23 February 2013

Annotated Game #84: Piece exchanges and draw offers will lose you the game

This was from the first round of the next tournament following Annotated Game #79.  While the previous tournament had a bad vibe to it from the beginning, this one was considerably better overall.  The fact that I was paired in the first round against a strong Expert player was a big benefit for me, as I didn't feel any pressure to win due to the 500-point ratings gap between us.  My opponent on the other hand did not appear to be as happy and looked even less happy after I had built up a fine-looking position out of the opening, an English - Grunfeld defense setup.

Black makes the first significant error on move 12, unnecessarily moving his rook away from the defense of the f7 square.  I was able to take advantage of this and by playing obvious moves had obtained a clearly superior position as of move 15.  At this point my lack of positional judgment starts to show, however, as I choose the wrong square for the retreat of my knight.  This is followed by allowing Black to exchange his so-so knight for my excellent light-square bishop on move 18, which marks the real strategic turning point of the game.  One of the things Class players often lack is a sense of the importance of piece exchanges and this game is an excellent illustration of the consequences.  Black immediately obtains the initiative and the bishop-pair, allowing his pieces to spring to life and target what are now some obvious White weaknesses.

Despite White's forced retreat, Black misses some chances to leverage his positional advantage for tactical gains (including 23...Bb5!) and White re-achieves equality, making a draw offer that is rejected.  Nowadays I've given up the practice of early draw offers in favor of emphasizing mental toughness, but even then I have to admit it was rather rude, given the ratings gap, not to mention being overly optimistic.  Indeed, a few moves later White plays the complacent 27. Nd3? and this time Black does not miss his chance to inflict material losses on White, who eventually loses after trading down into a bishop (for Black) endgame.

Although this was a loss, the game in fact left me in a relatively positive mood for the rest of the tournament.  I had made a 2100+ player sweat through the early middlegame and did not simply collapse after his first counterblow.  This positive frame of mind helped in my later games.  This was also the first tournament I played in after beginning to train with Qigong breathing exercises (part of my Taijiquan martial arts practice), which also appeared to have a positive effect on my mental outlook.  More on that later.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Expert"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A16"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "128"] {A16: English Opening: 1...Nf6 with ...d5} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. Nf3 g6 {entering a Grunfeld-type structure.} 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Ba3 O-O 8. Bc4 Nd7 9. d4 {White is more or less obliged to play d4 either now or shortly afterwards, as the pawn does little for him on d2 and the d3 advance would leave the c3 pawn undefended.} c5 10. O-O cxd4 (10... Qa5 {used to be the favored move. Here's an example of a White win in the line, in a game between two high-level American GMs.} 11. Qb3 a6 12. Ng5 e6 13. Nxf7 Rxf7 14. Bxe6 Ne5 15. Bxf7+ Nxf7 16. Bxc5 Qb5 17. f4 Qc6 18. f5 gxf5 19. exf5 Bd7 20. Rae1 Qb5 21. Rf3 Re8 22. Rxe8+ Bxe8 23. Qe6 h5 24. h4 Bd7 25. Qe7 Qb1+ 26. Rf1 Qb5 27. f6 Bh6 28. Qe4 Kh8 29. Re1 Qb2 30. Qf3 Qd2 31. Re2 Qc1+ 32. Kh2 Bf4+ 33. g3 Bh6 34. d5 Bb5 35. Re7 Qd2+ 36. Kh3 Kg8 37. c4 Ba4 {1-0 (37) Gurevich,D (2490)-Fedorowicz,J (2560) Durango 1992}) (10... Qc7 {has scored much better for Black and is the recent favorite.}) 11. cxd4 Nb6 12. Bb3 (12. Be2 {is an alternative which would leave the b3 square open for the queen.}) 12... Re8 $14 {this is an error, as it weakens f7 unnecessarily.} (12... Bg4 $11 {is logical, developing with the pin on the Nf3 and is Houdini's first choice.}) (12... a5 $5 {was Fritz's preference, with the idea of pushing ...a4 and dislodging the bishop.}) 13. Rc1 {White moves his rook off of the long diagonal (where it was subject to threat by the Bg7) and onto a valuable open file.} a5 14. Ne5 e6 ( 14... Bxe5 {is Houdini's recommendation, bailing out into a slightly inferior endgame.} 15. dxe5 Qxd1 16. Rfxd1 a4 17. Bd5 e6 18. Bc4 Nxc4 19. Rxc4 $14) 15. Qf3 {any time White can get in this move in a queen pawn opening, usually he's doing well. Here White's pieces are all well-placed, in contrast with Black's uncoordinated forces.} f6 16. Ng4 {White starts going wrong with this retreat to the wrong square.} (16. Nc4 {would exchange off Black's useful knight and leave him backwards in development.} Nxc4 (16... a4 {would offer White the chance to sacrifice a pawn for some strong pressure.} 17. Nxb6 Qxb6 18. Bc4 Qxd4 19. Rfd1 Qb6 20. h4) 17. Bxc4 Bd7 $14) 16... a4 $11 17. Bc4 Bd7 (17... Nxc4 {Black should take the chance now to eliminate White's excellent bishop and obtain the bishop-pair for himself.} 18. Rxc4) 18. Qd3 (18. Bd3 $14 { was a missed opportunity. The bishop is well-placed on d3 and the subsequent minor piece exchange after the text move favors Black.}) 18... Nxc4 $15 { suddenly Black is able to take over the initiative, activating his pieces and targeting White's weaknesses.} 19. Qxc4 Bc6 20. f3 Rc8 21. Rfd1 h5 22. Nf2 Bh6 23. Rc2 $2 {this is one of those cases where the decision on which square to move a piece is very important, without obviously appearing to be.} (23. Rc3) 23... Qd7 $6 (23... Bb5 $1 {would win the exchange now. If the rook were on c3 and Black attempted this, the queen would simply move to b4.} 24. Qxb5 Rxc2 25. Qxa4 Rxa2 $17) 24. Qb4 {I recall offering a draw around here, or perhaps a little earlier, which was naturally rejected by my higher-rated opponent. The focus on achieving a draw was no doubt detrimental to my play.} Bb5 25. Qb2 { overly passive.} (25. Rxc8 {would be the active choice.} Rxc8 26. d5) 25... Bc4 {this seems unnecessarily complicated. I believe he may not have considered my next move.} (25... Rxc2 26. Qxc2 Rc8 27. Qb2 Be3 28. Kh1 Ba6 {and Black has all the chances.}) 26. Bc5 b5 27. Nd3 $2 {this completely ignores my opponent's coming tactical threats.} (27. Qa3 $5 $11) 27... e5 {the Bc5 is now undermined and White will have to lose the d4 pawn.} (27... Be3+ {is a superior way of executing the threat.} 28. Kh1 e5 $17 {and as a result Black can win the d4 pawn with his e-pawn, establishing a dominating position.}) 28. d5 $2 {Not the best move objectively, but it at least requires Black to find the following tactic.} (28. Nf2 $15 {is the best defense here, but White will have a miserable time for the rest of the game anyway.}) 28... Rxc5 $1 $19 29. Nxc5 Be3+ {Theme: Double Attack} 30. Kh1 Bxc5 {Black has two bishops for the rook, giving him a material and in this case positional plus.} 31. Qc1 Kg7 32. h4 f5 33. Rxc4 {I make a desperate attempt to hold the position. It should have been played on the previous move, before the weakening h4.} bxc4 34. Qxc4 Bd6 {at this point the win for Black becomes, as the saying goes, a matter of technique. Black opts for safety first with the blockade of the d-pawn.} 35. Rc1 fxe4 36. Qxe4 Qf5 $6 {this unncessarily lets White have some activity, by leaving the a-pawn and the Bd6 hanging.} (36... Rf8 $5) (36... Rb8) 37. Qxa4 ( 37. Rc6 Qxe4 38. fxe4 Be7 $19) 37... Qf4 38. Qxf4 exf4 39. Kg1 {although the material difference here is slight, White's two disconnected pawns have no hope of survival.} Re5 40. Rd1 Kf7 41. Kf1 Ke7 42. Re1 $2 {I prefer to try my chances in a bishop ending, although this is objectively worse.} (42. Rd4 Rf5 $19) 42... Kf6 (42... Rxe1+ {seems even better} 43. Kxe1 Bb4+ 44. Kd1 Kd6) 43. a4 Rxe1+ {now Black goes for it, entering the final decisive phase of the endgame.} 44. Kxe1 Ke5 45. Kd2 Bb4+ 46. Ke2 Kxd5 47. Kd3 Be1 48. a5 Bxa5 49. Ke2 Bd8 {an example of why it's better to be a piece up in the endgame.} 50. Kd3 Bxh4 {the position is completely resignable now.} 51. Kc3 Be7 52. Kd2 Kd4 53. Ke2 g5 54. Kd2 Bb4+ 55. Ke2 Bc3 56. Kf2 Kd3 57. g3 Be5 58. gxf4 Bxf4 59. Kf1 Ke3 60. Kg2 g4 61. fxg4 hxg4 62. Kg1 Kf3 63. Kf1 g3 64. Kg1 Be3+ (64... Be3+ 65. Kh1 g2+ 66. Kh2 g1=Q+ 67. Kh3 Qg3#) 0-1

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