A less than proud win

Nov 23, 2011, 2:33 PM |

I played the following game as White with "simonchef":


1. e4 Nc6  2. Nf3 d4  3. Nc3 d6

opening with the Nimzowitsch Declined variation, one of the many openings I'm woefully unfamiliar with.

4. d4 Bb4

pinning the c3 knight. White's e4 pawn is now vulnerable. White could advance the pawn, capture with it on d5, defend it with the light-squared bishop or the queen, or unpin the knight with 5. Bd2. White chose to advance the e-pawn, and grab some space.

5. e5 Bxc3+  6. bxc3 h6

White was happy for Black to exchange on c3, as White retains his bishop pair and the b-file is opened for White's rook. White has doubled pawns on the c-file, but it's early days still, so White is not concerned. Black's move of ...h6 looked slightly random to White, unless to prepare for ...g5 - the queen protects g5, so White trying to post his knight or bishop there would be madness. White takes the opportunity of the seemingly wasteful pawn move to further his development.

7. Bd3 a6  8. Ba3 g5

White thought d3 was the logical position for the light-squared bishop. The only other choice was e2, which seemed very passive - controlling the b1-h7 diagonal behind the pawns seemed far superior, as well as adding an additional defender to the c2 pawn. For similar reasons, moving the dark-squared bishop to a3 seemed logical, controlling the diagonal behind Black's pawns.

Black made another seemingly random pawn move of ...a6, and then played ...g5 as White had half-expected.

At this point, White went from considering whether Black was just wasting time, ignoring development, and walking into a very cramped position, to wondering whether there was a real threat from the pawn advances on both sides of the board, and spent a little while calculating possibilities.

...g4, unanswered, would at least cause the f3 knight to retreat from a very good square. Therefore White played

9. h3

If now, 10...h5 followed by 10...g4 then after 11. hxg4 hxg4 12. Rxh8 Black's rook is lost. White considers the pawn threat on the kingside to be not credible for as long as White remains uncastled on the kingside, which White is currently comfortable with as it looks very difficult for Black to get his pieces even close to the White king.

Black replied with:


beginning a pawn advance on the queenside. White replied:

10. Rb1

taking control of the semi-open file. Now if 10...a5 to prepare for ...b4, White just responds with 11. Rxb5. If 10...b4 immediately, then 11. cxb4, undoubling the pawns with the b4 square defended twice and attacked once, with 12. c3 a possibility to add defence to the d4 pawn.

White considers the pawn threats on both sides of the board now to be not credible, and is surprised at Black's almost complete lack of regard for development and space with all these pawn moves which appear to achieve little.


White immediately notices that this move leaves the Black king uncastled with no squares to move to, since White's dark-squared bishop peers right into the Black camp. It also attacks b5 through the knight, so White calculates the effect of ...a5 now. If 11...a5 12. Rxa5 then the rook is attacked by the bishop if the knight moves. 12...Ne7, Nb8 or Na7 allows the rook to retreat safely. 12...Nxe5, Nxd4 or Nb4 then White captures the knight, and if Black plays 13...Bxb5 then 14. Bxb5+ and White has won two minor pieces for a rook and a pawn and, more significantly, will win the White queen on the next move, since the king has no squares and only the queen to intervene. So, White concludes that 10...Bd7 creates no immediate threats on the queenside.

White took a moment to assess the position. Firstly, the king has not castled, but as explained above, White is comfortably delaying this for the moment. At a minimum, White doesn't see any way for Black to immediately either threaten the king or prevent kingside castling, so there is no reason why White should castle immediately when it will remain an option for at least a few moves.

The two bishops, the knight and the queen's rook appear to be on good squares. Moving the dark squared bishop to c5 - which is weak for Black, since it can never again be protected by a pawn - appears strong, but the bishop won't really do anything different there, and with Black's knight on c6 the move will be also be possible for a while, so there is no reason to play it if White can find a better move immediately.

The most obvious feature of the pieces is that the queen has not yet moved. White, at this point, thinks that ...f6 would be an obvious move for Black to open up the position, even though White's pieces are better placed. If Black does, White would like to have the queen on the e-file which is likely to be open. However, White would also like to have the queen pointing at Black's g5 and h6 pawns, in case he tries something tricky over on the kingside. Therefore, White decides to move the queen to e3 via d2 (better than via e2, since it attacks the pawns immediately, and doesn't leave the light-squared bishop without an escape square, even though it's not under threat). After 11. Qd2 and 12. Qe3, White plans to play 13. Bc5.

11. Qd2

While waiting for Black, White looked at the position, thinking it looks very blocked, and that although Black lags significantly in development and has a very cramped position, there don't seem to be any visible winning chances for White, either, and White starts to wonder whether offering an early draw will become necessary. White also starts to worry that both queen moves and the bishop moves are a little passive, and that having gone ahead in development and cramped Black, White should strive to play far more aggressively and capitalize on his advantages. White looked at pawn moves. Everything on the kingside just looked bad for White, and c4 (the only other possible pawn move until after 13. Bc5) seems to favor Black by opening up the queenside and losing a pawn, as well as not really achieving anything for White. The move just seemed illogical and bad.

White didn't see any real chances for Black, either, since he is so cramped, and his pawn advanced on both the queenside and kingside appear to have been checked. White still thinks that Black will play ...f6 at some point, ripping open the center and leaving things uncertain, although White still thinks his pieces are better, and will be more so once the queen reaches the e-file. Absent, ...f6, White doesn't see chances for either side, and after 13. Bc5, if Black starts shuffling his bishop or making other time-wasting moves, White will offer a draw or force a threefold repetition, since all the alternatives look dubious for White. White starts to think that winning chances will only come if Black makes a mistake of some kind.


Black looks to rip open the center earlier than expected. White considers (rightly, as it turns out) that this would be the turning point of the game, and after seeing the move, delays responding until the evening, where sufficient time can be given to a thorough analysis.

Finally sitting down, White sees within about five seconds that 11...f6 should have had a "??" at the end, since it fails immediately to:

12. Bg6#

and White wins. White is glad to win, but slightly appalled to see that he had given serious consideration to Black's "threat" of ...f6, even after specifically noting that Black's king had no squares, and had failed to see the obvious response. White's moves were all correct, and the analysis of threats was sound, but failing to see the checkmate in one before Black's move was played was as good as a blunder in White's eyes. Knowing that ...f6 was not only not a threat, but led to immediate mate, would have materially affected White's analysis of the position. Indeed, White's queen moves - while doubtless reasonable enough moves in themselves - were predicated on that "threat".

So, White was pleased with his actual play, although less than pleased at the thoroughness of the analysis. White doubtless had a far superior position, although with few winning chances, and only won due to Black's blunder. A technical win, but not one to cheer about.