Failing to Survive a Kingside Attack
Yep, I did it again. Nope, I didn't flash my underwear (or rather the lack of them) to paparazzi again , but I did something bad instead: Once again from a completely winning position I managed to ruin everything by missing one itty bitsy tiny little bit of tactical idea, which of course wasn't little at all in reality and should've been very simple and obvious all along. This cost me another crucial game in a tournament I was taking very seriously.
Failing to accurately defend, that was what this game was all about... Survive the attack, and you'll win. And this chess curse upon me is getting worse! The last time I messed up in a winning position, I had at least managed to draw it!
I'll save further rant for later and show you the game. I would like to note that if you want to get the most out of this blog, you should put yourself into my shoes and try to answer the "what would you do here?" type of questions.
With this 10.Qc2 move, my opponent basically goes out of book. Well there are games played with this move, but none in GM practice. Now why do you think would that be? What's going on in this position? I should note that I didn't have access to my current and fairly larger database at this stage of the game. So, assume you're completely on your own, you aren't exactly out of the opening yet, black to play. What would you do?
So. You're a piece up. You certainly want to exchange down. Black to play, what do you do?
OK. You're still a piece up. You have two connected passed pawns on the queenside. All you need is to defend accurately against white's kingside attack. If you somehow survive, you'll certainly win the game, no doubt about it. There's one single best defensive resource black has here. Black to play. How do you defend?
and I finally decided to end this torture.
The sad thing about this game is not only that I blundered badly. Even more important was the fact that there were many positions I was completely clueless about.
Let me summarize the key lessons to learn from the game:
1) Never underestimate the tactical complications of a position. After white's 10.Qc2, I was still in the calm zone of the opening, where I thought making normal & natural moves would be OK without trying to go deep into the position. However, as I've tried to demonstrate in the analysis above, the position was actually razor sharp, and demanded extreme caution. That 10...O-O could've well been a game losing blunder.
2) Do not exchange pieces aimlessly when you're up material. It's a well known chess principle that you should exchange down when have more material, but this of course shouldn't be the whole strategy of one's game in such situations. Failing to realize that prevented me to look at 13...bxc4 calmly.
3)Well, the last one should be obvious by now, as I have a clear weakness about this. Do not ever relax when you have a winning position. It wasn't that I had stopped trying to find good moves, I did try, but plainly it just wasn't enough. After a couple of calculations I thought I was done, the game was over, black wins. I really should've known better.
So this is it. Congratulations to my opponent for his good play. I hope everyone enjoyed and learned something from the game and the analysis. As always, I would appreciate any feedback & comment.
Before ending this post, I'll leave you with some real chess with the same opening, where Kramnik was so close to his first victory in the WC match but let it slip under time pressure: