04 May 2024

Annotated Game #273: A bad run as Black

In our chess careers, sometimes we have extended "runs" (good ones with wins, or bad ones with losses) with the results for one color; with this tournament game, I managed to extend my Black run to five losses over multiple tournaments. It is relatively easy under those circumstances to start seriously questioning your repertoire choices, having an sinking feeling whenever you see a Black on the pairing chart, etc. Here the value of analyzing your own games and better understanding what is actually going on helps combat over-reactions.

Last seen in Annotated Game #262: An unhappy introduction to the Fantasy Variation, this opening is also sub-par for me, but not an unmitigated disaster. The key lesson from the early phase is the idea - also seen in my preferred answer to the Caro-Kann Advance variation - of using the ...c5 pawn lever against White's center. Unfortunately it's an idea that I completely missed - but will remember in the future.

Instead I make the strategic mistake on move 10 for going for a closed position, which resulted in an initiative for White and awkward cramping for myself, until I finally get some counterplay going with a b-pawn advance. I then get a bit lucky when my opponent misses a pin-related tactic on move 20, but mishandle the calculations. It's also notable that my thinking is too materialistic, a repeated observation I've had recently.

While my opponent was legitimately lower-rated, he was certainly much stronger than his actual rating - I would estimate high Class C / low Class B - and I give him props for fighting spirit after suffering a tactical blow, then taking full advantage of my blunders, with the game effectively over after the sequence starting on move 27.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class E"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "113"] {[%evp 0,113,19,36,77,74,60,14,44,34,22,-18,45,43,60,12,11,20,-1,3,9,-42,17,20,37,20,9,27,29,42,68,76,51,52,69,35,31,25,21,6,7,-38,-57,-16,-59,-46,57,59,51,9,-11,-5,-21,-72,100,55,136,145,133,136,113,110,138,137,158,145,140,138,150,130,137,100,203,213,217,217,217,217,247,218,218,218,208,203,212,159,159,159,159,118,124,110,120,110,133,133,138,144,229,233,233,133,133,125,196,133,133,125,469,516,1015,1016,1128,1353,1503,1020]} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 g6 4. e5 Bg7 5. Bd3 Nh6 {this is useful in most lines of the Fantasy Variation with an advanced e-pawn, as the h6 square is the natural outlet for the knight.} (5... c5 $11 {is the key idea in this position, however, undermining the e5 pawn immediately while Black has a chance. This is similar to the 3...c5 approach in the Advance Variation.}) 6. Ne2 {a reasonable developing move.} Bf5 $6 {played with the idea of exchanging off Black's "bad" bishop. However, the placement is awkward and other moves are better for development.} (6... c5 {remains the best idea.}) (6... O-O) 7. Ng3 $6 {premature movement of the knight. White could have more immediately taken advantage of the situation on the kingside with a pawn thrust.} (7. g4 $5) (7. h4) 7... Bxd3 {now I get my exchanging idea in and the immediate danger passes.} 8. Qxd3 O-O $11 {the simple approach to equalizing.} (8... e6 {is also good here, along with the ...c5 idea.}) (8... f6 {challenging the head of the pawn chain should furthermore be considered.} 9. exf6 exf6 10. Qe2+ Kf7 {is actually slightly better for Black, as the king is perfectly safe on f7 and now ...Re8 is threatened.}) 9. O-O f6 10. f4 {naturally choosing to reinforce the e-pawn. Now would be a good time to get the queenside moving for Black, but I am too fixated on the advanced White pawns and have blind eye for the idea of the ...c5 break in this position.} f5 $6 {played to get a closed position, but Dragon 3.2 evaluates that as favorable for White, with the strong advanced e-pawn effectively hampering Black's coordination. It is very club player-esque to seek to reduce tension in the position when it is not needed, or as in this case unfavorable.} (10... c5 11. c3 (11. dxc5 fxe5 12. fxe5 e6 $15 {Black is temporarily a pawn down but with better central control and play coming. For example} 13. Bxh6 Bxh6 14. c4 Qc7 15. cxd5 Qxc5+ 16. Kh1 Rxf1+ 17. Qxf1 exd5 $17) 11... cxd4 12. cxd4 Nc6 $11) 11. Bd2 $16 Nd7 12. Bb4 $6 {this loses some time and space for White.} (12. h3 {cutting off the g4 square for the Nh6, which could be a future threat.}) (12. a4 {this or b4 would grab space and help stifle Black on the queenside.}) 12... a5 $14 {finally I actually start some counterplay on the queenside, but only after having been offered an obvious chance my opponent to hit the bishop with tempo.} 13. Ba3 b5 14. c3 Nb6 {this looks good visually, but it's better to have a rook for support on the b-file, or immediately break the pin on the e7 pawn.} (14... Re8 $5) 15. Nd2 Re8 (15... Nc4 $5 {immediately looks more to the point after my last move.}) 16. b3 $16 {a good prophylactic move by my opponent, limiting the reach of the Nc6.} Bf8 {I was torn between this and e6, which seems like a cleaner option. I am still cramped here.} 17. c4 $6 {this allows me to equalize now and gain activity, relieving the cramped position.} (17. Bc5 e6 18. Ne2 $16 {maintaining the tension, as} Bxc5 $6 19. dxc5 Nd7 20. b4 {simply increases White's positional stranglehold.}) 17... dxc4 18. bxc4 b4 $11 {shutting out the bishop and gaining further space.} 19. Bb2 (19. c5 $5) 19... e6 {solidifying control of d5. Suddenly White's center is looking weaker and I have made my own space gains.} 20. c5 $2 {this idea comes one move too late, as my opponent misses the tactic now available, thanks to the opening of the diagonal for the Bf8.} Bxc5 $17 {taking advantage of the pin on the d-pawn and surprising my opponent tactically. However, I thought carefully before going down this path.} (20... Nd5 {was the "strategic" alternative I considered, where I felt I had a positional advantage. However after} 21. Nc4 $16 {White appears to be doing quite well.}) 21. Rac1 Na4 (21... Bf8 {is simplest and best to secure a dynamic advantage, but I was too materialistic in my thinking.} 22. Rxc6 Nd5 $19 {and now Black can mobilize the advanced 2-1 queenside majority effectively, while blockading White's center.}) 22. Ba1 Nc3 $6 {in addition to the aforementioned ...Bf8 idea, other ideas also work just fine if Black wants to protect the c-pawn. Instead, I mishandle some relatively complex tactics - but so does my opponent.} (22... Rc8) (22... Qd5) 23. Bxc3 $14 bxc3 24. Nb3 $6 (24. Nf3 Bb4 25. Ne2 $14) 24... Bb4 $11 25. Ne2 c5 {so far, correctly calculated by me after White's 24th.} 26. Rfd1 $6 {a good idea in general, to protect the Qd3 and allow for dxc5. However, there is a tactical flaw...which I failed to spot.} a4 $2 (26... c4 $1 {is the sacrificial idea found by the engine, which allows the Nh6 to be reactivated with immediate threats. Later on I start thinking more desperately about how to get the sidelined knight back in the game, but could have done it now.} 27. Qxc4 Ng4 28. Qd3 {and now} a4 29. Na1 Qh4 $1 $19) (26... cxd4 $11 {would be safe and equal. I in fact calculated this and then misplayed the sequence, having gotten confused about which variation worked.}) 27. Nxc5 {I simply missed this. The Qd3 is now protected so the pin on the d4 pawn is gone, which I had previously observed during my calculations, but then forgot when it came time to make the decision on the board.} Qd5 $2 {another idea which would have been useful earlier, but here played too late. Now White is winning.} (27... Qa5 $1 $16 {I considered but not thoroughly enough. There is still a significant White advantage but perhaps not decisive, for example after} 28. h3 {preventing threats from the Nh6} (28. Nxc3 $6 Bxc5 29. dxc5 Qxc5+ $11) 28... Bxc5 29. dxc5 Qxc5+ 30. Kh2 Nf7 31. Rxc3 Qf2 $1 $14) 28. Nxc3 $18 Bxc3 29. Rxc3 Qxa2 30. Ra3 $18 {also missed this, but Black is losing in all variations now.} Qd5 31. Rxa4 Rab8 32. Qc4 {assures a winning endgame.} Qxc4 33. Rxc4 Ng4 {I resist as best I can, but White's extra d-pawn, space advantage and better piece coordination make it hopeless...unless there's a blunder.} 34. Rc3 Rb2 35. Rdc1 Rd2 36. h3 Nf2 37. R3c2 Rxc2 38. Rxc2 Nd1 39. Nd7 Re7 40. Nf6+ Kg7 41. Rc8 h5 42. Rg8+ Kf7 43. Rh8 Nc3 44. Rh7+ Kf8 45. Rxe7 Kxe7 46. Kf2 h4 47. Ke3 Kd8 48. Kd3 Na4 49. d5 exd5 50. Nxd5 $2 {this lets the Na4 back into the game.} (50. Kd4 $18) 50... Nc5+ 51. Kc4 Ne4 $4 {I saw that I might get a pawn back, but it's meaningless in the end.} (51... Ne6 $1 $11 {I don't know why I didn't consider this more, although of course fatigue and time pressure played its role, perhaps along with materialistic thinking. White cannot in fact make progress after this, for example} 52. Kb5 Kd7 53. Nf6+ Kc7 $11) 52. Nf6 Ng3 53. Kd5 Ne2 54. Kd6 Nxf4 55. e6 Nxe6 56. Kxe6 Kc7 57. Nd7 {and the Black pawns are helpless.} 1-0

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