15 May 2016

Annotated Game #157: Halfway tournament turning point

This round 5 game - now over the halfway mark - was a performance turning point for me in the tournament.  I had been struggling a lot in previous games and generally speaking played more fluidly from this point forward.  Given that it had been several months since my previous tournament, perhaps this was simply the necessary "warmup" time required.  In any case, my opponent in this game was significantly lower-rated and did not seem to be as focused on fighting as hard as possible, also moving faster than she should have.

In the game, a tactical mistake on move 8 (which I did not catch until move 9) gave me a significant advantage and I was able to consolidate and expand it going forward.  The win was relatively easy, but still interesting given the position, so it helped put me in a better frame of mind for subsequent rounds.  A lesson reinforced for me, however, was to always check tactics in the opening when in an unfamiliar position, even if elements of it are common to my experience.  This also cropped up later on (see move 26), pointing out the importance of examining checks, captures and threats (CCT).

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A07"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 8"] [PlyCount "75"] {A11: English Opening: 1...c6} 1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 {White is taking a gambit approach here, rather than worrying about the c-pawn, in the spirit of Queen's Gambit type positions.} g6 {Black decides to fianchetto the king's bishop as well, leading to a largely symmetrical position.} 5. O-O Bg7 6. d3 {I played this primarily to keep the game out of traditional queen's pawn opening territory. Of course it is a helpful move in itself, reinforcing c4 and contesting e4. I wanted to play b3, but at the time I believed that the Bg7 on the long diagonal would make that impossible. However, this is not the case.} (6. d4 {would be a straight transposition to a Schlecter Slav variation, which is normally very good for White (and scores 61 percent from this position).}) (6. b3 $5 Ne4 7. d4 O-O 8. Bb2 a5 9. Nbd2 Bf5 10. Nh4 Nxd2 11. Qxd2 Be6 12. f4 dxc4 13. f5 gxf5 14. Nxf5 Bxf5 15. Rxf5 e6 16. Rh5 cxb3 17. axb3 Nd7 18. Rg5 f6 19. Rgxa5 Rxa5 20. Qxa5 Qxa5 21. Rxa5 Nb6 22. e4 Rd8 23. Ra7 Rd7 24. Kf2 Kf7 25. Bh3 Nc8 26. Ra8 Nd6 27. Kf3 Nb5 28. Ra4 Rd8 29. Bg4 f5 30. Bh5+ Ke7 31. e5 Bh6 32. Ke2 Bg5 33. Bf3 Bh6 34. Bg2 Bg5 35. Bf1 Bh6 36. Kf3 Bf8 37. Ke3 Kf7 38. Bc4 Be7 39. Ke2 Rd7 40. Ke3 Rd8 41. Bxb5 cxb5 42. Ra7 Rd7 43. Ra8 b4 44. Rh8 Kg7 45. Rc8 Kf7 46. Kd3 h5 47. Kc4 h4 48. Bc1 hxg3 49. hxg3 Bf8 50. Bg5 Bg7 51. Rd8 Rc7+ 52. Kxb4 Bf8+ 53. Ka4 Rc3 54. Bf4 b5+ 55. Kxb5 Rxb3+ 56. Kc4 Ra3 57. Rd7+ Ke8 58. Rb7 Ra4+ 59. Kc3 Ra3+ 60. Kc4 Ra4+ 61. Kc3 Ra3+ 62. Kc2 Be7 63. Rc7 Rf3 64. Ra7 Kd8 65. Ra5 Kd7 66. d5 exd5 67. Rxd5+ Ke6 68. Ra5 Rf2+ 69. Kd3 Rf3+ 70. Kc4 Rf1 71. Ra6+ Kf7 72. Ra7 Ke6 73. Ra6+ Kf7 74. Kd5 Rd1+ 75. Kc6 Ke6 76. Kc7+ Kf7 77. Rh6 Bd8+ 78. Kc6 Be7 79. Rh7+ Ke6 80. Rh6+ Kf7 81. Kc7 Bd8+ 82. Kc8 Be7 83. Rc6 Rd5 84. e6+ Kf6 85. Bc1 Rc5 86. Bb2+ Kg5 87. Rxc5 Bxc5 88. Be5 f4 89. gxf4+ Kf5 90. Kd7 {1-0 (90) Mikhalevski,V (2535)-Rozhko,D (2313) Minsk 2015}) 6... O-O 7. Bg5 {I thought that it would be too awkward to try and develop the bishop via b2, so this is an alternative. The text move also tempts Black to play h6 and create a potential target of the h-pawn, although ...h6 is not bad in itself.} (7. Qc2 {tends to be the choice of high-level players in this position, opting for flexible development. }) 7... Nbd7 {this is rather restrictive for Black, although solid.} (7... h6 8. Bd2 Nbd7 9. Bc3 dxc4 10. dxc4 Qc7 11. Nbd2 b6 12. Rc1 Bb7 13. Qc2 Rfe8 14. e4 e5 15. Rfd1 Rad8 16. Nf1 Nh7 {1/2-1/2 (16) Angyal,F (1958)-Kovacs,I (1820) Hungary 2014}) 8. Qc1 {a rather obvious approach to the position, but I felt exchanging the Bg7 would be strategically advantageous.} (8. cxd5 {is an interesting idea.} Nxd5 9. Qd2 Qb6 10. Nc3 Nxc3 11. bxc3 Re8 12. Rab1 Qc7 13. d4 Nb6 14. Bf4 Qd8 15. e4 Be6 16. Rfd1 Qc8 17. Bh6 Bg4 18. Qf4 Bxf3 19. Bxf3 e5 20. Qc1 Bxh6 21. Qxh6 Qe6 22. d5 cxd5 23. exd5 Qd6 24. Rb4 f5 25. h4 Rac8 26. Qe3 e4 27. Be2 Rc5 28. h5 Rec8 29. hxg6 hxg6 30. Qd4 Rxc3 31. Kg2 Rc1 32. Rb1 Rxb1 33. Rxb1 Rc7 34. Rd1 Re7 35. a4 a6 36. a5 Nd7 37. Rb1 Qe5 38. Qc4 Qd6 39. Rxb7 e3 40. f4 Kf7 41. Qc6 {1-0 (41) Saulina,V (2253)-Romanko,M (2404) Magnitogorsk 2011}) 8... Nc5 $2 {not seeing the tactical problem with the "loose" knight.} (8... dxc4 9. Qxc4 Nd5 10. Qc2 $11) 9. Bh6 $6 {here I was simply playing on automatic in the opening phase and continued with the idea of the minor piece trade, without first checking tactics.} (9. cxd5 {simply wins a pawn, due to the hanging Nc5.} Qd6 10. dxc6 $16) 9... Bd7 {my opponent however also fails to pay sufficient attention to the position and catch her previous mistake, so I finally spot the tactic, which now requires exchanging bishops first.} (9... Bxh6 $5 10. Qxh6 dxc4 $11) 10. Bxg7 $16 Kxg7 11. cxd5 Na4 (11... Qb6 {would be at least temporarily more challenging for White, creating a more awkward position for me.} 12. dxc6 Bxc6 13. Na3 $16) 12. dxc6 Bxc6 { I'm now a pawn up with no compensation for my opponent, but it's hardly an overwhelming position.} 13. Nc3 Nb6 {The knight maneuver has mostly wasted time for my opponent. Looking at the position, the Bc6 is well placed for Black, so I decide to gain some space on the queenside and chase it off the long diagonal.} (13... Rc8 14. Qd2 $16) 14. b4 a6 15. Qb2 {supporting an eventual push of the b-pawn and placing the queen on the long diagonal.} Kg8 { getting the king off the long diagonal. Prudent, but Black continues to lose time.} 16. a4 Nbd7 {the knight returns to its original developed square, having consumed a number of tempi to get there. The extra time for development has given me a significantly better position in comparison, which the engine evaluates as nearly two pawns up (one for the material, the other for positional factors). My queen and minor pieces are well-placed, while Black's (apart from the Bc6) aren't doing much.} (16... a5 17. Rfc1 $16) 17. b5 Bd5 { I'm happy to make the minor piece trade, giving me an unopposed light-square bishop on the long diagonal.} (17... axb5 18. axb5 Bxf3 19. Bxf3 $16) 18. Nxd5 Nxd5 19. Rfc1 $18 {there's an ironic saying in analysis that it's always the "wrong rook" you pick when you have a choice of which one to move to a square, here it seems obvious that White can best employ both rooks on the queenside.} Qb6 (19... a5 20. Ne5 e6 21. Nc4 $18) 20. Qd4 {I was perfectly fine with getting the queens off the board and heading into an endgame with both a material and positional advantage.} (20. e4 {is preferred by the engine.} N5f6 21. e5 Nd5 22. Nd2 e6 23. Nc4 $18) 20... e6 (20... Qxd4 21. Nxd4 N7f6 22. a5 $18) 21. Qxb6 N7xb6 22. a5 {this seemed the simplest approach to gaining space and further harassing Black's pieces.} Nd7 23. b6 {this may not be necessary at this point, but I wanted to not have to worry about pawn exchanges and also get a lock on the c7 square.} (23. e4 Nb4 24. Rc7 $18) 23... Rfc8 24. Nd2 Nc3 { for once, I had spotted this knight move as a potential threat to e2 in advance and had calculated that moving the king would be good for me as a response.} 25. Kf1 Rab8 (25... Nd5 $5) 26. Rc2 {a good enough move, but not the best.} (26. Bxb7 $1 {is an example of how I should have been using CCT to find winning tactics.} Rxb7 27. Ra3 $18 {- this situation combines a deflection tactic (the defending rook to b7) with a pin and double attack on the Nc3. White wins material.}) 26... Nd5 27. Rac1 Rxc2 28. Rxc2 {being a pawn up and having a stranglehold on the c-file, along with the strong Bg2, gives me a winning game. However, it still has to be won.} Kf8 29. d4 {here I want to take away the e5 square from Black's knight and use my central pawn to gain space.} Ke8 30. Rc4 {looking to prevent ...Nb4-c6.} (30. e4 $5 {can also be played immediately.} Nb4 31. Rc7 Nc6 32. Nc4 $18) 30... Kd8 31. e4 Ne7 32. Nb3 {proactively protecting a5 from a potential ...Nc6 from my opponent, and also allowing a possible jump to c5. Not the most effective move, however.} (32. e5 $5 {is also a good way of preventing ...Nc6.} Nd5 33. Ne4 $18) 32... Nc6 { so a knight ends up on c6 anyway, but it doesn't last long there.} (32... Rc8 33. Rxc8+ Kxc8 34. Ke2 $18) 33. d5 Nce5 34. Rc7 {by this point it's obvious White will eventually crack Black's position, although not necessarily quickly. Black now gets desperate and the game slips away much faster.} Nd3 $6 (34... Rc8 35. Rxb7 Rc3 36. Nd4 $18) 35. dxe6 (35. Bh3 {played immediately makes it even easier for White.} Rc8 36. Rxb7 N3c5 37. Nxc5 Rxc5 38. dxe6 fxe6 39. Bxe6 Nf8 $18) 35... fxe6 36. Bh3 {this is a move that all English players - or anyone who likes to fianchetto the king's bishop - should keep in mind as a possibility; sometimes it is too easy to simply leave a bishop on its originally developed square without thinking of making the slight adjustment in position to h3. Here it has a great effect, guaranteeing material loss for Black.} Ke7 37. f4 {cutting off Black's pieces from the e5 square.} h6 38. Ke2 {and Black will lose either the d3 or the d7 knight, for example after ...Nb4 39. Nc5} 1-0

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