29 April 2020

Annotated Game #242: Making it harder

This final round tournament game, an Exchange Slav, has as its main theme how I made it a lot harder on myself than necessary to secure a draw. Highlights:
  • 7...Qd7?! starts digging a positional hole for Black, as the queen development interferes with better minor piece placement. I was relying too much on transferring this idea from a Caro-Kann Exchange structure, which isn't quite the same. In that case, 7...Na5 is dubious (here it's better). However, White doesn't try to keep up the pressure and I equalize in several moves.
  • 14...a6 was OK, but unnecessarily weakening of the queenside pawn structure.
  • A classic Class player error is not developing the rooks in the early middlegame. I committed this sin by passing over the idea of 15...Rfc8 and later, until it was too late and White dominated the c-file. This was due to some sort of hallucination that White would control the file regardless. It still wasn't too late to contest the c-file on move 21.
  • I manage to get out of my problems, both earlier and later, thanks largely to my opponent's lack of patience and willingness to exchange pieces on favorable terms.
In the end I'm at least satisfied that I played some fighting chess and didn't despair in the endgame, even if it wasn't accurate chess.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "81"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 {the Exchange Slav historically has a drawish reputation, but I'd say it's as good a way for the White player to fight for the initiative as any, if they want to.} cxd5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Bf4 Nc6 6. e3 Bg4 { this scores significantly better (about 50 percent) than the alternative bishop development to f5 (about 45 percent for Black).} 7. Qb3 {the majority of games in the database feature this natural queen sortie, hitting b7 and adding to the pressure on d5.} Qd7 $6 {in a somewhat similar Caro-Kann Exchange variation, this is a perfectly good move. Here, however, the queen is misplaced as it blocks a path back for the Bg4, plus the Nc6 is better on another square.} (7... Na5 {is best here, as it cannot be driven from its post on a5 and eyes c4, while protecting b7 and hitting the Qb3. A sample high-level game:} 8. Qa4+ Bd7 9. Bb5 e6 10. Nf3 a6 11. Bxd7+ Nxd7 12. Ne5 b5 13. Qd1 Nxe5 14. Bxe5 Nc4 15. Qe2 Nxe5 16. dxe5 Bb4 17. Rc1 Rc8 18. Qd2 Qa5 19. a3 Bxc3 20. Rxc3 Rxc3 21. Qxc3 Qxc3+ 22. bxc3 Kd7 23. Kd2 Rc8 24. Kc2 Rc4 25. f3 f6 26. exf6 gxf6 27. Rd1 Kc6 28. g4 a5 29. Kb3 e5 30. h4 Kd6 31. Rg1 Ke6 32. Kb2 Kf7 33. Kb3 h5 34. Kb2 e4 35. f4 hxg4 36. Rxg4 b4 37. axb4 {Ni,H (2671) -Eljanov,P (2711) Riadh 2017 1/2-1/2 (65)}) 8. Bb5 $14 {a perfectly logical move, but not in the database's small sample.} e6 9. h3 Bf5 10. Nf3 Bd6 { here I want to exchange off White's effective bishop and complete my development.} 11. Bxd6 Qxd6 12. Ne5 O-O {by this point I feel White's initiative is largely spent and I've survived the opening pressure.} 13. Bd3 ( 13. Bxc6 $5 {is really the only way to try to fight for a (small) advantage. My opponent probably did not want to trade bishop for knight on principle, however.} bxc6 14. O-O {White has a slight pull on the queenside and the backwards c-pawn is a potential weakness, although Black should be able to keep things balanced with} Rfb8) 13... Bxd3 14. Nxd3 $11 a6 {taking the b5 square away from the knight, but also weakening b6. The b7 pawn is tactically protected.} (14... Qe7 $5 {also covering b7 looks simple and good.}) 15. O-O ( 15. Qxb7 $4 Rfb8 $19) 15... Rab8 {a solid choice, but it might be better to get the other rook into the game.} (15... Rfc8 {activates the rook and also contests the open c-file, the neglect of which causes me problems.}) 16. Rac1 Na5 17. Qb4 {a good choice by my opponent. White's pieces are a little better positioned than mine to fight on the queenside after the exchange.} Qxb4 { there is no good alternative, as retreating the queen just puts it in the way of my other pieces.} 18. Nxb4 Nc4 $6 (18... Rfc8 {it's still not too late for this.}) 19. Rc2 h6 $6 {played as a waiting move to give my king 'luft', but I could have put the tempo to better use.} 20. Rfc1 $14 Nd6 21. Na4 {now White's positional advantages are obvious, as he dominates the only open file and his knights can invade. With correct play, though, they are still too small to make a difference.} a5 $6 {forcing the knight to a better square.} (21... Rbc8) 22. Nd3 b5 23. Nac5 b4 $6 {I was having trouble coming up with a useful plan here, because I continued to fail to contest the c-file. With the Nd6 helping protect c8, however, that is the correct way to play.} 24. Ne5 {threatening the fork on d7. Now the pressure is really on.} Ra8 25. Ncd7 {my opponent lacks patience here. I'm perfectly happy to exchange off one of my worse knights.} Nxd7 26. Nxd7 Rfd8 (26... Rfc8 27. Nb6 Rxc2 28. Rxc2 Ra7 $14) 27. Ne5 a4 {I felt that this was my only source of counterplay, potentially opening the a-file or causing White some problems with the advanced pawns.} 28. Nc6 b3 {a bit desperate, but otherwise I thought White would gobble the pawn and just crush my position.} 29. axb3 axb3 30. Rc3 Rd7 31. Rxb3 {here I felt reasonably good about my drawing chances in a double rook ending, in part because White's pieces are no longer coordinating well. Komodo agrees, but not after the next move.} Nc4 (31... Rc7 $5 {is a very annoying pin on the Nc6.}) 32. Ne5 { again I'm happy to exchange.} (32. Rb5) 32... Nxe5 33. dxe5 $14 Ra2 {this abandons the 8th rank for the 2nd, unfortunately a worse placement for my rook, as all it does right now is be blocked by the b-pawn.} 34. Rb8+ {a mostly pointless check.} Kh7 35. b4 $6 {now my Ra2 is worth much more and can get in behind the pawn, where it ideally belongs.} Rb2 36. b5 Kg6 {adding a protector to the f-pawn and getting away from any ideas of a check on h8.} 37. b6 d4 $11 {this now activates the rook on the d-file.} 38. exd4 Rxd4 39. Rc3 {I thought for a while now and played a mistake.} Rdb4 $6 (39... Rd1+ 40. Kh2 Rxf2 41. b7 Rb1 {holds, for example} 42. Rh8 Rxb7 43. Rg3+ Kf5 44. Rxg7 Kxe5 45. Rxh6 $11) 40. Rg3+ $14 Kh7 41. Rf3 {here my opponent offered a draw, believing that the rook ending is drawn. After I take on b6, rooks are exchanged and White takes on f7. I'm still a pawn down but my more active rook should largely compensate and my king should help hold the kingside together.} 1/2-1/2

28 April 2020

Training quote of the day #30: Mark Dvoretsky

Chessplayers are not accustomed to changing the pattern of play abruptly except in cases of extreme need, and so certain moves sometimes quite simply fall outside our field of vision.
From "A Chessplayer's Strengths and Weaknesses" in Training for the Tournament Player 

27 April 2020

Functional fixedness

I would say that the #3 thing that holds me back in chess - following the top two things - is functional fixedness. One general definition of this phenomenon is "A mental block against using an object in a new way that is required to solve a problem". In the chess context, this means an inability to see possible moves by pieces beyond their "assumed" current function. Some common examples of this in tactics are:
  • Where one side is able to force a break of a pin (not against the king)
  • Material sacrifices, especially large ones (queen sacrifices tend to be the most surprising)
  • Inserting a key intermediate move in a sequence (for example postponing an "automatic" recapture).
In all cases, these tactics appear because the other side had not considered the move "possible" - even though, of course, the rules of chess say otherwise.

This cognitive fixedness can be a significant problem when coming up with candidate moves and also in the subsequent visualization process while doing calculation. Our brains fundamentally tend to be lazy. (This is in fact a survival trait that cuts down on unneeded energy for processing.) They therefore like to make assumptions, which help simplify whatever task is in front of us to solve. Fighting this tendency requires both a conscious awareness of your cognition - in chess, this means consistently following a suitable thinking process - and enough energy to keep your brain functioning at a high enough level.

It may seem a little backwards, but I've found over time that focusing on energy management has had the biggest payoff in my quality of play. It makes it that much easier to focus and actually implement your thinking process, especially when there is a need to erase previous assumptions in order to uncover the new possibilities in a position. Just looking at two basic questions - 1) What did my opponent's last move change about the position? and 2) What CCT (checks, captures, threats) are available? - can go very far in finding opportunities for both your opponent and yourself.

20 April 2020

Annotated Game #241: Strategic squeeze

For the third time in a row in this tournament, White is the winner. In this game (as White), I actually know what I am doing in terms of the early middlegame plan and it shows, with emphasis on play in the center along the e-file. Although the position isn't fully analagous, I've internalized a main lesson from Annotated Game #2, which was to not discard e-pawn advances in the English. What I did miss was an improved idea for repositioning a minor piece with the Nf1-e3 maneuver, although my opponent was unable to take advantage of this.

The rest of the game starting around move 18 is a good example of a classic strategic squeeze. My opponent makes no tactical blunders, but wastes some time and allows me to maneuver my knight to the strong d5 outpost. Essentially the game is decided because I can occupy my outpost, but Black's outpost on d4 cannot be reached by his pieces. As usual, once strategic dominance is achieved then tactics appear, and I am able to win material.

With no major mistakes on my part and no outright blunders by either side for most of the game, this is of higher quality than the previous two games in this tournament. (What should normally be the trend, as one keeps playing, but not always!)

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A14"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "63"] 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. b3 c6 {Black now adopts a Semi-Slav structure. This is solid but allows White more central options. The fact that the dark-squared bishop is on e7 rather than d6 also makes the idea of e6-e5 more difficult.} 7. Bb2 Nbd7 8. Qc2 {sometimes it is difficult to determine the best square for the queen in the English, but here c2 is the best (almost only) option.} b6 {Black has no other option for developing the light-square bishop.} 9. d3 {this keeps the game in English territory, as opposed to d4. This has both practical and psychological effects on an opponent, given the significant strategic changes that result. The c4 pawn is reinforced, allowing the opening of the d-file in the event of an exchange, and Black's knight is kept out of e4. In this position, White has adequate control over e5 and I did not want to offer a pawn on d4 as a target for an eventual ...c5 pawn lever, either.} Bb7 10. Nbd2 {the knight is better placed here than on c3, where it would block the Bb2 and influence fewer useful squares.} Rc8 11. Rfe1 {both a useful waiting move and in preparation for initiating central play.} Qc7 {now Black can support ...e5.} 12. e4 { contesting the center actively. The benefits of playing e4 in the English is a lesson I learned early on in my improvement process, having irrationally avoided it previously.} dxe4 {deciding to immediately clarify the center.} 13. dxe4 e5 {otherwise White can advance the pawn and occupy the square with a cramping effect.} 14. Rad1 {time to activate the other rook.} Rfe8 {clears the f8 square for a possible bishop retreat, which will reinforce kingside defense; the rook placement also will further support e5.} 15. Bh3 {in the absence of an obvious major plan, I decide to improve the position of my pieces; the bishop has little current prospects on the long diagonal and h3-c8 seems more active. However, the Nd2 would be a slightly better choice, with the maneuver Nf1-e3, as it is no longer doing much of use where it is.} (15. Nf1 c5 16. Nh4 Bf8 17. Ne3 g6 18. Bc3 Bg7 19. Nd5 Qb8 20. Qb2 Nf8 21. f4 Nxd5 22. exd5 Nd7 23. Nf3 f6 24. Bh3 Rcd8 25. Be6+ Kf8 26. fxe5 Nxe5 27. Nxe5 fxe5 28. Qf2+ Ke7 29. Qf7+ Kd6 30. Qxg7 {1-0 (30) Padurariu,I (2188)-Dulgheru,A (1772) Romania 2007}) 15... Rcd8 16. Qc3 {still not hitting on the Nf1-e3 idea.} Bf8 17. b4 {a logical gain of space on the queenside, to oppose Black if he has any ambitions there.} c5 $6 (17... a5 $5 {would be the way to challenge the pawn, without giving up space.}) 18. b5 $14 {the extra queenside space cramps Black enough to give me a small long-term advantage there.} g6 19. a4 {with thoughts of the a5 push to open the a-file, if there is opportunity.} Bg7 {the bishop no longer benefits from being on the f8-a3 diagonal, with the c5 pawn blocking its scope, so moves to a better square.} 20. Qc2 {a somewhat subtle move, it makes the pressure on e5 more meaningful and also overprotects e4, making the Nd2 mobile again.} Kh8 $6 {this appears to be just a waiting move, but it is not helpful for Black.} 21. Ng5 {an obvious move, hitting the temporarily weakened f7 pawn, but Black can easily deal with this, even just by moving back with ...Kg8. However, my opponent reacts in a similarly obvious way and is reluctant to undo his previous move, which is a well-known psychological tendency.} (21. Nb1 $5 {immediately would be better, with the same plan as in the game of Nc3-d5. Taking on e4 is not in Black's interest.} Nxe4 22. Rxe4 Bxe4 23. Qxe4 $14 {White's minor pieces are a little better than Black's rook here.}) 21... Rf8 $6 {this effectively wastes a tempo by sidelining the rook from the central action. Black may have been thinking of an eventual f7-f5, but that would leave behind a hole on e6.} 22. Nb1 $14 h6 23. Nf3 {by this point, although things appear level, I now have the initiative and Black has no counterplay.} Rfe8 {now the rook comes back, while my plan to occupy the d5 outpost proceeds.} 24. Nc3 Bc8 25. Nd5 Nxd5 {exchanging the strong knight, but now a strong passed pawn takes its place.} 26. cxd5 Qd6 {using the queen as a blockader makes the next plan easy to find.} 27. Nd2 $18 {heading for c4} Qf8 28. Nc4 {the squeeze is now on Black across the center and queenside.} Nf6 $6 { this again makes White's job easier, by cutting off the Bg7 from defending e5. Black's desire to try and trade pieces is understandable, however.} (28... Nb8 {is ugly but at least does not block defense of e5.}) 29. Bxc8 Rxc8 30. Bxe5 { threatening a knight fork on d6. The road is also clearly open for a central pawn roller with d6 and e5.} Nd7 {missing the fork, but in a lost position anyway.} (30... Rcd8 31. Bxf6 Bxf6 32. e5 Bg7 33. d6 $18 {with Qe4 and/or f4 to follow.}) 31. Bxg7+ Qxg7 32. Nd6 1-0

18 April 2020

Back in the day...

Blunder Prone, one of the Chess Blogs That Used to Be Good (and might be again), has resurfaced with a thoughtful post on slow vs. fast training and sharing some old school techniques in that regard. I also admit I have to grin whenever a post starts with "Back in the day..."

17 April 2020

Annotated Game #240: Why you should check tactics before resigning

This second-round tournament game is a tale of unrealized compensation, psychological pressure and a final missed tactic. The annotations speak for themselves, in terms of the lessons.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D05"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "61"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 {going for the Panov-Botvinnik Attack, rather than the Exchange Variation} Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nf3 Be7 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bd3 Nc6 9. O-O O-O 10. Ne4 $5 (10. Re1 {is overwhelmingly played here, and what I had prepared for.}) 10... Nf6 {this is a standard move against 10. Re1, but here scores quite poorly for Black. I thought for a while and didn't think there was anything better.} (10... b6 {has been played in master games and seems to be a straightforward way to equalize.}) (10... f5 $5 {is an interesting thought that occurred to me and also has been played a few times.} 11. Nc3 (11. Ng3 Bd7 $11) 11... Bf6 {and Black is a little cramped, but the e-pawn will be hard to crack while defended by the bishop and White will have to prove he can make progress.}) 11. Be3 b6 {this is where the problems start for me. Basically this is an unintended pawn sacrifice, that I get compensation for, but it's still unwelcome.} (11... Nb4 $5) 12. Nxf6+ Bxf6 13. Bxh7+ Kxh7 14. Qc2+ {forking the king and the unprotected Nc6.} g6 $6 {this is the real problem for the rest of the game and what gives White an advantage. I had thought that the rook on the open h-file would compensate for the dark-square holes, but this turns out not to be the case.} (14... Kg8 {Komodo considers this essentially equal.} 15. Qxc6 Rb8 {and after ...Bb7, Black has a pair of very good bishops (especially the unopposed light-square one on the long diagonal) and pressure on the isolated d-pawn, with d5 controlled in front of it. This was the general idea I also had in the game continuation, but it goes wrong.}) 15. Qxc6 $16 Bd7 $2 (15... Rb8 {as given in the previous variation is still the way to best develop the bishop, however awkward it looks. Unfortunately the bishop never really gets in the game after the text move.}) 16. Qe4 $146 {from here on, the pressure simply continues as White has the initiative and a clear pawn to the good.} Rc8 17. Qf4 {I could not figure out how to deal with this and tried to play more actively.} Rh8 $6 (17... Kg8 { emphasizes the holes on the kingside and shuts out the rook, but White is not in a position to immediately break through.} 18. Ne5 Bg7 $16) 18. Ne5 Kg7 19. Rac1 {bringing another piece into the game.} Rh5 {at least I'm continuing to play actively with pressure along the 5th rank, which likely contributes to White's next choice.} 20. Nxd7 $2 {this releases a lot of the pressure. Just about any normal move is fine for White here.} Qxd7 21. Rxc8 Qxc8 22. Rc1 Qa6 $2 {an error due to materialism. I'm focusing far too much on the one pawn material deficit, which Komodo assesses I mostly have compensation for, rather than on defending my position. The threats to the a-pawn and to penetrate on the diagonal are not real, while my queen effectively isolates herself from the rest of the action.} (22... Qd7 $5 23. Rc7 {appears to just drop another pawn, which is why I avoided it. However if} Qd8 24. Rxa7 e5 $1 {and White has a back-rank problem, so the d-pawn falls in turn.} 25. Qe4 exd4 $14) (22... Qa8 {would be an OK defensive move.}) (22... Qd8 {would set a trap:} 23. Rc7 $2 e5 $1 $19) 23. g4 Rh4 {with the idea of gumming up White's kingside offensive. However, White could play Qf3 and clear the awy for the g4-g5 advance.} (23... Rd5 $5) 24. Qg3 $6 Qe2 (24... g5 {would be the logical follow-up to the strategy of blocking White on the kingside. White cannot play} 25. f4 {because then the Black queen actually can penetrate to good effect with} Qe2 { threatening ...Rxg4.} 26. h3 $6 gxf4 27. Bxf4 Bxd4+ $17) 25. h3 {White blocks the one-move threat and now is well-positioned to take me apart.} Rh8 { anticipating the next move, but blocking it with my own pawn would still be better, even if no real solution.} 26. g5 Bd8 27. d5 $18 Qxb2 {at this point I'm just hoping that White blunders. Regaining material equality is meaningless.} 28. dxe6 fxe6 29. Qd6 Kf7 30. Qf4+ Ke8 31. Bd4 $2 {and White does in fact blunder, but I miss it! Any queen move loses, which I thought was the only defense, but the rook sacrifice on h4 is a saving deflection tactic, as the White queen is overloaded and cannot protect the Rc1 and Bd4 afterwards.} 1-0

08 April 2020

Anand and other Indian GMs playing online charity simul

This Saturday (11th of April) former world champion Anand and other top Indian GMs will be playing an online simul at Chess.com to raise money for fighting the coronavirus. It's taking place at a US/Europe/Asia friendly time and simul participants will start with a 45 45 clock rate, so it's a great opportunity to get in a serious game with serious players.

Full story and signup details: https://www.chess.com/news/view/viswanathan-anand-covid-19-message

04 April 2020

Annotated Game #239: Not a Hedgehog

This first-round game was a typical tournament start for me, featuring somewhat poor quality of play early on, but I was able to hold on long enough against a lower-rated opponent until I could generate some counterplay and finally break through. My opponent played well for most of the game, despite entering a dubious opening line (6...d5) that went against the Hedgehog structure just established on the previous move. I could have taken better advantage of this, however, and ended up allowing her to obtain a superior position in terms of space and piece activity. Most of the rest of the game consisted of me responding to threats in a relatively passive way, but the tide began turning around move 30, when I obtained some activity of my own and forced my opponent to have to respond to threats - thereby giving her a chance to go wrong, which she eventually did. One of the main lessons from the game analysis, other than from the opening phase, was how important (and effective) piece activity is in the endgame, especially when rooks are on the board. The other one, which tripped up my opponent in the end, was the decisive power of a more advanced passed pawn.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class D"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A30"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "109"] 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 b6 3. g3 Bb7 4. Bg2 Nf6 5. Nc3 c5 {entering a Hedgehog structure. However, Black immediately violates this with her next move.} 6. O-O d5 {while general principles suggest it is good to occupy the center with a pawn, in this case it is one too many pawn moves in the opening. Black's idea and threat is to continue the pawn advance with ...d4, but White can combat this in multiple ways, the simplest being to exchange the c- and d-pawns.} 7. Ne5 $5 {this prevents ...d4 due to the hanging Bb7 and occupies a central outpost. However, White's advantage is less concrete here.} (7. cxd5 Nxd5 (7... exd5 8. d4 $16 {is even better for White, as the Black d-pawn is a useful target.}) 8. d4 $14 {White is ahead in development and has better control of the center.}) 7... Nbd7 8. f4 $146 {the idea here is to support the outpost on e5 and open the f-file if Black exchanges. Although less pressing than the main line, as some consolation Komodo puts it as its second choice.} (8. Qa4 $14 {is universally played in the database and is probably the most active way to continue, as in the following example game.} Bd6 9. Nxd7 Qxd7 10. Qxd7+ Kxd7 11. Rd1 Rac8 12. cxd5 Nxd5 13. Nb5 Bb8 14. d4 cxd4 15. Nxd4 Ke7 16. e4 Nb4 17. Bd2 Na6 18. Bg5+ f6 19. Be3 Nc5 20. f3 Na4 21. Rd2 Be5 22. Bh3 Bxd4 23. Bxd4 Rc7 24. Rad1 Bc8 25. e5 f5 26. Bf1 Bd7 27. b3 Nc5 28. Bxc5+ bxc5 29. Bc4 Rb8 30. Rd6 Rb6 31. Kf2 Bc8 32. Rxb6 axb6 33. Rd6 Rb7 34. Ba6 Rb8 35. Bxc8 Rxc8 36. Rxb6 c4 37. Rb7+ Kf8 {Bayaraa,Z (2194)-Bryant,J (2359) Dallas 2009 1-0 (83)}) 8... Bd6 $11 {an obvious response, developing the piece and pressuring e5 again.} 9. Nf3 $6 {this betrays a lack of imagination and failure to take into account the dynamic factors in the position.} (9. cxd5) (9. Qa4) 9... O-O { Black is in a hurry to castle and prevent the position being opened with her king in the center, which of course is not a bad idea.} (9... dxc4 {would grab a pawn with little compensation for White, however.} 10. d3 cxd3 11. Qxd3 Be7 12. f5 exf5 13. Qxf5 O-O $17) 10. b3 {protecting the c-pawn while preparing to develop the bishop to the long diagonal. However, Black could now follow up on her previous idea to advance the d-pawn.} (10. d3 {would be comparatively better, not locking the dark-square bishop in after ...d4.}) 10... Re8 { a standard rook development, but this lets me repair the problem in the center. } (10... d4 $5) 11. e3 {taking control of the d4 square. The position is now equal again.} dxc4 12. bxc4 e5 {consistently following up with a standard idea of an e-pawn break supported by her pieces. However, I should have ignored it and continued to develop, as there is no actual threat.} 13. fxe5 {a premature exchange. It wins a pawn, but Black gets more than sufficient compensation.} ( 13. Nb5 $5 Bb8 14. fxe5 Nxe5 15. Nxe5 Bxg2 16. Nxf7 Kxf7 17. Kxg2 $11 {and now if} Be5 $2 18. d4 {is possible.}) (13. Bb2 exf4 14. exf4 $11 {in the game, I didn't like the idea of having a backward d-pawn, but Black has no way of getting at it soon. Also, my control of e5 in this variation is cramping for Black.}) 13... Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Bxg2 15. Nxf7 {this is the tactical point, a desperado maneuver that threatens the Qd8.} Kxf7 16. Kxg2 Be5 $15 {Black's pieces are much more active and my c-pawn is hanging, so my opponent in fact has a small advantage here.} 17. Bb2 {I need to get the bishop into the fight.} (17. Qc2 $6 {would attempt to cover both the c- and d-pawns, but would leave me with more weaknesses.} Kg8 18. Bb2 Qd7 $15 {now Black can increase pressure on the d-file and also threaten to swing the queen over to the weak light squares on the kingside.}) 17... Qd3 18. Rb1 {this seems like an obvious move and covers things reasonably well after the game continuation. The engine finds a more active continuation for Black, however, based ironically on retreating the king, which however frees up the Nf6.} (18. Qb1 $5) 18... Qxc4 ( 18... Kg8 19. Qe2 Rad8 $17) 19. d3 Qe6 {we're now back to rough equality, which could be solidifed by playing Ne4 and taking advantage of the continuing f-file pin. However, there are long variations involved. The text move is inferior, but more understandable, as it removes the threat to the e-pawn.} 20. e4 (20. Ne4 {and now if} Qxa2 21. Nxf6 Bxf6 22. Rf2 Qe6 23. Qh5+ Kg8 24. Rxf6 gxf6 25. Rf1 $11 {in a complex position.}) 20... Kg8 $17 {Black has more space, with better piece placement and coordination. Meanwhile, I have to try to fight against space cramp and get my pieces to better squares.} 21. Qb3 { I evaluated my queen as being inferior to Black's, so seized the chance to force an exchange. Black might do better by making me burn another tempo to complete it.} Qxb3 (21... Rad8 $5) 22. axb3 Red8 {this leaves the other rook on a8, which appears to be intended to support a future queenside pawn advance. However, this reduces the pressure Black has on the central files.} 23. Rf3 { this is more flexible than putting a rook on d1. The d-pawn cannot advance in any case.} Rd7 24. Nd1 {offering another trade.} Bxb2 25. Nxb2 {Black still has an advantage, but I feel that with fewer pieces on the board the problem is a little more manageable.} Ng4 (25... Rad8 $5) 26. Rd1 (26. Nc4 $5 {is a bid for more activity.}) 26... Rad8 (26... Ne5 $5 {would powerfully centralize the knight and allow Black to dominate in the long run.} 27. Rf2 Rad8 28. Rfd2 Kf8 $17 {and Black's king can enter the fray in the center.}) 27. h3 Nf6 $6 { thankfully (for me) missing the opportunity to move to e5.} (27... Ne5 28. Re3 Nc6 $19) 28. Re1 {made under the rule that rooks belong behind passed pawns. A good practical choice, perhaps, as Black would have to make some non-obvious knight maneuvers to effectively block the e-pawn.} (28. Ra1 $5 {with the d-pawn guarded, it would be better to get this rook active on the a-file.}) 28... Re7 {now the e-pawn is pinned, which did not really register with me.} ( 28... Ne8 {followed by moving to c7 is Komodo's preference, controlling the b5 and e6 squares.}) 29. g4 {played with the thought of moving the king up to g3, but this ignores Black's possible responses.} (29. Ra1 $5) 29... Rd4 { evidently played with the thought of following up with ...Rb4.} (29... Nd5 $1 { would take advantage of the e-pawn being pinned to transfer the knight to a better square, in this case b4.}) 30. Nc4 {physically preventing the rook from getting to b4. However, seeking active counterplay would be even better.} (30. Ra1 {it's interesting to see how piece activity really is the key to rook endgames. For example} Rb4 31. g5 Rxb3 32. Nc4 Ne8 33. Raf1 {and now despite beign a pawn down, White's domination of the f-file and more advanced passed e-pawn make it an even game, or even a win if Black fails to defend with} g6) 30... Nd7 31. Ref1 {around here I started feeling better about the situation. Although objectively Black still has a similar advantage, according to Komodo, I'm finally in the position of having potential threats and making my opponent react to my moves, rather than me having to constantly defend.} h6 32. Kf2 { getting the king into the action, with the intent of taking over defense of the d-pawn.} Kh7 $6 {the king is no safer here and this gives me a valuable tempo.} (32... b5 33. Ne3 Rxd3 34. Nf5 Rxf3+ 35. Kxf3 Rf7 36. Ke3 {and White is a pawn down, but with good chances to hold, thanks to the active king.}) 33. Ke2 $11 {the position is now balanced.} Nb8 34. Rf7 {still an even position, but psychologically a rook on the 7th adds to the pressure on my opponent.} Rxf7 35. Rxf7 Nc6 $2 (35... Rd7 $11) 36. Rc7 {the correct follow-up, driving the knight away from protecting the a-pawn.} Nb4 37. Nb2 $6 {too passive.} (37. Ne5 $16 {and the knight is gloriously centralized.}) 37... a6 38. e5 {my opponent now finds the runaway e-pawn difficult to deal with.} Nd5 39. Rf7 $6 { if I wanted to keep the rook on the 7th rank, a7 would be a better square.} ( 39. Rc6 Nf4+ 40. Ke3 Nxh3 41. e6 $11) 39... Rb4 $2 {my opponent gets greedy, not counting on the strength of the e-pawn.} (39... Nf4+ 40. Kd2 b5 $15) 40. e6 {the Black rook is now effectively walled off from the central action and the Nd5 is the only thing stopping the passed e-pawn. Black at minimum will have to give up the knight.} Rxb3 41. Nc4 $18 {I believe my opponent missed the full effects of this move, which now threatens to undermine the Nd5 from e3.} a5 {attempting to race her own pawn down the side, but there is not enough time.} (41... Kg8 42. Ne5 $18) 42. Ne3 {now there is no way for Black to exchange the knight for the passed e-pawn and the game is effectively over.} Nf6 43. Rxf6 $1 {this was overlooked as well, I believe.} gxf6 44. e7 a4 45. e8=Q a3 46. Qf7+ Kh8 47. Qxb3 {there are quicker mates, but at this stage of the game you don't get extra points for speed. My opponent, a junior, as is often the case these days, does not resign in a hopeless position, so I just play the easiest moves until mate.} h5 48. Qxa3 f5 49. gxf5 h4 50. Qa7 c4 51. dxc4 b5 52. cxb5 Kg8 53. b6 Kf8 54. b7 Ke8 55. b8=Q# 1-0