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 classic "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

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