30 September 2019

Annotated Game #222: How it's supposed to work

For this fourth-round tournament game, it's useful to review how I got here:
While none of the above were clean games, the good news is that the quality of play was trending up, not to mention that I had actually managed to score 2/3. In this next game, by contrast, it went exactly "how it's supposed to work": start with a solid Caro-Kann Classical, win a pawn in the middlegame, snuff out White's limited compensation, and go on to win a rook and pawn ending.

Of course this kind of one-line game narrative never tells the whole story. Analyzing your own games uncovers the multiple layers involved, humbles you with hidden mistakes, and teaches broader lessons just as much with your victories as with defeats. Some key points here are:
  • I get at least a psychological advantage in the opening by causing a transposition from a queen pawn's opening to the Caro-Kann, which my opponent was not expecting to have to play. These sorts of opportunities are what opening preparation and repertoire choice are all about.
  • The different choices for Black on moves 11-12 on what to do with the dark-square bishop have a large strategic effect on the course of the middlegame.
  • 15...Qc7 is much better than the awkward ...Qe7.
  • The tactic on move 19 (a double attack by the queen, forking White's king and pawn) was not forced, but it was the psychologically easiest line for my opponent to play and what I was expecting. My opponent's other choice would have caused a lot of problems for me in defending.
  • I should be more aware of indirect means of accomplishing goals, for example undermining White's Nd6 rather than somewhat stereotypically attacking it head-on.
  • Although the pawn-down rook endgame wasn't necessarily lost for White, I had the energy to keep the pressure on and calculate reasonably well, instead of letting it drift into a draw. Rather than be stressed about winning when you have an advantage, I think it's much more productive to treat it as an opportunity to make your opponent suffer to the best of your ability. From personal experience, that's certainly how it feels on the other end, and sustained pressure is likely to eventually cause a breakdown in play, regardless of whatever the engine evaluation says.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B19"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "106"] {[%mdl 8192] B19: Classical Caro-Kann: 4...Bf5 main line} 1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 { this is normally how White enters the Veresov Attack.} c6 (2... Nf6 3. Bg5 { is what White was aiming for.}) 3. e4 {White abandons a queen pawn opening to transpose into a main line Caro-Kann. A small psychological victory already.} ( 3. Bg5 {has much less bite now, especially since Black can answer} h6 {and now} 4. Bh4 (4. Bf4 Nf6) 4... Qb6 {followed by ...Bf5 will result in a favorable type of Slav setup for Black.}) 3... dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 { My opponent is evidently familiar with how to play this line, even if it was not his preference from the start.} h6 7. h5 Bh7 8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Nf6 10. Nf3 e6 11. Bf4 Bb4+ (11... Qa5+ {is a much more popular version of the idea of exploiting the a5-e1 diagonal and provoking a White response, either c2-c3 or retreating the bishop.}) (11... Bd6 $5 {is the most played move in the database, directly challenging White's bishop.}) 12. c3 Bd6 {now White has the extra move c2-c3, but Black's argument is that the weakening of the queenside squares is worth the tempo.} (12... Be7 {is a less confrontational way to play. Here's a top-level example:} 13. O-O-O O-O 14. Ne4 Nxe4 15. Qxe4 Nd7 16. g4 Nf6 17. Qe2 Qa5 18. g5 Nd5 19. Bd2 Bxg5 20. Nxg5 hxg5 21. h6 g6 22. Qe5 f6 23. Qxe6+ Kh8 24. c4 Qxa2 25. cxd5 cxd5 26. Qe7 Rac8+ 27. Bc3 {Anand,V (2803) -Vallejo Pons,F (2684) Leon 2008 1/2-1/2}) 13. Be5 {my opponent decides to maintain control over e5, at the cost of exchanging the remaining bishops.} Bxe5 14. Nxe5 Nbd7 $146 (14... O-O 15. O-O-O Nbd7 16. f4 Qa5 17. Kb1 Rad8 18. Ne4 Nxe4 19. Qxe4 Qd5 20. Qxd5 exd5 21. Nxd7 Rxd7 22. Rde1 Rc8 23. Rh3 Kf8 24. Rhe3 Rdd8 25. Kc2 Re8 26. Re5 f6 27. Rxe8+ Rxe8 28. Rxe8+ Kxe8 {1/2-1/2 (28) Negi,P (2529)-Zenklusen,R (2392) Biel 2007}) 15. f4 Qe7 {this somewhat awkward move was intended to maintain flexibility in castling, leaving open the possibility of O-O-O by protecting the f7 pawn.} (15... Qc7 $5 {puts the queen on a better diagonal (b8-h2), keeps open the idea of going to b6 or a5, and supports a possible ...c5 break.}) 16. O-O {That doesn't look like a safe castle, comments Komodo via the Fritz interface. White is under no immediate threat, but this decision at least makes it easy for me to decide to castle kingside as well.} (16. O-O-O {and White's king is more secure than on the much airier kingside.}) 16... O-O $11 17. Qf3 Nd5 {deliberately intended to provoke White's next.} (17... Nxe5 {is a more straightforward way to proceed.} 18. fxe5 (18. dxe5 Nd5 {and now the knight is secure in its central post due to the same tactic as appears in the game, namely} 19. c4 $2 Qc5+ $17) 18... Nh7 {this looks awkward but g5 will be a nice post for the knight. Compare this position with the below variation after a similar fxe5 and it's clear that this is the better path.}) 18. c4 {the "obvious move".} Nxe5 (18... N5f6 $11 {with no psychological investment in having just moved the knight, the engine evaluates the retreat as objectively best. White has no further threats and Black's pieces are actively defending.}) 19. dxe5 $6 {my opponent appeared to miss my next move.} (19. fxe5 {would lead to a small plus for White, with pressure on the kingside and some careful defending required for Black.} Nb6 20. Ne4 Rad8 21. Qg4 Nxc4 22. Rf3 Kh8 23. b3 Nb6 24. Nf6 Qb4 25. Rd1 Rg8 26. Nxg8 Kxg8 $14) 19... Qc5+ 20. Kh2 Qxc4 $17 {White has some compensation for the pawn, in terms of better placed and more active pieces. The advanced kingside pawns also give him some hope of pressure on my king position, although I dont believe there is enough material left on the board to make that a real threat.} 21. b3 Qc3 {I am happy to swap queens and head for the endgame with a 3-2 queenside pawn majority. White cannot really avoid it, either, now that my queen has penetrated and has the support of the Nd5.} 22. Ne4 Qxf3 23. Rxf3 Rad8 {this is fine, but I end up not handling the resulting dyanmics on the d-file as best as I could.} (23... b6 $5 {might be easier to play here, in anticipation of White's next move, since now it's easier to start mobilizing the pawns after ...c5. In the game, I get hung up on the d-file.}) 24. Nd6 {this was annoying, but the knight is not a real danger for Black.} Rd7 (24... b6 {again would be simpler.}) 25. Ne4 {guarding the c5 square, but I was happy to see it retreat. I also will take control of c5 momentarily.} (25. a3 f6 26. Raf1 b6 $17) 25... b6 26. Rc1 c5 27. Rcf1 { this looks somewhat menacing, but White has no real prospects on the f-file.} ( 27. Rd1 $5) 27... Ne7 28. Nd6 {back to plugging the d-file again.} Nc8 { this is OK, but is too literal an interpretation of the need to challenge the Nd6.} (28... Nc6 {would instead look to undermine it.} 29. Re1 f6 30. Rfe3 Nb4 31. R1e2 Nd5 32. Rf3 fxe5 33. fxe5 Rxf3 34. gxf3 Nf4 $19) 29. Rd3 Rfd8 30. Rfd1 Nxd6 31. exd6 {in reaching this position, I felt that I had not played optimally and made things harder for myself (which is true). With what appeared to be a static situation on the d-file, I decided to try to mobilize the queenside pawns.} b5 (31... f6 $5 {with the idea of ...Kf7 might be better preparation.}) 32. g4 {White correctly gets his pawns into play as well.} c4 33. bxc4 bxc4 34. Rd4 Kf8 {this was an uninspired waiting move.} (34... c3 $5 { causes White more problems.} 35. R4d3 c2 36. Rc1 Rxd6 37. Rxd6 Rxd6 38. Rxc2 Ra6 {is an improved version of the game, with White's king further away from the action. White's rook cannot profitably take advantage of the 7th/8th rank weakness, either, for example} 39. Rc8+ Kh7 40. Rc7 Rxa2+ 41. Kg3 f6 $19) 35. Kg3 c3 36. Rc4 Rxd6 37. Rxd6 Rxd6 38. Rxc3 Ke7 $15 {this is starting to look much more like a draw, since with the rooks on the board it will be difficult to realize the value of the extra kingside pawn.} 39. g5 f6 {this is fine, although it may be better to take away squares from White's rook first.} (39... Kd7 $15) (39... hxg5 $6 {should be avoided, as it gives White the possibility of creating a h-file passed pawn and also boxes in Black's king.} 40. fxg5 $11) 40. Ra3 $6 {this puts White's rook in front of his own pawn and limits its scope. Rook activity is the most important principle in rook endgames.} (40. Rc7+ Rd7 41. gxf6+ gxf6 42. Rc8 $11) 40... a6 $15 41. Ra5 $6 (41. g6) 41... fxg5 42. fxg5 hxg5 (42... Rd5 {is much more effective. Black should not worry about swapping the a-pawn for a White kingside pawn and making the e-pawn mobile.} 43. Rxa6 Rxg5+ 44. Kh4 e5 $17) 43. Rxg5 $15 Kf6 44. Rg6+ Kf7 {Here I felt like I should be able to win with the proper effort, although Komodo shows only a small edge to Black. It will be harder for White to cover his own pawns while stopping the progress of the e-pawn.} 45. Rg4 {best, making the rook mobile again.} Rd5 46. Kh4 e5 {passed pawns must be pushed!} 47. Rg6 { this makes it easier for me, as the e-pawn becomes significantly stronger the further it moves down the board.} (47. Rg5) 47... e4 $17 48. Rxa6 $2 {my opponent miscalculates the strength of the e-pawn and his ability to stop it.} (48. Kg3 e3 49. Kf3 $17) 48... e3 $19 {this wins by force.} 49. Ra7+ (49. Kg3 Re5 $19) 49... Kf6 50. Kg3 Re5 51. Ra6+ Kf5 52. Ra4 e2 53. Rf4+ Ke6 0-1

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