Quick notes from a game I just drew
I played a very interesting game of chess with a colleague of mine this week. We've played chess a few times this summer, and I think this is the first game where nobody made a very bad tactical blunder that cost the game.
1.d4: I've been playing the Queen's pawn opening lately, and I'm liking it more and more. Somehow, it seems that the middle game is more varied and offers more possibilities than 1.e4.
1...d5: pretty much what I expected from this opponent.
2.c4: as far as Queen's pawn openings go, I pretty much only know the Queen's Gambit. I don't know it very well, but I like how it allows White to go strong into the center at the cost of a pawn. And since that pawn can be recaptured later anyway, it's a very attractive opening for White.
2...dxc4: I know this opponent well, and he thinks about the game completely logically. I figured that he would accept the gambit, because he's up a pawn. Interesting side note: this opponent and myself both work on a software project called Gambit.
3.Nf3: I've been toying with a few different moves after the capture of the c-pawn. I usually like 3.e4, 3.Nc3 looks okay, and this time I decided to go with the other Knight.
3...Nf6: developing, I imagine this move is considered pretty standard.
4.e3: with the Knight of f4, I can't thrust to e4, so I open up the diagonal for my light-squared Bishop, add more protection to my central d-pawn, and threaten the lonely Black pawn.
4...b5: I was sure that this move was coming. As I said, this opponent plays logically and he doesn't want to give up his material advantage. I'm not sure what theory says is best here, but perhaps developing the light-squared Bishop to e6 to protect the pawn would be better? The e-pawn would be stuck in, but it's a developing move at least.
5.a4: I saw this move in another game, and decided to try it myself. If Black captures, I can capture back with my Queen giving check at the same time and then snatch the advanced c-pawn.
5...c6: protecting the pawn, but I played a4 with the firm intention of grabbing the b-pawn.
6.axb5: my Queenside rook can now come out and play if it wants to.
6...cxb5: keeping his pawn advantage by recapturing.
7.b3: pretty happy with this move, I challenge the c-pawn, and if it captures, the Bishop and Queen can grab both c-file pawns.
7...Be6: Black tries to hold on to the c-pawn desperately, but I had already spotted a nice in-between move to finally get my pawn back.
8.bxc4: I grab the pawn.
8...bxc4: opponent tries to maintain the material advantage. I can't capture with my Bishop, but look at the little move I can perform.
9.Qa4+: I put Black in check and position a second attacker on the c4 pawn. Black can't react to the check and add more pawn protection.
9...Qd7: Blocking the check. I don't capture the Queen, because that would prevent me from capturing the pawn on c4.
10.Bxc4: I finally get even on material. Now, if Black captures my Bishop, I capture back with my Queen. If he comes for my Queen, my Rook captures back and protects my Bishop at the same time.
10...Qxa4: decides to get rid of the Queens.
11.Rxa4: At this point, I have three pieces developed to his two and I have two central pawns. I notice that since 3 pawns for each side have been exchanged, the board is going to be relatively open, so I begin to think of ways that I could trade one of my Knight for a Bishop.
11...Bd7: attacking my rook. I wonder if he thought I'd trade light-squared Bishops and that by taking with fxe6 his pawn structure would suffer too much?
12.Ra2: going back to safety. I decide to stay on the second rank so that doubling rooks is going to be easier.
12...e6: because of my pawn center, he can't thrust his pawn as far forward as he'd like. This move also opens up his dark-squared Bishop.
13.O-O: the field is open, so I need to get my King to safety. The second Rook is ready for action as well.
13...Bd6: centralizing his Bishop, making way for his King to castle.
14.Ne5: Looking back, this may not have been the most precise move, but I was still pursuing my goal of trading a Knight for a Bishop. Here, I could either capture the light-squared Bishop right out, or be captured by the dark-squared Bishop and capture back with my pawn. One problem of capturing with the pawn is that it would weaken my pawn structure (which is why I don't like the move anymore). I wonder what I could've done? Perhaps bring my a2 rook to c2 and be ready to double up on that file? Perhaps not a bad idea, because as you'll see, my Rook won't be too great on a2 later on.
14...O-O: opponent decides to castle instead of capturing.
15.Nxd7: I'm happy; I get to keep my pawn structure intact, and attain my goal of trading my Knight for a Bishop.
15...Nbxd7: captures by developing a piece. I noticed something: he has more pieces developed than I do. Just goes to show that development is a dynamic imbalance and that eventually your opponent will catch up with you.
16.Nc3: I think this is an awful move, and was probably in response to his having more pieces developed. I should've probably done something else, like 16.Ba3. We'd exchange Bishops and it'd be BN vs NN. Instead, I wanted to keep the Bishop pair, so I played this weak move.
16...Rfc8: great, now my Bishop is pinned. For a guy who wanted to keep a Bishop pair, I'm not gonna keep it for long, am I?
17.Nb5: if he takes my Bishop, I want to take his other Bishop. The game is still open, and I still believe that Bishops will prove more powerful in the long run.
17...Rxc4: he takes my Bishop pair away from me.
18.Nxd6: I take his last Bishop and threaten his Rook.
18...Rc6: evading my Knight's attack and threatening said Knight.
19.Ba3: another bad move. I protect my Knight, but he can now pin my Bishop to my Rook.
19...Rb8: grabbing the other open file.
20.Rc1: I challenge him on the open c-file. If he captures my Rook, I can capture back with my Bishop and my Knight doesn't need to be baby-sat anymore. Of course, I'm not sure how I would've dealty with ...Rb1 that would've surely come.
20...Ra6: and here comes the pin I was talking about. The Rook can't move because it defends the Bishop, which defends the Knight. My pieces are paralyzed. A few moves ago, I felt I had an advantage, but I think I made some poor moves and in the process my opponent was able to make his Rooks better than mine, and certainly he's not going to leave those Knights doing nothing!
21.f3: I had two purposes with this move. First was making some luft for my King. I was really worried about the possibility of a back-rank checkmate. Second, it took away some squares from one of Black's Knights, and would allow me to push e4 eventually; that would also move my pawns off the dark squares and make my Bishop more active.
21...Ne8: attacking my Knight. I probably should've accepted the trade, which would've gotten his rook of the open b-file, but I didn't.
22.Nc4: I decided to keep my Knight.
22...Rc8: another pin. I really need to be more careful with where I put my pieces.
23.Rac2: Because the Knight is protecting my Bishop, I can double up on the c-file to protect my Knight.
23...Rac6: Black doubles up as well. Now we have a mexican standoff; if I move my Knight, he'll come out ahead of the Rook battle. If he takes my Knight, I'll come out ahead. So for now, the Rooks and the Knight cannot move.
24.Kf1: Not a very good move, I had an idea of bringing my King to d2 to lend support to my Rooks. I forgot about my idea of moving my e-pawn.
24...Nef6: bringing his Knight back into the center.
25.e4: I actually didn't remember at this time that I had wanted to move this pawn (that's the problem with online chess), but because I didn't want his Knight on d5, I guess things just worked themselves out.
25...e5: I'm not sure I understand this move, but it gave me a great opportunity.
26.d5: now my central pawns are all off the dark squares, I have a passed pawn, and I am attacking his Rook.
26...R6c7: backing off.
27.Bd6: attacking the Rook again. Now Black must move it off the c-file.
27...Rb7: Now that he's off the c-file, I can move my Knight again.
28.Nxe5: I grab a pawn with my Knight. Now I'm up in material
28...Rxc2: exchanging a pair of Rooks
29.Rxc2: completing the exchange. With my dark-squared Bishop, I also have a very dangerous back-rank mate attack.
29...Nb6: preventing the mate by protecting the checking square.
30.Bc7: I saw that I could still get the back-rank checkmate, so I played to get the Knight off his square.
31.d6: Another inaccuracy. This one is a problem with a simple calculation. I thought that if I captured on b6, he'd capture back AND he'd put his Knight on d6, preventing the mate again. I didn't realize that I had given Black two moves in one turn in my head. I therefore missed an opportunity to be up a piece with: 31.Bxb6 axb6 32.Rc8 f6 33.Rxe8+. Oh well, live and learn I guess. Gotta practice my calculation skills more.
31...Nxc7: grabbing my Bishop.
32.Rxc7: another inaccuracy! If I captured with the pawn, it would've gone all the way up to promote to a Queen, Black would've had to capture with the Knight, I capture back with the Rook, and again, I'm up a minor piece. I really screwed up my chances in these two moves.
32.Rxc7: now the rooks are coming off, it's gonna be a pawn and Knight endgame.
33.dxc7: one square away from promotion...
33...Nc8: ...and the Black Knight prevents promotion.
I won't comment on the rest of the game, it's just a bunch of semi-random Knight, pawn and King moves ending up with a draw by repetition. I really feel that I could've won this game if I had paid more attention at moves 31 and 32.