Equal Positions Don't Draw Themselves: A Last Minute Comeback

Equal Positions Don't Draw Themselves: A Last Minute Comeback

Jul 31, 2009, 5:39 AM |

Hello all, I'm analyzing another interesting game I played last week. Before we move on to the in-depth analysis, I would like to mention several interesting factors about this game:

1)This was my first game as a 1900+ rated player, and I wanted to prove myself worthy of the rating. Also, I got paired with another 1900+ guy, so this was a real challenge for me.

In fact I probably got a little too nervous, and tried a little too hard to make no inaccuracies, checking, double-checking and many time triple-checking my calculations, to the point that I was in a severe time trouble in the late-middlegame. While I had only 30 seconds to make a move in a crucial part of the game, I felt like Kamsky playing against Topalov in the world-championship semi-finals, who was mainly the victim of his low self-confidence and blundered many times in time trouble.

2) I was paired with a thinker! I can't tell you how hard it is to find players in FICS who actually try to use their brains and think before a chess move. The player pool in FICS is totally dominated by blitzers, who, even in long games, don't think about a move any longer than 30 seconds.

Warthog, however, spent reasonable amount of time for his moves, which made our battle much more tense and exciting for me. It's a little difficult to explain, but during a chess game, when two minds try to put all they've got into the game, a connection is formed between the players. I would prefer such opponents to lazy blitzers who don't give a damn about the game any time.

Let's cut the chat here and move on to the game. I tried to annotate it as deeply and accurately as I could, hope you like it and learn a couple of things along the way. I was black.Time control was 60' 30''.

Let's now put forward the key positions and lessons to be learnt from this game:

1) Knowing what the opening is about.
5...Nc6 was not along the themes of this opening, and therefore was a mistake. It's important to understand what the subtle 5...h6 does: 5...h6 is the part of a plan containing the moves 6.Bh4 Be7 7.Nc3 Ne4. By kicking the bishop out of that g5 square to h4, black doesn't allow white to force him to recapture on e4 with the bishop on b7 with 8.Nxe4 (note that the bishop on g5 would be protected with the knight, and therefore Bxg5 wouldn't work) ...Bxe4. black prefers the bishop in that nice shelter, and get his piece back with 8.Nxe4 Bxh4 instead.

This position below that we've reached just a couple of moves later, makes the point behind ...h6 much clearer:
Black would like to play 8...Ne4, but 9.Nxe4 simply wins a piece then. That's why, again, black needed to throw in a 8...h6, as in: 8...h6 9.Bh4 Ne4 10.Nxe4 Bxh4.

Instead, I played 8...d5?! and allowed white to gain a slight positional advantage with 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.cxd5 exd5, putting my d pawn, my knight and my bishop all on the same diagonal.

2. Making calm and simple defensive moves when needed, instead of trying to force things with unnecessary complcations.

In this position, I played the stupidly overactive 20...c5. Why? Was that necessary when I had so little time left to think? 20...Qd7 would be solidly defending against threats, improve a piece's position slightly, then sit back on his chair and comfortably wait to the opponent's move.
20...c5?? loses to 21.dxc5 bxc5 22.Ne4!, utilizing the pinned d pawn and forking the bishop and the pawn on c5.

And one move later, in this position,
when my opponent misses the tactic and plays 21.Qb5?, I do the same thing again with 21...c4?, failing to see 22.b3! which wins a pawn eventually. And that is what happens. You keep missing simple defensive moves, preferring tactically unjustified over-active attempts and you lose to simple tactics. 21...Qc8 instead, calmly adding another defender to the pawn, would be a much more stubborn response. Or even more quiet moves like ...Qa8 or ...Qd7 would hold, due to the hanging pawn on b2. (allowing b3 with tempo in the main line of the game got rid of that weakness for white.)

I think this weakness of mine, not seeing such simple moves which don't do anything big, but keep it calm and solid is the main reason I'm a very bad blitz player.

And probably the most relevant lesson from the game:

3. Equal positions don't draw themselves. One thing that strikes me is that most patzers like myself (a non-expert player) evaluate drawish-looking endings with terms like "dead," "boring," "like watching grass grow," etc, however this has one basic wrong assumption: that you can play such simple endings as accurately as GMs.

Sure Kramnik and Anand would draw this position 100% of the time, however this doesn't mean that it's a piece of cake. Endgames are dangerous, and much more so if you aren't a master. I must tell you, I'm not on par with Kramnik when it comes to endgames yet, but I know how important they are and how much it weakens my play that I suck at it Laughing.

I even offered a draw in this position, but my opponent declined, probably because I was much lower on time and was more likely to make a mistake. It was a wise decision in that situation, even if it cost the game for him. After the moves 35... Kf8 36. Nd5 f5 37. Ke2
Kf7 38. f3 Ke6 39. Nb4 Bc5 40. Kd3 Bxb4 41. axb4 Kd5 42. g3 h6 43. h4 h5
were played, we reach this position:

White finds himself in a very difficult spot here. He played 44.f4??, based on a shallow calculation, and lost very easily. There's only one move to save the game for white, and he missed it. I've explained this position in detail in the game window, so I won't do that again here. But I'll summarize the main lesson: Endgames are all about deep and precise calculation along with theoretical knowledge.

Whenever you reach a quick conclusion about a variation, always try to look a few moves deeper. It may prove to be the difference between a draw and a loss. Not doing that was what cost the game for my opponent in this game.

I guess that's it. Hope you enjoyed the game, the analysis and the lessons. I would appreciate any feedback & comments. I'm planning to play another game tonight and perhaps I'll make a new post about it tomorrow.See you till then!