13 February 2016

Annotated Game #149: Obvious Moves

This second-round tournament game is full of "obvious" moves - some good, others not.  I found it interesting to see that as a recurrent theme throughout the game, which should help me look deeper in the future into a position's possibilities.  My opponent was not immune to the "obvious" move trap either, on both sides - she passed up some better alternatives, as well as missing a win in the endgame which was tactically "obvious".

This other recurring theme in the game is the role that mental states played on both sides - tiredness and (in my case) stubbornness in refusing to get depressed and concede defeat even when significantly down.  This was a rather exhausting struggle to draw for me, so even if it wasn't fully deserved, I felt it was a good result.  In practical terms, my refusal to give up and my constantly looking for ways to impede my opponent were things that paid off in the end.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 9.3"] [PlyCount "113"] {A00: Irregular Openings} 1. b4 d5 2. Bb2 Nf6 {I'd be happy to have White exchange on f6. The doubled pawn would still be relatively strong, helping control e5, and White's strong bishop would be gone.} 3. e3 Bg4 {f5 is a more popular square for the bishop, but the text move scores equally well (around 56 percent).} 4. Nf3 e6 5. a3 Bd6 {this can't be bad, although ...Nbd7, preparing ...c5, may be better.} 6. Be2 O-O 7. d3 {now out of the database. The only other (2) games featuring this line saw White castle here. My opponent postpones this for several moves.} c5 {here I have the right basic idea - target the advanced b-pawn - but perhaps go about it the wrong way. It is more principled to undermine it from the flank.} (7... a5 8. b5 Nbd7) 8. c3 {passing up the chance to exchange favorably on c5.} (8. bxc5 Bxc5 9. Nbd2 Nc6 $11) 8... a6 {this is too slow, Black would do better to develop a piece.} 9. Nbd2 Nc6 {not the best square for the knight, in this position. Its influence over d4 and b4 is not enough to help contest those squares, so it could do a much better job from d7 of supporting e5 and c5.} 10. O-O Rc8 {with the longer-term intention of opening up the c-file.} 11. Rc1 Re8 {with the idea of supporting an e-pawn push.} 12. Re1 {White is strategically content to try and contain or oppose my ideas, rather than come up with a more aggressive plan.} b6 {again rather slow. I've now wasted two tempi on the a6/b6 advances.} (12... Qe7 {would develop the queen to a good square and connect the rooks.}) 13. Qa4 $6 {a mistake, but one that is not obvious to punish.} (13. bxc5 bxc5 14. c4 $11) 13... e5 {here I decide to ignore White's queenside sortie and react in the center. The engine agrees that offering the a-pawn is correct, although there is a better idea available.} (13... b5 $5 {the engine finds this alternative, which depends on a longer trapping White's queen.} 14. Qxa6 { the obvious response, also threatening to capture the b-pawn.} (14. Qd1 c4 $17 {looks very good for Black, whose pawns thrust into White's queenside while the pieces dominate the center and can threaten the kingside.}) 14... Qd7 { preparing ...Ra8} 15. Qxb5 Ra8 16. bxc5 Reb8 $15 {the White queen can no longer escape, but after eventually being exchanged for Black's rook, White will be slightly down material but not lost.}) 14. h3 Bxf3 {an expedient decision, but perhaps not ideal. White's queen placement makes the retreat to d7 a more obvious choice. Exchanging on f3 in constrast helps activate White's light-square bishop.} (14... Bd7 15. Qb3 h6 $15) 15. Nxf3 e4 16. dxe4 dxe4 17. Nh2 $6 {this is in fact a major error, although again it was difficult to see the way to best take advantage of it.} (17. Nd2 $11) 17... Qc7 18. Nf1 Ne5 { a correct general idea, centralizing the knight and preparing ...c4, but this gives White too much leeway and allows the next move, blocking the advance of my c-pawn.} (18... c4 $5 {is the tactical way to implement the plan more effectively.} 19. Qxa6 (19. Bxc4 $2 b5 20. Qxa6 bxc4 21. Qxc4 Ne5 22. Qxc7 Rxc7 23. Red1 Nd3 $17 {and Black's piece is significantly better than White's three pawns.}) 19... Ne5 20. Rb1 Nd3 21. Bxd3 (21. Qa4 Ra8 22. Qd1 b5 $19) 21... exd3 22. Nd2 Ne4 $17 {Here Black is a pawn down, but White is effectively playing without the Bb2, the Qa6 is dangerously exposed, and the passed protected pawn on d3 is a big asset for Black.}) 19. c4 $11 cxb4 $6 {a poor decision. My threats have now largely dissipated and I should at this point have thought about shoring up the queenside, rather than continuing to leave the a-pawn hanging.} (19... Ra8) 20. axb4 $14 Qe7 {making an obvious and not tactically sound threat to the b-pawn.} 21. Red1 {now the b-pawn is tactically protected (see below variation), something which I spot. Now it is clear that White has the initiative and I must play more defensively.} Nfd7 $6 {sadly, the right idea but the wrong knight. I did not want to move the centralized Ne5.} (21... Bxb4 $2 {now the Qe7 is overloaded, being the sole protector of both the Ne5 and Bb4.} 22. Bxe5 Qxe5 23. Qxb4 $18) (21... Ned7 $16) 22. Qxa6 {obvious, but this frees the Bd6 to take the b-pawn.} (22. Ng3 {this would be a somewhat quiet but very effective move, getting the knight back into the game in a big way and also threatening the e4 pawn.} Bxb4 23. Nf5 Qg5 24. Rxd7 $1 Nxd7 25. Nxg7 $18) 22... Bxb4 $16 23. Qb7 {this allows me to almost equalize again.} ( 23. Bxe5 Nxe5 24. Ng3 Nc6 25. Qb5 $16 {and Black is not going to be able to support the e-pawn.}) 23... Nc5 $14 {this time the obvious move is the most effective one.} 24. Qxe7 Rxe7 25. Rb1 Ba5 {anticipating the threat of Bxe5.} 26. Ba3 {Black has an active position} Rec7 {unfortunately here the obvious move is not the best. I get the rook out of the pin and line up on the c-pawn.} (26... g6 $11 {is a non-obvious move found by the engine. The point is to use prophylaxis to defend against Ng3-f5 by White, while also preparing ...f5 if necessary to protect the e4 pawn, and finally giving the Black king some space off the back rank. In the game, I worried too much about the pin on the Nc5 knight, which does not have an immediate effect.}) 27. Rd5 (27. Ng3 $5) 27... Ned3 {the obvious reaction, occupying the d3 outpost and setting up mutual support with the Nc5.} 28. f3 {undermining the necessary support for the Nd3. Here I fail to grasp that I can tactically swap the e-pawn for white's c-pawn.} Ne1 $6 {this is far too cute a move and unnecessarily complicated.} (28... Na4 $5 29. Bxd3 (29. fxe4 {temporarily in fact wins a pawn, but White will be too weak on the e-file to protect it in the long term.} Ndc5 30. Bxc5 Nxc5 31. e5 Re8 $11) 29... exd3 30. Rxd3 Rxc4 $11) 29. Bxc5 Rxc5 30. fxe4 {Opposite coloured bishops appeared, notes Komodo via the Fritz interface. This will be very important later on.} Re8 $2 {instead of the obvious alternative...} (30... Nc2 $5 $14) 31. Rb5 (31. Rc1 $5) 31... Rxb5 32. cxb5 g6 {a good idea to remove back-rank mating threats, although it would have been more effective played earlier (see move 26). At this point, we move into the endgame phase, where it's clear that White holds a full-pawn advantage and I will have to struggle to try and achieve a draw. The fact that my opponent's e-pawns are doubled and that we have opposite-color bishops give me some hope, however.} 33. e5 (33. Nd2 Bb4 $16) 33... Bc3 {an obvious threat to the e5 pawn and a good way to reactivate the bishop.} 34. Kf2 (34. Bc4 $5 Rxe5 35. Rd7 Kh8 36. Rxf7 $14) 34... Nc2 $11 {here the engine considers the position equal. I've managed to get my minor pieces to better squares and have my rook placed better than White's.} 35. Rd6 {White threatens to win material: Rd6xb6} Re6 $6 {an obvious idea but not a good one. Luckily my opponent does not find the most effective follow-up.} (35... Ba5 {here the bishop looks less active, but another way to look at it is to see that it is negating the activity of White's rook, so the bishop's placement on a5 is in fact best.} 36. Bd3 Ne1 37. Bc4 Rxe5 38. Rd7 $11 ) 36. Rc6 (36. Rd8+ Kg7 37. Bg4 f5 38. exf6+ Rxf6+ 39. Ke2 Bb4 $16) 36... Rxc6 $11 37. bxc6 Bxe5 {this should now be a relatively easy draw.} 38. Nd2 Nb4 39. Bb5 Nd5 (39... Kf8 $5 {the king needs to get into the game. Basic endgame principle: centralize the king and get it into the action (in this case, over on the c-file).}) 40. Nf3 Bd6 41. Bc4 Nc7 $2 {this is far too literal an implementation of the idea of blockading the c-pawn. It also ignores the other threat being set up, to the pinned f7 pawn, which should be obvious. However, at this point in the game I was no longer doing an effective job of falsifying my moves - something that often occurs when I am mentally tired.} (41... Nb4 $5 ) 42. Ng5 $16 b5 {the best reaction.} 43. Bxf7+ Kf8 44. Bb3 {it was very disappointing to me to be back to the position of being a pawn down in the endgame. I nevertheless rallied and refused to give up.} h6 $2 (44... Be7 45. Ne4 $16) 45. Ne4 {my opponent also was tired by this point, passing up a (mostly obvious) chance to gain material.} (45. Nf7 $5 Ke7 46. Nxh6 $18 { at this point I would have effectively been lost, being down two pawns and with White able to create another passed pawn on the kingside.}) 45... Be5 46. Ke2 Ke7 47. Kd3 Kd8 $6 {still thinking too literally about blockading the c-pawn.} (47... Na6 48. Kd2 Nb8 49. Bd5 g5 $11) 48. Nc5 $16 Ke7 49. Nb7 { The knight dominates, comments Komodo.} Kf6 {here I don't have much of a plan and ignore potential maneuvering of my minor pieces.} (49... Na6 50. Ke4 Bc7 51. Bc2 Nb4 $14) 50. Ke4 Bc3 51. Kd3 {White is also starting to run out of ideas, however.} (51. Bc2 Ke7 $16) 51... Be5 52. e4 {this looks aggressive, but in fact makes White's job much more difficult, blocking the square for his pieces and in effect strengthening the Be5. I'm now much closer to equality again.} (52. Bd1 $5 $16) 52... Ne6 $2 (52... Na6 $5 $11) 53. Ke3 $6 (53. Bxe6 { would be the best way to try and make progress, although it goes against the general rule of not exchanging bishops for knights in an open position.} Kxe6 { now White can work to transfer his king to the queenside, if necessary via c2-b3.}) 53... Bf4+ $11 {due to White's last move, I can now seize the e3 square with tempo and get my king to e5.} (53... Nf4 54. Nc5 Ke7 55. Nd7 $16) 54. Kf3 Be5 $6 {unfortunately I don't recognize the correct idea (...Bc7 followed by ...Ke5), but my opponent is frustrated and unable to think of how to make progress, so we end up with a draw.} 55. Ke3 (55. Bxe6 $5 Kxe6 56. Ke3 $16) 55... Bf4+ $14 {Twofold repetition} 56. Kd3 Be5 57. Ke3 1/2-1/2