16 July 2019

Annotated Game #215: Getting away with a pawn and a win

In this final-round tournament game, after a series of draws, I was looking for a win. The Classical Caro-Kann has been a good opening in terms of scoring wins for me, so I was happy to see my opponent choose it as White. She varies from book with 12. c4, which allows Black to equalize easily. I saw an opportunity to grab White's advanced h-pawn and took it on move 14, which defined the resulting strategic struggle. White could have played more actively, with sufficient compensation for the pawn.

Over time, I am able to consolidate the pawn advantage and make sure that subsequent material exchanges were to my benefit, ending up with a winning double rook endgame. As is common these days, my opponent (a junior) played on until mate. I used to find this practice both annoying and disrespectful, but it seems to be the way competitive chess is now almost universally taught at the scholastic level. Now I just enjoy playing out a winning position (being grateful that I have one) and don't worry about trying to find the absolute quickest path to victory. An easy and safe win is just as good, and it considerably reduces the stress and annoyance factor.

Although I don't quite overdo the pawn-hunting in the opening, it's still enough of a distraction (and detraction) from my game. Seeing in the analysis how White could have taken better advantage of it is instructive. In the future, in a similar situation I would likely play more conventionally rather than chasing the pawn, also bearing in mind the lessons of "Don't Be Greedy in Chess".

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Class B"]
[Black "ChessAdmin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B19"]
[Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"]
[PlyCount "120"]

{[%mdl 8192] B19: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 main line} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3.
Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. h5 Bh7 8. Nf3 Nf6 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10.
Qxd3 e6 11. c4 Qa5+ {here I was looking to take advantage of the early c-pawn
thrust. White's move isn't standard and it lets Black achieve easy equality.} (
11... Bb4+ {is a similar idea, without exposing the queen.} 12. Bd2 Bxd2+ 13.
Qxd2 O-O 14. O-O Nbd7 15. Rfe1 Qc7 16. Rac1 Rad8 17. b4 Rfe8 18. Nh2 Qd6 19.
Rcd1 b5 20. c5 Qd5 21. Qe2 Ra8 22. a4 bxa4 23. b5 Reb8 24. bxc6 Qxc6 25. Qf3
Nd5 26. Ng4 Rb3 27. Ne3 N7f6 28. Ne4 Nxe4 29. Qxe4 Rd8 30. Nc4 Qc7 31. Ra1 Nc3
32. Qg4 Rd5 33. Nd6 Rg5 34. Qf4 Nd5 35. Qe4 a3 36. Qc2 Rb2 37. Qa4 Nf4 38. Qe8+
Kh7 39. Qxf7 Rxg2+ 40. Kh1 Qxf7 {0-1 (40) Ghosh,C (2140)-Rahman,Z (2485) Dhaka
2017}) 12. Bd2 Bb4 13. O-O Bxd2 14. Nxd2 {now I can grab the h-pawn, although
White gains compensation for it.} Nxh5 (14... O-O {is the solid alternative.})
15. Nxh5 Qxh5 16. Ne4 {this is not bad, but I can avoid the knight's threats
rather easily.} (16. Qa3 {would prevent me from castling for the moment and
create pressure in the center.}) (16. Qg3 {would allow White to regain the
pawn.} O-O 17. Qc7 Na6 18. Qxb7 Qa5 19. Qxc6 Qxd2 20. Qxa6 Qxb2 $11 {Komodo
considers this level, as Black can undermine support for the passed c-pawn,
but it looks easier to play as White.}) 16... O-O {although I'm behind in
development and White has more space, I felt pretty good about my position.
With reduced material available for attack, my opponent did not have enough
compensation for the pawn.} 17. Nd6 {an obvious threat that is easily repelled.
} (17. Rfe1 Nd7 $15) 17... b6 18. Rfe1 Rd8 $17 {I considered it more important
to pressure White's advanced knight than to develop my own first. Komodo
agrees with me, although either option is good. By this point, the pawn
advantage is mostly consolidated.} 19. Ne4 Nd7 20. Rad1 (20. Qg3 $5 {would get
the queen out of the line of fire on the d-file.} Qf5 $17) 20... Ne5 {now my
knight can get into the action, thanks to the pin on the d-pawn.} 21. Qc3 Ng4 {
this is more overtly aggressive, but not as effective for the attack.} (21...
Ng6 {threatens an eventual ...Nf4 and leaves the queen more mobile. For example
} 22. Rd3 Rd7 23. Rh3 Qg4 $17) 22. Qg3 Qf5 $15 23. Qh3 {temporarily pinning
the knight, but the queen maneuvering is in my favor.} (23. f3 $5 Nf6 $15)
23... Qg6 (23... Qf4 $5 {I considered, but thought it more risky.} 24. Rd3 {
and now} f5 {is the only move preserving Black's advantage. It looks rather
anti-positional to leave the e6 pawn hanging, but White is unable to take
advantage of this.} 25. Qg3 Qxg3 26. Nxg3 Kf7 $17) 24. Qg3 {again pinning the
knight with the positional threat of Qxg6, inflicting doubled g-pawns and
removing the e-pawn's defender. However, I find the solution by protecting the
queen with my king.} Kh7 25. b4 {I thought this was over-optimistic on White's
part.} Nf6 {this forces simplification on the kingside, which works to my
advantage being a pawn up. However, it would be better to immediately target
White's now under-supported queenside pawns.} (25... a5 26. bxa5 Rxa5 27. a3 {
and only now} Nf6 $17) 26. Qxg6+ {this avoids immediate material loss, but
with the queens off the board, achieving a winning position becomes a lot
easier.} (26. Nxf6+ $5 Qxf6 27. Qc7 Kg8 $17) 26... Kxg6 {I had thought
carefully before exposing my king like this. White's reduced material means
that the king position is still solid enough.} 27. Nxf6 Kxf6 {the king's
position is a little unusual, but its more centralized location seems more
like an advantage than a weakness, now that we are in the endgame.} 28. b5 $6 {
this essentially forces a pawn structure change that significantly benefits me.
} (28. Rd3 $5 $17) 28... cxb5 $19 29. cxb5 Rd5 {now White has an isloated
queen pawn that I can effectively blockade and target, while her queenside
pawns also look vulnerable to pressure.} 30. a4 Rc8 {rook activity is the most
important idea. White will no longer be able to cover all of her weaknesses.}
31. f4 {desperation, preparing the next move.} Rc4 32. Re5 {I had anticipated
this and welcomed the further reduction of material. I expect she was hoping I
would exchange on e5.} Rcxd4 (32... Rdxd4 $5 {is what the engine prefers,
which leaves a Black rook in a more commanding position after the exchange.}
33. Rxd4 Rxd4 34. g3 Rxa4 $19) 33. Rxd5 Rxd5 34. Rc1 {naturally not exchanging
again on d5, which would be an obviously won K+P endgame for me.} Rd4 {now it
would do no good for White to place her rook on the 7th rank.} 35. Ra1 Rxf4 36.
g3 Rc4 37. Kf2 h5 {with the simple winning plan of exchanging off White's last
kingside pawn and marching my own pawns down the board. White stubbornly holds
out until mate.} 38. Kf3 g5 39. Ke3 h4 40. Rf1+ Kg6 41. gxh4 Rxh4 42. Ra1 f5
43. Kf3 Rc4 44. Re1 Kf6 45. Ra1 Rc3+ 46. Kf2 g4 47. Rg1 Ra3 48. Rg3 Rxg3 49.
Kxg3 e5 50. Kf2 Ke6 51. Kg3 Kd5 52. Kf2 f4 53. Kg2 e4 54. Kf2 Kd4 55. Ke2 g3
56. Kf1 f3 57. Kg1 e3 58. Kf1 Kd3 59. Kg1 e2 60. Kh1 e1=Q# 0-1

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