28 November 2021

Annotated Game #258: Unforced errors

The theme of this last-round tournament game echoes an earlier post on unforced errors. Mine occur mostly in the opening phase, with a mis-remembered line against the Dutch Defense; my opponent surprised me with it and it was the first time I had played the actual opening as White, although I had experience with it from the Black side and playing against similar setups after opening with the English.

Despite some missteps on my opponent's part in the opening which gave me some breathing space, eventually he focused on my queenside positional weakness and awkward piece placement to inflict permanent structural damage. He then tortured me with pressure from his major pieces down the c-file, but could not quite find a way to break through. His last, best shot fell prey to an equalizing tactic which left me, I felt, with the winning chances in the endgame (two rooks vs. queen). Although we both missed seeing chances for Black, the two rooks prevailed in the end. Not a clean game, but an interesting look at how persistent defense can pay off.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A80"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 2.5.1 by Komodo"] [PlyCount "99"] 1. d4 f5 {the first time that I've played a true Dutch Defense as White.} 2. Bg5 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 (4. Bxf6 $5 {it's probably best to inflict the structural damage on Black immediately.}) 4... e6 5. Nf3 Bd6 {this is in keeping with the standard Modern Stonewall development plan, but it leaves the Bg5 rather strong.} (5... Nbd7 {would be less commital.}) 6. h4 $6 {in some variations with 2. Nc3 this is standard, but here there's no good follow-up for White on the kingside.} (6. Bd3) 6... O-O 7. Ne5 $6 Nbd7 (7... c5 {would be the strongest response, immediately hitting at White's center. Black is already castled and can do so solidly.}) 8. f4 $6 {Black now has a pleasant choice of how to proceed with an advantage, for example with the above-mentioned ...c5, ...Bb4, or even an immediate ...h6. The text move is trappy, in the sense that Black cannot simply take the Bg5 because of threats on the h-file, but he could proceed with normal operations in the center and be better.} (8. Bf4 $5) 8... Qe8 {my opponent continues playing stereotyped Dutch moves, luckily.} (8... h6 9. Be2 {and now} hxg5 $2 10. hxg5 Nxe5 (10... Nh7 $2 11. g6 Nhf6 12. g4 $18) 11. dxe5 Bxe5 12. fxe5 Nd7 13. Qd4 Qxg5 14. O-O-O $11) 9. Be2 {still thinking about the mirage of a kingside attack, as could happen if Black played into the above variation with ...h6 and taking the bishop. However, now my opponent realizes my structural weaknesses on the queenside and seizes a small but persistent advantage.} Bb4 {with the positional threat of taking on c3 and doubling my pawns, which will make his queenside play more effective. Unfortunately there is no good way to meet this and I have no compensation for it. I therefore decide to start swapping down pieces to reduce his middlegame attacking chances.} 10. Nxd7 (10. Qd2 $2 Ne4 $19) 10... Bxd7 11. Bxf6 Rxf6 12. Kf2 {this was the product of a long think. The king will be needed in the future to help cover holes in the position, rather than being tucked away in the corner on the kingside, or subject to Black attack on the queenside, after castling.} c5 $6 {this gave me an opening to avoid the positional threat, but unfortunately the retreat did not occur to me.} 13. a3 (13. Nb1 c4 $11) 13... cxd4 (13... Bxc3 14. bxc3 Rc8 $15 {would leave Black with more prospects of targeting the c2 pawn.}) 14. axb4 dxc3 15. bxc3 Bb5 {this should lead to equality after an exchange of pieces, but I miscalculate here and play a too-fancy move.} 16. Ra5 $6 (16. Bxb5 Qxb5 17. Qd4 $11) 16... Bxe2 {my opponent immediately finds the problem with the previous move.} 17. Qxe2 b6 {in contrast with the previous variation, the queen is on a less useful diagonal and Black can organize himself to pressure the c-file without worrying as much about the a-file.} 18. Ra6 Qc6 (18... Rf7 $5 {better to immediately reactivate the rook.}) 19. Qd3 $6 {played with the idea of going to d4 if need be, which occurs on move 25.} (19. c4 {Dragon 2.5.1 likes the pawn sacrifice. Let's see why:} dxc4 20. Qf3 Qe8 (20... Qxf3+ 21. Kxf3 { and now if Black wants to put a rook on the d-file, he will have to jettison the a7 pawn, leading to equality.}) 21. Rha1 Rf7 22. Rxb6 {and equality is restored, thanks to the pin on the a-pawn due to the double attack on a8 by rook and queen.}) 19... Rf7 $17 {at this point it is clear that I will have to be completely on the defensive, but I assessed that I could hold under pressure.} 20. Rha1 Rc7 21. R6a3 (21. R1a3 $5 {would keep up the physical blockade on the a-file and the lateral pin on the b6 pawn.}) 21... Qd7 22. Ke2 Rac8 23. Kd2 Qe7 {the correct general idea, to swing around and target the weak kingside.} (23... Qf7 $5) 24. g3 Qf6 25. Qd4 {this at least temporarily stymies Black's efforts at targeting the c-pawn.} Qe7 26. Qe5 Rd8 27. R3a2 Rdd7 28. Rg1 {overly optimistic about potentially generating counterplay on the kingside.} (28. Qd4) 28... h5 {preventing any ideas of advancing the g-pawn.} 29. Qd4 {just marking time on the defense.} Rc4 30. Qd3 Rdc7 31. Rga1 Qf6 32. Ra3 a5 {best try for a breakthrough.} 33. bxa5 bxa5 34. Rb1 {this is a tricky move which allows the following sequence.} Qe7 $2 (34... Rc8 {would maintain the advantage and take away a back-rank tactic that comes into play in the game.}) 35. Rxa5 Rxc3 {this had also been an earlier possibility. However, exchanging two rooks for queen and pawn I judged would be advantageous to the side left with the double rooks vs. queen.} 36. Qxc3 Rxc3 {the point being that if White retakes immediately on c3, Black can win material.} 37. Ra8+ $1 ( 37. Kxc3 $2 Qc7+ 38. Kb4 Qc4+ 39. Ka3 Qc3+ 40. Ka4 Qxc2+ 41. Rb3 Qc4+ {and White will go on to pick up the g3 or e3 pawns with more checks.}) 37... Kh7 38. Kxc3 $11 {the engine now evaluates the position as completely equal, but I figured all the winning chances that existed were now on my side, making it much easier to play. My opponent had also suffered the psychological shock of going from an advantage with major pressure to having to defend a complicated endgame. However, queen endings are always tricky and I had to constantly take into consideration the possibility of a queen fork on my K+R or against both rooks.} e5 39. Kd2 $2 {this looked like a harmless defensive move, but the engine points out it is a blunder. Luckily my opponent was also low on time by this point, so had less ability to do complex calculations.} (39. Rbb8 $11) 39... exf4 (39... d4 $1 40. exd4 exf4 {this is what I had missed in my own calculations.} 41. gxf4 Qxh4 {and another pawn now falls as well, because} 42. Ke3 $4 (42. Rf1 Qh2+ 43. Ke1 Qxc2 (43... Qg3+ 44. Rf2)) 42... Qg3+ 43. Kd2 Qxf4+ $19) 40. exf4 d4 {still a good move, but no longer a breakthrough.} 41. Rb3 {the only good move for White, defending along the third rank. Now Black has no more real threats.} Qe4 $6 (41... d3 {it appears that jettisoning the pawn is the only way for Black to maintain equality, giving his queen more avenues to check the White king.}) 42. Rd8 {now Black will lose material anyway, as the queen cannot cover all of his weaknesses, while I can maneuver the rooks both defensively and offensively.} Qg2+ 43. Kc1 Qf1+ 44. Kb2 Qc4 45. Rdb8 Qc7 46. R8b4 {targeting the d-pawn first} Qc5 47. Rb5 {now the f-pawn} Qc8 48. Rd5 {now both} Qc4 49. Rxf5 g6 50. Re5 $18 {now further material losses will come for Black while I can maintain myself perfectly safe. Low on time, my opponent resigned.} 1-0

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