17 February 2013

Annotated Game #83: Rocky Rook Revenge Match

Although the ill-fated Double My Egg Nog tourney was never finished - only a single serving - Rocky Rook was still able to play our second round game.  In the first round game linked, he had won an interesting struggle in the Colle System, featuring two key blunders from myself, so I was looking forward to evening the score with some better play.

In my previous Round Turkey game against Rocky as White (Annotated Game #73), he played a sort of Old Indian type setup as Black.  This time, he started off with 1...g6 and I expected him to go into a King's Indian Defense setup eventually.  Instead, he surprised me with an early 3...c5 and took the game into the Symmetrical English, which is relatively rare at the Class level.  I therefore don't have a lot of experience with it, but Rocky seemed to have even less, so I found that somewhat encouraging heading into the middlegame.

The middlegame opens up after Rocky's 13...b5, which although objectively fine (according to Houdini) I felt played into White's hands strategically.  Essentially Black is forced to drop a pawn as a result of the move, but could have gained full compensation after the variation 16...Rc8, which establishes a strong center and kicks White's pieces around.  In the game continuation, Black remains active, but White is able to consolidate on the queenside and activate the passed a-pawn after Black initiates an exchange of knights.  I was, however, forced to think hard and find "only" moves that would protect material and at the same time give my pieces their necessary activity.

The last phase of the game occurs after Black's 23...Rc2 dangerously unbalances the position.  While the rook is threatening-looking on the second rank, White's attack on Black's back rank comes first and White's minor pieces are able to combine with the queen on an effective attack on Black's king, while White's rook and king hold the defense together.  The most challenging part of the calculation was when I had to find 29. Bd4, breaking a pin on White's queen by force, in order to finish the attack.

Thanks to Rocky for another well-fought game.  The key difference this time was my lack of blundering (always helpful!) and more accurate calculation.  I realized early on in the game that a Symmetrical English would require patience from me in order to eventually make progress, so having that mindset was a useful assist to my play.

Hopefully Rocky and I can do a regular set of matches; it would be good to get a monthly game going, for example.  It makes a difference having someone available to regularly challenge you, since it's not as easy to hide your weaknesses from them as it is with random tournament opponents.

[Event "rated standard match"] [Site "Free Internet Chess Server"] [Date "2013.02.10"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "RockyRook"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A16"] [WhiteElo "1671"] [BlackElo "1701"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "3600+5"] {A16: English Opening: 1...Nf6 with ...d5} 1. c4 g6 {in my experience, this usually presages a KID type setup against the English.} 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. g3 c5 { this choice makes it likely that we'll eventually transpose into a line of the Symmetrical English or the Hedgehog.} 4. Bg2 Nf6 5. O-O d6 6. Nc3 O-O 7. d3 { instead d4 would transpose to a King's Indian Defense variation.} Bd7 {I didn't think it was a good idea for Black to choose to place the bishop this early. It weakens b7 and it's not clear what the best square for it is. However, it does position itself to go to c6 and helps keep some control of b5. The database shows White scoring 78 percent from this position.} (7... Nc6 { is the overwhelming choice here and scores only a little over 50 percent for White.}) 8. Rb1 a6 $146 {this lets White get in b4 immediately.} (8... a5 { would restrain b4;}) (8... Bc6 {seems like a logical continuation of the bishop development.}) 9. b4 cxb4 10. Rxb4 Bc6 11. Qc2 {this is where White has to think about his preferred middlegame setup and how to develop the queen and dark-square bishop. The hanging Nc3 usually means that the queen or bishop needs to cover it, or White risks tactics based on a discovered attack from the Bg7.} (11. Bd2 {is a logical alternative, as Bd2 is often played in the main line Symmetrical variations. I was hoping for a more active development of the piece.}) (11. e4 {is also playable, with a lock on the d5 square, and was something I considered. However, the drawback of cutting off the Bg2 made it less appetizing.}) 11... Nbd7 12. h3 {Secures g4, in anticipation of playing Be3.} Rb8 (12... Rc8 {looks like a better spot for the rook, opposite the Qc2.}) 13. Be3 b5 {here I thought that Black was playing White's game strategically, allowing White to concentrate everything on the queenside. White is normally better placed to establish at least a small advantage there, so perhaps more activity in the center was indicated. Tactically, this just seems to lose a pawn, although we'll see later that Black can obtain compensation.} 14. cxb5 axb5 {White now has the more active position and an obvious target in the Black b-pawn.} 15. Nd4 {this is more effective now that the pawn exchange has occurred on b5, as Black no longer has the possibility of capturing on c4.} Bxg2 16. Kxg2 Qa5 (16... Rc8 {instead would allow Black to strike back with a series of threats against White's vulnerable piece positions.} 17. Rxb5 e5 18. Nb3 d5 19. Bc5 Nxc5 20. Rxc5 Rxc5 21. Nxc5 Qd6 22. N3a4 Rc8 $11 {and now play could continue} 23. Qd2 d4 (23... Rxc5 $6 24. Nxc5 Qxc5 25. Rc1 $16 {and Houdini evaluates the R+P as being advantageous against Black's B+N combination.})) 17. Rxb5 $14 {the extra tempo earned by the attack on the queen is very helpful to White.} Qa8+ 18. Kh2 Rxb5 19. Ndxb5 {White's queenside now hangs together well, with the knight supporting each other and the pawn on a2 protected twice. White should still be careful about Black's actions on the queenside, in order to avoid being caught with an overloaded piece or similar tactic.} Rc8 20. Qd2 (20. Qb3 {is Houdini's preference and was the other possibility I considered, since it would have maintained control of d5. However, it would then have allowed a pin of the b5 knight or a free tempo for black with ...Nc5.}) 20... Nd5 {superficially this looks like it generates some pressure for Black on the queenside. However, Black is still playing White's game strategically and the exchange of minor pieces helps make White's passed a-pawn that much more important.} (20... h5 {is an idea from Houdini, looking to stir up some counterplay or at least a distraction on the kingside.}) 21. Nxd5 {forced} Qxd5 22. a4 {clearly best, as it gets the passed pawn moving while also protecting the knight at its outpost square.} Qb3 { I had seen this far after Black's move 20, but had been unsure of how best to continue, so thought for while here.} 23. Qa5 {is the active choice to protect the pawn, as now (so I thought) Black could no longer play ...Rc2.} (23. Qd1 { is much too passive.}) 23... Rc2 {Black plays it anyway. This looks threatening but the rook is needed more on defense than on offense.} (23... Qe6 24. Qa7 h5 25. a5 $16) 24. Qd8+ (24. Qa8+ $5 {I admit I didn't even consider this possibility until after the move was played and it didn't seem like it would make a difference.} Nf8 25. Rc1 Rxc1 26. Bxc1 h5 $18 {White gives up some of his direct kingside attack, but now the a-pawn becomes a monster.}) 24... Nf8 $16 25. Qxe7 Qxa4 {Black's premature pawn-snatching is swiftly punished.} (25... Rxe2 $5 {is better here, although White is still in control.} 26. Rc1 {threatening to go to either c8 or c7 as necessary to support the attack.} Qxa4 27. Nxd6 Qa2 28. Kg1 $16) 26. Nxd6 $18 Qa2 27. Ne8 Rxe2 $2 { this no longer works, as White is a tempo up on the move 25 variation where ... Rxe2 is played immediately. White can now use that tempo to eliminate the Bg7.} (27... Ne6 {would be the way to fight on into the endgame, although it looks bad for Black.} 28. Nf6+ Bxf6 29. Qxf6 Qb2 (29... Rxe2 $2 {a poisoned pawn} 30. Ra1 $18) 30. Qxb2 Rxb2 $18 {and White should be able to convert the two extra pawns into a win.}) 28. Nxg7 Kxg7 29. Bd4+ {the point behind the capture on g7, as the pin on the bishop is now broken by force.} Kg8 30. Qf6 {mate is now inevitable.} Rxf2+ 31. Rxf2 {RockyRook resigns} 1-0

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