11 June 2024

Training quote of the day #48: George Koltanowski

 From lesson one of The Colle System (12th edition) by GM (honorary) George Koltanowski:

Experience has proven that once you know one opening thoroughly in all its strong and weak points, all other openings become much easier to understand and play correctly. Thus when you once have a good understanding of the Colle, with practical experience in playing it, you will be able to switch to any other opening with success. In chess, as in any other game in which you wish to advance, it is practice that counts. Many will tell you that the Colle System is very tame and does not give White maximum chances. Well, they are right in a way. The Colle is tame . . . only at the same time it does not permit your opponent to spring any opening surprises. The Colle does not let your opponent make the slightest mistake without his getting a serious positional disadvantage. The Colle also gives you excellent end game chances, and this, together with a safe, sound opening, gives you more chances in general. Don't forget that, as an average player, you must also be able to gain an advantage over players of your own ability.

07 June 2024

Annotated Game #285: A failed Stonewall leads to a queenside crush

In this last-round tournament game, my opponent did well out of the opening, gaining central control and a significant developmental lead after exchanging my Stonewall pawn on d4. However, I patiently continued bringing out my pieces and developed reasonably well, with a breakthrough occurring due to a positional blunder on move 17. This is a notable example of how strategically important piece exchanges can be. In this case, it gave me full control of the outpost on c5 and allowed me to establish a crushing dominance on the queenside, which I eventually converted.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "87"] [GameId "497982781165"] 1. d4 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Bd3 c5 4. c3 {establishing a partial Stonewall structure.} (4. Nf3 $5 {it seems has been played a lot in blitz, for example} Nc6 5. h3 e6 6. b3 cxd4 7. exd4 Bb4+ 8. c3 Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. Re1 Qc7 11. Bg5 Nh5 12. c4 Nf4 13. Bf1 h6 14. Bxf4 Bxf4 15. c5 e5 16. Nc3 exd4 17. Nxd5 Qb8 18. Nxd4 Be5 19. Nxc6 bxc6 20. Ne7+ Kh8 21. Nxc6 Bh2+ 22. Kh1 Qc7 23. Ne7 Be6 24. Rxe6 fxe6 25. Ng6+ Kg8 26. Nxf8 Rxf8 27. Qe2 Be5 28. Re1 Bc3 29. Qxe6+ Kh8 30. Rc1 Bd4 31. Bd3 Qf4 32. Re1 Bxc5 33. Qg6 Kg8 34. Qh7+ Kf7 35. Bc4+ {1-0 Nakamura,H (2775)-Holt,C (2540) Titled Tuesday intern op 09th May Late Chess.com INT blitz 2023 (3)}) 4... Nc6 5. Nd2 {still holding out for a Stonewall Attack formation, but Black's next spoils that.} (5. Nf3 {would transpose into a Colle System and may be the best option.}) (5. f4 Bg4 {scores very well for Black.}) 5... e5 $17 {unfortunately there's no good response to this. White taking either the c5 or e5 pawn gives Black a nice center along with good development, following the recapture, while Nf3 is no longer possible due to the pawn fork on e4.} 6. Bb5 {this is an idea I had seen in previous similar positions with engine analysis. Here it's not great, but does at least fight for the e5 square.} (6. Ne2 {is the engines' choice, admitting that there's no better square to develop to.}) 6... cxd4 7. cxd4 {this maintains the symmetry of the pawn formation and I felt more like solid play at this point.} (7. exd4 {the engines all prefer this recapture, which means ...e4 is less stifling for White.}) 7... e4 {now I do not have a pawn lever available against the d5 pawn.} 8. Ne2 Bd7 9. O-O Bd6 {Black at this point has a classically nice position with excellent development and a space advantage, thanks to the d5-e4 pawn chain. So it's time to start doing something about that.} 10. f3 {Dragon 3.2 agrees this is the best chance for White, playing analagous to a reversed French and attacking the head of the advanced pawn chain.} Qc7 11. f4 {the engine does not like this, but in practical terms it shuts down Black's ideas on the kingside for now and gains a bit of space for me, at the cost of leaving the e4 pawn in place.} (11. fxe4 {I admit I didn't even consider, since it looks like it just loses a pawn at first.} Bxh2+ 12. Kh1 dxe4 13. Rxf6 $5 {this exchange sacrifice, however, significantly changes the landscape.} gxf6 14. Nxe4 $11 {and now Black has to be careful. The f6 pawn is doomed, getting some material back for White, and the bishop on h2 is hanging by a thread.} O-O-O (14... Bd6 {a simple retreat loses.} 15. Nxf6+ {and now e3-e4 is coming as a central pawn roller. For example} Kd8 16. e4 a6 17. Bg5 $18 {with the threat of Nd5 with discovered check.}) 15. Nxf6 (15. g3 $2 {trying to trap the bishop does not work after} f5 16. Kxh2 fxe4 $19 {the White king will not have enough protection against the coming onslaught of the h-pawn and all of Black's pieces.}) 15... Be6 {White's strong central d-pawn provides compensation.}) (11. h3 $5 {is the solid alternative, although I didn't like the weak dark squares around the king.}) 11... O-O 12. h3 {the idea being to take the g4 square away from Black as a prophylactic measure. The engine prefers White exchanging first on c6.} a6 13. Bxc6 {the bishop has no future on the light squares, so gladly exchanges itself.} bxc6 $6 $15 {the backward pawn on the half-open file now gives me a weakness to play against.} 14. Nb3 {first step is to restrain the pawn's advance. I would be happy to exchange pawns after c6-c5, get Black's bishop off for my knight, and then have the backwards d-pawn to play against.} Rab8 15. Bd2 {simple development, also clearing c1 for the rook.} Qb7 16. Rc1 $11 {by this point my piece activity has significantly picked up and Black's backwards c-pawn offsets his advanced e-pawn structurally.} Rfc8 17. Rc2 {protecting b2 and also looking to potentially double on the c-file.} Bb4 $2 {a positional blunder. I expect my opponent had no idea about a plan, other than to exchange pieces. This was the wrong one to go with, however, since my knight now goes into a very strong outpost.} 18. Bxb4 Qxb4 19. Nc5 $16 Qb6 {the queen has to avoid being potentially trapped.} 20. Nc3 (20. g4 $5 {played now this may have a bit more impact than later, as there's no hurry to move the Ne2. Black will have to spend a tempo defending or moving the Bd7, as the threat is g4-g5 removing the Nf6 as a defender.}) 20... Qa7 21. Qe2 {pressuring a6 and opening the first rank for the Rf1.} a5 {logically dodging the pressure.} 22. N3a4 {this is what I was looking to do on move 20. Black can no longer evict a knight from c5, since exchanging there will now simply replace it.} Rb5 23. Rfc1 $18 {with the immediate positional threat of taking on d7 and removing a key defender of c6.} Be8 24. g4 {the engine validates this choice, which gains space on the kingside and threatens to start operations there, with the queen and rooks easily switched over. At the time, I felt it was a bit risky, but I did not see any way to make immediate progress on the queenside.} Nd7 {proactively fleeing the g-pawn advance, but this has a major tactical flaw that I did not spot.} 25. b3 $18 {I thought for a while here and came up with the second-best move, according to the engine. This consolidates a4 and c4 while making sure I don't have to worry about protecting the b-pawn.} (25. Nxd7 $1 {Black has a back-rank problem, which makes this possible. The knight is tactically defended, so Black simply loses a piece.} Bxd7 (25... Qxd7 {appears to solve things, but in fact the queen can get chased away.} 26. Qxb5 $1 cxb5 27. Rxc8 bxa4 28. R1c7 Qe6 29. f5 $1 $18) 26. Qxb5 $1 $18 {and the c6 pawn is pinned against the mate on c8.}) 25... Nb6 {exactly what b3 was intended to combat, this knight trying to get to c4. I could simply exchange it off, of course, but now the Rb5 is trapped after} 26. Nc3 Rxc5 27. dxc5 Nd7 {at this point I'm a full exchange up with no weaknesses, so should win. My opponent attempts to construct a blockade, though, with success in delaying things.} 28. Na4 (28. Qd2 {followed by Nc3-e2-d4 is a superior idea.}) 28... Rb8 29. Qd2 Rb5 30. Kh1 {this was basically a waiting move, also clearing g1 for a rook if I wanted to start kingside operations.} f6 {this clears a square for the king, which I presume was my opponent's primary intent, but also creates a weakness in the pawn shield, which becomes critical later.} 31. Qc3 Rb7 32. h4 {it's not clear to me how to make progress on the queenside, so I try the kingside first.} h5 {a good practical try, but I keep the advantage in hand with} 33. g5 f5 {with the kingside locked up, although with more space and a very nice open long diagonal for me, I turn my attention to the queenside again.} 34. a3 {I need to mobilize the pawns and open a file, but it takes some time.} (34. Nb6 {looks like it's pointless, but the engine spots a nice tactic after} Nxb6 35. Qe5 Re7 36. cxb6 $1 Qd7 37. Qd4 $18) 34... Qb8 35. Rb2 (35. b4 {immediately is possible.} axb4 36. axb4 Rxb4 37. Nb6 Rb5 38. Nxd7 Bxd7 39. Qa1 {followed by Ra2 achieves a winning breakthrough on the a-file.}) 35... Rb5 36. Qc2 {this just wastes time.} Qa7 37. Qc3 {admitting the queen is better placed here, eyeing the long diagonal.} Nb8 $2 {I debated whether immediately going Qe5 was best, eventually deciding on hopping the knight to its new outpost first. Both should win.} 38. Nb6 Na6 (38... Qc7 {covering e5 allows the breakthrough with b4.}) 39. b4 axb4 40. axb4 Qb7 41. Ra1 {now it's clear Black cannot stop the rooks penetrating on the a-file, causing destruction in the back ranks.} Nc7 42. Rba2 Bd7 43. Ra7 Qb8 44. Qe5 {now I finally pull the trigger on the e5 penetration with the queen.} 1-0

06 June 2024

Annotated Game #284: Ask yourself what is different in the opening

Whenever your opponent deviates significantly from your known repertoire, especially early, it is important to understand what the main difference is from other lines, and what you can do to take advantage of it. In this round 3 game, my opponent's 4. Bf4 provoked some thought, but at the time I did not identify the key difference, which was Black's ability to now harass the bishop after 4...Nf6. While I managed to play equally for a short while, the novelty of the position increasingly threw me off and I ended up unnecessarily entering an unfavorable, pawn-down position. Part of the problem was having unrealistically high hopes for a larger advantage, along with inaccurate calculation.

The other main takeaway from this game, as in a number of others, is the value of fighting hard and never giving up. My opponent played competently, but missed a drawing line in which my centralized knight managed to equalize in an unexpected burst of activity. I was happy to achieve that, after being positionally lost for most of the game.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "90"] [GameId "498001369780"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 dxc4 {clearly a surprise for my opponent.} 4. Bf4 {Tthis was a surprise in turn for me. After some thought, I stuck with the standard plan after anything except a2-a4.} b5 (4... Nf6 {scores the best in the database, with the idea of harassing the exposed bishop. Black need not fear} 5. e4 (5. a4 Nd5 6. Bg3 {and Black has a pleasant choice of how to play, already having equalized. For example} Nd7 7. e4 Nxc3 8. bxc3 Nf6 $11 {baiting White into possibly going} 9. e5 $6 Qa5 10. exf6 $4 Qxc3+ 11. Ke2 Bf5 $19) 5... b5 6. e5 $2 Nd5 $17) 5. a4 b4 6. Na2 e6 {opening the diagonal for the bishop and protecting the b4 pawn, while not being necessarily concerned about hanging on to the extra pawn.} (6... a5 {is the engines' preference, just playing to hold onto the extra pawn.}) (6... Nf6 $5) 7. e3 Ba6 {I thought for a bit and decided there was no reason not to at least make it more difficult to retake the extra c-pawn.} 8. Rc1 $6 Qd5 {the correct reaction, getting the queen centralized and pressuring g2.} 9. Qd2 {my opponent was evidently focused on recovering the material by force, and unfortunately here I run out of concrete ideas.} Nf6 $6 {a decent developing move, but I did not have a good follow-up prepared with the queen after the obvious capture on b4.} (9... c5 {this did not occur to me at all, but the engine shows a major advantage. Let's see what happens.} 10. dxc5 Bxc5 {now the b4 pawn is tactically protected.} 11. Nf3 (11. Nxb4 $2 Qxd2+ 12. Kxd2 Bxb4+) 11... Nf6 $19 {Black has consolidated the pawn advantage and positionally the advanced b/c pawn duo dominate the queenside.}) (9... c3 {I considered carefully, but did not see anything coming out of it. This was the correct evaluation.} 10. bxc3 Bxf1 11. Kxf1 a5 12. Nf3 $11) 10. Nxb4 Qa5 $2 {This just leaves me a pawn down.} (10... Qf5 {is the engine's choice and something I did not consider.}) 11. Nxa6 Qxd2+ $6 (11... Qxa6 12. Bxc4 Qxa4 $16 {White is still significantly better here, with a much stronger pawn structure and the two bishops, but the queens are still on the board and there's material parity.}) 12. Kxd2 Nxa6 13. Bxc4 $18 {White is now a clear pawn ahead with the two bishops and her king position is just fine with the queens off the board and reduced material.} Nb4 {I was pleased with this active knight on the b4 outpost, one of the few good things about my position.} 14. f3 {taking away the e4 square from the Nf6.} Be7 15. Ne2 O-O {I thought here I might get some play against White's king, although that is more a hope than a strategy.} 16. Rhd1 Rfd8 17. Ke1 {the withdrawal is a bit awkward and gives up influence over some territory, so my knight hops forward to good effect.} Nfd5 $16 18. Kf2 g5 $6 {an aggressive idea about trapping or harrassing the bishop that doesn't really go anywhere.} (18... Nxf4 19. Nxf4 $14 {now with opposite-colored bishops a draw looks more possible.}) 19. Bg3 Rd7 {with ideas of doubling on one of the files.} (19... h5 {would be the logical follow-up, although the simple reply h3 is just fine for White, as I saw.}) 20. Nc3 a5 {consolidating the b4 outpost.} 21. Ne4 Rad8 22. Nc5 $6 {this is actually a fine move, except for a tactic that neither of us spotted.} Bxc5 (22... Nxe3 $1 {this would justify the doubling of the rooks, as the Re1 is under-protected.} 23. Kxe3 Bxc5 $15) 23. dxc5 $18 {at this point I thought I could hold, and this turns out to be the case in the game, but White should with best play be able to engineer a breakthrough using her two bishops and extra pawn.} Ne7 24. Rxd7 Rxd7 25. Ke2 Nf5 26. Be1 {correctly preserving the bishop...at first.} Rb7 27. Bxb4 Rxb4 ({not} 27... axb4 28. a5 $1 $18) 28. b3 {forced, but good.} Kf8 {time to activate the king} 29. Rd1 {correctly seizing the file and barring the king from getting over to help protect the c-pawn.} Ke8 30. e4 Ne7 31. Ke3 Rb7 32. g4 $2 {this allows the draw, as now the knight goes to g6, from where it can prevent a breakthrough in conjuction with the g5 pawn.} (32. Rd6 $18) 32... Ng6 33. Rd6 Ne5 {the knight's flexibility in the center stymies White, who can try to trade off the g-pawn, but then will get into a drawn rook ending after the minor pieces come off.} 34. Kd4 (34. f4 Nxc4+ 35. bxc4 Rb3+ $1 $11) 34... Nxf3+ {my opponent may have missed this, or hoped that I would snatch the h2 pawn. In any case, it is a draw from here, although she plays it out all the way.} 35. Kc3 Ne5 36. h3 Ke7 37. Be2 Rd7 38. Rxd7+ Kxd7 39. b4 axb4+ 40. Kxb4 Kc7 41. Kc3 f6 42. Bc4 Nxc4 43. Kxc4 e5 {this puts an end to any further action on the kingside, with the queenside soon to follow.} 44. a5 Kb7 45. Kb4 Ka6 1/2-1/2

05 June 2024

Annotated Game #283: Geometry lessons

Chess is a game of geometry, something illustrated well by this round 2 game. An unusual but not unknown opening position is reached, but I make two decisions (on move 8 and move 10) which affect the long-term geometry of my position, specifically the weakening of the h-file and the difficulty I have in covering it. I eventually end up in a won endgame position after a wild middlegame, but again have a geometry fail on move 56 and miss the winning idea of an indirect exchange. Full credit to my opponent for hanging tough the entire time.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "120"] [GameId "497983854743"] 1. d4 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Bd3 Bg4 4. f3 {this directly opposes the early bishop sortie.} Bh5 5. c4 e6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Nge2 {the idea being to get to f4 and exchange off the bishop.} (7. cxd5 {is another way to play, getting the c-pawn exchanged for the e-pawn, which is also more dynamic.} exd5 (7... Nxd5 8. Nge2 $16 {with e4 coming}) 8. Qa4+ (8. Nge2 {is the solid and less venturesome choice.}) 8... Nc6 9. Ba6 $5 {is an interesting idea suggested by the engine. If} bxa6 10. Qxc6+ {and Black loses the right to castle, or material. For example} Nd7 $6 11. Qxd5 $18) 7... Bg6 {successfully baiting me into exchanging, which is not at all best.} 8. Bxg6 (8. cxd5 {is strong.} exd5 9. Qa4+ Nc6 10. Ba6 $16 {is similar to the above variation.}) 8... hxg6 $11 {the half-open h-file will cause me problems later.} 9. c5 {this was a muddled threat to trap the bishop, which of course does not work, and gives up the idea of exchanging on d5.} c6 {this opens up a route back along the a5-d8 diagonal, or of course the bishop can exchange on c3.} 10. Kf2 $6 {this looks like a relatively natural move, but the geometry results in a weakened kingside.} (10. O-O) 10... Qc7 {Here I really had no idea what was best, so simply covered down on the kingside.} 11. Qg1 (11. Bd2 {and Black taking the h-pawn is actually better for White.} Rxh2 12. Rxh2 (12. e4 $1 {getting the central pawns rolling and threatening Bf4 is an even better idea.}) 12... Qxh2 13. Qb3 Bxc3 14. Bxc3 {now White is threatening to trap the queen after Ng3 and Rh1.} Qc7 15. Rh1 $16 {the open file and accessibility of Black's king more than compensate for the pawn.}) 11... e5 $15 {taking advantage of the obvious central pawn lever. Now I'm definitely a bit worse.} 12. a3 {here the sequencing matters. Playing Bd2 first would help equalize development.} (12. Bd2 {and if} Bxc3 13. Bxc3 $11) 12... Bxc3 13. Nxc3 Nbd7 14. b4 {with Black's king still uncastled and him looking dangerous in the center and on the kingside, I wanted to press ahead and open things up on the queenside, if possible.} O-O-O {I felt this was something of a gift, as it makes my queenside counterplay more effective with the king as a more direct target.} (14... O-O $17 {would give up ideas of attacking down the h-file, but provide for a safe king position and allow Black to focus on his superior central play.}) 15. b5 $11 {I thought for a while here, ultimately concluding that I should quickly get on with counterplay. The engine validates the choice.} Rh7 {with the obvious plan of doubling rooks on the h-file. Now would be a great moment for me to either press the queenside counterplay or play a prophylactic defenseive move. However, I do neither, after some thought.} 16. Bd2 {simple development is good enough to maintain equality, but does not address the main needs of the position.} (16. Rb1 $16 {is the logical follow-up to the previous move, preparing to force open the b-file to my advantage.}) (16. h3 $5 {emphasizes safety first, but I had erroneously thought my opponent could take advantage of the weak g3 square.} Nh5 17. bxc6 bxc6 18. Ne2 $16 {however covers it well.}) 16... Rdh8 17. bxc6 {a good move, but this has much less punch without the Rb1 present.} bxc6 18. Ne2 $6 {the general idea of adding defense to the kingside is correct, but my flawed disposal of h2-h3 as a candidate move means that the defense is not optimal. However, Black does not use his central pawn lever, instead going for the flank.} (18. h3 $14 {now White has defensive resources like Ne2 and Qf1 possible, among others.}) 18... g5 (18... e4 {causes the most problems.} 19. Ng3 exf3 20. gxf3 g5 {with ...g4 coming. The engine gives it as equal, but with difficult-to-find moves for White like h2-h4 immediately.}) 19. Qe1 $6 (19. Ng3 {immediately is a much better idea, fighting for and blocking the b8-h2 diagonal.}) 19... g4 $17 20. Ba5 {this was the idea behind the queen move, but objectively does not cause enough problems for Black.} (20. Rb1 {I debated moving this first, which would have been an improved version of the idea, but then Black gets in ...gxf3 with advantage.}) 20... Qb7 {forced} 21. Rb1 Qa6 $19 {this is a somewhat awkward placement of the queen, but on the a6-f1 diagonal it still is doing very well, and I can't further attack it.} 22. Ng3 {now I am in trouble on the kingside, but my opponent does not open lines fast enough.} g6 (22... gxf3 $1 $19 {is the critical idea.}) 23. Qc3 $6 {trying to generate some counterplay in the center, but this allows Black to break up the pawn shield.} (23. f4 $5 {did not occur to me at the time.} exf4 24. exf4 Rxh2 25. Rxh2 Rxh2 26. Kg1 $11) 23... exd4 24. exd4 Qc4 $6 {this essentially loses a tempo for Black and allows me to immediately equalize.} 25. Qb2 $11 {now threatening to penetrate on the b-file.} Qb5 $6 {going back to the status quo would probably be drawish, but here I could exchange into a won ending.} (25... Qa6 $11) 26. Qd2 {intentionally keeping the queens on the board, thinking my attack would be better than Black's. From a practical standpoint, it does allow him to go wrong, but the same goes for myself.} (26. Qxb5 cxb5 27. Rxb5 $18 {and Rhb1 is the main threat, for example} Rxh2 28. Rhb1 gxf3 29. Kxf3 $1 {I failed to see this at the time. Now Rb7! is unstoppable.}) 26... Qc4 $2 {now I'm winning, and in fact find the initial correct follow-up.} 27. Rb4 Qa6 28. Rhb1 {setting up mate threats, while the Ba5 is tactically protected.} gxf3 {Here I thought for a long time, considering the winning Qf4! but erroneously calculating that it did not work in the end, so I played the second best move.} (28... Qxa5 $2 29. Rb8+ Nxb8 30. Qxa5 $18) 29. Kxf3 (29. Qf4 {the point is threating immediate mate on c7. Somehow I hallucinated a defense for Black.} Qxa5 $4 30. Rb8+ Nxb8 31. Rxb8+ Kd7 32. Qd6# {I saw this but somehow miscounted the captures on b8.}) 29... Ne4 30. Qe1 $2 {a blunder, as I end up deciding I have to capture on e4 anyway.} (30. Nxe4 $1 dxe4+ 31. Kf2 $18) 30... Re8 (30... Qd3+ $1 {is what I was most worried about and would have been decisive.}) 31. Nxe4 Qd3+ {this allows for a defense, which I however do not find, having been under combined time and mental pressure.} 32. Kf2 $2 (32. Qe3 $1 dxe4+ 33. Kf2 $18) 32... Rxe4 $19 33. Rd1 {the best practical try, as well as the engine's choice. Of course I am still losing objectively.} Qc2+ $6 (33... Qxa3 $19) 34. Rd2 $2 {this has one flaw, but was in fact a decent practical choice.} (34. Qd2 $11 {unfortunately did not occur to me in time pressure.}) 34... Rxe1 (34... Ne5 {would be very difficult to find over the board.} 35. Rxc2 Nd3+ 36. Kg3 Rxe1 $19 {and White has to lose material to avoid getting mated.}) 35. Rxc2 $11 Re4 $2 (35... Ra1) 36. Rcb2 $1 $18 {now I should be winning again, with the threats renewed against Black's king.} Rhh4 37. Rb7 {this was the key move I had been looking to get in for a long time.} Rhf4+ 38. Kg1 Rxd4 39. Rc7+ {this should win, but I could have thought about safety first, since the situation was not going to change.} (39. g3 {creates "luft" and keeps the pressure on Black.}) 39... Kd8 40. Rxa7+ Ke7 {and now I cannot find the winning idea, going for the easy check instead.} 41. Re2+ $6 (41. g3 Rd1+ 42. Kg2 {and now the threat of Rbb7 is decisive.}) 41... Rfe4 $11 42. Rxe4+ {essentially forced.} dxe4 43. Rc7 Rd5 44. Bb4 {at this point the engine evaluates this as a draw.} e3 $6 {too aggressive, weakening the e-pawn.} 45. Kf1 Ke8 $2 (45... Rf5+ 46. Ke2 Rf2+ 47. Kxe3 Rxg2 48. Rxc6 Rxh2 $2 (48... Ne5 $16) 49. Ra6 $1 $18 {the engine shows as winning for White, due to the advanced passed c-pawn.}) 46. Rxc6 $18 {now I should be winning (again).} Ne5 47. Rd6 $1 {forcing the rooks off.} Rxd6 48. cxd6 Kd7 49. Ke2 f5 50. Kxe3 {now this should be an easy win, but in time pressure I give Black an out, as he masterfully uses his knight to bamboozle me.} Ng4+ 51. Kf4 Nxh2 52. Kg5 {I am still winning here, but the fundamental idea is flawed. I try to play on the kingside rather than push my outside passed pawn.} (52. a4 $1 {passed pawns must be pushed!}) 52... Ke6 53. Kxg6 Ng4 54. Kg5 Ne3 55. g3 Nd5 {now my materialistic instincts doom this to a draw, as I am unwilling to tactically trade pawns.} 56. Kg6 $2 $11 (56. Bd2 $1 Kxd6 57. Kxf5 $18) 56... f4 57. gxf4 Nxf4+ {by this point I saw what was coming.} 58. Kg5 Nd3 {now White must lose the d-pawn and my king is too far away from the action, so Black's king will clean up.} 59. Kg4 Nxb4 60. axb4 Kxd6 1/2-1/2

04 June 2024

Annotated Game #282: If it's the first round, I must lose as Black

This next tournament's first-round game unfortunately comes as no surprise, in terms of the result. I very much dislike ascribing a loss to time trouble, since that is normally a symptom rather than a cause, but in this game it is certainly the most important single factor. Right up to the penultimate move I had at worst an even game, but hallucinated sufficiently under time pressure to make the wrong move. Other than that, it was an interesting Caro-Kann Advance with a number of useful teaching points, including how queenside pawn advances could have been employed to good effect.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "77"] [GameId "497288691264"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Be2 e6 7. Nbd2 {I had not seen this move in the Caro-Kann Advance before - White typically castles - so had to think about what would be best to do.} Qb6 $6 {premature development of the queen.} (7... cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bxe2 9. Qxe2 Nxd4 10. cxd4 {and only now} Qb6 $11) 8. Nb3 {this blocks the b-file pressure and frees the Bc1 up, but does not directly challenge Black. It also leaves the knight potentially open to attack from an advancing Black a-pawn.} (8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. O-O $14 {and Black is going to have to lose time retreating the queen or bishop, due to the threat of b4.}) 8... cxd4 9. cxd4 $6 {this allows Black to pressure d4.} (9. Nfxd4 $11) 9... Bxf3 {another premature move.} (9... a5 {I spotted this idea but thought it was too aggressive. However, it nets the d-pawn, so is worth it. For example} 10. Be3 {and now} Bxf3 11. Bxf3 a4 12. Nd2 (12. Nc1 Bb4+ 13. Bd2 Qxd4 $19) 12... Nxd4 $17 {the pin looks dangerous, but Black can play ...Bc5 next move.}) 10. Bxf3 Bb4+ {I was pleased with this, but did not find the right follow-up idea, namely ...a5 to chase away the knight.} 11. Bd2 $6 (11. Kf1 $11) 11... Nge7 {good enough for equality, but there was more.} (11... a5 $1 12. a4 $2 {blocking the a-pawn does not help, since it leaves the Nb3 unprotected.} (12. O-O a4 $17) 12... Bxd2+ 13. Nxd2 Qxd4 $19) (11... Bxd2+ 12. Qxd2 a5 $15) 12. Bc3 Rc8 13. O-O Nf5 {this is a premature deployment of the knight, there is no rush to determine its square.} (13... O-O) 14. Rc1 O-O 15. Qd2 Bxc3 16. bxc3 Na5 {heading for c4.} 17. Rb1 Nc4 18. Qd3 Qd8 {I thought for a while here. The queen should move away from the discovered attack on the b-file; d8 is as good a square as any, allowing her to be redeployed on the kingisde.} 19. Bg4 Nh4 (19... Nh6 $11 {looks awkward but could have been simpler.}) 20. f4 {I missed this and as a result it caused me great problems, as I was counting on ...Qg5 ideas on the kingside. However, there are multiple good options from here.} b6 {around here I got wise to the possibility of a White knight sac on e6, but analysis shows it does not need to be feared. The text move was intended to keep the White knight out of c5, and is not bad.} (20... g6 {restraining a further f-pawn advance.} 21. Nc5 b6 22. Nxe6 fxe6 23. Bxe6+ Kg7 24. Bxc8 Qxc8 $11 {is equal according to the engine.}) 21. Qh3 Rc6 {defending e6 and also along the third rank in general.} (21... g6 $5 {again is solid.} 22. g3 Nf5 $15) 22. Be2 Nf5 23. Bd3 g6 {long think here and the engine validates the choice, but now I start to get down on time.} 24. Bxf5 exf5 25. Rf3 Kg7 {here I focused on keeping the queen out of h6, which should be all right.} (25... Qd7 {better to clear the square for a rook, to increase flexibility. White cannot break through.} 26. Qh6 Na3 27. Rc1 $6 (27. Re1 Nb5 28. Ree3 Rfc8 29. Rh3 f6 30. exf6 Rxf6 $11) 27... Rfc8 $17) 26. Rg3 Qc8 (26... Na3 {this idea seemed to go nowhere for me, but I did not consider it fully.} 27. Rc1 {always seemed to hold everything, but then ...Qd7 followed by ...Rfc8 is a more dynamic way of playing.}) 27. Re1 {now I decide I need counterplay, so play actively and cast the die.} a5 (27... Rh8 $15 {would be solid.}) 28. Qh4 {expected, with doubling on the h-file to come.} a4 $1 {again, the correct and active way to play, as confirmed by the engine.} 29. Nc1 Nd2 {so far so good.} 30. Rh3 Rh8 {I burned more time trying to decide between this and ...h5, which would have been better.} (30... h5 {I was concerned about the idea of a pin on the g-file and tactics involving taking the h5 or f5 pawns. Although I did not see anything concrete, it was enough to deter me.} 31. Ne2 Ne4 $17 {should be fine, though.}) 31. Qh6+ (31. Nd3 {I was more concerned about this idea, which in fact would cause more problems.} h5 {now this is needed anyway.} 32. Nb4 Ne4 33. Nxc6 Qxc6 $11 {the defensive exchange sac looks like it gives good chances to hold.}) 31... Kg8 32. Ree3 $6 (32. Ne2 $11) 32... Ne4 33. Ne2 g5 {while technically this is still a draw, the loose structure in front of my king now leads to my downfall. I mistakenly thought the active play was necessary.} (33... b5 $17 {leads to a significant advantage, according to the engine. White now is vulnerable to back-rank tactics, among other problems, while Black can target the backwards c-pawn on the open file.}) (33... f6 {is another good idea, opening up the 7th rank for defense.}) (33... Qf8 {this would have been good for a solid defense, but I chose the more aggressive text move, despite not seeing a clear outcome.}) 34. Qh5 g4 35. Rxe4 {I did not consider this, but it works. Low on time, I didn't even consider capturing on h3.} dxe4 $2 36. Rg3 (36. Re3 $1 $18 {leaving h3 open for the knight to move to the attack.}) 36... Kg7 {low on time now, but this should still hold.} 37. d5 Rg6 {I thought for a while and under pressure played the wrong rook move. :(} (37... Rh6 38. Qg5+ Rg6 39. Qe7 $2 (39. Qh5 $11) 39... Qc5+ {I calculated a version of this variation but somehow decided it was bad for Black.} 40. Qxc5 bxc5 $19) 38. Nd4 $1 $18 Rh6 {one move too late.} 39. Nxf5+ 1-0