Color Chess Game Analysis #1 Natasha Regan - Martin Orell

Color Chess Game Analysis #1 Natasha Regan - Martin Orell

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Here is a color chess game I had against a very strong player Natasha Regan (#2 rated on the color chess app). I was black. This blog will assume that you know the rules of color chess. If you don't know the rules, you can read them here.

Before even making any moves I want to talk about this starting position. You typically want an even distribution of colored squares, so you have reasonable moves to all colors. Looking if any player is weak on any color is usually among the first thing I do at a game.

Whites color distribution looks reasonable. On the 3rd and 4th rank whites main weakness is that he has only 1 light blue square. Granted it is on a good square, so white would not really mind playing e4. However, white needs to be careful, so that he doesn't get into a situation where e4 is no longer available, the only available square is b5 and black has that square covered. One example:

Blacks last move was d6. Now white has to play either Nxe5 or Bb5 and no matter which he chooses, he will lose a piece.

A similar position where white does not lose a piece is this one:

Blacks last move was d6. Try to find a way for white to avoid loosing a piece before reading further.

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White saves the piece with Bb5, a4

The point is that if black tries to win a piece with h5, axb5; then white wins a rook with axb5, Rxa8.

Tactics like this are more common than you might think, but it relies on the squares b5 and a8 being of different colors. If we would have a similar position, but reversed:

Blacks last move was a6. Now white can actually grab a pawn with Nc3, axb5. Black wants to respond with axb5, Rxa1, but this is impossible since a1 and b5 are of the same color.

When it comes to the other colors, it is quite fine for white. White is missing dark blue squares on the first and second rank, but the location for them on the 3rd and 4th rank are good, so it becomes a non-issue.

For black, he has a similar issue with green squares as white had with light blue squares. Black only has one green square on the 5th-6th rank and on a bad day he might need to play Bc8-g4 or Bc8-h3. With a bishop on g4 attacked by a pawn on h3, black can not rely on defending his bishop with h5, since the g4 square and h1 square are of the same color. One kind of sad thing about the green squares is that, despite black having 6 green squares on his board half, while white only has 5, black is still the player that is weaker on green squares.

Blacks second weakness is arguably worse, but black is completely missing red squares on the 5th and 6th rank. On the bright side, there are not any obvious red squares black easily risks loosing a piece on, but even if it is not the end of the world you don't want to skip a move.

With this in mind, I think this starting position is bad for black. White mainly needs to worry about light blue squares, while black needs to worry about both green and red squares.

1.d4

Here we go, the first move and I already need to make a pass since I have no red squares available. If white starts with a good move, like c4, d4 or e4 and you have to pass, then very likely white already has an advantage. This honestly felt like the worst starting position I have ever had with black, so I can't say I was confident at this point. I spent a lot of time at my first move, which felt awkward since my time had not started ticking yet. My time was paused at 24 hours and I had no idea how much time I had left before I risk the game being aborted. It was probably close to 24 hours that went after the game started until I played my first move.

So, what to do? I am a strong believer in space in this chess variant. I really don't want to play a hypermodern type approach where you end up with less space. So a move like d6 to give white the center with e4 and hope he gets weak on light blue squares was not on my radar. The main options I saw to fight for space with were d5 and f5. The issues with both is that white gets a central move for free with either c4 or e4. But I really could not find a better move since white seems to have reasonable moves to all colors. I also felt that with that big chunk of green squares I have on the kingside, I need to get some space there if I do not want to lose on green squares. So my first move was:

1...f5

I don't really ever want to play Kf7, so I will need to keep an eye on my green squares, so I'm not forced to go there.

2.e4, Ne2

White is pushing on the green squares already. Most likely a good strategy. I didn't mind making the c5 pawn break, but it does feel like I am walking on a thin line. Playing both c5 and f5 this early is something you would not see often in classical chess. My king will pretty much never be safe, but I worry more about space than king safety,

2...c5, g6

I was not exactly happy to go to a blue square, but I needed to get the green square g7 available for my bishop. If my bishop can keep going between g7-h8, then I have found a way to solve the issue with my green squares. If white wants to grab a pawn with dxc5 and let me develop Bg7 with tempo, I would have some compensation for the pawn. The long diagonal is open and my knight can go to c6 without worrying about d5.

This is a critical moment for white and if white finds a good move, I might be just lost. The line white choose, I am not a believer in.

3.Bd3, exf5

White allows black to take control of the center. Can you find the moves I played here? It's not game winning and shouldn't be hard to see, but I leave it as a problem anyway.

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3...e5, cxd4

It's kinda funny, how I have only moved pawns this game. It's possible one difference in mine and Natasha's playstyle is that I prefer space with pawns more and she prefers piece activity more. It's kinda baffling to me that I ended up with center this game. Not long ago it was white who had the central pawns.

4.Nb3, fxg6

I often try to not make trades on my second part of a move. In chess, making trades is often an even trade in terms of tempos. You spend 1 move for a capture and your opponent spend 1 move to recapture. In color chess it is a bit different. The second move on each turn is more valuable since then you can move to almost any square you want and force your opponent to move to a specific color, while on the first move you can only move to 1 color. So when you trade with your second move and your opponent recaptures on his first move, then in terms of tempos you are trading a "more valuable move" with a "less valuable move". Of course there are many exceptions to this rule.

If I were white I would have wanted to avoid capturing and play something like 4.Nb3, Qg4 and aim for queenside castling. With a pawn on f5, the g4 square is a bit safer for the queen compared to if the pawn is not there and the queen has several orange squares available if it is attacked with Nf6. I'm not sure how good Qg4 is, but as long as I'm not winning a pawn I would want to wait with fxg6. This said, there are merits to capturing now, since blacks pawn on g6 will become a bit weak.

4...hxg6, Ne7

The only reasonable way to save the pawn.

5.Nh3, 0-0

Very reasonable to develop and castle as quick as possible. It was also possible to go a bit more aggressive with moves like Qg4, Bg5, but it is hard to argue against these nice developing moves. It is also truly understandable if white does not want to put his queen on the same diagonal as blacks bishop on c8.

5...a5, d6

This move is a bit brave for me. By moving to a light blue square, I allow white to play Bb5+ on his first move. So I am giving white a threat "for free". If white could find a second threat with his second move, then I would face 2 threats at the same time and that is often how you lose material. However, with some careful analysis I did not find any way for white to create such a threat and the move does a lot in terms of improving my position. The pawn controls the important c5 and e5 squares and it opens up a diagonal for my bishop.

I will admit though that being behind this much in development is a bit scary.

6.Bb5, Ng5

White moves forward and tries to attack before I get a chance to catch up in development. This may seem like a good idea, but I think white should have prevented black from playing a4 by playing a4 himself instead of Ng5. White is not just weak on light blue squares right now, but also on yellow squares and that needed to be addressed.

6...Bd7, a4

Black has control of all the yellow squares, so white should lose a piece. White needs to gamble that his attack works.

7.Na5, Qf3

An aggressive attempt. White is threatening Qf7, but leaves both his knight and bishop hanging on the queenside.

7...Bh6, Qxa5

Picking up the hanging knight. One important thing to note is that if white plays Qf7 on his second move, then black can respond with Kxf7, Bxg5.

8.Qxb7, Bc4

Whites queen is on a bit of an adventure. I looked for ways to trap the queen, but after some calculation I was satisfied with simplification and trade pieces. I am ahead by a piece after all.

I'm a bit proud of correctly calculating the following line. Color Chess is a very tactical variant and accurately calculating several moves ahead can be really hard.

8...Bc6, Na6

This Na6 move felt kinda funny to me. I would rather pass than playing that move (assuming passing meant white skips his first next move), but pass is not an option and it was the next best thing. White is able to save his queen by capturing the knight and sacrificing a piece on f7 (which normal people would just call trades or simplification).

9.Qxa6, Bf7

Note that it is very important that all blacks pieces on the queenside (queen, rook on a8 and bishop on c6) are protected.

9...Kxf7, Bxg5

10.Bxg5, Qc4

This was as far as I had calculated before I played Bc6 (although I did not know whether white would play Qc4, Qd3 or Qe2). Several trades happened, I am a piece up and my king is a lot safer. Somehow, I am also ahead in development since whites rooks are not active yet. This game should just be a matter of technique now.

10...Qd5, Nf5

My pieces are very active and I threaten checkmate.

11.Rd1, Qf1

After playing a fairly decent game white blunders, but I don't think it would change the result if white played better here. Find a way for black to win here:

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11...Bd7, Rhc8

White is forced to move his queen to b5 and looses his queen. White resigned a few moves later.

12.Qb5, h4

12...Be6, Qxb5

13.Kh2, Rd3

13...Qxd3, Rxc2

14.White resigns