case.  Strategic themes are identified on the kingside (White's Bh6 threat), the center (the e5 square and various tactics, as well as an eventual pawn break), and the queenside (missed opportunities to exploit White's weaknesses there).  Tactical themes include hanging pieces (White's Bf4), deflection, and intermediate moves (exploited by me to very good effect).

Overall I chose as the primary theme the sometimes cliche' comment in a game annotation, that the win from a certain point is "a matter of technique".  As long as one's technique is adequate, that is.  One of the pitfalls of computer analysis is to always look for the best move, even when you have already identified a winning move, which from a practical perspective should (by definition) always be enough.  This is an especially important consideration after a long struggle when you may be tired and your board sight and calculating ability (unlike a computer engine's) is not at 100%.  In this game I won by going into an advantageous endgame which I felt confident of winning, but should have earlier seen a deflection tactic (25...h5!) which would have wrapped things up much sooner.  After that, it really is around move 36 that I knew I would win (rather than just thinking it...there is a difference), but still almost faltered due to a board sight issue on the long diagonal.  The final blow doesn't come until I transition into a won king and pawn endgame, which takes two tries but finally succeeds.

This game was a struggle and I missed some good ideas, but being able to make some strong, confident decisions along the way to victory helped keep up the positive momentum in subsequent games.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin / Komodo 10"] [PlyCount "134"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Nf3 {this is not a recognized variation in the Caro-Kann, although of course it's not a terrible move in itself. It doesn't challenge Black in any way, unlike the Panov (c4) or the Exchange (Bd3) variations.} Nc6 5. Bf4 Bg4 {Black is able to deploy the bishop to a very effective square before playing ...e6. I would say that Black has already equalized.} 6. Be2 Nf6 7. h3 Bh5 8. c3 e6 9. Nbd2 Bd6 {White's Bf4 is an excellently placed piece, so deserves to be challenged.} 10. Ne5 Bxe2 11. Qxe2 O-O {much better to castle before trying to play further in the center.} 12. Ndf3 {White has established a strong-looking and supported outpost on e5. The flip side is that I get a similar one on e4.} Ne4 {also an excellent outpost for my knight on the e-file and one that cannot be challenged without inflicting positional damage on White. Importantly, it also helps guard the g5 square.} 13. Nxc6 {I am happy with this exchange, which gets rid of a strong centralized knight in exchange for my Nc6, which is doing relatively little at the moment.} bxc6 14. Ne5 $6 {again a knight occupies e5, but with fewer pieces on the board White has less in the way of potential threats associated with it. White also gives himself a tactical problem, in that the Bf4 is hanging if the Ne5 moves. This is not immediately critical, but soon becomes a consideration.} (14. Bxd6 Nxd6 15. O-O $11) 14... Qc7 {now ...f6 is a threat.} 15. Qg4 {protecting the Bf4 (once). I now have to watch out for the Bh6 idea, but it doesn't work tactically under the current circumstances.} (15. Bh2 $5) 15... c5 $17 {a classic Caro-Kann pawn lever.} (15... f6 16. Nd3 {saves the bishop, but doesn't prevent the pawn advance.} e5 17. dxe5 fxe5 18. Be3 c5 $17 {this variation is a better version of the ...c5 lever idea, with a large rolling pawn center for Black and White's king looking unsafe.}) (15... Rab8 { is preferred by Komodo, taking more direct advantage of the Ne4 placement and White's queenside weaknesses.}) 16. f3 $2 {creating a major dark square weakness for White. This is an "obvious move" to kick the knight, but...} (16. Bh6 $2 Bxe5 17. dxe5 Qxe5 $17 {is what I saw during the game.}) (16. O-O Rab8 $17) 16... cxd4 $1 {I spotted this tactic/intermediate move, the point being that the Ne5 is (temporarily) no longer sufficiently protected.} 17. cxd4 (17. fxe4 Bxe5 18. Bxe5 Qxe5 19. cxd4 Qxd4 $19) 17... Bb4+ {it was clear here that activating a piece along the d1-a5 diagonal would be best, but it was unclear to me which one. In the end I chose the "safer" alternative. Visually it also looked good, with my queen maybe able to penetrate on c2.} (17... Qa5+ { I also considered for a while, and Komodo considers it much superior. Black is able to break through in the different variations.} 18. Kf1 (18. Ke2 Bxe5 19. fxe4 f5 20. exf5 Bxf4 21. Qxf4 Rxf5 {and White's open king will be hunted down. }) 18... Qb5+ 19. Kg1 Qxb2 20. Kh2 Nf2 $19) 18. Kf1 {here I could not come up with much of a plan, other than exchanging pieces. Simply retreating the knight would have been fine.} Nd2+ $6 (18... Nf6 19. Qh4 Rac8 $17) 19. Kg1 { I was instead expecting a piece trade on d2, which would have left me with an unopposed, outstanding dark-square bishop. The text move attempts to hide the White king on the h-file, but takes additional time and leaves the king still exposed on a dark square.} (19. Bxd2 $2 {would in fact be much worse for White. } Bxd2 $19 {and now White's queenside is very weak, notably the b-pawn, and not defendable.}) 19... Rfe8 $6 {with the idea of supporting an eventual f6 and e5 advance. Unfortunately the rook placement on e8 is an error, as pointed out by the engine.} (19... Rfc8 {instead allows the knight to be extricated via c4, while protecting against White's Bh6 idea.} 20. Bh6 f5 21. Qg3 Nc4 $11) (19... Nc4 {is the safe alternative, not leaving the knight out on a ledge.}) 20. a3 $2 {another "obvious move" that fails, this time putting White back into losing territory for the rest of the game.} (20. Nd3 {is the way to accomplish White's idea, attacking the Bb4 while gaining a tempo by forcing Black's queen to move.} Qc4 21. Nxb4 Qxd4+ 22. Kh2 Qxb4 23. b3 $16 {and now the knight has no escape.}) 20... Nb3 {another intermediate move tactic, this time that saves the knight. I should have looked at this idea sooner, however, as White's move was actually a surprise.} 21. Rd1 Bd6 {now I can breathe easier. White has no good responses to the multiple threats down the c-file and on the b8-h2 diagonal.} 22. Kh2 (22. Nd3 $5 Rac8 23. Be5 Bxe5 24. dxe5 Qb6+ 25. Kh2 Rc2 $17) 22... f6 23. Nd3 Nxd4 {winning the d4 pawn is the the first concrete benefit I have to show for my positional advantages. I spotted this idea when first considering the plan of kicking the White knight with ..f6.} 24. Bxd6 Qxd6+ 25. Nf4 $2 {unnecessarily pinning a piece.} (25. f4) 25... Ne2 { not a very imaginative move, but there are multiple paths to victory and it utilizes the pin to good effect. I can win now by trading down into an endgame. } (25... h5 $1 {wins the Nf4 with a deflection tactic. I should have looked harder for other ways to exploit the pin.}) 26. g3 Nxf4 27. gxf4 {evidently hoping to try for some counterplay along the half-open g-file.} Rac8 $19 { finally I get the rook developed.} 28. Rc1 Rc7 {played to keep an eye on g7 while preparing to double on the c-file.} 29. Rhe1 Rce7 {here I decided that the c-file would be of no real use to White, while opening up and dominating the e-file would be to my benefit.} (29... Rxc1 {would be simpler and follow the rule of exchanging down rooks when in a winning position. White indeed can do nothing with the c-file, so logically this is superior than keeping the double rooks on.}) 30. Kh1 e5 31. fxe5 Rxe5 32. Rxe5 {at this point there's nothing better for White. Ceding the e-file to the doubled rooks would be worse.} Qxe5 {the piece trades have benefited my strategy of clearing the way for the passed d-pawn and dominating the e-file. The queen is very well placed on e5 for central mobility. At this point there is little doubt that I have a won game, but still have to win it.} 33. b4 Qe3 {this gives White too much latitude.} (33... f5) 34. Rg1 (34. Rc7 $5 {would be annoying.} g5 35. Rc8 Kg7 36. Rxe8 Qxe8 $17) 34... g6 {here it was nice to play a correct "obvious move". } 35. Rf1 f5 {now I get the idea of blocking the queen's penetration on the h3-c8 diagonal.} 36. Qg2 Qxa3 {at this point it really is "a matter of technique" for the win, although White still has a fair amount of fight to put up.} 37. f4 Kg7 38. Rb1 (38. Qxd5 Qxh3+) 38... Re3 {I originally thought this would be decisive, but White finds a good resource that I missed.} 39. Qb2+ Rc3 {not necessarily my first choice, but I touched the rook to capture the h3 pawn before I understood that the queen move was a check. My board sight failed me on the long diagonal here, in part probably due to tiredness. Luckily this changes nothing about the outcome.} 40. Qxa3 Rxa3 41. Kg2 { now my rook is more awkwardly placed and White has managed to protect the h-pawn, but the d-pawn is still dominant.} Ra6 {played to regroup the rook behind the d-pawn.} 42. b5 Rd6 43. Ra1 Rd7 {this is a safe place for the rook, from which I felt I could continue playing without worrying much about calculation.} 44. Kf3 d4 {passed pawns must be pushed!} 45. Ke2 Kf7 {actually sending the king to the wrong side. The Rd7 can cover everything while Black's king romps on the kingside.} (45... Kh6) 46. Ra6 Ke8 47. b6 {likely played out of a common Class player desire for simplication, which often is the wrong instinct.} axb6 48. Rxb6 d3+ 49. Kd2 Kf7 {here I calculated that the resulting K+P endgame would be winning, so did not have a problem jettisoning the d-pawn. } 50. Rb3 h6 51. Rxd3 {at this point Komodo shows a mate in 26 for Black.} (51. Rb5 $19) 51... Rxd3+ 52. Kxd3 g5 53. fxg5 hxg5 54. Ke3 Kg6 55. Kf3 Kh5 { again I head my king the less effective way.} (55... Kf6) 56. Kg3 f4+ 57. Kf3 Kh4 58. Kg2 {here I had some problems calculating the win due to fatigue, so repeated the position.} Kh5 59. Kf3 Kh4 60. Kg2 f3+ {the key move which I found, but had to make sure did not lead to stalemate.} 61. Kh2 g4 62. hxg4 Kxg4 63. Kh1 Kh3 64. Kg1 Kg3 {having gained the opposition the final time, the win is now evident.} 65. Kh1 Kf2 66. Kh2 Ke1 67. Kg1 f2+ 0-1

2 comments:

  1. Nice post, I was wondering what was the elos of the players?

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    1. I'm a Class B (USCF) player. My opponent (as noted) was Class C, but was a junior and I'd say played a bit stronger than his rating (which is typical).

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