08 October 2011

Annotated Game #13: Black Wins the Race (thanks to White)

Following the Denker Tournament of Champions, I was away from tournament play (really much of any play at all) for several years.  The following game occurred in the last round of my first post-Denker weekend tournament, from which I emerged with a grand total of zero points.  This is my best/most instructive loss, which continues the theme of the previous annotated game of the queenside vs. kingside race in the English opening.  I was a high class B at the time, facing an Expert-ranked opponent.

In comparison with Annotated Game #12 from the Denker Tournament, Black chooses to make his kingside pawn advances early on, essentially achieving a Sicilian Grand Prix attack in reverse by move 4.  White modifies his game accordingly, varying with e3 and the Nge2 development rather than d3 and Nf3 as in the previous game.  As occurs in many of the "race" type games, heavy positional dueling ensues after initial development, with moves 11-17 being the most critical.  Both sides had improvements available, although in the game White maintained an initiative despite not employing the thematic exchange operation on f3.

Black makes the first serious missteps, a passive knight withdrawal on move 16 and then, following a series of kingside exchanges, misses a pin-based tactic, losing a pawn.  Two moves later, White has a visualization problem (26. e4, blocking the rook defending d4) and afterwards crumbles quickly and unnecessarily into a pawn-down rook endgame.  White then pulls it together and plays tenaciously for some time afterwards, before finally cracking thanks to a miscalculated operation.  (Update: here at the bottom of page 2 is an excellent description from NM Dan Heisman why White missed the threat on move 26.)

In analyzing this and the previous game, I feel I've learned a good deal more about these types of opposite-side "race" games, reinforcing my earlier observation that White's initiative can be enduring if properly handled, placing more of an onus on Black.  My opponent clearly passed up some equalizing lines, for example on move 15, indicating he was more interested in playing for a win, even with a somewhat inferior position.  The result shows that he made the right practical choice that time but I am now more convinced of White's dynamic resources and opportunities in these types of positions.  The psychological lessons will likely be addressed in a separate post.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Expert"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A25"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "108"] [EventDate "1992.??.??"] {A25: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 but without early d3} 1. c4 f5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 e5 {also can be reached via the move-order with e5, f5, Nf6 } 4. Bg2 Nc6 {this is essentially a Sicilian Grand Prix attack in reverse} 5. e3 {this is slightly less popular than the other main move d3, aiming instead for a restraint on f4 by Black and to develop Nge2.} g6 6. d4 e4 7. Nge2 Bg7 8. O-O O-O 9. Rb1 ({The most common move sequence at the GM level is} 9. f3 exf3 10. Bxf3 {but this is a typical idea in the position and does not need to be played immediately.}) 9... a5 10. a3 d6 11. Bd2 $146 {a novelty, although it is in Houdini's top three choices. Other typical ideas are Nf4 and f3, Fritz preferred the latter here.} g5 {starts rolling on the kingside, although perhaps a little prematurely.} 12. b4 ({Now would be the time to play} 12. f3 exf3 13. Bxf3 {allowing White much more activity in the center and scope for the light-squared bishop.}) 12... axb4 $11 13. axb4 Qe8 {this causes Black problems by weakening c7. Ne7 redeveloping the knight toward the kingside is favored by Houdini.} 14. Qb3 Kh8 15. Nd5 (15. Nb5 {doesn't allow Black to exchange off the knight and} Qf7 16. f3 exf3 17. Bxf3 {followed by Nec3 is significantly more active.}) 15... Qf7 {this move indicates that Black is looking to play for a win, rather than exchange down with} (15... Nxd5 16. cxd5 Ne7 17. Rfc1 c6 18. dxc6 bxc6) 16. b5 {this standard idea now no longer has force, as with best play there are no good targets for the b-pawn and Black simply redevelops his knight. An alternative plan is Rbc1 to obtain pressure down the c-file, although Black is able to get counterplay on the kingside.} Nd8 {too passive, although I don't punish it properly. Black is fine if he first gets rid of the Nd5} (16... Nxd5 17. cxd5 Ne7 18. Nc3 $11) 17. Rfc1 { Houdini thinks the rook is best left on f1.} (17. b6 Nxd5 18. cxd5 c6 19. Bb4 { with major pressure and the initiative on the queenside.}) 17... Ne6 18. Bb4 Nh5 (18... Qh5 19. Nec3 $11) 19. Rf1 {looks like Houdini was right back on move 17. White begins to waste valuable time.} b6 {Black returns the favor, also allowing White to open the h1-a8 diagonal.} 20. f4 {but then White gives Black a way to better activate his kingside, although the position is evaluated as even by Houdini.} ({Much better is the thematic} 20. f3 exf3 21. Bxf3 {where White creates queenside threats and retains an edge.}) 20... gxf4 21. Nexf4 Nhxf4 22. Nxf4 Nxf4 23. Rxf4 Bd7 $2 {misses the tactical point in the position. Any queen move would have avoided it and kept up kingside pressure, for example Qh5.} 24. Bxe4 Rae8 25. Bd5 Be6 {White is now a clear pawn up and needs to reorganize his pieces (Bd2 is a start) and play solidly.} 26. e4 {the psychological point here is interesting, since I was obviously fixated on the f5 square and missed the Bxd4+ threat my last move created.} Bxd5 27. exd5 Re4 28. Qd3 {wasted move, Rbf1 would have done something useful.} Bxd4+ 29. Kg2 {completes the positional collapse.} (29. Kh1 {hides in the corner successfully} Rxf4 30. gxf4 {and results in a very drawish position.}) 29... Rxf4 $17 30. gxf4 Rg8+ 31. Kh1 Qg7 {the Bd4 again shows its value by allowing Black to threaten mate on g1.} 32. Qg3 Qxg3 33. hxg3 Rxg3 {the dust has settled, leaving White with a grim endgame, although playing more actively with Kh2 and Re1 would help.} 34. Rf1 Kg7 35. Kh2 Rg4 (35... Rb3 {would let Black seal the win} 36. Be1 Rb2+ 37. Kh3 Rc2) 36. Be1 Be3 37. Bg3 h5 38. Re1 Bxf4 39. Bxf4 Rxf4 40. Re7+ Kf6 41. Rxc7 {since the 35..Rg4 slip by Black, I've put up stout resistance, playing Houdini's recommended moves.} Rg4 42. Rc6 Ke5 43. c5 {this loses by force. I somehow missed the idea of Kxd5 followed by Rb4, making b6 pointless.} (43. Rxb6 Rxc4 {maintains the (still painful) balance.}) 43... bxc5 44. Rc8 Rb4 45. Rh8 Rxb5 46. Rxh5 c4 47. Kg2 c3 48. Rh8 Rc5 49. Rh1 c2 50. Rc1 Kxd5 {I should have resigned here (or sooner)} 51. Kf3 Kd4 52. Ke2 Kc3 53. Ke3 Re5+ 54. Kf4 Kd2 0-1

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