28 August 2013

Annotated Game #103: Right ideas, wrong moves

This round two Slow Chess League tournament game saw me go down in flames early in a Caro-Kann Panov variation.  The opening in general can be a little tricky for Black, as if he's not careful White can make some quick threats on the kingside and tactics also loom in the center.  Black should be able to equalize with correct play, naturally, but I was unfamiliar with this particular line and made incorrect strategic choices at key points, helping lead me into a game-ending blunder:
  • The first strategic choice occurred on move 10, when I play ...a6.  Not a bad idea in itself, but the logical follow-up of ...b5 and ...Bb7 never happens, stranding the bishop on c8 until its development is problematic (and in fact loses the game for me later!)  The database shows how Korchnoi used the ...Na5 idea, which gains a tempo on the Bc4 immediately, allowing the ...Bb7 development.
  • After White goes for the immediate liquidation of his isolated queen pawn (IQP), Black goes for the exchanges on d5 and then goes adventuring with the knight on b4.  The immediate 13...Bf6 or on the subsequent move would have concretely improved Black's pieces and started making threats down the long diagonal.  I eventually play this, but at a point where its impact is lessened and my position in the meantime has been weakened.
  • By move 16, Black is faced with another choice under worse circumstances, of how to blunt White's pressure on the h7 pawn.  I chose a superficially active move (...f5) that had a much greater drawback of opening the a2-b8 diagonal, which is what White soon after uses to defeat me.
This game, in addition of being a reminder of the importance of CCT with the losing move, also served to illustrate how one can have some of the right ideas and recognize good candidate moves, but fail to execute them properly (or at all).

[Event "Slow Swiss #8"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2013.08.27"] [Round "2"] [White "skilledwolf"] [Black "ChessAdmin_01"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D40"] [WhiteElo "1477"] [BlackElo "1175"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "45"] {D40: Queen's Gambit Declined: Semi-Tarrasch with e3} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Nc3 Be7 7. Bd3 dxc4 {the typical rejoinder to Bd3, leaving White with an isolated queen's pawn and making him move the bishop twice in succession.} 8. Bxc4 Nc6 9. O-O O-O 10. Bf4 {there are a wide divergence of possibilities here for White. The text move is fairly aggressive and reinforces White's control of e5.} a6 {the first critical strategic choice by Black. The idea of course is to play b5 with tempo on the Bc4 and then develop with ...Bb7, as can occur in similar opening variations. Unfortunately I never get the chance to execute this.} (10... Na5 {occurred to me afterwards as a possibility and it was played by Kortchnoi in the following game, where the Black bishop was in fact successfully developed on the long diagonal.} 11. Bd3 b6 12. Qe2 Bb7 13. Rfd1 Nd5 14. Nxd5 Qxd5 15. Qe5 Rfd8 16. Qxd5 Bxd5 17. Ne5 a6 18. b3 Bd6 19. Bd2 Bxe5 20. dxe5 Bxb3 21. axb3 Rxd3 22. Bxa5 Rxd1+ 23. Rxd1 bxa5 24. Rd6 g5 25. g3 Kg7 26. Kg2 Kg6 27. g4 Rb8 28. Rxa6 Rb5 29. h3 h5 30. gxh5+ Kxh5 31. Ra7 Kg6 32. Ra6 Rxe5 33. Rb6 Re4 34. Rb5 Rb4 35. Rxa5 Rxb3 36. Ra7 f5 37. Ra6 Kf6 38. Ra8 Rd3 39. Ra6 Ke5 40. Ra5+ Ke4 41. Ra6 e5 42. Ra4+ Rd4 43. Ra3 Rd8 44. Ra4+ Kd5 45. Ra6 Ke4 46. Ra4+ Rd4 47. Ra3 f4 48. Ra8 Rc4 49. Ra3 Kd4 50. Ra5 Rb4 51. Kf3 e4+ 52. Kg4 Rb2 53. Ra4+ Kd3 54. Ra3+ Ke2 55. Kxg5 f3 56. Re3+ Kxf2 57. Rxe4 Kg3 58. Re3 Rb5+ 59. Kg6 Kf4 60. Re1 Rb6+ 61. Kg7 Kg3 62. Re3 Rb4 {0-1 (62) Franco Raymundo,E-Kortschnoj,V (2640) Havana 1966 }) 11. d5 {White chooses to go for the immediate liquidation of the IQP. The .. .Na5 idea would also serve Black well here, removing the Bc4's support for d5 by force.} exd5 (11... Na5 $5 {and Black would exchange knight for bishop after either Bb3 or b3.}) 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Nb4 $146 {this is dubious for some classical reasons, including the oldie but goodie about moving the same piece twice in an opening without furthering development. The idea was to finally get the Bc8 developed on the long diagonal, but White simply retreats to e4 and spoils that, so Black is left without any concrete gains.} (13... Qb6 {would have been an improved version of the idea, as the following game illustrates:} 14. Qc2 Nb4 15. Qb3 Nxd5 16. Qxd5 Be6 17. Qd2 Rfd8 18. Qe2 Bf6 19. Ng5 Bf5 20. Rad1 h6 21. Ne4 Qxb2 22. Qc4 b5 23. Qc6 Bxe4 24. Qxe4 Qxa2 25. Qc6 Rac8 26. Rxd8+ Rxd8 27. Bxh6 b4 28. f4 {Gaspersic,M-Orel,S (2040) Kranj 1997 0-1 (38)}) (13... Bf6 {was something I had considered and would have been an easier road to equality. Black could be saddled with the isolated, weak c-pawn but have the two bishops (or BvN with an open board) and plenty of piece activity to compensate.} 14. Bxc6 bxc6 15. Be5 Be6) 14. Be4 Qb6 {in contrast with the previous variation with an earlier Qb6, the move does not come with tempo (without the knight on b4 it would attack the undefended b2 pawn) and White can simply kick the knight in response.} (14... Bf6 $5 15. Bd2 a5 16. a3 Nc6) 15. a3 (15. Re1 {is recommended by Houdini as a more active developing move, although the text move suffices to give White a small advantage.} Bc5 16. Qe2 Be6 17. a3 Nd5 18. Be5 {and the storm clouds are gathering on the kingside over Black's position.}) 15... Nc6 16. Qc2 {here is another point where I had several choices, but all of them defensive now. I try to get creative and avoid the positional compromises that would occur after moving the h- or g-pawns, but it turns out that opening the a2-g8 diagonal is worse.} f5 $6 (16... h6 17. Be3 Qb5 $14) 17. Bd3 {this surprised me during the game, as I thought White would immediately seize the diagonal.} ( 17. Bd5+ $5 Kh8 18. Rfe1 Bf6 19. Rad1 $16 {and Black has major problems, with his problem light-squared bishop and drafty kingside, while White thoroughly dominates the center with his pieces and can use that to launch a kingside attack eventually.}) 17... Bf6 {I start playing more actively, which is good, although it would have been much better several moves earlier.} 18. Rab1 Nd4 { Houdini thinks this is OK, but tactics are looming on the diagonal and it would have been prudent to immediately remove the king from it.} (18... Kh8) 19. Nxd4 Bxd4 20. Rfe1 Be6 $4 {here I played this quickly as being "obvious" to block the diagonal, without doing a CCT/blunder check. After White played his (surprising) next move, only then did I see the fact that White could follow up with the Bc4 skewer.} (20... Kh8 $14 {was possible, notes Houdini.}) 21. Rxe6 $1 $18 {the game is now over, but I play on a couple moves more in the hopes of my opponent blundering back, which doesn't happen.} Bxf2+ 22. Kh1 Qd4 23. Qc4 1-0

25 August 2013

Annotated Game #102: In which I fail to crush my enemy

In this first-round game of an online 45 45 tournament game in the Slow Chess League, I singularly fail to crush my enemy as I should have.  Out of the opening, I take advantage of an overloaded bishop on g7 to win a pawn and then pick up an exchange with a skewer.  After this, however, I must give full credit to my opponent for his strong resistance and constantly seeking active ways to make threats.  This eventually pays off as I fail to find winning ideas at key points and barely manage to avoid a mate threat.  At the end, low on time and with an uncertain endgame, I go into a threefold repetition.  While not the result I wanted, it was great for training purposes and points out how I need to be more steely in the face of danger (real or imagined).

[Event "Slow Swiss #8"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2013.08.22"] [Round "1"] [White "ChessAdmin_01"] [Black "MathBandit"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A24"] [WhiteElo "1250"] [BlackElo "1450"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "105"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "45"] {A24: English Opening vs King's Indian: Lines without ...Nc6} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. O-O e5 7. d3 Na6 {the knight is normally better off on c6 or d7. The difference her is that it can go to c5 and then on to e6 after it's kicked by b2-b4.} 8. Rb1 Be6 $146 (8... c6 {is suggested by Houdini, focusing on the fight for the d5 square.} 9. Bg5 $11) (8... Nc5 $5) 9. b4 {White moves ahead with his queenside expansion plan.} Qd7 {the threat here is to exchange off the Bg2, which is doing much more for White than its counterpart is for Black. I decide to pre-empt this possibility with the next knight move.} 10. Ng5 $16 {this opens up an attack on the b7 pawn and threatens to exchange on e6. Houdini already assesses the position as a pawn up equivalent for White.} Rab8 11. Qc2 (11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. Qb3 {is Houdini's preference.}) 11... Bg4 12. b5 (12. h3 $5 {I thought a good deal about this possibility, but in the end decided it didn't give White enough. The engine favors it, however.} Be6 (12... h6 {was what I thought my opponent would likely play.} 13. hxg4 (13. Nxf7 {I did not consider but is evaluted favorably by Houdini.} Bxh3 14. Nxh6+ Kh7 15. Qd2 $16) 13... hxg5 14. Bxg5 Nxg4 {at the time didn't seem to promise much, but it compares favorably with the game continuation, as White obtains the two bishops and keeps the initiative.}) 13. Qb3 $16 {keeping a lock on d5.}) 12... Nc5 $14 13. Be3 h6 14. Nge4 {although exchanging on c5 as recommended by the engine makes positional sense, I was hoping to target h6 later on.} (14. Bxc5 dxc5 15. Nge4 Qe7 $14) 14... Ncxe4 15. Nxe4 b6 $2 {the obvious way of protecting the a7 pawn, but now White takes advantage of the overloaded Bg7 and picks up the h-pawn.} (15... Nxe4 {played first would prevent the tactic and lead to equality.} 16. dxe4 b6 $11) 16. Nxf6+ $16 Bxf6 17. Bxh6 Rfe8 {missing the skewer.} (17... Rfd8 $16) 18. Bc6 $18 Qe6 {here I thought for a while in order to make sure Black did not have any tricks involving the hanging Bh6.} 19. Bxe8 Rxe8 20. Qd2 (20. Be3 Bh3 21. Rfc1 {would have been a simpler way to continue.}) 20... Qf5 {Black intends e4, notes Houdini. The e2 pawn is weak and White ends up bringing his bishop back to e3 in any case.} 21. Be3 e4 22. dxe4 Qe6 $2 {this provides a free pawn for White and with that a stronger position in the center.} (22... Qxe4 23. Rb3) 23. f3 Bh3 24. Rfc1 Kg7 {the idea being to eventually be able to protect the Bh3 by moving the rook to h8. However, this allows White to force a bishop trade and move closer to realizing what should have been a victory.} 25. Bd4 Bxd4+ 26. Qxd4+ Kh7 27. Re1 {this is not a bad move in itself, but it represents the failure to find the correct winning plan and the start of White's problems. I was unsure how to finish Black off, so decided to shore up e2 in case the e-file was later opened (following ...f5, for example).} (27. Rb3 {is the easiest way for White to make progress. The rook can then go to a3 and Black cannot prevent the queenside breakthrough, while g4 is also threatened. One possible continuation is} Qe7 28. g4 f5 29. exf5 gxf5 30. Qf4) 27... f6 {Black renews his plan to bring the rook to h8.} 28. Rbc1 (28. Kf2 { was something I actively considered and probably should have played here. It defends e2 again, is a safer square for the king, and renews the threat to the bishop after g4.}) 28... Kg7 29. a4 (29. Rc3 {again would work, bringing the rook to the third rank in order to swing it to the a-file. I unfortunately failed to find this idea, instead focusing on how the file could be opened with the a-pawn.} Qc8 $18) 29... Rh8 30. Qf2 {I continue to play defensively and again while not bad in itself, it represents how White is losing the thread of the game. I need to activate my rooks and make threats against Black, not allow him to reorganize his pieces.} g5 31. g4 {I'm forced to make the best move here, finally.} Rh4 {this was a clever way of ensuring the bishop's protection, but of course has the drawback of walling the pieces off on the h-file. I start taking Black's kingside threats (sacrifice on g4) too seriously and make a weak queen move, when sidestepping with the king would have been best.} 32. Qg3 $2 {I had thought this was a solid defensive move, but then realized that it offers a free pawn to Black and an out for this bishop. This marked a major turning point, as White is still winning afterwards, but Black has many more practical chances.} (32. Kh1 $18 {and White wins, says Houdini.}) 32... Bxg4 33. Kf2 (33. fxg4 $2 Rxg4) 33... Bh5 34. Rg1 Rh3 35. Qg2 Be8 36. f4 (36. Ke1 $142 Bh5 37. Qf2 $18) 36... Kf8 $2 { I was too focused on defense, thinking this would force a queen exchange, to pick up on the obvious tactic.} (36... Rh4 37. fxg5 f5 38. Qf3 Rxe4 39. Rg2 $18 ) 37. Qg4 $2 {throws away the win.} (37. f5 Qe5 38. Qxh3 Qf4+ 39. Qf3 Qh4+ 40. Ke3 $18) 37... Rxh2+ $16 {an excellent in-between move spotted by my opponent, and very disheartening for me. We now head into an endgame where move choices are not at all obvious and my time on the clock is limited.} 38. Ke1 $6 { there's no need to give up the pawn.} (38. Ke3 Qxg4 39. Rxg4 $16) 38... Qxe4 $11 39. fxg5 Qe3 {also a surprise move for me. My calculating and thinking process had broken down under pressure. However, I find the only defensive move.} 40. Rc2 Qf2+ 41. Kd2 $2 {the king has two squares, I was unable to calculate well at this point and just picked this one on general principles. Black now has a win.} (41. Kd1 Bh5 42. Qg3 Qd4+ 43. Rd2 Bxe2+ 44. Kc1 Qa1+ 45. Kc2 Bd1+ 46. Rgxd1 Qa2+ 47. Kc1 Qa1+ 48. Kc2 Qa2+ 49. Kc1 Qa1+ 50. Kc2 $11) 41... Rh4 $2 {I breathed a sigh of relief after this, since it allowed me to get the queens off the board with a small tactic.} (41... f5 {is winning for Black, as the queen can no longer protect e2.}) 42. Rg2 $18 {Houdini evaluates this as winning for White again.} Rxg4 43. Rxf2 Rxg5 44. Rxf6+ Ke7 45. Rf1 { again I'm unsure of exactly where to go, but this should be OK.} Bg6 46. Rc3 { the correct idea, activating the rook on the third rank, but now I fail to follow up on it.} Rg4 47. Re1 $6 {passive.} (47. Re3+ Be4 48. Kc3 $18) 47... Rd4+ $16 48. Ke3 Re4+ 49. Kf3 Rh4 50. Kg3 {at this point I have 5 minutes on my clock to my opponent's 20 and am not interested in taking any risks in playing out a difficult endgame, so I go for the draw by repetition. Ways White could have played on:} (50. Rcc1) (50. Rg1) 50... Re4 51. Kf3 Rh4 52. Kg3 {Twofold repetition} Re4 53. Kf3 1/2-1/2

24 August 2013

Chess Blogs That Used to Be Good (and might be again)

For those who haven't seen it, Blue Devil Knight's Blogotypes post was one of the most popular ever on a chess blog.  Here's what could be considered a new blogotype; ironically enough, BDK's blog heads the list.  Perhaps you can identify some other examples.

Blogs That Used to Be Good (and might be again)
These chess blogs used to frequently titillate the reader with witty, useful or simply entertaining content, but no one really knows when they'll be updated again or if the blogger still cares about his/her followers.  Bloggers who are dead (or at least dead to the chess world) are ineligible. 

Confessions of a chess novice

BDK's tour de force of bloggery.  Follow this former Knight Errant of the Michael de la Maza (MDLM, not to be confused with MDMA) school through his journey into the world of chess improvement, the Seven Circles of Hell, and entertainment galore.  Blog derailed due to child and Post-World Open Stress Disorder.  However, he is Only Mostly Dead; has been seen at the International Chess School forum and in the occasional blog comment.  (Arguably could also be considered Blogotype #12.)

Soapstone's Studio

Highly creative and entertaining story-based annotated games (see Saving Private Ryan) mingled with reflective chess improvement insights (Goblet O'Training) and periodic chessic existential angst (perhaps the reason for infrequent appearances).  Not completely dead, having been sighted in 2013.  Seeing a link to this set me thinking about the blogotype.

Robert Pearson's Chess Blog

The Artist Formerly Known as Wahrheit is still alive and kicking, but posts are infrequent and limited to links to occasional flashes of activity at the Chess Improver.  Mysterious allusions are made to "projects in a different field" he is working on.  Anything to do with the Area 51 project declassification?


Contains a mix of endless speculation on the thinking process, real-world examples analysis, and repeatedly changing theories.  Helped firm up my appreciation of the importance of CCT even after the blog moved on to other theoretical pastures.  I haven't always agreed with his posted conclusions - which sometimes contradict themselves over time - but the posts always made me think.

Blunder Prone

An entertaining blog by an everyman chess/guitar player you want to root for.  Tournament experiences (including the aptly hilarious Grinch vs. Whoville series), historical stories and improvement insights are all abundant.  Derailed by family upheaval and professional reinvention.  Comeback possible?

Castling Queen Side

Clever title from this experienced chessplayer/TD/instructor who documents her travels and travails in the chess world.  Some great tournament posts from far afield, including Bermuda, interspersed with the pain of "cracktion" and chess parents.  Other interests like Tae Kwon Do may have taken over from chess (or at least chess blogging).

19 August 2013

Training quote of the day #5: Conan the Barbarian

Mongol General: ...Conan! What is best in life? 
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. 
Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

18 August 2013

Commentary - Tromso 2013 FIDE World Cup round 3.1

The ongoing FIDE World Cup tournament in Tromso, Norway has produced a number of upsets.  In the first game of round 3, Levon Aronian was defeated in a Dutch Stonewall by Evgeny Tomashevsky.  It is a model game for Stonewall aficionados, in which Black's mastery of the opening's ideas and strategic themes is evident throughout.  I'll have to take a look at Tomashevsky's past games to see if there are some similarly instructive wins as Black.

Some notable elements of this game:
  • Black's use of opening transposition to get a favorable version of the Modern Stonewall as of move 6.
  • The correct strategic decision by Black to transfer the light-squared bishop to the kingside.
  • How the early pawn exchange in the center was favorable for Black.
  • Black's strategic achievement of opening the f-file, set up by the thematic 16...Ne4
  • Black's seizing of the initiative and White's inability to generate any counterplay after move 19.
  • How naturally Black's kingside attack develops and then bursts in a flurry of piece activity targeting the f3 pawn, after temporarily sacrificing the key "stonewall" d5 pawn along the way.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2013"] [Site "Tromso NOR"] [Date "2013.08.17"] [Round "3.1"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Tomashevsky, Evgeny"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D30"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "116"] [EventDate "2013.08.11"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c6 4. e3 Bd6 5. Bd3 f5 6. O-O Nf6 {we now have a Modern Stonewall setup for Black. White, having been diverted from playing the usual and more theoretically critical fianchetto with Bg2, now has a Colle-type setup.} 7. b3 Qe7 {in order to preempt any White plans to exchange off the Bd6 by playing Ba3.} 8. Ne5 {an aggressive and possibly premature move; Bb2 is normal here, followed by additional piece development.} O-O 9. Bb2 Bd7 { starting the classical bishop maneuver to the kingside. The more modern development is with ...b6 and Bb7, but with the Ne5 and Bd3 placed where they are, this method of developing the bishop would appear to be less effective.} 10. Nc3 Be8 11. cxd5 cxd5 {knowing when to exchange central pawns is an art in the Stonewall. Here it seems to work in Black's favor, as the central tension has been released and White no longer has any threats there. White can try to obtain play down the c-file, but Black will be able to defend easily enough.} 12. Rc1 Nc6 13. Nb5 Bb4 14. a3 Ba5 15. Be2 {preventing ...Bh5 by Black and getting the bishop on to a more useful diagonal in general.} a6 16. Nc3 Ne4 { a thematic Stonewall move. Black is happy to open the f-file for his rook if White exchanges on e4. Similarly, if White played f3 to kick the knight, it would have a good square waiting on g5, while the Be2 would be worse off.} 17. b4 Bc7 18. Nxe4 fxe4 {by this point Black must have been very happy with his game. Although the engine evaluation is even, Black has fully equalized and has accomplished his strategic goals out of the opening. The initiative now passes to him.} 19. Qb3 {it's unclear what this was intended to accomplish, beyond linking the rooks. The queen turns out to be awkwardly placed and away from the developing kingside action.} Bxe5 20. dxe5 Qg5 21. Kh1 $6 {Perhaps White thought his opponent would take the offered e5 pawn. Houdini recommends simply bringing the queen back to d1, in order to prevent the next bishop move by Black.} Bh5 (21... Nxe5 $6 22. Rc7 {and White has compensation for the pawn, having regained some initiative and counterplay on the queenside.}) 22. f3 Qh6 $15 {Black can choose when to exchange pawns, due to the pin against the hanging Be2.} 23. Rce1 exf3 24. gxf3 Rf7 $17 {Black's play continues to flow naturally from the position; doubling rooks on the f-file is possible, as is supporting the g-pawn with a rook on g7 if it advances. Meanwhile, White struggles to do something meaningful.} 25. Bc1 Bg6 {done in order to provide the queen with additional squares on the h-file.} 26. e4 Qh3 27. exd5 Nd4 { Black rightly ignores the pawn for the time being and switches over to active attack mode, having identified f3 as White's weak point.} 28. Qd1 Nxe2 29. Qxe2 Bh5 30. Kg1 {White has to avoid the fork of king and queen.} Bxf3 31. Qf2 Qg4+ 32. Qg3 Qxg3+ 33. hxg3 Bxd5 {Black emerges from the middlegame struggle with an extra pawn for the endgame, which he converts nicely.} 34. Be3 a5 35. b5 a4 36. Rxf7 Kxf7 37. Rf1+ Kg6 38. Rf4 h6 39. Kf2 Bb3 40. Rg4+ Kh7 41. Rd4 Rc8 42. b6 Rc2+ 43. Ke1 Ra2 44. Bc1 Rg2 $19 45. Bf4 Rg1+ 46. Kd2 Ra1 47. Kc3 Rxa3 48. Kb4 Ra1 49. Bd2 Bd5 50. Bc3 Ra2 51. Rd3 Kg6 52. Rd4 a3 53. Rd3 Kf5 54. Bd2 Ra1 55. Bc3 Ra2 56. Bd2 Ke4 57. Re3+ Kd4 58. Bc1 Rc2 0-1

11 August 2013

Slow Chess League

In place of training games against computer opponents, which I've never been very enthusiastic about, I've started playing in the Slow Chess League at Chess.com.  It's organized by the Dan Heisman Learning Center and has an impressive organization behind it, including very active and helpful TDs.  After a player has qualified for the league by playing in a single Micro-Swiss game - a process which helps orient you to the league logistics and also helps weeds out unreliable players - all of the other tournaments are available for signup.  Standard time control is 45m/game+45s move increment (45 45), but there are also tournaments at 90 30.  Games are played on a weekly basis and scheduled at a mutually convenient time.

From my qualifying Micro-Swiss game (which is Annotated Game #101 in the database), I learned a few new things and was also reminded of some past issues with my play.  Specifically:
  • Exchanging down into a worse endgame was a poor strategic decision and the root of why I lost; see Annotated Game #4 (my GM Alex Yermolinsky simul game) for a similar development.  essentially, the decision to exchange queens on move 22 rendered my queenside space advantage into a weakness rather than a strength.
  • The calculation error on move 30 sealed my fate, after having felt negative psychological pressure from the worsening trend of the game.  The outsize effect of game trends is something that Yermolinsky covered well in his book The Road to Chess Improvement.

[Event "Live Chess"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2013.08.10"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin_01"] [Black "ATaleOfTwoCities"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A26"] [WhiteElo "1164"] [BlackElo "1814"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "45"] {A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O e5 7. d3 Nc6 8. Rb1 a5 9. a3 {all standard developing moves to this point. White will force through the b-pawn advance and try to leverage a space advantage on the queenside.} h6 { preventing the standard White plan of Bg5 and exchanging the Nf6.} 10. b4 axb4 11. axb4 Be6 12. b5 Ne7 13. Nd2 d5 14. cxd5 {the first major decision point; White has several different options. Here I opt for opening the c-file, with the idea of eventually playing Qc2 and placing a rook on c1. The pawn on b5 in this case plays a useful role.} (14. Bb2 {is equally popular, for example:} c6 15. bxc6 bxc6 16. Ra1 Rb8 17. Na4 Nd7 18. Qc2 Re8 19. e3 f5 20. Rfc1 g5 21. Nb3 Bf7 22. cxd5 cxd5 23. d4 e4 24. Ba3 Ng6 25. Bd6 Ra8 26. Bh3 Be6 27. Qc6 Bf8 28. Bxf8 Ndxf8 {Sunye Neto,J (2520)-Urday Caceres,H (2475) Sao Paulo 1998 1/2-1/2 (45)}) (14. Qb3 {is played with a similar frequency, though not as successfully.}) 14... Nexd5 15. Bb2 Re8 16. Nde4 $146 {I liked the centralizing of the knight here, although it may not be the most effective move; playing Qc2 earlier, as in the sample game below, seems less committal.} (16. Nc4 {I considered during the game, but decided it did not promise enough. A sample continuation:} Nxc3 17. Bxc3 e4 18. Na5 Bg4 19. Nxb7 Qc8 20. dxe4 Ra2 21. e5 Nd7 22. e6 Bxe6 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. Qd4+ Nf6 25. e3 Bh3 26. Nc5 Bxg2 27. Kxg2 Qa8+ 28. Kg1 Rd8 29. Qf4 Qc8 30. Ra1 Rxa1 {Stanec,N (2504) -Freitag,M (2390) Tweng 2007 1/2-1/2 (41)}) (16. Qc2 {is the preference of both Houdini and legendary GM Ulf Andersson, as shown in this game.} Nb4 17. Qc1 Nfd5 18. Nc4 Nxc3 19. Qxc3 Nd5 20. Qc2 Nb4 21. Qb3 Nd5 22. Rfc1 f6 23. Ra1 Qd7 24. Ra4 Kh7 25. Rca1 Rab8 26. Ra7 Bf8 27. Ba3 Bxa3 28. R1xa3 Qe7 29. Qb2 Qc5 30. R3a5 Nb6 31. Ne3 Bc8 32. Ra1 Re7 33. Rc1 Qd6 34. Qa3 Qd8 35. Rc5 Rg7 36. Qc1 Qd6 37. Rc2 f5 38. Ra3 Be6 39. Rac3 f4 40. Nf1 Nd5 41. Bxd5 Bxd5 42. Rxc7 Rbg8 43. Nd2 h5 44. Ne4 Bxe4 45. dxe4 fxg3 46. hxg3 Qb4 47. R2c4 Qxb5 48. R7c5 Qb6 49. Rxe5 Rf8 50. Rec5 Rgf7 51. f3 h4 52. gxh4 Rf4 53. Kg2 Qe6 54. Rc7+ Kg8 55. Qb2 { 1-0 (55) Andersson,U (2640)-Temirbaev,S (2480) Yerevan 1996}) 16... Nd7 { my opponent thought this was not the best move. Houdini agrees with him.} ( 16... Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Qe7 18. Qd2 $11) 17. Nxd5 Bxd5 18. Qc2 f5 {the expected follow-up to the 16th move.} (18... Nf8 19. Ra1 Rc8 20. h4 $11) 19. Nc5 (19. Nd6 $5 Bxg2 20. Nxe8 Bxf1 21. Nxg7 Kxg7 22. Rxf1 $16 {Houdini evaluates this as the equivalent of a pawn up for White. Black is going to have trouble covering his weaknesses with the c- and e-pawns, among other things.} Rc8 23. e4 c6 24. exf5 cxb5 25. Qb3 gxf5 26. Qd5 {is one possible continuation.}) 19... Nxc5 20. Qxc5 Bxg2 21. Kxg2 Qd6 {unexpected by me. Here I thought for a while and made a poor strategic decision, to exchange queens. The only alternative I looked at was Rfc1 and it didn't seem to give White anything. My opponent suggested Qc4+, which allows White to significantly improve his position by gaining a tempo and forming a battery on the c-file while avoiding the immediate queen exchange. Houdini agrees.} 22. Qxd6 (22. Qc4+ Qe6 23. Rfc1 Qxc4 24. Rxc4 $14) 22... cxd6 $11 23. Ra1 Kf7 24. e4 {I played this in order to fix Black's e-pawn and prevent tactical ideas based on the hanging Bb2.} Ke6 25. Rxa8 {unnecessary and begins White's slide into negative evaluation territory.} (25. Rfc1) 25... Rxa8 26. Ra1 Rxa1 27. Bxa1 {at this point the engine gives Black a slight edge. White certainly has the more difficult game, due to the advanced b-pawn, which in the endgame is now a weakness.} d5 28. exf5+ gxf5 29. f4 Bf6 30. Kf2 $6 (30. fxe5 Bxe5 31. d4 {this is the move that I missed in my calculations and why I played 32. Kf2. Other moves here give a significant plus to Black.} Bf6 $11) 30... e4 {this looks good for Black, who holds all the cards now.} 31. Bxf6 Kxf6 32. dxe4 dxe4 33. g4 $2 {desperation} (33. Ke3 h5 34. b6 $19) 33... fxg4 34. Ke3 Kf5 35. b6 h5 {and it's inevitable that Black wins the endgame.} (35... h5 36. Kd2 Kxf4 37. Kd1 e3 38. Ke2 h4 39. Kf1 g3 40. h3 Kf3 41. Ke1 g2 42. Kd1 g1=Q+ 43. Kc2 e2 44. Kb3 Qxb6+ 45. Kc4 e1=Q 46. Kd3 Qeb1+ 47. Kc4 Q1b3#) 0-1

04 August 2013

Commentary - Dortmund 2013 round 6

The Kramnik-Fridman game from round 6 of the Dortmund tournament is an outstanding example of high-level master chess.  Some thoughts on it, in addition to the game annotations:
  • Kramnik adopts a strategy in the English vs. Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) setup that he is very familiar with. Although White's setup at first glance appears passive, in fact it contains significant kingside attacking prospects, once Black's early pressure in the center is dealt with. The fact that overall White has scored close to 60 percent from the inoffensive-looking position on move 8 is, I suspect, evidence that the White players who adopt this strategy simply understand the position to a much deeper level than their opponents.
  • Tactical defense is used multiple times by Kramnik in this game to good effect, covering his weaknesses in a dynamic fashion and not tying down his pieces unnecessarily.
  • Kramnik' sacrificial attacking idea that begins with 20. f6 is something born from deep positional understanding of the problems Black will face afterwards on the kingside.  It takes Houdini a few moves down its primary path before it is able to see in its evaluation function that White has full compensation for the material.  (Another good example of the pitfalls of computer analysis for the uninitiated.)
  • The combination starting on move 29 is the highlight of the game and is worth looking at closely, especially because the initial knight sacrifice appears to come out of nowhere.

[Event "41st GM"] [Site "Dortmund GER"] [Date "2013.08.01"] [Round "6.5"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Fridman, Daniel"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A13"] [WhiteElo "2784"] [BlackElo "2629"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2013.07.26"] 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 {this keeps the game in English territory, rather than transposing to the QGD.} Nf6 4. g3 {this would allow Black the ...d4 advance if desired. In practice, if Black has intended to play a QGD from the start, he probably will continue with standard moves as in the game.} Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O c5 7. Bb2 {by this point the role reversal is clear, Black is going for a strong, classical center while White seeks to undermine it from the flanks and restrain further Black advances.} Nc6 8. e3 {from this innocuous-looking position, White has scored almost 60 percent.} b6 9. Nc3 dxc4 10. bxc4 Qd3 {the point of this move is to disrupt White's piece setup, rather than achieve anything directly for Black.} 11. Ne1 Qd7 12. Qe2 Bb7 13. f4 { White evaluates that his future strategic chances lie on the kingside, so starts the expanion process.} Rfd8 {until this point, we have been following the game Kosten-Hernando Rodrigo (given below) which contains a more normal attacking plan for White.} (13... Na5 14. d3 Bxg2 15. Qxg2 Rfd8 16. g4 Ne8 17. Rd1 Nd6 18. Nf3 Qb7 19. e4 b5 20. e5 Ndxc4 21. dxc4 Nxc4 22. Bc1 b4 23. Qe2 Rxd1 24. Nxd1 Nb6 25. Nf2 a5 26. Ne4 Qa6 27. Qg2 Qc4 28. Re1 a4 29. f5 Nd5 30. Nd6 Qd3 31. fxe6 fxe6 32. Qe2 Qxe2 33. Rxe2 c4 34. Nd4 b3 35. axb3 Bxd6 36. exd6 axb3 37. Nxe6 Nc3 38. Re1 Na2 39. Bb2 Nb4 40. d7 Nc6 41. Ng5 {1-0 (41) Kosten,A (2516)-Hernando Rodrigo,J (2381) Castelldefels 2004}) 14. Rd1 Nb4 15. d3 {the pawn will actually be stronger here, due to a tactical defense, and cover e4.} Bxg2 16. Nxg2 a6 (16... Nxd3 $2 17. Ne1 {and with the knight pinned and no new defenders coming to its rescue, the best Black can do is capture on f4 and get two pawns for the piece.}) 17. a3 Nc6 18. g4 {White's kingside attack now gets started.} Ne8 19. f5 Nd6 20. f6 {the start of a deep and unusual sacrificial idea by Kramnik. One wonders what he would have done in the event of 19...exf5.} Bxf6 21. Rxf6 {otherwise the previous move makes no sense.} gxf6 22. Nf4 Ne5 23. Nh5 Qe7 24. Rf1 {here Houdini's evaluation is that White has full compensation for the material.} Nd7 25. Qg2 (25. Qf2 { would be the more obvious follow-up.}) 25... h6 26. h4 Kf8 {this appears to be where Black starts going astray with his defense. Houdini recommends instead looking to start counterplay on the queenside.} (26... b5) 27. Qg3 Ke8 28. Qf4 Qf8 $2 {this appears to be a normal response to the threat against h6, but allows the following combination.} 29. Nd5 $1 {a very non-obvious move. White's pieces do not appear at first glance to be sufficiently coordinated for a combination and there are plenty of defenders. However, the Black king's very limited space and the weaknesses of f6 and g7 are the elements from which the combination is constructed.} exd5 30. Bxf6 {the immediate threat is Ng7+} Ne5 {to give the king an escape square on d7} (30... Nxf6 31. Nxf6+ Ke7 32. Qe5#) 31. Qxe5+ Kd7 32. Bg7 {the combination now morphs from mate threat to trapping Black's queen.} Re8 33. Nf6+ Kc7 34. Qa1 {the Bg7 is protected tactically by the knight check discovery White would have after ... Qxg7.} 1-0

03 August 2013

Annotated Game #100: The Fun Milner-Barry Gambit

Inspired by a recent Brooklyn64 post on a swashbuckling Milner-Barry Gambit in the French Defense, here is my one and only tournament game featuring it.  This was played early in my scholastic career when I was still an e4 player and had a low Class C rating.

I had relatively little idea at the time how to most effectively conduct attacking play, but the gambit nevertheless showed promise against my significantly higher-rated opponent, a veteran of the local tournament scene.  For White players who hate facing the French, it's an fun way to take it on while avoiding typical position types.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C02"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "1985.??.??"] {C02: French: Advance Variation} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. Bd3 {the Milner-Barry Gambit. White is willing to give up the d-pawn (and sometimes the e-pawn too) for development and attacking prospects.} Bd7 7. O-O cxd4 8. cxd4 Nxd4 9. Nc3 (9. Nbd2 {is favored by the best White players of the line, allowing the knight to replace its brother on f3 after it is exchanged off. On c3, the knight can't assist with a kingside attack, although it does influence the key b5 square.}) 9... Ne7 {this position can also be reached from the c3 Sicilian, believe it or not.} 10. Be3 (10. Nxd4 Qxd4 11. Nb5 Qxe5 12. Re1 Qb8 13. Qf3 {would be the way to best exploit the Nc3 setup. White is now two pawns down, but has excellent attacking prospects and scores over 68 percent from this position.}) 10... Nxf3+ 11. Qxf3 Qc7 {a passive move. Houdini considers this position equal, with White having full compensation for the pawn.} (11... d4 12. Bxd4 Qxd4 13. Qxb7 $15) 12. Nb5 {a typical amateur move, starting operations before developing the rooks, although it is not a particularly bad error in this position. White hopes Black will take the e5 pawn, which would lead to disaster.} (12. Rac1 Qa5 $11 (12... Qxe5 $2 {is worthless, says Fritz, because of} 13. Nb5 Nc6 14. Bf4 $18)) 12... Bxb5 (12... Qxe5 $2 13. Bf4 Qf6 14. Nd6+ Kd8 15. Nxb7+ $18) 13. Bxb5+ Nc6 14. Rac1 a6 15. Bxc6+ {otherwise the bishop is going to be largely shut out of the game by all of Black's pawns on light squares.} bxc6 16. Rc2 (16. Qg3 {is Houdini's subtle choice. Black will have trouble getting his kingside in order now.}) 16... Rc8 (16... Qxe5 $5 17. Rxc6 Qxb2 $17 {was Fritz's brilliant deduction (/sarcasm) at the time, which in fact fails to Rc7 with a big plus for White. It was an early version of Fritz and was set to 20 seconds/move for the full game analysis, but it's still a good example of why not to blindly trust engine output.} (17... Be7 {and Black is fine, however.})) 17. Qe2 $11 {this targets the a6 pawn, but Qg3 is still a good idea here.} Qb7 18. f4 {White probably should followed up on the original plan of increasing pressure on the c-file. Instead, I push the f-pawn, because that was my idea of how to attack in this position. In practical terms it's not a bad idea, however, since it puts additional psychological pressure on my opponent.} (18. Rfc1 a5 $11) 18... Be7 $15 {Black is now getting his kingside developed, reducing White's compensation for the pawn.} 19. f5 c5 $2 {Black has sufficient defensive resources to parry White's attack, but instead chooses to completely ignore it. Not a good decision, because the opponent is right back in the game, says Fritz.} (19... exf5 $5 {is more easily played by an engine, who doesn't have a visual bias with its calculations.} 20. Rxf5 O-O $15 {and black will be able to help defend with his queen, for example ...Qb4 or ...Qd7.}) 20. fxe6 $14 { another typical amateur move. Rather than build up the tension and bring additional forces into the attack, the tension is prematurely lifted.} (20. Qg4 Rf8 21. Qxg7 exf5 22. Bh6 $18) 20... fxe6 {Black however plays an inaccurate defense, giving White the opportunity to regain his full advantage.} (20... O-O 21. exf7+ Rxf7 22. Rxf7 Kxf7 23. Qg4 $14) 21. Qg4 $16 Kd7 22. Bxc5 $4 {the losing move. I tried to get fancy with the tactics and failed to recognize that Black's 23rd move would come with check. Otherwise, White on move 24 could take on g7 with check and pick up the h8 rook.} (22. Rf7 Rhe8 23. Bg5 $16 ) 22... Rxc5 $19 23. Rxc5 Bxc5+ {d'oh!} 24. Kh1 g6 25. Rf7+ Be7 26. Qh4 Re8 { by this point White is a piece down and has no threats left that Black cannot easily parry.} 27. b4 Qc7 28. h3 Qxe5 29. Qf2 (29. Qxh7 {is no salvation, notes Fritz.} Kd8 30. Qxg6 Qa1+ 31. Kh2 Bd6+ 32. g3 Qxa2+ 33. Kh1 Qa1+ 34. Kg2 Qb2+ 35. Rf2 Qxb4 $19) 29... Rc8 30. Qa7+ Rc7 31. Qxa6 Rc1+ 32. Rf1 Rxf1+ 33. Qxf1 {White's lone queen can fight a guerrilla action, but in the end it's hopeless.} Bd6 34. Qf7+ Kc6 35. b5+ Kb6 36. Qf2+ Kxb5 37. a4+ Kxa4 38. Qc2+ Kb5 39. Qb3+ Kc6 40. Qa4+ Kc7 41. Qa7+ Kd8 42. Qa8+ Ke7 0-1