30 July 2020

Annotated Game #248: Meeting threats with threats

This second-round tournament game features a hard fight in the early middlegame, as my opponent does a good job of seizing the initiative by passing up "obvious" moves (such as automatic recaptures). Instead, she creatively seeks out ones that increase the number of threats on the board. The main clash is from moves 15-22 and I am only able to stay equal by using the same idea, meeting a threat with a threat.

After move 23, I am a pawn up but Black has both positional (the bishop pair) and dynamic compensation, including pressure against my king position. It's instructive to see how calmer defense (for example on move 25) could have better neutralized Black's threats; later on, more dynamic defense by creating counterthreats on the a-file would also have been an improvement.

In the late game, as often occurs, I started getting tired, and blundered on move 39. What happens is that I start cutting mental corners and do not look hard enough at my opponent's possible responses to candidate moves, which is a thinking process violation. Fortunately, my opponent was not in much better shape, however, and let me back in the game; I was able to save the draw in R+B ending with opposite-colored bishops. From a technical standpoint, the endgame analysis pointed out the importance of getting the rook mobile and active; instead, I did too much moving around with the bishop. From a psychological perspective, the game showed how continuing to fight after a blunder can be rewarded, if you are able to keep looking for ways to wrong-foot your opponent.

My opponent (a junior) showed good sportsmanship, but was clearly disappointed with the outcome, for which I can't blame her. It may have been a little frustrating for her playing me again as well. This was our third tournament encounter in two years, with the previous game being a 77-move draw that I should have won in the endgame. We were both Class A at this point, but she had started out as a low Class B and had gained much more than I had over time (a common pattern with juniors). However, it seems that we were well matched, in all three games drawing after a hard struggle.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E14"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "109"] {[%mdl 8192] E14: Queen's Indian: Classical Variation (4 e3)} 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 b6 {heading for a Tartakower QGD setup.} 7. Be2 (7. cxd5 $5 {appears a little more challenging and in the spirit of the English.}) 7... Bb7 8. O-O Nbd7 9. d4 c5 {the most effective move for Black, challenging White's center. The pawn structure is now symmetrical and piece development is nearly so. Technically this is now a Queen's Indian Defense.} 10. cxd5 (10. dxc5 $6 {this scores poorly for White, as it just helps Black's development and central control, whether the recapture on c5 takes place with knight or pawn.}) 10... Nxd5 11. Nxd5 { the Nc3 is not as well placed as White's other knight and this exchange also opens the long diagonal for the Bb2.} Bxd5 12. Rc1 {activating the rook} Bf6 { Black has a variety of choices here. According to the database, normally the pawn on d4 is exchanged before playing ...Bf6.} (12... Rc8 13. Ba6 Rc7 14. Qe2 Qa8 15. Rfe1 Bb7 16. dxc5 Rxc5 17. Rcd1 Nf6 18. Bxb7 Qxb7 19. Bd4 Rcc8 20. Ne5 Rfd8 21. Rc1 Nd7 22. Qg4 Nxe5 23. Bxe5 Bf8 24. h4 Rd5 25. Bd4 g6 26. Qf3 Bg7 27. Bxg7 {Gelashvili,T (2604)-Esen,B (2441) Athens 2007 1/2-1/2 (34)}) (12... cxd4 13. Bxd4 Bf6 14. Qd2 Rc8 15. h3 Bxd4 16. Nxd4 Nf6 17. Bf3 Bxf3 18. Nxf3 Qxd2 19. Nxd2 h6 20. Nf3 Rxc1 21. Rxc1 Rd8 22. Rc7 Rd7 23. Rxd7 Nxd7 24. Kf1 Kf8 25. Ke2 Ke7 26. Kd3 Kd6 27. b4 {Mendoza,S (2169)-Secopito,C (2127) Quezon City 2019 1/2-1/2 (31)}) 13. Ba3 {getting the bishop off of the b2 square where it was hanging and pressuring the a3-f8 diagonal.} (13. Qd2 {has been played more often, keeping the bishop on b2.} Qe7 14. dxc5 Bxb2 15. Qxb2 Nxc5 16. Rfd1 Rfd8 17. Ne1 Rac8 18. b4 Ne4 19. Bf3 h6 20. a3 Qf6 21. Qxf6 Nxf6 22. Kf1 Bxf3 23. Rxd8+ Rxd8 24. gxf3 Rd5 25. Rc8+ Kh7 26. Rc7 Rd7 27. Rc2 Kg6 { Hund,G (2059)-Staub,G (2046) Baden 2014 1-0 (45)}) 13... Rc8 {it looks obvious to reinforce the c-file, but White can now activate the light-square bishop to good effect.} (13... Be7 14. Qc2 $11) 14. Bb5 $14 {putting the bishop on a much more useful diagonal (a4-e8) and clearing e2 for the queen. It also physically blocks potential future ideas of pushing the b-pawn.} (14. Ba6 { is also possible, controlling c8, but I wanted to leave this in reserve.}) 14... Be7 {opposing the Ba3 and freeing the c-pawn to move, as well as reinforcing it.} (14... Bc6 $6 {immediately challenging the bishop leaves White with a plus after} 15. Bxc6 Rxc6 16. b4 Qc8 17. bxc5 bxc5 18. dxc5 Rd8 ( 18... Nxc5 $2 {grabbing the pawn does not work out in the end, as White can increase the pressure on the pinned Nc5 and then bring the Nf3 over to win material. For example} 19. Rc4 Be7 20. Qc2 Rc7 21. Nd4 Re8 22. Nb5) 19. Nd4 $14 ) 15. Qe2 {this consolidates control of the f1-a6 diagonal and connects the rooks. It's nice to have a clearly best square to place the queen, which often does not happen in these types of positions.} a6 {having just played a move to dominate the diagonal, I was not expecting this. After some thought, I take the safe route by exchanging the bishop, which was disappointing after the previous maneuvers.} 16. Bxd7 (16. Bxa6 $5 Ra8 {is the problem, as both the Ba3 and pawn on a2 are hanging, but White still is a little better after} 17. Bb2 Nb8 18. Bd3 Rxa2 19. Bb1 Ra7 20. Rfd1 Nd7 (20... Bxb3 $2 21. Qd3 {forking the Bb3 and the h7 mating square})) 16... Qxd7 $11 17. dxc5 {I now have the urge to simplify further, which is not bad, but allows Black to gain the initiative.} (17. e4 Bb7 18. dxc5 $11 {is an improved version, with the Black bishop not so well placed.}) 17... Qb5 {This was well played by my opponent, passing up the automatic recapture on c5, which would have resulted in an isolated pawn for her. I did not like the idea of exchanging on b5, but further simplification would not be so bad, as I underestimated the threats the queen could make. Protecting the Qe2 is the other option.} 18. Nd4 $6 { the thinking was to remove the knight from the threat of being exchanged with gxf3 forced. However, Black's queen now becomes more active and again targets my a-file hanging pieces.} (18. Rfe1 Qa5 (18... Qxe2 19. Rxe2 Bxf3 20. gxf3 $14 {is actually given a small plus by Komodo, as after} Bxc5 21. Bxc5 Rxc5 22. Rxc5 bxc5 23. Rd2 {Black's isolated queenside pawns and White's control of the d-file outweigh the flaw in the kingside pawn structure.}) 19. Bb2 $11 { now Black is not winning material.} Qxa2 $6 20. Nd4 {threatening to trap the queen} Qa5 21. Qg4 $16 {targeting g7 and creating tactical ideas involving the Bb2 and Nd4.}) (18. Qxb5 axb5 19. Nd4 Ra8 20. Bb4 Rxa2 {and Black has a small edge, but this is still better than the game continuation.}) 18... Qa5 $15 19. Bb2 bxc5 {this creates additional problems now as the Nd4 is under threat.} 20. Bc3 {the best response, meeting the threat with another threat (to the Qa5) and protecting the a-pawn along the second rank.} Qb6 21. Nf3 c4 {Black now presses further with the c-pawn, but overlooks my response, again meeting a threat with a threat.} (21... Qb5 $5 {is worth consideration} 22. Qb2 Bxf3 23. gxf3 f6 $15) 22. e4 $11 {finally getting the bishop out of the center.} Ba8 23. bxc4 {I'm now up a pawn, but Black has full compensation in the form of the two bishops and more active pieces, especially since the c-pawn is isolated.} Qc6 {pressuring both c4 and e4, as well as creating a battery on the long diagonal that threatens mate on g2.} 24. Nd2 f5 {a logical break, as exf5 is not possible. Here I thought for a while but did not find the best solution.} 25. f3 {a natural response, blunting the mate threat, but Black now fully utilizes her more active pieces.} (25. Rfe1 {is the calm response, protecting e4 again.} Bg5 {now has less bite after} 26. Rcd1 {for example} Bxd2 27. Qxd2 Qxc4 28. Be5 $14 {and Black has to be careful about the weakness on g7.}) 25... Bg5 26. f4 {weakening the pawn structure again, but I assessed that having the bishop pressuring me on the h6-c1 diagonal would be worse.} Be7 27. e5 $2 { a key error. As with the previous f2-f3 push, I was thinking safety first, but this cuts off my active play on the long diagonal, in exchange for nothing.} ( 27. exf5 {looks scary, exposing g2 again, but it is adequately defended. Good defense requires calculation and courage.} exf5 28. Kh1 $11) 27... Bc5+ $15 { not the most critical follow-up, however.} (27... Rfd8 $5 28. Kh1 Qa4 $17 { and Black once again threatens my underprotected queenside.}) 28. Kh1 Be3 { the bishop is safe here due to the mate threat on g2.} (28... Qa4 {is no longer is such a problem, since after} 29. Nb3 {the pawns are no longer hanging. Black can regain the c-pawn after some exchanges, but the threat is reduced.}) 29. Rf3 {an adequate defense.} (29. Bb4 $5 {is an interesting active defense. The point is less to target the Rf8, rather to get the bishop to a better square for blocking and countering Black's pieces.} Rfd8 30. Bd6 $11) 29... Bxd2 $11 {Black has nothing better, as this removes a key White defensive piece. However, it also results in opposite-colored bishops, which will be a key drawing factor later on.} 30. Bxd2 Qa4 {the a-pawn now falls and material equality is restored.} 31. Rfc3 Qxa2 $15 {Black has kept a bit of an edge, largely due to her better bishop on the long diagonal.} 32. R3c2 Qa4 33. Be3 {by this point I felt a lot better about my game, having emerged essentially unscathed from Black's pressure. My bishop is now more active and my queen and rooks are coordinating.} Rfd8 {activating the rook.} 34. h3 $6 { here I fail to find an adequate plan, or perhaps it is more the execution of it. The idea behind the move is to get the king out of the line of fire of the Ba8, but this allows Black to regain the initiative.} (34. Ra2 Qb3 $11) 34... Qc6 {choosing to renew the mate threat and penetrate on e4 with the queen, rather than the bishop.} (34... Be4 {would be more of a problem for me.} 35. Ra2 Qb3 36. Kh2) 35. Kh2 {this at least makes the g-pawn unpinned and mobile.} (35. Ra2 $5 {is Komodo's suggestion, with the point being that pressure is put on the a-pawn and White can also defend along the 3rd rank.} Rb8 (35... Qe4 36. Rc3 $11) 36. Ra3 {and there's a slight plus for Black but nothing major, it seems.}) 35... Qe4 36. Bb6 $6 {this would be a clever idea, except I missed my opponent's next respose.} (36. Rc3 {looks simplest, protecting the bishop and freeing up the queen to move.}) 36... Rd3 {now we see why in the earlier variation having my own rook on the 3rd rank was a good idea.} 37. Qxe4 { I did not see a better alternative.} (37. Qf2 {my queen is certainly not any better than Black's, so avoiding the trade doesn't look like it gains me anything. Having the queen and rook threatening to combine against White's king, along with the Q+B battery that is still pressuring the long diagonal, did not seem appetizing to me.}) 37... Bxe4 {the centralized bishop increases its power, but it is not decisive. Better would have been for me to get the Rc2 out of its line of fire and over to the a-file, to pressure Black's pawn.} 38. c5 {this looks like a natural move, protecting the Bb6 and advancing the passed pawn. At the same time, however, it blocks the bishop on the a7-g1 diagonal, limiting what it can do, and the pawn itself was not under real threat.} (38. Ra2 $5) 38... Rb3 39. Rc3 $2 {as often occurs, I was getting tired here and started slipping in terms of finding all of my opponent's threats in response to a move.} (39. Rd2 $142 $15 {would keep White in the game }) 39... Rb2 $1 $19 {now the g2 pawn cannot be defended with Rg3.} 40. Kg3 { nothing better.} (40. Rg3 $4 Rxb6 {and the Rc1 is hanging, preventing the recapture.}) 40... h6 {obviously intending ...g5 to follow up after capturing with the rook on g2, which would be devastating, but my king can get to h4 first.} (40... Rxg2+ 41. Kh4 $19) 41. Kh4 Rxg2 42. Rg3 $2 {defending against .. .g5, the best try I could find.} (42. c6 $5 $19) 42... Kh7 $2 {this lets me back in the game. My opponent was also rather tired after the long struggle.} ( 42... Rf2 $142 {ends the debate, states Komodo via the Fritz interface. The f-pawn now falls.}) 43. Rxg2 $17 Bxg2 {we're now in a pawn down R+B endgame with opposite colored bishops, so I felt that I had good chances to hold the draw.} 44. Kg3 Bd5 45. h4 Kg6 {correctly using her king actively and looking to penetrate.} 46. Ra1 {time to use my rook more actively as well.} Ra8 47. Ba5 (47. Rc1 $5 {would be less committal and keep the rook active and mobile.}) 47... Kh5 48. Bd2 $6 {I don't understand the importance of using the rook more and instead move the bishop to a worse square. I was too focused on trying to restrain ...g5, but this made my pieces less effective and more vulnerable.} Rc8 $19 (48... Rb8 {is even better, according to Komodo.} 49. Rxa6 Rb2 50. Be3 Re2 $19) 49. Be3 Bc4 {Black having given me a target, I finally move my rook.} (49... Rb8 $5 50. Rxa6 Rb3 51. Kf2 Kxh4 52. c6 Rb2+ 53. Ke1 $19) 50. Rc1 Bb5 { the bishop is a little less dominating here than on d5.} 51. Rd1 Rc6 $6 { it's a serious error to let my rook onto the 8th rank, where it can be much more effective.} (51... a5 $142 $5 $19) 52. Rd8 a5 {it now makes a big difference that my rook can get behind the pawn, and Black's bishop cannot cover the queening square.} 53. Ra8 a4 {too impatient. Now I spot the saving move.} (53... Ba6 $5 $17) 54. Ra5 $15 {my opponent missed this rather unusual rook fork, made possible by the pawn giving up its square.} Bc4 55. Rxa4 { we were both rather exhausted and the game should be a draw at this point, so I was happy with the result, while my opponent was rather disappointed.} 1/2-1/2

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