Rejoining the fight - game 5
This is a blog about a former NM who basically retired from serious chess for about 15 years to pursue family and career, trying to make a mini comeback without studying too much or working too hard. Each blog will see me annotate a game from my tournament play, with a general smattering of my thoughts during the game, and what I hopefully learned from it.
Now sitting at a sort of ok 1/4, given that I've been paired way up 3 times and equally paired once, I was reasonably ok with my tournament, but starting to get the itch for an actual win. My mood wasn't really helped by the fact that I probably should have won both of the games that I drew, but on the other hand, my rust was still pretty evident.
Unfortunately, I was paired for a second straight black, but I figured black against an even opponent this round, and if I win, at least I would have white in the last round against a higher rated player. My initial investigation didn't really yield too much in the way of information about my opponent.
[Event "PokerStars Masters"]
[White "Logallo, C."]
[Black "the big dumdum"]
1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. e3 Nf6 5. Ne5
I've often over my years of playing have players ask for lessons, or seen players taking lessons, and one of the things I have always felt is that if you're trying to improve, one of the things you have to realize is what you play well, and what you don't play well, and spend most of your opening study trying to steer into what you do well and avoid what you do badly. From personal experience, I know vividly that I handle the black side of this kind of structure extremely badly - I know you have to try to destabilize the knight on e5, I know you have to level the pawn center open, but I just never feel comfortable facing this sort of setup with black, and often lose quite badly. I have various ways to avoid it when my opponent plays it straightforwardly (as in, say, the Stonewall or Colle), but I played too quickly in the opening here and only now realized I was in a position that, while objectively nothing special for white, is one I find unpleasant.
5...Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd7 7. Bxc6 Bxc6 8.O-O Bd6 9. f4 O-O 10. Rf3
White couldn't really be attacking more stereotypically for this line. I was a little surprised at his Bb5xc6 line, feeling that in this sort of situation, white usually wants to keep his light squared bishop as a valuable attacking piece. Without it, his attack must break through with, at most, a Q+R+N, which aren't going to coordinate very well unless I substantially weaken my own kingside. As such, I should be endeavouring to leave the kingside untouched, and use the queenside as a a method to break into his position. However, fixated on this idea that I must dislodge his knight from e5, I continued along that vein.
10...Nd7 11. Rh3 f6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Qh5
Now the issues are laid bare with my plan. Thanks to my slavish devotion to getting his knight out of e5, I've played f6 and weakened my kingside. The rather crude threat against h7 means I have to now weaken it even further, and give up more squares. This allows my opponent the choice of attacking, or taking an immediate forced draw. To my disappointment, given that I was looking for a win today, he took the immediate draw.
13...h6 14. Qg6 Kh8 15. Rxh6+ gxh6 16. Qxh6+ Kg8 17. Qg6+ Kh8 18. Qh6+ 1/2-1/2
A new experience after this game for me, as we had to briefly explain our short draw to the arbiters as this tournament was played under the "no early draws" rules. Of course, with two players who were nearly in last place out of over 100 players, the arbiters didn't exactly grill us, but it was still something I'd never been through before.
What did I learn from this game? This is actually a really worthwhile one to stop and think about for a bit; the natural reaction is obviously just "well we played a few moves, then he sacked a rook for a quick perpetual. Not much of a game.". However, I did take a few things away..
Learning 1: take your time in the opening, especially if your opponent is playing obscure or unusual moves. I snapped out 2..e6 quickly, thinking he'd just play 3.e4 and we'd be in a french defence; if he does do that, fine, I know what I'm doing. However, if he doesn't do that, what the heck is the point of playing 2...e6? Guarding a pawn that's perfectly fine? Blocking in my own bishop? Lazy thinking here, and definitely a spot to invest a bit more time.
Learning 2: It's great to have some basis for your middlegame plan. However, as the position evolves, that plan can't just be static; it has to change based on whether what you thought you wanted to accomplish is worth the price it's going to take. I had the tunnel vision hard in this game, pursued a grand total of one idea, and while it didn't kill me, certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth. On one hand, you could argue my opponent was fortunate to have this perpetual; on the other, I was fortunate his attack didn't have one extra tempo to get home.
One round left, and I am sitting at +0 -2 =3, not exactly a tournament filled with glory, and a tournament that so far, I have a lot of regrets about; in two games I've been brutally outplayed, in two games I've let winning positions collapse into draws, and in this game, I barely got my mind into the game before it ended.
Coming soon - a shot at the big bucks in the last round, all you have to do is beat zee German