13 November 2016

Annotated Game #165: Don't play the opening on automatic

This final-round tournament game shows the danger of playing the opening phase on "automatic", in other words following a standard development scheme regardless of what your opponent does.  In this case, it was my opponent that committed this sin, choosing an interesting modern Dutch Defense hybrid setup in response to my English Opening; however, he failed to see a key positional difference (White pawn on d3 instead of d4) and early on made a strategic error with the placement of his dark-square bishop, allowing me to establish a fantastic and ultimately decisive bishop on the long diagonal.  The other thematic error made was 13...e5; it is normally an excellent idea to make this advance of the e-pawn in the Dutch, but only when you can properly support it.  Here a tactical refutation left me a pawn up and with a lasting initiative on the kingside.

This game displays a significantly higher level of play from me than in the previous one; no major mistakes occurred on my part and as noted below, I was careful to check tactics and be patient in assembling my final kingside attack, not allowing my opponent an opening for counterplay.  Of course this is easier to do when you have a solid positional and small material advantage coming out of the opening phase, but my overall mental effort was certainly at a better level this time around.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 9.3"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. c4 b6 2. Nf3 Bb7 3. Nc3 e6 4. g3 f5 {transposing to a Dutch Defense structure with an accelerated queenside fianchetto.} 5. d3 {this keeps things in English Opening territory, instead of transposing to a full Dutch by playing d4. The main difference is that White controls e4 with a pawn, but gives up influence over e5 and c5.} Nf6 6. Bg2 Bb4 {continuing to pursue hybrid/modern ideas in the Dutch. Here I don't believe that the bishop sortie to b4 has much bite. The usual idea (with a White pawn on d4) is to increase Black's control of e4 by pinning or exchanging the Nc3.} 7. O-O O-O 8. Bd2 $14 {I thought for a while here about the best placement of the bishop and whether I should immediately play a3. I decided that in the event of a bishop for knight exchange on c3, I would like to have the bishop on the long diagonal. Of course there was no guarantee this would happen, but it turned out to be a big factor in the game. The engine also considers White to have a small plus by this point, I would say largely due to the misplacement of the Bb4, which will either have to retreat or be exchanged favorably for White.} d6 {now there's no going back for the Bb4.} 9. a3 Bxc3 10. Bxc3 {a beautiful long diagonal for the bishop, which will influence the course of the rest of the game.} Qe8 {a standard Dutch move, indicating support along the e-file for an eventual ...e5 push, along with placing the queen on the e8-h5 diagonal with a possible kingside transfer.} 11. b4 {in part this was a waiting move, but I also wanted to seize some extra queenside space and contest c5.} Nbd7 {getting my opponent's last piece developed and supporting either ...c5 or ...e5. Around here I had mentally noted that pushing ...e5 would not work tactically, as can be seen shortly in the game.} 12. Qb3 {I considered this another good point of playing b4, the ability to follow up by developing the queen to the a2-g8 diagonal. However Black can now in fact play ...e5, as shown by the engine, although it looks counterintuitive to open the diagonal in response.} ( 12. Re1 {immediately is better, setting up the tactic to follow if ...e5 is pushed.}) 12... Kh8 {moving the king off the diagonal to take away potential tactical ideas involving a discovered attack following c4-c5. However, this also puts the king in the corner, gives it fewer escape squares, and creates tactics for White involving the pin of the g7-pawn.} (12... e5 {and now the strong e/f pawn duo more than offset the weakness on the a2-g8 diagonal. Unfortunately for White the immediate capture on e5 does not work tactically, due to the presence of the rook on f1:} 13. Nxe5 $6 Bxg2 14. Nxd7 Bxf1 15. Nxf6+ gxf6 16. Rxf1 $11) 13. Rfe1 {played for tactical reasons in anticipation of Black's next move, but also for strategic reasons, in the event of the e-fiile being opened with a pawn exchange.} e5 $2 {Black's key error of the game. My opponent evidently was playing a standard plan by rote, without checking the tactics first. Indeed, normally successfully playing ...e5 in the Dutch is a very good thing.} 14. Nxe5 {this tactic works due to the fact that Black's Bb7 is hanging and that I have a kamikaze target for the Ne5.} Bxg2 15. Nxd7 Nxd7 16. Kxg2 $16 {I'm now a pawn up with no real compensation for my opponent. He does get some initiative on the kingside in return, but neglects to consider in turn my threats against Black's king.} f4 17. Qb2 {pressure on the long diagonal, in various forms, plays a critical role from here to the end of the game.} Qf7 {doubling the f-file pressure, but with an important caveat, that the queen also must protect g7.} 18. f3 {solid, but not best.} ( 18. gxf4 $1 {would be the best way to exploit the queen having to cover g7.} Nf6 19. Kh1 $18) 18... fxg3 19. hxg3 Rae8 20. Rh1 {I spent a while here making sure that this move would not compromise my defense. Black's previous sequence, by forcing the exchange of pawns, has now created some major potential threats for me down the half-open h-file.} Ne5 21. Raf1 {preventing a sacrifice on f3 and also opposing the rook (which is adequately protected) to the Qf7.} (21. f4 $5 {is another alternative that looks a little easier to play for White, perhaps.}) 21... Qe7 22. Rh4 {an important rook lift idea, with a transfer to e4 being the main point of it.} Ng6 23. Re4 $18 Qf7 {the queen remains tethered to protecting g7.} 24. Rxe8 {I also spent a while thinking about this move, finding nothing else that worked from an attacking standpoint. Reducing material (and Black's attacking chances) seemed to be a principled continuation.} Rxe8 25. e4 {this seals the e-file against further threats and allows the transfer of the queen along the second rank. The f-pawn is no longer seriously threatened.} Re6 {this represents a loss of valuable time for Black, because of my next move. I presume he was thinking of transferring it to the h-file after moving the Ng6, but this never happens.} 26. f4 {this seemed to surprise my opponent. Perhaps advancing the pawns in front of the king looks like it loosens the position, but the e4/f4 pawn duo is well supported and controls keys squares. Now f5 is threatened with the fork, but more importantly the Ng6 can no longer go to e5 and block the long diagonal.} Re7 27. Qe2 {placing it on the d1-h5 diagonal for transfer to the kingside. I checked the tactics carefully on this, given that the queen faces the Re7.} c6 {to better support a ...d5 advance.} 28. Qg4 {showing some patience in preparing the h-file attack. This also threatened penetration of Black's position on the c8-h3 diagonal.} Re8 {it's interesting to see how Black has used up tempi with this rook while I am able to do more useful things with my time, in setting up an attack on Black's king.} 29. Rh1 b5 $2 {too slow, underestimating White's threats against the king. Now material loss is inevitable along with ruining Black's position.} (29... Kg8 {would better defend, but after} 30. Qh5 h6 31. a4 $18 {now White can support progress with the e/f or the a/b pawns without Black being able to do much about it, leading to a winning endgame.}) 30. Qh5 {and now ...h6 is not possible due to the position of the Kh8 and pin on the g7 pawn.} Kg8 31. Qxh7+ Kf8 32. Rh5 { another rook lift theme; this took me a while to find.} Ne7 33. Rg5 1-0

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