16 October 2016

Annotated Game #163: Time for a draw

I was happy to get a draw in this third-round tournament game, after mishandling a rather tricky queenside situation in the English.  Black here does well to get a supported queenside pawn advance first (12...b5) and then takes advantage of my failure to immediately exchange, gaining an advantage in space and piece coordination.  Again my analysis reveals the importance of focusing on sequencing issues in calcuation (my move 14 should have been played on move 13) and there is also a similar overall theme between this game and Annotated Game #161; somewhat less desperately this time, I again rely on kingside counterplay and threats to gain a positive outcome, in this case a draw in a difficult position.  My opponent's time situation was the largest determining factor, as playing out the complicated double rook and pawns endgame seemed to hold little attraction for either of us.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A38"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 9.3"] [PlyCount "60"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O {in the Symmetrical English, White can essentially rattle off the previous sequence of moves regardless of Black's setup, as long as there are no direct challenges in the center (such as with ..d5).} Nc6 7. d3 d6 {continuing the symmetry, an easy if unchallenging approach in the center.} 8. Bd2 {this is somewhat committal in terms of developing the bishop, although it was hard for me to see a better square for it at this point.} (8. Rb1) 8... a6 9. Qc1 {the point of the previous move is that it gives White the opportunity to try and exchange the Bg7.} Re8 {Black decides to prevent the exchange.} 10. Bh6 Bh8 11. a3 {taking the b4 square away from the Nc6 and helping prepare an eventual b-pawn advance. } Rb8 12. Rb1 {this preparatory move is usually played earlier, but is fine now. I don't handle Black's next well, however.} b5 13. Nd2 {this gives Black a little too much leeway and leads to ceding the initiative.} (13. cxb5 { is the most logical response.} axb5 14. b4) 13... Bd7 14. cxb5 {unfortunately this is no longer a good capture for me. A good idea a move too late.} axb5 15. Nde4 (15. b4 {as in the above variation is no longer possible.} Ng4 {now gains a tempo by taking advantage of the Bh6 now being "loose". For example} 16. Bf4 cxb4 17. axb4 Rc8 $17 {and now ...Nxb4 with a discovered double attack on the Nc3 is a major threat.}) 15... b4 16. Nxf6+ {the idea is to exchange off a pair of knights and get some more room for my pieces.} Bxf6 17. Nd5 Bg7 { I was happy to exchange off Black's powerful bishop on the long diagonal.} ( 17... Nd4 $5 $15) 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Qd2 {connecting the rooks and further pressuring b4. Black still has a positional advantage on the queenside, as his pieces are working together better than mine (especially after the Nd5 is kicked next move) and he has more space and a better pawn structure.} e6 20. Ne3 Nd4 {eyeing the undefended b3 square as well as the e2 pawn. A concrete demonstration of Black's advantage in space.} 21. axb4 {at the time I thought this was a major error, as Black ends up with a lot of pressure down the b-fiile and wins a pawn. The engine doesn't find anything much better for White, however.} (21. Nc2 Nb3 22. Qe1 bxa3 23. bxa3 Qa5 24. Qxa5 Nxa5 $17 { with superior play for Black against the isolated a-pawn.}) 21... Rxb4 22. Nc2 {I felt that this was essentially forced, otherwise the Nd4 dominates.} (22. Ra1) 22... Nxc2 23. Qxc2 Qb6 {now it becomes obvious that the b-pawn is doomed. } 24. Qc3+ Kg8 25. Qf6 {I figured that this was my best shot to compensate for Black's queenside pressure. The queen threatens to penetrate on the 7th rank if the Re8 departs.} Bc6 $6 (25... e5 $17 {was the move I was most concerned about, which would break the connection to b2 on the long diagonal.}) 26. h4 { still focusing on the kingside counterplay - somewhat out of desperation - rather than looking to shore up the queenside defense, which was possible here. } (26. Bxc6 Qxc6 27. Ra1 Qb7 28. Rfb1 $15) 26... Bxg2 27. Kxg2 {I didn't mind the exchange on g2, since it would potentially allow a rook to go to h1 quicker.} Qb7+ 28. f3 h5 {blocking the threat of h4-h5.} 29. e4 {the point of this was then to threaten the g4 advance; without the pawn on e4, the f3 pawn would be pinned and could not retake in the event of an exchange.} Qe7 30. Qxe7 {here I offered a draw. Without the queens on, Black has no further prospect of a forced breakthrough on the b-file, although he certainly has an endgame advantage with space, pawn structure, and rook activity. My opponent thought for a while and accepted after taking the queen, his lack of time on the clock being the deciding factor.} Rxe7 1/2-1/2

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