27 May 2024

Annotated Game #279: Do something different

With the first three tournament rounds going loss-draw-loss, I was sitting on -2 with a White coming up. The way I was playing, I did not relish another struggle in the Stonewall Attack, so decided I had to do something different to break the streak, turning to the English Opening. I ended up with exactly what I needed - after a number of exchanges, a much less stressful game with a small positional pull heading into a reduced material middlegame. This time, I handled the limited tactics well and converted into a winning pawn-up endgame.

The success here was more due to "meta" - the correct choice of opening, which really means the type of positions you want to play - than brilliant play over the board. This points out the value of having multiple openings in your repertoire, for different tournament situations or simply personal feelings on the day. Korchnoi often alluded to these types of choices in his annotations; mood can matter, as can listening to what your brain feels like doing at that particular time. There's also the simple rule that if you are threatening to "tilt", you should deliberately choose do something different than what you've been doing, and not keep going with the same approach that is obviously not working for you (at least in the moment).

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A11"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon 3.2"] [PlyCount "87"] [GameId "488803953689"] 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 {I was wondering if my opponent would choose a Nimzo-Indian with ...Bb4, but (as most do) she went for a QGD setup.} d5 4. e3 c6 {now it's a Semi-Slav formation.} 5. b3 Nbd7 6. Bb2 Bd6 7. Qc2 b6 8. d4 {now it's really a Semi-Slav.} (8. cxd5 $5 {is an independent option.}) 8... Bb7 9. Bd3 c5 {an early challenge in the center, with neither king castled.} 10. cxd5 Bxd5 $6 {I was fine with my opponent giving up the bishop pair here.} 11. Nxd5 Nxd5 12. O-O Nb4 {this is obviously what she had in mind, exchanging one of White's bishops forcibly now, but White is left with stronger central control.} 13. Qe2 Nxd3 14. Qxd3 Nf6 15. Qb5+ {essentially forcing the exchange of queens. This keeps a small plus for White, but may not be the best course of action.} (15. Rad1) (15. Qc4 $5) 15... Qd7 16. Qxd7+ Kxd7 {even with the queens and a pair of minor pieces off, it is still a little awkward for Black to have her king in the center, with the material left on the board.} 17. Rfd1 (17. dxc5 {looks more effective, immediately opening up the are in front of the king.} Bxc5 18. Ne5+ Ke7 19. b4 {tactically protected due to the knight fork on c6} Bd6 20. Nc6+ Kd7 21. b5 $14) 17... Ke7 {now however the position is level.} 18. Rac1 Rhd8 19. Ba3 {I thought for a while here and did not see a real breakthrough possibility, but decided that increasing the pressure on the a3-f8 diagonal was worth doing.} Nd7 20. g3 {the idea being to give the king the g2 square and avoid potential back-rank mate threats. It also puts an extra pawn in the way of the Black dark-square bishop.} Rac8 21. Ng5 {here the idea is to transfer the knight to e4; the h7 pawn is tactically protected.} Rc6 {a somewhat awkward placement of the rook, which is now hanging.} 22. dxc5 {a tricky move taking advantage of the rook placement, as recapturing with either minor piece now loses, due to the Rc6 being unprotected. The pawn capture was worth doing in any case, to give Black weaker and isolated pawns on the queenside.} (22. Nxh7 f6 {cuts off the knight's retreat square.}) 22... bxc5 (22... Nxc5 23. b4 $1) (22... Bxc5 23. b4 $1) 23. Ne4 {further increasing the pressure on both c5 and the Bd6.} Be5 $2 {this loses the pawn without a fight.} (23... Ra6 $11 {holds things together, threatening to tactically swap pawns.}) 24. Nxc5 $18 {this had to be calculated out, as the bishop capture does not work well enough.} (24. Bxc5+ Nxc5 25. Rxd8 Nxe4 $11) 24... Nxc5 25. Rxd8 {my opponent may have missed this, otherwise the tactics favor Black.} Kxd8 26. Rxc5 Ra6 {I actually had not calculated this far, so was relieved to see the Ba3 in fact had an out.} 27. Bc1 {here I am a pawn up with very good prospects in the endgame, but still plenty of work to be done. The idea is to get the rooks off whenever possible, in which case White's endgame advantage will become much clearer.} (27. Bb4 $5 {I briefly considered and rejected after ...Bd6, but White is fine.} Bd6 28. Ra5 $1 {is what I didn't see.} Rxa5 29. Bxa5+ Kd7 $18 {with a winning endgame.}) 27... Bd6 28. Rc2 $18 {now the forced sequence has ended, with advantage intact. It should be sufficient for a win, although I'm only a pawn up, since in effect both Black's king and rook are largely cut off from the action.} Ke7 29. e4 {it is most important to reactivate the bishop now.} f5 30. exf5 exf5 31. f4 {played with the idea of permanently grabbing the e5 square and restricting Black, but it also interferes with my own bishop.} (31. Be3 {immediately is perhaps better.}) 31... g6 32. Be3 Ra5 33. Kf1 {time to activate the king as well.} Ke6 34. Ke2 Kd5 35. Kd3 {Black is now out of counterplay and has very few squares left for the rook.} a6 $2 {not recognizing the rook's plight.} 36. a4 {taking away the b5 square.} Ke6 {clearing the square for the rook to escape...temporarily.} 37. Kc4 Rd5 38. Rd2 $1 {achieving the strategic goal of exchanging rooks.} Rxd2 39. Bxd2 Bb8 40. Be3 {the endgame is now clearly won for White, with Black helpless to prevent the creation of a dominant passed pawn.} Kd6 41. b4 Kc6 42. b5+ axb5+ 43. axb5+ Kd7 44. Kd5 1-0

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