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

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