11 September 2018

Annotated Game #194: Distractions

It's often the case that a chess game features a kingside versus queenside race, with the game going to the swiftest side to break through.  In this first-round tournament game, my opponent opts for an accelerated queenside castling strategy, in the process successfully exchanging off the light-squared bishops.  By move 14, however, strategic errors on his part have given me already a near-winning advantage, with the road open to his castled king.  I give him great credit for making dangerous-looking demonstrations on the kingside that successfully distracted me from breaking through against his king position, which resulted in a position where I had pressure but no way to make progress.  Evidently the pressure was too much to maintain for my opponent, however, as he unnecessarily exchanged a knight for two pawns and in the process gave me new opportunities to break through, which I did not pass up for a second time.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A25"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "87"] {[%mdl 8192] A25: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 but without early d3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 d6 4. Bg2 Be6 5. d3 Qd7 6. Nf3 {this standard-looking move actually scores poorly (around 40 percent) in the database, due to Black's early formation of a battery on the c8-h3 diagonal.} ( 6. Rb1 $5 {offers an accelerated version of White's typical queenside expanion plan with b2-b4 coming, only this time with both kings still in the center. The point is that White benefits from this standard plan, regardless of when it is started, while keeping the Ng1 at home to keep control of the h3 square.} ) 6... Bh3 7. O-O h5 {aggressive, but in keeping with Black's development; he clearly will be castling queenside.} 8. Nd5 {I saw no reason to refrain from the thematic occupation of the d5 outpost, being slightly ahead in development. } O-O-O 9. b4 {a benefit of the previous move, the b4 square is now protected by the knight.} Nce7 $2 {under other circumstances this might be a prudent retreat, anticipating b4-b5, but it causes a tactical problem for Black on the 7th rank, which I spotted. Note the now-unprotected f7 pawn.} (9... Bxg2 $142 { is a viable option} 10. Kxg2 h4 $11) 10. Bxh3 $16 Qxh3 11. Ng5 {threatening the pawn with tempo} Qf5 12. e4 Qg6 13. h4 {I chose to overprotect the Ng5 here, in order to later free up the dark-square bishop for other action.} (13. Be3 {would immediately hit the undefended queenside.} Kb8 14. h4 $16 {with similar play.}) 13... Nxd5 $2 {a strategic error, exchanging off Black's defensive piece and opening lines to his king. My opponent probably was following the general maxim of exchanging pieces to relieve space problems. Indeed, he is able to follow up by developing an additional piece to e7, but this is too slow to defend.} 14. cxd5 $18 Be7 15. Be3 {right idea, targeting the weak a7 pawn - but not the most efficient execution, as it end up wasting a tempo with the bishop.} (15. Qa4 $18 {immediately adds more threats.}) 15... Bxg5 16. Bxg5 (16. hxg5 $5 {is strongly preferred by the engine, which isn't bothered by what looks like potential for kingside counterplay.} h4 17. g4 Ne7 18. Qa4 $18 {and here Black can't in fact make any rapid progress down the h-file, while White's queen and other pieces threaten quickly to break through against the Black king.}) 16... f6 $16 17. Be3 Qe8 {sensibly swinging the queen back to the defense, offering to sacrifice a pawn. However, I don't take it, preferring to build up piece pressure.} (17... Kb8 {was objectively a better defense.}) 18. Qc2 (18. Bxa7 $5 g5 (18... b6 $6 19. a4 Kb7 20. a5 $18 { and Black's king is in major danger.}) 19. hxg5 fxg5 20. Rc1 $18) 18... Kb8 $16 19. a4 (19. Rfc1 $5 {would get the rook into play on the c-file and also be a logical follow-up.}) 19... Qe7 $6 {d7 is a more logical square, keeping the queen on the valuable e8-a4 diagonal.} 20. a5 {continuing the march of the pawns toward Black's king position.} g5 $2 {further deteriorates the position, comments Komodo via the Fritz interface. Objectively this is the case, but in practical terms it successfully distracts me from breaking through on the queenside, which I could do immediately.} (20... Qd7 $5 $18) 21. hxg5 (21. a6 $1 c5 22. bxc5 dxc5 23. axb7 $18) 21... fxg5 $2 {again, technically a blunder, but it continues the distraction.} 22. Kg2 (22. a6 {still wins almost immediately.}) 22... h4 {while still not spotting the winning a6 idea, I still now am able to neutralize the push easily and maintain the advantage.} 23. Rh1 g4 {Black prepares h3. Now I really start to give away the advantage by redeploying my pieces away from the queenside - unnecessarily.} 24. Qe2 $6 (24. a6 {ends the debate} h3+ 25. Kh2 {and Black can do nothing more.}) 24... h3+ $16 25. Kh2 {now if Black hurries, he can hold reasonably well on the queenside. However, he doesn't find the best path.} Qg7 $6 (25... Nf6 {getting another piece into the game.} 26. b5 Rc8 27. Rhc1 $16) 26. b5 $18 Rc8 27. Qc2 { a less effective and slower way of exerting pressure.} (27. Bxa7+ {I recall looking at the idea, but ultimately not seeing how I could break through.} Kxa7 28. b6+ Kb8 29. Rhb1 Nf6 30. a6 $18) 27... Ne7 28. Rhb1 {White prepares the advance b6} Qf6 29. Qb2 $6 {a useless and time-wasting move. I did not ask myself what the Qf6 can now do for Black.} (29. Qe2 $5 {going back to the previous square, where the queen pressured the g4 pawn, would be better, defending against Black's next.}) 29... Qf3 $14 {my opponent finds the best idea in the position, with a mate threat on g2.} 30. Rg1 {forced} Rhg8 $2 ( 30... Rh7 {would help defend along the 7th rank.}) 31. b6 $2 {this fails against the best defense.} (31. Ra2 {is rather subtly found by the engine, reinforcing the 2nd rank and defending f2 again, allowing for possible moves by the bishop. For example} Rg7 32. Qa3 {a key move, threatening to break through on the a-file and also pressuring d6, meaning the c7-pawn can't move without negative consequences for Black. My opponent has no good moves at this point, with both b6 and Bxa7+ as threats.}) (31. Qa3 {immediately also is good, if not as incisive.}) 31... a6 {the best response.} 32. bxc7+ Rxc7 $11 33. Rab1 {I now have pressure but without the Rg1 in play and the Be3 no longer threatening anything, there is no way for me to make progress...unless my opponent makes a mistake.} Nxd5 $4 {this in fact would have been a smart play in some earlier variations, but now sacrificing the piece for two pawns is completely unnecessary and gives me a winning position.} (33... Nc8 $11 { is one move that holds everything together.}) (33... Rf8 {is another.}) (33... Rg7 {is another.}) 34. exd5 $18 Qxd5 35. Qb6 {the problem for Black is that he no longer has the knight to help defend against the queen penetration.} Kc8 36. d4 {it's nice to see that Komodo agrees this is the best move. I've mentally moved it up a gear, since Black's blunder.} exd4 37. Bxd4 Rf8 38. Rbd1 { getting the rook into play, as it was not being effective on the b-file.} Qf3 39. Qxd6 Rc2 {I give my opponent credit for fighting until the end.} 40. Qe6+ { I thought for a while here and chose a relatively simple and safe winning continuation.} Kb8 41. Qb6 {protecting against the sacrifice on f2 and also lining up the fatal blow.} Rfc8 42. Qa7+ Kc7 43. Be5+ Kc6 44. Qb6# 1-0

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