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

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