Can a Thinker Out-think Himself?
knightbandit (1569) - kharv (1582), chess.com Online Chess 2011
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5
kharv: “Caro-Kann advance variation. At my level this is the line I encounter the most with the Caro-Kann, and since I haven’t had time yet to build anything else in my repertoire, I get to practice it often!”
kharv: “The other main option is …Bf5 but that square belongs to the Knight in most lines. This gambit seems to waste a tempo, but if white takes the pawn, then e5 and c5 will be permanent targets. If white doesn’t take the pawn, it is often possible to have white commit a lot of pieces to the defense of d4 and develop many pieces awkwardly.”
This is a critical try against the Advanced Variation (3…c5), but Black has to be careful (if he plays an early …e6, blocking in his light-squared Bishop) that he doesn’t end up a whole tempo down in a French Defense (thanks to his taking two moves to get this pawn to c5 via …c7-c6-c5). Of course, being a tempo down in a French isn’t so bad if White tries some non-critical setups, but that’s another story for another time.
kharv: “Already going off the book. Now it is time to rely on ideas rather than memory and I think this is a good way to improve my game, so I don’t mind. The main lines here are c3, Be3 (attempting to delay Bg4), Nf3, c4 (rare), Nc3 (not so good because it blocks the c-pawn) and dxc5. The chess.com database only lists two games with 4.Bb5+ in this line. There are two very obvious options here for black, …Nc6 and …Bd7.”
White’s move isn’t good for a couple of reasons: 1) The exchange of light-squared Bishops (after 4…Bd7), though preventing …Bg4 ideas, is generally seen as something that will make Black happy (now a quick …e7-e6 won’t block his light-squared Bishop); 2) It accelerates black’s development (as we can see in the game) after 4...Bd7 5.Bxd7+, and if Black responds with 4…Nc6 the Bishop on b5 is subject to harassment by …Qa5+ or …Qb6.
The most threatening replies are 4.dxc5, 4.c3, 4.Nf3, and 4.c4:
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 (4…e6, embracing French-like positions, is also extremely popular. Then 5.Be3 and 5.Nf3 are the usual replies. For fun, we’ll look at an example where White does a swan dive off the cliff, and ends up shattered on the rocks below: 5.f4?? Bxc5 6.Qg4 g6 7.a3 Qb6 8.Nh3 f6 9.Bd3 Qc7 10.exf6 Nxf6 11.Qd1 0-0 12.Nc3 e5 13.fxe5 Qxe5+ 14.Ne2 Bxh3 15.gxh3 Ne4 16.Bf4 Bf2+ 17.Kf1 Be3, 0-1, T. Sondergaard (2017) – PH. Nielsen (2680) [B12], Politiken Cup 2009) 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Bb5 Qa5+ 7.Nc3 e6 8.Be3 Nge7 9.a3 0-0-0 10.Bxc6 Nxc6 11.b4 Bxf3 12.gxf3 Qa6 13.Bd4 Qc4 14.Ne2 g5 15.Rg1 Rg8 16.Qd2 Bg7 17.Rxg5 Nxd4 18.Nxd4 Bxe5 19.Rxg8 Rxg8 20.0-0-0 Qa2 21.c3 Qxa3+ 22.Kb1 a5 23.Rc1 Kd7 24.Qd3 Bxd4 25.Qxd4 Qb3+ 26.Ka1 axb4 27.c6+ bxc6 28.Qa7+ Kd6 29.cxb4 Qxb4 30.Qa6 Qd4+ 31.Ka2 Qxf2+, 0-1, B. Smith (2467) – J. Benjamin (2556) [B12], US Chess League 2010.
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Be3 (5.Nf3 is white’s most popular move, though it does allow 5…Bg4) 5…Nh6 (Jovanka Houska, in her book PLAY THE CARO-KANN, recommends 5…Qb6) 6.h3 Nf5 7.Nf3 f6 8.Bb5 Qb6 9.Qe2 Nxe3 10.fxe3 Bd7 11.Na3 e6 12.0-0 Be7 13.Rab1 0-0 14.Kh1 f5 15.Bd3 c4 16.Bc2 Qa5 17.Qe1 b5 18.Bd1 b4 19.cxb4 Bxb4 20.Qh4 Rab8 21.Bc2 Be7 22.Qf4 c3 23.Bb3 Nb4 24.Ne1 cxb2 25.Nac2 Nxa2 26.Rxb2 Nc1, 0-1, Kim Le Quang (2235) – I. Khenkin (2555) [B12], Antwerp 1995.
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 cxd4 (both 4…Nc6 and 4…Bg4 are more popular) 5.Nxd4 (5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Bb5 e6 7.0-0 Nge7 8.c4 Bd7 9.Qg4 a6 10.Ba4 dxc4 11.Bc2 Nb4 12.Be4 Bc6 13.Nc3 Qc7 14.Rd1 Ned5 15.Bg5 Nxc3 16.Bxc6+ Qxc6 17.bxc3 Nd3 18.Bh4 h6 19.Rab1 g5 20.Bg3 0-0-0 21.Nd2 h5 22.Qxg5 h4 23.Bxh4 Bc5 24.Nf3 Rdg8 25.Qf6 Rxh4 26.Rxd3 Rhg4 27.Rd2 Rxg2+ 28.Kf1 Rg1+ 29.Nxg1 Qg2+ 30.Ke1 Qe4+, 0-1, G. Erdene (2323) – S. Megaranto (2516) [B12], Zurich 2010.) 5…e6 6.Nd2 Nc6 7.N2f3 Nge7 8.Bd3 Bd7 9.0-0 Ng6 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.c4 Be7 12.Be3 Qb8 13.Bxg6 hxg6 14.Qc2 a5 15.Rfc1 0-0 16.Qe2 Rc8 17.Rc3 Qc7 18.Rac1 Qd8 19.a3 dxc4 20.Rd1 c5 21.Qxc4 Rab8 22.Rcd3 Rc7 23.R3d2 Qe8 24.Ng5 Ba4 25.Rc1 Bxg5 26.Bxg5 Qb5 27.Be3 Qxc4 28.Rxc4 Bb3 29.Rc3 a4 30.Bxc5 g5 31.f3 Kh7 32.Kf2 Rb5 33.Bd6 Rd7 34.Rcd3 Kg6 35.Rd4 f6 36.h3 Rd8 37.Kg3 Rd7 38.Kf2 Rd8 39.Re2 Rc8 40.Bb4 Rd5 41.Rxd5 Bxd5 42.Bc3 f5 43.Rd2 Rc4 44.Ke3 g4 45.hxg4 fxg4 46.Rd4 Rxd4 47.Bxd4 Kf5 48.Bc3 gxf3 49.gxf3 g5 50.Bd4 Bb3 51.Bc3 Bd5 52.Bd4 Bb3 53.Bc3 Bd5, 1/2-1/2, T. Radjabov (2744) – M. Carlsen (2775), Bilbao 2008.
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c4 cxd4 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Qa4+ Bd7 7.Qb3 dxc4 8.Bxc4 e6 9.Nxd4 (9.Qxb7 Nc6) 9...Nc6 10.Nxc6 Bxc6 11.0-0 Bc5 12.Nc3 Ne7 13.Bb5 0-0 14.Bf4 Nd5 15.Nxd5 Qxd5 16.Bxc6 bxc6 17.Rac1 Bd4 18.Rfd1 Rfd8 19.Qxd5 Rxd5 20.b3 Rad8 21.Kf1 c5 22.Re1 h6 23.h4 h5 24.Rc4 R8d7 25.Re4 Kh7 26.Be3 Bxe3 27.Rxe3 Rd2 28.Re2 Rd1+ 29.Re1 R1d2 30.Re2 Rd1+, 1/2-1/2, I. Cheparinov (2661) - A. Delchev (2632) [B12], Spanish Team Ch. 2010.
Of course, I’ve been rather kind to Black by offering up only “acceptable” results (wins and draws). Rest assured that this whole line (3…c5) is still in a state of flux, with both sides drawing blood in game after game.
kharv: “I decided to play this since after Bxd7+ and …Nxd7 I’ve developed two pieces to my opponent’s one. I don’t think 5…Qxd7 is a very good move because the Queen would prefer the dark squares in this position, so …Nxd7 seems forced. This results in an awkward placement of the Knight as the game develops, but I don’t think I could have predicted that at this point.”
Saying that 5…Nxd7 is “forced” is over the top. However, the fact that you are obsessing on a complex of squares is a very good (and advanced) thing.
Of course, 4…Nc6 is also possible, though it transposes to other (far more complex and unclear) lines after 5.dxc5. Your 4…Bd7 5.Bxd7+ Nxd7 is the cleanest way to equalize.
kharv: “This is one of the main lines after 3…c5, but with the light-squared bishops off the board, I am noticing that white already has a lot of pawns on the black squares. My strategy will therefore be based on dark-square control.”
6.e6 fxe6 7.Nf3 has been tried in a couple (low rated) games, but though the e5-e6 sacrifice is a known idea in various positions, here it’s complete garbage.
kharv: “Normal development. Perhaps …Nh6 can be played here, but I prefer if possible to wait until white moves the bishop first. 6…e6 opens up the dark-squared bishop, solidifies my pawn structure and supports the important central pawn d5.”
kharv: “This is a typical move, but now without the light-squared bishop I won’t be able to pin this important defender of d4. Many lines also see the bishop going to g4 not just for the pin, but also in order to trade it for the knight, since both the bishop and knight want to sit on f5, and the closed structure will often favor the knight.”
Truth to tell, the …Bg4 pin isn’t necessarily a big deal (depends on the position), and wouldn’t even exist if you played a quick …e7-e6 (as you did in the game). However, your comment does demonstrate that you are well acquainted with the ideas in this opening. On top of that, white’s light-squared Bishop can often chop off a Knight on f5, but since it’s gone, the f5-square is all the more vulnerable regarding an eventual …Nf5 invasion. After 6…e6, what Black has is an extremely comfortable French Defense (all the good French stuff without that problematic locked in light-squared Bishop).
kharv: “Creating a permanent weakness on d4 and hoping to tie down white’s resources to its defense.”
I understand why you snapped on d4 (“a permanent weakness on d4”), but you’re also giving white’s Knight access to the c3-square. After 7.Nf3 white’s b1-Knight doesn’t have an attractive home, but that’s changed after your 7…cxd4. Instead of your slightly overzealous snap on d4, I would have played 7…Ne7 followed by …Nc6 with the desired pressure against d4 and another piece taking aim at e5 (meaning that white’s not going to play dxc5 anytime soon). By leaving the tension between the c5 and d4 pawns alone, you are making sure that white’s b1-Knight won’t be particularly happy for a long time to come.
A whole book can be written on pawn tension. It’s one thing that amateurs tend to handle very badly – for some reason, the pawn faceoff freaks them out since they don’t feel comfortable “under the gun” of either side being able to chop at any moment. Conquering one’s fear of pawn tension leads to many benefits, one big one being that you’ll know that when you do allow the tension to linger, your opponent will most likely be extremely uncomfortable and, as a result, will break it prematurely.
kharv: “Developing aggressively. The point of this check is that if 9.Bd2 then the Queen’s influence is reduced and the knight can’t go there. However with the c-pawn gone, the knight will prefer c3 anyways so maybe just …Be7 was more accurate. But if Nc3 is played, then I can play …Ne7-f5 without having to expose my knight with …Nh6.”
The simplest way to play the position is 8…Ne7 followed by 9…Nc6, 10…Be7, and 11…0-0 with zero problems (you can toss in the thematic …Qb6 somewhere in there). Keep in mind that the Knight on c6 attacks d4 just as well as a Knight on f5 does (actually, the Knight on f5 can be chased by g2-g4, while the Knight on c6 is rock solid).
However, I have to say that you’re quite the thinker over the board! Sometimes, though, a thinker can outthink himself. In the present case, leaving white’s Bishop on d2 isn’t the end of the world for him, and, in effect, you’ve played the odd …Be7 which will force you to dangle your Knight on h6.
kharv: “My plan is still to control the dark squares and take advantage of the fact that the white pawns are on dark squares, limiting the mobility of the bishop. Perhaps 9. Nc3 was more accurate for white.”
Here’s the problem: taking on d2 means you went out of your way to exchange white’s bad Bishop for your good one (not the end of the world, but I know you didn’t intend that). But retreating to e7 almost stalemates your own Knight (at the least, it forces you onto a path you didn’t need to deal with). Your 7th and 8th moves have led you to this, and there was no reason the upcoming situation had to occur!
kharv: “I have to develop this piece and I can’t go to f6 or e7. I don’t mind Bxh6 gxh6 all that much, because then my plan will be to put all my pawns on light squares, possibly put a rook or two on the g-file, and use my control of the dark squares to dominate the board. This is thematic in many lines of the advance variation and often the doubled pawns aren’t too much of a liability.”
You really know these structures! Very impressive. In fact, you talk a better game than most masters do! As for your rating, if you can deconstruct most positions half as well as you are deconstructing the various situations in this game, I would peg you as being a few hundred ratings points higher than you are. So what gives with that? Why is Mr. Kharv only 1582? Though the present game is a bit of a vanity piece (because he does some really great stuff here), it also gives me a good look at a kharv flaw: Instead of taking a simple path to his goals (8…Ne7 followed by 9…Nc6, 10…Be7, and 11…0-0 – easy development, safe King, pressure against d4), he over-analyzes and finds a circuitous route that leads to things he didn’t intend to create.
Allow me to invent a real life equivalent: If kharv needed milk, and the market was one straight block away from his house, most would think he would just walk that straight three minute path and get that milk. But no, kharv would instead analyze the ramifications of that straight walk, and might decide to leave through the back door, crawl over various brambles, and drag himself in and out of the swamp before finally (two hours later) making it to the market. And I’m sure his reasoning behind that odd route would be riveting and full of logic. But sometimes the straight path is the right path, and sometimes chess isn’t as hard as people think it is (and yes, sometimes it’s even harder!).
Having said all that, I must address your nonchalance concerning a capture on h6. It’s great to see beyond the double pawns! But sometimes it’s fine for Black, and sometimes it’s better for White. After 10…Nh6 White should take (instead of his ridiculous 11.h3): 11.Bxh6 gxh6 12.Qd2 Bg5 (12…Qb6 might be better, but I don’t trust black’s position after 13.Qxh6 Qxb2 14.Nbd2; Another idea is 12…Bf8 intending …Bg7 and …0-0. However, you’re losing a ton of time and one would suspect White can generate something while you’re reshuffling) 13.Nxg5 hxg5 (13…Qxg5 14.f4 Qf5 15.Na3 threatening both Nb5-d6 and also Nc2-e3 followed by f4-f5) 14.f4 g4 15.Nc3! (even stronger than 15.f5) 15…Qb6 16.Rac1 (the point – black can’t castle queenside) 16…0-0 17.f5 and black’s getting killed.
kharv: “I don’t see the point of this move because my knight is obviously not going to g4. It lends unneeded support to an eventual g4, to kick the knight out of f5, but it seems that this would weaken the kingside considerably, and also allow …Nh4 which trades off a key defender of d4. With the bishop on d2, the knight on f3 can’t be maintained in that scenario. Much better here would be Nc3, Bxh6 or Qa4. The Bd2 looks very awkward already.”
kharv: “Development with tempo. The threat of …Qxb2 allows my Queen to come to this ideal square, eyeing d4 and controlling a lot of territory on the queenside.”
I would have preferred 11…Nf5, but I must applaud a man that stands by his principles. But really, White is playing passively and isn’t allowing himself any active ideas. With 11…Nf5 you would have achieved your desire of getting the Knight to f5 and you would also have stopped White from injecting some energy into his game. Sadly, your 11…Qb6 gives White one more chance at making things interesting by 12.Bxh6 gxh6 13.Qd2. Yes, it’s pretty much a whole extra tempo for Black compared to the earlier implementation of this idea. Nevertheless, white’s going to get some play.
The point: White should have played 12.Bxh6, and you shouldn’t have allowed it (11…Nf5).
The kind of move I see in game after game: one side makes a threat, and the other side passively defends it (with no regard to creating some stuff for himself). Indeed, 12.b3 wastes time and creates holes in his own camp on both a3 and c3. A lot of players would do themselves a huge favor by staring at 12.b3 for a long, long time until they fully understand just how horrible that move is.
kharv: “The d4-pawn is now attacked twice and only has one defender. Here I feel I have good initiative and excellent dark-square control. I am not feeling any pressure from my opponent. The knight on d7 is not very well placed and I am already considering ways to improve it, perhaps via …Nf8-g6.”
Was that music I heard? You want to improve a piece that you don’t feel is ideally placed? Ahhhh … thank you! I don’t quite agree with the …Nf8-g6 idea, but the overall philosophy is fantastic! Just make sure that, when you do reposition a piece, you make sure it’s working with the rest of its army.
kharv: “Defends d4 three times when it is only attacked twice, but mostly what this move does is that it creates a ‘tall-pawn’. I have no intention to take this bishop with my knight for the moment as my piece is far superior to white’s.”
kharv: “I see no threats from white so castling is not urgent. The idea here is to control the c3-square and interfere with white’s development.”
kharv: “Contesting the c3-square and eyeing black’s kingside. White’s plan here could be to bring the knights over and push g4. However, the mobility of my pieces on the dark diagonals probably allows decent defense against such ideas.”
kharv: “Perhaps …Bb4 immediately is more accurate here, to increase my control over c3.”
No, your 14…0-0 was correct. 14…Bb4 is another example of over-thinking. White could rely with 15.Bd2, or he could play 15.a3. Instead, 14…0-0 got your King to safety and brought your final Rook into the game.
kharv: “This doesn’t seem like the best square for the knight, but the possibility of black quickly doubling up on the c-file combined with …Ba3 is perhaps the reason behind this move. Now white’s bishop looks very sad, and the knight hardly has a future on d2. Nc3-a4-c5 was perhaps a better idea, but in any case, I think that knight belonged on c3 many moves ago. Na4 is quite annoying to deal with because it chases my Queen away from the juicy b6-square.”
Quite right! White’s in full “passive mode,” and you’ll be able to do anything you want to him. White would have done better with 15.Rc1 or 15.Nc3.
kharv: “Increasing control of the c3-square. Perhaps it seems silly to have played …Bb4-e7-b4 (and later …Be7 again!), but I felt this was what the position called for. Too often I have not played moves like this because I am blindly following principles.”
Whether all these moves are the most accurate or not, you ARE thinking in ways that most can’t do. Once you tighten these thoughts up, and learn that “time” (a dynamic imbalance) is something you need to add to your equations, you’ll make a quick leap in strength and rating.
I must say you are 100% correct in wanting to dominate the c-file and the c3-square, but a more straightforward way of doing that was 15…Ba3 (Actually, your upcoming …Nb8 move would also have been strong here) 16.Rab1 (intending b3-b4) 16…Qb4 and you’ve deprived white’s Rooks of c1, AND also taken aim at c3. In other words, you are taking another long “trip” when a few simple steps would have done the job. Instead of 15…Ba3 16.Rab1, White should try 16.Rad1 Rc6 17.Nb1 but 17…Nxe3 18.Qxe3 (18.fxe3 Be7) 18…Bb4 19.a3 Be7 20.Rc1 Rfc8 (21.b4 a5) and Black has a clear advantage (white’s queenside pawns are targets, White has no counterplay, and Black will soon win the battle for the c-file).
kharv: “Contesting the c-file. With accurate play I feel my opponent could have eventually gained control of the c-file here (although the Queen, d2-knight and tall-pawn are awkwardly placed and don’t give him much potential beyond that), but I see great fluidity in my bishop and queen so I have ideas of possibly shifting my attention to the kingside at a later stage, after white commits a lot of material to the queenside. Also if white gets the idea of attacking my king, I can bring back defenders quickly with …Re8, …Bf8-g7, …Nf8, …g6, …Qd8, etc.”
All you have to do is make sure Ng5 (intending g4) doesn’t bother you (and it turns out that Ng5, at least for the moment, is nothing but pie in the sky), and you’ll have no kingside problems at all.
kharv: “Multi-purpose move. The knight on d2 is hit twice and with the possibility of …Nxe3, removing one of its defenders, the queen and the other knight are tied down to its defense. The relocation Nb1-c3 appears logical for white, but black’s control over c3 is too strong right now. The Queen also eyes the a2 pawn if some exchanges happened along the c-file.
“I am acutely aware here of the importance of the b7-pawn to control the c6-square. This kind of awareness is usually lacking and I tend to move my pawns without thinking of the loss of control over certain key squares. For some reason it is tempting to play …a6 and …b5 to constrict the white Queen, but that would serve no real plan here – I would be defending against an imaginary threat. Perhaps playing those moves would be useful if I shifted my pieces to the kingside later on.”
Your 16…Qa5 is full of good intentions, but it falls far short on all of them. More pointed moves are 16…Ba3 and 16…Nb8, in both cases with a solid advantage for Black.
kharv: “Defending the threat but I hardly see a point of going after this pawn right now, I prefer the flexibility and speed of the dark-squared diagonals. This move also prepares to double on the c-file and gain control of this key point in the position. However, in some lines the Queen is tactically tied down to the defense of the rook if Rc1 is not played quickly.
“Now comes a critical moment when my position is very solid and I considered idiotic moves like 17…Rc3? or 17…Bc3?, which after calculating a bit appear to both lose either material or initiative.
“I often get to these positions where I am very well placed and then I just get aggressive instead of improving a bit more, or I play passive and just hand the initiative to the other side, with moves like 17…a6 which are not necessary yet (or ever).
“So I thought about your book ‘How to Reassess Your Chess’ which I have started reading, and I asked myself the question: ‘What is my worst piece right now and how can I improve it?’ After that the plan was clear. The knight on d7 is clearly misplaced, it has nowhere to go and is not participating in the game at all. So I went ahead and played…”
White continues with his passive stance, and misses chances of getting back in the game by doing so. Correct was 17.a3! Rxc1+ 18.Rxc1 Bxa3 (18…Qxa3 19.Rc7) 19.Ra1 Nxe3 20.fxe3 Qc7 21.Nf1 (21.Rxa3?? Qc1+) 21…Bb4 22.Rxa7 and though black’s still for choice, you’ve lost a lot of your mojo.
kharv: “The idea is to relocate via …Na6-c7-b5-c3.”
A wonderful move! Well done! In fact, I’ve always loved this kind of “backwards move.” Though your …Nb8-a6-c7-b5 idea is much too slow, and just won’t happen, the way you ended up playing it (just …Nc6) assures Black of a nice edge.
Here are two examples of other backwards moves:
kharv: “White reacts to this plan immediately with a4. Now my control of the dark squares is absolute, and more importantly, the b4-square is a gaping hole in the white position. White has also now given me a second target on b3 to fire at later. Perhaps 18.a3 is a better move, but now the idea between …Qa5 can be appreciated.”
I can appreciate all your ideas, but some are too fanciful, others don’t seek the best defense by your opponent, and others lack the dynamic energy needed to maximize your advantage. Lest you feel I’m putting down your whole game, I’m most certainly not – your ability to seek good positional ideas and create plans to actualize them is superior to some 2000 players. Now you need to work on dynamics, and then blend your considerable static talents with the new dynamic understanding you’ll acquire. Once you do that, the sky is the limit!
As for white’s hysterical 18.a4, he should have held fast with 18.Rac1 Nc6 19.Nb1 and hoped for the best.
kharv: “Now that a4 was played, I come up with a new plan for my knight which also includes a defensive idea. It seems that after Rc1, white will enjoy a decent game because of the strong control on the c-file (I will be forced to trade rooks with Rxc2 if Rc1 is played, I don’t really see how I can double up safely). By closing the file with the knight, I can safely double up behind it if the need arises. I am also threatening a nasty fork with …Nb4 on the newly created hole.”
I think you should have swapped a pair of Rooks with 18…Rxc2 19.Qxc2 first, and then 19…Nxe3 (otherwise White can play Nf1 and take back on e3 with that Knight) 20.fxe3 h6 (stopping Ng5) 21.Rc1 Nc6 (finally!) when Black will follow with …Rf8-c8-c7 (so the Queen defends the Rook), …a7-a6 (to stop a later Qc2-d3-b5) and then moving the Bishop from b4 (perhaps e7) so that the b4-square opens up (for the Knight) and also …Qb6 might be possible, hitting b3. That’s a lot of stuff for Black to do, but after those initial moves it’s quite hard for White to find counterplay, so he’ll be pretty much doomed to a long, unpleasant defensive stance (e.g. 18…Rxc2 19.Qxc2 Nxe3 20.fxe3 h6 21.Rc1 Nc6 22.Qd3 Rc8 24.Rc2 Rc7 24.Nf1 a6 25.Kh1 Qb6 26.Qd1 Be7 27.Rc1, when black’s in charge, but white’s not giving an inch!).
Wow! I just realized that I sound like you, or do you sound like me? Perhaps I’m just freaking myself out!
kharv: “Now I possibly want to play …Be7, …Qd8, …f6, etc. and shift my focus to an attack of the kingside.”
It’s true that a well-timed …f7-f6 break is always in the air for Black.
kharv: “Forced. The tall pawn is finally exchanged but the kingside is weakened. I have no immediate threats there but the fluidity of my pieces and the possibility of the f6-pawn break could give me chances there. I also still have a pretty good bind on the queenside.”
Your 19…Nxe3 is good (though clearly not forced!), but Black has something much better.
kharv: “The Queen stays to defend the rook otherwise there are tactics like …Nxe5 in the air. This creates a new target on e3, but at the same time, white has the threat of the pawn push e4 which would however make d4 a target again.”
kharv: “Intending …Nb4.”
Giving the game away. Instead, 21.Qb5 Qc7 22.Kg2 a6 23.Qe2 is, of course, better for Black but white’s still hanging on.
kharv: “This blunder ends the game immediately as the rook cannot be saved, since the connection with the Queen is lost. 22.Qb5 Qxb5 23.axb5 Rxc2 and the rook still falls.
So in conclusion, I felt I dictated the pace for most of this game, had great activity for my pieces on the dark diagonals and earlier on the c-file, two targets (d4 and eventually b3), kept my options open with the possibility of shifting a lot of pieces rapidly to the kingside.
“But in the end the move that I am the most proud of is 17…Nb8, and that is because I took a moment to use the ideas you showed me in your book ‘How to Reassess Your Chess’ to figure out how I could slowly improve an already dominant position instead of rushing into aggressive moves and exchanges that would have helped my opponent, or just playing passively.”
There’s no doubt that you did indeed dictate the pace of the game, and you clearly played far better than your opponent. You do some things exceptionally well, but your weaknesses (which I’ve discussed) are depriving you of that next step up the rating ladder (and if you fix the things I mentioned, that step will be a very big one!).
Thanks for sharing this game with us, and thanks for the wonderfully detailed notes!
~ Lessons From This Game ~
* Don’t rush to get rid of pawn tension. In fact, since most players are fearful of pawn tension, you should treat it as your friend.
* It’s very common to see, in game after game, one side making a threat, and the other side passively defending it (with no regard to creating some stuff for himself). Chess is about creating your own favorable imbalances and then milking them for all they are worth. Automatically reacting to the opponent is a sure road to chess-hell.
* Tactical acumen is great, playing in a dynamic fashion is wonderful, having real positional skills is a must for anyone wanting to play well and to appreciate grandmaster chess (anyone looking at a top game can recognize a tactic when it’s played, but most positional plans go right over the head of the amateur). But the only way to become a chess master is to acquire all these skill-sets and blend them together.
* Improving the position of a lazy or misplaced piece is a wonderful thing to do. Just make sure that, when you do reposition a piece, you make sure it’s working with the rest of its army.
* Mr. kharv's positional (static) understanding is overwhelmingly superior to other areas of his game. Once he acquires dynamic understanding that’s on par with his positional savvy, he’ll find himself being feared by just about everyone he plays.
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