16 October 2016

Annotated Game #163: Time for a draw

I was happy to get a draw in this third-round tournament game, after mishandling a rather tricky queenside situation in the English.  Black here does well to get a supported queenside pawn advance first (12...b5) and then takes advantage of my failure to immediately exchange, gaining an advantage in space and piece coordination.  Again my analysis reveals the importance of focusing on sequencing issues in calcuation (my move 14 should have been played on move 13) and there is also a similar overall theme between this game and Annotated Game #161; somewhat less desperately this time, I again rely on kingside counterplay and threats to gain a positive outcome, in this case a draw in a difficult position.  My opponent's time situation was the largest determining factor, as playing out the complicated double rook and pawns endgame seemed to hold little attraction for either of us.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A38"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 9.3"] [PlyCount "60"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O {in the Symmetrical English, White can essentially rattle off the previous sequence of moves regardless of Black's setup, as long as there are no direct challenges in the center (such as with ..d5).} Nc6 7. d3 d6 {continuing the symmetry, an easy if unchallenging approach in the center.} 8. Bd2 {this is somewhat committal in terms of developing the bishop, although it was hard for me to see a better square for it at this point.} (8. Rb1) 8... a6 9. Qc1 {the point of the previous move is that it gives White the opportunity to try and exchange the Bg7.} Re8 {Black decides to prevent the exchange.} 10. Bh6 Bh8 11. a3 {taking the b4 square away from the Nc6 and helping prepare an eventual b-pawn advance. } Rb8 12. Rb1 {this preparatory move is usually played earlier, but is fine now. I don't handle Black's next well, however.} b5 13. Nd2 {this gives Black a little too much leeway and leads to ceding the initiative.} (13. cxb5 { is the most logical response.} axb5 14. b4) 13... Bd7 14. cxb5 {unfortunately this is no longer a good capture for me. A good idea a move too late.} axb5 15. Nde4 (15. b4 {as in the above variation is no longer possible.} Ng4 {now gains a tempo by taking advantage of the Bh6 now being "loose". For example} 16. Bf4 cxb4 17. axb4 Rc8 $17 {and now ...Nxb4 with a discovered double attack on the Nc3 is a major threat.}) 15... b4 16. Nxf6+ {the idea is to exchange off a pair of knights and get some more room for my pieces.} Bxf6 17. Nd5 Bg7 { I was happy to exchange off Black's powerful bishop on the long diagonal.} ( 17... Nd4 $5 $15) 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Qd2 {connecting the rooks and further pressuring b4. Black still has a positional advantage on the queenside, as his pieces are working together better than mine (especially after the Nd5 is kicked next move) and he has more space and a better pawn structure.} e6 20. Ne3 Nd4 {eyeing the undefended b3 square as well as the e2 pawn. A concrete demonstration of Black's advantage in space.} 21. axb4 {at the time I thought this was a major error, as Black ends up with a lot of pressure down the b-fiile and wins a pawn. The engine doesn't find anything much better for White, however.} (21. Nc2 Nb3 22. Qe1 bxa3 23. bxa3 Qa5 24. Qxa5 Nxa5 $17 { with superior play for Black against the isolated a-pawn.}) 21... Rxb4 22. Nc2 {I felt that this was essentially forced, otherwise the Nd4 dominates.} (22. Ra1) 22... Nxc2 23. Qxc2 Qb6 {now it becomes obvious that the b-pawn is doomed. } 24. Qc3+ Kg8 25. Qf6 {I figured that this was my best shot to compensate for Black's queenside pressure. The queen threatens to penetrate on the 7th rank if the Re8 departs.} Bc6 $6 (25... e5 $17 {was the move I was most concerned about, which would break the connection to b2 on the long diagonal.}) 26. h4 { still focusing on the kingside counterplay - somewhat out of desperation - rather than looking to shore up the queenside defense, which was possible here. } (26. Bxc6 Qxc6 27. Ra1 Qb7 28. Rfb1 $15) 26... Bxg2 27. Kxg2 {I didn't mind the exchange on g2, since it would potentially allow a rook to go to h1 quicker.} Qb7+ 28. f3 h5 {blocking the threat of h4-h5.} 29. e4 {the point of this was then to threaten the g4 advance; without the pawn on e4, the f3 pawn would be pinned and could not retake in the event of an exchange.} Qe7 30. Qxe7 {here I offered a draw. Without the queens on, Black has no further prospect of a forced breakthrough on the b-file, although he certainly has an endgame advantage with space, pawn structure, and rook activity. My opponent thought for a while and accepted after taking the queen, his lack of time on the clock being the deciding factor.} Rxe7 1/2-1/2

13 October 2016

Training quote of the day #9

From Peter Zhdanov's Yearbook of Chess Wisdom; see also Playing Styles Deconstructed.
When I asked GM Arkadij Naiditsch whether it would be better for me to try to develop my style by studying the games of attacking players or to eliminate my shortcomings by resorting to the masters of strategic play, he replied: "You are too weak to have a style. Study everything!"

06 October 2016

How Carlsen makes us feel better about chess #2

From the Financial Times article "Inside the home (and mind) of world chess champion Magnus Carlsen":

Carlsen’s favourite object is the hammock in the centre of the terrace. “I come here and sit when I want to think how to beat opponents.” It also serves as a place for post-match reflection. “Even if I win a game, if I have made an avoidable mistake, or missed something in my calculations, I get very angry and sulk.” When that happens, he stretches out on the hammock and uses the mistake to motivate himself to be flawless next time.

02 October 2016

Annotated Game #162: A cure for over-optimism

The best cure for over-optimism is being punished for it and understanding why.  So I hope this next game, from the second round of the tournament, is a milestone in that regard.  In a main line Classical Caro-Kann, I achieve full equality out of the opening, with a dynamic position featuring elements of kingside vs. center vs. queenside play.  Although the requirements of the position are fairly obvious - including challenging my opponent on the d-file - I focus instead on the queenside action (where my opponent's king is castled) to offset his kingside play.  This isn't necessarily a bad strategy, but the very over-optimistic sacrifice on move 24 sinks my game.  Admittedly my opponent has to find an "only move" on the defense afterwards, but it's not terribly hard to find.  After that, the game is pretty much over.

This game in combination with the analysis of the previous round (Annotated Game #161) should be a good marker in terms of teaching me to better evaluate positions objectively, as well as spend the extra energy necessary for calculating critical sequences.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B19"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 9.3"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. h5 Bh7 8. Nf3 Nf6 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Nbd7 12. O-O-O c5 {this early c-pawn push is rare, but scores well in the database. It is a little loose compared with the main line continuation.} (12... Be7) 13. Rde1 Be7 14. Ne4 Nxe4 15. Qxe4 cxd4 16. Nxd4 Nc5 {attacking the Qe4 and covering b7. I had contemplated sacrificing the b-pawn and playing ...Nf6, but I didn't see enough of an advantage in it, even with the extra file available to attack White's king.} ( 16... O-O {would be the way to offer the b-pawn and also looks best, getting the king to safety. For example} 17. Qxb7 $2 Nc5 {and now the Qb7 is attacked and the Nd4 cannot be protected.}) (16... Nf6 {is indeed unsound, according to Komodo, where Black is evaluated as having little or no compensation.} 17. Qxb7 Rb8 18. Qc6+ $16) 17. Qg4 Bf6 {the bishop here has a very nice diagonal and protects g7.} 18. Bc3 O-O $11 {as we head into the middlegame the position is balanced.} 19. Rd1 Qb6 20. Ne2 {it was smart of my opponent to exchange the bishops, since otherwise White has little hope for play on the kingside.} Bxc3 21. Nxc3 {here the position calls for contesting the d-file, but I was over-optimistic about generating queenside threats.} a5 (21... Rad8) 22. f4 { removing the pawn from the g1-a7 diagonal where the Qb6 was eyeing it. Also a good attacking idea with f4-f5. However, it does leave the e3 square uncontrolled and available for the Black queen.} a4 {not very creative and ignoring the power of the queen.} (22... Qb4 $5 {with a side pin of the f4 pawn.}) 23. f5 a3 {I had to think for a while on these last two moves, as things are starting to heat up with the "race" on both sides. I correctly calculate that the text move holds the balance and expected White's next.} 24. b3 Nxb3+ $2 {however, I now play this as the result of an over-optimistic miscalculation. White plays the correct defensive line, which results in Black's attack not having enough punch to compensate for the material.} (24... exf5 25. Qxf5 Rae8 $11) 25. cxb3 Rac8 26. Qf3 Qc5 27. Kc2 $16 {now my attack is blunted and the best I can do is get another pawn for the piece, but I keep trying, figuring that the material will be insufficient anyway.} b5 28. Rh4 { a clever (and only) defensive move, as now ...b4 is met by Rc4.} Qe5 {by this point I'm really just hoping for a swindle, feeling that I've essentially lost. } (28... b4 {is probably still best, but after} 29. Rc4 Qa5 30. Ne2 exf5 31. Nd4 $16 {White is simply up material and it looks bleak for Black.}) 29. Rhd4 $18 Qb8 {now with the threat of ...b4 winning the pinned Nc3, but my opponent easily avoids it by removing the king from the pin.} 30. Kb1 b4 31. Ne4 Qe5 32. f6 {now my opponent seals the win quickly with a breakthrough on the kingside.} Rc7 33. Qg4 g6 34. hxg6 fxg6 35. Qxg6+ 1-0