Analysis of a loss
This is my analysis of a game that I lost as white against a fellow chess beginner. I became interested in chess in July, and I'm hoping that by July 2013, I am a much better player than I am now. But as you'll see with this game, my road is probably going to be a long one :)
1. e4 e5
A standard opening as I understand. I find the opening really difficult. People have told me some basic principles such as "fight for the center", "avoid moving the same piece twice", "knight before bishops", "castle early", "keep your queen back", etc. All good advice, I'm sure, but I inevitably find myself tangling my pieces: I'll often have a knight blocking my bishop, a pawn preventing my knight from moving, etc. So far, I seem to have less of those problems with e4 that with other openings, so that's what I went with.
2. Nf3 Nc6
My knight attacks his pawn, his knight defends it. Our knights also attack the d4 square. He's got two defenders, so I'd need at least as many before moving my queen pawn there.
3. Bb5 a6
Deploying my bishop, ready to castle when I want to, but he forces me to move my bishop a second time. I also like 3. Bc4. I like experimenting with both.
4. Ba4 Nf6
I move out of the way and he brings out a knight, attacking my e4 pawn. At this point, I have a hard decision:
- 5. d3: I protect my center pawn, but this move is timid, and it'll be harder (and lose me some time) to move to d4. It has the advantage of opening my dark-squared bishop.
- 5. Nc3: Protecting my knigh and developing a piece is nice, but the knight is gonna block the c2 pawn which prevents c3 followed by d4 to take control of the center
- 5. Qe2: I don't think that bringing my queen out this early is wise; he could probably make me lose a few turns moving her around to avoid being captured.
I'm not sure what else is available, so I went with 5. d3.
5. d3 b5
I defend, he attacks. My bishop is attacked again, and I need to move it again. This gains him some space in my queenside, and loses me precious development time.
6. Bb3 Bb7
I move out of the way to the only square available and he fianchettos his bishop. When he moves his knight (d4 looks like a nice outpost), his bishop will exert a lot of power in the center. I decide that if he's gonna move his knight, it's going to be to a bad spot (back on the 7th or 8th rank, or on the rim), so I move to c3.
7. c3 Bc5
I take away two landing squares for his knight, and he brings out his other bishop. He has way better development than me; his four minor pieces are out and doing something useful. I have two minor pieces out, and it's gonna be ackward to bring them out. Seriously, how do I do that? My knight can go on the rim, where he affects the game very little or to d2, which would block my dark squared bishop. My bishop is not going to be any more fun to extract. If I move it to g5, he can do like he did on the queen side and chase it away, thus making my lose time again, blocking a pawn again, and gaining him even more space. Using Yasser Seirawan's method, the space count is 9 to 13 for black.
8. O-O d6
Castling is fine I suppose, but I have to admit I played it more because I couldn't see what else to play. His 8...d6 move brings a defender to his bishop (though it wasn't in any real danger) and solidifies his e5 pawn.
9. Re1 O-O
Another "not really sure what to do" move. I keep talking about how he can push me around and make me lose time, but I don't know what I'd use the time for anyway...
By the way, I still have no real plan at this point. I should start working on that. Maybe next move.
Black castles. Seems like a perfectly good time to do so.
10. c4 Ng4
Remember how I said that I played 7. c3 to take away landing squares for his knight? Look at me completely forgetting about that. The idea here was to bring my b2 knight to d5, which would be a nice advance outpost for it.
According to Stockfish, the game went from being about equal (0.0) to being in black's favor (-0.8). Let's see what else I could have played.
- 10. Be3: create a tension between the two bishops
- 10. Bg5: pin the knight to the queen
- 10. Nh4: with the intention of going to the f4 outpost
- 10. a4: trade pawns and open a file for my a1 rook
11. Nc3 Bxf2+
On the previous move, I was planning to bring my b1 knight to d5, so that's what I'm doing... and I completely miss the fact that f2 was very vulnerable and black forks me like the patzer that I am. This is not the first time this has happened, it won't be the last (spoiler alert: he's gonna do it again in this very same game), but it's okay: I'm learning, and if getting my butt kicked by simple tactics is what it takes to get me to pay more attention to the board situation, then so be it. Hopefully I will have less and less of those embarrassing forks, pins and skewers to report in my games (at least, done against me!)
12. Kh1 Bxe1
All right, so I move my king out of danger, and he takes my rook. So right now, he has a rook and a pawn for a bishop. The material imbalance is definitely in his favor. I got to admit that after this move, I started playing a lot faster, and a lot more poorly. That's probably another thing I'm gonna have to work on; when shit happens, I should not just give up, I should instead look at the board for a really long time, and figure out what's in my favor and work very hard to take advantage of it. I may still lose, but I should make the most of a loss instead of just giving it to my opponent.
13. Qxe1 b4
I take back with my queen. I thought about taking with my knight, but what good does that do? Exposed attack on his knight that he can very easily escape from and now I've got a knight that's on my backrank. Queen capture is definitely right.
13...b4 threatening to take my knight. Well, my plan before was to get to d5, so I guess I should just bring it there.
14. Nd5 a5
Black probably wants to keep pushing his a pawn and move my bishop (or hope that I get another major brain fart and capture). This gives him more space on the queenside, although I'm not sure what he needs the space for, I think he should developping and pushing on the kingside. But what do I know? :)
15. Bd1 a4
As I look at my pieces, my queen and dark-squared bishop are aiming at the kingside, the two knights have influence on the kingside. If I'm to develop anywhere, it should be on the kingside, so why don't I bring my light-squared bishop to that side?
My opponent keeps pushing a4. Still not exactly sure why, but I still think that developping on the kingside would be his best bet. Perhaps Qd7, Rae8, Bc8 with a push on his pawns?
16. Nxb4 Nxb4
Forgetting all about my idea to attack the kingside, I see a way to gain a pawn which will bring one of my knights and my queen to the wrong side of the board. Stockfish tells me that I went from a -1.6 underdog to a -3.1 underdog. Yeah, that pawn was not worth it. What were better possibilities?
- 16. Qg3: attack the stupid knight and get it out of my zone.
- 16. h3: attack the knight, give a dark flight square to my king. Perhaps 17. g4 would not be out of the question?
- 16. Bd2: make my bishop a little more active, allow my root to move out of its pawn cage.
- 16. Be2: prepare to bring my rook out.
But, that's not what happened. I take the pawn with my knight, he takes my knight with his knight, and...
17. Qxb4 Nf2+
I take the knight with my queen, wait, what?! Forked again? Oh man! Getting that knight out last turn would've been such a better idea. At this point, I was positively angry with myself. I play these 3 days/move games because they allow me to consider a position and if I don't know what to do, I can just walk away, take a few hours to clear my head, come back later and perhaps see something I didn't see earlier.
At this point, I'm seriously thinking that I should have a clock for those games, an actual clock, and that I should take 3-5 minutes every turn to consider my opponent's perspective, try to devise a plan from his point of view, try to find the best moves and tactics. That might sound ridiculous, but it's definitely not as ridiculous as being forked twice in the same game!
18. Kg1 Nxd1
So I move my king, and he takes my bishop. According to Stockfish, at this point I'm about a -4.0 underdog.
19. Qxb7 Rb8
I guess I'm lucky that I can immediately get back the material he took from me. Of course, my queen is all the way on the queenside in black's half of the board. Hardly useful for me. We'll have to bring her back now. I also note that I have a good bishop + a semi central knight vs a knight that's basically dead. Watch me as I don't really accomplish anything with this imbalance.
Black decides to take control of the open b-file.
20. Qd5 Rc8
I move my queen out of harm's way. Zig-zagging between the a and b file would've surely brought about a queen's exchange and that would've been bad for me.
And black goes back to a closed file? What for? His rook was way more powerful on b8 than on c8; Stockfish reports that he went from a 4.0 favorite to a 0.4 favorite.
21. Bg5 Qd7
Remember how I said that my plan earlier was to bring my forces to the kingside? Instead of working to bring back my queen, I decide to make a bad move. I'm gonna threaten his queen. What am I thinking?! That's not the important thing to do right now! Qa5 next time, Vince! Geez...
Black responds with Qd7, which actually now makes me a favorite! Stockfish reports a +1.9 advantage for white. According to the software, the best move for black here was 21...c6 which would've brought about an exchange of queen which surely benefits him.
22. Rxd1 c6
In the interest of still completely ignoring the plan I had, I take the completely harmless knight.
Black answers with c6...
23. Nxe5 Qa7+
And I decide not to save my queen? No, I'm being greedy! I'm gonna get a PAWN! OOH! I mean, he's obviously going to take my queen with cxd5 and I'm gonna get his with Nxd7, what could possibly go wrong?
Check to the king. Err... That's what, the 3rd time I've fallen victim to a tactic this game? I should stop practicing the tactics where I'm on the offense and spend a lot more time practicing those where I would be on the receiving end!
24. Kh1 cxd5
Back up my king, pawn takes queen. Nice in-between move buddy. Wish I'd seen it. I decide not to resign just to let him checkmate me, but this game is officially over. And there's nothing really interesting to say until the end of the game. GG!
So, what did I learn in this game?
1. BEWARE OF YOUR OPPONENT'S TACTICS! Like I said, I'm going to start systematically spending 3-5 minutes per move looking for the best move for my opponent.
2. Don't let a stray pawn distract you from a plan. The plan may not work when you bring it to fruition, but it'll definitely not work if you forget about it two moves after you formulated it!
3. The opening is tricky; all the pieces and pawns are cramped. Thought I don't want to study openings now, I should definitely look some up to see how they keeps their pieces from interferring with one another.
4. BEWARE OF YOUR OPPONENT'S TACTICS!
5. Don't stop playing your best and thinking seriously about moves the minute something goes wrong. That will never win any games, and will never help become a better player.