29 April 2019

Annotated Game #207: April Slow Chess League 45/45, Round 1

While I enjoy over-the-board (OTB) play and get more out of it, slow time control play online is a good substitute when I can't go to tournaments.  This month I completed the April 45/45 tournament at the Slow Chess League, playing three rounds out of four (one week was a bye for me). I played reasonably well and successfully adapted back to a faster time control than I've been playing in OTB tournaments, so I'll count it as a successful re-entry into online play.

This first round game I faced as Black the popular 1.c4 2.g3 setup in the English, which is playable against anything Black does. I don't think it's a real threat to my repertoire, but it was only the second time I'd played against it; the first time, my opponent did not opt for an exchange on d5. I found the resulting position a little awkward, having missed an opportunity to enter a more standard Slav setup on move 6. Black is stuck defending for a while and both of us missed a (very difficult to see) tactic for White on move 16 that Komodo pointed out in analysis. I finally found my way to equality on move 18 and was content with a draw afterwards, although I could have kept some pressure up with the ...e5 break in the center.

It wasn't a bad start to the tournament, and was a good re-introduction to the practical choices one needs to make in a tournament game.

[Event "SCL 2019/04 - 45/45"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2019.04.06"] [Round "?"] [White "valuableink"] [Black "ChessAdmin_01"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A11"] [WhiteElo "1599"] [BlackElo "1608"] [Annotator "Komodo 11.2 / ChessAdmin"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] [TimeControl "2700+45"] [WhiteClock "0:06:06"] [BlackClock "0:01:46"] {D13: Slav Defence: Exchange variation without ...Bf5 D13: Slav Defence: Exchange variation without ...Bf5} 1. c4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} c6 {[%emt 0:00:05]} 2. g3 {[%emt 0:00:36] a common setup in the English, which can be used against any Black move sequence.} d5 {[%emt 0:00:23] although White can exchange on d5, there doesn't seem to be a reason to delay this, unless you're playing the Modern Defense with ...g6.} 3. cxd5 {[%emt 0:00:07]} cxd5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 4. Bg2 {[%emt 0:00:04]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} (4... Nc6 $5 {is a less conventional approach that delays committing the kingside knight.} 5. d4 Bf5 {would allow Black to get the light-square bishop to its usual Slav posting on f5.}) 5. d4 { [%emt 0:00:05] now we have a Slav Exchange pawn structure, although White hasn't yet developed his knights.} Nc6 {[%emt 0:00:19] this is the most common move in the database, deferring development of the light-square bishop.} 6. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:08]} e6 {[%emt 0:00:55] locking the light-square bishop to the queenside, but I felt this was the only solid choice.} (6... Bf5 {is more in keeping with Slav Defense ideas, but at the time I thought wasn't good due to} 7. Qb3 {which threatens both d5 and b7. However, now the d4 pawn hangs and White's threats turn out to be ghosts.} Nxd4 $1 {and the queen does not in fact have any good squares, after the knight move creates threats against White, notably the fork on c2.} (7... e6 {is also good for Black.} 8. Qxb7 $2 Nxd4 9. Kf1 $17) 8. Qa4+ (8. Qxb7 $2 Nc2+ $19) 8... Nc6 9. Nf3 Qd7 $15 { and White does not have enough for the pawn.}) 7. Bg5 {[%emt 0:00:54]} Be7 { [%emt 0:00:15] again, a solid choice.} (7... Qb6 $5 {is an aggressive response that scores well in the database (60 percent for Black). The main idea is} 8. Bxf6 Qxb2 {attacking the now-hanging Nc3} 9. Rc1 Bb4 $15) 8. Nf3 {[%emt 0:02: 46]} O-O {[%emt 0:01:45]} 9. O-O {[%emt 0:02:05]} h6 {[%emt 0:02:14] I decided to resolve the issue of the Bg5 before anything else. Anything in response except the capture on f6 effectively wastes time for White.} 10. Bxf6 {[%emt 0: 04:53]} Bxf6 $11 {[%emt 0:00:04] the position is now very equal, with a limited number of ideas on how to make progress.} 11. e3 {[%emt 0:00:32] taking care of d4.} Bd7 {[%emt 0:07:03] here is where I needed to decide on a plan. Komodo approves of the choice, which again is solid, but I would have considered the alternative bishop development on a6 as more active.} ({A sample game with the alternative:} 11... b6 12. Rc1 Ba6 13. Re1 Na5 14. e4 Nc4 15. Rc2 Rc8 16. Qc1 Bb7 17. exd5 exd5 18. Ne5 Ba8 19. b3 Nxe5 20. dxe5 Bg5 21. f4 Be7 22. Na4 Qd7 23. Ree2 Bc6 24. e6 fxe6 25. Bh3 Rf6 26. Bg4 d4 27. Bf3 Bxf3 28. Rxc8+ Rf8 29. Rxf8+ Bxf8 30. Rf2 Ba8 31. Qf1 d3 32. Rd2 b5 33. Rxd3 Qc6 34. Nc3 Bc5+ {0-1 (34) Ballesteros Gonzalez, D-Guerra Bastida,D (2290) Albacete 1992}) (11... b6 12. Qa4 Bb7 13. Rfc1 $11) 12. Rc1 {[%emt 0:06:42] my opponent does not neglect his rook development.} Qa5 {[%emt 0:10:35] here I was looking at improving the position of my queen and connecting the rooks on the back rank. It ends up being more of a target than a help on the queenside, however.} (12... Rc8 $5 {opposing rooks can't be wrong, following up with ...Be7 and repositioning the dark-square bishop.}) 13. Nd2 {[%emt 0:05:08] The idea is Nf3-d2-b3-c5} b5 $6 {[%emt 0:06:07] this dubious move is due to me getting lost in the thicket of variations on the queenside, and also wanting to justify the queen's position on a5.} (13... Qb6 14. Nb3 Rfd8 15. Nc5 Be8 $11 { is awkward-looking but gets me to the good defensive position I reach later.}) 14. Nb3 {[%emt 0:00:57]} Qb6 {[%emt 0:01:29]} 15. Nc5 $14 {[%emt 0:02:07] although I had seen this coming, I failed to deal with it properly.} Rfd8 $2 { [%emt 0:00:51] Komodo gives this a question mark because of the unforeseen tactical blow given in the next variation. Both my opponent and I had assumed that the d5 pawn was untouchable, which under normal circumstances would be reasonable.} (15... Be8 {I rejected this at the time because it shut in the Rf8.} 16. Ne2 $14) 16. Qb3 $6 {[%emt 0:05:50] this allows me to equalize.} (16. Bxd5 $1 {wins at least a pawn. This is initially a hard-to-see tactical idea because the pawn is protected by another pawn, which leads one to assume that it is not capturable. The combination also hinges on the future vulnerability of the Nc6 or a queen fork on g4, neither of which is easily visualized.} exd5 {is the critical path.} (16... Be8 $16) 17. Nxd5 Qb8 18. Nxd7 Qd6 (18... Rxd7 19. Nxf6+ gxf6 20. Qg4+ $1 (20. Rxc6 {also wins)}) 20... Kf8 21. Qxd7 $18) 19. N7xf6+ $18) 16... Rab8 {[%emt 0:04:38] this still allows the Bxd5 idea, but it no longer wins, since I could now threaten White's queen in turn with the Nc6.} (16... Be8 $5 $11 {immediately is still better.}) 17. a4 {[%emt 0:07:08]} (17. Bxd5 $5 Na5 18. Qb4 Be7 $14) 17... b4 $11 {[%emt 0:00:47] my opponent seemed surprised by this, probably expecting me to take on a4. Although the position is still equal, it is now Black that has more initiative, as White has run out of threats.} 18. Na2 $6 {[%emt 0:05:56] this buries the knight on an awkward square and the pressure on the b4 pawn is not worth it.} (18. Ne2 $5 $11) 18... Be8 $15 {[%emt 0:06:43] finally the bishop withdraws and is no longer subject to tactics from the Nc5.} 19. Qd3 {[%emt 0:03:51]} Be7 {[%emt 0:02:35] repositioning the bishop to a more productive square, as it was doing nothing useful on f6.} (19... e5 {is Komodo's idea. I saw the general idea of this, undermining the center, but rejected it as leaving me with an isolated d-pawn. Concrete analysis shows that Black should come out ahead, though, thanks to the underprotected White a-pawn.} 20. dxe5 Be7 21. Qb5 (21. Nb3 Nxe5 $17) 21... Qxb5 22. axb5 Rxb5 23. Nd3 Bd7 $17) 20. b3 {[%emt 0:06:07] protecting the a-pawn and covering the c4 square, so it can't be used as an outpost by one of my knights.} Na5 {[%emt 0:04:47] pressuring b3 and with the idea of exchanging off the Nc5, if desired. Essentially I thought it wasn't doing anything useful on c6, so this was at least an improvement.} 21. Rc2 {[%emt 0:03:33] preparing to double rooks on the c-file.} Nb7 {[%emt 0:03:28] at this point I didn't see how to make progress, so essentially bailed out into a drawish position.} ( 21... e5 $5 22. Rfc1 exd4 23. exd4 Bf6 $15 {would keep up some pressure on White.}) 22. Na6 $11 {[%emt 0:00:40] I saw this as a possibility, since I have no way of taking the knight there, but at the same time its placement on a6 means the knight has no real additional threats.} Rbc8 {[%emt 0:00:18]} 23. Rfc1 {[%emt 0:00:18] following an exchange of rooks, it becomes very drawish, so I agreed to my opponent's draw offer.} 1/2-1/2

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