29 October 2018

Annotated Game #199: First Master scalp

This first-round game is notable for really only one reason, and that is because it marks the first time I ever defeated a Master-level opponent in tournament play.  It's due to a tactical miscalculation on his part, rather than any brilliance on mine, but I was nevertheless happy to take the win.  I think it's important for any improving Class player to realize that significantly higher-rated opponents are still quite capable of making blunders or incorrect decisions during the course of play, with no game being an inevitable crushing defeat from start to finish.

In the analysis I also was able to identify some key errors in positional understanding, for example the thought behind 9. Be3, which should be valuable for improving future play in such types of positions.  It's also worth noting sequences like the one beginning on move 19, which serve to illustrate the lesson that just because you can do something fancy on the board using intermediate moves and such, doesn't mean that you should.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Master"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A37"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 10"] [PlyCount "79"] {[%mdl 8192] A37: Symmetrical English vs ...g6:4 Bg2 Bg7 5 Nf3} 1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. g3 c5 4. Bg2 Nc6 {we now have a Symmetrical English, although Black soon stops mirroring White's setup.} 5. Nf3 d6 {breaking the symmetry and consolidating control of e5.} 6. O-O e5 7. d3 Nge7 {Black prefers not to block his f-pawn.} 8. Bg5 h6 9. Be3 $146 {This is unfortunately rather nonsensical positionally. At the time, I selected this square for the bishop so as to potentially exchange it for a knight landing on d4. However, this is a restrictive place for the bishop and prevents a future e2-e3 to evict a Black knight landing on d4.} (9. Bxe7 {I considered and it scores significantly better than the bishop retreat in the database. In this situation, Black's knight is probably better than White's dark-square bishop, making the exchange worthwhile for White.} Nxe7 10. Ne1 f5 $11) (9. Bd2 {is the standard retreat. White can potentially follow up with Qc1 and pressure h6.}) 9... O-O 10. Qc1 { the point behind retreating the bishop rather than exchanging it. However, the pressure on h6 does not really bother Black.} Kh7 11. Ne1 {beginning the standard plan of repositioning the knight to c2, in order to unleash the Bg2 and potentially support b2-b4 in the future.} Rb8 12. Nc2 Nd4 13. Rb1 {done to further prepare the b4 advance, although waiting is not necessary here. In other English Opening positions, the a1-h8 diagonal is open for Black's bishop and the rook move is in fact required.} (13. Bxd4 $6 {unfortunately would be a positional mistake, as after} exd4 14. Nd5 {Black can follow up with ...b5 to undermine White's central presence, while the half-open e-file will also be useful.}) (13. b4 $5) 13... Qa5 {this queen sortie is annoying but not best.} 14. Bxd4 (14. Re1 {is probably simplest, overprotecting e2, after which the engine assesses Black has nothing better than} Qd8 $11) 14... exd4 15. Nd5 Nxd5 16. Bxd5 {I had calculated this far ahead when initiating the exchange on d4. Black is a little better, however, as he has the two bishops and my pieces are not as well coordinated.} Bh3 17. Re1 Be6 {this was unnecessary and gives me a tempo to get moving on the queenside.} 18. b4 {the correct decision, according to Komodo, with the intention of trying to unravel the pawn chain.} Qc7 19. bxc5 $6 {this starts an unnecessarily complicated sequence. At the time, I was trying not to straighten out Black's pawn structure for him, but the results of this line are worse.} (19. Bxe6 fxe6 20. bxc5 dxc5 21. Rf1 $11) (19. e4 $5 dxe3 20. Nxe3 $11) 19... Bxd5 $15 20. cxd6 Qxd6 21. cxd5 Qxd5 22. Nb4 {the positional imbalances favor Black slightly. He has a 2-1 queenside majority and, perhaps more importantly, can easily defend his isolated d-pawn, which gives him a space advantage.} Qd6 23. Qd2 {my queen here is definitely inferior to Black's.} (23. Qf4 $5 {beginners are taught to avoid doubled pawns, but here the damage to my pawn structure would be less bad than letting Black's queen be dominant.} Qxf4 24. gxf4 {and White has more dynamic play than in the game.}) 23... Rbc8 {around this point in the game, I did not have a sense of how White could proceed meaningfully, other than try to block Black's plans.} 24. Nc2 b6 25. Rec1 Rc3 $17 {A classical outpost, notes Komodo via the Fritz interface. Black is using his space advantage well and the Nc2 is looking quite sad.} 26. Ne1 Rfc8 27. Rc2 {the idea being to double on the c-file and exchange off the rooks, if possible.} Qa3 (27... h5 28. Rxc3 dxc3 29. Qc2 $17) 28. Rbc1 $6 (28. Rcb2 $15 {I hadn't even considered, but was a better defense.}) 28... Qxc1 $4 {throws away the game, as Komodo states. Normally such an "x-ray" tactic would work down the c-file, but here the Ne1 bolsters the Rc2, so I can recapture on c1 with the queen (not rook) and cover everything.} (28... b5 {mobilizing the queenside pawn majority would be a road to victory.}) 29. Qxc1 $18 {after this point, I simply played solid moves until making the time control.} h5 30. Rxc3 Rxc3 31. Nc2 b5 32. Qb2 a5 33. Kg2 b4 34. Na1 Rc5 35. Nb3 Rd5 36. Nd2 f5 37. Qc2 Re5 38. Nc4 Rc5 39. Qa4 {by this point I've managed to rearrange my pieces profitably and the end is near.} Bh6 40. Qd7+ 1-0

28 October 2018

Streakiness in chess performance

From "How much does one game affect the next game?" by Michael Richmond
"Streakiness" is the tendency to keep losing (or winning) several times in a row.  It's a well-known phenomenon in team sports, also including individual performances in sports like baseball and cricket where particular results (for example pitching vs. hitting) can be meaningfully isolated from the overall team performance.  Naturally, this tendency to have positive or negative results in streaks also extends to individual sports like tennis and chess.

As with any complex phenomenon, it's nearly impossible to point to a single, definitive explanation for a particular string of results.  I do think a large part of it, however, often can be explained by the psychological expectation or "hangover" that is generated from the previous game.  Winning generates positive feelings - although this is not always helpful for an improving player, if it masks substantive weaknesses.  On the flip side, if you lose, it is common to experience unhelpful emotions such as anger, shame, feelings of worthlessness, etc.  This type of personalized reaction is in fact natural - a lot of time, effort and preparation goes into a serious game.  As a player, you almost always are mentally invested in even a casual match.  It's therefore healthier to experience the emotional reaction and then move on, rather than try to repress it.

So how does a chessplayer break out of a losing streak, which is the most common concern with streakiness?  Most of the time we are talking about a short-term losing streak, but in some cases it may be the symptom of a longer period of stagnation or decline in results.

Substantively, it is important for improving chessplayers to work on all aspects of their game, as it's rarely the case that a specific weakness is wholly responsible for a streak of bad results - unless you (perhaps unconsciously) keep playing into situations where you are weak.  For example, a player may have little knowledge of endgames, but nevertheless tends to head straight for them by exchanging down material whenever possible.  Another common issue is reaching middlegame positions for which you don't know the standard plans and characteristics of the position-types.  These weaknesses can be addressed (or at least better avoided) through candid self-assessmentanalyzing your own games, and targeted improvement plans.  Self-analysis will also directly contribute to understanding and avoiding the repetition of the same types of errors across different games.  These long-term practices will tend to boost your overall playing strength over time and contribute to shorter-term success as well.  There is no magic pill for instant short-term improvement in chess skills, in other words.

Psychologically, especially in terms of your short-term performance, it is more important for players to overcome the "hangover" of a previous loss or losses by focusing fully on the game in front of them.  Success in accomplishing this is partly based on willpower and your ability to focus, but is more strongly underpinned by adopting an attitude of mental toughness in all your games.  Getting in the habit of treating each new game as unique, as winnable, and as a stepping stone on the road to mastery goes a long way towards erasing bad vibes from previous games.

Finally, it's important to understand that your opponent "gets a vote" in the result of a chess game - meaning that you may play well and still lose, or alternatively play poorly and still win.  In addition to cultivating mental toughness as mentioned above, for improvement purposes it's therefore better to focus on your quality of play in each game, rather than solely on the final outcome.  You can't fully control the results you have, but you can dedicate yourself to playing with increasing excellence - which is a reward in itself - and that will inevitably be reflected in your playing strength and future competitive results.

20 October 2018

Annotated Game #198: Winning the queenside race

This last-round tournament game was another much-needed win for me.  Strategically, it is a good illustration (at least at the Class level) of how dangerous the English Opening can be when White can get their blows in first on the queenside, without a real response from Black.  His 12...f4 looks aggressive, but I can simply ignore it and create a series of threats on the queenside that give me the initiative, which I never relinquish. 

Positional pluses for White that helped lead to the win included developing the queen to an ideal square and getting the bishops on very effective diagonals; the dark-square bishop, which is sometimes not as effective in these lines, moves from d2 to b4 at a critical juncture, providing a knockout blow due to its latent pressure on a lineup of Black's pieces on the a3-f8 diagonal.  Other effective maneuvers include seizing the a-file and achieving a dominant, centralized knight by exploiting Black's hole on d6.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class C"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A26"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "71"] {A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 g6 4. d3 Bg7 5. g3 Nge7 {a somewhat unusual development for the knight, but not terribly uncommon either. The idea is not to block the f-pawn.} 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O d6 8. Rb1 a5 9. a3 f5 10. Bd2 {up to this point I've followed White's standard plan of development. Deciding where to put the queen's bishop is often not clear-cut, but I felt that d2 was a reasonable square here. It's also the top database choice and scores well (54 percent). The bishop gets out of the way of the heavy pieces on the first rank and the e1-a5 diagonal could be useful in the future, influencing b4 and possibly transferring the bishop to c3.} (10. Nd5 $5 {is another interesting idea.} h6 11. b4 axb4 12. axb4 Nxd5 13. cxd5 Na7 14. Qb3 Nb5 15. Bb2 Bd7 16. Ra1 Qe7 17. e3 g5 18. Qc4 g4 19. Rxa8 Rxa8 20. Nh4 Qg5 21. Bc1 Rf8 22. f4 exf4 23. Rxf4 Nc3 24. d4 Nb5 25. Bf1 Kh8 26. Qc2 c6 27. dxc6 bxc6 28. Bd3 Nc7 29. Bxf5 Nd5 30. Ng6+ Kg8 31. Nxf8 Nxf4 32. Nxd7 Ne2+ 33. Qxe2 Qxf5 34. Nb6 Qe4 35. Nc4 {1-0 (35) Leer Salvesen,B (2365)-Shtivelband,V (2170) Pula 2011}) 10... Bd7 11. b4 {no reason not to proceed with the plan.} axb4 12. axb4 f4 $146 {Black gains space, as Komodo notes via the Fritz interface, but without an immediate threat. I decided to keep going on the queenside.} (12... h6 13. Qc1 Kh7 14. b5 $11) 13. b5 $16 { the engine gives a significant edge in its evaluation to White here. The main problem for Black is that his queenside pawns are weak and White is in a good position to immediately begin operations.} Nb8 (13... Na5 14. Ra1 $16) 14. Qb3 {the natural square for the queen, where among other things it supports a potential b-pawn advance and lines up on the a2-g8 diagonal against Black's king.} Kh8 15. Ra1 Rxa1 {forced} 16. Rxa1 {with sole possession of the a-file, White has future threats to deploy the rook to either the 7th or 8th ranks.} fxg3 {trying to generate some kingside counterplay.} (16... Bc8 $5 $16 { is the engine's recommendation, going for pure defense.}) 17. hxg3 {sometimes it is difficult to chose which pawn to recapture with on g3. In this case, with White's rook away from the f-file and Black not being able to do anything in the near future on the h-file, recapturing with the h-pawn is indicated.} c6 {this looks like a reasonable try, but White has too many weapons on the queenside.} 18. Ra8 $18 {pinning the Nb8} Qc7 {getting out of the pin, but only temporarily.} 19. b6 {a great illustration of how White's space advantage can be applied concretely.} Qd8 {now the queen is back in the pin.} 20. Ne4 { a good move, but not the most accurate way of targeting the weak d6 pawn.} (20. Qa3 {makes it even easier for White, as the queen pressures d6 and is also able to penetrate on the a-file, where it can do further damage to Black's crumbling queenside; both the Nb8 and b7 are vulnerable.} Bg4 21. Qa7 {and material loss is inevitable for Black.}) 20... d5 {this again looks like a reasonable try, but White has too many good options.} (20... Nf5 $5) 21. Nd6 { taking advantage of the gaping hole on d6.} Be6 22. Nxb7 {the first material gain for White.} Qd7 {this allows me to gain a tempo with the knight withdrawal, but Black is essentially already lost.} (22... dxc4 23. dxc4 Qe8 24. Nc5 $18) 23. Nc5 Qd6 24. Bb4 {increasing the pressure on the a3-f8 diagonal, where Black has multiple pieces lined up, before doing anything else. } dxc4 25. dxc4 {I thought about my options here and considered the text move the simplest path to a win.} (25. Nxe6 Qxe6 (25... cxb3 26. Bxd6 $18) 26. Qxc4 Qf6 $18) 25... Bf5 26. Na6 {this knight is doing an outstanding job of creating threats with every leap. Now the discovered attack on the a3-f8 diagonal is devastating to Black.} Qe6 27. Rxb8 Rxb8 28. Nxb8 {by this point White's positional advantage has been converted into a materially winning position.} Qc8 29. Bxe7 {I'm happy to exchange down while a piece up and with the b6 passed pawn looming as a threat.} Qxb8 30. c5 Qb7 31. Qf7 {threatening a back-rank mate, now that the Black queen has moved away from the defense.} Qb8 32. Bd6 Qa8 33. b7 {the final nail in the coffin.} Qa6 34. b8=Q+ (34. Qe8+ Bf8 35. Qxf8#) 34... Bc8 35. Qe8+ Bf8 36. Qxf8# 1-0

06 October 2018

Annotated Game #197: Play the long game when needing a win

Having lost in the previous two rounds, including rather shamefully in round 3, I very much needed a turnaround win in this tournament.  "Needing" a win can, however, be a dangerous state of mind, like when gamblers keep making larger and riskier bets to try to catch back up to where they think they should be; it rarely ends up well.  Here I will give myself credit for having enough patience to "play the long game" and recognize the need to patiently maneuver, rather than try to break through prematurely, although my play was not necessarily optimal along the way.

There are a couple of key strategic moments that lead to the win.  The first comes at move 26, where I correctly realized that pawn breaks on the queenside, where both my opponent and I had castled, would favor me (Black).  About 20 moves later in a double rook endgame, I find the final breakthrough idea, involving a temporary rook sacrifice with a deflection tactic (which the engine awards a '!!' in its analysis).

That said, this game's analysis is perhaps even more valuable for me in the long term for the missed ideas, for both myself and my opponent, which will help me refine my understanding of the middlegame structures in the Classical Caro-Kann.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B18"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "122"] {[%mdl 8256] B18: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 sidelines} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nf6 7. Bd3 {a solid but unambitious continuation for White.} e6 {I judged it better to make a developing move (releasing the Bf8) rather than exchanging on d3. Having the bishop exchanged on g6 can sometimes weaken Black's king position, but here it's not yet a concern. Primarily Black has to worry about sacrifices on g6 that undermine the e6 pawn, and/or play up the h-file once the king is castled.} 8. Bg5 Be7 9. Bxg6 hxg6 10. Qd3 Nbd7 {it's standard to develop the queen's knight before castling, in part to provide the option of castling queenside.} 11. O-O-O { consistent with the idea of exchanging on g6 and hoping for active play on the kingside.} Nd5 {my plan here is to clarify the situation on the kingside by encouraging the trade of the Bg5, then castle queenside, which I felt was more solid than castling kingside. Black should be careful about bringing a knight to d5 in the Classical Caro-Kann, however, when it can be chased off by the c-pawn.} (11... Qc7 $5) 12. Bxe7 {my opponent goes for the obvious response, exchanging on e7.} (12. h4 {would be a more challenging response, putting the onus back on Black. Exchanging on g5 would not be good, as the h-file could then be opened to White's benefit.} Bxg5+ $2 (12... b5 {is the engine's choice, starting immediate counterplay on the queenside}) 13. hxg5 Rxh1 14. Rxh1 $16) 12... Qxe7 13. Qd2 O-O-O 14. Ne2 (14. c4 $5 Nc7 $14) 14... N7f6 (14... e5 { instead would be a thematic pawn break. Black is well positioned to play in the center.} 15. Nc3 Nxc3 16. Qxc3 e4 $11 {the pawn can be reinforced by ...f5 and Black has a comfortable, if no more than equal, game.}) 15. Kb1 {keeping an eye on the weak a-pawn and clearing the c1 square.} Ne4 {the original intent behind the previous knight move, taking an active central position.} ( 15... Ng4 $6 {hitting the f2 square looks tempting, but White can protect everything and effectively re-deploy his Ne2 at the same time.} 16. Nc1 $14 { and there are no good follow-ups to the previous one-move threat.}) 16. Qe1 { forced} Ndf6 {here I was trying to anticipate a c4 push and proactively re-deploy the knight.} (16... Qb4 {Komodo prefers this more assertive approach, activating the queen and preventing c4.} 17. c3 (17. Qxb4 Nxb4 18. Rhf1 g5 19. h3 f6 $11) 17... Qb5 18. Ka1 $11) 17. Nd2 {it's difficult here for White to come up with a useful plan, although the position is equal.} (17. h3 Kb8 $11) 17... Nxd2+ {the correct decision, improving the relative value of my minor pieces.} 18. Rxd2 Ne4 {obvious, but unimaginative.} (18... e5 $5 {would be a bit more challenging.}) 19. Rd1 Qf6 {the right general idea, of activating the queen, here with the intention of pressuring both f2 and d4. However, g5 may have been a better square for the queen, pressuring the g-file and the d2 square.} 20. f3 {the obvious reaction.} Nd6 {the position here is quite balanced now. It will require patient maneuvering.} 21. Ng3 Nb5 {Increases the pressure on d4, but again this is easily solved by White.} 22. c3 Rd7 { continuing with the single-minded idea of building up pressure on the d-file.} (22... Qf4 {would at least move the queen to a better square.}) 23. Ka1 (23. Ne4 {is an idea that my opponent seemed to miss. Although it's not enough for a real advantage, initiative shifts to White and Black has to be careful about things like covering the c5 square.} Qf5 24. Qe3 b6 $11) 23... Rhd8 {the problem with this is that the rooks now both have less space to work with, and the Ne4 idea gets better as a result. Luckily my opponent fails to find it.} ( 23... Nd6) 24. a4 {White makes the decision to weaken his kingside shield, apparently optimistic about the pawn push.} ({Instead} 24. Ne4 Qe7 25. Nc5 Rd6 $14 {is rather awkward for Black.}) 24... Nd6 25. Rd3 Qe7 {redeploying now with an eye toward the weakened queenside.} 26. b3 $6 {although this covers c4, it makes the next move more effective in punching holes in White's pawn shield. } (26. Qe2 Nf5 $11) 26... b5 {this break favors Black, who is better positioned with both the heavy pieces and his knight to exploit the resulting holes on the queenside.} 27. axb5 $6 {this simply plays into my plan. White instead should move the queen onto a better defensive square, for example e2 (covering the 2nd rank) or b1.} Nxb5 $17 28. Qc1 c5 {the best follow-up. Now the rooks on the d-file can make their pressure felt.} (28... e5 {is not as effective due to} 29. Re3 $15 {pinning the e-pawn and getting the rook away from the d-file threat.}) 29. Ne2 e5 {with the added pressure on d4, now this move is effective.} 30. d5 (30. Re3 f6 31. f4 e4 $17) 30... e4 $2 {this looks aggressive but would allow White to stablize the center.} (30... Rxd5 $5 { is simple and breaks through immediately.} 31. Rxd5 Rxd5 $17 32. Rd1 Rxd1 33. Qxd1 Qd6 {heading for a pawn-up endgame.}) 31. fxe4 $6 (31. Re3 {holds things together.} Qf6 (31... f5 $6 32. c4 Nd4 33. fxe4 $14) 32. fxe4 $11) 31... Qxe4 { Black forks: d3, g2+e2} 32. Qe3 {now White forks: c5+e4} (32. Re3 $5 Qxg2 33. c4 Nd6 $15) 32... Qxg2 {after some thought, I mis-evaluated the possible continuations, although the text move is still fine for Black, and perhaps represents the best practical chances for an advantage.} (32... Qxe3 33. Rxe3 Rxd5 $15 {and White has some compensation for the pawn, although the engine doesn't think it's enough to offset Black's advantage. I was worried about} 34. c4 {but} Rd1+ 35. Rxd1 Rxd1+ 36. Kb2 Nd6 $15 {should be fine, because after} 37. Re7 {White's rook can't take advantage of the 7th rank due to the rook fork on d2.}) 33. Qf3 $2 (33. Rhd1 {is the only good defensive move here, but White I'm sure didn't want to abandon the h-pawn.} c4 (33... Qxh2) 34. R3d2 Rxd5 35. Nd4 $11) (33. Qxc5+ {doesn't work, although it's a rougher ride for Black:} Nc7 (33... Rc7 $15 {is perhaps the easier route to go}) 34. Rhd1 $5 Qxe2 35. d6 Rh8 36. R1d2 (36. dxc7 $2 Rxd3 37. Rxd3 Qxd3 38. Ka2) 36... Qe4 37. Rd4 Qh1+ 38. Rd1 Qb7 39. dxc7 Qxc7 $17) 33... Qxf3 {now I make the correct evalution and exchange queens.} 34. Rxf3 f6 {here I choose safety over activity, which is not usually the way to go in rook endings. It's still enough to maintain the advantage, though.} (34... Rxd5 $1 35. c4 Rd1+ {we saw this idea in a previous variation} 36. Rxd1 Rxd1+ 37. Kb2 Rd2+ 38. Kc1 Rxe2 39. cxb5 Re7 $19 {and now Black can consolidate the two-pawn advantage without much trouble.}) 35. c4 Nd6 {this looked like the obvious move to me, but the engine disagrees. It also again shows how rook activity should be maximized.} ( 35... Re8 $5 36. Rf2 Rde7 $17) 36. Nc3 {this is a much less effective square for the White knight. Evidently my opponent's idea was to cover the e4 square.} (36. Nf4 $5 $14 {goes after the weak kingside g-pawn, en route to an excellent post at e6.}) 36... Re8 {now I start activating the rooks.} 37. Rhf1 (37. Na4 Rc7 $15) 37... Rde7 38. R1f2 $6 {this doesn't make a lot of sense, as the knight is currently covering the e2 square, so penetration on the 2nd rank isn't an immediate concern.} Ne4 (38... g5 $5 {looks like a good preliminary move, protecting the g-pawn and threatening ...g4 at some point, as White has nothing constructive to do in the meantime.}) 39. Nxe4 Rxe4 {here I felt confident that although White has the passed d-pawn, my rooks were better and could do more damage with White's knight out of the way. It's a somewhat premature simplification, though, and could allow White to more easily equalize.} 40. Kb1 (40. Kb2 {would be better, protecting the b-pawn and getting closer to the action.}) 40... Re1+ 41. Kc2 Kd7 (41... Rh8 $5) 42. Kd2 ( 42. h4 {is the key idea for White, fixing the g-pawn on g6 and allowing White to pressure on the g-file, for example} R1e4 43. Rg2 Rxh4 44. Rxg6 Re7 $11) 42... a5 {not a bad move, but both I and my opponent continue to ignore the ideas around g5 for Black and h4 for White.} 43. Rg3 Ra1 {the idea being to switch focus and break through on the queenside.} 44. Rgg2 $2 (44. Kc3 { and White hangs on} g5 45. h4 $11) 44... a4 45. bxa4 {it's better to take than to allow Black to create a passed a-pawn, but White is still in a great deal of difficulty.} Rxa4 46. Kd3 g5 {ironically, this is no longer Black's best move, although it is still good.} (46... Ra3+ 47. Kc2 g5 $19) 47. Rc2 $2 (47. Ra2 $5 {this is the defensive idea for White that the rook check on a3 would have prevented.} Rxa2 48. Rxa2 $17) 47... Ra3+ {now I find the idea.} 48. Rc3 { this would be an equally good defense, except for} Re3+ $3 {Komodo gave the exclamation points via the Fritz interface, so I've left them in as coming from an objective source. This is an aesthetically pleasing deflection tactic that forces a breakthrough on the queenside.} 49. Kxe3 Rxc3+ 50. Ke4 Rxc4+ 51. Kf5 Rd4 52. Kg6 Rxd5 53. Kxg7 Rd6 {not the quickest route to victory, but I was playing conservatively to keep the win in hand.} 54. Kg6 c4 {passed pawns must be pushed!} 55. Rc2 Rc6 56. Kf5 Rc5+ {although this gives back a pawn, it permanently bars White's king from the fight to prevent the pawn from queening. } 57. Kxf6 Kc6 {now Black wins with a simple king march.} 58. Kg6 Kb5 59. h3 c3 60. Rxc3 Rxc3 61. Kxg5 Rxh3 0-1