|Yelling at pieces that my grandma could run faster than them|
The most memorable games of that tourney, however, were not my victories. It were the draws and defeats. For today, I will look at one of those games which I could have won, but ended up drawing due to a strategic blunder: Deciding to trade into an endgame prematurely, and leaving my passed pawn with little support.
Checkerboard 5 vs Opponent
44th Queenstown CC Open Chess Championships 2015
1. c4 Nf6
2. Nc3 g6
3. d4 d5
4. cxd5 Nxd5
5. e4 Nxc3
6. bxc3 c5
With this the game steers towards very sharp, tactical waters.
8. Qb3 e6
9. Bb5+! Kf8?!
I was expecting 9... Bd7 10. Bxd7+ Qxd7 11. dxe6 fxe6 12. Nf3 after which Black retains the right to castle but his king is still dangerously exposed.
Continuing to hit the enemy king.
10... Qc7 (D)
|Position after 10... Qc7|
Let's do an analysis of this double-edged position. White is more developed, and his Queenside pieces are eyeing down on the Black king which is stuck in the centre. He also has the threat of creating a passed pawn should an exchange occur on d5. However, Black has his own threats. His bishop on the a1-h8 diagonal pins the c3 pawn, and White's Queen is temporarily overloaded looking after both c3 and d5. Here, I decided to consolidate my position first and complete development, since Black's king is stuck and won't be running away any time soon.
11. Rc1 a6
Better than 12. Bc4 b5 13. Be2 giving Black some tempo.
I did not consider this move to be best for Black, as it gives White the passed pawn without compensation. I looked at 12... Bh6 13. Rd1 Kg7 14. d6. For a moment it seems Black is in trouble, but after 14... Qc6 15. Bf3 Nd7 16. Ne2 (16. e5?! Qb5 and the e5 square is weak.) 16... Rf8 (D)
|Position after 16... Rf8|
Black has tucked his king to safety, activated his rook, and blockaded the passed pawn. His only weakness is the trapped light-squared bishop. Play will revolved around d6.
Returning to the main line after 12... exd5:
13. exd5 b5
14. Nf3 Kg8
Now White is clearly better. My plan is simple: Support the advance of the passed pawn, and use it to tie down Black's pieces.
16. Rfd1 c4
17. Qb4 h5
Black's previous two moves indicate he wants to restrain my light-squared bishop, hindering it from supporting the passed pawn.
Now I felt a better move was 18. d6 Qd7 19. Qa5 preparing Qc7 exchanging queens to open the file for my rooks. With the pawn on c7 the threat of Rd8+ would have been very dangerous.
19. Bxe7 Nd7
A good blockading piece against the passed pawn.
20. d6 Bh6
|Position after 20... Bh6|
Confident of my advantage, I erroneously decided on a series of minor piece exchanges. At first glance, it looks sound: With more pieces off the board, the advantage of the passed pawn will become more apparent. However, that is not so in this position: My passed pawn is far ahead in enemy territory with no friendly pawns to support it. Thus, transitioning into the endgame will deprive it of crticial piece support, making it easier for the opponent to pick it off.
Moreover, note that Black's pawn chain also provides a threatening outpost on d3, which might be important in the endgame. Always consider carefully before you exchange pieces!
Keeping the pieces on the board is better: 21. Rb1 Kg7 22. Ng5 Bc6 (22... f6 23. Ne6+ White is much better here.) 23. Bf3 (This exchange is justifiable as Black's light-squared bishop is a key defender of the position. Without it White's rooks have greater freedom of movement.) Bxf3 24. Nxf3 Rhe8 25. Rd5 (D)
|Position after 25. Rd5|
The d6 pawn is untouchable, granting White a significant spatial advantage in the endgame.
Returning to the main line after 21. Bg5:
Now Black's defence is much easier.
I looked at 23. Re1 Rhe8 24. a4 (Seeking to demolish the pawn chain and obtain more space for White's bishop.) f6 25. Nf3 bxa4 26. Nd2 Re6 27. Nxc4. Here White has more space for his pieces but Black threatens to double his rooks on the e-file. Notice the d6 pawn is blockaded and in urgent need of piece support.
24. Nxf3 Rhe8
Quickly denying White the chance to invade the e-file.
25. Re1 Nc5
Eyeing d7 and d3 at the same time.
After 26. Re7 Rxe7 27. dxe7 Re8 28. Re1 Kf6 Black still wins the pawn.
27. Rxe1 Rd8
28. Rd1 Nd3! (D)
Occupying the outpost and cutting the d6 pawn from its guardian. Black has managed to equalize and even has a small advantage in the endgame. After a few more mistakes from both sides the game ended in a draw.
Lesson learned: Passed pawns need strong support, and always think twice before exchanging pieces!