Rejoining the fight - game 3

NM dsanchez1973
Mar 28, 2016, 5:43 PM |

So, after my first two games back resulting in a (relatively) fighting loss against an IM and a draw from a favourable position against another IM, I was reasonably happy with the tournament so far considering all factors. Now it was time to change all that with one of the most dispiriting things that can happen in  a chess tourney - the steamrolling loss.

My opponent is a young FM, and in preparing I expected a Najdorf. I generally prefer Be3 as a response, and am very comfortable against e6 and Ng4 as the responses, but less so against e5. Fortunately, in my preparation, I found a full video on the subject by GM Shankland on (you can find it by searching for "Shankland Teaches the Najdorf: 6.Be3 e5"). Watching it a few times, I figured I had it down, so let's see what happened.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Qd2 Be7 9. f4 exf4 10. Bxf4

As predicted! And in fact, in the above video, Shankland specifically covers this as a possibility at 2:04 of the above video, and mentions that black's move order was not the most accurate due to the possibility of 9.f4. I also recalled that he had stated that after 10...0-0 11.0-0-0 Nc6 12.Bxd6, black does not have enough for the pawn. However, my opponent played something different, so I was on my own, or so I thought.

10...Nc6 11. O-O-O Ne5

However! I am actually not on my own, as Shankland reaches this position later in the video via a different move order (at 5:33 of the video). However, this was lost on me, and I had to come up with my own idea. One thing I did realize about this - it was useful to watch the video, and it helped me get into the game with an ok position, but it didn't replace experience in an opening. I've seen many players in my life talk about "I'll play a tourney when I feel strong enough" or "I'm going to start playing such and such opening when I know it better". Nothing speeds up your learning curve faster than playing classical chess, because those games leave an impression on you. Unfortunately, sometimes to make that impression, you have to have it squashed into your soul, and I begin down the wrong path immediately.

12. Qe1 Qc7 13. Nd4 O-O 14. Kb1 b5 15. Nf5 Rfc8 16. Qd2 Bxf5 17. exf5 b4 18. Na4 Qc6 19. b3 Ne4

On the one hand, it's heartening to see that I sort of came up with the theoretically approved plan (Nd4-f5, which isn't necessarily obvious), but unfortunately, I've thrown in a few random moves like Qe1 and Kb1, and now his attack is here and mine is nowhere. The outlines of the end were already visible to me, and I suspect the clear vision of the end to him. White's weakness on c3 and the long diagonal are just going to be untenable. There's no defense and I prove it emphatically by losing quickly.

20. Qe2 Bf6 21. Rg1 Nf3 22. Qc4 Nxg1 23. Qxc6 Rxc6 24. Bc4 Rxc4 25. bxc4 Ne2 0-1


Well, there's nothing fun about that.

So, any illusions I had about maybe being just as good or better as I was previously were kind of shattered by that game, along with most of my confidence; I prepared, I got my opening, I was white, and I crumbled like two week old bread. Nonetheless, every game has something to learn, and this was no exception.

Learning 1: Some specific stuff about this opening; the f4 idea after Be6+Be7 is actually super common and I've played the white side many times in blitz subsequently. If I want to play 6.Be3, it's really important to know.

Learning 2: when preparing an opening, it's important to watch out for transpositions; I had an idea what to do after 9.f4 exf4 10.Bxf4 Nc6, but the position in the game was covered in the video under the move order 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Qd2 Nbd7 9. f4 exf4 10. Bxf4 Ne5 11. O-O-O Be7 

Learning 3: There's no time for quiet moves early in the opening when castling on opposite sides. If you're considering an opposite castling sicilian, and you're thinking Qe1 and Kb1 are the way to go, you need a new plan because it just doesn't pass the sniff test; it's fine to ignore general principles of chess (such as making slow moves in a fast position), but you need to have concrete ideas as to why it's ok. There was no such concrete idea here, and it was proven that sometimes, the general principles exist for a reason.

So, down to minus 2 after three rounds and the likely end of my chances to play titled players (despite the field being something like 70% IMs or better). Next round: back down with the other people who have a mortal understanding of chess.