19 August 2018

Annotated Game #192: The problem of mental perspective

When you retrospectively analyze your games, it's amazing how certain fundamental issues with your play can seem to spring forth and fairly shout their existence, as you see them repeated over a series of games.  At the time, you are often unaware of these holes or problems in your game, or at least the fact that they form a consistent pattern.  Perhaps it is largely a problem of mental perspective; to take an example from the physical realm, in a similar way you can have an obvious blemish on your face, but can't see it yourself until you hold up a mirror and look at it from an outside perspective.

Identifying these consistent flaws in my game has led to some significant improvements over time, ranging from major changes (coming up with a standard thought process) to relatively minor but still measurable advances (Annotated Game #63: Third time's the charm).  In the most recent analysis series, what has jumped out at me is the theme of unnecessarily complicated moves, which this game shares along with Annotated Game #191 and Annotated Game #189.

In the case of this game, which was a nail-biting tactics fest in a weird Caro-Kann sideline, I could have consolidated my advantage on move 16 or again on move 19, but find a more complicated way to win; at least I can't complain about the result.  Looking back on it now, I was definitely under more psychological pressure than was warranted and a calmer approach would have been more effective.  Something to remember for future such games that feature early direct pressure on the king.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "44"] {[%mdl 8256] B11: Caro-Kann: Two Knights Variation} 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Qf3 { a relatively rare variation, developing the queen early instead of the knight, which would lead to the Two Knights variation of the Caro-Kann.} d4 {here I gave some thought to capturing on e4, but decided that my opponent would likely be familiar with that, and I didn't like the fact that he would have two pieces developed to my none. Instead, I seize some more space and inconvenience the Nc3. The drawback is that it is another pawn move and doesn't do anything directly to aid my development.} 4. Bc4 {something I hadn't considered, but is the standard move in the database. White is playing in classic attacking mode, hitting the weak f7 square early.} e6 5. Nce2 b5 { another pawn move, but it is with tempo, as it hits the bishop.} 6. Bb3 a5 { continuing the straightforward theme of trying to push White's pieces around with my pawns.} (6... Bb7 7. d3 c5 8. Qg3 Ne7 9. Nf3 Ng6 10. h4 Nd7 11. h5 Ne7 12. a3 Nb6 13. Ba2 Nc6 14. Bf4 Rc8 15. Rd1 Qd7 16. Ng5 Be7 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. Qxg7 Rf8 19. Qxh7 Bf6 20. Qg6+ Ke7 21. h6 {Berescu,A (2386)-Streikus,S (2267) Patras 1999 1-0 (40)}) 7. a3 $146 {giving the bishop an out on a2.} Bb7 { I felt it was time to start developing my pieces. This also helps address potential tactical threats by White on the long diagonal.} 8. d3 c5 {although it's another pawn move, it's valuable to reinforce d4 and also open up the Bb7's scope.} 9. Nh3 {the only current square for the knight.} Be7 {with the idea of fighting for the g5 square.} (9... a4 {would have been good to throw in at this point, more to stop White from himself playing a3-a4 and threatening to open up the a4-e8 diagonal for his bishop.}) 10. Nef4 {my opponent is now fully focused on the kingside, hoping to break through with a direct attack.} (10. a4 bxa4 11. Bxa4+ Bc6 $14) 10... Ra6 {a creatively awkward way to protect the e6 pawn (White's target) along the 6th rank.} (10... Qb6 {is a much more natural version of the same idea, with the queen being well-placed on b6.}) 11. Qg4 {this looks threatening, but the g-pawn is poisoned if the queen takes it.} (11. Nh5 $5 {is the way to attack it.} Kf8 12. N3f4 Nf6 $14) 11... Nf6 $15 {my opening problems are now solved, as White has nothing better than to retreat the queen. However, my opponent goes 'all in'.} 12. Qxg7 $2 {Black cannot castle king side} Rg8 $19 13. Qh6 Bf8 {trapping the queen, so White has to give up material to free her.} 14. Nxe6 Rxe6 15. Qd2 Nxe4 $1 {Komodo/Fritz awarded this an exclamation point. I give back some material to open the center and provide full scope to my rooks.} 16. dxe4 Rxe4+ (16... Bh6 {as an "in-between move" would have been more powerful here, shutting down the h6-c1 diagonal. I end up playing the move later, but to less effect.}) 17. Kd1 c4 {with the idea of cutting the bishop off from the f7 target.} 18. Ba2 Rxg2 19. Re1 {despite winning by a wide margin, I was still (overly) fearful about White counterplay and felt I was hanging on by a thread. Calm play would have made things easier from here, although I still find moves that are good enough.} Bh6 {an interesting sacrificial idea that wins, but is unnecessarily complicated.} (19... Qe7 {is simple and very good.}) 20. Rxe4+ ( 20. Qxh6 {accepting the sacrifice is the main line:} Rxe1+ 21. Kxe1 Qe7+ 22. Kf1 Rxh2 $19) 20... Bxe4 21. Qxh6 {now this leads to more immediate consequences for White.} Bf3+ 22. Kd2 Qe7 {simple, quiet, powerful and best.} ( 22... Qe7 23. Bxc4 bxc4 24. Qe6 Qxe6 25. b3 Qe2#) 0-1

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