25 April 2016

Annotated Game #156: It's never too late to equalize (redux)

This next game has a similar theme to Annotated Game #153.  One of the valuable outcomes of analyzing your own games is seeing patterns in your play that you had not been aware of before, and hopefully improving your performance as a result.  We've previous seen an example of this in Annotated Game #63: Third Time's the Charm (?)

Here in this fourth-round tournament game we see (similar to other recent games) how I was struggling out of an unfamiliar opening and gave my opponent the initiative and a significant edge.  However, I didn't give up and kept searching for active counterplay, using an exchange sacrifice on move 19 to sabotage my opponent's initiative.  On moves 28 and 31 I again employ these principles and achieve equality - only to overlook the best way I could have made it concrete.  After move 35 White is winning and that becomes obviously so after the endgame is reached, although I struggle on for a while down the exchange.

One of the other themes to emerge from these game analyses is that against Class competition, it's likely that your opponent will make enough mistakes to eventually let you back in the game, if the situation is sufficiently complicated and if you have sufficient potential for activating your pieces and creating threats.  Conversely, I think it's a good lesson for when you have the advantage, in that it's important to keep your opponent shut down and their pieces out of the game as much as possible.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B25"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "139"] {B25: Closed Sicilian: 3 g3, lines without early Be3} 1. f4 {the first time I've faced a Bird's Opening in tournament play.} c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. g3 {this reverse Leningrad Dutch setup is called the "Polar Bear" in the U.S.} g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O d6 6. e4 Nf6 (6... e6 {is more common here, although the text move scores over 50 percent in the database.}) 7. d3 Bg4 (7... O-O {is uniformly the choice of top players here. No need to commit the bishop early.}) 8. Nc3 ( 8. h3 {is more challenging and would essentially force Black to exchange on f3, otherwise the bishop moves would be lost tempi. Creating a target on h3 would not be enough compensation in the opening.}) 8... O-O (8... Nd4 $5 {looking to exchange off minor pieces appears to be a good idea. Example:} 9. Be3 O-O 10. Qd2 Nxf3+ 11. Bxf3 Bxf3 12. Rxf3 Ng4 13. Nd1 d5 14. e5 d4 15. Bf2 Qd5 16. Qe2 f6 17. h3 Nxf2 18. Nxf2 fxe5 19. Qe4 Qxe4 20. Nxe4 exf4 21. gxf4 e5 22. Raf1 exf4 23. Rxf4 Rxf4 24. Rxf4 Be5 25. Rf2 Rc8 26. b3 b5 27. Re2 c4 28. bxc4 bxc4 29. Nd2 cxd3 30. cxd3 Rc1+ 31. Kf2 Bf6 32. Re8+ Kf7 33. Ra8 Rc7 34. Kf3 Ke6 35. Nc4 Kd5 36. Rf8 Bg5 37. Kg4 Be7 38. Rh8 Bf6 39. Rf8 Be7 40. Rh8 h5+ 41. Kf3 Bh4 42. Rf8 Re7 43. Rf4 Bg5 44. Rf8 Re6 45. Rb8 Rf6+ 46. Ke2 Kc5 47. Rc8+ Kb5 48. Rb8+ Kc6 49. Na5+ Kd6 50. Nc4+ Kc7 51. Ra8 Kb7 52. Rg8 Ka6 53. Ne5 Kb5 54. Rxg6 Rxg6 55. Nxg6 Kb4 56. Ne5 Kc3 57. Nc6 a6 58. a4 Bh4 59. a5 Bf6 60. Nb8 Be7 61. h4 Bb4 62. Nd7 Bxa5 63. Nf6 Kc2 64. Nxh5 Bd2 65. Ng7 Bf4 66. Ne6 Be5 67. Nc5 a5 68. h5 Kc3 69. Kd1 Bf4 70. Ke2 Bh6 71. Ne4+ Kb3 72. Nd2+ Kb4 73. Kd1 Kc3 74. Ne4+ Kxd3 75. Nf6 a4 76. Ng4 a3 77. Nxh6 a2 {0-1 (77) Trifunovic,M (2320) -Arsovic,Z (2440) Niksic 1996}) 9. Ne2 Qc8 {I thought here about where to best put the queen. With the text move, the d7 square is available for the knight, but the queen blocks the rooks from the c-file.} 10. c3 Bh3 {while this exchanges off the White bishop on the long diagonal, there was not necessarily an immediate need to do this.} 11. Bd2 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Rd8 13. h3 {Secures g4, notes the engine.} h5 {here I thought a long time about the various possibilities and made a strategically incorrect decision. While the engine shows this as still equal, the restraint of the g4-g5 push at this point is not crucial and the pawn on h5 becomes both a target for sacrifices and weakens the squares around the king. In broader terms, Black needs to be thinking about his own counterplay on the queenside at this point, not playing on the kingside where White is stronger.} (13... c4 $5) 14. Nh4 Kh7 $6 { waste of a tempo, giving the initiative fully to White.} (14... c4 $5 {again would be beneficial for Black.} 15. Be3 (15. f5 cxd3 16. Nd4 Ne5 $15) 15... e6 $15) 15. f5 $14 Ne5 {not a bad idea in general, as seen in the above variation, but not enough to shore up Black's defenses here.} (15... d5 $5 {should be considered, reacting in the center and attacking the e4 square. White still has the upper hand, however.} 16. exd5 Nxd5 17. fxg6+ fxg6 18. c4 $16) 16. Bg5 $16 {now it just gets uglier for Black.} Qc6 (16... Bh6 $5 {is a good practical defensive try.} 17. fxg6+ fxg6 18. Bxh6 Kxh6 $16) 17. Nf4 $18 { by this point the engine shows Black down almost the equivalent of a piece.} d5 $2 {again, not a bad general idea, just too late to make a difference.} (17... Qe8 18. Qe2 Rac8 $18) 18. Bxf6 exf6 19. Nxd5 $2 {this is an unnecessary diversion from White's breakthrough attack on the kingside.} (19. fxg6+ { and it becomes clear that White will call all the shots, says Komodo via the Fritz interface.} fxg6 20. Nhxg6 Nxg6 21. Qxh5+ Kg8 22. Qxg6 $18) 19... Rxd5 $16 {I'm pleased that I spotted this, admittedly desperate, chance at counterplay.} 20. exd5 Qxd5+ {White is the exchange up but at least my position is no longer critical, even if my long-term prospects are worse.} 21. Kh2 Rd8 (21... Re8 $5 {might be better, considering that the added pressure on the d-pawn is essentially meaningless after the game continuation.}) 22. d4 { the best move. White is unafraid to give back a pawn in order to improve his position and simplify down on material, at which point his being up the exchange becomes more meaningful.} cxd4 23. Qxd4 Qa5 (23... Qxd4 24. cxd4 Rxd4 25. Rad1 $16) 24. Qf2 g5 25. Nf3 Nd3 26. Qc2 g4 $6 {I thought for a while here and moved the incorrect pawn. It looked more obvious to kick the Nf3 and I did not seriously look at moving the h-pawn, which is possible tactically.} (26... h4 27. gxh4 gxh4 28. Rad1 $16 (28. Nxh4 Qc7+ 29. Kh1 Bh6 $16 {and Black has more counterplay due to the active bishop and the potential to use the open g-file for his rook.})) 27. Rad1 $18 {the correct response and one that I did not consider, given the obvious threat to the Nf3. A more sophisticated concept was employed here by my opponent, that of exchanging pieces at a distance (the Nf3 for the Nd3).} Bh6 $2 {desperation, but my opponent again does not go for my throat as he should have.} (27... Qa6 28. c4 Nb4 29. Qb3 Rxd1 30. Rxd1 $18) (27... gxf3 28. Rxd3 Re8 29. Rfxf3 $18) 28. Nd4 $6 {having rightly ignored the hanging Nf3 the previous move, my opponent reverses course and does not follow up with the logical continuation.} (28. Rxd3 {and White has it in the bag, comments the engine.} gxf3 29. Rxd8 Qxd8 30. Qf2 $18 { the endgame is dead lost for Black.}) 28... Ne5 $16 {I am again granted a good deal of positional compensation for the exchange. The Ne5 is in an excellent position and cannot easily be dislodged.} 29. Qb3 Qc7 {this ignored White's obvious follow-up.} (29... Rd7 {and now} 30. Nb5 Re7 {is significantly better for Black than the game continuation.}) 30. Nb5 Rxd1 31. Qxd1 $6 (31. Rxd1 $5 { maintains an advantage.} Qc6 32. Nd4 Qc7 $14) 31... Qb6 $11 {after fighting for so long, I'm able to regain equality, putting my piece activity to good use. The Nb5 is skewered against the b-pawn.} 32. Qe2 Nf3+ {the centralized knight again proves its worth.} 33. Kg2 Qc6 (33... Nd2 34. hxg4 (34. Rd1 Qc6+ { leads to a perpetual.}) 34... Nxf1 35. Kxf1 $11) 34. Kf2 (34. Nxa7 {is OK for White, since unfortunately I have no discovered checks with the knight that help my situation. My opponent probably did not want to risk it, however.} Qc5 (34... Nd4+ $4 35. Nxc6 Nxe2 36. Re1 {and the Ne2 has no squares left.}) 35. Nb5 Nd2 $11) 34... Qc5+ {"patzer sees check, patzer gives check" - sigh. Here I miss a key to the position, the threat of creating an outside passed h-pawn.} (34... Nd2 $5 {must definitely be considered} 35. Nd4 (35. Rd1 $4 gxh3 $19) ( 35. hxg4 Nxf1 $15) 35... Qd5 36. hxg4 Nxf1 37. Qxf1 hxg4 $11) 35. Nd4 $16 { the moment of danger for White is now past.} Nxd4 36. cxd4 Qxd4+ 37. Kg2 Qd5+ 38. Kh2 Qxa2 39. hxg4 hxg4 40. Rf2 {up to now, part of an obvious sequence. I thought that I had some practical chances to draw, but now I give up too much to my opponent.} Qd5 $6 {worrying about protecting the b-pawn, but losing the g-pawn and giving White too much scope with his pieces in the process.} (40... Qa4 41. Qe7 Kg7 42. Re2 $14 (42. Qxb7 $2 {is something that I thought was obviously good for White, but I did not calculate further.} Be3 43. Rg2 Qe8 { and now the White king is threatened on the h-file.} 44. Kh1 Bb6 45. Qd5 Qe1+ 46. Kh2 Qc1 47. Qd2 Qc8 48. Kh1 Qxf5 $15 {and Black is having all the fun in the position.})) 41. Qxg4 $16 {really the final turning point in the game, after this my resistance is increasingly futile.} b5 42. Qf3 Qc5 43. Kg2 a5 44. Qc3 Qxc3 $2 (44... Qb6 $5 $16 {would have kept the queens on the board, my only real chance for trying to hold a draw. I was tired by this point, however, and put too much faith in the bishop's ability to combat the White rook.}) 45. bxc3 $18 b4 46. cxb4 axb4 47. Rc2 Bf8 48. Rc7 Kg7 49. Kf3 Kg8 50. g4 {my opponent has an ideal situation, knowing that he has all the time he needs to maneuver his king into the position, while mine is trapped and the bishop is also tied to protecting the b-pawn.} Kg7 51. Ke4 Bd6 52. Rb7 Bc5 53. Kd5 Bf8 54. Rb8 Be7 55. Re8 Bf8 56. Kc6 Kg8 57. Kd7 Kg7 58. Rc8 Kg8 59. Rc6 Kg7 60. Ke8 {this position is fully resignable.} b3 61. Rb6 Bc5 62. Rxb3 Kh6 63. Rc3 Bd4 64. Rc4 Be5 65. Kxf7 Kg5 66. Ra4 Bc3 67. Ke6 Be5 68. Ra8 Kxg4 69. Rg8+ Kh5 70. Rg6 {now all White has to do is exchange the rook for bishop and pawn, into a winning K+P endgame.} 1-0

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