Checkerboard 5 vs Opponent
Queenstown Open 2016 Round 5
1. c4 e5
2. Nc3 Nf6
3. e3 Bc5
4. g3 O-O
5. Bg2 c6
6. Nge2 a6
7. O-O b5
8. d4 exd4
9. exd4 Bb4
10. b3 Bxc3
11. Nxc3 b4
By pushing his pawns Black has weakened the dark squares around the queenside, thus White uses them as targets. Normally it would be more logical to bring the knight to the centre, but in this case 12. Ne4 Nxe4 13. Bxe4 d5 cedes tempo to Black.
Allowing White to develop with threat. 12... d5 had to be played, giving Black more space to sort out his woefully undeveloped queenside: 13. Re1 (13. cxd5? Nxd5 blockading the isolated pawn.) 13... Bf5 14. Bf4 Re8 and ... Ne4 followed by ... Nd7 is a real threat here.
13. Bf4 Qd8
14. Bd6 (D)
|Position after 14. Bd6|
It is obvious that White is better here. His knight and bishop dominate the dark squares on the queenside, trapping Black's pieces. The only question now is how to exploit this advantage?
15. Re1 a5
The only way to free Black's pieces.
This gives Black the possibility of ... Ba6 pinning the c pawn. 16. Bh3! would have checked Black's counterplay: 16... Ne4 17. Bf4 Na6 (Black still cannot push his d-pawn: 17... d5? 18. Bxc8 Qxc8 19. Nb6) 18. Qd3 Nf6 19. Bd6 followed by Re5 and Rae1
A very commital move, maintaining pressure but weakening the b5 square. 17. Rxe6 dxe6 18. Bf4 is another possibility, retaining centre control but giving Black's queenside some free rein.
18. Re5 Bb5 (D)
|Position after 18... Bb5|
Too late. White should not be going for a mass piece trade since he still retains the advantage. 19. Nb6 was the only logical continuation. I had decided against this worrying about getting the knight trapped, but alas I was fearing ghosts: 19... Ra7 20. Rxe6 dxe6 21. a4 bxa3 22. Rxa3
This time White can afford to simplify since Black is left with pawn weaknesses on a5 and c6. This gives White the better endgame.
20. dxe5 Nd5
Now 21. Nb6 is no longer possibly because of Nxb6 22. cxb6 Qxb6. 21. Nb2 Nc3 is not pleasant for White either.
22. Bxd5 Bb5
23. Be4 Na6
Black gets his knight out, but needs to spend a few tempi to bring it into the game. Can White hold on to any advantage he has left?
24. f4 followed by f5 then Qh5 was better.
25. Qd1 Nc7
26. f4 (D)
|Position after 26. f4|
Since a breakthrough on the queenside is looking less likely, White turns to the kingside.
27. f5 Nb5
28. fxg6 hxg6
29. Qf3 Qg5
Throwing away the game in a single move.
30. Rd1 (preventing Qd2) had to be played, after which 30... Nxd6 31. Rxd6 followed by h4 would still give White some winning chances, no matter how small.
This crushing reply-- combinating attack and defense-- was what I missed.
I was too obsessed with calculating 30... Nd4? 31. Qxf7+ Kh8 32. Bxg6 Qh6 33. e6 with Be5# to follow.
31. h4 Qxe5 (D)
|Position after 31. Qxe5|
What can we learn from this game?
- Don't waste moves; make sure every move you make has a purpose.
- Think twice before pushing pawns, for you might create weak squares that your opponent may exploit.
- If you see a good move and you know it works, go for it! Don't be afraid of the ghosts that don't exist.