Rejoining the fight - game 7

NM dsanchez1973
Apr 24, 2016, 6:19 AM |

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.

With the PokerStars masters now over, it was time to turn my attention to the City championships, which would present an entirely different challenge. After being one of the lowest rated players in the masters and thus facing little or no pressure, I would come into the citys as the #2 seed, and the #2 seed by a good margin (I believe I had about 150 point margin on #3).  So, in this tourney, I'll be looking for wins and lots of them.

[Event "Douglas Champs"]

[Round "1"]

[White "the big dumdum"]

[Black "Griffin, J."]

[Result "1-0"]

[ECO "C11"]

[WhiteElo "2096"]

[BlackElo "1623"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3

So far, very standard French Steinitz. There are those who believe it's not a dynamic enough way to play when you face a lower rated player; I like to believe significantly lower rated players are planning to make mistakes, and I don't need to engage in wild risky behaviour to induce them. I can't say I have scored amazingly well from this position as white, but I'm comfortable with it at least.

7..f6 8. Qd2 cxd4 9. Nxd4 Nxd4 10. Bxd4 fxe5 11. fxe5 Be7 12. Qf2

Rather than the usual plan in this line of black playing on the queenside and leaving the center blocked up, he has opened the position, which I don't think is great; it gives more scope to my bishops, his knight is kind of weirdly placed, and his light squared bishop remains bad. That said, if he can castle, it might be ok, so the next bit revolves just around if I can stop him from castling, in which case he'll struggle to untangle.

12...a6 13. O-O-O Bg5+ 14. Kb1 Rf8 15. Qg3

Black is playing kind of planlessly; none of the moves in and of themselves lose, but the pieces are just getting misplaced. For example, Bg5+ seemed active and such, but without the bishop on e7, his knight can't activate to c5. The Rook on f8 is nicely placed, but it's become impossible to castle, and g7 is weak. Black is running out of active moves quickly, and under pressure, the blunders start.

15..Rf7 16. Nxd5 Rxf1 17. Rhxf1 exd5

I have met many players who say that when they study tactics, they're great because they know something's there and find it. This is the kind of position where obviously something is there, and I didn't take enough time; black's position looked and felt so bad to me that I assumed almost anything would win, with my first inclination just to push my e-pawn until it was gone, then mate black down the center files. It ends up not being quite that easy, and I miss a fairly easy win here with Qf3, when f7 and d5 cannot both be defended, and black is left with no hope of untangling.

18. e6 Nf8 19. e7 Bxe7 20. Qxg7 Qd6 21. Rde1 Be6 22. Be5

By now, I was getting quite irritated that a straightforward win was not visible to me - he hasn't castled, I have all the center files open, and somehow his mass of pieces are holding. In fact, if he manages to 0-0-0, the game will be fully in the balance. A move like Qd7 here doesn't exactly leave me with a stunning attacking line to continue with. However, fortunately a blunder...

Qc6 23. Bf6 Qd7 24. Bxe7 Qxe7

25. Rxf8+ 1-0

I left feeling a bit unlucky that his king seemed to have found a safe haven until he blundered, but the computer obviously crushed my feelings of bad luck, and replaced them with feelings of inadequacy. Yes, I played fine in the opening and found a nice move with Nxd5, but the followup was far from convincing, and a stronger player might easily have escaped due to my mistakes.

Definitely some easy takeaways from this game:

1) Just because you're winning, doesn't mean you can relax. Until the game is truly over and a "matter of technique", there's still work to do. There was no time shortage or reason other than a lazy feeling of "he's gonna collapse any second here" to not calculate.

2) The tactical pattern of Qf3; one thing I have noticed (and I think it's sort of normal for experienced players) is to feel that tactics have to be complicated and build up; one movers aren't likely to be successful. In reality, sometimes you can just make one move threats when your position is great, and your opponent can't really do anything about it. Moves like 18.Qf3 don't spend a lot of time in my evaluation tree simply because it feels like an amateurish threat that is easily defended. 18.e6 feels stronger because it's pushing him back, opening lines, sacrificing, activating my second rook, etc. In reality, it's not.

Despite not what I would call a stellar performance, I'm off to a 1-0 start. Next up: trying to break down a lower rated player in a solid position.