Rejoining the fight - game 9

NM dsanchez1973
May 2, 2016, 3:51 PM |

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 first two rounds over and a perfect score intact, I missed round 3 due to other committments, so now was facing a half point deficit on the leaders, so no draws or losses would be likely to be sufficient. Fortunately, my next opponent was again significantly lower rated and seemed to play a line I enjoy facing with white. With everything in my favor, what could go wrong?

[Event "Douglas Champ"]

[Round "4"]

[White "the big dumdum"]

[Black "Miah, Z."]

[Result "1-0"]

[ECO "B90"]

[WhiteElo "2096"]

[BlackElo "1668"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 Ng4 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Bg7 10. Be2

So far, so good and a position I've not only studied, but have actually played before. I'll spare you the long theoretical discussion but it generally leads to a very wild position where nobody is safe and nothing makes sense, which is exactly the kind of position I like. I've mentioned in other posts that I believe opening play is much more about getting to the kind of positions you like than memorizing moves, and this is a position I like. My opponent does deviate from what I knew to be the standard ...h5 here, leaving me on my own going forward.

10...Ne5 11. Qd2 Bd7 12. O-O-O Nbc6 13. Nf5 Bxf5 14. exf5 b5 

 White has gone down a bit of a wrong path but black has also followed suit; I knew the main plan for white revolved around an early Nf5, so I was quite happy to see Bd7, which meant I'd save a tempo over the normal lines, and in sharp positions like this, a tempo can mean a lot. My next move, while seemingly a random demonstration on the kingside, is meant primarily to ensure the black king must stay in the middle by opening things up; once I'm sure he's staying in the middle, I'll try and open the center up as fast and aggressively as possible, with a presumed mate to follow shortly. 

15. h4 g4 16. Nd5 Rb8 17. f6 exf6 18. Rhe1 f5 19. f4 gxf3 20. gxf3 O-O

So, as planned, I've violently and rapidly opened the center, stuffed my knight on a dominant square, and destabilized his knight on e5. So...time to win somehow? His 0-0 seemed pretty forced, but surely this must be good for white. Let's start by picking up the f5 pawn and getting our knight in his king's face.

21. Ne3 Nc4 22. Bxc4 bxc4

And suddenly the horror on b2 started to become clear. It had seemed that a relatively easy attack was very rapidly backfiring on me as all of black's pieces have simple lines into my king.

23. c3 Qa5 24. a3 Rxb2

I still, to be honest, didn't believe this was a serious attack that was a problem. Yes, it looks dangerous, but I just felt like it should be refutable. After 25...Bxc3 I would have been proven very wrong as I have no defense. My opponent plays a natural looking move instead and runs into a nasty in between move that saves everything and leaves white with an insurmountable material edge.

25. Qxb2 Rb8 26. Nxc4 Qa4 27. Nb6 Qa5 28. Rd5 Qxb6 29. Qxb6 Rxb6 30. Rxd6 Bxc3 31. Re8+ Kg7 32. Bf2 Bb2+ 33. Kd1 Bxa3 34. Bd4+ Nxd4 35. Rxb6 Nxf3 36. Rb3 1-0

I left the club this night feeling pretty happy; I'd seemingly played the opening well, induced a faulty attack, collected the material and won pretty quickly. The computer, of course, shattered those illusions, and it was strictly due to luck that my opponent didn't walk away with a big scalp and a crushing and beautiful win. While other games are sometimes a bit difficult to learn from, this one certainly isn't.

Learning 1: When an opponent deviates from the norm in an opening, it's worth spending time to determing why what he played isn't played. In this particular case, after 10...Ne5 (as opposed to the usual ...h5) , white should realize it's now safe to castle kingside because black can't really get in ..h5. Without ...h5, black's kingside just looks weirdly placed and a nice target for a future f4.

Learning 2: "this doesn't feel like it should work" is a phrase that needs to be eradicated from my thinking in this kind of position. It's a hard, concrete position where sacrifices must be calculated and considered and done accurately. Things need to be double checked, unusual candidate moves need to be considered, and time needs to be taken. You can be sure when your opponent is on this attack, he's going to be creative and imaginative and consider every weird capture or sacrifice imaginable and you better do the same. We saw this underestimation of my opponent's chances and lack of solid calculation in a previous game in this blog, so it doesn't look like I've really learned very much so far.

Despite all my failings in this game and the fortunate escape, I move to 3.5/4. After the #1 seed was upset early, I have a date with the tourney leader next round with black. Next up: trying to make something out of not much.