19 February 2024

Annotated Game #267: How openings are really learned

This final-round game illustrates several useful themes, including recent ones highlighted like the importance of playing an idea at the right time and the power (and necessity) of simple development. The mutual "??" moment on move 32 shows how time trouble was affecting my game, as I had a chance to turn things around, and played the correct move one tempo too late. 

This game is also a perfect example of a broader theme of how openings really get learned - namely, the hard way.

During the game it was clear that my opponent as White was out of his personal experience in the opening phase of a Panov variation of the Caro-Kann. This however did not stop him from finding the correct attacking setup and plan, which to be honest is not that hard for an experienced White player. In contrast, never having faced/studied the position starting on move 11, I struggled to adapt and ended up committing the sin of moving a piece multiple times in the opening to no good effect, which essentially handed my opponent the initiative and an excellent attack.

I did not feel too badly about missing the one tactic, since my opponent had simply outplayed me for most of the game, although it stung a bit. The main lesson for me was the need to keep playing consistently, analyze my games, and constantly expand my understanding of openings and early middlegame plans in that manner. Databases and references are great, but understanding comes from the actual fight on the board.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class A"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B14"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Stockfish 16"] [PlyCount "73"] 1. c4 c6 2. e4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4 {the Panov variation, by transposition.} Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nf3 Be7 {my opponent did not seem particularly familiar with the opening, or at least this variation, based on the amount of time he took at the board. However, he found a good path as White - perhaps not to difficult to do.} 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bd3 Nc6 9. O-O O-O 10. Re1 Nf6 11. Bg5 {I was only familiar with the a3 line, so now had to start thinking about the differences.} h6 {logical and objectively best.} (11... Nb4 {would be the direct way to take advantage of White's failure to guard the b4 square.} 12. Bb1 {the bishop is fine on this square, but the drawback for White is locking the rook on the a-file.}) 12. Bh4 a6 $6 {this turns out to be too slow.} (12... Nh5 {immediately trades off a minor piece, reducing White's attacking prospects.}) (12... Bd7 {simple development is also good, while clearing the c8 square for a rook.}) 13. Rc1 Nb4 $6 {this is now possible, but is only a distraction for Black, as the light-square bishop is just fine on b1. This would have made more sense played earlier, as shown on move 11.} 14. Bb1 Nbd5 $6 {compounding my loss of time in the opening. White will now get an attack rolling without my pieces being well-enough developed to counter it.} (14... Bd7 $16 {would be at least somewhat better, also allowing the bishop to go to e8 on defense.}) 15. Qc2 $16 Nb4 16. Qd2 Nbd5 17. Ne5 {I thought for a long time here and could not find a good response. I thought the text move would hold, but White is able to bring too many pieces into the attack.} Ne8 (17... Ne4 {is the engine's best try.} 18. Qc2 Bxh4 19. Qxe4 f5 20. Qf3 $16) 18. Nxd5 Bxh4 19. Qd3 f5 {this was basically as far as I originally saw in calculating the sequence on move 17.} 20. Nf4 $1 $18 {now, however, the knights are dominant.} Bg5 21. Neg6 Bxf4 22. Nxf4 Qd6 23. Qe3 Nc7 24. a3 {restricting the Black queen's activity by controlling b4.} Nd5 25. Nxd5 Qxd5 26. Rc5 {I missed this, which ends up giving White too much pressure on e6 by driving away the queen.} Qd8 27. Ba2 {the game is essentially over at this point, but I play on in hopes of a blunder from my opponent.} Kh8 28. Qe5 Bd7 {far too late for this basic developing move.} 29. Rc7 {well played by my opponent, as Black has no good response.} Rc8 30. Rxb7 Rf6 31. d5 Rg6 {setting up some desperation tactics involving the g-file. This was the correct practical choice, especially under mutual time pressure.} 32. dxe6 $4 (32. Qd6) 32... Qg5 $4 {the wrong choice of threat to make, in time pressure.} (32... Bc6 $1 {forking g2 and the Rb7 wins. I saw this earlier as a possibility, but somehow hallucinated that White had an effective comeback that negated the threat.} 33. g3 Bxb7 $19) 33. g3 $18 Bc6 {too late.} 34. Rb8 Rxb8 35. Qxb8+ Kh7 36. e7 Qh5 37. Qg8# {I had not seen this, with the Ba2 now covering g8.} 1-0

1 comment:

  1. The tactic 32…Bc6 is not so easy, because white could muddy the waters with 33.e7. And after all, 32…Qg5 poses a bigger threat :-)


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