02 February 2020

Annotated Game #236: First time castling queenside in a tournament

In a tournament, "castling queenside" means going 0-0-0 in your results. With the following loss, this was my first experience doing so in a formal competition. It was a tough mental blow, especially coming soon after I had broken through the Class A rating barrier. How I responded to this situation, with two rounds left to go in the tournament, will be the subject of the next annotated game.

The below game again highlights the perils of achieving a decent position, perhaps even with a small advantage, out of the opening but not knowing or being able to come up with an effective plan. This is always a function of not truly understanding the needs of the position. In this case, the idea of undermining Black's queenside pawns with a2-a4 appears multiple times, which would have introduced dynamic play and given me the initiative, but I was completely ignorant of it. Another key factor for me was not understanding what to do with the dark-square bishop, which is largely ineffective throughout the game, and then the focal point for a hallucinatory threat, which leads directly to the loss.

The good part of analyzing these types of games is avoiding a repeat of the same mistakes and building up your repertoire of strategic ideas, for the next time you see a similar position. This is why I think improvement comes quickest with a cycle of regular play, followed by objective analysis of each game, which keeps the lessons fresh and relevant.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A28"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "90"] 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 d5 {this is a common variation from Black, looking for a reversed Sicilian. However, White's 6th move breaks that pattern. } 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bb5 {this is available because of 4. e3. Now the next sequence is largely forced, in order to avoid losing the e-pawn.} Nxc3 7. bxc3 Bd6 8. d4 exd4 9. cxd4 O-O 10. O-O Bg4 11. Rb1 {this is a little experimental. I'd seen the idea before in opening resources, but had never played it. The point of course is to have pressure down the b-file, but it is somewhat committal in terms of where to place the rook.} (11. h3 Bh5 12. Bb2 {is most often played. This gets the dark-square bishop developed and limits the Black light-square bishop's diagonals.}) 11... a6 {a logical move, but we are now out of the database.} 12. Be2 Rb8 13. Bd2 $6 {this is not the best square for the bishop. It does cover b4 and a5, which is why I played it, but it still limits the piece's activity.} (13. Bb2 {blocks the b-file, which is why I dismissed it during the game. However, there is no real prospect for White to gain any further pressure down the file, so it's better to improve the bishop to the long diagonal.}) 13... Re8 14. Qc2 {I anticipated this next sequence from Black in response.} Qf6 15. h3 Bf5 16. Bd3 Bxd3 17. Qxd3 {I felt that the minor piece exchange was favorable to White, since Black's bishop was more annoying and my queen ends up being nicely centralized. Komodo shows a slight edge for White here.} Qe7 18. Qc4 {there's no need to move the queen again here. Much better to get another heavy piece into play immediately.} (18. Rfc1 $14) 18... Qd7 19. Rfc1 Qe7 {now I have problems coming up with a good plan. The right idea is to play on the queenside and exploit the pressure down the b- and c-files.} 20. Rb3 {with the idea of doubling rooks on the b-file. This is rather crude and ineffective, however.} Na7 21. Rcb1 (21. Bb4 $5 {getting the bishop into the game is a good idea in itself. An exchange would also benefit White by removing a guardian of the c-pawn.}) 21... b5 {the obvious and good response.} 22. Qc2 Rec8 $6 {using the wrong rook.} (22... Rbc8) 23. Qf5 $6 {completely missing the idea of mobilizing the pawn center. White's queenside play is now going nowhere, so the strategic switch needs to be made. Asking the question "what did my opponent's last move change?" could have led to this realization, as the e-pawn is now free to advance.} (23. e4 $1 { now the Bd6 is lacking squares and White can mobiilize his pieces.} Qd7 24. Rd3 c6 25. Re1 $16) 23... c5 {now Black seizes the initiative with his own queenside play. The pawn break is well supported by his pieces, which are better coordinated than mine.} 24. dxc5 {letting Black get in ...c4 with a 3-1 advanced queenside majority did not look like a good option.} Rxc5 25. Qd3 { Komodo considers this equal, but over the board the initiative counts for an advantage.} Rbc8 26. Nd4 {the move is not bad in itself, but it betrays a lack of understanding of the needs of the position and how to combat Black's initiative. Challenging Black's pawn structure would be more productive.} (26. a4 $5 {and Black would have to allow a trade on b5, creating a single target for White to focus on.} bxa4 $2 27. Rb7 $16) 26... Be5 27. f4 $6 {this was my attempt to introduce more dynamic factors into the position. It works, although Black could have gotten at least a slight advantage.} Bxd4 28. exd4 ( 28. Qxd4 Nc6 29. Qb2 Qe4 $15) 28... R5c7 $6 (28... Rd5 {effectively blockades the isolated queen pawn and prepares to further pressure it.}) 29. d5 {seizing the chance to keep the d-pawn mobile and opening up the game for my pieces. Komodo now shows a small advantage for White.} Qc5+ 30. Be3 Qd6 31. R3b2 $6 { unfortunately I lose the thread again and start a too slow and passive maneuver. The key idea again is threatening to break up the queenside pawns, resulting in much more dynamic play and immediate threats, keeping the initiative.} (31. a4 bxa4 32. Rb6 $14) 31... Nc6 {taking advantage of the pin on the d-pawn to transfer the knight.} 32. Rf1 (32. a4 {again is possible.}) 32... Ne7 {now the extra pressure on the d-pawn means that Black's advantage is solidified.} 33. Rd2 Rd7 34. Bd4 $2 {the result of hallucinating a tactical trap. Black can simply take the pawn, however, which gives him a won game.} ( 34. Rfd1 $15) 34... Qxd5 35. Qg3 Nf5 $19 (35... f6 $2 36. Bxf6 $14) 36. Qf2 Nxd4 37. Rfd1 Rc4 {now the game is effectively over, although I hold out for a possible swindle by making some threats.} 38. Qe3 Rd8 {seeing the back-rank mate threat.} 39. Re1 h6 {I could have resigned at this point.} 40. Red1 Qc5 41. Kh2 Qd6 42. Kg1 Qe6 43. Qf2 Ne2+ 44. Kh2 Rxd2 45. Rxd2 Nxf4 0-1

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