21 August 2019

Annotated Game #218: The saving backwards move

This game falls into the category of a cringeworthy win. In the last round of the tournament, I faced someone of comparable strength, after having performed well in the previous three rounds. The course of the game I believe is explained more by psychological and "visual" factors than anything else. The one concrete takeaway from the analysis was the reason behind my error on move 11, which is a valuable teaching point in this variation of the Classical Caro-Kann.

In any event, after this White quickly assumes a dominant-looking position on the kingside, which I compound by an unwillingness to violate standard principles and give up the right to castle, which would have yielded an acceptable game. White makes an "obvious move" (the perils of which I've posted about before) on move 16 and I should have been able to effectively respond and turn the tables on him. However, I find only the second-best move and then fail to identify the right strategy, which would be to sacrifice the f- and g-pawns in return for real counterplay for my rooks and against White's airy king position. Instead, I unnecessarily sacrifice a bishop in return for some temporary, if awkward-looking, threats. My opponent, instead of pressing his advantage immediately, starts focusing on my psuedo-threats, however. This mistake leads to the opportunity for a backwards bishop move that forks king and queen and immediately wins. These types of backwards moves have a higher chance of being overlooked in calculation, since they appear to be considered less natural to the brain's board vision, unless you enforce a disciplined thinking process about considering candidate moves.

Although it wasn't really skill that decided this game, I will give some credit at least to the positive value of not giving up and the idea of seeking to pose problems for your opponent, who is thereby given the chance to go astray.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B19"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "52"] {[%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. Nf3 Nf6 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bc4 e6 { as well as providing an outlet for the bishop, this also anticipates Ne5 and a threat to f7.} 10. Qe2 Be7 11. Ne5 $146 {although a novelty, it's the logical continuation for White after Bc4 and Qe2. Typically there are sacrificial ideas on f7/e6.} Nd5 {in an analagous position in the 8. Ne5 line, before Black has played ...Be7, this is the main defensive move, and is necessary to block a sacrifice on e6. However, here it's not needed, as the e-file is already blocked and there are no tactics for White.} (11... O-O $11 {Komodo prefers the plan of immediate castling, followed by ...Nbd7, to exchange off the Ne5.}) 12. Qg4 {this is the problem with the knight move, although Black is still OK.} Bf6 $6 {I thought this was a logical move to protect g7 and also get the bishop to a slightly better square.} (12... Rg8 $5 {giving up the right to castle kingside seems unnatural, but Black defends easily here. We will see later how the weak g-pawn becomes a real problem.} 13. Qf3 Rf8 { and it is slightly awkward for Black, but there are no weak points.}) 13. O-O ( 13. Bd3 {is a better try for an advantage, as the bishop is not doing anything on c4.} Bxd3 14. Nxd3 $14) 13... Nd7 {developing and challenging e5.} (13... Bxc2 {is possible here, but I was wary of pawn snatching in the opening while behind in development.}) 14. Re1 Nxe5 (14... Bxe5 $5 15. dxe5 g5 $14 {this solves the g-pawn problem by force, although leaving some holes behind.}) 15. dxe5 $14 Bg5 {now the bishop is boxed in and the g-pawn is a critical weakness. } 16. f4 $2 {this was the obvious next move to both my opponent and myself, forcing the bishop back. It visually looks solid, but in fact it leaves behind a tactical weakness.} (16. Bxd5 {preserves an advantage for White.} cxd5 17. Bxg5 hxg5 (17... Qxg5 18. Qa4+ $16) 18. c4 dxc4 19. Rad1 Qe7 20. Qxc4 O-O $14) 16... Qa5 {this is a good response, although I missed the following tactic.} ( 16... Nxf4 $1 17. Kh2 (17. Bxf4 $2 Qd4+ {picking up the now under-defended bishop.}) 17... Nd5 $17) 17. Kf1 O-O-O $2 {this was done out of desperation for counterplay, as I thought my position was collapsing anyway. The bishop sacrifice is unnecessary, however.} (17... Be7 {Komodo cold-bloodedly accepts the loss of the g-pawn.} 18. Qxg7 O-O-O 19. Qxf7 {White is now two pawns up, but at the same time his king is far more exposed, with the f- and g-files now open for Black's rooks to operate and the White queen having limited squares.} Kd7 $17) 18. fxg5 $18 Nb4 {this was my idea, which at least poses an awkward threat of Nxc2. White could easily just ignore it, however.} 19. Bb3 {this doesn't in fact help White, which gave me some psychological momentum, in that his own string of threats had been broken.} (19. g6 {seems to be the most forcing continuation.} Nxc2 20. Bf4 $18 {now that White has protected the Rf1 sufficiently, and with the Bh7 hanging, Black has no good choices.}) 19... Bxc2 20. Qc4 $4 {missing the backwards bishop move. White evidently wanted to protect the Bb3, given that the a-pawn is currently pinned against the rook.} ( 20. Bf4 {again would have protected the rooks sufficiently.}) 20... Bd3+ $19 { after this the win is technical.} 21. Re2 Bxc4 22. Bxc4 Rd1+ 23. Kf2 Nd3+ 24. Kf3 Nxc1 25. Rc2 Qxe5 26. Ne2 Qf5+ {continuing to gobble up material, although there was a short mate available. In any case, my opponent resigned.} (26... Rf1+ 27. Kg4 Qxg5+ 28. Kh3 Rh1#) 0-1

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