31 January 2016

Annotated Game #148: A Tale of Two Players

It's time once again to turn my attention to analyzing my own games, looking at some of the more recent tournaments I've played in.

The following first-round game occurred after a two-year break in OTB (over-the-board) tournament games.  I call it a tale of two players, since in the first half it appears as if I were a different player as White: showing poor judgment, performing weak calculation and ignoring basic strategic principles.  Black, who played stronger than his rating (as many juniors do), had a fine game but then failed to find the best move to take advantage of my weaknesses (11...Ng4!).  He then made the strategic error of trying to respond directly to my advances on the queenside, rather than strike back in the center or kingside, where he had naturally better play.  Once the situation had been clarified on the queenside and the momentum had swung back my way, I played much more strongly, showing much better judgment about things like piece exchanges, and also was able to calculate correctly and find tactics (27. b6!) that leveraged my positional advantages.  The game came to a satisfying conclusion as I was able to quickly shift my pieces' attention to the kingside and take advantage of Black's absent defenders.

This is a good example of a typical "shake-off-the-rust" type of game for tournament players, in which it takes a while to warm up mentally and for things to come together across the board in a real game, which is always a different experience than training conditions.  Nevertheless, I found analyzing my early mistakes instructive and hope to avoid such issues in future games.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "1"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class E"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A13"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "59"] {A13: English Opening: 1...e6} 1. c4 e6 {although Black can easily transpose to different types of structures, including a Nimzo-Indian, usually this move telegraphs his intent to play a QGD.} 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 Nf6 4. Bb2 Bd6 {unusual but not unheard of (...Be7 of course would continue the standard QGD approach). } 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Be2 {so far standard development for White in this setup.} c6 { this is now looking like a Semi-Slav setup for Black, presumably his original intent.} 7. O-O (7. d4 $5) (7. Nc3 {scores the best in the database, 58 percent.}) 7... e5 {a logical follow-up to the previous moves, and standard procedure in this type of formation for Black. He moves the same pawn in the opening twice, but gains central control in return.} 8. d4 {not a terrible move, but the time to play this was on the previous move. Now Black is much better prepared to react in the center and pose immediate problems for White.} e4 9. Ne5 {an aggressive reaction.} (9. Nfd2 $5) 9... Qc7 10. f4 $6 {this move was based on wishful thinking about maintaining an e5 strong point and inaccurate calcuation.} (10. cxd5 Nxd5 (10... cxd5 11. Nc3 {this may seem to neglect the sequence on the e5 square, but in fact works tactically.} Nxe5 12. dxe5 Bxe5 13. Bb5+ Bd7 14. Nxd5 Nxd5 15. Bxd7+ Qxd7 16. Bxe5 $11) 11. Qc2 $11) 10... exf3 $17 11. Nxf3 (11. Rxf3 {is objectively better, simply leaving White a pawn down but without giving Black an attack.} Nxe5 12. dxe5 Bxe5 13. Bxe5 Qxe5 14. Qd4 Qxd4 15. exd4 $17) 11... Ne4 $2 {with this move Black loses the initiative.} (11... Ng4 $1 {forks the hanging e3 pawn and adds weight to the attack on h2.} 12. cxd5 Bxh2+ 13. Kh1 Ndf6 $19 {with a strong attack.} (13... Nxe3 {is also good, of course.})) 12. Nc3 $11 Ndf6 13. c5 Be7 14. Ne5 {this continues my fixation on the e5 outpost and looks reasonably well-justified, although perhaps not best. The engine considers it more prudent to focus on e4 and exchange off the Ne4, either immediately or on the next move.} O-O 15. b4 { the queenside is the obvious (and really only) place for White to play, so I start to get my pawns rolling there.} b6 {this is not a bad move in itself, but it marks the decision by Black to focus on queenside play, responding to White rather than looking for better play in the center and on the kingside.} ( 15... Nxc3 $5 16. Bxc3 Ne4 {looks simpler and more flexible.}) 16. a4 {White prepares the advance b5} a5 $6 {this move continues to play into White's plan of opening lines, gaining space and creating Black weaknesses to target on the queenside.} (16... Be6 17. Nxe4 Nxe4 18. Rc1 $11) 17. cxb6 $11 Qxb6 18. b5 Nxc3 {a good exchange choice. The Nc3, as a result of the breakup of Black's pawn formation, was now much more effective and influential over b5 and d5.} 19. Bxc3 c5 $2 {really the losing move for Black. Now I gain an excellent outpost for the knight on c6 and a protected passed pawn on b5.} (19... cxb5 {is the best option Black has, notes the engine via the Fritz interface.} 20. axb5 Ne4 $11) 20. Nc6 $18 Bd8 21. dxc5 Qxc5 22. Bd4 Qd6 {now that the exchanges are complete, it's clear that White has a strategically won game, thanks to the b-pawn and the ability of the minor and major pieces to support it on the queenside.} 23. Rc1 Nd7 {defending against the threat of a Bc5 skewer.} (23... Bd7 24. Nxd8 Raxd8 25. Bxf6 gxf6 26. Qd4 $18) 24. Nxd8 {although the knight looks ideally placed on c6 (and it is), there is nothing more that it can do to further White's plans. By exchanging itself for the dark-square bishop, this act by knight majorly empowers the now-unopposed Bd4.} Rxd8 25. Rc6 { the other benefit of the knight exchange was freeing the c6 square for occupation by the rook.} Qe7 26. Rc7 {pinning the Nd7 and preventing Black from playing ...Bb7. At this point, Black's pieces are almost entirely tied down on the back two ranks.} Qd6 27. b6 $1 {now I take tactical advantage of the fact that the Nd7 is still in fact pinned by the Rc7 against the f7 square (which is targeted by the Rf1 as well).} Rb8 (27... Nxb6 $4 28. Rfxf7 {and White mates or wins Black's queen.}) 28. Bd3 {I was pleased to find this move, which is quiet but effective. The bishop is centralized and now threatens action on the kingside against Black's weakly defended king. Black's pieces are too tied up on the queenside to be able to defend against White's sudden threats.} Ne5 (28... Rxb6 {is not the saving move} 29. Qc2 Ba6 30. Bxh7+ Kf8 31. Bc5 $18) 29. Bxh7+ (29. Qh5 {the engine correctly notes is the best continuation, leading to White picking up a piece quickly, although the text move wins as well.} g6 30. Qxe5 Qxe5 31. Bxe5 $18) 29... Kh8 (29... Kxh7 { is the only way to continue, but is still hopeless.} 30. Qh5+ Qh6 31. Qxe5 Be6 32. Rfxf7 Bxf7 33. Rxf7 Rg8 34. Rf3 {and Black is going to lose the queen.}) 30. Qh5 (30. Qh5 Bg4 31. Qh4 Rd7 32. Bg6+ Kg8 33. Qh7+ Kf8 34. Rxf7+ Nxf7 35. Qxg7+ Ke8 36. Bxf7+ Ke7 37. Bg6+ Kd8 38. Bf6+ Qxf6 39. Qxf6+ Re7 40. Qxe7#) 1-0

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