11 October 2019

Annotated Game #223: Don't be afraid of queen endings

This fifth round tournament game continued the upwards trajectory of my quality of play...through the first 2/3 of it, I would say. The opening phase was reasonable, if not ambitious, and I successfully worked towards building an increasingly solid strategic game versus my opponent's isolated queen pawn (IQP) position. Some possible tweaks along the way are useful to see for White, but by move 18 I had acquired a small but stable advantage. My opponent then played actively and well in response, but missed a "small tactic" on move 23 that could have given me a more significant positional advantage if I had gone directly for an endgame transition, likely ending up with R+N on both sides.

Instead, I ended up with a trickier Q+N endgame that was evaluated by the engine as completely equal. I then passed up what I correctly evaluated as an easy drawing line on move 32, in favor of a riskier line that would at best also draw. Psychologically, this type of unjustifiably risky behavior is a common phenomenon, after a player previously evaluates they have superiority; the mind does not want to admit that the advantage has dissipated. The technical mis-evaluation of this situation is also an excellent teaching point, as Black's active queen and knight combination became much more of a potential threat once the queen penetrates to the second rank. Even then, though, my own active Q+N combination could have saved the day, had I calculated correctly. Remembering your own active resources in a queen ending means that you shouldn't have to fear going into them, just be careful of handing your opponent too much activity.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A13"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "78"] {[%mdl 8192] A13: English Opening: 1...e6} 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 c5 4. e3 { restraining, if not technically preventing, d5-d4.} Nc6 {with Black piling in on d4, I exchange pawns and advance my own d-pawn to prevent him from establishing a strong point there.} 5. cxd5 exd5 6. d4 Nf6 7. Bb2 { interestingly, all of the (limited number) of master-level players in the database went with Be2 here. The course of the below game is very similar (see the position on move 10), but White follows a different plan:} (7. Be2 Bg4 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Bb2 O-O 10. O-O Rc8 11. Nc3 a6 12. Rc1 Ba7 13. Nd4 Bd7 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. Nb1 Re8 16. Bd4 Bb8 17. Nd2 Qd6 18. f4 Qe6 19. a4 Bd6 20. Bd3 Bd7 21. Nf3 Ne4 22. Ne5 Rxc1 23. Qxc1 Rc8 24. Qd1 Bxe5 25. Bxe5 Nc5 26. Bc2 f6 27. Bd4 Be8 28. Bxc5 Rxc5 29. Qd3 g6 30. b4 Rc7 31. Bb3 Bf7 32. Rd1 Qb6 33. Qd4 Qxd4 34. Rxd4 Rc3 35. Bxd5 Bxd5 36. Rxd5 Rxe3 37. Rd6 Kf7 38. Rb6 Re7 39. g4 f5 40. gxf5 gxf5 41. Kf2 Ke8 42. Kg3 Rg7+ 43. Kh4 Rg4+ 44. Kh5 Rxf4 45. a5 Rf1 46. Rxb7 f4 47. Kg4 h5+ 48. Kxh5 Rg1 49. b5 axb5 50. a6 Rg2 51. a7 Rxh2+ 52. Kg4 Ra2 53. Kxf4 Kd8 54. Ke4 {1-0 (54) Sulskis,S (2507)-Rogule,L (2320) Liepaja 2018}) 7... Bg4 8. Be2 Rc8 {Black can get a check in on the a5-e1 diagonal after some exchanges, but it's useful to see how even giving up castling is still fine for White. Black still needs to take some time to develop his own kingside, so White does not lose time in a comparative sense.} (8... Bxf3 9. Bxf3 cxd4 10. Bxd4 Nxd4 11. Qxd4 Qa5+ 12. Ke2 Rc8 13. Rd1 Be7 14. a3 O-O 15. Ra2 Rfd8 16. b4 Qc7 17. g3 a5 18. bxa5 Qxa5 19. Kf1 Bc5 20. Qd2 Qa6+ 21. Qe2 Qe6 22. Rad2 Rd6 23. Kg2 {Katishonok,N (2265)-Berzinsh,R (2395) Riga 1993 1/ 2-1/2 (44)}) (8... cxd4 9. Nxd4 Bb4+ 10. Kf1 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Bxe2+ 12. Qxe2 O-O 13. g3 Ne4 14. Kg2 Rc8 15. Rd1 b6 16. a3 Bc5 17. Bb2 Qg5 18. h4 Qf5 19. Nd2 Rfe8 20. Rac1 Nxd2 21. Rxd2 Qe4+ 22. Qf3 Rcd8 23. Rcd1 {Voskanyan,V (2213)-Li, Y (1866) Montreal 2016 1-0}) 9. O-O Bd6 {this bishop development should be a trigger for taking on c5, as occurs for example in analagous QGD positions with the colors reversed. Taking earlier, on the other hand, would save Black a tempo with the bishop.} 10. a3 $146 {this is unnecessary.} (10. dxc5 Bxc5 11. Nc3 O-O 12. Rc1 $11) 10... O-O (10... cxd4 11. Nxd4 Bxe2 12. Qxe2 $11) 11. dxc5 Bxc5 {Black has a very active position} 12. b4 {this was the idea behind the earlier a3, but if you compare the variations, above White has the knight and rook developed and can use them to pressure the Bc5.} Be7 {this turns out to be a wasted move, although my opponent was probably worried about the d-pawn and wanted to overprotect it.} (12... Bd6 13. Nbd2 $11) 13. Nd4 {a somewhat premature way to offer another piece exchange. White would do better by further development with Nbd2, perhaps after playing h3.} Bxe2 14. Qxe2 Bd6 15. Nd2 {finally getting the knight out. I chose this square over c3 for it, as I felt that it would be more effective in fighting for d4 (going to f3 for example) and not block the Bb2 on the long diagonal.} a6 {a little passive.} ( 15... Re8 $5) 16. h3 {this is similarly slow. I should get the Ra1 into the action.} (16. Nxc6 Rxc6 17. Rac1 $14) 16... Bb8 {now I'm able to resume progress.} (16... Nxd4 17. Bxd4 Qe7 18. Rac1 $14) 17. Nxc6 $14 Rxc6 18. Rac1 { although White has only a slight plus here, strategically I'm very comfortable. The d4 square in front of Black's isolated queen pawn is controlled and I have better prospects on the c-file. Black can't afford to exchange rooks on c6, for example, if he ends up with a backward pawn on the file that I can pressure.} Qd6 {protecting the Rc6 from an unfavorable exchange and also threatening a cheapo mate on h2, which I need to defend against.} 19. Nf3 (19. g3 $5 {is preferred by the engine and is a simpler way to blunt Black's threat. Without a light-square bishop, Black has no effective way of exploiting the weakened kingside squares.} Qe6 20. Rxc6 Qxc6 21. Rc1 Qe6 22. Kg2 $14) 19... Re8 20. Rxc6 Qxc6 21. Rc1 Qd6 {although this is no longer a mate threat, it's still annoying to have to watch for a check on h2.} 22. Qc2 {repositioning the queen away from the pinned e-pawn and giving her a great diagonal (b1-h7), while consolidating control of the c-file.} Ne4 {a more aggressive posting for the knight, traditional in IQP positions. However, a small tactic now lets me improve my position.} 23. Be5 {This apparently caught my opponent by surprise. Black cannot take twice on e5 because of the back-rank mate threat.} Qe7 24. Bxb8 $16 {with each minor piece exchange, Black's IQP becomes weaker, as I still have a lock on d4.} Rxb8 25. Nd4 {good but not best. With d4 under control, I should have immediately followed up to exploit my control of the c-file.} (25. Qc7 Qxc7 26. Rxc7 Nd6 27. Nd4 $16 {is a much better version of the idea.}) 25... g6 $14 {this covers f5, limiting the effectiveness of the Nd4, and also eliminates back-rank mate threats, so Black is now in better shape.} 26. Ne2 {time to reposition the knight.} Rd8 27. Qc7 {this is no longer very effective.} (27. Qb2 $5) 27... Rd7 28. Qb8+ Rd8 (28... Kg7 29. Rc8 $11) 29. Rc8 {this was the original idea behind Qc7, but is good only for equality.} (29. Qf4 $5 {with the idea of switching the rook to the d-file offered better chances for pressure.}) 29... Rxc8 $11 30. Qxc8+ Kg7 31. Nf4 { here I considered just going for the draw, which is easily done. Instead I over-evaluate my chances and pick a much riskier line which the engine evaluates as equal.} (31. Qc2) 31... Qe5 32. Qxb7 {I thought for a long time here. Black now penetrates with his queen and I have to watch out for problems on f2, due to the well-placed Ne4.} Qb2 {now things are much more complicated for the defense.} 33. Kh2 {this is still good enough for a draw.} (33. Ne6+ { I also considered and would draw.} Kf6 34. Nf4 {now I have the Nxd5 threat.} Qxf2+ 35. Kh2 Qg3+ 36. Kh1 $11) 33... Qxf2 34. Qxd5 $4 {I thought for a while here as well and simply did not visualize the resulting sequence properly.} ( 34. Qe7 {other queen moves can draw as well. In this line, the e3 pawn is now protected after the Ne4 moves, which is key.} Qg3+ 35. Kh1 Nf2+ (35... Qe1+ { is only good enough for a perpetual.} 36. Kh2 Qg3+ 37. Kh1 Qe1+ 38. Kh2 Qg3+ $11) 36. Kg1 $11) 34... Qg3+ $19 35. Kh1 Qe1+ {my opponent takes one more checking sequence to figure out how to win.} 36. Kh2 Qg3+ 37. Kh1 Nf2+ $1 38. Kg1 Qxe3 {now nothing can save White.} 39. g3 {one last attempt to confuse the matter.} Ng4+ (39... Ng4+ 40. Kh1 Qe1+ 41. Kg2 Qf2+ 42. Kh1 Qf1#) 0-1

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