28 May 2017

Annotated Game #175: Epic Stonewall exhaustion

This final round tournament game followed Annotated Game #174 and was the first time that I had essayed playing the Stonewall Dutch, outside of a simul game with GM Sam Shankland.  It taught me a lot about the opening, above all the need for patience (which I did not have enough of) when constructing a kingside attack.  There are many ups and downs in the course of the game - the critical phase starts at move 28 and goes all the way to the end of the game - and we were one of the last ones to finish in the round.  The toll of fighting a complicated battle for 30 moves straight along with the psychological downward trend in the end did me in, as I was exhausted from what felt like an epic fight, with my opponent on the ropes but eventually coming back.  However, there will be other opportunities.  It's also another data point telling me that energy management is something critical to watch (and improve) for my overall performance.

On that note, it's worth recalling something GM Viktor Kortchnoi said when asked about when someone should start playing a new opening they are in the process of learning.  Basically he asserted that you should just go ahead and start playing it in serious games, why not?  Losses will be inevitable, but there's really no other way to get better at it.  I like this outlook, which shouldn't be taken too literally by Class players - some preparation and study is essential, beyond just knowing the first few moves of a chosen opening - but it helps avoid the perfectionist trap of always thinking that your preparation is never "good enough" to play.  At some point, you just need to fire away.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A85"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 10"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2016.10.10"] [EventType "schev"] [EventRounds "5"] {[%mdl 8192] A85: Dutch Defence: 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 e6 ( 3... Nf6 {is the Slav Defense.}) 4. e3 f5 {with this move-order we have what is called a "Slav Stonewall".} 5. Nc3 Nf6 6. Bd3 Bd6 {the Modern Stonewall, instead of ...Be7.} 7. O-O Nbd7 {...O-O immediately is much more common here. No reason to wait.} 8. b3 {a standard plan for activating the dark-square bishop.} O-O 9. a4 {done to allow the bishop to get to a3 and exchange off its counterpart on d6.} Ne4 {a standard and often necessary move for Black in the Stonewall. In this position it is forcing, as the Nc3 is unprotected.} 10. Ne2 Qe7 {keeping my options open and also deterring Ba3.} 11. Ne1 {I welcomed this, as I felt it was a waste of time for White. The intent is obvious, to push f3, but moving the knight back to the first rank does not seem worth it.} g5 { I was in an aggressive mood from the start of the game and this move shows it. Not a very sophisticated approach.} (11... a5 $5 {would be good prophylaxis against White's queenside play.} 12. f3 Ng5 13. Qc2 $11) 12. f3 $14 Nef6 13. Nc2 g4 {a logical follow-up, as Komodo agrees.} (13... Kh8 {however might have been best to play immediately, as the king needs to vacate the g-file for a rook and I only do this much later in the game.}) 14. Ba3 c5 $6 {not a good decision, although my opponent does not take advantage of it.} (14... Bxa3 { is what the engine considers best. During the game, I wanted to preserve the bishop for use in the kingside attack.} 15. Nxa3 Kh8 $14) 15. dxc5 (15. cxd5 $5 {dissolves the center to White's advantage.} Nxd5 16. e4 gxf3 17. exd5 fxe2 18. Qxe2 $16) 15... Nxc5 16. b4 $2 {now my opponent is too aggressive.} Nxd3 $15 17. Qxd3 b6 $6 {it seems that I am not really looking hard at the position and its requirements. Developing the Bc8 is a nice idea, but there are other things that are more urgent, given the pawn tensions at f3 and c4 and a potential weakness at h2.} (17... gxf3 {would be the direct approach.} 18. Rxf3 dxc4 19. Qxc4 b5 20. Qxb5 Qc7 $15) (17... Qc7 {gives White no good options.} 18. cxd5 Bxh2+ 19. Kh1 Be5 $15) 18. cxd5 {this would have been strong earlier (move 15), but now I'm OK.} Nxd5 (18... gxf3 $5 {is better, as once the Nf6 moves away it no longer can recapture on g4 and get a good outpost.} 19. gxf3 ( 19. Rxf3 Bb7 $15) 19... Nxd5 $15) 19. b5 {my opponent now looks to simplify.} ( 19. fxg4 {would break up Black's kingside to good effect.} Qc7 20. g3 fxg4 21. Ncd4 $14) 19... Bxa3 $11 20. Qxa3 Bb7 21. Qxe7 Nxe7 $11 {we now have a very equal-looking middle/endgame position.} 22. f4 Rac8 23. Ncd4 {threatening e6.} Kf7 24. Rac1 $6 {this "obvious move" gives me the initiative as my Ne7 now springs to life.} (24. Kf2 $11) 24... Nd5 $15 {returning the favor by threatening e3.} 25. Kf2 Nb4 {threatening the fork on d3.} 26. Rb1 (26. Rfd1 Rxc1 27. Nxc1 Be4 $15) 26... Nd3+ {this is still a strong move.} 27. Kg3 $17 { White's king safety is now something of a problem, which along with my nicely centralized Nd3 gives me an advantage.} (27. Kg1 h5 $17) 27... h5 {here I correctly find the logical follow-up, which raises mate threats.} 28. Rfd1 $2 { this should lose, but the winning continuation is not obvious.} (28. h4 gxh3 29. Kxh3 Rg8 $17) 28... Be4 {a good follow-up move, but not nearly as good as the best move.} (28... h4+ {secures the point, comments the engine via the Fritz interface.} 29. Kxh4 Nf2 $1 {now the White king has no way back.} 30. Kg3 $2 (30. Nxe6 Rh8+ 31. Kg5 Kxe6 $19) (30. Nxf5 Rh8+ 31. Kg3 Ne4+ 32. Kxg4 Rcg8+ 33. Kf3 Nd2+ 34. Kf2 Rxg2+ $19) 30... Ne4+ 31. Kh4 Rh8#) 29. Nc6 $17 {eyeing the jump to e5 and threatening a7, something I gave too much weight to.} Rh8 $2 {now I'm not thinking aggressively enough.} (29... Kf6 {removes the check on e5.} 30. Nc3 h4+ 31. Kxh4 Nc5 $17) 30. Kh4 {this is enough to restore equality. } (30. Rxd3 $1 {is a simple forking tactic that gets two pieces for a rook.} Bxd3 31. Ne5+ Kf6 32. Nxd3 $16) 30... Nc5 31. Rb4 {this solves the dual threat to the Rb1 and a4, but not in the best way.} (31. Ne5+ $5 Kf6 32. Rbc1 $11 { and now Black cannot go pawn snatching:} Bxg2 (32... Nxa4 $4 33. Rd7 $1 { with mate coming.}) 33. Rxc5 Rxc5 34. Rd7 {and now} Rxe5 {is forced.} 35. fxe5+ Kxe5 36. Nf4 $14 {snagging the bishop, as a fork on g6 is threatened.}) 31... Bxg2 $15 (31... Bxc6 {was the other option.} 32. bxc6 Rxc6 $15 {this had the advantage of getting rid of preventing the knight from reaching e5.}) 32. Ne5+ {I was quite aware of the fact that I had potential mating threats, but now so does White, given the location of his knight and potential rook action on the 7th rank.} Kf6 33. Ng3 {naturally the h5 pawn is poisoned and can't be taken, due to the subsequent pin against the king.} Bd5 34. Rbd4 $6 (34. Rc1 $5) 34... Nb3 {the best move, but at this point I was tired and had relatively little time on the clock, so I didn't have a coherent follow-up plan.} 35. R4d3 $2 { looks obvious, but should lose.} (35. Rxd5 {is necessary and only leaves White slightly worse.} exd5 36. Rxd5 $15) 35... Rc2 $19 {again another best move and obvious follow-up, but without clear vision of a winning continuation. However, the next series of moves are simple enough.} 36. Nf1 Rhc8 37. Nd7+ Ke7 38. Ne5 Nc5 {good but perhaps not best. I felt I should at least keep making threats, feeling somewhat frustrated that I could not find a breakthrough.} 39. Rd4 Kf6 {played to take away the g5 square from White's king.} 40. h3 {now I felt I should be able to break through.} gxh3 41. Kxh3 Bg2+ {unfortunately here I could not find a winning idea, under pressure.} (41... Ne4 $5 {would bring another necessary piece into the attack, since d7 does not in fact need to be guarded.} 42. Nd7+ (42. Rxe4 fxe4 43. Ng3 Rc1 $19) 42... Ke7 43. Ne5 Rg8 44. Rxe4 Rg1 $19 {and mate threats mean White loses material.}) 42. Kh4 Bd5 43. Kh3 Rg8 (43... Ne4 {again is the key.} 44. Rxe4 fxe4 45. Ng3 Rc1 $19) 44. Ng3 h4 ( 44... Rg2 {Black missed this excellent chance, comments the engine.} 45. Nxh5+ Ke7 46. Nc6+ Kd6 $19) (44... Rh8 {is also good, preparing to push the h-pawn.}) 45. Nh5+ $17 Ke7 46. Nc6+ Kf8 {now we're back to equality...} (46... Bxc6 47. bxc6 Rgg2 $17) 47. Nf6 $2 {except that this (again) should lose for my opponent.} (47. Rxd5 {leads to a perpetual.} exd5 48. Rxd5 $11 {for example} Rg1 49. Rxf5+ Ke8 50. Nf6+ Kf8 51. Nh5+ Ke8 {etc.}) 47... Rgg2 48. Rh1 Ne4 $6 { unfortunately this was a good idea several moves ago, not now.} (48... Rg3+ { and Black wins} 49. Kxh4 {forced} Rg6 {with a double attack on the Nf6 and the h6 square (threatening the Rh1 via a skewer check).} 50. Rxd5 exd5 $19) (48... Rg6 $6 {immediately doesn't work, as White simply replies Nxd5.}) 49. Nxe4 $15 Bxe4 50. Rd8+ Kg7 51. Rd7+ $2 {again my opponent offers up an opportunity.} ( 51. Ne5 $11) 51... Kh6 $19 52. Ne5 Rg3+ {a great idea...on move 48. Here it blows the discovered attack by the Be4 on the Ra1, since the Rg3 will be hanging.} (52... Rgf2 {moving to e2 works fine as well.} 53. Kxh4 {forced} Bxh1 54. Nf7+ Kg7 55. Ne5+ Kf8 $19) 53. Kxh4 $11 {by this point I'm totally exhausted and out of ideas.} Rg7 {simplification is actually a good route to go and should result in a draw.} 54. Rh3 Rxd7 55. Nxd7 Rg2 {keeping hopes of a mate threat alive.} 56. Ne5 {The knight dominates, comments the engine (correctly).} Bc2 57. Rh1 Bxa4 58. Ra1 Bxb5 59. Rxa7 Be8 $2 {this really made no sense, but my brain was too tired from all the calculating and I missed the simple follow-up. The original idea was to dominate the Ne5.} (59... Rg7 { was simplest.}) 60. Re7 {at this point I just gave up, seeing that I would lose the two pawns and was exhausted. The game is far from over, though.} (60. Re7 Ba4 61. Rxe6+ Kg7 62. Rxb6 $14) 1-0

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