10 May 2019

Annotated Game #209: April Slow Chess League 45/45, Round 3

This third-round Slow Chess League tournament game was quite instructive on positional chess. A small tactic on move 18, after a premature central pawn advance by my opponent, netted me a long-term pawn structure advantage. Later on I am also able to win a pawn using a somewhat unusual bishop skewer of two isolated pawns. However, I betray my lack of awareness of how to play bishop versus knight endgames by letting my opponent mobilize his knight and establish a blockade, so it ends in a draw. Seeing how the bishop could have been much more effective in dominating the knight was the main lesson from the analysis.

[Event "Slow Chess League 45/45"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2019.04.17"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin_01"] [Black "R2Kmo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A17"] [WhiteElo "1674"] [BlackElo "1692"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] {A17: English Opening: 1...Nf6 with ...Bb4} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 { the Nimzo-English} 4. Qc2 {almost always White's reply here.} d6 5. a3 { there doesn't seem to be a reason to wait for this move, forcing the exchange.} Bxc3 6. Qxc3 b6 7. g3 {I decide to oppose the light-squared bishop on the long diagonal.} (7. e3 {is the other main option.}) 7... Bb7 8. Bg2 Nbd7 9. O-O O-O 10. d3 {this pre-emptively takes away the e4 square from use by Black's minor pieces, notably the Nf6.} c5 11. b4 {b3 is another option, also with the idea of developing the bishop to b2, but I saw no reason not to gain the extra space with the pawn.} Rb8 {this struck me as unambitious, although it does protect the Bb7 from a potential discovered attack on the long diagonal. I have no good discovered attacks with the Nf3, however, so it is not necessary.} (11... Qe7 {is a common idea, as shown in this example game.} 12. Bb2 Rfc8 13. Rab1 d5 14. cxd5 Bxd5 15. Rfc1 h6 16. Qd2 Bb7 17. bxc5 Nxc5 18. Qf4 Nd5 19. Qd4 Nf6 20. Qh4 Ncd7 21. Rxc8+ Rxc8 22. Qa4 a6 23. h3 Qd6 24. Qb4 Qxb4 25. axb4 Ne8 26. Ne5 {Harikrishna,P (2612)-Zhao,J (2511) Cochin 2004 1-0 (50)}) 12. Bb2 Re8 {at this point I have more space, but Black is solid. The only weakness that currently appears in Black's camp is on d6 - although without a pawn on e5, he also has to keep an eye on the White Q+B battery on the a1-h8 diagonal, which is pinning the Nf6 against the mate threat on g7.} 13. Rfe1 {I didn't have an obvious plan to follow here, so just improved my pieces and figured I would stay patient, to see if Black introduced any weaknesses.} Nf8 {this didn't seem very effective as a maneuver, and I could have reacted in the center to it.} 14. Nd2 (14. d4 $5 {and now} Ne4 15. Qc2 {is fine for White, for example} f5 16. dxc5 bxc5 17. Red1 $14) 14... Bxg2 $11 15. Kxg2 Ng6 {the knight comes back out, but it's not doing anything more on g6 than it was on d7 - less, it seems.} 16. Ne4 {this finally provokes Black into playing} e5 {to block the threat on the long diagonal.} 17. f3 {the pawn now controls e4 and g4. I played it largely because I was concerned about a possible future push of Black's e-pawn. It's not necessary, though, and it would have been more productive to get the queen off the now-blocked long diagonal. The move also leaves a hole on e3.} (17. Qd2 $5) 17... d5 $6 {Black's first inaccuracy. This allows me to inflict some real, if not decisive, structural damage.} 18. Nxf6+ $14 gxf6 (18... Qxf6 $2 19. cxd5 $18 {winning a strong central protected passed pawn.}) 19. cxd5 Qxd5 20. bxc5 {I thought for a while here on how best to proceed. This isn't bad, but it's a rule of thumb that Class players often prematurely release the tension in a position.} (20. Rec1 {keeping the tension and pressure up looks better.}) 20... Rec8 {Black decides to keep the a+b pawns together and recapture with the rook, but this gives me a tempo to play with and I now head for some exchanges which I hoped would solidify my positional edge.} (20... bxc5 21. Bc1 Rb3 22. Qc2 $14) 21. Qd2 Rxc5 22. Rec1 Rbc8 23. Rxc5 Rxc5 24. Rc1 f5 {this significantly loosens Black's kingside some more.} (24... Rxc1 {was what I was expecting.} 25. Qxc1 (25. Bxc1 $5) 25... Ne7 26. Kf2 {with only a slight edge for White. I feel I would definitely have an easier time playing the ending, however, given Black's weak king position and my long-range bishop vs. Black's short-range knight.}) 25. Rxc5 Qxc5 26. Qc3 {this showed a lack of imagination on my part. Black could now exchange queens and put his pawns on dark squares in order to equalize in the endgame.} (26. a4 $14 {followed by d4 is Komodo's idea. These freeing moves would significantly increase the scope of my dark-squared bishop.}) 26... Qe3 $6 {occupying the hole on e3 and threatening the e2 pawn proved too tempting for my opponent. However, the queen is easily neutralized by the king, something which did not take me too long to find.} (26... Qxc3 27. Bxc3 f6 $11) 27. Kf1 $16 Kg7 (27... f4 28. g4 $16) 28. Bc1 {Black's queen finds herself unpleasantly boxed in and has to be exchanged under less favorable circumstances on c5, allowing my bishop to subsequently skewer Black's unprotected pawns.} (28. f4 {is even better, exploiting the pin on the long diagonal. This unfortunately did not occur to me during the game.}) 28... Qc5 29. Qxc5 bxc5 30. Be3 {a somewhat unusual skewer tactic, showing the weakness of the two isolated Black pawns.} a6 31. Bxc5 Kf6 32. e3 {by this point I thought that the extra pawn plus Black's structural weaknesses would be enough to win. However, my opponent played tenacious defense.} Ke6 33. d4 $6 (33. Ke2 $5 $16 {is necessary, mobilizing the king first in the endgame.}) 33... Kd5 { Black's king is now nicely centralized.} 34. Ke2 exd4 (34... f4 $5 $16) 35. Bxd4 Kc4 36. f4 $6 {this would have been a good idea earlier, but now it is an unnecessary pawn move that allows Black to equalize.} (36. Bg7 $5 {is Komodo's recommendation, putting the bishop outside of the Black king's sphere of influence. This looks like it loses the a-pawn, but White in fact does well out of it.} Kb3 37. h4 {the idea is to chase the knight away, which comes in time for the bishop to protect a3. Black's problem is that the knight on e7 will get pinned on the diagonal, and it has no other squares to go to.} Ne7 38. Bf8 Nc6 39. e4 {and now White starts rolling.}) 36... h5 (36... Ne7 37. Kf3 Kd3 38. a4 $11) 37. Kf3 (37. Bf6 {moving the bishop is still better, although now it doesn't dominate the knight as well, since it has the f8 square to go to.} Nf8 $14) 37... Kd3 $6 {now, if I had been willing to move the bishop, I could have kept the advantage.} (37... Ne7 38. a4 $14) 38. h3 $6 {this is the move that seals the draw result.} (38. Bc5 $5 {preventing the knight from becoming mobile, by covering e7 and f8, and also protecting a3.} Kc4 39. Bb4 $16) 38... Ne7 $11 39. g4 fxg4+ 40. hxg4 hxg4+ 41. Kxg4 Ke4 42. Kg5 {by this point I could see that a draw was likely, but thought I would try to put as much pressure as possible on my opponent.} f5 {White has a new backward pawn: e3} ( 42... Nd5 $5 $11) 43. Kf6 {the problem is that the f5 pawn is immune from my bishop, so Black should have an effective blockade here.} Nd5+ {The backward pawn on e3 becomes a target. Black forks: e3} 44. Ke6 Nc7+ {and I didn't see the point in continuing, so took the draw.} 1/2-1/2

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