Chess Structures in Practice - Part Two
My Motivation - Lack of Comprehension
I write this blog to share some of the ideas from my book Chess Structures, published earlier this year. Each blog posts expands upon some of the concepts shown in my book, by analying a recent game amont strong players.
In this post I decided to show one of the many painful defeats I suffered when I was younger. I was very good in tactics, but I was often unable to evaluate positions correctly, and this game is an example. I lost this game in a purely strategic fashion, but without ever understanding why or when I got such a bad position. My primary motivation in writing Chess Structures was giving precise and contextualized advice, so that readers will know which positional features make up a good position in a given structure. This game was played in 2004, at the World Youth Chess Championship in Greece. I was unrated at the time, though my strength was about 2000, my oponent was rated 2061. You will find many mistakes from both sides, but the important part here is sharing the logic I followed, illustrating how strategy without a context is dangerous.
Let's see the game:
George Kanakaris - Mauricio Flores, WYCC u-14 Heraklion, Greece, 2004
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3
I immediately thought "he will castle long, attack on the kingside, and I will attack on the queenside."
5...O-O 6. Bg5 c6
6... c5 is healthier, and after 7. d5 h6 8.Be3 e6 9. Qd2 exd5 10. cxd5 h5 Black has a good asymmetric Benoni structure (Chapter 12). Had I been more familiar with the structure, I would have known better and choosen this line instead
7. Nge2 e5 8. d5 h6 9. Be3
Since I was convinced my opponent would attack on the kingside, I thought "opening the c-file can only help me." The alternative 9... c5 10. Qd2 h5 yields an interesting game, though White has a favorable version of the King's Indian type II (Chapter 15), since he is creating threats more quickly, for example 11. Nc1 Nh7 12. Nd3 f5 13. Be2 f4?! premature (or 13... Qe7 14. a3 Nd7 15. b4!? +=) 14. Bf2 g5 15. O-O-O! followed by Rdg1, g2-g3 and h2-h4 with good kingside play
10. cxd5 a6 11. Qd2 Kh7 12. Na4?!
A strange decision... Better was 12. g4 Nbd7 13. Ng3 similar to the game, but with two extra moves
12... Nbd7 13. g4 b5 14. Nac3 Nb6
When I got to this position I was thrilled, my opponent had wasted two moves and I felt that we were in some kind of opposite flanks race where I had the edge. In reality, pushing b7-b5 had also created some weaknesses (the c6-square) and I was heading in the wrong direction entirely
15. Ng3 Nfd7 16. Qf2
correct was 16. h4! similar to the game
16... Bb7 better was 16... Bf6! to prevent h2-h4 17. h4 Rc8 18. h5 g5?
Anything would have been better than locking the kingside, for example this pawn sacrifice: 18... Kg8 19. hxg6 (19. Rc1!? +=) 19... fxg6 20. Bxh6 Bxh6 21. Rxh6 Qg5 where Black has excellent compensation. Of course, taking the h6-pawn was a bad idea
I am embarrassed to admit that I was actually happy with this position. Let me break down my
thoughts in 2004, compared to my thoughts in 2015.
My thoughts in 2004
- The pawn structure is symmetrical
- My opponent has a strong f5 square, but I can just trade the knight if I really want to
- My opponent has more space on the kingside, I have more space on the queenside
- Since the kingside is closed and the queenside is not, I must be the one fighting for an edge
- I already have a rook on the open file, which favors me even more.
- Overall, the position is somewhat better for Black.
My thoughts in 2015:
- While the pawn structure is kind of symmetrical, my opponent has a crucial space advantage due to the d5 pawn versus my d6 pawn
- The knight on f5 is a monster, and trading it for my light squared bishop would only increase my weakness on light squares.
- My queenside pawns are a liability, not a strength
- White will easily turn his attention to the queenside and play for a win there
- Even though Black does control the c-file momentarily, the lack of entry points will gradually make Black lose control of the file.
- Overall, White has a decisive positional advantage, winning should just be a matter of technique.
We have a King's Indian type I structure, where (as explained in Chapter 14) Black's chances are mostly based on a kingside attack with f7-f5. Since Black is no longer able to do anything on the kingside, this pessimistic prognosis only makes sense, but unfortunately I had no idea about this back in 2004...
19...Nc5 20. Rc1 Re8 21. Be2 Bf8 22. O-O b4?!
I thought I was "expanding". In reality all I am doing in weakening the c4-square. In case of 22...Ncd7 23. b3 Black simply does not have useful moves, while White's play is making substantial progress.
23. Nb1 Nbd7 24. Nd2 Na4 25. Nc4
White has a decisive advantage. Only at this point it become very clear to me that something was wrong... Over the past 5 moves I had spent about an hour calculating and finding nothing, and now White begins making serious threats on what I thought was my flank.
It becomes clear that Black has serious problems, such as the weak pawns on b4 and d6, and the weak connected squares on c4, a5 and c6.
26...b3 27. a3?
Better was 27. Ra1! winning a piece after 27...bxa2 28. Rxa2 Rb8 29. b4
27... Qc7 28. Ba5 Qb8 29. Qe3 Ba8 30. Kg2 Nb7 31. Qxb3 Nxa5 32.
Qxa4 Nxc4 33. Bxc4 Qxb2+ 34. Rc2 Qb6
As you can verify, my opponent has missed some strong moves and I managed to survive, but the structure has not changed, and I am still lost... 35. Rfc1 Bb7 36. Be2 Rxc2 37. Rxc2? missing yet another win... 37. Qxe8! Rxe2+ 38. Kh3 followed by 39.Qxf7 wins on the spot 37... Rd8 38. Qb4! Qxb4 39. axb4
the weakness of the a6-pawn will now decide the game.
Rc8 40. Ra2 40... Ra8 41. Ne3 Bc8 42. b5! +-
White finally finds a way to capitalize his major positional advantage, and the rest was easy:
42...a5 43. Nc4 a4 44. Nb6 Rb8 45. Nxc8 Rxc8 46. Rxa4
46...Kg7 47. Ra7 Kf6 48. Rd7 Rb8 49. Kf2 Be7 50. Ke3 Rd8 51. Rb7 Ra8 52. Rd7 Rd8 53. Rc7 Rb8 54. Rc6 Kg7 55. Kd2 Kf8 56. Kc3 Ke8 57. Kc4 Kd7 58. b6 Ra8 59. Kb5 Bd8 60.Bd1 Ra1 61. Ba4 Rb1+ 62. Ka6 Ra1 63. Rc7# 1-0
- Black's biggest mistake was going into a KID structure type I, and not pursuing the primary plan ...f7-f5 followed by kingside play.
- Black's position around move 19 seemed to indicate there were some chances of queenside play, but similar to the game Carlsen-Hammer from Chapter 14, the lack of entry points prevents Black from achieving anything.
- I believe I was somewhat more alert than my opponent when it came to tactics, in fact I saw many of the winning moves he missed. It was his superior understanding of the structure what allowed him to defeat me with such ease.
Feel free to leave comments, suggestions or questions.