20 August 2017

Annotated Game #176: Follow the mental toughness rule

This next first-round tournament game is a Classical Caro-Kann that goes into uncharted territory relatively early on (move 8). I am unable to correctly take advantage of my opponent's opening deviations, and more importantly miss - consciously reject, actually - a major idea of the position (the ...c5 break, which at various times ranged in potency from advantageous to devastating). However, I still manage to execute some good ideas and my opponent eventually goes seriously astray.

Despite the relatively low number of moves, I took quite a lot of time in making decisions move after move, which resulted in mental tiredness. My lack of board vision clarity lead to missing an advantageous tactic (in this case, a tactical defense of the e6 pawn, preventing a knight fork). As a result, as you'll see, the evaluation of the position goes up and down in rapid succession. In the end position, I still have an advantage, but I was low on the clock and mentally not prepared to continue after such a disappointment, although I should have.

First-round games in tournaments are often mental "warm-ups", so we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves too early, but I think I can and should do better. Taking less thinking time because I already know effective ideas in a position will help (...c5!), as will better energy management. Finally, it's all-important to follow the mental toughness rule of not taking a draw unless the position on the board is, in fact, known to be drawn. This rule has given me great success when I have followed it, and I only have myself to blame for the results when I don't.

Class B - ChessAdmin

Result: 1/2-1/2

[...] 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.¤d2 dxe4 4.¤xe4 ¥f5 5.¤g3 ¥g6 6.h4 h6 7.¤f3 ¤f6 8.¥f4 not in the database. My opponent had evidently not seen the previous move before and was looking to try to take advantage of it. 8...¤d5 choosing to immediately challenge the bishop. I wanted to try to take advantage of my opponent's opening deviation - a commendable goal, but this is probably not the best way to do it. (8...e6!? with straightforward development is simpler.) 9.¥xb8 £xb8 this is the wrong recapture. The engine points out the below variation. 10.a3
10.¤e5 targeting the Bg6 and f7 square, awkwardly for Black. 10...£c7 11.¥c4 e6 12.¤xg6 fxg6² and it looks pretty ugly.
10...e6 unlike earlier, I should now have taken advantage of the Nd5's placement, rather than play "normal" moves.
10...¤e3 is the computer line. I had actually thought about this possibility during the game, but wrongly turned it down as too "gimmicky". 11.fxe3 £xg3+ 12.¢d2 O-O-O³
11.h5 while this is a standard idea in the mainline Caro-Kann, here White has less to back it up, in terms of putting together a kingside attack. 11...¥h7 12.£d2?! this is in fact a very problematic move for White. I'm assuming that he originally wanted to prepare to castle queenside. (12.¥d3 ¥xd3 13.£xd3) 12...¥d6µ develops and threatens to win a pawn by exchanging on g3. 13.¤e2 O-O at this point I have a significant advantage in development, thanks to my castled king, good piece placement, and my opponent's blocked-in Bf1. 14.g3 smart, to take away the f4 square from me and blunt the h2-b8 diagonal. 14...b5 played to restrain c4 and maintain the Nd5.
14...c5!? is evaluated as slightly better by the engine. It would more quickly open lines in the center, an important consideration with White still not being castled. I rejected it at the time, thinking that it would free up White's minor pieces by giving him the d4 square to occupy with a knight.
15.c3 a5 the idea being to target and break up the queenside pawns, giving White's king even less cover. 16.¥g2 £c7 a bit of a wasted move. (16...¥e4!? would be annoying for White.) (16...¦d8 would get the rook in the game, lining up on the Qd2.) 17.b3 b4 not a bad move, but I'm focusing too much on pawn play on the a/b files and not considering the c-pawn break, or bringing in other pieces. 18.c4 ¤f6 not the logical follow-up. This would have been a logical choice earlier, to reposition the knight, but now there is more pressing business.
18...bxa3 would maintain the advantage, given the threat of ...Bb4. 19.c5 ¥e7 20.¦xa3 ¥f6µ
19.a4!? (19.c5!? closing off the c-pawn break permanently.) 19...¦ad8 now I really should be well-placed for a central breakthrough. However, the mental block I have on the c-pawn lever prevents me from accomplishing it. 20.£b2 ¥e4µ not a bad move, but I'm still refusing to play the c5 break.
20...c5!−⁠+ and White now has to think about getting his king to safety, while having weaknesses in the center and on h5.
21.¦c1 ¤g4³22.¦h4 f5−⁠+ maintaining the Ng4 on its outpost. 23.c5 now this doesn't help White nearly as much as it would have previously. 23...¥e7 24.¤f4 targeting the e6 pawn with a triple fork, which I was very worried about during the game; however, this should not be effective for him tactically. If I get the two bishops off of the file, then I can simply pin the knight on e6. I did not realize this at the time, unfortunately. 24...¥xh4 good but not best. (24...¥xf3 25.¥xf3 ¥xh4−⁠+) 25.¤xh4 ¥d5? far too conservative, and still missing the e-file pin which tactically protects e6. This position is now equal. (25...¥xg2 26.¤hxg2 ¦fe8−⁠+) 26.¢f1 ¦de8 27.¦e1 £d7 28.f3 ¤f6 29.¤hg6 £f7 30.¤xf8 ¦xf8µ at this point I took a draw as I did not see any way to make real progress and (the real reason) I was also very disappointed at missing a win. But of course the h5 pawn is hanging and the draw outcome was quite premature. So the moral of the story is that nothing good comes of violating the "no draws unless the position is actually drawn" rule.
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