17 September 2018

Annotated Game #195: Drifting into the wrong plan

This second-round tournament game features the Slav main line for White, and the Lasker variation (5...Na6) for Black.  This looks unusual, but I like it because it avoids a huge amount of theory and is OK for Black.  Basically the knight should hop into b4 fairly early on and otherwise standard Slav developing moves are good.

In the game, by move 12 (...Nb4) I'm fine, but could have also looked at the 12 ...c5 pawn break idea, which was more challenging in the center.  (I would say that missing this idea is part of a pattern of playing openings "by rote", which I need to overcome by thinking more for myself.)  The main problem is a lack of strategic understanding of the position, which results in either drifting planless (moves 13-19) or finally selecting a wrong-headed plan focusing on the c-file.  Move 22 is an instructive strategic error, as (more seriously) is 24...f6?, which opens lines around my king and weakens my center.  I committed a similar error in another recent game, unnecessarily advancing the f-pawn and only focusing on the increased activity it could (theoretically) give my pieces, without properly taking into account that my opponent would benefit twice as much from it.  A good strategic lesson - although one should not conclude to never move the f-pawn as a result, just be very careful about the balance of forces that are unleashed.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D16"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "85"] {[%mdl 8256] D16: Slav Defence: 5 a4: Lines with 5...Bg4 and 5...Na6} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Na6 6. e3 Bg4 7. Bxc4 e6 8. h3 Bh5 9. O-O Be7 10. Be2 {at the time, I thought this was largely a wasted tempo, but the bishop is doing no good on the a2-g8 diagonal.} O-O 11. Ne5 Bxe2 12. Qxe2 Nb4 { this is where the knight normally belongs in this variation of the Slav. The move is perfectly fine, but an alternative also suggests itself:} (12... c5 $5 {effectively challenges White's center and takes advantage of the fact that the knight can still support it from a6.}) 13. Bd2 a5 {not a bad move, but unnecessary, and it accomplishes nothing for me in practical terms, as the Nb4 is adequately protected. Better would be to develop with ...Qc7 to connect the rooks and pressure e5, or perhaps go for the immediate ...c5 idea to challenge the center.} (13... Nd7 $5 {is also a worthwhile idea, challenging White's well-placed knight.}) 14. Rfd1 Qc7 15. Rac1 Rfd8 16. Qc4 {this is aggressive-looking but really doesn't help White much.} (16. Qf3 {is a better square for the queen.}) 16... Nbd5 17. Be1 Nxc3 {this is OK, but I really didn't have much of a plan here.} (17... Bd6 {when no plan leading to an advantage is obvious, it's a good idea simply to improve the position of your pieces. On d6, the bishop is on a much more useful diagonal (b8-h2) and fights for the e5 square.}) 18. bxc3 Nd7 {I continue with the rather basic idea of just exchanging pieces.} 19. f4 Nxe5 20. fxe5 Rac8 $6 {this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the position. Not a blunder, but a strategic inaccuracy.} (20... Qd7 {is one path, removing the queen from the c-file and thereby freeing the c6-pawn to capture on b5. The plan would be to play ... Rdb8 and push b7-b5.} 21. Rb1 $11) (20... Bg5 {is another simple yet effective idea, greatly improving the bishop's scope and targeting the weak e3 pawn.}) 21. Bd2 {somewhat passive.} (21. Rb1 $5) 21... c5 {finally I am able to get in this active idea.} 22. Qe2 c4 $2 {this is a classic Class player type error, not being comfortable in maintaining pawn tension. Now the pawn is isolated on c4 and White's center is stronger for it.} (22... b6 {is another simple but strong move.} 23. Rb1 $11 {White cannot get enough pressure down the b-file to break through and pawn exchanges would not help him either.}) (22... Qd7 $5 23. Rb1 Qxa4 24. Ra1 Qc6 25. Rxa5 Ra8 $11) 23. Qf3 $14 {pressuring b7 and f7 at the same time.} Qc6 {at the time I thought this would solve my problems.} 24. Rf1 f6 $2 {this creates weaknesses for Black. It seems I have a tendency to do this sort of self-inflicted wound with the f-pawn by not calculating fully the consequences of an advance and pawn break.} (24... Qxf3 $5 25. gxf3 b5 26. axb5 Rb8 $11) 25. exf6 $16 Bxf6 {now the f7 square and e6 pawn are weak, with additional lines opened around the Black king.} 26. e4 (26. Rb1 Rc7 $16) 26... Rf8 $6 (26... e5 {was the best defense.} 27. Qf5 (27. dxe5 $6 Bxe5 {and now if} 28. Qf7+ Kh8 29. Rf5 Qd6 $15) 27... Kh8 28. d5 Qxa4 29. Bg5 Bxg5 30. Qxg5 Qe8 $11 {Black's pawn snatching at least provides compensation for the uncomfortable position.}) 27. Qg4 $16 {the most effective idea for White, pinning the g-pawn and creating tactical possibilities on the f-file against the Bf6. Also pressures the e6 pawn.} e5 $2 {it's interesting to me how good ideas played a tempo too late can turn into bad ones. This is an example.} ( 27... Rce8 $16) 28. d5 $18 {my opponent finds the move that leads to a winning advantage. The passed d-pawn becomes a major factor now.} Qc5+ 29. Kh2 Kh8 30. Rb1 {keeping the pressure on all the weak points in my position.} Rc7 31. Rb5 { by this point I realized I was in big trouble, since my passive defense can't cover all of my weaknesses.} Qa7 32. d6 Rcf7 33. Qe6 {it's instructive how White takes such effective advantage of my positional weaknesses, penetrating here to a key square.} b6 34. Qxc4 Qd7 (34... Rd7 35. Qe6 Qb7 36. Be3 $18) 35. Rxb6 Bd8 {desperation, but this just gets me in further trouble, due to back rank problems.} 36. Rxf7 Rxf7 37. Rb8 Rf8 38. Bg5 {I could resign here, but played on a few more moves in case my opponent randomly blundered.} h6 39. Bxd8 Rxd8 40. Rxd8+ Qxd8 41. Qc7 Qf6 $2 {I missed the forced exchange of queens in the next sequence, but I was lost anyway.} 42. Qc8+ Kh7 43. Qf5+ 1-0


  1. I really like your unbiased and both ways analysis. You are working very hard to upload valuable stuff on this blog.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I started this blog for my own training purposes, and it's hard to make real progress if you're not objective.