17 March 2013

Annotated Game #87: Is it a Colle? A Stonewall? No, it's a bust

This fourth-round tournament game has a more satisfying feel to it than the previous "ratings draw" where I (as White) should have made the necessary effort to win the endgame, regardless of the ratings gap.  Here, as Black I am unable to play my usual ...Bf5 in response to a Colle System setup because White plays an early Bd3 - probably with preventing that move in mind.  However, opening theory and practice exists for a reason and a drawback of the unusual early bishop move is quickly demonstrated by Black, who exchanges off the d-pawn and then pressures its replacement.  The opening - which seems to be a strange mix of Colle and Stonewall Attack ideas - doesn't lose for White, but he quickly abandons any chance of an advantage while giving himself some positional flaws, so it has to be considered a bust.

By move 9 Black has the game fully in hand and White is struggling to come up with good ideas, although the position is still balanced.  Black never loses his grip and then steers the game towards a drawn ending, although the alternatives shown around move 19-20 would have allowed him to keep pressuring White in the hopes of realizing his positional advantage.  Given the 250-point ratings gap and Black's lack of a clearly winning advantage, I think a draw was a reasonable result, although it would have been useful to probe harder in the middlegame, as White had no real counter-threats.

This was an encouraging game from the improvement standpoint, as it was blunder-free and I essentially dominated things strategically from early in the opening phase against a much higher-rated opponent, even though the advantage obtained was not sufficient for a win.  In more general terms, games like these should be encouraging for us Class B players, as they help show that Class A players should not be feared.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "76"] {D00:1 d4 d5: Unusual lines} 1. d4 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. Bd3 {this prevents ...Bf5, which is my normal defense against a White setup with the pawns on e3/d4 (as occurs with the Colle System). It looks like White intends trying an accelerated Colle System or a Stonewall Attack and wants to eliminate my preferred option, but the early bishop move has its own problems.} c5 {this scores very well (60 percent) for Black.} 4. b3 cxd4 {perhaps a little hasty, although it's not a bad idea to exchange White's central pawn and open the c-file for Black.} (4... Nc6 {would maintain the tension in the center.} 5. Bb2 Bg4 6. Nf3 e6 7. h3 Bxf3 8. Qxf3 cxd4 9. Bxd4 e5 10. Bc3 e4 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Bxe4 dxe4 13. Qxe4+ Qe7 14. Qxe7+ Bxe7 {0-1 (46) Cordova,E (2567)-Glud,J (2496) Sabadell 2011}) 5. exd4 Nc6 {now we see a drawback of the early Bd3, as all of White's options for defending the d4 pawn create some sort of positional problem for him.} 6. Ne2 {this avoids the pin that would occur after Nf3, but Black plays ...Bg4 anyway in order to provoke the weakening pawn advance.} Bg4 7. f3 {Consolidates e4, notes Fritz, but this is not sufficient compensation for the weaker king position.} Bh5 8. O-O e6 9. Be3 Bd6 {Black has developed naturally and has a comfortable game, while White cannot say the same thing.} 10. Qe1 {this move is aggressive but ignores development. White appears to be playing as if this were a Stonewall Attack, but without the stonewall.} (10. c4 {would mobilize White's pawns and allow for a Bc2 retreat and a more effective eventual Nc3.} dxc4 (10... e5 $5 11. Nbc3 e4 12. fxe4 $6 (12. Bc2 exf3 13. gxf3 Bg6) 12... Bxh2+ 13. Kh1 (13. Kxh2 $2 Ng4+)) 11. bxc4 Bg6 $11) 10... Qc7 { the threat to the h-pawn is not real and this should in fact encourage White to play the best and naturally aggressive follow-up to his previous queen move. } (10... Bg6 $5 {immediately would be good.}) (10... Rc8 {would also be useful, given Black's plan of exchanging the Bd3 and fully opening the c-file.}) 11. Kh1 (11. Qh4 $5 {should be considered, comments Fritz.}) 11... Bg6 $15 { a powerful little move. White cannot initiate an exchange on g6 because it would open the h-file and the threat to h2 would then become real. He must therefore allow the exchange on d3 doubling his pawns (Qd1 or Qd2 would allow . ..Bxh2).} ({Instead of} 11... Bxh2 $2 12. g3 $16) 12. a3 Bxd3 13. cxd3 Rc8 14. Nbc3 a6 {prophylaxis against Nb5 and supporting the future ...b5 advance.} 15. b4 O-O (15... Bxh2 {still doesn't work:} 16. g3 Bxg3 17. Nxg3 Nxb4 18. axb4 Qxc3 19. Qb1 $14) 16. Rc1 b5 {with the idea of eliminating any useful White play on the queenside.} 17. Bd2 {seems like a wasted move, as the Nc3 hardly needed any more protection and the half-open e-file does nothing for White.} Qb8 18. Na2 Rfe8 19. Qf2 {steps out of the way of the Black rook, which was contemplating supporting an ...e5 pawn break, and reinforces d4.} Ne7 {Black here has a very pleasant position with a definite advantage, but no single obvious plan. Rather than try to increase my advantage, however, I focus on simplification via rook exchanges.} (19... h6 {would be a good prophylactic move against Bg5.}) 20. Qg1 (20. Bg5 {is probably the most annoying for Black.} Nd7 21. Bxe7 Bxe7 {and White at least has traded off his bad bishop.}) 20... Rxc1 (20... Nf5 {would be one way to improve Black's pieces and keep pressing for an advantage.}) 21. Rxc1 Rc8 22. g3 {White decides to put a stop to any possibility of playing ...Bxh2.} Rxc1 23. Qxc1 Qc7 {heading straight for a drawn ending via additional simplification.} (23... Nd7 $5 $11 {is how the engines suggest to play on, although the exchanges have now resulted in a dissipation of Black's previous advantage.}) 24. Qxc7 $11 Bxc7 25. Nac1 { now White's doubled d-pawns, his only real weakness, cannot be threatened by any Black pieces, so the draw is assured from here. If anything, Black has to be more careful not to let his opponent penetrate his position.} Nc6 26. Nb3 Nd7 27. Kg2 Kf8 28. Kf2 Ke7 29. h3 Ndb8 30. Bf4 Bxf4 31. Nxf4 Nd7 32. Ke3 Nb6 33. Nc5 a5 {Black's one chance to try for an advantage. However, he still will not be able to threaten White's remaining pawn effectively, so a draw is agreed in the end.} 34. bxa5 Nxa5 35. Ne2 Nc6 36. Kd2 Kd6 37. Nb7+ Kc7 38. Nc5 Kd6 1/2-1/2


  1. A solid game, but I think you should fight a little more in those strategically superior positions : the class A players aren't going to hang a full piece... :-)

    1. I completely agree, especially when there's no risk to your own position. 19...h6 followed by 20...Nf5 would have been the way to go.

  2. Hi CA,

    Nice game, you're right about ignoring ratings. If this opponent was an "A" he must've been in a coma. After 14. Nbc3 it looks he has something like 4 hanging pieces. Not many good players allow that.

    It looks like you have a decent chance for a win after 22.g3. The key after getting a winning position is invasion. Since you control the c-file, that looks like the easiest entry. Maybe 22..Rxc1 wasn't so good. Let him exchange and keep control. Maybe 22. Rc7 if 23. Rxc7 Qxc7 probably forces 24. Qc1 with the exchange and tempo then you can work on the doubled pawns for the win with maybe ..Nf5 then ..Bc7 threatening d4 and a5 weakening a3. That d4 pawn is important though because with the N's on the board c5 square is a real concern.

    1. Exchanging down as done in the game was definitely the wrong idea, albeit a safe one. After the game continuation the engines rate the position equal as of move 24 and I would agree with that, there's not enough material left on the board to exploit White's weaknesses and that c5 square is a weakness in Black's camp. I'm more savvy now (I hope) about the real effects of exchanging pieces, i.e. it's not always a path to realizing an existing advantage, if you can no longer exploit it afterwards.

  3. Hi Chess Admin, you're right, after 24... it is probably equal but you might not want to rely on the machine to analyze for you. It looks like White equalizes because of the tempo lost on 24...Bxc7 and the white B still on d2. With my line white must take a lot of time to get the N to c5 because the B is on c1 which also weakens a5. With tempo White's frozen doubled pawn's look to make Black better.

    Exchanging for tempo is a huge advantage, I remember Nimzovich stresses it in one of his classics.


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