Analysis #3

Aug 9, 2012, 6:38 AM |
[Event "Let's Play!"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2012.08.02"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Gabriano"]
[Black "gnuvince"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "936"]
[BlackElo "1121"]
[TimeControl "1 in 3 days"]
[Termination "gnuvince won by checkmate"]
1. d4 Nf6 {This opponent pretty much always opens with 1.d4.  I don't know the usual replies to 1.d4, so I usually play 1...d5 or 1...Nf6; 1...d5 contests the middle, 1...Nf6 develops a piece and puts pressure on e4 and d5.
} 2. e3 d5 {White supports his d4 pawn and opens two nice diagonals; now the bishops and the queen can come out easily.  I play 2...d5 to control e4 and c4, as well as making sure he can't get to e4 and have a pawn duo.} 3. Bd3 Nc6 {I wonder if a knight move, such as 3.Nc3 wouldn't have been better for White. I develop another piece and put more pressure on the center.} 4. Nf3 Ne4 {White develops a piece, and I think I make a mistake.  Sure, that's a nice outpost for my knight, but I don't know that I needed to take it right away.  Perhaps 4...e6 would've been better as it would have allowed me to develop my dark-squared bishop.  } 5. O-O e6 {castling early is always good.  I move my e-pawn forward, supporting the d-pawn and opening the way for my bishop.
} 6. c4 {That looks like a small trap: 6...dxc4?? 7.Bxe4 and I've lost a piece for a pawn.  Whatsmore, I've lost a central pawn, so White would have a space advantage in the center.} 6. ... Bd7 {not sure if that's the best move, but it develops a piece at least (though it's not a very active actor in the fight for the center).  6...Be7 was also a possibility and would've allowed me to castle.  I didn't like that it would've locked in my Queen though.  And really, I'd like to get my dark-squared bishop to d6.} 7. c5 b6 {instead of keeping the tension in the center, White pushes his c-pawn again.  I think that developping his other bishop or his other knight would've been better.  That's 4 pawn moves in the opening for him already.  I also see an opportunity (at least, I think it is): I move my own pawn to b6, if he captures, I recapture with axb6 and would gain a few advantages. 1) I'd control a semi-open file, 2) my pawns would all still form one big island, 3) he would lose a pawn that could influence the center.} 8. cxb6 axb6 { went like I planned.  Now, can I use that imbalance to my advantage?} 9. Nc3 {Here's the problem with my 4...Ne4 move (beyond moving a piece twice in the opening): White has two attackers on my knight and I've got only one defender. Now I've got an ugly choice to make.  1) I move the knight again (to f6 or g5) where it is safe, but I lose time, and a very influential piece, 2) I leave the knight where it is an protect it with 9...f5, but this would weaken my king as it wouldn't have a nice 3-pawn home when I castle kingside.  It's also another pawn move instead of a developing move. 3) I trade knights, but in the process, I allow White to bring back a pawn in the fight for the center.  He'd have an isolated pawn on the a-file though.  Chess is hard :-/  Okay, let's look at the current imbalances, and see if they can help me make up my mind.
* Material: even.
* Minor pieces: his dark-squared bishop is bad, my light-squared bishop is bad. Because of its forward outpost, my knight on e4 exerts a lot of pressure on White.  Would I really want to swap it for a knight that is much less inactive?
* Squares and files: e4 is a nice outpost for my knight, but can be pressured heavily.  The center is closed, so bishops are not very effective at the moment.  I control the only open file.
* Development: White is ahead, having developed 5 pieces against my 3.
* Space: if we use the Seirawan's count method, I have a space advantage overall (8 vs. 14)
* Time: Because he's forcing me to do something about my knight on e4, White has the time advantage.
* Pawn structure: He's got 2 pawn island, I've got one.  I guess that's a slight imbalance in my favor.
Now let's consider my candidate moves in light of these imbalances.
9...Ng5: I keep my pawn structure, my king can still castle into a nice safe home and the knight lives to fight another day.  On the other hand, this loses me time, space (I'd go from 14 to 13)
9...Nf6: same as with 9...Ng5, but loses more space.
9...f5: my good knight is there to stay, but I'll have to worry a little more about king safety later on.  Gains more space, but creates massive dark-square weaknesses.
9...Nxc3: doesn't look like a good idea.  Immediately followed by 10.bxc3 and I've lost my good knight for an average one and allowed White to get another pawn back in the center fight.
So, based on the imbalances, my two best options seem to be 9...Ng5 and 9...f5.
OK, so I couldn't decide between the two, so I went with 9...f5 because I feel that it's stronger to leave my knight on its advanced outpost.
} 9. ... f5 10. Bd2 {developing another piece, his bad Bishop.  White looks cramped in this position.  Space count is 8-14 for Black.  I'm trying to think what is next move might be.  Does he have any threats?  His Knight on f3 can't really move, I don't think he'd want to weaken his kingside by moving either the g or h pawns.  He can bring out his Queen, but what for?  I suspect the next move is either 11.Nb5 (which doesn't seem to accomplish much) or moving either of his a or b pawns.  
Me, I like the move 10...Bd6: it centralizes my good Bishop, adds another defender to e5 (11. Ne5? Nxe5 12. dxe5 Bxe5) and would allow me to castle.  White still has an advantage in development, so I need to start getting my pieces involved.  If 11. Ne5, that Bishop would be attacked.  If he was to capture, I could either recapture with cxd6, thus doubling my pawns or with Nxd6, but I'd lose my advanced knight for a turn.
10...Nb4 is also a possibility, attacking the Bishop on d3.  White would do what then? Most likely, move his Queen to capture back.
I think that 10...Bd6 is more constructive, and Nb4 is still available next turn.
} 10. ... Bd6 11. b3 {Pretty much the kind of move I expected.  Does it have any constructive value?  It does take away c4 for my knight, but it's not like I had any intentions of bringing it there.  It also prepares a4, followed by a5.  Is that really so bad?
- 11...Nb4: Now that I look at it more seriously, I'm beginning to doubt its value.  Perhaps I can't see the entire thing, but it seems that it just loses time.  11...Nb4 12.Qb1 and now it's just a trade of a bishop for a knight, with centralization of his queen and now he could bring is knight to b5.
- 11...O-O: sound very reasonable: although the position is closed, I'd rather not have my king so exposed, and it brings my other rook into the fight.} 11. ... O-O 12. a4 {Hey, I must be getting the hang of this chess thing, cause that's two moves in a row that I've guessed correctly for White!  
- Qe7: This would connect my Rooks, and add a third defender for e5.  If next move I decide to push e5, I can take care of that threat and my Queen is on the side of the board that I want her to be on.  What's my line then? 12...Qe7 13. a5 ???  Do I push e5 at that point or do I deal with the pawn on a5?  And if I deal with the pawn, how do I do that?  13. a5 Rxa5 14. Rxa5 bxa5, up a pawn, but I've isolated the a pawn and lost the open file.  13. a5 bxa5 14. Nb5 maybe?  Doesn't look like I'm a happy camper.  What if I push e5 instead?  13. a5 e5 14. axb6 cxb6?} 12. ... Qe7 13. Nb5 { Proof once more that I should stop and consider more moves for my opponent.  Wondering if Nb4 wouldn't have been a good idea?  I'll see about that later.  So, he's attacking my good bishop and my pawn on c7, which would also attack the rook on a8 if he captures.  Now what?  Bring the queen back, move the light-squared bishop or bring rook to c8...} 13. ... Be8 14. Bxe4 fxe4 15. Ne1 Bxh2+ 16. Kh1 Qh4 17. g3 Bxg3+ 18. Kg2 Qh2# 0-1

(Sorry about not including the board, apparently my comments were too long for's PGN viewer)

Here's my third game analysis.  In the PGN, you'll find the thoughts I had during the game.  In the rest of the post, I'll go over some of the moves that I did and what I should have done instead.


4...Ne4: I wasn't sure about that move, and Stockfish and's analysis engine both confirm that it was a mistake.  Instead, I should have developed my light-squared bishop.  Playing 5...e6 like I did pretty much made sure that it would be very hard to get my light-squared bishop anywhere useful.  4...Bg4 would've also put a pin on White's f3 knight, so I could have played 5...e5, which looks stronger.  Either way, here's what I should take from this move:


- There's a reason the "don't move a piece twice in the beginning unless absolutely necessary" advice is given in every book and every article for newbies.  When you want to move a piece a second time, you should find a very good reason not to move another piece instead.  Here, I could've developed my bishop and if I wanted my knight on e4, it would've been possible a little later on.

- Even in the opening, I should look for tactics a little more; by pinning his knight to his queen, I am preventing him from using it as a defender.

- A corollary to the "when you see a good move, look for a better one" idea would be "when you see a bad move, don't play it."


6...Bd7: Stockfish doesn't like this, and recommends 6...Be7 instead.  I guess that's to allow me to castle.  Also, it's not like this "development" move does anything, as I wrote in my notes.


9...f5: Stockfish lists this as the best move in the current position.  It was an important move, and I thought about it logically, and came up with the answer.  I should tattoo "9...f5" on my arm to remind me that when I take the time to consider the whole position and analyze the different candidate moves, I can come up with the correct responses once in a while.


13...Be8: I stopped noting my thoughts after this move (sorry!), but my thinking here was that I wanted to play on the kingside.  Now that I look at the position again, I can see that pretty much all my pieces are eyeing the queenside!  Stockfish recommends 13...Rfc1 which would've brought my whole army to the queenside.  I was too taken aback by the fact that I missed this move to properly assess the situation and respond correctly.  I noted earlier that I didn't know what Nb5 would do.  It attacks my bishop and my pawn, but they're mutually defending one another, so there was no real problem there.


15...Bxh2+: I was reading the previous night about sacrificing a piece to bring out the king, and that's what I wanted to do here.  I tried calculating in my head all the different variations that could happen, and I could see that it would not lead to mate, but I was hoping that I could destroy his king safety and make it harder for him.  Of course, when he played Kh1, I was able to find the mate sequence.  Happy about the win, but not completely satisfied about how I played.


Remember: assess the *whole* position, understand what the opponent is trying to do, think clearly about the moves, make the correct move.