27 January 2012

Simplified Thought Process (that works)

As I admitted in the last Chess Performance Inventory, my thinking process has been a weak point in my play.  Starting out as a self-taught player, I found very little guidance on how to organize my thought process during a game when selecting a move.  Books like Kotov's Think Like a Grandmaster offered little practical utility for me, simply being too complex or unrealistic.  I found a few useful pieces of advice in the general literature, such as Botvinnik's practice of primarily thinking about positional characteristics on an opponent's time and calculating concrete variations on your own time, but that did not come close to fully addressing my needs.

The result of this lack of a structural thought process was most obvious in how I would regularly miss seeing good candidate moves, both for myself and my opponent, when examining a position.  My play therefore lacked a broad awareness of tactical opportunities and I was particularly weak in falsifying my own candidate moves.  Training games played since this blog was started had reinforced the idea that this was a key area that I needed to work on (nothing like blundering won games to a computer opponent to get you motivated).

But how to work on this area?  There has been a lot of material published on the chess thinking process, ranging from the superficial to the incredibly detailed and theoretical.  After a few months of absorbing material and deliberately working on testing my thinking process using the Chess Tactics Server, I was reasonably satisfied that what I had put together was a significant improvement.  (I've been studying tactics as well, so my overall tactical awareness has also improved.)  The combination of improved thinking process and tactical study has raised my accuracy on CTS from 80% to 90%.

The real test, however, comes in slow games and over-the-board (OTB) play.  I was fortunate to have the chance recently to participate in an OTB tournament, where despite some early round tiredness due to hotel issues, I was able to significantly raise the level of my overall play.  This included my best win to date in terms of my opponent's rating (2100+).  In large part, I credit the improvement in performance to the simplified, structured thinking process I've developed.  Here's the outline:

What did the opponent's move change about the position?
  • Examples include: new threats from the piece moved; new threats from other pieces uncovered by the move; squares weakened; new opportunities for checks, captures and threats on my part.
Checks, Captures, Threats (CCT)
  • Examined in the most forcing order of move types; look at all of the possible checks and captures - both yours and your opponent's - to avoid eliminating possible good candidate moves and to identify potential tactical threats.
  • Calculate until quiescence (no more forcing moves).
Update Plan / "To-Do list"
  • Do my current objectives still make sense in light of my opponent's move and CCT?
  • Are there new possibilities in the position for tactical or positional exploitation?
  • In the absence of a clearly superior/winning plan, how do I best improve the placement of my pieces?
Finalize Candidate Moves and Falsify Them
  • Look seriously at each move, to avoid dismissing a better move too early.
  • Look for overlapping ideas that can be applied from different variations (tactical themes and key in-between moves such as checks and threats).
  • Put effort into "switching sides" mentally and attempting to destroy your position after visualizing the selected move.
The usual caveats to thinking processes apply.  The sequence is generally followed rather than rigidly applied on each move and some elements will be emphasized more, depending on the nature of the position (e.g. highly tactical vs. closed).  It doesn't include everything I will think about during the game, especially strategic and positional considerations, but does represent what needs to be accomplished on each move in order to have it be sound.

Some annotated references:

"A Generic Thought Process" by Dan Heisman.  This was useful to read through and draw on for ideas, although I found it too broad and complex as something to remember and apply each move.

"Think Like a Strong Player" by the International Chess School.  Although I'm not an ICS student at this time (perhaps in the future), I greatly appreciate their approach to study and their willingness to put some of their foundation material on their site, which of course is a good way to attract interested people.

"Going in circles, so I'm making progress" and "Blown away by the idea of Checks, Captures and Threats"  by Temposchlucker.  His long-term theoretical research and experience did a lot to validate CCT in my eyes.

"How I won my section at the Portsmouth Open" by Blunderprone.  His paragraph-long description at the end is a good example of practical thinking.

"Real Chess, Time Management and Care: Putting It All Together" by Dan Heisman.  The lead quote by the author ("Your game is only as good as your worst move") sums things up nicely.

"My chess thought process" by Blue Devil Knight.  A lot of good points to consider.

[EDIT: see also "What to think about on your opponent's time"]

Annotated Game #28: End of a Second Era

This game marked the close of the second phase in my chess career, similar to how Annotated Game #12 highlighted the end of my first, scholastic phase at the Denker Tournament of Champions.  After this tournament was completed, I was away from competition for several years and did not give much real thought to continuing with chess as a pastime.

At least the game was a win, a good way to head into semi-retirement.  It illustrates well the types of positional mistakes that Class players are subject to making, in this case on both sides of the board.  I pick a solid but unremarkable defense to my opponent's King's Indian Attack setup and quickly obtain equality, but without much active play.  After neglecting development of my queenside and allowing my opponent to gain space with the d5 push, however, I find counterplay and go about undermining my opponent's queenside pawns.  After he permanently passes up control of the b4 square, my otherwise neglected knight soon establishes itself in that outstanding outpost, where its exchange only leads to my opponent's demise.

One of the tendencies I've noticed in play at the Class level is that opponents will often opt for a much quicker road to a loss by sacrificing material for nonexistent counterplay, rather than try to defend an inferior position under pressure.  This type of sacrifice occurred at move 24 in the below game.  This doesn't seem to be the best approach in terms of maximizing one's results, although I respect the attempt to play for a swindle in a losing position; at some point in the future I'll post my best one.  Most of the time, however, there is not enough of a threat to warrant a swindle attempt and the material is simply lost.  That said, it is certainly more difficult psychologically to suffer for a longer period of time in the hopes of your opponent making a mistake, rather than just hoping for the best and then getting it over with quickly.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "1995.??.??"] {B10: Caro-Kann: d3 and 2 c4} 1. e4 c6 2. d3 e5 {This is a solid but unimpressive way of treating the King's Indian Attack, with the intention of playing ..d6 to defend e5.} ({Better is the variation with} 2... d5 3. Nd2 e5 4. Ngf3 Bd6) 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. Ngf3 d6 5. g3 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O h6 {more common here is developing the queenside with Nbd7 or Qc7. The move was played as prophylaxis against White using g5 for piece play.} 8. h3 Be6 9. d4 Qc7 10. b3 {consolidates c4, noted Fritz. The position is equal, with White perhaps having a little easier play, with the obvious plan of pushing c4.} c5 {This move is illustratrative of common positional errors for class-level players. Control of a key square (d5) is given up, while at the same time piece development is neglected.} ({Simple development with} 10... Nbd7 {would be fine.}) 11. d5 {White gets more space, says Fritz.} Bd7 12. c4 (12. a4 { is pointed out by Houdini. This type of prophylactic and space-gaining move is typical of master-level play, where in comparison to the game continuation, Black would have less chance to subsequently undermine White's pawn structure.} b5 13. axb5 Bxb5 14. Re1 a5 {and White's pieces will have much more scope for activity than Black's.}) 12... b5 13. Qc2 bxc4 ({The alternative plan of} 13... b4 {followed by pushing the a-pawn is suggested by the engines.}) 14. bxc4 (14. Nxc4 {is the superior capture, giving White a fine knight on c4 and Black nothing to exploit on the queenside.}) 14... a5 {Houdini had liked this move as an earlier alternative, but now favors enhancing piece activity with moves such as Qc8 or Na6.} 15. a4 {a major positional error, giving up control of b4 and allowing Black to establish a dominant knight there.} Na6 $15 16. Ba3 { this developing move actually worsens White's position, as the bishop for the time being is biting on granite at c5 and it also interferes with the protection of the a4 pawn. The only reason for it to be there, to exchange the b4 knight, will simply convert Black's positional advantage into that of a strong protected passed pawn.} Rfb8 $17 17. Rab1 Ra7 ({Better is the immediate } 17... Nb4 18. Qd1 Qc8 {with the double threat of winning either the h3 pawn or the a4 pawn (after Qe8).}) 18. Rxb8+ $15 Qxb8 19. Rb1 Rb7 20. Rxb7 Qxb7 { Black remains dominant on the queenside and retains the initiative after these exchanges, as White will have difficulty protecting all of his weak points.} 21. Nb1 (21. Kh2 {protecting h3 might be a better try} Nb4 22. Qd1 Qc8 $17) 21... Nb4 (21... Bxa4 {immediately was better, using a tactical deflection theme against the Qc2/Nb1 configuration, but I didn't spot how to exploit the Nb1 until later.}) 22. Bxb4 {essentially the losing move, without which Black would have been better, but with much more difficulty in breaking through.} axb4 23. Qb2 Qa6 {now it is clear that Black will win material and start a steamroller on the queenside. White, not wanting to lose this way, picks a different way by sacrificing material in the hopes of a counterattack.} 24. Nxe5 dxe5 25. Qxe5 Bd6 26. Qb2 Qxa4 27. e5 Bxe5 {here the unprotected Nb1 pops up again in a tactical theme.} 28. Qxe5 Qd1+ 29. Kh2 Qxb1 30. Qc7 Qc2 31. Qxc5 {superficially this looks good for White, but now we're in an endgame where the passed pawn trumps all.} b3 32. Qd4 b2 33. Bf1 Bf5 34. d6 b1=Q 35. Bg2 Qcd1 0-1

21 January 2012

Peace = Victory

Here's something that caught my eye in the mental martial art category (i.e. the Kung Fu of Chess), as a very high-level example of the importance and efficacy of mental calmness:

Right from the opening [GM HIkaru Nakamura] obtained an edge, and after a couple of mistakes by the Czech [GM David Navara], it was sac-sac-mate.  When asked whether the rest day had been the source of the pixie dust, he responded that in fact it was his game against Anish Giri. For some inexplicable reason he had left that game feeling at peace, in a mood where chess just seems easy, and even regretted the rest day, anxious to play then and there.

(The original article on round 5 of the 2012 Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee can be found here on the ChessBase site.)

20 January 2012

Annotated Game #27: English/Queen's Indian

This short draw has little in the way of middlegame fireworks, but was useful to look at for opening study purposes.  This game, which took place in the same tournament following Annotated Game #26, is from a much earlier phase of my career (pre-database) and I didn't have the line in my current opening repertoire system, which I've now updated accordingly.

I correctly remembered to pursue the basic idea from the relevant English/Queen's Indian Defense illustrated game from Nigel Povah's How to Play the English Opening, which features Romanishin's counter-intuitive development of Bd3.  However, at the time I evidently didn't recall the basic idea behind the move, which is a classic openings goof by less-developed players: studying a line without knowing the why of it, which makes it much less effective (or even dangerous) in practice.  My follow-up was therefore sub-par and my opponent was able to immediately equalize.  His own threats were in turn quickly neutralized, however, and the position became mostly closed and apparently quite drawn, although if anything with a slight plus to White (as Houdini evaluates in the end).

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A17"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "32"] [EventDate "1995.??.??"] {A17: English Opening: 1...Nf6 with ...Bb4} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. e4 Bb7 5. Bd3 {originated by Romanishin, the idea being to emphasize bishop activity instead of burying the light-squared bishop after playing d3 to support e4.} d6 {prevents e5} 6. O-O (6. Bc2 {which defers castling is normally preferred and scores well at 59%, although O-O scores much better at 77% (from an admittedly smaller selection, less than 20 games).}) 6... Be7 7. Rb1 $146 (7. Bc2 {is the basic plan for White, allowing d4 as a follow-up; 4/5 database moves have this, with 62% score.} c5 $14) 7... c5 {Black takes advantage of White's central pawn absence} 8. Re1 Nc6 9. a3 {Secures b4} O-O 10. b4 (10. Be2 d5 11. exd5 exd5 12. cxd5 Nxd5 $11 {is the line originally given by Fritz, which then allows White to activate his bishop.} 13. Bc4) 10... Ne5 {although e5 is an excellent knight outpost, Houdini prefers the plan of repositioning the Nf6 on e5, via either d7 or g4.} 11. Nxe5 dxe5 {now the Ne5 is not replaced with another knight, but a weak pawn.} 12. Qc2 Qd7 13. Be2 { the bishop finally extricates itself.} Rfd8 14. d3 {at this point, it's clear that the half-open d-file will not do Black any good.} Rac8 15. b5 {White gains space, as Fritz originally noted, further restricting Black's freedom of maneuver by taking away the c6 square.} h6 {Prevents intrusion on g5} 16. a4 Nh7 1/2-1/2

16 January 2012

Morpheus/Neo Chess Training

Loading chess training program...

Tank: "Now we're supposed to start with these endgame studies first...that's major boring shit.  Let's do something more fun, like opening preparation."

Neo: "I know the Dutch Defense."

Morpheus: "Show me."

Morpheus: "How did I beat you?"

Neo: "You calculate too fast."

Morpheus: "Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with brute force calculation?  Again."

And the program continues...

07 January 2012

"Best of" Chess Carnival now open for nominations

Submissions for the "Best of" the chess blogosphere are now open at Robert L. Pearson's chess blog, for the next Chess Carnival in February.  This is naturally quite appropriate, with Carnival/Mardi Gras taking place the week of February 20th this year.

Thoughts on my contribution are posted here.

Annotated Game #26: Nemesis; Caro-Kann Classical

The following game was against the same opponent from Annotated Game #23, who despite being listed on the crosstable with a rating of around 400 points lower, as Black bamboozled me into a draw in that game (which occurred during the previous tournament) and then in this tournament, defeated me with White.  A true nemesis!

Before posting, I looked up his ratings history on the U.S. Chess Federation site.  This made me feel somewhat better, as he was only provisionally rated and his excellent result in the previous tournament had jumped him from Class C (where he actually was at the time in the live ratings) to Class B.  Another useful example of why players should ignore ratings.

My opponent deserves credit for his excellent opening preparation, as he avoids the main line of the Caro-Kann Classical but plays his sideline quite well through move 12.  At that point, I pursue an idea from the main line variation (the thematic ..c5 break) which however lands me in trouble, due to the differences in White's setup.  The remainder of the game is a complex and remarkable seesaw where my opponent repeatedly gets in strong moves, but I either find defensive resources or (more often) he fails to follow them up and put me away. I note the following key sequences:
  • Moves 12-18:  White punishes ..c5 by creating a strong advanced passed pawn in the center and opening lines for his pieces, but lets up the pressure enough for Black to set up a blockade of the pawn and free up his forces.
  • Moves 20-22:  Black recovers from a sequence where he moves away a key defender, not seeing White's threat.
  • Moves 25-29:  Black finds a key defensive idea, but then fails to resolve White's outstanding threats.
After some more nail-biting back and forth, Black can be said to be equal as late as move 40, but then defends shallowly and inaccurately and White gets in the final blow.

The problems I faced with the game dynamics were largely psychological.  White was pressing for the entire game, while objectively Black achieved equality multiple times, recovering from White's initial threats.  However, I felt like I was on the ropes and always having to struggle against superior forces, which clouded my judgment.  Failure to look for more active options (a key point from my games in general) was also a common theme.  All in all, an instructive game to analyze.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class D (really Class B)"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "1995.??.??"] {B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nd7 7. Bd3 {This was the main line of the Classical variation prior to Spassky's innovation with the h4-h5 pawn push. Black is under less pressure and has a small overall plus score in the database.} Bxd3 8. Qxd3 Ngf6 9. O-O e6 10. Re1 Be7 11. c4 {this is the best way for White to strive for pressure and an advantage. It is clear that my opponent had done some good home preparation in this line.} O-O 12. Bf4 c5 {this is a mistake brought on by false analogy with the main line, where around this point Black wants to play the ..c5 break. Here, White's setup is different (most notably with the pawn on c4 and the Bf4) and he is able to punish Black for the oversight.} (12... Re8 {this is the preferred move, for example} 13. Rad1 Nf8 14. Ne5 Ng6 15. Bc1 Qa5 16. Bd2 Bb4 17. Bxb4 Qxb4 18. a3 Qe7 19. Ne4 Rad8 20. Nxg6 hxg6 21. Ng5 b5 22. Nf3 Qb7 23. c5 Rd5 24. b4 Qc7 25. g3 Red8 {1/2-1/2 Bisguier,A-Burger,K/USA-ch 1965/MCL 03 (25)}) 13. d5 $16 exd5 14. cxd5 { The passed pawn on d5 will quickly become a dangerous weapon, comments Fritz.} Nb6 (14... c4 {is an example of active, creative defense found by Houdini. The point being} 15. Qxc4 Nb6 16. Qb3 Nbxd5) 15. d6 {my opponent continues to play aggressively and find the best moves. Note how quickly Black's position deteriorates once the e6 pawn disappears and White's pieces have increased their open lines and scope for activity.} Re8 {Black manages to save the bishop, thanks to the unprotected Qd3.} 16. Rad1 Bf8 17. Rxe8 {this relieves the pressure on Black somewhat. Occupying e5 with a piece would keep the pressure on.} Qxe8 18. Re1 {White continues to release the pressure. Moves such as Bg5 or Nf5 are more challenging.} Qc6 {Houdini at this point evaluates the position as roughly equal. Black has a blockade of the d7 square in place and White, although more active, will have to worry about guarding the d6 pawn. } 19. Nf5 Nbd5 (19... Re8 {would significantly aid Black by getting his rook into play on the e-file, as it is doing nothing at all on a8. The failure to activate one's rooks is a common amateur mistake and shows up repeatedly in my games during this time period.}) 20. Bg3 (20. Bg5 $142 $14) 20... Nh5 $4 { an example of a failure to understand the Nf6's defensive role in this position, namely helping guard d5 and e8. Also an example of the failure of my thought process to look at my opponent's threats (falsification).} 21. Ne7+ $2 (21. Ne5 {is what the engines immediately find, as the attack on the queen drives away the only defender of the Nd5 (removal of the guard tactical theme). } c4 22. Qf3 Qe8 23. Qxd5) 21... Bxe7 $11 22. dxe7 Nhf6 {once again the position is back to objective equality. Psychologically, however, Black has suffered two major surprise blows which affects his subsequent play.} 23. Bh4 Re8 24. Bxf6 gxf6 {this looks a little strange but actually is fine, as it takes the e5 and g5 squares away from the Nf3 and keeps the centralized Nd5 in place, so a fair tradeoff for the weakened pawn structure.} 25. Re4 {seeking to immediately exploit the g-file} f5 ({Why not just play} 25... Nxe7 {and if} 26. Qe3 Qd6 $11 {? I believe I missed the Qd6 move at the time, which sets up some back-rank mating threats, due to a preoccupation with White penetrating with Qh6, which however Black can neutralize easily.} 27. Qh6 Rd8 28. h4 Nf5) 26. Re5 $14 Nxe7 {now Black has the loose f5 pawn to worry about and no longer controls g5 and e5.} 27. Nh4 (27. Qe3 $5 {would further pressure Black} Qd6 28. Qxc5 Qxc5 29. Rxc5) 27... f6 ({Black is temporarily a pawn up and should think about resolving the weaknesses of his king position in exchange for the material. Houdini finds the following move, which does the job nicely, due to the hanging Nh4 and Re5.} 27... Ng6 28. Rxe8+ Qxe8 29. Nxf5 Qe1+ 30. Qf1 Qd2 { and thanks to his active queen Black has a comfortable draw in the endgame.}) 28. Qc4+ Kf8 29. Rxc5 Qd6 (29... Qe4 {this active defensive move is immediately spotted by the engines as best. White's back-rank weakness and the hanging Nh4 are exploited in order to simplify the position in Black's favor.} 30. Qxe4 fxe4 31. Kf1 Rc8 32. Rxc8+ Nxc8 {and Black can hold the knight endgame.}) 30. Qc1 (30. Nxf5 $2 {is no good because of} Nxf5 31. Rxf5 Re1+) ( 30. g3 {however seems to solve White's back-rank problem and alllow him to put major pressure on Black, with Rc7 threatened.}) 30... Qe6 ({Better is active defense with} 30... Rd8 {threatening back-rank mate, so} 31. g3 Qd2 {and Black is OK.}) 31. h3 {finally giving the King some luft.} Kg7 {walks into a pin of the Ne7...} 32. Qf4 {which White however fails to notice, although this move also keeps the pressure on Black.} (32. Rc7 {would allow White to establish a dominant rook on the 7th rank} Qe4 33. g3 Kg8 34. Qe3 Qxe3 35. fxe3 Nd5 36. Rxb7 Nxe3 37. Rxa7) 32... Rc8 (32... Kh8 {gets the king out of the way} 33. Qd2 (33. Nxf5 b6 {threatening removal of the guard for the Nf5} 34. Qd6 Nxf5 35. Qxe6 Rxe6 36. Rxf5) 33... Rc8 34. Rxc8+ Qxc8 35. Qd6 Ng8) 33. Nxf5+ {now the capture on f5 comes with check} Nxf5 34. Rxf5 Rc2 35. Rh5 Qe1+ {this ignores White's mating threats in favor of regaining a pawn.} (35... Kh8 $5 $16 { would have been more appropriate.}) 36. Kh2 $18 Qxf2 $4 (36... Qe7 {wouldn't have lost immediately, but would have allowed} 37. Rxh7+ $1 Kxh7 38. Qf5+ Kg7 39. Qxc2) 37. Qg4+ (37. Qh6+ {is the quicker way to victory, although the game move is quite sufficient.}) 37... Kh8 38. Rf5 {allows Black to escape.} (38. Rd5 {and White has prevailed, comments Fritz, due to the threat of Rd8#} Qb6 39. Rd7 Qc7+ 40. Rxc7 Rxc7 41. h4 $18) 38... Qe2 39. Qg3 Qe6 ({At least by this point I see the problems with} 39... Rxb2 $4 {Taking that pawn is naive, says Fritz.} 40. Rxf6 Qe7 41. Qc3) 40. Qb8+ Kg7 (40... Rc8 $5 {again, active defense is the best way. Houdini finds this remarkable line} 41. Rxf6 Qxh3+ 42. Kxh3 Rxb8 43. Rf7 Kg8 {and Black has survived.}) 41. Qxb7+ Kg6 {the final losing move. On the surface it looks agressive, kicking the Rf5, but the rook's redeployment allows White to resume mating threats.} (41... Qf7 { was necessary, also protecting the a7 pawn.}) 42. Rf3 $18 Qe5+ $4 {sad, as Fritz says.} (42... Rc5 43. Qxa7 Qd6+ 44. Rg3+ Rg5 $18 {is best for Black, but it's clear the endgame is lost.}) 43. Rg3+ {a novel way to attack while interposing.} Kh6 44. Qg7+ (44. Qg7+ Kh5 45. Qxh7#) 1-0

02 January 2012

Annotated Game #25: English (Irregular); playing on while down material

This second-round game followed Annotated Game #24 and was against a Class D player.  The opening started off in an irregular fashion on move 4 with ..Bd6, although White cannot usually immediately punish these types of positional errors in the English.  In this case it led to a loss of tempo by Black, which White could have exploited better on move 8 with more active play; this was one of the useful points found in analysis that will help inform my future play.  White also could have played more actively on move 10, seizing the outpost on d5 for his knight, which is a key theme in the English.

My opponent goes astray with moves 10 and 11, where he evidently thought he could get in the central break ..d5.  A tactical point instead allows White to win a piece and then work on consolidating his advantage.  In Class-level games, however, a piece advantage in and of itself is not an automatic win, especially if there is no glaring weakness in the position of the player who is down material.  This point was made in Dan Heisman's ChessCafe article "When You're Winning, It's a Whole Different Game".  By coincidence, I happened to read this just before analyzing the game, which illustrates the point nicely - I missed at least one neat way to wrap up the game (see move 31) and on move 32 missed a pinning tactic that gave back the piece.  Luckily when the dust cleared I was still up two pawns in a winning endgame and went on to convert the point with careful play.

The overall lesson here is to not put the brain on automatic in the opening (instead look for more active play and to exploit opportunities, even in familiar setups), nor when winning and up material where there is still play left in the position.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class D"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A25"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "1995.??.??"] {A25: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 but without early d3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 Nf6 {not the usual move after choosing the Closed English setup with ..Nc6, as it blocks a potential f5 advance. This however invites White to transpose to the main line 4. g3 variation of the English Four Knights following Nf3.} 4. Bg2 Bd6 $146 {blocks the d-pawn and effectively loses a tempo. Bc5 and Bb4 appear the most in the database.} 5. d3 {Secures e4, notes Fritz.} h6 {Covers g5, as Fritz also notes. Here ..h6 is not a significant weakening move, as it can be in King Pawn openings, since White is not in a position to launch a kingside attack.} 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O Bc5 {Black decides to unblock the d-pawn after all.} 8. Nd2 (8. Nxe5 Nxe5 9. d4 Bxd4 10. Qxd4 {is a sequence preferred by the engines. Houdini gives it approximately +0.5 for White, who has a lead in development, central control and an active queen.}) 8... d6 $11 9. Nde4 Bb6 (9... Nxe4 10. Nxe4 Bb6 {would trade off one of White's central knights and keep things equal.}) 10. Rb1 (10. Nxf6+ Qxf6 11. Nd5 {would be a more active way to play, giving White the excellent outpost on d5.}) 10... Nb4 {simply a waste of time, as no threats are generated.} 11. a3 d5 $4 {an inaccurate counterattack, as the Ne4 now moves with tempo, leaving the Nb4 en prise.} (11... Nxe4 {this is the best way to fight back, says Fritz. } 12. Nxe4 Nc6 {and White will now have some momentum for queenside expansion, but nothing material.}) 12. Nxf6+ Qxf6 13. axb4 a5 {at a higher level, being down a piece with no compensation would be cause for resignation. Here my opponent chooses to fight on and I respect that.} 14. Nxd5 Qd8 15. c5 ({ Here simplifying down and developing is probably the quicker way to victory.} 15. Nxb6 cxb6 16. Bd2) 15... Ba7 16. bxa5 Bxc5 17. b4 Bd6 18. Be3 Ra6 19. Qc2 c6 20. Nb6 Bf5 21. Bc5 g6 {this only weakens h6, which could be exploited by a future Qd2.} 22. Rfc1 ({Houdini finds the following sequence:} 22. b5 Rxa5 23. Nc4 ({not} 23. Bxd6 Qxd6 24. Nc4 Qc5) 23... Bxc5 24. Nxa5 Qxa5 25. Qxc5) 22... Be6 23. Nc4 Bxc5 24. bxc5 Qc7 (24... Bxc4 {would have exchanged off this soon-to-be-dominant central knight.}) 25. Nd6 Rb8 26. Qc3 Rxa5 27. Rxb7 { this is made possible by the deflection theme present, with the queen being unable to cover both b7 and the Ra5 at the same time.} (27. Bxc6 {is also possible, due to the same tactical theme.}) 27... Rxb7 28. Nxb7 Rb5 29. Nd6 Rb8 30. Qxe5 Qa5 31. Nc4 (31. Nxf7 $1 {would have won without much further trouble, due to the discovered attack on the Rb8.} Kxf7 32. Qxb8) 31... Qb5 32. Nb6 $4 { this is exactly why it's not necessarily a bad decision to play on when down material, as the player who is up material may miss an equivalent tactic.} (32. Bxc6 {would have taken advantage of the continuing deflection theme threat of Qe5xb8.} Qb4 33. Nd6 $18) 32... Rxb6 33. Be4 ({the c-pawn is pinned, as the Qe5 is undefended} 33. cxb6 Qxe5) 33... Qb2 {the engines agree with the decision to exchange queens here, which is in this position apparently best for both sides. White's more active queen and Black's airy king position make the trade good for Black, while White now cannot let the Black queen run rampant on the second rank.} 34. Qxb2 Rxb2 35. Bxc6 Rxe2 {now that the dust has settled after the move 32 blunder, White is still winning handily, although must now work much harder for it.} 36. Be4 {a rather silly move that wastes a tempo. Bf3 or Rd1 would be more to the point.} f5 37. Kf1 Rd2 38. Ke1 Rb2 39. Bg2 Kf8 40. d4 Ke8 41. d5 {now that White has his pieces behind the connected passed pawns, they look unstoppable.} Bc8 42. Rd1 (42. d6 {and White can already relax, says Fritz.} Kd8 43. c6 Ra2 $18 44. Rb1) 42... Kd7 (42... Ba6 {puts up more resistance.} 43. Bf3 $18 Rb3) 43. d6 Bb7 44. c6+ $1 {the sacrifice allows the breaktrough of the d-pawn.} Bxc6 45. Bxc6+ Kd8 ({not} 45... Kxc6 46. d7 Rb8 47. d8=Q) 46. Ra1 Rb8 47. Kd2 {I chose here to activate the king and march it down to assist the pawn. Black's rook can do nothing to bar its way, since it can't be away from the 8th rank for long due to the back-rank mate threat of Ra8. Houdini here finds a mate in 12 starting with Ra7.} Rc8 48. Ra6 g5 49. Ke3 h5 50. Kd4 h4 51. Ke5 hxg3 52. hxg3 f4 53. gxf4 ( 53. Ke6 f3 54. Bd7 Rb8 55. Ra5 g4 56. Rh5 Rb1 57. Rh8#) 53... g4 54. f5 Rb8 55. Ke6 g3 56. fxg3 (56. Ra7 gxf2 57. Rg7 f1=Q 58. Rg8#) 56... Rc8 57. Ra8 Rxa8 58. Bxa8 {now it's a bit ridiculous for my opponent to play for stalemate with three pawns on the board and plenty of space for his king, but he soon realizes this.} Ke8 59. d7+ Kd8 60. f6 (60. f6 Kc7 61. f7 Kb6 62. d8=Q+ Kb5 63. f8=Q Kc4 64. Qd5+ Kc3 65. Qa3+ Kc2 66. Qdd3#) 1-0