Sunday, January 7, 2018

My first OTB game of 2018

Without much ideas to write about since the year begun, I have decided to analyze my first over-the-board (OTB) game of 2018, played in last’s Wednesday’s Asia Square chess meetup.

Remember how I talked about how material is but a mere imbalance in the grand scheme of chess?
The following game was a very good lesson: Despite being material up, my advantage was blunted by two other imbalances: Poor king safety and bad queenside development. While it sounds like one of those typical “don’t go about grabbing pawns” games used to teach beginners about the importance of development, in this case I was lucky to get out alive.

Take a look at the following position:

Position after 14... O-O-O

Any patzer can spot that free pawn on g6, but was it wise to grab it? Black had deliberately given up the pawn to bring his own king to safety, and with good reason: White’s far-advanced pawns do no good in keeping their own king safe, so Black can look for counterplay based on the imbalance.

White can choose to grab the pawn immediately and worry about the threats to their king later, or play the safer g5, closing up the kingside and fixing g6 as a permanent target.

I chose the greedy path and played 15. Bxg6. Fast forward a few moves:

Position after 18... Rh6

Here, I was starting to regret that materialistic decision on move 15. White may be a pawn up, with a monster light-squared bishop that is dominating the kingside. But Black has strong counter-threats at their disposal: For example, doubling rooks on the h-file to pressure the h5 weakness, followed by … Qd8 bringing in more attackers to the kingside.

And White? I have already mentioned the problem with my king who is standing in the open, while the soldiers assigned to guard him have recklessly advanced far into enemy territory and are paying the price for it!


Adding on to my woes is the undeveloped queenside: With the sleeping dark-squared bishop, I will need to spend at least two tempi to develop it and connect my rooks. Until then, two of my pieces (c1 bishop and a1 rook) are effectively cut off from any potential kingside action.

Not surprisingly, a tough struggle awaits on the kingside. Unfortunately for my opponent, he failed to spot the correct combination, giving me time to bring my king to safety and activate the queenside, before simplifying the position and consolidate my material advantage.

Here is the full game:

A timely escape, and an important reminder that material isn't everything!


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