24 November 2018

Annotated Game #202: Breaking the trend

Although my results hadn't been terrible in the previous three games of this open tournament (1 out of 3 versus much higher-rated opposition, including my first-ever win over a master), I hadn't played very well at all.  I consciously understood that I needed to break this trend (see "Streakiness in Chess Performance") and did so effectively with this fourth-round game, facing an Expert.

The most important factor, both psychologically and in terms of chess skills, was that I was able to reach a position-type I knew quite well out of the opening.  Objectively it's balanced for both sides until around move 17, when my opponent essentially wastes a tempo and I am able to seize the opportunity to take control of the a-file.  From there on, I have the initiative and am able to go up a pawn, although after a tense confrontation and tricky sequence in the center, we end up in a draw.

I think that the idea of having better success out of "comfortable" positions - regardless of the objective measurement of equality - has gained a lot of force in recent years, primarily due to Magnus Carlsen's ability to win from seemingly dead equal positions, and his deliberate strategy of choosing solid openings many times that have no theoretical advantage whatsoever.  It certainly worked in this case for me, as I knew what to do in the middlegame transition phase better than my opponent did, so was able to seize the initial opportunity when it appeared on the board.

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "ChessAdmin"]
[Black "Expert"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A26"]
[Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"]
[PlyCount "84"]

{A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7
3. g3 d6 4. Bg2 Nf6 {going for a King's Indian setup, which was expected, even
with a somewhat unusual move-order.} 5. Nf3 O-O 6. O-O e5 7. d3 Nc6 8. Rb1 a5
9. a3 Re8 10. Bg5 h6 11. Bxf6 {the idea behind the exchange is that White's
dark-square bishop is constrained by all of the pawns on dark squares, so is
best traded for the Nf6, which is normally a good attacking piece for Black on
the kingside.} Bxf6 12. b4 axb4 13. axb4 {everything so far is very standard.}
Bg7 14. b5 Ne7 15. Qb3 {generally speaking, in these types of English
formation, it's sometimes hard to figure out where to put the queen. Here, it
seems clear that b3 is an excellent square, as it supports the b-pawn, doubles
up on the b-file, and lines up on the a2-g8 diagonal. There are no obvious
drawbacks, even with Black lining up his bishop to oppose the queen.} f5 $5 {
an uncommon (only one game in the database), aggressive play by Black, which
however is in keeping with typical KID ideas.} (15... Be6 16. Nd2 c6 17. Rfc1
d5 18. bxc6 bxc6 19. Qd1 Ra7 20. Na4 f5 21. cxd5 cxd5 22. Nc5 Bf7 23. Rb7 Rxb7
24. Nxb7 Qd7 25. Nc5 Qd6 26. e3 d4 27. Nb7 Qd7 28. Nc5 Qd6 29. Nb7 Qd7 30. Nc5
{Georgiev,K (2660)-Akopian,V (2600) Tilburg 1993 1/2-1/2 (41)}) (15... c6 16.
Rfd1 d5 17. cxd5 cxd5 18. d4 e4 19. Ne1 Qd6 20. e3 g5 21. Rdc1 Be6 22. b6 Rec8
23. Na4 Rxc1 24. Rxc1 Rc8 25. Rb1 Rd8 26. Nc2 h5 27. Na3 Bd7 28. Bf1 h4 29. Nb5
Qf6 30. Na7 {Oral,T (2415)-Simacek,P (2255) Prague 1997 1/2-1/2 (42)}) 16. Nd2
{this was played in the only DB game (see below for that continuation). It's a
common idea in the English, unleashing the Bg2 being the main idea.} (16. Nd5
Nxd5 17. cxd5 $11 {is preferred by Komodo. This is another common idea in the
English, where after an exchange on d5, doubled d-pawns are accepted in
exchange for gaining space and cramping Black.}) 16... Kh7 $146 {moving the
king off the diagonal, but now White gets a bit of initiative on the queenside.
} (16... f4 17. Nd5 Nxd5 18. Bxd5+ Kh8 19. Ra1 Rxa1 20. Rxa1 fxg3 21. hxg3 Bg4
22. Bxb7 Bxe2 23. Bc6 Rf8 24. Ra8 Qf6 25. Rxf8+ Bxf8 26. Ne4 Qf5 27. Qc2 Bf3
28. Nc3 Bxc6 29. bxc6 Be7 30. Nd5 Bd8 31. c5 {Seel,C-Eissing,C Pinneberg 1996
1-0 (55)}) (16... c6 $5 17. Ra1 Be6 18. e3 $11) 17. Ra1 {whenever White can
play this move with a Black bishop still on c8, it always has some punch to it,
due to the Ra8 hanging.} Rb8 (17... Rxa1 18. Rxa1 c6 19. Ra8 $14) 18. Ra7 $16 {
this is now a great rook, exerting lateral pressure on the 7th rank while also
dominating the a-file.} e4 {my opponent is willing to sacrifice a pawn for a
bit more space and activity, which I gladly accept.} 19. dxe4 $16 Bd4 {with a
"backwards" attack on the Ra7, which I calmly move back. Although it's a shame
it's no longer on the 7th rank, the pawn more than compensates for that.} 20.
Ra2 fxe4 21. Ndxe4 Be6 {it's understandable that Black wants to develop his
neglected bishop, but I could have reacted more strongly.} (21... Bg7 22. Rd1
b6 23. e3 $18) 22. Nd5 {part of Black's strategic problem has been his
relatively more cramped position and less-effective pieces. This exchange just
helps him, although it's not a terrible move in itself.} (22. Rd2 $5 {the
virtue of this move is that it shifts the rook to what is now a more effective
file on which to exert pressure.} Bg7 (22... Be5 23. b6 {and the idea still
works, by simultaneously threatening to exchange on c7 and undermine the d6
pawn. For example} Nf5 24. bxc7 Qxc7 25. Nd5 $18) 23. b6 $18) 22... Nxd5 $16
23. cxd5 Bf5 24. e3 {I thought for a long time before playing this, as the
continuation is rather complex.} Bxe4 25. Bxe4 Bb6 ({after} 25... Rxe4 26. Qd3
{is now the key move, forking the rook and bishop.} Qe8 27. Ra4 $16) 26. Qd3 (
26. Ra4 $5 {is a more creative idea, protecting the bishop and making the rook
mobile along the 4th rank.}) 26... Qf6 {developing the queen and protecting g6.
At this point I was a pawn up, but didn't have any good ideas on how to make
further progress.} 27. Kg2 Re7 28. Qc2 {I'm starting to make moves that mark
time rather than make threats, so Black is able to recover a bit of initiative.
} (28. h4 h5 29. Bf3) 28... Rbe8 29. Bd3 Kg7 30. Ra4 {finally I figure this
idea out.} Qg5 31. e4 {again, not a terrible move, but not necessarily in the
spirit of the position, either. It protects the d5 pawn, but contradicts the
idea of having the Ra4 laterally mobile and bottles up the Q+B battery. At the
time, I felt it would help shut down any counterplay by Black and it was
intended to help to mobilize my extra pawn.} (31. Qb3 $5 {is more flexible and
would allow the rook to subsequently transfer to f4 or h4, to good effect.})
31... Rf8 32. f4 Qf6 33. e5 (33. h4 $5 $16) 33... dxe5 34. fxe5 Qxe5 35. Rxf8 {
missing the critical continuation. Now the position becomes largely even.} (35.
Re4 $5 Rxf1 36. Rxe5 Rg1+ 37. Kh3 Rxe5 38. d6 cxd6 39. Qc8 {going after the b7
pawn and the soft underbelly of the 7th and 8th ranks, instead of the g6 pawn})
35... Kxf8 36. Bxg6 Qxd5+ 37. Be4 Qxb5 38. Ra8+ {deliberately going for a
drawing line, now that I'm a pawn down.} Kg7 39. Qc3+ Qe5 40. Qxe5+ Rxe5 41.
Bxb7 Re2+ 42. Kh1 Re1+ 1/2-1/2

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