01 May 2019

Annotated Game #207: April Slow Chess League 45/45, Round 2

This second-round game looked reasonably simple but in fact had a lot of complexity to it. I play a novelty on move 10 that is good for no more than equality, but sets the character of the rest of the game as a struggle for White to realize the idea of a kingside attack. My opponent's biggest strategic mistake is to go after the poisoned b-pawn, although I don't choose the most effective follow-up and careful defense would be rewarded.

One of the lessons this game reinforces is the practical benefit of having the initiative, which forces your opponent to respond to your threats and narrows the range of their good responses. I would say that starting with move 17 I had the easier game in that respect, with potential threats on the h-file dominating our thinking. However, analysis shows that switching to a queenside focus would have been most helpful at some points, for example most critically on move 19. Overall, it was a very interesting game for me and valuable both to play and review.

[Event "Live Chess"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2019.04.11"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin_01"] [Black "SirIvanhoe"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A11"] [WhiteElo "1669"] [BlackElo "1469"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 {keeping the game in English territory.} d5 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 dxc4 5. O-O Nbd7 (5... b5 {is the other main choice here.}) 6. Na3 {I had to start thinking on my own here. Without Black having inserted ...b5, this is now a viable way to recover the pawn. White can also go for Qc2 immediately, with some move-order differences in the event Black plays something different, although the Na3/Qc2 combination is overwhelmingly played after Black's next.} Nb6 7. Qc2 g6 {opting for development rather than continuing to try to hold onto the c4 pawn.} 8. Nxc4 Nxc4 9. Qxc4 Be6 {harassing the queen.} 10. Qh4 $5 $146 {I foresaw being able to harass Black on the kingside in turn with my queen, so played this novelty.} (10. Qc2 {is the database move.}) 10... Bg7 11. d3 {not d4, which would make the pawn more of a target. The text move releases the Bc1 to head for h6, and also controls e4.} Bg4 {this loses some time, with the bishop moving twice. The intent seemed to be to exchange it for the Nf3 and so reduce my kingside attacking chances, but I am fine with having the two bishops after this.} 12. Bh6 (12. Bg5 {threatens to take the Nf6, which would then leave the Bg4 hanging, so Black's best would just be to move it back to e6.}) 12... O-O 13. Rfe1 {protecting the e2 pawn and unpinning the Nf3.} Bxf3 14. Bxf3 Bxh6 15. Qxh6 $11 {at this point the position is very equal and with most minor pieces exchanged off, I don't have much further scope to plan an attack.} Qb6 {although this isn't a bad move in itself, I was happy to see it appear on the board. I still am looking at a central/kingside strategy and this means that Black is focused on the queenside, moving his queen away from the potential action.} (15... Qd4 $5) 16. Kg2 {clearing the first rank for a rook to come to h1.} Rad8 17. h4 {the only logical way for White to try to make progress is to open the h-file. Black can defend, but now I have the initiative. My pieces can combine reasonably well to support my idea, which is obvious and relatively easy to play, while Black's pieces still need to get organized.} Rd4 {a somewhat awkward rook placement, but I saw the idea of it supporting ...Ng4 and further harassing my queen.} 18. Rh1 (18. h5 { immediately might be better, since Black can't stop the pawn push.}) 18... Qxb2 $2 {I had calculated that this pawn would be "poisoned" and was correct. Black grabs material while ignoring his inadequate kingside defenses.} (18... Qc5 $5 {would prevent h5.}) 19. h5 $6 {Here I thought for a while and played the wrong move. My other main candidate move was the best, although it's not a knockout:} (19. Rab1 $1 Qxa2 20. Rxb7 {in evaluating this position during calculation, I was overly concerned about Black's ability to make mischief on the 2nd rank, and did not see a way for White to make concrete progress. However, if Black hangs on to both the a- and e-pawns, he runs into trouble:} Re8 21. h5 Rd6 22. hxg6 fxg6 {and after} 23. Rc1 $16 {White has all the cards, despite temporarily being a pawn down. For example} a5 24. Rxc6 Rxc6 25. Bxc6 Qe6 26. Bf3 $16 {Black won't be able to hold everything, with the a-pawn being vulnerable.}) 19... Ng4 $6 {an interesting active defensive idea, but it doesn't work.} (19... Rd7 {is the cold-blooded defensive move that works best for Black. Now attacking the queen with Rab1 no longer regains the pawn and White doesn't have enough on the kingside.} 20. hxg6 fxg6 21. Rab1 Qe5 { and now White would have to shift fire to the queenside with Rh4-b4, with some compensation for the pawn but no kingside attack.}) 20. Qg5 {simplest and best. Now the Ng4 is hanging.} f6 {the queen is further harassed, but goes to a great square now.} 21. Qc5 $16 {forking a7 and e7.} Qb4 22. Qxa7 {this seemed the most straightforward way to an advantage.} (22. Qc1 $5 {is found by Komodo, which more subtly threatens penetration on the kingside while protecting d2 and threatening Rb1.}) 22... Ne5 23. hxg6 Nxg6 $2 {this recapture is what does Black in. In alternate variations, the knight could for example still have the option of exchanging on f3 and causing me more difficulties.} (23... hxg6 24. Rab1 Qd6 25. Rxb7 Re8 $16) 24. Rab1 Qd6 25. Rxb7 {now in addition to the pressure on the 7th rank against e7, the c6 pawn is weak and under pressure.} Nf4+ {a last desperate shot.} 26. gxf4 Qxf4 {with the idea of ...Qg5+, but there are multiple ways to combat this.} 27. Rh3 $18 {a simple defense that seals the win.} (27. e3 $1 Qg5+ 28. Kf1 $18) 27... Kh8 28. Rxe7 Rg8+ 29. Rg3 Rxg3+ 30. fxg3 Qg5 31. Qxd4 (31. Rxh7+ Kg8 32. Qf7#) 1-0

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