Taking a Stab at Stokyo, Part 1

Chess mastery essentially consists of analyzing chess positions accurately.  -  Mikhail Botvinnik

Late last year I decided to try and work Stokyo exercises in to my chess study regime. As part of that effort, I posted a topic here (http://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/stokyo-exercises) asking for some ideas on finding good positions and general thoughts on the process. There was some pretty good discussion on it, though it now appears some contributions that were there are now missing.

If you are wondering what a Stokyo exercise is, you can take a look at the topic linked above or check out Dan Heisman's page on chess exercise (http://home.comcast.net/~danheisman/Articles/Exercises.html). The information on this particular type of exercise can be found about half-way down that page.

Here I'm presenting my attempt at the exercise. I'll be posting this in at least two blog posts. I started the process with a position a move pair before the target of my exercise, giving some initial thoughts. Black text is my thoughts/evaluations, red italics is what I got from engine analysis.

Without further ado, here it is:

Up through this move I had been following games in one of my databases. I normally don’t play King pawn games and had decided to enter this tourney, to increase my familiarity with some different openings. There were only two games I could find after Nd5, with replies of Ng3 and Be2. One of my other, larger DBs (without many newer games), had two additional games, one with Ng3 and one with the move played.

I had thought it was very possible that white would capture on d5, instead of the queen move. 12. Nxd5 cxd5 with a possibility of either 13. Ng3 or 13. Nc3. My plan in that case was 13. … e4. I estimated the position would have been =or += [ 13. … e4? 14. Nxe4 and if 14…. dxe4?? 15. Qxe4 threatening mate and the rook on a8 +-. 14. … Nc6 maintains equality in that situation ] . Material will be even after trades. White has a strong queenside set of pawns and will be able to develop the rest of the pieces quickly. [  After 13. Nc3, 13. … Bb7 -/+. Other line, 13. Ng3 f5 14. Bxf5 Bh4 15. Qg4 Bxg3 16. Be6+ Kh8 17. fxg3 -/+ ]

Black will also be able to develop the rest of the pieces quickly but will have a weakness on a7. One possible line: 13. Ng3 e4 14. Nxe4 dxe4 15. Bxe4 [ ?? -+ ] Rb8

From the game position above, I still felt the evaluation was either =  or =+ [ -+ ]. Both sides have some developmental problems. White hasn’t castled and is going to take a couple of moves to get the black-squared bishop into the game; with the white-squared bishop blocking the d3 pawn it is likely the b2 pawn will have to be moved to allow the black bishop room.

Black has a slight advantage in space and can quickly develop the white-squared bishop. I was initially looking toward 13. … Nf4 [ -/+ ], with an attack on the d3 bishop, at the same time giving some protection to the pawn on e5. However, white is probably fine after either 14. O-O or Be2 [ both -+ ].

Before deciding on my move, I wanted to check out my databases again. At this point, there was only one game available, with 13. … f5. It took me a while to appreciate the move; in my normal move selection process, I would have never seriously looked at the possibility. It felt to me that it weakens the king side and potentially drops a pawn.

In the game S. Bodega-C. Almao (1998), play continued: 14. Qxe5 fxe4 15. Bxe4 Bc5 16. d4 Re8 17. Bxd5+ cxd5 18. O-O Rxe5 19. dxe5 -+. Playing through that line, I figured that position was significantly dynamic enough to go ahead and play the move. And is the primary position I’m concerned with in this practice exercise.