17 December 2018

Annotated Game #204: Not all equivalent decisions are equal

The next round of the tournament started out very similarly to the previous one (Annotated Game #203), with even the same ECO opening code (B13), even though the continuation was somewhat different.  In this game, my opponent seemed to rush to exchange off his bishops for knights on both the queenside and kingside, which I felt was a long-term positional advantage for me.  Unlike my previous opponent, however, this time around my opponent had significantly less prudence and went for 13. g4? which had an immediate tactical refutation.

One of the themes I noted during analysis was the repeated need to decide between reasonable-looking moves that had different trade-offs in terms of their strategic impact.  As Black, moves 14 and 19 are examples of this, where I deliberately went for a safe continuation in the first instance, and faced the common "which rook to move?" problem in the latter case.  White's decision to make the second bishop for knight exchange on move 11 was more problematic positionally.  Other key decisions for him occurred on move 14 and move 20.  It's interesting to see how decisions that may seem largely equivalent - for example, recovering a pawn one way rather than another - are not really equal, once other factors are taken into consideration.

I give credit to my opponent for playing pretty accurately after suffering the tactical blow on move 13, so it was not a question of him simply collapsing afterwards.  In the end, I believe he missed a key defensive move due to an instinctual desire to avoid a queen exchange, after which I penetrated his king position and won soon afterwards.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class D"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "64"] {[%mdl 8256] B13: Caro-Kann: Exchange Variation and Panov-Botvinnik Attack} 1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 {we're already out of book here, but this is not necessarily a bad treatment for White, who can either transpose or take the game in an independent direction.} d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bb5 a6 { there's no reason not to do this, as I prefer the results of an exchange on c6 for Black. White alternatively will just lose time with the bishop retreating it along the a6-f1 diagonal, or get it largely buried on b3.} 7. Bxc6+ bxc6 8. h3 {White is in a preventative mode, preventing ...Bg4.} (8. O-O Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 10. Re1 e6 11. Qd3 Bg6 12. Qd1 c5 13. Bg5 Be7 14. dxc5 O-O 15. b4 Qc7 16. a3 Rfd8 17. Ne2 Ne4 18. Bxe7 Qxe7 19. Nf4 Bf5 20. Ne5 Qg5 21. Qf3 Rac8 22. a4 f6 { Perez Pardo,J (2320)-Torres,P Las Palmas 1991 0-1 (36)}) 8... Bf5 {an easy decision, as there's no other good square for the bishop, and it should not be locked in by a premature ...e6.} 9. O-O e6 10. Bg5 h6 {after this move we now replicate what happened on the queenside with the bishop for knight exchange. However, this was not forced and Black now gets the advantage of the two bishops.} (10... Bd6 $5 {first would take away f4 as a retreat square for the Bg5 and nicely place Black's bishop.}) 11. Bxf6 Qxf6 {a rather rare square for the queen in the Caro-Kann, where it can exert signifcant pressure down the f-file and the long diagonal. The g6 square is also now available to it.} 12. Re1 Bd6 13. g4 $2 {on general principles this would be an unjustified weakening of the kingside, but there is also an immediate tactical refutation. The text move fatally undermines f3.} (13. Na4 $5 $15 {although White doesn't have a particularly good plan here, at least improving his worst piece (the default strategy when no other progress seems possible) would be useful. On a4, the knight usefully overlooks b6 and c5, with the latter a possible outpost. On c3, it wasn't usefully influencing any squares.}) 13... Bxc2 $1 $17 { this deflection tactic appears, as now the Nf3 is only defended by the queen, which is overburdened by having to protect the c2 pawn at the same time.} 14. Qe2 $6 {although White is doomed to lose a pawn regardless, this was the wrong choice of how to do it. Now I keep the advantage of the two bishops and the light-squared bishop is particularly useful, given the light-square weaknesses in White's camp.} O-O {here I went with a 'safety first' approach by getting my king castled, although it wasn't objectively necessary. It's still good enough for a significant advantage.} (14... h5 $5 {is Komodo's choice, as a way to immediately press the advantage on the kingside.} 15. Ne5 Bh7 16. f3 Qh4 $19) (14... Bh7 {is a more positional continuation that is higher on the prudence scale than advancing the h-pawn.}) 15. Rac1 $17 Bh7 16. Na4 Be4 { now the problem with White's knight move is that it gives up the central square to the bishop.} 17. Ne5 {the best try for White, although the best response is also obvious.} Bxe5 18. dxe5 Qxe5 {I am now two pawns up but only temporarily. However, White has to spend time regaining the material now.} 19. Nc5 (19. f3 $2 Qd4+ {forking the Na4.}) 19... Rad8 {I thought for a while here about how to activate my rooks, which is what I now have the time to do. The text move has the advantage of placing the rook behind the central passed d-pawn, making it a stronger threat. I wanted to leave the other rook to stay on the f-file or move to the e-file as needed.} (19... Rfc8 {is also a legitimate option. For example} 20. Nxe4 dxe4 21. Qxe4 Qxb2 22. Rc2 Qa3 $17) 20. Nxa6 $6 {regaining material but leaving my central pawns intact and strong. } (20. Nxe4 dxe4 21. Rxc6 f5 22. Rxa6 fxg4 23. Qxg4 Qxb2 24. Qxe6+ Kh8 25. Qb6 Qe5 $17) 20... Qf6 {removing the queen from the pin and allowing the bishop to come alive again.} 21. Rxc6 Bf3 $6 {this is one of those moves that looks dangerous for the opponent, but really doesn't threaten anything beyond the one-tempo attack on the queen, which is easily avoided. After that, it's unclear what the bishop is doing on f3. However, it does require White to find the one correct response, as other queen moves lose.} (21... h5 $142 22. Rc3 hxg4 23. Qxg4 d4 $17) 22. Qd2 $2 {my opponent evidently did not see the threat posed by the black queen on the kingside. It's likely that he was thinking primarily about avoiding a queen trade.} (22. Qe5 Qxe5 23. Rxe5 d4 24. Rc2 $15 {and White has some problems, but should be able to blockade the d-pawn.}) 22... Qh4 $19 23. Kh2 {this covers the h-pawn, but now the g-pawn is hanging due to the pin on the h-file. Black also has other threats available...} d4 { a free advance of the passed pawn, as the Rc6 is now exposed.} 24. Rc4 Bxg4 { White is now effectively lost. One of the other points of the d4 advance was to take away the e3 square from the Re1, so that further material loss and exposure of White's king is inevitable.} 25. Qf4 Qxh3+ 26. Kg1 Bf3 27. Qh2 Qxh2+ {this wins just as surely as other continuations, although the engine prefers to be fancier about it.} (27... Qg4+ 28. Qg3 Qh5 29. Qh2 Rd5 $19) 28. Kxh2 d3 29. Kg3 Be2 {I thought for a while here and played what I felt was a safe winning continuation.} (29... d2 {makes it even easier for Black, according to the engine.} 30. Rb1 Be2 $19) 30. f3 (30. Re4 Bh5 31. f3 $19) 30... d2 31. Kf2 dxe1=Q+ 32. Kxe1 Bxc4 0-1


  1. A nicely annotated game and a well-played finish !

    Keeping Queens on the board is something I used to do a lot, but I seem to have reduced the tendency these days.

    I think the belief is that with a Queen on board there are better attacking chances, as she is such a powerful piece.

    As always, every decision in Chess has its points, so any significant decision needs to be considered carefully.

    1. Thanks for the comments. One of the things I've noticed as part of the improvement process is how important any piece trade is, since they inevitably affect the strategic (and sometimes tactical) balance in different ways. The idea of counting up "points" for pieces is still, I think, a very helpful way for novices to learn the game, but at a certain point becomes inadequate for understanding what is going on in the game.


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