26 October 2014

Annotated Game #138: When complex situations demand complex solutions

This eighth-round tournament game was notable for its middlegame complexity. Both myself and my opponent found ourselves somewhat adrift, with a number of difficult and unclear decisions to make, although it led to an exciting battle all the way to the end. The complications begin after I prematurely relieve the central pawn tension on move 15, then allow Black to win the exchange. At the time, I was rather disgusted with myself, but decided (correctly) to fight on and search for compensation. In return, I got a pawn back and some active play. Both king positions are vulnerable - mine more so - but after both sides engage in ill-advised pawn-grabbing and miss subtle attacking possibilities, I manage to force a draw.

This was a very demanding game for both of us and it illustrates well how Class players too often go for moves that are more obvious, or that simplify the game to our own detriment. Instead, we should not be afraid of complexity, but rather strive to break down the position to the best of our abilities and make clear evaluations of each element. This would have helped me on the move 15 decision, for example, which showed poor judgment along with a failure to look far enough ahead at my opponent's possibilities.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A26"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2012.07.??"] [EventRounds "9"] {A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nf3 d6 6. d3 h6 {this is played earlier on in the sequence than is normal in this line. Black has in mind an early thrust with his kingside pawns.} 7. O-O f5 8. Rb1 Nf6 (8... a5 9. a3 Be6 10. Nd2 Nf6 11. b4 axb4 12. axb4 O-O 13. Nd5 Nd7 14. Bb2 Kh7 15. Bc3 Bf7 16. Ra1 Rxa1 17. Qxa1 Nd4 18. Bxd4 exd4 19. b5 Re8 20. Re1 Nc5 21. Nb4 g5 22. Qa2 Bg6 23. Nb3 {Gagare,S (2117)-Barua,D (2483) Mumbai 2009 1/2-1/2 (48)}) 9. b4 g5 {Black accelerates his kingside plan of gaining space with his pawns and eventually assaulting White's king position. White however can prevent Black from fully seizing the initiative with some immediate threats on the queenside and in the center.} 10. b5 $14 {Komodo 8 shows a slight plus here (around half a pawn). White enjoys a small lead in development and should be able to usefully exploit the space advantage on the queenside, as well as control of d5.} Ne7 11. Qc2 $146 { White has a lot of choices here, with none of them being obviously better. Developing the queen to b3 appears more effective, though, as it fights for d5 and the a2-g8 diagonal offers greater possibilities. The text move eyes the e2 pawn and the e4 square for defensive purposes, but after a future Nd2 this queen placement is not as useful.} f4 {an obvious follow-up, also opening up the diagonal for the light-square bishop.} 12. Ba3 {the only effective square to develop the bishop, given Black's pawn structure.} O-O 13. c5 {note how with the queen on b3 this would have more bite to it, as it would come with discovered check.} (13. Nd2 {as a preparatory move looks effective here, as the Nf3 is doing little where it is and the long diagonal is now opened up for the bishop.}) 13... fxg3 (13... Be6 $11) 14. fxg3 $11 {an uninspired, if safe choice.} (14. Qb3+ $5 {leads to a more imbalanced position, for example} Kh8 15. hxg3 Nf5 16. cxd6 cxd6 17. e4 {this blocks the Bg2, but drives away Black's well-placed knight and establishes more central control in return, giving White a small plus.} Ne7 18. Qb4 $14) 14... Ng4 15. cxd6 {resolving the tension may simplify the situation, but it is in White's best interests to make Black have to focus on potential unresolved issues in the center, rather than on his kingside play. The disappearance of the c-pawn also allows Black to exploit the a7-g1 diagonal, which I missed during the game.} cxd6 16. Qb3+ Kh8 17. Qb4 Qb6+ $15 18. Kh1 Nf2+ 19. Rxf2 {this is forced, but Black despite gaining the exchange does not in fact gain a huge advantage as a result.} Qxf2 20. Qxd6 Nf5 21. Qc7 {White's activity in Black's backfield partially compensates for the material. Black also does not have a real attack on the kingside, although he tries his best.} Ne3 22. Rg1 Bf5 23. Bxf8 {I claw back the material, although Black still has a positional advantage, with more threats available to him.} Rxf8 24. Qxb7 {I thought for a long time here and chose poorly. Black however fails to find the continuation that would give him a significant advantage.} (24. Qd6 $5 $15) 24... g4 {the obvious move, but not best.} (24... e4 $5 25. dxe4 Bg4 $17 {is found by the engines. Now White's best is} 26. e5 Nxg2 27. Rxg2 Bxf3 28. exf3 Qe1+ 29. Rg1 Qxc3 $17) 25. Nh4 $11 {I was pleased to have found this move, which holds everything together nicely for White, although it remains a complicated defense and I do not play it well. } (25. Qxa7 $2 gxf3 26. Bxf3 e4 27. dxe4 Bh3 $19 {and now an exchange sacrifice on f3 will be decisive.}) 25... Bh7 26. Ne4 $2 (26. b6 {is one of those "little moves" that engines find so easily.} axb6 27. Qxb6 e4 28. Nxe4 Qxe2 29. Qb1 $11) (26. Qxa7 $6 {is inferior:} e4 27. Nxe4 Qxe2 {and unlike in the previous variation, White's queen remains locked out of the defense on a7.} ) (26. Nd1 {is the correct knight move.} Qxe2 $2 27. Nxe3 Qxe3 28. a4 Bxd3 29. a5 $11 {and Black will have to give up his kingside attack in order to stop White's queenside pawns.}) 26... Qxe2 $17 {I am now in some trouble and start making more desperate moves.} 27. Nc5 $2 {luckily Black goes pawn hunting, ignoring the point of my active play.} (27. Qxa7 Nxg2 28. Nxg2 Qxd3 29. Nc5 $19 ) 27... Qxa2 (27... Nd1 {instead would seal the game for Black, as White would be forced to give up material and/or make his king vulnerable to mate threats.} 28. h3 gxh3 $19) 28. Be4 {this looks good, but has one major flaw.} (28. Qe7 $11 {White would be fine here, due to the follow-up threat of Ne6.}) 28... Rf2 {Black again fails to find the best continuation.} (28... Qf2 $5 {threatening . ..Nf1 and mate on h2.} 29. Bg2 Nxg2 30. Ne6 Qf7 31. Qxf7 Rxf7 32. Kxg2 Bxd3 $17 ) 29. Qb8+ $11 Bf8 30. Qxe5+ Kg8 31. Bxh7+ $4 {in another complex situation, my calculation again fails me. Here simplification does not help the situation. } (31. Qe6+ {would take the game safely into drawish territory.} Qxe6 32. Nxe6 Bxe4+ 33. dxe4 $11) 31... Kxh7 $19 32. Qe4+ {this looks like it should be fine, with Black's king so exposed, but interposing the knight on f5 would give Black the necessary extra tempo to activate his mate threat on h2.} Kg8 { Black has a mate threat} (32... Nf5 $1 33. Qb7+ Kg8 {and now White has nothing better than} 34. Ng2 Bxc5 $19) 33. Qg6+ $4 {another huge miscalculation, but my opponent is having similar troubles calculating ahead in a complex position. } (33. Qe6+ $142 {saving the game} Qxe6 34. Nxe6 $11) 33... Bg7 $2 (33... Kh8 { eventually wins for Black.} 34. Qf6+ Rxf6 35. Ne4 Rf7 36. b6 Qe2 37. bxa7 Rf1 38. h3 gxh3 39. Nf6 Qf2 40. Ng6+ Kg7 41. Nh5+ Kxg6 42. Nf4+ Kf7 43. Rxf1 Nxf1 44. a8=Q Qh2#) 34. Qe8+ $11 {I finally reach a position where I can legitimately force a draw.} 1/2-1/2

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