29 December 2019

Annotated Game #232: Deja vu, only better

This third-round tournament game started very similarly to the second round one (Annotated Game #231), only my opponent - significantly higher rated - made fewer opening inaccuracies and the quality of the game was better on both sides. It's unusual to get two Whites in a row and I hadn't expected it. I was nonetheless able to immediately apply some lessons from the previous game, also an English vs. Slav setup. I had a clearer understanding of the needs of the position, for example using the superior d3/Nbd2 development instead of Nc3, and then correctly found the plan to push the e-pawn, thanks to the lesson learned from way back in Annotated Game #2.

One consistent problem I have is in identifying my opponent's resources before I make my move, which here led to problems after 15...Nc5 (forcing a bishop for knight exchange) and especially after the blunder on move 20, which simply drops a pawn. I still had a good strategic bind on the position, however, and concentrated on making the best of it, rather than beating myself up for the lost material and opportunity. The rest of the game is a good illustration of how some relatively subtle inaccuracies can be exploited by active piece play, and the power of an advanced passed pawn in cracking your opponent's position.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "59"] 1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 Bf5 {facing another Slav setup.} 5. O-O e6 6. b3 Be7 7. Bb2 O-O 8. d3 {here it is evident that b2 is a much better square for developing the knight than c3} Nbd7 9. Nbd2 h6 {making a retreat square for the bishop on h7} 10. Rc1 Re8 {a reasonable idea, positioning the rook for the longer-term idea of e6-e5 and also vacating f8 for possible occupation by a minor piece.} 11. Re1 {a reasonable waiting move, developing and opposing the rook on the e-file.} (11. Rc2 {is most played here. The idea is to follow up with Qa1 to form a battery on the long diagonal, with Rfc1 also then possible.}) 11... Kh8 $146 {this appears to be just a waste of a tempo. Now I can play e2-e4 and force things in the center, since the bishop on f5 is attacked, giving Black fewer options.} ({Relevant:} 11... Bh7 12. Qc2 Bf8 13. e4 dxe4 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. dxe4 Nc5 16. b4 Nd7 17. c5 a5 18. a3 axb4 19. axb4 Qc7 20. Re3 Ra2 21. Bf1 b6 22. Qb3 Raa8 23. cxb6 Qxb6 24. Rc4 Reb8 25. Qd1 Rb7 26. Rd3 Nf6 27. Bxf6 gxf6 28. Qc1 Ra2 29. Rd2 Rxd2 30. Qxd2 Rb8 31. e5 f5 32. Qc1 Rd8 33. Bg2 Rd5 34. h4 c5 35. bxc5 Rxc5 36. Rxc5 Qxc5 37. Qxc5 Bxc5 38. h5 f6 39. exf6 Bd6 40. Nd2 Kf7 41. Nc4 {Aghayev,N (2342)-Mammadova,N (2230) Baku 2016 1/2-1/2}) 12. e4 {a lesson learned from Annotated Game #2: don't be afraid to play e4 in the English!} (12. cxd5 $5 {first, opening the c-file, also looks good.}) 12... dxe4 13. dxe4 $14 Bh7 {the problem with this retreat is that it takes a better square away from the Nf6 for its own retreat.} (13... Bg6) 14. e5 $16 {the key idea. Black is forced to undevelop the knight and White establishes control of the center.} Ng8 15. a3 $6 {too passive. I was looking to prevent ...Bb4, but this is not in fact necessary.} (15. Ne4 $1 Bxe4 (15... Bb4 $6 16. Nd6 $18) 16. Rxe4 Nc5 17. Rd4 $16) 15... Nc5 {Black's best reaction, targeting the d3 square and a potential triple fork.} 16. Bf1 { essentially forced, to exchange the knight landing on d3. The one positive for White here is that the bishop was not doing a lot of good on the long diagonal anyway, so the exchange of minor pieces is not bad in itself.} Nd3 17. Bxd3 Bxd3 (17... Qxd3 $5 {my opponent was apparently reluctant to expose his queen in this manner, although I have no way of targeting it.}) 18. Nd4 $14 {Komodo shows a small advantage to White here. After N2f3, my forces are still better deployed than Black's.} Bh7 $6 {this appears to be a reasonable precaution, but again loses a tempo for Black and allows me to increase the bind on the dark squares.} (18... Bc5 $5 {would activate the bishop.} 19. Ne4 Bxe4 20. Rxe4 $14) 19. c5 $16 {now the Be7 has nowhere useful to go and I can think about landing a knight on d6.} Bf8 20. Nc4 $2 {this was just a blunder, with me being too eager to play to my advantage.} (20. b4 $16) 20... Bxc5 $11 21. b4 { after a blunder, one can either beat oneself up for the rest of the game or proceed as best as possible. After a short period of self-recrimination, I continued to try to press my opponent.} Be7 $6 {Black is still OK after this, but this gives me some ideas to play with on the kingside.} (21... Bf8 { is a better defensive move, leaving the 7th rank open and reinforcing g7.}) 22. Qf3 {targeting the weak f7 square.} Rf8 23. Red1 {played with the game continuation in mind, specifically the move 25-26 variation, which requires a rook on the c-file for the tactic to work.} (23. Rcd1 $5) 23... Qc7 $2 { this allows me to get in the desired Nd6, finally.} (23... Qd5) 24. Nd6 $14 Bxd6 {this gives me a strong passed d-pawn, which becomes decisive.} (24... Bg6 {defending f7 seems better, although Black is still under a lot of pressure.}) 25. exd6 $16 Qd7 (25... Qxd6 $2 26. Nxc6 $1 $18 {and nothing works for Black now, for example} Qc7 27. Ne5 Qe7 28. Rd7) 26. Nb3 {preparing to go to a5 or c5 } Qd8 {anticipating Nc5} 27. Na5 {I thought for a while on the alternative squares and decided that this was a simpler approach, increasing pressure on both b7 and c6.} (27. Nc5 {is preferred by the engine, but is more complicated. } b6 28. Nb7 Qd7 {and now} 29. b5 {is necessary. The winning idea in this variation is the two connected passed pawns on the 6th, which are worth giving up the knight.}) 27... Qb6 {covers both squares, but the queen is now exposed and the d-pawn free to advance.} (27... Rb8 28. Be5 f6 (28... Qd7 29. b5) 29. Bd4 $18) 28. Bd4 Qb5 29. d7 {neither rook can go to d8 without further material loss.} Nf6 {Black's weak kingside and White's domination of the d8 queening square now decide.} (29... Bf5 {is an interesting try.} 30. Rc5 Qa6 31. b5 Qxa5 32. bxc6 $18) 30. Bxf6 1-0

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