Analysing My Own Games: Material Imbalance

Analysing My Own Games: Material Imbalance

Feb 8, 2016, 5:03 AM |

One needs a guide when first learning Chess. Beginners are often taught a Queen is worth "9 points", a Rook "5 points", a Bishop and Knight worth "3 points" and a pawn "1 point". One can quickly scan the board, add up the "points" and count who is ahead (on material). Worse still is to look at the pieces captured!


Kasparov speaks of Chess being of Material, Time and Quality. Material we can count. Time we can see who is ahead is faster. Quality ... that's intangible. Who has better coordination, effective pieces and harmony in position. That is very hard to understand.


Very rarely in my own games do I play positions with material imbalance. On the Black side of an Alekhine's Defence I found myself in a very difficult position from the transition of the opening to middlegame. I felt my best course of action was to give up the exchange of a Rook for a Knight and a pawn. In exchange, I'd have centralised Knights and stronghold in the centre. I was happy to survive with a draw after I attempted to make life as difficult as possible for my opponent.


In self analysing the game, I have found great lessons for short comings in my own games. Tactically, I have a weakness for spotting Zwischenzugs (in between moves) at the end of calculation. In searching for the best moves for my opponent, he failed to exchange off the right pieces which would have made me collapse. Finally, I missed chances to obtain greater piece activity.

Opening Lesson: Black to Move


I was faced with a difficult decision: either eradicate the passed c-pawn or defend f7. I didn't know this position was also reached in Panagiotakos-Sismanis Athens 2008 1/2-1/2.

I chose 21. ... Nxc6 to remove the dangerous c-pawn, but also looked hard at 21. ... Nxb5. Yet it is 21. ... Be6 that would be best, for it's difficult for the c-pawn to actually hurt Black (though I saw ghosts).

Zwischenzug got me again: Black to Move


With f7 under pressure, I rejected 22. ... Rd7 on account of 23. Nxf7 Rxf7 24. Nd6 Be6 25. Bxe6 Nxe6 26. Nxf7


In my calculation I reached the above position, only considering 26. ... Kxf7 27. Rxc6 and White is clearly better. So I rejected 22. ... Rf7

I failed to see that Black has 26. ... Ncd4 with threats of Ne2 (rather than the automatic Knight capture).

Another example of a Zwischenzug missed in my calculations.

Target the Weakest Target Immediately

White to Move


My opponent chose the (lazy) developing move 26. Rfd1.

Instead, he should immediately target Black's weakness, the b-pawn.

26. Rb1 dooms the Black Rook to passivity.

Seek Activity: Black to Move


Psychologically having doubled e-pawns which block my dark squared Bishop, my natural reaction was to liberate the long dark diagonal with 30. ... exf4.

I never considered the possibility of 30. ... Ne4 which activates my Knights in the middle of the board, with threats of Nc3.

Zwischenzug again and again

Is 36. ... Kb7 possible?


I rejected 36. ... Kb7 because of the tactical tricks forking e4 and b7.

I had calculated 36. ... Kb7 37. Bxb6 Rxb6 38. Bc6+ Kxa7 39. Rxb6


Having reached this position in calculation, I thought the only move was 39. ... Kxb6 40. Bxe4 and White has decisive advantage.

I failed to see the zwischenzug 39. ... Nd2+ 30. Ke1 Kxb6 and 31. Kxd2 isn't possible due to the skewer of 31. ... Bh6+.

Another example of the inbetween move missed in my calculations. Consider all checks and captures.

Making the Right Exchanges: Improvements for my Opponent Part 1


My opponent played 39. Re2. His priority should have been to exchange off Black's active Rook, after which Black simply has no counterplay. To this end, 39. Rc6 and White has winning advantage.

Making the Right Exchanges: Improvements for my Opponent Part 2


My opponent played 41. Ke1 allowing a draw with 41. ... d3.

Instead, he should exchange off Black's dark squared Bishop so as to get his Rook on the decisive 7th rank with 41. Re7+ Kd8 42. Rxg7 Nxb5


Here White had the fantastic idea of 43. Rc4!! with the idea of 43. ... d3 44. Ra4!! and Black's King suffers

My Game Annotations and Analysis