23 July 2011

Annotated Game #2: Tournament game (English/QGD)

This tournament game was against an Expert-rated opponent, who evidently plays the Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) against Queen Pawn openings.  It's fairly common for a player opening with the English (1. c4) to have opponents use their defense against 1. d4, since most of the set-ups work reasonably well and closely enough to the original ideas; furthermore, if White plays d4 at any point early on, a transposition will occur.  In this case, the move-order selected by Black allows White to take a more original approach with an early b3.

I was intentionally not playing aggressively, both because of the rating gap and because of my unfamiliarity with QGD-type positions.  This is an area on which I expect to work further in my opening study and training games, due to the likelihood of running into QGD setups in the future.  However, I was satisfied with my opening play until around move 12 and was objectively fine until move 16 (somewhat ironically it's a d4 pawn move that gets me in some trouble, despite my avoidance of a Queen Pawn game structure).  At this point, my lack of a coherent plan shows and Black takes over the initiative.  However, both of us then focused far too much on Black preparing the pawn push ...e3, which at the time seemed to be the major threat, passing over other intermediate moves and possibilities.

As often occurs in competitive games, one player (in this case me) is prone to blunder when the psychological pressure is released after working through a difficult sequence.  Once I survived ...e3 my sense of danger vanished, with unfortunate consequences.  A useful lesson that will remind me to re-set my thinking and check for new threats after such sequences.

My opponent was quite gracious in victory, as she also thought the game was interesting, especially the tactical ideas surrounding the ...e3 push, where even if I missed some of the possible ideas for Black (e.g. b5 which would have prevented my use of the c4 square) I was able to see most of the variations, set a trap of my own, and emerge with a difficult but not lost position.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Expert"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A13"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2010.??.??"] {A13: English Opening: 1...e6} 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 Nf6 4. e3 {with the idea of dominating the d4 square and freeing the light-square bishop.} b6 5. Be2 Bb7 6. O-O Be7 7. Bb2 O-O 8. d3 {Here it seems the developing move Nc3 or exchanging in the center with cxd5 would be better, either alllowing more piece pressure on Black's position in the center or opening the c-file for white's rook. However, GM Ulf Andersson played this, with the same idea of Nbd2, with some success.} Nbd7 9. Nbd2 c5 10. Ne5 $146 {This is the point of departure from my database. Rc1 or Qc2 are more typical, building up on the c-file and activating the rooks.} Qc7 11. Nxd7 Nxd7 12. Nf3 {This was the point of the Ne5 idea, to exchange a pair of minor pieces and improve the position of the d2 knight.} ({Fritz and Houdini give} 12. cxd5 exd5 13. d4 { as somewhat better for White. This continuation would give Black less of a free hand in the center.}) 12... e5 13. cxd5 Bxd5 14. Rc1 Bd6 15. h3 {to avoid the Q+B battery on the diagonal.} Qb7 16. d4 ({Here's where} 16. e4 {would have effectively shut Black out. I was reluctant to play it, thinking it was not in the spirit of the English opening. However, the position demands it and it is much less complicated to calculate than the text move.}) 16... cxd4 ({ Takes with the wrong pawn. Houdini and Fritz agree that better is} 16... exd4 17. exd4 Bf4 18. Rc2 {and the White pieces are somewhat out of position. I had missed the Bf4 idea during the game, as will be seen again shortly.}) 17. exd4 $11 e4 18. Nd2 (18. Ne5 {is better, preventing Bf4 and not being as passive. I should not have been as afraid as I was of having a pawn on e5 following an exchange there.}) 18... Bf4 $17 19. Rc3 {Here the rook needs to get unpinned. I was afraid of the e3 push and moved it to c3 to help cover the square. From Houdini's point of view, the e3 advance is not so terrible and Rc2 was better.} Rfe8 {Still focusing on the e3 advance. Fritz and Houdini agree that b5 is much stronger for black, although they disagree on White's continuation. In words, the b5 pawn would prevent White from using the c4-square for either bishop or knight maneuvers, significantly reducing his mobility.} 20. Bc4 $2 { This was calculated with Black's e3 in mind. The engines point out that Nf6 is now much stronger, as an exchange on d5 will bring a very strong Black knight there, also hitting the Rc3.} ({Better is} 20. Nc4 {guarding e3 and getting the knight into play.}) 20... e3 ({Compare with} 20... Nf6 {when no matter what white does, b5 hurts as a follow-up.}) 21. Bxd5 Qxd5 22. Qf3 {this was the move that I had calculated held things together, since it forces Black to exchange queens. The d4 pawn is indirectly protected from the queen due to the discovered attack Rc8.} Qxf3 23. Nxf3 exf2+ 24. Kxf2 Nf6 {At this point, White has a difficult but not impossible endgame to defend, with pretty much any move by the c3 rook being OK. However, I completely ignored the Nf6 threat to e4.} 25. Re1 $4 Ne4+ $19 26. Rxe4 Rxe4 27. g3 Bd6 28. Rc6 Rd8 {By this point, the game is mostly lost, given that I'm the exchange down with a bad position to defend. However, it's not completely hopeless until I allow Bc5+ and the Black rook to penetrate on e3.} 29. d5 Bc5+ (29... Bc5+ 30. Kf1 Re3 $19) 0-1

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