13 February 2020

Annotated Game #238: Lining up the shot

In this last round of the tournament, I still had some pride and preserving my Class A rating to play for, both of which would require a win to be satisfied. However, there was relatively less pressure, as I'd scored a win in the previous round after losing the first three games, breaking the streak. I had been given two Blacks in a row, which in fact was fine by me, since I've scored just as well (sometimes better) with that color.

I was also cheered by the appearance of the London System on the board, which I've traditionally had good results against. This time was no different and I equalized easily, despite a bit of inconsistency in the opening. On move 16 I deliberately decided to keep the queens on the board, looking for more winning chances, although as the engine points out I would have gained a slight advantage in the endgame. The structure had enough imbalances for there to be significant play in an equal position, and therefore chances for my opponent to go wrong.

The game starts turning in my favor around move 20, when I am able to come up with a decent plan to better mobilize my queenside forces, while my opponent makes some aggressive-looking but also wasteful moves on the kingside. The weakening 24. g4?! allows me to a couple of moves later naturally line up my queen against his king on the long diagonal, then take a surprise tactical shot that combines a discovered check, attack on his queen, and an x-ray theme on the f-file. My resulting material advantage and advanced passed pawn seal the win and a satisfying end to what could have been a disastrous tournament.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D02"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "108"] 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 {the London system has only gained in popularity over recent years, it seems.} Nf6 3. e3 Bf5 4. Bd3 Bxd3 5. Qxd3 e6 (5... c6 {is more popular here, controlling the b5 square, although as can be seen in the next variation, the queen check is not a serious threat.}) 6. Nf3 (6. Qb5+ {wins a pawn, but Black has full compensation. White's queen has to be careful not to be caught without squares, as Black's rook gain strength on the queenside open files.} Nbd7 7. Qxb7 Rb8 8. Qxa7 Rxb2 $11 {and now if White gets even more greedy, Black should win:} 9. Bxc7 $2 (9. Qxc7 $2 Qa8 $19) 9... Qc8 $19 { with the threat of ...Rb7.}) 6... Nbd7 7. Nbd2 Nh5 {played to target White's powerful bishop. However, White can avoid the trade and keep a small initiative.} (7... c5 {is a more logical follow-up to Black's previous move.}) 8. O-O (8. Bg5 $5) 8... c5 $6 {mixing and matching strategic ideas is not a good recipe for the opening. Luckily my opponent does not press his developmental advantage.} (8... Nxf4 {is the obvious follow-up, completing the idea behind the knight move.}) 9. c3 (9. c4 {with Black's king still in the center, White would do well to use this pawn lever to try to open the position. For example} Nxf4 10. exf4 Be7 11. cxd5 exd5 12. Qb3 $16) 9... Nxf4 10. exf4 Bd6 $11 11. f5 {now that I am ready to castle, this is not worrisome.} O-O 12. fxe6 fxe6 {the backwards e-pawn looks ugly, but White is not in a position to put too much pressure on it. The half-open f-file also serves as compensation.} 13. Rae1 Qf6 $6 {this is too committal of the queen.} 14. Qe3 (14. Qb5 { can be parried, but Black effectively wastes a tempo in doing so.} Qe7 $14) 14... Rae8 {now White cannot make any more progress.} 15. Ne5 Bxe5 16. dxe5 { I am fine with this bishop for knight trade, as now the d/c pawn pair is strengthened and White has a target on e5 he has to defend.} Qe7 {Here I had a long think about game strategy. This retreat looks slightly passive, but my thinking process was actually to preserve more potential winning chances by keeping the queens on the board.} (16... Qf4 {was my main alternative and Komodo's preference. The queen trade gives Black a small edge perhaps.} 17. Qxf4 (17. g3 $5 Qxe3 18. Rxe3 Rf5 19. f4 $11) 17... Rxf4 $15 {and my rook activity is superior.}) 17. f4 Rf7 {a slow plan. Komodo prefers to prepare to mobilize the queenside pawn majority (4v3), with moves like ...b5 or ...Nb8-c6. } (17... b5) 18. Rf3 Ref8 19. Ref1 {maintaining the equal tension.} b6 { thinking safety first and preparing ...c4.} 20. Rh3 {this effectively wastes a tempo.} (20. c4 $5 {would be more unbalancing, challenging Black's center and posing more problems to solve at the board.} Nb8 21. cxd5 exd5 22. f5 Nc6 23. e6 Rf6 24. g4 g6 $11 {should hold for Black, though.}) 20... c4 {clearing the square for use by my pieces and creating a potential outpost on d3.} 21. Kh1 { effectively another loss of tempo.} (21. b4 cxb3 22. Nxb3) 21... Nc5 $15 { good, but not best.} (21... Qc5 {is pointed out by Komodo as winning a pawn, given that both the f- and b-pawns are weak. I did not even consider it, though, based on my earlier decision to avoid exchanging queens.} 22. Qxc5 (22. Rhf3 Qxe3 23. Rxe3 Rxf4 24. Rxf4 Rxf4 25. Kg1 $17) 22... Nxc5 23. Rhf3 Nd3 $19) 22. Rhf3 Nd3 {Black gets an 'octopus' knight deep in enemy territory.} 23. b3 b5 {play has shifted to the queenside and as a result I now have the initiative and a space advantage.} 24. g4 $6 {an aggressive attempt to re-start kingside threats, but this is too weakening. The f-pawn (and by extension the e-pawn) now have less potential support. The h1-a8 diagonal is also now opened, which later becomes decisive.} (24. Qd4 $5) 24... Qc7 $17 { pressuring the e-pawn, thereby preventing an advance of the f-pawn.} 25. Nb1 $6 {this retreat and redeployment of the knight harms rather than helps.} a5 { this passes up an opportunity to strike a blow on the kingside, now that the knight has removed itself from the action.} (25... g5 26. f5 (26. fxg5 $2 Rxf3 27. Rxf3 Rxf3 28. Qxf3 Qxe5 $19) 26... Nxe5 27. Rg3 h6 $19 {and now the f-pawn will eventually fall.}) (25... Qb7 {immediately is also good.}) 26. Na3 Qb7 { consciously lining up on the long diagonal, as well as protecting the b-pawn.} 27. Nc2 $2 {missing the following tactic. The f-pawn is in fact sufficiently protected, which no doubt led to my opponent not considering the possibility of it being taken. However, the point is the discovered check and simultaneous attack on the queen, combined with the x-ray on the f-file.} (27. Kg1) 27... Nxf4 $1 28. Rxf4 $2 {this leads to additional material loss.} (28. h3 cxb3 29. axb3 Ng6 $19 {with a winning endgame.}) 28... d4+ 29. Qf3 Qxf3+ {now the x-ray tactic works.} 30. R4xf3 Rxf3 31. Rxf3 Rxf3 32. Nxd4 Rxc3 33. Nxb5 Rc1+ 34. Kg2 c3 $19 {with the material advantage and advanced passed c-pawn, the win is just a matter of simple technique.} 35. Na3 c2 (35... Ra1 {is quicker.}) 36. Kh3 Kf7 37. Kh4 Rh1 {forcing either the queening of the pawn or the loss of the knight.} 38. Nxc2 Rxh2+ {from this point on it's just cleaning up.} 39. Kg5 Rxc2 40. a3 Rb2 41. b4 a4 42. Kh5 Rb3 43. Kg5 Rxa3 44. Kh5 Rb3 45. Kg5 a3 46. b5 Rxb5 47. Kh5 a2 48. g5 a1=Q 49. g6+ hxg6+ 50. Kg5 Rxe5+ 51. Kf4 Qd4+ 52. Kf3 Re3+ 53. Kf2 Qd2+ 54. Kf1 Re1# 0-1

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