Saturday, July 11, 2015

Finding Order from Chaos

Chill guys, this isn't a lesson on entropy. But perhaps finding order from a complex position in a game of chess might be simpler than finding that chemistry worksheet from your bedroom desk.

It's probably below that Chinese workbook you haven't touched since last year

For today's article, we will look at a complicated game of mine from Chess.com. From this game, you will observe a tense struggle on the centre and kingside, with the position made incredibly fluid by the inaccuracies made by both sides. Fortunately, a final endgame mistake by my opponent allowed me to win the game.

Opponent vs Checkerboard 5
Correspondence Chess 2015

1. e4 c6
2. Nf3 d5
3. exd5 cxd5
4. Bb5+ Bd7
5. Qe2 Nf6
6. Ne5 Nc6
7. Nxd7 Qxd7
8. O-O a6
9. Bxc6 Qxc6
10. d4 e6
11. Bg5 Be7
12. c3 O-O
13. Nd2 Rfe8
14. Nf3 (D)

Position after 14. Nf3

Both sides have completed development. Here, the most striking features are the holes on e5, e4 and c4, as well as Black's pawn minority on the Queenside. I decided to exploit White's weak squares immediately:

14... Ne4

In post-game analysis I realized a better plan would be to start a queenside minority attack combined with exploitation of the weak squares: 14... b5 15. Ne5 Qb7 16. Rfc1 Ne4 17. Bxe7 Rxe7 18. f3 Nd6. (D)

Position after 18... Nd6

Although White has a strong knight on e5, Black threatens moves like ... Nc4 and ... Rc7 exchanging off the knights and supporting the advance of the queenside pawns. For example, after 19. Rc2 Rc7 20. Rac1 Nc4 Black can start rolling his pawns forward and exchange on c3 to give White a backward pawn.

15. Bxe7 Rxe7
16. Ne5 Qb6
17. f3 Nd6
18. f4!?

White weakens the e4 square to generate a kingside attack.

18... Rc8
19. Ng4 Nc4
20. Rab1 Qc7
21. Ne5 Nd6

After 21... Nxe5 22. dxe5 White can push g4 followed by f5, generating very strong threats that I felt was best avoided.

22. Qf3 Ne4 (D)

Position after 22... Ne4

23. Rbd1

White could have kept up the pressure with 23. f5! f6 (23... exf5? 24. Qxf5 and I'm left with a very weak isolated pawn on d5.) 24. Ng4 e5 25. dxe5 fxe5 26. Rbd1 Rd8 27. f6. Here it appears that Black's position will crumble, but he has a saving move: 27... Rf7! 28. Qf5 Nxf6 29. Nxe5 Re7 {White still exerts significant pressure, but at least I can find enough counterplay with the open e-file and a future threat of pushing d5.

23... f6?!

With this move I made the position very complicated. My intent was to chase away the knight and prepare for an eventual e5 break; however, this creates a weak pawn on e6 as well as another weakness on d5 should I eventually push e5. Perhaps I could have expanded on the queenside with 23... b5 (the threat here is ...a5 followed by ...b4 creating a weakness along the c-file) 24. f5 f6 25. Ng4 e5 with a similar line to a previous variation.

24. Ng4 Rf8?!

Another inaccuracy; should the f-file be opened White has the threat of Qxf8#. 24... Qd6 {reinforcing the centre was better.

25. Nf2 Nd6

My earlier mistake would be proven after 25... Nxf2 26. Rxf2 and now I cannot push 26... e5? due to 27. fxe5 fxe5?? 28. Qxf8#

26. Rfe1 Rfe8
27. Rd2 Nc4
28. Rde2 (D)

Position after 28. Rde2

28... Qd6?!

Surprisingly my position was actually ok after 28... Nd6 (guarding against the threat of 29. f5) 29. Nd3 b6 30. Nb4 a5 31. Nd3. Although White looks better due to his pressure on e6, Black can actually hold out quite well in this position.

29. Nd3 e5?

This may look like strong counterplay, but it gives White an opportunity to unleash some tactics.

30. fxe5 fxe5
31. dxe5?

Throwing away his winning chances! White wins a pawn with the strong intermezzo 31. Qg3! e4 32. Qxd6 Nxd6 33. Nb4 winning.

31... Nxe5
32. Nxe5 Rxe5
33. Rxe5 Rxe5
34. Rf1 Qe7

Order from Chaos! Now the position is equal.

35. Rd1 Qf7

Making use of the exchange to centralize my king early.

36. Qxf7+ Kxf7
37. Kf2 Ke6
38. g4 Re4
39. Kf3 Ke5
40. h4 (D)

Position after 40. h4

40... b5

Here the endgame looks slightly better for me: My king is more centralized, my rook is more active and my isolated d4 pawn can be pushed anytime. But rather than exchanging it off straightaway it is better to deprive my opponent of space first. 40... d4 41. cxd4+ Rxd4 42. Re1+ Kd5 43. Re7 would give me unpleasant problems that I prefer to avoid.

41. b3 a5
42. a3 g6
43. h5 gxh5
44. gxh5 h6
45. Rh1

But now what? Pushing the queenside pawns gives White the chance to create passed pawns on that wing.

45... Kf5

Once again I did not like 45... d4 46. cxd4+ (46. c4? bxc4 47. bxc4 Re3+ is winning for Black.) 46... Rxd4 47. Re1+, while 45... b4 46. cxb4 axb4 47. a4 gives White a passer on the a-file.

46. Rd1 Ke5
47. Rh1

For a moment I was almost tempted to accept the draw!

47... Kf5
48. Rh2 Re5
49. Rh4 Re4
50. Rxe4?

Giving me an outside passed pawn. Better was 50. Rh1 and now I would really be forced to choose between pushing d4 or just accepting a draw.

50... dxe4+
51. Ke3 Ke5
52. b4 a4 (D)

Position after 52... a4

White's innocent looking mistake has given me a huge advantage.

53. Ke2

53. c4 bxc4 gives White his own passer, but after 54. b5 c3 55. b6 Kd6 Black catches the pawn while White cannot handle both of Black's passers.

53... Kd5
54. Ke3 Kc4

The passed pawn draws away the enemy king while my king gobbles up the queenside pawns. Now it's all over.

55. Kxe4 Kxc3
56. Kd5 Kb3
57. Kc5 Kxa3
58. Kxb5 Kb3
59. Kc5 a3
60. b5 a2
61. b6 a1=Q
62. b7 Qa7+
63. Kc6 Qb8 (D)
0-1

Position after 63... Qb8

A long and complicated battle. Here are some pointers we can take away from this game:

  1. The minority attack is a useful technique that allows you to create a weakness in your opponent's structure; in this game I missed the chance to do so
  2. Weak squares in the opponent's camp are strong outposts for the knight
  3. Going for a pawn push is useful for removing your pawn weaknesses... but look out for potential tactics first
  4. Centralize your king early in the endgame
  5. If your opponent has an endgame advantage (e.g. passed pawn), try not to trade your pieces!

Sources:
http://www.theultraviolet.com/wordpress/2012/10/time-to-tidy-up/

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