11 May 2024

Annotated Game #274: The en passant rule and a repertoire hole

In this next game my opponent played well in the opening against my Stonewall Attack, and indeed put her finger (figuratively) on a significant repertoire hole for me. By move 9 I am significantly worse positionally and do not help my cause by delaying a knight jump into e5. However, things turn around due to my opponent not fully comprehending the en passant rule, attempting to execute it illegally and then being forced to move the pawn involved, which dropped a piece. I did not take the win for granted, however, and seriously focused on calculating out my defense afterwards, given some potentially scary-looking operations by Black down the now-open g-file. This was successful, thanks to a well-placed knight and rook combination, even though my kingside ended up denuded of pawns. I was then able to break through in the center and unleash my queen decisively.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class D"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "117"] [GameId "487213742334"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. e3 d5 3. Bd3 (3. Nf3 $5 {in light of White's problems in this line that are soon illustrated, perhaps a better choice.}) 3... c5 4. c3 {attempting to reach standard Stonewall Attack lines.} (4. dxc5 $5 {and then the engine line goes} e5 5. b4 a5 6. c3 {with both sides in strange opening territory.}) 4... Nc6 5. f4 {the main problem with this type of Stonewall Attack formation is Black's next move.} (5. Nf3 $5) (5. dxc5) 5... Bg4 $17 {engines typically undervalue the Stonewall, but in this particular case I do consider its assessment of a Black advantage as valid. The main problem is that White cannot get the "Pillsbury knight" to e5 soon, and Black will be able to exchange off the light-squared bishops, a key part of White's normal attacking game.} 6. Nf3 e6 7. O-O Bd6 8. h3 Bf5 9. g4 (9. Bxf5 {I didn't like the resulting pawn formation, which favors Black by restraining g2-g4 and also fixing White's backwards e-pawn on the half-open file. However, it's still objectively best, according to the engine.} exf5 10. Qd3 Ne4 11. dxc5 Bxc5 $17 {Black is ahead in development and has more space, so this is not losing perhaps but rather miserable for White.}) 9... Bxd3 10. Qxd3 {in contrast with the above variation, Black's central pawn formation is stronger.} Qd7 11. Nbd2 $6 (11. Ne5 {immediately looks better, removing the pressure of the Bd6 on the f-pawn, which is a common issue if an exchange is possible on d4.}) 11... O-O-O $15 {this gets the king out of the way of White's kingside pawn expansion, but allows me to get my knight to its to ideal square, while creating a target for play on the queenside. Now opening the c-file isn't such a great idea for Black.} (11... cxd4 {forcing open the c-file.} 12. cxd4 {normally White would prefer to capture with the e-pawn, but the Nd2 is blocking the Bc1 and the f4 pawn would be hanging.} Rc8) 12. Ne5 Qc7 13. b3 {the idea being to restrain c5-c4 and perhaps support a future c-pawn advance.} (13. b4 $5 c4 14. Qe2 {and looking to follow up with the e4 pawn lever or an a-pawn advance would be more aggressive.}) 13... h5 {this was probably played in error, since after} 14. g5 $11 {my opponent tried to illegally take en passant on g4. After that was confirmed by the TD, she was then forced to play} h4 {having touched the h-pawn.} 15. gxf6 {still required some thought in order to calculate its safety, however, as now Black gets pressure down the open g-file.} gxf6 16. Nxc6 $18 Qxc6 17. Nf3 {I will still have to sort out my pieces from here, so Black has a bit of initiative, but no real attack.} Rdg8+ 18. Kf2 c4 19. Qd1 {interferes on the back rank a bit, but I wanted to maintain protection of the Nf3 and put the queen on the d1-h5 diagonal. Moving Qe2 immediately would have been fine.} Qe8 {this is too slow.} (19... Rg3 {is the critical try, but is stopped easily by} 20. Rh1 $18) 20. Bd2 (20. Rg1 $5 Rxg1 21. Qxg1 Rg8 22. Qf1 $18) 20... Rg6 {again too slow to create threats.} (20... e5 $5 {looks like the best practical try.}) 21. Qe2 Qg8 $6 {this helps set up a tactic shortly.} (21... Rg3) 22. Rg1 {now with the queen out of the way, exchanging on g1 simply benefits White.} Rg3 {this no longer works for Black, due to} 23. Nxh4 $1 {removal of the guard theme} Rxg1 24. Rxg1 {coming with tempo, since it hits the queen instead of a rook} Qh7 25. Nf3 Qxh3 {While Black has regained the material, strangely enough the queen and rook are effectively out of play on the kingside, as the Nf3 and Rg1 cover everything, so now I can turn my attention to breaking through in the center, with Black's king looking vulnerable behind it.} 26. bxc4 Be7 27. cxd5 exd5 28. Qf1 {by this point I felt it would be easier just to exchange into a won piece-up endgame, rather than keep queens on the board. I also saw I could harass Black's queen if it weren't traded, then take control over the kingside files.} Qh5 29. Rg2 f5 $2 {this effectively ends the game, cutting off the queen's retreat.} (29... Qf5 30. Rh2 Rxh2+ 31. Nxh2 Qc2 32. Nf3 Qxa2 33. Qh3+ Kc7 34. Qh5 $18) 30. Rh2 {skewering the queen against the rook.} Qxh2+ 31. Nxh2 Rxh2+ 32. Ke1 {now I simply had to be careful not to blunder into a Black tactic, for example pinning one of my pieces against the king.} Bh4+ 33. Kd1 Rf2 34. Qh1 Bg3 35. Qh3 Bh2 36. Qxf5+ Kc7 37. Qxf7+ Kc6 38. Qe6+ Kc7 39. Qxd5 {my opponent, like many scholastic players, appears to have been trained to never resign, even when it is hopeless. This doesn't bother me any more, since I have decided to just play completely safely to win in response; if there are extra moves involved, that's then more agony for my opponent, rather than myself.} Bg3 40. Qh1 a6 41. Qg1 Bh4 42. Qg7+ Kb8 43. Qh8+ Kc7 44. Qxh4 Rg2 45. Qe1 Rg8 46. e4 Re8 47. f5 b5 48. e5 a5 49. e6 Kb7 50. Qe5 Kc6 51. Qc5+ Kb7 52. Qxb5+ Ka7 53. Qxe8 a4 54. f6 a3 55. f7 Kb6 56. f8=Q Kb7 57. Qd6 Ka7 58. Qee7+ Ka8 59. Qdd8# 1-0

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