17 September 2020

Annotated Game #252: Learning through gambits

Continuing with the theme of learning by doing, this second-round tournament game is an excellent example of a positional opening gambit. Komodo concurs that I (as White) have full compensation and more for the pawn given up on move 6, at least until around move 19. I consciously knew this would be something of an experiment, choosing not to avoid the challenge even though I had little experience with the resulting position. It is a characteristic of master-strength players to be able to deal with these types of positions, where there is no direct attack, but significant positional compensation for sacrificed material.

The problem, of course, is that in the long run it is easier to play the side with the extra material, since the burden of proof lies with the player who must demonstrate the compensation. Looking at the strategic alternatives on moves 17-19 is instructive in this regard, since there are significant improvements in terms of activating pieces and maintaining the pressure and space advantage. I must also give credit to my opponent, who was very close in rating, for repairing her weaknesses on the queenside and then moving to take the initiative using the pawn majority.

The complexity of the game caused us both to run low on time, which contributed to me blundering (rather than sacrificing) another pawn, but then made my opponent nervous as my rook took up position on her side of the board. She had less time than I did and took the practical exit of allowing a repetition of moves, so I ultimately escaped with a draw. A very interesting game, nonetheless, from an improvement point of view.


[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventType "simul"] [EventRounds "5"] {A11: English Opening: 1...c6} 1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 dxc4 5. O-O {this continuation - the most popular in the database - is an indication that White is more focused on development than on regaining the pawn.} Nbd7 6. b3 { I thought for a considerable amount of time here, having expected my opponent to play ...b5 instead, to protect the c-pawn. This would leave c6 weak, however, and not contribute much to development.} (6. Qc2 $5) 6... cxb3 $11 7. Qxb3 {now White has a pure gambit. I wasn't fully comfortable with this, but felt I should have reasonable compensation. Komodo agrees.} (7. axb3 {is the alternate way to play this and appears to be no better or worse. The strategic ideas will be different, however, and I felt more comfortable with the positions resulting from Qb3.} e6 8. d4 Be7 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Ba3 Nd5 11. Bxe7 Qxe7 12. Ne4 N7f6 13. Nc5 b6 14. Nd3 Bb7 15. Nfe5 Nd7 16. e4 Nxe5 17. Nxe5 Nf6 18. Qc1 c5 19. dxc5 Qxc5 20. Qxc5 bxc5 21. f3 Rfc8 22. Rfc1 Kf8 23. Ra5 Ke7 24. Raxc5 Rxc5 25. Rxc5 Kd6 26. b4 Rc8 27. Nxf7+ Ke7 28. Rxc8 Bxc8 29. Ne5 Kd6 30. Nc4+ Kc6 31. Bf1 Nd7 32. Na5+ Kb6 33. Kf2 Ba6 34. Bh3 Nf8 35. Ke3 Kb5 36. Kd4 Kxb4 37. Nc6+ Kb5 38. Nd8 Bc8 39. Ke5 a5 40. Kd6 a4 41. Kc7 a3 42. Nc6 a2 43. Nd4+ Kc4 44. Nc2 Kc3 45. Na1 Kb2 46. Kxc8 Kxa1 47. Kd8 Kb2 48. Ke7 a1=Q 49. Kxf8 Qh1 50. Bxe6 Qxh2 51. g4 Qf4+ 52. Bf5 Qxf3 53. Kxg7 {1-0 (53) Martinez Reyes,P (2416)-Srdanovic,J (2070) chess.com INT 2020}) 7... e6 {blunting the pressure on f7, at the cost of blocking in the Bc8.} 8. d4 {seizing the space on offer in the center.} Bd6 $6 {this turns out to be a time-waster, as the bishop can get kicked off d6, so it is better developed to e7.} 9. Nbd2 { I thought for a while here on the best development scheme. The text move gets the knight out, covers e4 and eyes the c4 square, while not blocking the long diagonal.} (9. Ba3 {I rejected the bishop development at this stage, because of being a pawn dawn and not wanting to trade pieces. However, I missed the idea of recapturing with the knight, and trade anyway later.} Bxa3 10. Nxa3 $14 {with the idea of Rc1, Rfd1 and Nc4 if possible.}) 9... Nb6 {this guards c4, but loses some more time in the opening by moving the piece again.} (9... O-O 10. Nc4 Be7 11. a4 $11) 10. e4 $14 {a good follow-up, seizing space in the center and threatening the pawn fork on e5, which makes Black lose additional time in avoiding it.} Be7 11. a4 {now that the d5 square is covered, this threatens a4-a5 driving the knight backwards; it also restrains Black's b-pawn. } a5 12. Ba3 {the exchange here makes sense, trading White's bishop in one move for Black's which has made several, although the capture is not forced.} Bxa3 13. Qxa3 Qe7 {Black would be happy with the exchange of queens, reducing White's compensation for the gambited pawn in terms of space and piece activity.} 14. Qb2 {it was not clear to me what the best square for the queen was. On b2, it influences the b-file and is on the long diagonal.} (14. Qe3 $5 {is perhaps better, supporting the center and leaving the job of putting pressure on the queenside files to the rooks.} O-O 15. Rfb1 $14) 14... Nbd7 15. Rfe1 {activating the rook to support the center, overprotecting the e-pawn.} O-O 16. Nc4 {long thought here. In the end, I decided it was a good place for the knight, regardless of anything else. The engine agrees.} Qd8 {this controls b6, but the backwards queen move lessens Black's influence on the center.} 17. Rab1 {another long thought here. I didn't think this was a particularly effective move, although it increases pressure along the b-file, but I was unable to come up with anything more concrete as a plan.} (17. Nfd2 $16 {is Komodo's preference. This does multiple things, such as overprotecting e4 again, clearing the f-file for a potential pawn advance, and giving the option to reposition the knight to b3 or c4}) 17... Rb8 (17... b5 $5 {would give back the pawn in exchange for dissipating the queenside tension.} 18. axb5 cxb5 19. Qxb5 $11) 18. Qd2 {getting the queen out of the sights of the Rb8, while pressuring a5 and establishing a presence on the d-file.} (18. Nd6 $5 { looks like the obvious choice, but I was concerned about} Ne8 {The engine evaluates the knight for bishop trade as not bad for White, however. The Bg2 will become a strong piece, unopposed on the light squares.} 19. Nxc8 Qxc8 $14) 18... b6 {taking control of b6 by occupying it, as well as protecting the a5 pawn. Now White needs a new plan, besides continuing to try to pressure the b-file, but I have trouble finding one.} 19. Rb2 {this is more a waiting move than anything, although not bad in itself. The problem is that the e-pawn is not sufficiently protected, so Reb1 is not possible as a follow-up.} (19. Nd6 Ne8 20. Nc4 {invites repetition with} Nef6) (19. e5 $5 {would mark a change in strategy, giving up the d5 square but gaining space and opening the long diagonal for the Bg2. White remains active and retains full compensation for the pawn.} Nd5 20. Nd6 Nb4 21. Ng5 h6 22. Nge4 $11) 19... Ba6 $11 {a good freeing move from Black, getting the bishop developed to a useful diagonal and connecting the heavy pieces on the back rank. I didn't consider this move, which is always a bad sign.} 20. Nce5 $6 {again, played without much of a plan. Things start to go downhill from here.} (20. Nd6) 20... Rc8 $15 {now Black can start thinking about mobilizing her queenside pawn majority, well supported by her pieces.} 21. h4 $6 {lashing out rather crudely on the kingside. I could see the queenside pawn roller coming.} (21. Bh3 $5 {would at least partially activate the bishop, which otherwise is doing nothing.}) 21... c5 22. Nxd7 Nxd7 23. Reb1 $2 {this was the point of the decision to trade knights on d7, in my thinking at the time, so I could swing the rook over. However, Black now clarifies the center and my space advantage and other compensation are gone, leaving Black both materially and positionally better.} (23. dxc5 $5 {should be considered} Rxc5 24. Qd6 $15 {with at least some annoying pressure.}) 23... cxd4 $17 24. Qxd4 Qc7 25. e5 {played primarily to open the long diagonal, although the pawn is better on e5 as well.} Rfd8 (25... Bb7 {would immediately contest the long diagonal.}) 26. Qf4 Qc4 $6 {here Komodo is patient and assesses that improving a position of one of White's pieces would be better, letting Black do the exchanging.} (26... Bd3 27. Ra1 Nc5 28. Nd4 $19) 27. Qxc4 $6 {I exchanged here, believing that Black's queen was better than mine and that the backwards b-pawn gave me good chances of drawing. The problem is that Black's rooks are very active.} (27. Rd2 $5 {should not be overlooked} Qxf4 28. gxf4 $15 {the pawn structure looks strange, but reinforcing the e5 strong point is worth the doubled pawns.}) 27... Bxc4 $17 28. Nd2 $2 {this is just a calculation blunder. The idea was to get rid of the b-pawn in exchange for the e-pawn, with a 4v3 kingside majority for Black harder to convert in the endgame.} Nxe5 $19 29. Nxc4 Nxc4 {I failed to mentally see how the knight would cover b6 when calculating move 28.} 30. Rc2 g6 {creating luft for the king.} 31. Rbc1 {a one-move threat...} Nd6 {simply solved.} 32. Rc6 Rxc6 33. Rxc6 Nc8 $6 {with a two-pawn advantage, my opponent plays it safe by defending. However, this passes up the opportunity to create a passed pawn.} (33... b5 34. axb5 Nxb5 35. Rc5 Rd1+ $19) 34. Rc7 $2 {completely overlooking the advantage of keeping the knight tied to the defense of b6.} (34. Bf1 $5) 34... Nd6 { now the knight is back to a good square.} 35. Rc6 {nothing better.} Nc8 { because of major time trouble (on both sides), my opponent decides to go for a repetition of moves.} 36. Rc7 Nd6 {and I escape with a draw.} 1/2-1/2

07 September 2020

Annotated Game #251: Repeated patterns and learning through analysis

This first-round game was played nearly a year after my previous tournament experience (Annotated Game #250), so I expected to have some mental rust and was not disappointed in that regard. It is a hard-fought game nonetheless, against a high Class A opponent, and provides a number of valuable lessons through analysis. One recently-highlighted pattern in my play is the failure to adequately contest open files, particularly the c-file as Black, which plays a central role in the strategic element of this loss; see also Annotated Game #242. It's this sort of revelation that makes analyzing your own games such a useful practice.

Other useful highlights:
  • A simpler way for Black to meet this sort of London System / Exchange Slav setup is given on move 5.
  • Neither side benefited from moving their f-pawns in the early middlegame. For me as Black, it was an erroneous strategic idea, as my play should have been focused on the queenside and center, given the structure. The class "pawn-pointing" theory of determining which side of the board to play on works here, with my f7-e6-d5 pawn chain.
  • Stubborn defense has its rewards, as I fought hard in a strategically lost position and created the move 51 opportunity to reach a drawn position.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "123"] [EventType "simul"] [EventRounds "5"] {[%mdl 8192] D10: Slav Defence: 3 cxd5 (without early Nf3) and 3 Nc3} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Bf4 {with the early bishop development, I felt that this had more of the flavor of a London System with a pawn exchange, rather than as a Slav Exchange variation.} Nc6 {this is played the most often, according to the database. It develops a piece and blocks the a4-e8 diagonal.} 5. Nc3 Bf5 {I spent a good amount of time on this and on the last move. The bishop development is fine to play, but because of it I worried a lot about potential Nb5-c7 vulnerabilities.} (5... Nf6 {followed by ...a6 seems like an easier approach and is popular at top levels.} 6. Nb5 $2 {is premature because of} Qa5+) 6. e3 e6 7. Rc1 {this is a less common move here, but a logical placement of the rook.} (7. Bb5 Nge7 8. Nf3 a6 9. Be2 Nc8 10. O-O Be7 11. Rc1 Nb6 12. Ne5 Nxe5 13. Bxe5 O-O 14. Qb3 Rc8 15. Na4 Nxa4 16. Qxa4 Bf6 17. Bxf6 gxf6 18. Qb4 Qd7 19. Qd2 Qa4 20. a3 Qb3 21. Qb4 Qxb4 {Ubilava,E (2560) -Komljenovic,D (2495) San Sebastian 1992 1/2-1/2}) (7. Qb3 Qd7 8. Nf3 f6 9. Be2 g5 10. Bg3 h5 11. h4 g4 12. Nd2 Kf7 13. O-O Bg6 14. Bb5 Kg7 15. a4 Nh6 16. Ne2 Nf5 17. a5 Nxg3 18. Nxg3 a6 19. Bd3 Bb4 20. Bxg6 Kxg6 21. Qd3+ f5 {Bulatova,K (2154)-Diakonova,E (2214) Loo 2019 1/2-1/2 (38)}) 7... Bd6 {there is no reason not to place the bishop here.} 8. Bxd6 Qxd6 $11 {the position is very equal, as White no longer has any immediate targets - the pin on the Nc6 is easily dealt with - and both sides need to develop further.} 9. Bb5 Nge7 10. f4 { indicates White will continue aggressively. This weakens the light squares on the kingside, but since Black's knight is on e7 instead of f6, this is not immediately exploitable.} O-O 11. Nf3 {with the pawn on f4, the knight will be better supported if it moves to e5 or g5.} a6 {taking control of b5} 12. Bxc6 Nxc6 {Black can now think about play on the queenside, with ideas of ...Nb4 or ...Na5-c4. The Bf5 would also be well-positioned to support this, which is why White decides to get rid of it.} 13. Nh4 Ne7 {in a change in plans, the knight is re-routed back to the kingside. The f5 square will be an excellent place for it.} 14. Nxf5 Nxf5 $15 {attacking e3, weakened due to the f-pawn advance.} 15. Qd2 Qe7 {the thinking behind this is to improve the position of the queen. It belongs on the dark squares and posted on e7 it has access to the useful d8-h4 diagonal, as well as helping control the 7th rank.} (15... h5 $5 { Komodo approves of the text move, but slightly favors this pawn push. The point is to secure the Nf5 from a g2-g4 pawn advance. While this violates the general rule of not moving a pawn in front of your king, these types of moves are common at master level.}) 16. O-O Nd6 {I unfortunately start "losing the thread" of the game here, by not coming up with a suitable plan. I thought the knight would be better placed on d6, which is true if not urgent. I was also thinking about the option of playing ...f5, which is not really beneficial to me. By moving the knight yet again, it also neglects rook development in the late opening/early middlegame, which is a typical Class player issue.} (16... Rfc8 {getting a presence on the c-file and the rook into play is strategically better.}) 17. b3 {a prophylactic move to control c4, denying the knight an outpost there.} f5 $6 {with ideas of a Rf6 rook lift that never materialize, so this is an ultimately weakening strategic error. I should be playing in the center and queenside, not trying to create something out of nothing on the kingside.} (17... Rfc8 {with the simple but effective plan of doubling rooks on the c-file makes sense.}) 18. Na4 $11 b5 {while not technically bad in itself, this move just makes it easier to play as White, driving the knight to its best square.} (18... Ne4 $5 {is a great square for the Black knight and it influences c5 as well.}) 19. Nc5 a5 {this at least is a correct idea, fighting for space on the queenside and being happy to open the a-file for my rook if White seeks an exchange.} 20. a4 b4 {Komodo rates both this and the pawn exchange equally. With White having a better-placed knight, I thought it was better to seal the queenside rather than open it up. It should also simplify planning.} 21. Rc2 Ne4 $6 {yet another move by this knight instead of mobilizing the a8 rook, which now has nothing to do. This ends up giving White too much control over the c-file, although it is not yet decisive. It also creates an additional pawn island for Black.} (21... Rac8 $5 $11) 22. Nxe4 $14 fxe4 {we now have a Dutch structure with queen and rooks. From playing the Dutch, however, I should have better known that when there is an open c-file, this favors White.} 23. Rfc1 $6 (23. Qe2 Rac8 24. Rfc1 $14) 23... Ra7 $6 { the start of a flawed defensive plan. Ironically, having pursued a Dutch-type strategy, the best continuation would be to play the thematic Dutch ...g5 break.} (23... g5 $5 $11 {would allow for counterplay on the kingside. Now instead White has the initiative.}) 24. Rc6 {my opponent does a good job of identifying the most vulnerable target in my camp. The problem is that there is no easy way to defend the e-pawn in the long term.} Rd8 $6 {I took a long time here to try to find a good defense. Time trouble starts to make an impact now.} (24... g5 {is probably still best, although now of course the e-pawn falls.}) 25. Qc2 (25. Qe2 {would be more to the point, threatening to come to g4.}) 25... Rdd7 {the defensive idea of controlling the 7th rank was the point behind the earlier rook move to d8.} 26. Rc8+ Kf7 27. Qe2 Qh4 {I spent a long time here as well, trying to figure out how to cover the kingside.} (27... g6 $16 {would be a better way to hold out on the kingside.}) 28. g3 Qh6 $2 { this error is a good (if painful) lesson on piece mobility and activity: the Black queen is now almost literally painted into the corner. I considered going to h3, which Komodo validates is best, but I erroneously thought it would be worse off there.} (28... Qh3 $16 {prevents the White queen from penetrating and also covers h7 and e6.}) 29. Qf2 {I could still go to h3, but instead play the ...g6 idea too late, making things worse not better.} g6 $2 30. R1c6 (30. Kg2 {would cover h3 and ensure zero counterplay for Black.}) 30... Ke7 $2 {still ignoring h3} 31. Qe2 $6 {my opponent also is ignorant of this idea.} Rd6 $4 {this was a blunder played in time trouble, but my opponent missed the finishing continuation.} 32. Qg4 (32. Rxd6 $1 Kxd6 33. Qb5 $18 { and Black's king and rook are too exposed to be defended.}) 32... Rad7 { White is still winning here, but has a lot more work to do.} 33. Rc5 Ra7 { still trying to desperately defend everything} 34. Kg2 Rdd7 $2 {this allows an interesting tactical idea, which I spotted after I moved, but my opponent did not. Given the length of the calculation required, however, practically speaking it probably did not make sense to play.} (34... Kf7 $18) 35. R5c6 { a simpler route to victory} (35. Re8+ $142 $1 {deflection tactic} Kxe8 36. Qxe6+ Kd8 37. Qg8+ Ke7 38. Rc6 $18 {and Black gets mated or has to give up too much material, for example} Rd6 39. Rc8 Kf6 40. Rf8+ Qxf8 41. Qxf8+ Ke6 42. f5+ gxf5 43. Qh6+ Ke7 44. Qxh7+ Ke6 45. Qxa7) 35... Rd6 36. Re8+ Kxe8 37. Rxd6 Re7 38. Rxe6 Qf8 {being as stubborn as possible in the defense.} 39. Rxe7+ Qxe7 40. Qc8+ Kf7 41. Qc6 (41. Qh8 {would be more to the point.} Qe6 42. Qxh7+ Kf6 $18) 41... Qd8 {around here I started feeling better, if not exactly good, about my situation. The queen defends both d5 and a5 and White no longer has as easy a win.} 42. Qc5 h5 {the idea being to restrain the g-pawn and White's mobilization of his 3-2 kingside majority.} 43. h3 {supporting a g4 push.} Ke6 {trying to take some of the defensive burden away from the queen.} 44. Qc6+ { driving away the king.} Kf7 45. Kf2 Kg7 46. h4 Kf7 47. Kg2 Kg7 48. Kh3 { I have no counterplay and am looking at an eventual zugzwang situation, where anything I do will allow White to realize his advantage.} Qg8 49. g4 Qf7 { still trying to fight hard on defense and give myself a chance. I in fact do this, but unfortunately I miss it in time trouble and under pressure.} 50. Qc8 {White prepares the advance f5} Kh7 51. f5 $2 (51. Kg3) 51... Kg7 $2 {this loses (again).} (51... gxf5 $1 {was possible and I had thought about it, but did not properly calculate and evaluate its consequences.} 52. gxf5 (52. Qxf5+ Qxf5 53. gxf5 Kg7 $11 {the K+P ending is drawn.}) 52... Kg7 $11 {White's queen is tied to protecting the f-pawn and cannot take the time to grab the a-pawn now.}) 52. Kg3 Kh7 (52... gxf5 {does not help much due to} 53. g5 $1) 53. Kf4 Kg7 {now White has multiple ways to win and is in no danger. As long as the queens are still on the board, I keep fighting, but the result is assured.} ( 53... hxg4 54. Kxg4 Kg7 55. Qe6 gxf5+ 56. Qxf5 $18) 54. gxh5 gxh5 55. Qe6 Qf6 56. Qe5 Kf7 57. Qxd5+ Kf8 58. Qc5+ Kf7 59. Qc7+ Kf8 60. Kg3 Qxf5 61. Qf4 Qxf4+ 62. Kxf4 1-0

03 September 2020

Training quote of the day #32: Artur Yusupov

 From Training for the Tournament Player by Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov

What enables a chessplayer to be successful? In response to this question two essential factors are usually singled out: talent and hard work. But it is not sufficient just to be talented and hard-working. Physical condition, competitive character and the ability to concentrate during play are also very important. No less important is the ability to choose correctly the decision that such work should take and to be able to reach the required standard. Needless to say, this task is far from easy...

Of course, in order to be able to choose a direction leading to self-improvement it is necessary to have a critical understanding of one's game. The authors are totally convinced that the serious study of one's own games is an essential requirement for any chessplayer who wishes to improve. Therefore the theme 'analysing one's own games' occupies a central place.