13 April 2014

Annotated Game #121: Quiet Symmetry

This penultimate round tournament game was a quiet Symmetrical English, which I thought my lower-rated opponent played well, although he was obviously unfamiliar with it.  It is one of those openings which Class players rarely use, perhaps because it lacks excitement or seemingly violates standard opening principles.  It also requires a good deal of patience to play properly and involves a lot of positional maneuvering.

Although the game appeared equal almost all the way through, in subsequent analysis, there were some improvements lurking for White, especially with 14. Bh3! - not a decisive move in tactical terms, but it would have resulted in a long-term positional advantage.  During the game I never considered moving the fianchettoed bishop off of g2, its "natural home".  Finding (and remembering) these types of moves is a key benefit of the game analysis process.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A39"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "59"] {A39: Symmetrical English vs ...g6:4 Bg2 Bg 5 Nf3 Nf6 6 0-0 0-0 7 d4} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 {the Symmetrical Four Knights variation.} 6. O-O O-O 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nxd4 9. Qxd4 d6 10. Qd3 {the standard retreat, getting out of the way of a discovered attack from the Bg7.} Qc7 {this is less active than Black's standard plan of pursuing queenside expansion with a6, Rb8 and b5.} 11. Bd2 Be6 12. Nd5 {White decides to force at least one piece exchange.} (12. b3 {is instead the obvoius reinforcing move. An example from master play:} Rac8 13. Rac1 Qb8 14. h3 Bd7 15. Bg5 Rfe8 16. e4 Bc6 17. Rfe1 a6 18. a4 Nd7 19. Nd5 Bxd5 20. exd5 Bf6 21. Bxf6 exf6 22. a5 Re5 23. Rxe5 fxe5 24. Qe3 b6 25. axb6 a5 26. Ra1 Rc5 27. h4 Qxb6 28. h5 Qd8 29. Qd2 Kg7 30. Bh3 f5 31. h6+ Kf7 32. Bf1 Qb6 33. g4 fxg4 34. Qe3 Qd8 35. Be2 Qh4 36. Kg2 Qh3+ 37. Qxh3 gxh3+ 38. Kxh3 Kf6 39. Bg4 Nf8 40. Kh4 g5+ 41. Kh5 Ng6 42. Be6 Nf4+ 43. Kg4 Nxe6 44. dxe6 e4 45. f4 exf3 46. Kxf3 Kxe6 47. Kg4 Re5 48. Rd1 Re3 49. Rd5 Rxb3 50. Rxa5 Rb4 51. Kxg5 Rxc4 52. Ra7 Rc5+ 53. Kg4 Kf6 54. Rxh7 Kg6 {1/2-1/2 (54) San Segundo Carrillo,P (2508)-Ilic,L (2282) Ohrid 2001}) 12... Bxd5 $146 (12... Nxd5 13. cxd5 Bd7 14. Rac1 Qb6 15. Bc3 {is Houdini's preferred line, although the engine would at this point play a rook to c8 instead of exchanging down towards a draw, as in this example game.} Bxc3 16. Qxc3 Rac8 17. Qd2 Rxc1 18. Rxc1 Rc8 19. Rxc8+ Bxc8 20. Qc3 {1/2-1/2 (20) Stejskal,D-Elias,M Loucovice 1979}) 13. cxd5 {White now has the pair of bishops, so possesses a concrete if slight advantage.} Rfc8 $6 (13... Qb6 14. b3 $11) 14. Rac1 {White goes for the obvious threat, missing the bishop's possible "sniper shot" move.} (14. Bh3 $1 Rcb8 15. Rac1 Qd8 16. Rc2 $14 { and White can build up on the c-file with Black having no real counterplay.}) 14... Qd7 {White should now ensure his b-pawn will not drop off to the Bg7; however, instead of the next move, b3 should work fine.} 15. Bc3 {this eventually leads to an (unforced) exchange of the dark-square bishops, which then eliminates the advantage of the two bishops. Black should have no trouble dealing with the remaining bishop alone.} Rc7 16. Rc2 Rac8 17. Rfc1 Nh5 18. Bxg7 {the exchanges now result in an equal position with no real prospects for White (or Black).} (18. Ba5 {would have allowed White to avoid the exchange.}) 18... Rxc2 19. Rxc2 Rxc2 20. Qxc2 Nxg7 21. e4 {here the game is very equal, as White's bishop has limited scope and Black has plenty of time to re-deploy his knight.} Ne8 22. h4 Qc7 23. Qxc7 Nxc7 {down to a drawn minor piece endgame now. } 24. Kf1 Kg7 25. Bh3 (25. Ke2 {is better, centralizing the king immediately in order to combat any ideas of the Black knight penetrating White's position.} ) 25... Kf6 26. f4 e6 27. dxe6 (27. e5+ {is something that I looked at over the board, but decided (correctly) that it didn't lead to anything for White. I was pleased to have at least spotted and calculated this tactical possibility, however, rather than just ignoring it.} Ke7 $11 (27... dxe5 $4 28. d6 Nd5 29. fxe5+ Kxe5 30. d7)) 27... fxe6 28. Ke2 Na6 29. Ke3 b6 30. a3 { and I offered a draw, which was accepted after a couple minutes' thought.} (30. Bf1 {would have been the way to try and play on in search of an advantage.}) 1/2-1/2

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