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

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