Chess is Hard, Part Three
Hello again. This is the third part of my "Chess is Hard(tm)" Trilogy where I show you, the chess.com viewer, various games of mine from an obscure tournament in Guernsey in an effort to explain why chess is difficult. In this game, I manage as Black to get a slightly better position out of the opening which I then attempt to nurse into a winning endgame. However, the devil is in the details, and my effort to cross each "i" and dot every "T" ends up in a predicable zeitnot-driven mess.
Bakker,J (1950) - Chernoff,J (2140) 37th Guernsey Open Guernsey 2011
Strangely enough, I was looking into playing this as White until realising there's a variety of simple ways for Black to meet it. Even stranger, however, was why I was looking into playing it - truth be told, it was because I wished to spell "banana" with my first six moves (say, perhaps b3,a3,Nf3,a4,Nc3,a5). Why did I want to do that, you ask? Well, that's a long story...
The most straightforward route to equality and beyond.
2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 Nf6
Rather limp. Usually White at least tries to unbalance things a bit with 5.c4 (or 5.Bb5 Bd6!?), though 5...d5 is a reversed Sicilian with 1.b3 being a somewhat unambitious use of White's "extra" tempo.
4...exd4 5.exd4 d5
Black is already a tiny bit better now with White's QB in such a dull spot.
6.Nf3 Bd6 7.Bb5 0–0
Hmm, if White wasn't intending Bxc6 then why put it on b5? Oh well.
8...Ne4 9.c4 Bg4!
Highlighting White's awkward development. To be honest, I thought my game would now more or less play itself, forgetting that, once again, Chess is Hard(tm).
Also possible here was 10...Ng5, but after 11.Be2 I couldn't see any great continuation. However, I did spend quite a bit of time looking, which is one of the great injustices of chess: the clock tends to reward routine, dull, even thoughtless play (up to a point) and punish creativity. In fact, even if you achieve a better position quickly (as in this game), it only means you must then calculate all the various interesting possibilities open to you, and often you can't pick between them all, and eventually your indecision turns into time pressure, which in turn leads you to blunder. And, by "you", I mean "me".
11.Be2 Nxd5 12.Ne5
White again saves time on the clock by just trying to exchange everything off, though his position by now probably wouldn't justify any greater ambition.
Trying desperately to give my opponent something to think about, and in any event 12...Bxe2 13.Qxe2 was somewhat embarrassing for my e4 Knight.
Consistent, at any rate.
Perhaps 13...Bxg4 14.Qxg4 f5!? was a better way to introduce some life into the position, but I figured that White's desperation to simplify might lead him into a significantly worse endgame...
14.Bxf5 Qxf5 15.Qf3
...and I was right! The superiority of Black's remaining pieces should only be magnified by White's attempts at simplification.
15...Qxf3 16.Nxf3 Rfe8 17.Na3
A crucial position. I felt at the time as if Black's position was on the very brink of a win, but the time I had already taken (close to 90 minutes) made me nervous about embarking upon any "adventures" such as 17...Nf4 18.Nc4 Nd3 19. Bc1 Rad8 20.Be3 etc.
Black now has a very simple win with the straightforward 18...Nec3!, intending ...Re2, and if 19.Bb2, there follows 19...Ne2+! 20.Kh1 Nf4!, with either 21...Re2 or 21...Nd3 to follow.
Instead, in order to play a quick move and inch a bit closer to the still very distant time control at move 40, I whip out this natural, obvious, and completely wrong wood-pushery, thinking only to "deny" White's Knight access to e5 without bothering to appreciate how inoffensive a White Knight on e5 actually is, especially since ...f6 drives it off whenever Black wishes, and with tempo! But, witness, dear reader, again the injustice of chess: this one slightly thoughtless move almost manages to counterbalance all of White's drab, colorless play before it.
Well, OK, I exaggerated a bit - Black is still significantly better, but time pressure is only going to make my task more and more difficult now...
20.Kf1 a4 21.Bb2 Nb4 22.Re2
At this point I became rather frustrated with things. By all rights there should be a direct breakthrough of some sort into White's fragile fortress, but I cannot find it and the clock is ticking down past the ten minute mark. I can now see the seconds on the digital display, inexorably blinking down to the doomsday hour, and decide to try and aim directly for the a2 pawn.
Not necessarily a bad move, but rather doubled-edged considering my time situation. In practical terms, a more neutral move was probably better, given that ...a3 might well still be playable later on, at least unless White wants to isolate his a pawn with bxa4 Rxa4 a3, though perhaps that's not that terrible, and, oh no, down to five minutes now!
Oh, wait a sec - my intended 23...Nc3 not only doesn't win the a2 pawn, it actually loses my beautiful a3 pawn after 24.Rxe8+ Rxe8 25.Bxa3! I inwardly cursed my inept calculations and now attempted to just blitz my way to move 40 since apparently thinking wasn't doing me much good.
23...Kf7 24.Bd2 Nxd2+
Alas, with my pawn on a3 White's Bishop can no longer be considered a liability, so off it comes.
25.Rxd2 c6 26.Rc1
Oddly enough, Black has actually managed to do pretty well with thoughtless moves, and can still claim a pretty sizable advantage after, say, 26...g5 or what not. Instead, of course, I rush headlong into a tactical cul-de-sac.
26...Ke6 27.Rc4 Nd5 28.Re2+
Oops, my King must beat an ignominious retreat to recapture on e8, since otherwise Ra4 wins the precious a3 pawn.
28...Kd7 29.Rxe8 Kxe8 30.Nd2 Kd7
Back into the breach!
31.Ne4 b6 32.Nc3
Black, in spite of his King blundering about, has still a slight edge here after something like 32...Kd6 33.Ne4+ Kc7. Instead I set a silly trap.
Damn, he didn't fall for 33.Nxd5? bxc4 34. Nb6+ Ke6 35. Nxa8?? cxb3, queening.
Losing my increasingly frayed nerve. 33...Nb4 preserved some minuscule chances, e.g. 34. Rh5 h6 35.Ke2 Re8+ 36.Kd2 Kc7!
34.Rxc3 Kd6 35.Rh3 h6 36.Ke2 Rd8 37.Kd3 Re8 38.Re3
Alas, White's dream of exchanging every piece off now comes true.
38...Rxe3+ 39.fxe3 f5 40.e4
OK, I've 45 seconds left and one move to make before the time control. So, naturally, instead of obvious and simple draw with 40...fxe4+, I instead hallucinate with...
A truly atrocious move. So why did I play it? Because I just couldn't accept yet another draw against a lower rated player that did nothing but punt all game long, and decided to instead commit seppuku by "complicating", almost in protest, in the extremely unlikely hope that there might be some strange pawn breakthrough somewhere. Of course, that's lunacy, but it's amazing how often lunacy occurs around move 40, like some sort of chessic midlife crisis.
Oddly enough, this obvious move to seal the queenside throws away the win. It was imperative to set the King immediately towards f3 as ...c5 is not a serious threat, thus 41.Ke2! c5 42.dxc5+ Kxc5 43. Kf3, etc.
Black now just manages to salvage a draw...
Amazingly, my opponent offered a draw here. I very much expected he would force me to demonstrate it - a none too certain prospect considering my addled mental state. However, it's pretty simple at this point: 43.e5+ Ke6 44.h3 h5 45.hxg4 hxg4 46.Kd2!? Kd5 47.Kd3 g3! and White can make no further progress.
Full game here: