29 September 2012

Annotated Game #65: Mercy Killing in the English Four Knights

This next tournament game sees White achieve an excellent position in the English Four Knights, as Black is too optimistic about his prospects of obtaining a good reversed Sicilian Defense position.  Black's deviation from the database with 11...Qf6 is not properly evaluated by White, however, who misses the latent threat to his Ra1 on the long diagonal.  White tries to be aggressive with 12. e4? and simply loses a pawn, also handing the initiative to Black.  White suffers thereafter and misses another simple threat, this time down the e-file, which costs another pawn.  A couple of interesting tactical resources were overlooked that would have allowed White to regain a pawn and fight on.  However, with a crushing endgame from Black looming, White misses an unusual bishop skewer on the first rank and is put away quickly - a mercy killing, one could say.

What causes lapses like 12. e4?  I was playing on autopilot through the opening and failed to start thinking properly - or really at all - following Black's 11th move.  As part of my (new) thinking process, the question should immediately have been asked what changed about the position, which (one hopes) would have led to identifying the new threat down the long diagonal.  Again, it was the transition from opening to middlegame phase that tripped me up, which was all too typical of my play during this period - and is still something that needs to be worked on.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A28"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "52"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {A28: English Opening: Four Knights Variation} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3 {White chooses central play, rather than the more common g3 and fianchetto.} d5 {attempting to go for a reversed Sicilian} 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bb5 {White uses the advantage of the move to vary from standard Sicilian Defense lines. Now Black has to worry about the e-pawn.} Nxc3 {necessary in order to follow up with the bishop move.} 7. bxc3 Bd6 8. d4 exd4 9. cxd4 {White scores nearly 60 percent from this position, according to the database. His central pawns are excellent, development is even, and he has no real weaknesses.} O-O 10. O-O Bf5 {Black can try a number of things here.} (10... Bg4 {is most played.} 11. h3 Bh5 12. Bb2 {is the GM treatment of the line, as this sample game shows.} Qf6 13. Be2 Rad8 14. Rc1 Qe7 15. Qb3 Nb4 16. Rfe1 c6 17. Ba3 Nxa2 18. Rc5 Bxf3 19. Bxf3 Qe6 20. Qxe6 fxe6 21. Ra5 Nb4 22. Rb1 b6 23. Rxa7 c5 24. Bg4 Rf6 25. Rb7 Nc2 26. Bb2 cxd4 27. exd4 Na3 28. Rc1 b5 29. d5 e5 30. Be6+ Kh8 31. Rc6 Nc4 32. Rxb5 {1-0 (32) Suba,M (2540)-Garcia Blanco,O (2237) Pamplona 2009}) 11. Bd3 Qf6 $146 (11... Bxd3 12. Qxd3 Qf6 (12... Nb4 13. Qb3 b6 14. e4 Rc8 15. a3 Nc6 16. Bb2 Na5 17. Qc3 Re8 18. Rfe1 c6 19. Rad1 Bf8 20. h4 b5 21. Bc1 Nc4 22. d5 Qc7 23. dxc6 Qxc6 24. Nd4 Qb7 25. Qh3 Rcd8 26. Qf3 {1/2-1/2 Linqvist,G-Sopanen,M/Salo 1992/EXT 2000 (26)}) 13. Rb1 Rab8 14. e4 Qg6 15. Bd2 Rfd8 16. Bc3 Qh5 17. Rb5 Qh6 18. Qc4 Ne7 19. Rfb1 b6 20. h3 c6 21. Rg5 Ng6 22. Rf5 Rf8 23. e5 Be7 24. Bd2 Nh4 25. Bxh6 Nxf5 26. Bg5 {Rubinetti,J-Bordoni,N/ Moron 1981/EXT 99/1-0 (26)}) 12. e4 $2 {White concentrates only on the fate of the knight capturing on d4 and misses the threat down the long diagonal to the Ra1.} (12. Rb1 {is what the engines prefer.} Nb4 (12... Bxd3 13. Qxd3 b6 14. Ba3 $14) 13. e4 {now this works} Nxd3 14. Qxd3 $14) 12... Nxd4 $15 13. Nxd4 ( 13. exf5 $2 Nxf3+ 14. Qxf3 Qxa1) 13... Qxd4 14. Be3 Qe5 15. f4 Qe7 {White unfortunately has not been able to obtain the one crucial tempo necessary to take the Bf5. Now it's the hanging Be3 that prevents him.} 16. Qf3 $2 {White needs to protect the Be3 with a rook rather than the queen.} (16. e5 $5 { is what Fritz preferred.} Bxd3 ({or} 16... Bc5 17. Bxf5 Bxe3+ 18. Kh1 g6) 17. Qxd3 $15) (16. Re1 Bxe4 17. Bd4 f5 18. Qb3+ Kh8 19. Bxe4 fxe4 20. Qxb7) 16... Rfe8 $17 {now White loses the battle for e4/e3.} 17. Qg3 $6 (17. exf5 {would make the best of a bad situation.} Qxe3+ 18. Qxe3 Rxe3) 17... Bxe4 18. Bd4 f5 $6 19. Bc4+ (19. Bxe4 {would allow White to exploit the a2-g8 diagonal with his queen, as in the variation on move 16.} fxe4 20. Qb3+ Kh8 21. Qxb7) 19... Kh8 20. Kh1 Bc5 21. Bb2 (21. Be5 $5) 21... Rad8 22. Rad1 Rxd1 23. Rxd1 c6 $6 { this gives White a tactical resource.} (23... Bc2) 24. Be6 {the bishop is immune due to the mate threat on g7.} Bf2 {clever attempt at a distraction. White should take advantage of the check with tempo to regain a pawn, which however he fails to do.} 25. Qc3 (25. Bxg7+ Qxg7 26. Qxf2 {and the Be6 is still immune due to Rd8.}) 25... Bd5 26. Rd2 $4 {the position was bad, and this mistake simply hastens the end, says Fritz.} (26. Bxd5 cxd5 27. h3 $17) 26... Be1 0-1

22 September 2012

Annotated Game #64: What was that opening, again?

This game is a seesaw battle in an English-QGD (Queen's Gambit Declined) setup that illustrates nicely how neither side knew the correct way to handle the position out of the opening.  This was in fact the fourth time I had faced the variation in my tournament career - see Annotated Game #50 for an earlier example -  and I had a general notion of how I wanted to play the opening (which was in fact successful).  The problem was that I still had no real idea of how to approach the resulting middlegame.  This is a typical result of amateur-level opening preparation, which fails to answer the question, "what next?" after the repertoire lines are completed.  Under these circumstances, it's as if you're seeing the opening for the first time - again and again.

Getting back to the game, White selects a positional treatment of the opening with an early b3 that aims for quietly exploiting some small advantages in development and exploitation of the c-file.  However, I rather blindly decide to pursue the b4-b5 push, which makes less sense here.  Black plays very solidly, albeit overly defensively, and then sees an opportunity to make a push in the center starting on move 16.  However, the result of this, following some "obvious" (but not obligatory) exchanges, is a vastly improved scenario for the White pieces by move 22.  Black makes a huge error on the following move by not exchanging White's advanced knight, which then leaps into an outstanding outpost and sets off an attack that plays itself.

Unfortunately for me, once the moves are no longer completely obvious, I fail to find the key attacking themes (including a threatened mate on g7) which would have resulted in a won game.  Instead, exchanges are made and the position is reduced to equality.  As happens so often, this negative change in trend continues with a rapid downhill slide by White, who fails to see a mate threat, then it's all over.

Analyzing this game was useful, as it pointed up the fact that I still need to work on handling QGD structures, which my database tells me occur more often than I think; I simply haven't studied and prepared against them enough.  The missed tactical opportunities are something that I hope I would be able to spot now, having had a great deal more training in that area.  In any case, the potential tactics against the king position and against the Be5 were well worth reviewing, for future application.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A14"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {A14: English Opening: 1...e6 with b3 by White} 1. c4 e6 {usually the signal that Black is looking for a QGD setup.} 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 Nf6 4. g3 (4. e3 { is not favored, as the bishop normally can be more effective on the long diagonal after g3 and Bg2. However, it is a solid alternative, taking away the d4 square from Black. Here is an interesting victory in the line by GM Jonathan Speelman over Shredder in '97.} c5 5. Bb2 Nc6 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Bb5 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. d4 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Bd7 11. Nc3 Re8 12. Nf3 a6 13. Be2 Bf5 14. Nd4 Nxd4 15. Qxd4 Bd6 16. Rfd1 Be5 17. Qd2 Qb8 18. g3 Qd6 19. Bf3 Rad8 20. Ne2 Ne4 21. Bxe4 Bxe4 22. Bxe5 Qxe5 23. Nd4 Qh5 24. Rf1 Rd7 25. Rac1 Rde7 26. Rc3 f6 27. a4 Kh8 28. a5 Kg8 29. b4 Qe5 30. Rfc1 Qd6 31. Rc8 Qe5 32. Qc3 Qh5 33. Qc5 Kf7 34. Rxe8 Rxe8 35. Qd6 Re7 36. f3 Qg5 37. Qf4 Qxf4 38. exf4 Bd3 39. Kf2 Bc4 40. Re1 Rxe1 41. Kxe1 g6 42. h4 Ke7 43. Kd2 f5 44. g4 Kf6 45. g5+ Ke7 46. Ke3 Kd6 47. h5 Ba2 48. h6 Ke7 49. Kd2 Kf7 50. Kc3 Bc4 51. Nc2 Ke6 52. Kd4 Bb3 53. Ne3 Ba2 54. Ng2 Bb3 55. Nh4 Kf7 56. Ke5 Bc4 57. Ng2 Be2 58. Ne1 Bc4 59. Nc2 Bd3 60. Nd4 Ke7 61. Kxd5 Kd8 62. Kc5 Kd7 63. Kb6 Kc8 64. Ne6 Bc4 65. Nc5 Bd5 66. Nd3 Bc4 67. Ne5 Bg8 68. b5 axb5 69. Kxb5 Kd8 70. Kb4 Kc8 71. Kc5 Kc7 72. Nd3 Bb3 73. Nb4 Bf7 74. Nc2 Be8 75. Nd4 Bd7 76. Kd5 Kd8 77. Kd6 Bc8 78. Nb3 Bd7 79. Nc5 Bc8 80. Nd3 Ke8 81. Kc7 Be6 82. Nc5 Bc4 83. Nxb7 Be2 84. Nc5 {1-0 (84) Speelman,J (2610) -Comp Shredder The Hague 1997}) 4... Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O c6 {a solid defensive move, Black signals that he is not looking to set up a strong center.} (6... c5 {is normally favored, as this top-level game shows.} 7. Bb2 Nc6 8. e3 b6 9. Nc3 Bb7 10. cxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 Qxd5 12. d4 Rad8 13. Ne5 Qd6 14. Rc1 Nxe5 15. Bxb7 Qb8 16. Be4 cxd4 17. Bxd4 Bf6 18. Qc2 h6 19. Bb2 Rc8 20. Qe2 Rxc1 21. Rxc1 Rc8 22. Rc2 Rxc2 23. Qxc2 Qd8 24. h4 g5 25. hxg5 hxg5 26. Kg2 Kg7 27. Qe2 Nd7 28. Ba3 Nc5 29. Bf3 Nd3 30. Qd1 a5 31. Qh1 Bc3 32. Qd1 Bf6 33. Kf1 Nb4 34. Qe2 Qc7 35. Bxb4 axb4 36. Kg2 Qd6 37. Be4 Qe5 38. Qc2 Qb2 39. Qxb2 {1/2-1/2 (39) Ivanchuk,V (2786)-Carlsen,M (2786) Cap d'Agde 2008}) 7. d3 ( 7. Bb2 {is probably more logical to play immediately, developing the piece to where it should go and controlling d4. White then has more flexibility in seeing where he wants to put the d-pawn.}) 7... Nbd7 8. Bb2 Qc7 {the queen development seems a little premature. Black typically looks to get the light-square bishop out by ...b6 here, or alternatively develops the rook to e8.} 9. Nbd2 Re8 10. Rc1 {White continues playing logical developing moves.} Bf8 {Black continues to choose solid, defensive options, in this case also looking for future play down the e-file. He is slightly behind in development, however.} 11. a3 $146 {Consolidates b4, notes Fritz.} b6 12. b4 Bb7 13. Qb3 { White plans b5, correctly comments Fritz. It's around here, however, that it becomes clear White is inexperienced with this type of position, planning to move ahead with the b4-b5 push without a real purpose behind it.} (13. cxd5 { is in fact the key move and could be played as early as move 11. Note how it was played in both the Speelman-Comp Shredder and Ivanchuk-Carlsen games earlier. The exchange of c for d pawn leaves Black with less central pawn control.}) 13... Rac8 14. Rfe1 Qb8 15. a4 {White prepares the advance b5} (15. e4 {is what the engines prefer, striking in the center to exchange one of Black's pawns.} dxe4 16. dxe4 {is fine for White.}) 15... c5 (15... e5 { would initiate central counterplay for Black immediately.} 16. b5 $11) 16. b5 { although the b-pawn no longer has a target, it still serves a useful function by seizing control of the c6 square. Later, this gives White an outstanding knight outpost.} d4 {Black gets more space, notes Fritz, but locking the center does not deter White from further queenside play.} 17. Ra1 (17. a5 { without preparation is recommended by Houdini, as Black cannot hold the pawn.} bxa5 18. Ra1 Qc7 19. Qa2 a6 20. bxa6 Bxa6 21. Qxa5) 17... e5 (17... a5 { would have been a try to neutralize White's chances on the queenside.} 18. bxa6 Bxa6 19. a5 bxa5 20. Rxa5 Qd6) 18. e3 {White starts to lose his nerve here and play switches to the center, which in relative terms should favor Black.} (18. a5) 18... dxe3 {this and the following decisions by Black open up the center - but to good effect for White, as several of his pieces now become active. Maintaining the tension would have allowed Black to keep things under control.} (18... Qc7 $5) 19. Rxe3 e4 (19... Rcd8 {would at least have re-activated the rook.}) 20. dxe4 (20. Nxe4 {was the correct way to initiate the sequence, as Black is not obliged to take on e4 after the pawn capture, which would leave the Nd2 without much to contribute.}) 20... Nxe4 21. Nxe4 Bxe4 22. Rae1 { now compare the reach and activity of White's pieces versus where they were on move 18.} Bf5 {the Bishop is hanging on f5 and should have been retreated to g6 immediately, as will be seen.} 23. Ne5 Bd6 $4 {according to Houdini, what should have been the losing move, equivalent to dropping a piece in the engine evaluation. The knight now can reposition itself on the beautiful c6 outpost and Black's kingside lacks adequate defenders.} (23... Nxe5 24. Bxe5 Bd6 $16 { is the engines' line.} 25. Bxd6 Rxe3 26. Qxe3 Qxd6 27. Qe7) 24. Nc6 $18 Rxe3 25. Qxe3 Qc7 26. Qg5 Bg6 27. Bh3 Rf8 28. Ne7+ Kh8 (28... Bxe7 {does not solve anything} 29. Rxe7 Qd8 30. Bxd7 f6 31. Qe3 $18) 29. Bf5 $2 {White up until here has been playing obvious moves, without fully understanding the position. He thus misses the underlying tactical threat, which is the mate on g7.} (29. Bxd7 {ends the debate, notes Fritz.} Bxe7 (29... Qxd7 30. Qh6 f6 31. Nxg6+ Kg8 32. Nxf8) 30. Qxe7 $18) 29... Ne5 30. Nxg6+ {unimaginatively trading down, again missing some useful tactical threats (to e5 and h7).} (30. Bxe5 $5 Bxe5 31. Bxg6 Bf6 32. Qh5 $18 h6 33. Bxf7 Bxe7 34. Bd5) 30... fxg6 $16 31. Bxe5 Bxe5 32. Bh3 {again missing the desperado tactic. Now the position is back to equal, judges the engines.} (32. Bxg6 hxg6 33. Qxe5) 32... Bd4 $11 33. Re7 {sensing no danger.} (33. Re2) 33... Bxf2+ 34. Kh1 $6 {never a good idea to give your king fewer squares than necessary.} (34. Kg2 Qd8 35. Qe5 Bd4 $11) 34... Qd8 $15 35. Qe5 $4 {still no sense of danger.} (35. Bd7 $142 $15 {would hold things together.}) 35... Qd1+ 36. Kg2 Qg1# 0-1

18 September 2012

The importance of CCT: example #4 - Lasker's Manual of Chess

Continuing the series on Checks, Captures and Threats (CCT) is the following excerpt from Lasker's Manual of Chess ("21st Century Edition", Russell Enterprises) found in the Third Book: The Combination.
"The consideration of forcible moves is necessary because in this way a short road to victory, provided it is on the board, can be discerned.  The method is also practical because it eliminates all consideration of the immense multitude of nonviolent moves and concentrates the attention upon a few possibilities which the human mind can easily digest."

15 September 2012

Annotated Game #63: Third time's the charm (?)

The first game of my next tournament is already covered in Annotated Game #3: Attack of the Clones (as the original, not the copy).  The second game isn't quite a clone, but it is yet another disappointing example of turning a Caro-Kann into a French (see Annotated Game #47).  If the practice of analyzing a game a week for this blog does nothing else for my game, it will ensure that I never do this again, this being the third time I have seen this error.  Let's hope there's not a fourth one lurking out there...

Unlike the previous efforts, at least I managed to secure a draw in this game.  White's cramped 7. Nd2?! development probably gets most of the credit for this, as does his failure to find a recurring tactical theme of trapping my light-square bishop on the queenside.  Black's setup isn't horrid, but it lacks counterplay until White allows some maneuvering by the Nc6.  The final position is interesting, as White's rooks are cut off from each other and Black ends up chasing the one on the 7th rank around.

Some lessons learned from the analysis:
  • Never get off the boat play ...e6 in the Caro-Kann Advance when there's still a chance to meaningfully develop the light-square bishop.
  • Properly evaluate the effects of minor piece trades, to ensure that you're not getting the worse end of the deal (move 9).
  • Look for the most active square for your minor piece and place it there (move 14).
  • Be wary of taking away squares from your own advanced pieces (moves 18-19)

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {B12: Caro-Kann: Advance Variation} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Be3 cxd4 6. cxd4 e6 $146 {d'oh!! Now all Black has is a tempo-down French defense.} ({Better is} 6... Bf5 {says Fritz. Apparently even it figured this one out by now, after looking at my games.}) 7. Nd2 $6 {a passive version of the knight development which allows Black to obtain equality. The knight is far from the action and clogs up the d2 square.} (7. Nc3 Bd7 $14 {and White is going to have an easy and pleasant game.}) 7... Nge7 8. Ngf3 Nf5 9. Bd3 Nxe3 {a move illustrating that that the time, I had little real conception of how to evaluate the quality of minor pieces. The Be3 is locked in by the d4 pawn and therefore is of lesser value. Also, following fxe3 White no longer has to worry about protecting d4 and has the nice half-open f-file.} (9... Qb6 $5) 10. fxe3 Be7 11. O-O O-O {Black here is fine, but White still has the easier game.} 12. Rc1 Bd7 13. Nb3 (13. a3 {would have been a prophylactic move, denying Black the chance to generate some immediate counterplay with the knight.}) 13... Nb4 14. Bb1 {White correctly avoid the trade, as his light-square bishop is much more valuable in this position than the knight.} Ba4 (14... Bb5 { is preferable, as it gets the bishop to a useful diagonal and helps keep White from building up on f1.}) 15. a3 Nc6 16. Qd3 {now Black's minor pieces definitely look misplaced and useless compared to White's. However, Black's defenses still hold.} g6 17. Nc5 Bxc5 18. Rxc5 a6 {doesn't Black wish his bishop had gone to b5 back on move 14? Now he has to prepare it.} 19. Rfc1 Bb5 {unfortunately, Black doesn't prepare it enough. Now White could gain tactical threats on the queenside because of the bishop's lack of squares.} (19... Na5) 20. Qc3 {White misses the threat.} (20. Qc2 Qe7 21. b3 {and now the bishop's squares are gone, requiring Black to go into some contortions.} Na7 (21... b6 $5 22. Rxb5 axb5 23. Qxc6 Qxa3 24. Qc2)) 20... Ne7 (20... Be2 $5) 21. Qe1 Bc4 { the e2 square is no longer available for the bishop. However, the Rc5 is now exposed to the threat of ...b6.} 22. Qh4 Nf5 $6 (22... Kg7 {is the correct defense, allowing the rook to come to h8 for the defense of h7.}) 23. Qxd8 Rfxd8 24. Bxf5 gxf5 25. Rc7 b5 26. Ng5 {Begins the manoeuvre Nf3-g5-h3-f4, which is rather slow.} (26. Nd2 $5 $14 {would again set up the b3 advance.}) 26... Rf8 27. Nh3 a5 28. Nf4 a4 {Black now locks out the b3 advance.} 29. h3 Rac8 30. Rb7 Rb8 31. Ra7 Ra8 1/2-1/2

10 September 2012

Breaking Through to the Next Level

Breaking through barriers is something common to all sports.  Some are harder than others, but reaching a level of true mastery is never easy and often requires many years of struggle.  Many never achieve it, lacking the necessary will, effort, or simply the ability.  All three are required.

As a follow-up to the Chess vs. Tennis post, I'm very pleased to congratulate Andy Murray on his first Grand Slam title, having won the U.S. Open in a five-hour marathon match.  No one could doubt his tennis ability before; now, no one can say that he is not a master of the game.  It's been interesting to see how he has taken his training and mental preparation to the next level, which is what was needed for his own breakthrough.  It can serve as an inspiration for all those looking to achieve mastery of their chosen sport.

09 September 2012

Annotated Game #62: One Must Think in the Opening

This last-round tournament game illustrates the importance of understanding your opening repertoire and being able to think on your own in the opening phase.  After inaccurate play from White (7. c4), Black prematurely launches the ...c5 break on move 9.  Although this pawn break is in fact a standard theme in the Classical Caro-Kann, here it only serves to validate White's inaccurate 7th move and gets an underdeveloped Black in trouble quickly.  Black would have had an easy path with simple developing moves and should have understood that the pawn break needed to be more fully prepared; normally it comes later (moves 12-15) in other variations.

Instead, White is handed an excellent attacking opportunity, which he takes after completing his development, gaining a clear advantage by move 12.  Black neglects his defense of the evil e-file and should have been punished for it on move 15, where the engines show White winning a piece.  However, White loses his nerve and goes for two piece exchanges.  The exchanges allow White to wreck Black's kingside pawn structure, but the disappearance of the attacking pieces and Black's extra pawn mean that the position is level.  White makes some additional demonstrations on the kingside, but his decision to again exchange an attacking piece on move 21 leads eventually to the draw.

Again I am struck by the usefulness of analyzing your own games as an improvement practice.  Had I been serious about this earlier in my career, it would have led more quickly to better performance.  In this case, the neglect of the e-file should have led to a loss and meant that Black was happy to end up with a draw.  My tendency to neglect this necessary defensive aspect of the position was evident in the previously analyzed game, but the lesson had not been learned.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "74"] {B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. c4 {there are only a handful of games in the database with this move. It is premature in several respects, as White should keep the c-pawn in reserve to later drive away a knight posted on d5 or block the e1-a5 diagonal.} e6 8. Bd3 $146 {now out of the database.} Bxd3 9. Qxd3 c5 {while the c5 break is a basic idea for Black in many lines, here it is very premature and cedes control of d5, in the process making White's earlier c4 useful.} (9... Bb4+ {would most likely lead to an exchange of bishops on d2, removing a key attacking piece for White. ...Nbd7 would also be a useful developing move here.}) 10. d5 $14 Be7 11. O-O O-O 12. Re1 {White's advantage is now clear, with his pieces well positioned to attack down the e-file and on the kingside. Meanwhile, Black has no counterplay to speak of and must concentrate on defense.} exd5 13. Nf5 Nc6 (13... Re8 {would be more solid.}) 14. Bg5 {a conventional use of the bishop.} (14. Bh6 {is what Houdini likes, immediately putting Black's king in jeopardy.} gxh6 15. Qe3 Ne8 16. Qxh6 { with a strong attack.}) 14... d4 $2 {Black fails to bring up the necessary defensive reinforcement.} (14... Re8 15. Ne5 Nxe5 16. Rxe5 Bf8) 15. Nxe7+ $2 { White loses his attacking nerve and simply exchanges down.} (15. Ne5 {is the win spotted by the engines.} Nxe5 16. Rxe5 $18 {and now in contrast with the previous variation with 14...Re8, the hanging bishop on e7 is fatal for Black.} Bd6 17. Rd5) 15... Nxe7 $11 16. Bxf6 gxf6 {now Black's extra pawn is compensation for his weak kingside structure. White no longer has sufficient attacking forces to break through there.} 17. Nh4 (17. b4 {is preferred by the engines, in order to undermine Black's queenside pawns.}) 17... Ng6 18. Nf5 Re8 {the rook finally gets into the action.} 19. h4 {White evidently still has hopes for a breakthrough on the kingside.} Qc7 20. h5 Ne7 21. Nxe7+ {White keeps exchanging off his attacking pieces.} Rxe7 22. f4 $6 {this loses a pawn, although Black declines to take it.} (22. h6 {is the logical continuation, given the previous h5 push. Now Black would have to pay close attention to his defenses, although they are adequate.} Rxe1+ 23. Rxe1 Qf4) 22... h6 {Black thinks safety first.} (22... Rxe1+ $5 23. Rxe1 Qxf4 24. Rf1 $17 {I recall that I didn't like the optics of this - White's pieces and the h-pawn look rather menacing, given the air gap in front of Black's king. However, it would be easy for Black to simplify down into an ending where White had all the losing chances.} Qe3+ 25. Qxe3 dxe3) 23. Qg3+ Kh8 24. Rxe7 {essentially forced, otherwise Black will double rooks on the e-file.} Qxe7 25. Re1 Qd6 26. Qf3 Qc7 27. Qe4 Rd8 {the rook enters the game very usefully. Black finally has some threats of his own involving the passed d-pawn.} 28. g3 Kg7 29. Kf2 Qd7 30. Qe7 b6 {safe but drawish.} (30... Qc8 $142 $5 $17 {would preserve the queen, which has the potential to help Black support a breakthrough. For example} 31. Re2 d3 32. Rd2 b5 33. cxb5 c4) 31. Qxd7 $15 Rxd7 32. Re8 {correctly getting to the 8th rank in order to tie Black up with potential threats in his rear. The king will be able to stop the d-pawn.} f5 {controls e4 and g4 and gives the king an opening on f6.} 33. Ke2 f6 {Black is out of ideas on how to make progress, but White in any event should be able to easily hold the draw.} (33... d3+ 34. Kd1 $11) (33... Kf6 34. Ra8) 34. a3 $11 Kf7 35. Rh8 Re7+ 36. Kd2 Kg7 37. Rb8 Rd7 1/2-1/2

03 September 2012

Annotated Game #61: English vs. KID - danger in the center

This fifth-round tournament game followed Annotated Game #9, which was an interesting look at the 5. Nc5 sideline of the Caro-Kann Classical favored by Fischer.  Here we return to the theme of the King's Indian Defense (KID) setup against the English.

Black's choice of playing ...c6 instead of ...Nc6 allows him to better fight for the d5 square, always a key one for the English.  The drawback is that the pawn on c6 gives White a target for his b4-b5 queenside push.  The early middlegame is always a critical time in these types of positions, as White can either gain the initiative on the queenside, or cede it to Black in the center or kingside, depending on who uses their initial moves most effectively.

In this game, White waits too long for the key b5 push, then when he does make it, it is (ironically enough) insufficiently prepared due to Black's threats on the long diagonal.   By move 16, Black has largely defused White's threats on the queenside and opened the key e-file.  However, he then exchanges away his beautiful Bg7 and White is perhaps slightly better afterwards.  White fails to see some complicated tactical possibilities on move 22 and the position then is equal.

What happens on move 24 is very instructive.  White goes for a cheap threat pinning the Nc5 to the queen without bothering to calculate Black's response (...Qd5+), which is an example of failing to see the opponent's Checks, Captures and Threats (CCT).  Black's check immediately frees him up to take advantage of the ...Nd3 fork threat, which White completely misses, although there was still a defense.  Once Black goes up the exchange, the game is won.

In this game, I failed to appreciate the significance of Black's central counterplay, both originally with his 14...e4 push uncovering the attack on the Nc3 (although I had seen the threat) and then with the ...Nd3 fork and queen maneuver (which I completely missed).  The analysis of this game should help me increase the necessary sense of danger in such situations.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A24"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "62"] {A24: English Opening vs King's Indian: Lines without ...Nc6} 1. c4 d6 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 e5 6. d3 c6 {the main alternative to Nc6 in the KID. Black fights directly for the d5 square.} 7. O-O O-O 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bxf6 { the logical conclusion of the Bg5 choice. White eliminates a strong piece on the kingside, at the cost of giving Black the two bishops.} (9. Be3 $5 { is favored by Houdini, who prefers to retreat the bishop after creating the weakness on h6.} Ng4 10. Bd2 Be6 11. Qc1 Kh7 12. Qc2 {is one possible line of play.}) 9... Qxf6 (9... Bxf6 {is slightly more often played here, with excellent results for Black. The queen move seems premature and White scores well (60 percent). However, Houdini considers the two essentially equivalent.}) 10. Rb1 Be6 11. Nd2 {this move uncovering the Bg2 would be better saved for later, when White actually has a threat against b7/c6.} (11. b4) 11... Nd7 12. b4 Rab8 {this allows White to move forward without a challenge.} (12... Qe7 13. Qc2) (12... a6) 13. a4 {this wastes a tempo by over-preparing the b5 advance.} (13. b5 $5) 13... Qe7 14. b5 {now, ironically, the advance is not sufficiently prepared, as the Qf6 is no longer a target and Black's f-pawn is free to advance.} (14. Qc2) 14... e4 {uncovering the attack on the unprotected Nc3.} 15. Qc2 (15. Ncxe4 $2 {is no good because of} f5 $19) 15... exd3 16. exd3 { Black has done well by opening the e-file, a potential invasion route for him on the kingside.} Bxc3 $6 {Black gives away the two bishops and opens the long diagonal for White's queen.} (16... Rbc8 $5 $11 {was Fritz's preference.}) ( 16... Ne5 {is Houdini's recommendation.}) 17. Qxc3 d5 18. Rfe1 Qd6 19. d4 c5 20. cxd5 Bxd5 21. dxc5 Nxc5 22. a5 {here I didn't see that ...Nxa4 wouldn't work, although the reason why isn't obvious.} (22. Bxd5 {was Fritz's choice and involves a pawn sacrifice that pays off six moves later, although it's not clear if White has anything more than equality.} Qxd5 23. Re5 Nxa4 24. Qe3 Qd6 25. Nc4 Qf6 26. Rb4 Nb6 27. Nxb6 axb6 28. Rh4) (22. Rbd1 {is the clever move found by Houdini, involving a discovered attack on the Bd5 or in some variations the Qd6, along with some fancy footwork by the Nd2.} Nxa4 $2 (22... Bxg2 23. Kxg2 Nxa4 $2 (23... Nd3 24. Ne4 Nxe1+ 25. Rxe1 Qd5 26. Kg1 Qf5 27. Nf6+ Kh8 28. Nd7+) 24. Qa1 Nc5 (24... Qd5+ 25. Ne4 Qxb5 26. Nf6+ Kh8 27. Nd7+) 25. Nc4 Qc7 26. Ne3 $16) 23. Qa1 Nc5 24. Nc4 Qc7 25. Bxd5 $18) 22... Bxg2 23. Kxg2 Rbc8 24. Qb4 {White doesn't realize the danger here, in this case creating a potential knight fork on d3 for Black. The pin on the Nc5 is easily disposed of, with tempo.} (24. Qe3 $5 {would keep things equal.}) 24... Qd5+ $15 25. Nf3 $2 (25. Kg1 {would allow White to play on, for example} Nd3 26. Qe4 ) 25... Nd3 $19 {now Black wins the exchange, as Nxe1+ means that Qe4 no longer works.} 26. Qh4 Nxe1+ 27. Rxe1 Kg7 {here Houdini prefers taking the b5 pawn, which it sees as leading to a quicker victory with the 2v1 queenside majority.} 28. Re5 Qd8 29. Qxd8 Rfxd8 30. Re7 Rb8 31. Ne5 $4 {White forgets that a king can fork its opponent's pieces.} (31. Rc7 {would have prolonged things.}) 31... Kf6 0-1