30 July 2011

Annotated Game #3: Attack of the Clones

This tournament game from 2007 is against a Class B player (who however was significantly higher rated than myself).  The remarkable thing about it (and why I selected it for study) is that it is an almost exact clone of the previous tournament game we had played against each other.  It was relatively easy for me to remember the original sequence, since I'd never seen anyone else play a Stonewall-Leningrad Dutch hybrid before.  My database has exactly one game that matches the position after the 6th move, from the 1959 Czechoslovak championship (Adamek-Paroulek).

The first pass at analysis was done by Fritz 10 shortly after the tournament; in the past, I've made it a practice of performing computer analysis on my games shortly after they are completed.  I've found this to be good for seeing blunders and some missed alternative moves, but it hasn't done all that much in terms of improving my chess understanding and playing ability.  This time around, I provide the human perspective and Houdini the computer one, with better results.

What had bothered me about this game was that Fritz had given an original evaluation of White as noticeably better at the end, so as part of my training process I wanted to take a serious look at the concluding position to see what I had missed.  As it turns out, I didn't miss anything there, an assessment backed up by Houdini.  My guess is that Fritz's evaluation function had liked the additional space White possessed, but failed to see that it was essentially meaningless in the context of the coming endgame.

Nevertheless, after examining the game more closely, I did find a number of earlier possible improvements for White.  While I may not run across this exact opening variation again (unless I play the same opponent once more as White), I should be able to retain some of the ideas for improved play in similar situations - for example, noting how an earlier d3 is more flexible than b3 for white and how to exploit the d6 hole in the Stonewall Dutch.

At the time, I was satisfied with the result of obtaining a draw against a higher-rated player.  In general and in a tournament context, that's not really a bad thing.  However, the path to chess mastery does not consist of ceding whatever advantages you have over the board so you can draw, it requires being able to exploit them so you can win.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "38"] [EventDate "2007.??.??"] {A10: English Opening: Unusual Replies for Black} 1. c4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 e6 4. Bg2 d5 5. O-O c6 6. b3 (6. d3 {is more flexible, not committing the bishop to develop on the queenside and keeping the potential for a plan involving a queenside pawn advance.}) 6... g6 {A novel hybrid between the Stonewall and Leningrad Dutch pawn structures. Never have so many dark squares been so weak.} 7. Bb2 {This seems to be the "automatic" move, but looking further shows that a less committal developing move like Nc3 is superior, allowing the bishop to go to a3 in one move if Bg7 is played.} ({In the game I was worried about Black chasing the knight with d4 and then supporting a strong pawn in the center with c5, but the following typical variation illustrates how it is in fact better for White (credit to Houdini):} 7. Nc3 d4 8. Na4 c5 9. Ba3 Na6 10. e3 dxe3 11. dxe3 {where White has a lead in development and Black's king is in the center.}) 7... Bg7 8. Qc2 O-O 9. d3 {This takes away e4 from Black, a key square for him in Stonewall Dutch-type formations.} Re8 10. Nbd2 Nbd7 11. Ne5 { Here Houdini shows the idea of e4, either immediately or supported by Rfe1. Perhaps objectively best, but I don't like the idea of potentially opening lines for Black.} Qc7 {the queen would be somewhat better placed on e7, due to the command of the a3-f8 diagonal and its ability to help rein in any White queenside pawn advance. Qc7 also loses a tempo as the queen goes to e7 shortly anyway.} 12. Ndf3 {one point of the Ne5 idea, to support a piece on e5 and a space advantage.} Nxe5 13. Bxe5 Qe7 14. Qb2 {This was admittedly done primarily with the idea of trading down into a drawn position, although I also didn't see anything better at the time.} ({Both Fritz and Houdini came up with the idea of maintaining a piece in the center with pawn support. Fritz suggests d4, while Houdini prefers} 14. c5 {with a sample continuation of} Ng4 15. Bd6 Qd8 16. Rad1 {as better. Both allow White to keep a space advantage and avoid simplifying to equality.}) 14... Nd7 15. Bxg7 Qxg7 16. Qxg7+ Kxg7 { After the exchanges, it's now dead even.} 17. Rfe1 Nf6 18. Ne5 Nd7 19. Nxd7 ({ Fritz originally gave} 19. f4 Nxe5 20. fxe5 Rd8 $16 {but this hardly seems like a strong advantage for White and Houdini evaluates it as equal (with the slightest plus to White).}) 19... Bxd7 1/2-1/2

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