Today I played a very interesting 90 minute + 5 sec Increment game against a chess.com member Apthyphim (rated 1980 or so on live chess). In my first article, I am going to analyze my game and give my thought processes on why I made each move. There is no engine analysis, so there may be some errors. Let's start!
So far, I believe this is all theory. After my opponents b5 pawn thrust, I have a decision to make. Do I retreat my bishop to b3 or e2? Or do I stir up complications with Bd5? Unfortunately, I don't have my Mayhem in the Morra book with me so i can't consult it. After the game, Esserman informed me that Bd5 was inaccurate. I can only assume that Bb3 would be the correct move, and to wait for black to play b4 to sacrifice a piece on d5.
For those not familiar with these kinds of opening structures, a piece sacrifice on d5 is often a good way to start an initiative. If black ends up accepting, the e file is ripped open and it becomes very hard for black to untangle his undeveloped pieces and to keep his king safe.
At this point, I came to the realization that I might have to accept that I lost the opening phase of the game. There is nothing that I can really do to force my opponent to take the piece and I may have to waste precious tempi and retreat my bishop eventually.
I really did not want to play Bb3 at this point and looked hard for ways to complicate the position. I was confident that i would be able to find my way through the mayhem...if i could stir it up!
I first looked at the move a4. Of course after bxa4 Nxa4, I would be very happy with all of black's dark square weaknesses...but unfortunately, black can just ignore all of it and play b4. Of course, I didn't give up on this idea immediately. I calculated b4 Ne2 with ideas of playing Nf4, putting a hold on black's ideas to untangle his position with Ng6. However, he can play Ng6 after Ne2, where...my pieces are pretty uncoordinated. So, I scrapped the a4 idea.
Next, I looked at Nd4, with the idea of sacking on b5. Below are some variations if it was my move and black completely ignored my threats.
But unfortunately, it was not my move and black has one move to try and defend. I saw that Ng6 unfortunately puts a stop to plans. I admit...after I saw the amazing piece sacrifices with Bxe6...I played Nd4 almost immediately. Even though I realized after Ng6, I put myself in a bad position, I still played Nd4. Hope chess...I guess we all do it :) Alright, on with the game
There is only one logical recapture, and that is Qxd4. The reasoning is this: as the attacking player, I need to focus on keeping the opponent's king in the center and in my line of fire. The only way to do this is with d6. Bxd4 prevents my queen from guarding the d6 square. If you noticed that I have potential tricks on the c file and considered Nxb5? I give you a few points. Unfortunately, after nxb5, black can respond with Nxb5! Rxc7 Nxc7 d6 ne6 dxe7 Bxe7. Black has completely solved his development and king safety problems and has a Rook and two minors for his queen. Black stands very very well in this case.
Where do I move my queen? My first instinct was to play Qe5. I ramp up the pressure on the e file while maintaining my queen on a central square. I also saw black was potentially threatening Rg4. However, after a good 10 minutes, I found a neat trap. After Qe5 Rg4 Bf4!! (connecting my queen and rook and black to take the g2 pawn with check!), rxg2+ Kf1, Rg4 Bg3! Rg5 Qe3 black has zero moves! With my queen and rook dominating the e file, black's king is permanently stuck in the center and I have all the time in the world to put my pieces on optimal squares. If you don't believe me, here is the position. Try to find a useful move!
But does black have to play Rg4? The unfortunate answer is no! I looked for other moves that black could play and found f6. After f6 Qh5+ g6 Qd1, the question I have to ask myself is: Did i help expose or protect black's king with f6 and g6? If it is exposed more, then Qe5 would be a reasonable move to play. If not, then Qd1 immediately would be better. I came to the conclusion, that it helped black more than it benefitted me. My reasoning is this: My queen started on the central d4 square and it is now on it's original undeveloped square. My pressure on the e file is also significantly reduced since black has additional "luft" on f7, which he can play to get out of the e file pin.
So should I just play Qd1 immediately? I was about to, but not before double checking to see if there are any other moves. The only other move is Qd3, since I need to protect the d6 pawn. The more I logic-ed through it, the more I realized Qd3 is better than Qd1. It's in a more active square, and my rooks are connected. Therefore, I decided to play Qd3!
Ne2 was a move that I initially thought was a great move. I intended to bring it to f4 where it would have pressure on black's kingside, a logical place for black's king to try and find shelter. I saw that Rxc1 Rxc1 left black in a position where the only move that doesn't really lose is Qe5 (I thought!). I planned Nf4 Kf7 Rc5 d5 g4!!, and all my pieces suddenly spring to life and all of black's pieces become uncoordinated, scrambling to defend all the holes and weaknesses in black's camp.
Unfortunately for me, my opponent later proved that he had a much better, and obvious move.
I'll put the winning move as a puzzle. After you've tackled the puzzle, I will explain why they are the moves that win!
I did not find this during the game :( I also found myself in some mild time trouble and tried to play moves that made positional sense, without using too much time on the clock.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty decent game. My opponent stayed solid, after a few opening inaccuracies, while I started overlooking my opponent's threats. It goes to show how important keeping focus throughout long games is. A few lapses in concentration is what meant the difference between winning and losing in this game. I hope you learned something and enjoyed the game! Below is the complete pgn.
Also, for anyone wishing to learn more about the amazing Smith Morra opening, or to learn great attacking chess, I'd highly recommend Marc Esserman's Mayhem in the Morra book. It definitely increased my knowledge of how to develop an initiative and his prose makes it both a readable and informative opening reference!
Also thank you to chessbond for these informative articles below: