18 February 2024

Annotated Game #266: The importance of playing an idea at the right time

I happened to get two Whites in a row and I was not unhappy, given the previous result, that this game paralleled Annotated Game #265's Symmetrical English until move 8. Black's asymmetric reaction in the center with ...e5 created an imbalance in the position which I could have reacted to with the idea of Bg5, looking to trade the now "bad" bishop off. However, I pass up several early opportunities, only to play it at a much worse time later in the game, which nearly gets the bishop trapped. A similar theme applies to my light-square bishop's back-and-forth maneuvers.

The game overall was more stressful than the previous one, with Black's space advantage and better piece activity keeping me on the ropes for much of the time, although I had a number of chances to equalize (and did so several times). Time trouble for both sides played a major role in the outcome, as well.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A37"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Stockfish 16"] [PlyCount "99"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. g3 Nf6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O O-O 7. d3 d6 8. Rb1 e5 {first break in the symmetry. Black opts to seize territory in the center, at the cost of obstructing the Bg7.} 9. a3 {continuing with the plan of the b-pawn advance.} a5 10. Ne1 (10. Bg5 $5 {is an interesting idea, now that there is an obstructing pawn on e5. Normally the bishop is needed on d2 (or perhaps b2) to help counter the Bg7's pressure.} h6 11. Bxf6 {exchanging the "bad" bishop for Black's good knight.} Bxf6 12. Ne1) 10... Be6 11. Nc2 {it would be better to develop the bishop.} (11. Bg5 {fights for d5 indirectly as well.}) 11... d5 {now Black's central play equalizes.} 12. cxd5 {at the time, I thought there was no other real option. However, the Bg5 idea is still good.} Nxd5 13. Ne3 (13. Ne4 $5) 13... Nde7 14. Bd2 {finally developing the piece. Black has a space advantage by this point, so I have to look for ways to give my pieces greater scope.} Rb8 15. Nb5 {played after long thought. I felt this had better long-term prospects than alternatives such as Na4. I did not consider Ne4 here, having dismissed it earlier.} Qb6 {first move out of the database. I didn't think the queen was well-placed on b6. However, it does provoke my next move, which helps resolve the situation on the queenside for Black.} 16. a4 {this gives up the idea of the b4 break, but I didn't think it was happening anyway by this point in the game. I thought it was a solid option to maintain the knight outpost.} (16. Qa4 $5 {would be one way to develop the queen and free up space for other pieces. White can then chase away the black queen with Nc4.}) 16... Qd8 $15 17. Nc4 {pressuring a5 and controlling d6. Black according to the engine still has a small advantage, but at least I was now striking back in his territory.} b6 18. b3 (18. f4 $5 {is an interesting alternative, preferred by the engines. In the game, I considered it for a while and ultimately did not like due to the opening of the g1-a7 diagonal, which I thought would be better for Black.}) 18... Bd5 19. Bh3 $11 {choosing to preserve the bishop. My opponent seemed surprised by the maneuver. I was heartened by the seizure of the h3-c8 diagonal, which makes things more equal, and provokes Black's next move. Exchanging on d5 also would have been fine.} f5 20. Nc3 $6 {unfortunately at this point I had run out of ideas in the position. More active play would keep the balance.} (20. Bg5) (20. f4) 20... Bf7 $15 21. Nb5 Nd4 22. Nxd4 {effectively getting rid of the annoying outpost knight, as exchanging it is better than leaving the strong Nd4 in place.} Qxd4 23. Bg2 {bringing the bishop back into the game.} Nd5 24. Ne3 {another longer think without a good result. It's better to try to get the queen into the game, or at least more actively supporting the other pieces.} (24. Qe1) (24. Qc1) 24... Nxe3 (24... Nb4 $5 {would have maintained more pressure.}) 25. Bxe3 $6 {an example of stereotypical thinking, rejecting the idea of creating doubled pawns, which would actually give White a more dynamic position.} (25. fxe3 {I should have considered this more seriously, but was in significant time pressure by now.} Qd6 26. e4 $11) 25... Qd6 $17 {Black has a significant space advantage and better piece activity.} 26. Qc1 Rfe8 27. Rd1 Rbd8 28. Bg5 {this idea comes too late to be effective, as Black easily sidesteps with his rook.} Rd7 29. Bf1 $2 {a blunder, missing the danger the Bg5 is now in of being trapped.} Bd5 {luckily my opponent was also in similar time pressure and missed the refutation, giving me time to retreat it.} (29... f4 $1) 30. Bd2 Qc6 31. Bc3 (31. e4 {is actually possible and probably best here, due to the latent tactical possibility of a skewer on the a4-e8 diagonal.} fxe4 32. dxe4 Bxe4 33. Bb5 {and Black can only save himself by} Qf6 $11) 31... Qb7 32. f3 {playing it safe by blocking the diagonal, although the position is still very problematic for White.} e4 $6 {an attempt to force the situation in the center, which simply dissolves Black's pressure.} 33. Bxg7 Rxg7 34. dxe4 fxe4 35. f4 $11 e3 {after the last sequence, White should be equal now and out of the woods. I thought for a little while here, but was unsure of the best way to proceed.} 36. Qc3 Qc6 37. Rbc1 Rf7 38. Rd3 {this is a little slow.} (38. Qd3 $5) (38. Bh3 {reactivating the bishop.}) 38... Qe6 39. Rcd1 Rf5 40. Bh3 $2 {blunder at the time control. Another example of a good idea played too late, and in this case without considering my opponent's responses.} (40. Bg2 {was necessary.}) 40... Qe4 $1 {threatening mate on h1.} 41. Rxd5 {essentially forced.} Rxd5 42. Rxd5 Qxd5 $19 43. Bg2 Qd2 $6 {this allows White's next move, giving me a saving burst of activity against his king.} (43... Qd1+ 44. Bf1 Qd4 $19 {and the White pieces have nowhere to go.}) 44. Qc4+ $1 Kg7 45. h3 {giving the king an escape square, so the bishop would not have to go to f1 following a queen check.} (45. h4 $5) 45... Re7 46. Kh2 Qd4 47. Bd5 $2 {played in the (correct) expectation that Black would feel obliged to trade queens. However, the engine shows it would be better for White to keep the queens on.} (47. Qb5) 47... Qxc4 (47... b5 $1 48. axb5 Rd7 49. Be6 Qxc4 $19 {and now the endgame is winning for Black.}) 48. Bxc4 Kf6 49. g4 g5 50. Kg3 {low on time, my opponent offered a draw, believing I had a viable fortress. I thought it was not 100%, but it would have been difficult to break down. The engine considers Black the victor.} 1/2-1/2

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