19 May 2024

Annotated Game #276: The KISS principle

The first round of the next tournament I played unfortunately kept to a familiar pattern: lose as Black. Often I play worst the first round, having to "shake off the rust" from not having played in a while, then my form improves. In this case I did not have that excuse, it coming just two weeks after the previous tournament - so perhaps that was the problem?!?

Regardless of the overall circumstances, game analysis shows I did not follow the KISS principle, which is very important in many endeavors - "Keep It Simple, Stupid" is the version I learned. Nowadays it appears that is considered offensive. In any case, the point is that making something needlessly complex = stupid, as overcomplicating things often leads to errors and failure. This is a repeated observation in this game - and in some of my other games - as I do things like avoid simple development and unnecessarily weaken my position. Eventually my opponent is able to take advantage of this, but really it was my repeated, unnecessarily complex moves that tipped the scale. When a move looks natural and good, maybe it just...is.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A07"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "67"] [GameId "489173303297"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 c6 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. O-O Bg4 {so far a standard response to the Reti, having adopted a Slav formation.} 5. h3 Bh5 6. c4 Nbd7 (6... e6 {immediately is a more natural response, giving Black a choice of pawn recaptures on d5.}) 7. d4 e6 8. cxd5 cxd5 {choosing to preserve the symmetry and not provide a target for a minority attack on the queenside by White.} 9. Nc3 Rc8 {a little premature, with Black's king still in the center. Best to continue with simple development.} (9... Be7) 10. Bf4 a6 {again delaying development. It is useful to take away the b5 square from the knight, but not necessary at this point.} 11. Qa4 (11. Qb3 {would be more to the point.} b5 12. e4 $14 {gaining the initiative by starting operations in the center while Black's king is still there.}) 11... Rc4 {now the rook actually has something to do.} 12. Qd1 {b3 would again have been the more active square.} Bxf3 {choosing to exchange off a good attacking piece for White, so control of the e5 square is less important.} 13. Bxf3 Nb6 $6 {I resolutely continue ignoring the development of my bishop.} (13... Bb4 $5) 14. Rc1 Bd6 {finally!} 15. Bxd6 Qxd6 16. b3 Rc7 $11 17. e4 {my opponent correctly initiates action in the center, but with fewer pieces on the board there is less attacking potential, and the position is equal.} dxe4 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. Bxe4 O-O 20. Qh5 f5 $6 {this is unnecessary, weakening the e-pawn, although Black can still hold.} (20... g6 {is much simpler.}) 21. Bg2 Rd7 {a worse square than e7, reinforcing the e-pawn. Simply exchanging rooks would be fine, as well.} 22. Qe2 {correctly pressuring the one weak point in Black's camp.} Nd5 $6 {still not seeing the danger sufficiently, plus removing the threat to the d-pawn.} (22... Re7 {and Black has an extra tempo to play with.}) 23. Rfe1 $14 Re7 24. Rc5 Rfe8 {essentially forced. Black is now passively defending, but at least still defending.} 25. Qd2 b6 $6 {kicking the rook unfortunately does not help.} (25... f4 $5) 26. Rc4 a5 {hoping to support a knight on b4 and prevent a White queenside advance.} 27. Rec1 Qb8 {played for lack of a better idea.} 28. a3 Kf7 $2 (28... f4 $1 $11 {this freeing idea with counterplay did occur to me briefly, earlier, but by this point I was far too focused on passive defense.}) 29. Qg5 $16 {still not decisive, but I still crumbled under the pressure.} g6 $2 {now the kingside is too full of holes.} (29... h6 {would be a better pawn move.}) (29... Nf6 {would add to the defense.}) 30. Rc6 {good enough to keep the advantage and continue squeezing.} (30. Bxd5 exd5 31. Rc6 $18) 30... Kg7 $2 {now White finds the correct attacking idea.} (30... Qd8 $16) 31. Bxd5 h6 (31... exd5 32. Qf6+ Kg8 33. Rxb6 $18) 32. Qh4 g5 33. Qh5 exd5 34. Qxh6+ 1-0

18 May 2024

Mastery Concept: Tactical Defense

Periodically I'll post what I have identified over time as key ideas at the board that distinguish Master-level chess from amateur level; they are collected in the sidebar in Mastery Concepts: Amateur vs. Master. Today's is the concept of Tactical Defense.

The fundmental idea behind "mastery concepts" is that they often do not occur at all to non-masters, but can be seen often in master-level chess. Sometimes we have the illusion that every possibility can be seen and calculated at the board, which is simply not the case. If you do not already have the idea in your mind - which also can be described as recognition of a pattern for a possible move - then the candidate move or necessary sequence is unlikely to even be considered as part of your thinking process.

Tactical defense of a piece means that your opponent cannot capture it, without suffering a heavier loss in return. This concept allows a player to effectively ignore an opponent's threat to a piece and do something else on the board. In terms of the thinking process, this means you are free to consider choices beyond physically protecting or moving the attacked piece - the most basic and "normal" candidate moves. This concept can be particularly crucial as part of an attacking sequence, or perhaps can simply allow for better positional play. As in the first example below, it may also mean you can consider moving a piece to where it is technically "en prise" but it cannot in fact be taken without consequences.

Naturally the best way to start identifying and absorbing concepts is to see examples of it in action. Below are several games that illustrate this type of play, mostly master-level but including one from my own game analysis.

Included in My Best Games by Victor Korchnoi, Game 100 (move 18) 

[Event "Muenster Masters op"] [Site "Muenster"] [Date "1996.??.??"] [Round "6"] [White "Kupreichik, Viktor D"] [Black "Kortschnoj, Viktor Lvovich"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C02"] [WhiteElo "2510"] [BlackElo "2635"] [Annotator "carlo"] [PlyCount "134"] [GameId "284824192668"] [EventDate "1996.10.14"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "GER"] [SourceTitle "CBM 055 Extra"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1997.01.01"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "1997.01.01"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Qb6 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Be2 Nh6 7. b3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Nf5 9. Bb2 Bd7 10. g4 Nfe7 11. Nc3 h5 12. Na4 Qd8 13. g5 Ng6 14. Qd2 Rc8 15. Rc1 Bb4 16. Bc3 Ba3 17. Rb1 Be7 18. Nb2 Nh4 19. Rg1 (19. Nxh4 Bxg5) 19... Nxf3+ 20. Bxf3 Qb6 21. Na4 Qc7 22. Be2 b5 23. Bxb5 Nxe5 24. Bxd7+ Nxd7 25. f4 O-O 26. Ke2 Bd6 27. Rbf1 Rfe8 28. Bb4 Bxb4 29. Qxb4 Qc2+ 30. Qd2 Qe4+ 31. Kd1 e5 32. fxe5 Nxe5 33. Nc3 Rxc3 34. Qxc3 Nd3 35. Kc2 Nb4+ 36. Kb2 Qe2+ 37. Kb1 Qxa2+ 38. Kc1 Nd3+ 39. Qxd3 Rc8+ 40. Kd1 Qa1+ 41. Ke2 Qb2+ 42. Qd2 Rc2 43. Rd1 Qxb3 44. g6 fxg6 45. Rxg6 Rxd2+ 46. Rxd2 Qh3 47. Ke1 Qf5 48. Rgg2 a5 49. Ke2 Qe4+ 50. Kf1 h4 51. Kg1 a4 52. Rge2 Qg4+ 53. Kf1 Kh7 54. Rf2 Qe4 55. Kg1 h3 56. Rfe2 Qg4+ 57. Kf2 Qf4+ 58. Ke1 Qf3 59. Kd1 Qc3 60. Ke1 g5 61. Kf2 Kg6 62. Re6+ Kf5 63. Ree2 a3 64. Kf1 Kg4 65. Kf2 Kf4 66. Kg1 Qc1+ 67. Kf2 Qh1 0-1

Included in Grandmaster Performance by Lyev Polugaevsky, Game 43 (move 19)

[Event "URS-ch45 Final"] [Site "Leningrad"] [Date "1977.12.08"] [Round "7"] [White "Bagirov, Vladimir"] [Black "Polugaevsky, Lev"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D32"] [WhiteElo "2480"] [BlackElo "2620"] [Annotator "carlo"] [PlyCount "76"] [GameId "272191901158"] [EventDate "1977.11.29"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCountry "URS"] [EventCategory "12"] [SourceTitle "URS-ch"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nf3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 e6 6. e3 d5 7. cxd5 exd5 8. Be2 Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. Bf3 Be5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bd2 Qd6 13. g3 Bh3 14. Bg2 Bxg2 15. Kxg2 c5 16. f4 Bxc3 17. Bxc3 Ne4 18. Qf3 Rfe8 19. Rfd1 Qb6 20. Rac1 (20. Rxd5 Nxc3 21. bxc3 Qb2+) 20... Rad8 21. Rc2 d4 22. exd4 cxd4 23. Be1 Qa6 24. Qb3 h5 25. Qc4 Qb7 26. Qc6 Qe7 27. Ba5 Rd6 28. Qc7 Qe6 29. Qc4 Rd5 30. Bb4 a5 31. Ba3 h4 32. Qc6 h3+ 33. Kg1 d3 34. Qxe6 Rxe6 35. Rc8+ Kh7 36. f5 Ree5 37. Rc4 d2 38. b4 Nc3 0-1

Kramnik - Fridman, Dortmund 2013 (move 31)

Krush - Eswaran, U.S. Women's Championship 2014 (move 35)

Paikidze - Melekhina, U.S. Women's Championship 2015 (move 29) 

Annotated Game #98: An Attacking Slav (move 21)

12 May 2024

Annotated Game #275: An opening shock and a bit of redemption

This final round game put an end to my bad run as Black, thanks to an opening shock that was the proximate cause of my opponent overlooking an unusual knight fork. I've been the victim of such assumptions in the opening phase myself, in which I don't look for tactics (or overlook them) because of the mental presumption that they are not possible so early in the game. Here, the 3...dxc4 line in the Slav after 3. Nc3 is not all that unusual, but most people play 3...Nf6 and I've repeatedly seen surprise on my opponent's faces at the Class level.

Despite being down major material, my opponent still was up for the fight, so I focused my strategy on eliminating any possible counterplay; perhaps some thanks are due to previous study of Petrosian's games. This included giving back some of the material to eliminate White's strongly placed knight, a useful counter-example to some of my past too-materialist thinking, and the decision was fully validated by the engine. Thinking about the board situation in this type of dynamic (rather than static) fashion is what I need to do more. 

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.12.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "66"] [GameId "487233073238"] {[%evp 0,66,19,31,23,-7,26,30,30,-7,-7,-23,-23,-32,-32,-32,-32,-46,-4,-102,-108,-411,-411,-444,-444,-494,-502,-504,-512,-529,-457,-509,-491,-492,-488,-525,-527,-536,-455,-467,-457,-477,-423,-454,-477,-529,-458,-496,-484,-563,-585,-644,-530,-530,-534,-582,-582,-582,-510,-614,-614,-622,-649,-664,-664,-667,-702,-743,-872]} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. a4 {my opponent seemed unfamiliar with the move three capture, thought for a bit, then played a standard move preventing (for now) Black's b-pawn advance.} e5 {my opponent had a long think after this, clearly not expecting it.} 5. dxe5 Qxd1+ 6. Nxd1 Bb4+ {I remembered this idea (vaguely) from my opening prep and it certainly seemed best at the board.} 7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8. Kxd2 Nd7 {a key idea to target the e5 pawn and develop.} (8... Be6 {is also possible and perhaps simpler.}) 9. f4 {this looks obvious to protect the pawn, but now Black's knight becomes strong.} Nc5 $15 {Dragon 3.2 already shows a small but significant positional advantage. I also noted the potential fork on b3 at this time.} 10. Nc3 $4 {my opponent misses the unusual knight fork, no doubt influenced by being in unfamiliar opening territory.} (10. Ke1) 10... Nb3+ $19 11. Kd1 Nxa1 {naturally this is fully winning for Black, but I still have to extract the knight and activate my pieces. So I did not take the win for granted and was careful to examine my opponent's potential counterplay possibilities.} 12. e3 Be6 13. Ne4 {heading for the d6 outpost, no doubt the idea behind the previous move, leaving e4 clear for the knight while opening the diagonal for the Bf1.} O-O-O+ {I thought about this for a while, and Dragon 3.2 agrees that it's best. Black will give back some of the material to simplify and eliminate White's counterplay.} 14. Nd6+ Kc7 (14... Rxd6+ {immediately is also possible and is considered best by the engine.} 15. exd6 Nf6 $19 {the d-pawn is not going anywhere and can be ignored for the short term, while Black gets more pieces into play.}) 15. Kc1 Nb3+ {first extracting the knight, with tempo.} 16. Kc2 Rxd6 17. exd6+ Kxd6 {now I'm a clear piece and pawn ahead and White is not able to develop any meaningful counterplay, although I still have to be careful.} 18. Nf3 f6 {controlling the knight's potential outpost squares at g5 and e5.} 19. Be2 Ne7 20. e4 b5 {reinforcing c4 and mobilizing the queenside pawns.} 21. axb5 cxb5 22. Rd1+ Kc7 {White will not control the open file for long.} 23. f5 Bf7 {keeping an eye on the h5-e8 diagonal.} 24. g4 Nc6 {powerfully activating the knight, which covers some excellent squares in the center and on b4.} 25. h4 Rd8 26. Rxd8 Kxd8 {now I control d4.} 27. Nd2 Ncd4+ {with the forced reduction in available material, there is no longer any real counterplay possibility for White.} 28. Kd1 Nxe2 29. Kxe2 Nxd2 30. Kxd2 Kd7 31. Kc3 Kd6 32. Kd4 {White's king is well centralized and keeps mine from advancing, but now the queenside pawns further mobilize and will eventually win.} a5 33. g5 h5 {designed to neutralize any possibility of a kingside breakthrough. My opponent thought for a while here and then resigned, having no possible prospects for counterplay.} 0-1

11 May 2024

Annotated Game #274: The en passant rule and a repertoire hole

In this next game my opponent played well in the opening against my Stonewall Attack, and indeed put her finger (figuratively) on a significant repertoire hole for me. By move 9 I am significantly worse positionally and do not help my cause by delaying a knight jump into e5. However, things turn around due to my opponent not fully comprehending the en passant rule, attempting to execute it illegally and then being forced to move the pawn involved, which dropped a piece. I did not take the win for granted, however, and seriously focused on calculating out my defense afterwards, given some potentially scary-looking operations by Black down the now-open g-file. This was successful, thanks to a well-placed knight and rook combination, even though my kingside ended up denuded of pawns. I was then able to break through in the center and unleash my queen decisively.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class D"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "117"] [GameId "487213742334"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. e3 d5 3. Bd3 (3. Nf3 $5 {in light of White's problems in this line that are soon illustrated, perhaps a better choice.}) 3... c5 4. c3 {attempting to reach standard Stonewall Attack lines.} (4. dxc5 $5 {and then the engine line goes} e5 5. b4 a5 6. c3 {with both sides in strange opening territory.}) 4... Nc6 5. f4 {the main problem with this type of Stonewall Attack formation is Black's next move.} (5. Nf3 $5) (5. dxc5) 5... Bg4 $17 {engines typically undervalue the Stonewall, but in this particular case I do consider its assessment of a Black advantage as valid. The main problem is that White cannot get the "Pillsbury knight" to e5 soon, and Black will be able to exchange off the light-squared bishops, a key part of White's normal attacking game.} 6. Nf3 e6 7. O-O Bd6 8. h3 Bf5 9. g4 (9. Bxf5 {I didn't like the resulting pawn formation, which favors Black by restraining g2-g4 and also fixing White's backwards e-pawn on the half-open file. However, it's still objectively best, according to the engine.} exf5 10. Qd3 Ne4 11. dxc5 Bxc5 $17 {Black is ahead in development and has more space, so this is not losing perhaps but rather miserable for White.}) 9... Bxd3 10. Qxd3 {in contrast with the above variation, Black's central pawn formation is stronger.} Qd7 11. Nbd2 $6 (11. Ne5 {immediately looks better, removing the pressure of the Bd6 on the f-pawn, which is a common issue if an exchange is possible on d4.}) 11... O-O-O $15 {this gets the king out of the way of White's kingside pawn expansion, but allows me to get my knight to its to ideal square, while creating a target for play on the queenside. Now opening the c-file isn't such a great idea for Black.} (11... cxd4 {forcing open the c-file.} 12. cxd4 {normally White would prefer to capture with the e-pawn, but the Nd2 is blocking the Bc1 and the f4 pawn would be hanging.} Rc8) 12. Ne5 Qc7 13. b3 {the idea being to restrain c5-c4 and perhaps support a future c-pawn advance.} (13. b4 $5 c4 14. Qe2 {and looking to follow up with the e4 pawn lever or an a-pawn advance would be more aggressive.}) 13... h5 {this was probably played in error, since after} 14. g5 $11 {my opponent tried to illegally take en passant on g4. After that was confirmed by the TD, she was then forced to play} h4 {having touched the h-pawn.} 15. gxf6 {still required some thought in order to calculate its safety, however, as now Black gets pressure down the open g-file.} gxf6 16. Nxc6 $18 Qxc6 17. Nf3 {I will still have to sort out my pieces from here, so Black has a bit of initiative, but no real attack.} Rdg8+ 18. Kf2 c4 19. Qd1 {interferes on the back rank a bit, but I wanted to maintain protection of the Nf3 and put the queen on the d1-h5 diagonal. Moving Qe2 immediately would have been fine.} Qe8 {this is too slow.} (19... Rg3 {is the critical try, but is stopped easily by} 20. Rh1 $18) 20. Bd2 (20. Rg1 $5 Rxg1 21. Qxg1 Rg8 22. Qf1 $18) 20... Rg6 {again too slow to create threats.} (20... e5 $5 {looks like the best practical try.}) 21. Qe2 Qg8 $6 {this helps set up a tactic shortly.} (21... Rg3) 22. Rg1 {now with the queen out of the way, exchanging on g1 simply benefits White.} Rg3 {this no longer works for Black, due to} 23. Nxh4 $1 {removal of the guard theme} Rxg1 24. Rxg1 {coming with tempo, since it hits the queen instead of a rook} Qh7 25. Nf3 Qxh3 {While Black has regained the material, strangely enough the queen and rook are effectively out of play on the kingside, as the Nf3 and Rg1 cover everything, so now I can turn my attention to breaking through in the center, with Black's king looking vulnerable behind it.} 26. bxc4 Be7 27. cxd5 exd5 28. Qf1 {by this point I felt it would be easier just to exchange into a won piece-up endgame, rather than keep queens on the board. I also saw I could harass Black's queen if it weren't traded, then take control over the kingside files.} Qh5 29. Rg2 f5 $2 {this effectively ends the game, cutting off the queen's retreat.} (29... Qf5 30. Rh2 Rxh2+ 31. Nxh2 Qc2 32. Nf3 Qxa2 33. Qh3+ Kc7 34. Qh5 $18) 30. Rh2 {skewering the queen against the rook.} Qxh2+ 31. Nxh2 Rxh2+ 32. Ke1 {now I simply had to be careful not to blunder into a Black tactic, for example pinning one of my pieces against the king.} Bh4+ 33. Kd1 Rf2 34. Qh1 Bg3 35. Qh3 Bh2 36. Qxf5+ Kc7 37. Qxf7+ Kc6 38. Qe6+ Kc7 39. Qxd5 {my opponent, like many scholastic players, appears to have been trained to never resign, even when it is hopeless. This doesn't bother me any more, since I have decided to just play completely safely to win in response; if there are extra moves involved, that's then more agony for my opponent, rather than myself.} Bg3 40. Qh1 a6 41. Qg1 Bh4 42. Qg7+ Kb8 43. Qh8+ Kc7 44. Qxh4 Rg2 45. Qe1 Rg8 46. e4 Re8 47. f5 b5 48. e5 a5 49. e6 Kb7 50. Qe5 Kc6 51. Qc5+ Kb7 52. Qxb5+ Ka7 53. Qxe8 a4 54. f6 a3 55. f7 Kb6 56. f8=Q Kb7 57. Qd6 Ka7 58. Qee7+ Ka8 59. Qdd8# 1-0

07 May 2024

Training quote of the day #47: Michael Prusikin

 From the introduction to Attacking Strategies for Club Players, by GM Michael Prusikin:

In some ways, learning how to play chess is like learning a foreign language. Both chess and languages are comprised of blocks of information, so-called 'chunks', that we memorise and then must put together / apply correctly on the board (or when speaking). In chess we generally talk in this connection about 'patterns', a typical example being the different mating motifs such as the back-rank mate, smothered mate etc. Of course, there are also corresponding chunks for the topics of strategy and the endgame. A strong chess player differs from one less strong primarily by the greater number of chunks that he has internalised. Talent and creativity have an impact when the player, in a tournament situation, 'digs out' from his memory the right chunks at the right time and puts them together. As useful as general rules and strategic explanations may be, the number of internalised tactical and strategic patterns is, as already mentioned, the crucial factor when it comes to playing strength.