19 November 2019

Annotated Game #229: Maneuvering in a (White) Hedgehog

This final-round tournament game was a little wobbly, but I managed to pull myself together after the downward trend in the previous two games and hold the draw in the endgame. I wasn't in the mood for an active, attacking game and the opening (an English) was a little quieter than normal. I end up in a Hedgehog formation, with pawns on the third rank and a slightly cramped and passive position, but one that is difficult to break. This sort of game requires plans based on piece maneuvering and it is instructive to see how my choices almost got me in serious trouble, as my opponent did a better job of following the needs of the position. However, he eventually lets me off the hook on the d-file with some exchanges and the endgame is fully equal after that. I was fine with this and happy to complete the tournament. My final performance was a little below the 1800 mark, but this wasn't enough to drag my rating down below Class A, which meant that I had passed (barely) my first test of holding onto my new Class level.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A13"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "77"] {A13: English Opening: 1...e6} 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 Nf6 4. Bb2 Be7 5. e3 O-O 6. Be2 b6 7. O-O Bb7 8. d3 (8. cxd5 $5 {here or earlier is a different way to play, reducing the central tension.}) 8... c5 9. Nbd2 {with this formation, White plays more of a waiting game in the center, while the Nd2 is flexible.} Nc6 10. cxd5 (10. a3 {is by far the most often played in the database. This takes the b4 square away from the knight and continues the waiting game.}) (10. Ne5 $5 {is an interesting idea, welcoming an exchange of Black's well-placed Nc6.}) 10... Nxd5 11. a3 {White now has a Hedgehog formation, which is often what is aimed for with the d3/Nbd2 and Bb2 development. Black has more space, but the Hedgehog is hard to crack.} Bf6 12. Qc2 {giving White a tempo to get his queen off the first rank, thereby connecting the rooks, and to occupy the long diagonal if Black exchanges on b2.} Bxb2 13. Qxb2 Qf6 14. Qxf6 { essentially forced} Nxf6 {the position now looks rather drawish, but it is important not to become complacent. White's rooks need to get into the action now.} 15. Nc4 $146 (15. Rfc1 {is most played here. For example} Rfd8 16. Nc4 Kf8 17. Nfe5 Nxe5 18. Nxe5 Nd7 19. Nxd7+ Rxd7 20. b4 cxb4 21. axb4 Rc8 22. Re1 Bd5 23. d4 Rc2 24. Bd3 {1/2-1/2 (24) Kaenel,H (2452)-Gurieli,N (2373) Bern 2000 }) 15... Rfd8 16. Rfd1 Rac8 17. Rac1 Nd5 {Black does not have much more that he can do at this point. Here, however, I start some ill-advised maneuvers.} 18. Ncd2 {one of the problems with this is that it interferes with the protection of the d-pawn by the Rd1, as Black immediately notes.} (18. Nfe5 { is a much more active choice, reducing Black's piece presence in the center and therefore threats.} Nxe5 19. Nxe5 $11) 18... Ba6 19. Ne4 {I've spent two moves putting the knight here, where it is not any better posted than on c4 and is probably worse, since from there it helped control e5.} e5 (19... f5 20. Nc3 Nxc3 21. Rxc3 e5 $15 {is an improved version of the idea for Black.}) 20. Nc3 $6 {now Black gets in the knight exchange without having to play ...f5 first.} (20. g4 {preventing f7-f5} f6 $11) 20... Nxc3 $15 21. Rxc3 {Black is doing a good job of making my position more awkward and under pressure, but as of yet there are still no real threats. His next move increases the pressure, however.} e4 {unfortunately I can't simply take the pawn, due to the hanging Be2.} 22. Ng5 (22. Ne1 {ugly but a good defensive move, reinforcing d3.}) 22... exd3 $11 {this lets me off the hook in the center.} (22... f5 $5 $15 {would keep the tension.}) 23. Bxd3 Bxd3 24. Rcxd3 Rxd3 25. Rxd3 {at this point I was confident I could hold the draw. Black has a slight advantage with the 3-2 queenside majority, but my pieces can restrain it.} Rd8 {this simplifies the task for me.} 26. Rxd8+ Nxd8 {A knight endgame occured, comments Komodo via the Fritz interface. The draw is much more clear now, as long as I activate my king.} 27. Ne4 Ne6 28. a4 {this is unnecessary.} (28. Kf1 {best to just get on with centralizing my king.}) 28... a6 29. Nc3 {this active knight combines well with the a-pawn to restrain Black's b5 advance.} Nc7 30. Kf1 Kf8 31. Ke2 Ke7 32. Kd3 b5 33. Ne4 Ne6 (33... c4+ $6 34. bxc4 bxa4 35. Kc3 $14) 34. f4 (34. f3 {is more solid.}) 34... f5 35. Nc3 Nc7 36. e4 g6 37. e5 {now I felt completely fine with the endgame, as Black can't just concentrate on the queenside, but will have to guard the territory in front of the protected, passed e-pawn.} Ke6 38. g3 Ke7 39. Ke3 {essentially a draw offer, waiting for Black to see that there was no way to make progress.} 1/2-1/2

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