Archive for March, 2009

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…and the winless streak continues

March 31, 2009

As fate would have it, I didn’t get to play the expected game with white. I had to fill in on the last board for another team in the club, so my scheduled game in the internal competition got postponed. And…again…I was black. It certainly was an interesting game where I felt white was better most of the time until I initiated counterplay on the kingside. Interestingly enough, on further analysis, I would have been slightly better if I had resumed play on the queenside after creating play on the kingside. Play on both sides of the board! I remembered it when starting activity on the kingside but not afterwards!

Anyway, here’s the game.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6 5. e3 Be7 [5… Nbd7 6. Bd3] 6. Bd3 O-O 7. O-O dxc4 8. Bxc4 b5 9. Bd3 Bb7 10. Qc2  a6 11. Rd1 Nbd7

I often play this line of the Semi-Slav. I am getting ready for the c5 pawn break. At this point my opponent embarks on a rather weird knight maneuver, intending to trade knights. Initially I thought it was to put a knight on c5 and try and clamp down the black queenside. It turns out that wasn’t his intention at all.

12. Ng5 h6 13. Nge4 Qc7 14. Nxf6+ Nxf6 15. Ne4 e5?!

The knight moves seemed like a waste of time to me, unless he wanted to place it on c5. I felt like I needed to challenge the centre, even as a slightly desperate measure.

16. Nxf6+  Bxf6 17. d5 c5

17… Rfd8 18. Bd2 Rxd5 19. Bh7+ Kh8 20. Be4 Rd7 might have been another way to go, freeing up my position. Now my pieces get bogged down with his passed d-pawn, while constantly trying to determine if my queenside majority (and especially my pawn at c5) was a strength or a weakness.

18. e4 Rac8  19. Be3 Qd6 20. Be2 Rc7 21. Rac1 Be7 [21… c4 22. Qd2 Rfc8 23. Bg4 Rb8 24. b3 again looking to free up my position at the cost of my queenside pawn structure] 22. Qd2 g5!?

For a few reasons. Firstly, I was seriously worried about 23. f4 exf4 24. Bxf4, and even if I don’t grab on f4, he could play fxe5 with the same motif. Moving the queen away from d6 could lead to dangerous forks with the pawn on d6, so g5 puts a stop to f4, at least temporarily. Secondly, I didn’t have any fears about moving the pawns in front of my king as I felt it would be quite hard for him to get to my king in this closed position. Thirdly, I grab some space on the kingside and I felt that in the current position all of my pieces could, at the right moment harmoniously swing over to the kingside and create good counterplay against his king. My next few moves are geared towards starting play on the kingside and achieving the third goal.

23. b3 Bc8 24. Rc2 Bd7 25. Rdc1 Rfc8 26. Qd1 f5!? 27. f3 Qg6

Almost getting into a King’s Indian type of position.

28. Rd2 Bd6

The bishop is a much better piece to block his passed pawn than my queen!

29. Bd3 f4 30. Bf2 g4?!

30… c4 31. bxc4 [31. Be2 c3 32. Rdc2 Ba3 33. Rb1] 31… bxc4 32. Bf1 c3 33. Rdc2 Ba3 34. Rb1 Bb2

would have put some serious pressure with the passed c-pawn and left me with the advantage. But, being in slight time pressure, I didn’t even look at the above line. I’d like to think I would have seen it and gone for it if I had time.

31. fxg4 Bxg4 [31… c4 32. Be2 c3 33. Rdc2 Ba3 34. Rb1 Qxe4, similar to the variation above would have still given an advantage]

32. Be2 h5 33. Bf3 Qg5 [33… c4]

I had a heart-stopping moment just before I played Qg5. I was about to play 33… h4, which would have blundered my bishop and led to my third straight loss.

34. Rdc2 Kh7 35. Kf1 Bxf3

Time control made, with seconds left on my clock.

36. Qxf3 1/2-1/2

With time trouble having been negotiated safely, my opponent made the draw offer, which I was glad to take as I didn’t see how I could force my way through in the final position.

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Second straight loss

March 17, 2009

Unlike in my three previous games, I went down without a fight in this one – I don’t think I created any threats at all.

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. f4 d5 4. Nf3 d4 5. Ne2 Nf6 6. Ng3 Nc6 7. Bc4 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. d3 Na5 10. Bb3 Nxb3 11. axb3 b6 12.  Ne5 Bb7 13. Bd2 a5 14. Qe2 Qc7 15. Nc4 Rfe8

Until now, the position has been about equal. White is ready to make his kingside push while I have some activity on the queenside. I didn’t want to play 15…g6 because I thought that would make his f5 push stronger. I also thought that in many variations it would be better to have my bishop or knight (via d7) on f8, hence the move.

16. f5 Bc8??

Now this gives white some good chances. I should have played 16…e5 to keep things under control but I was worried that I would be blocking the activity of my own pieces.

17. e5!

I completely underestimated how powerful this move was. I was more worried about 17. Bf4?!. It was only when I saw this move on the board did reality start to sink in.

17…Nd5 18. Qg4?

Now he lets me off the hook and gives me a fighting chance. Just pushing ahead with the pawns, 18. f6 gxf6 19. exf6 Bxf6 20. Nh5 is winning.

18…exf5  19. Nxf5 Bxf5 20. Rxf5 Ra7?

My next big mistake. I was trying to be cute and allow for my rook to come to the aid of the kingside via the 7th rank. Fritz suggests the following two variations as ok for black: 20…Qc8 21. Qe4 Qe6 or 20…b5 21. Qe4 Qd7 22. Raf1 Bf8, still holding everything together (barely!).

21. Raf1 Bf8??

I wasn’t to know how bad this move was until my opponent made his move. I was prepared to suffer further with 22. Rxf7 Qxf7 23. Rxf7 Kxf7 24. Nd6, after which I need a miracle to survive.

22. e6!!

Most masters, I’m sure, would have seen this from miles away. However it was a rude shock for me to see this at the board. The rest was plain sailing for white.

22…Ne3 23. Bxe3 dxe3 24. exf7+ Qxf7  25. Rxf7 Rxf7 26. Rxf7 e2 27. Rf1! 1-0

He didn’t fall for my last little trap, so I resigned.

In my more recent games, I have felt like I am always fighting an uphill battle, fighting for equality.

  • My last 8 games have been with black! (excluding this abandoned game)
  • In all, 14 out of my 19 completed games have been with black.
  • I can’t wait for my next game with white (next week!)
  • I can’t wait for the return of that winning feeling.
  • After this game, I feel I need to come up with a better repertoire against the closed Sicilian.
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How to avoid blunders

March 13, 2009

If you want advice on this subject, I’m the last person you should come to. Case in point:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. h3?! Nc6 4. Bc4 e6 5.  Nc3 Nf6 6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. Bd3 e5 11. Ne2 d5  12. exd5 cxd5 13. Ng3 e4 14. Bb5 Qb6 15. Qe2 a6 16. Ba4 Bd6 17. Nh1 Rb8 18. c3  Be5 19. Bb3 Qc7 20. Rd1

Avoiding mate (20…Bh2#)

20…Bd7 21. Qe3 Bh2+ 22. Kf1 Bb5+ 23. Ke1 Bf4??

How can I even begin to explain this blunder? Before this move, I have played reasonably well, his king is “uncastled”, and Fritz gives me a 2 pawn advantage. Bf4 is the first move I consider and promptly dismiss as a blunder. I then think through some variations after Be5 and they seem ok. I then lift the bishop and plonk it down on f4. I hope I learn a lesson for the future: always, always, JUST before moving, make sure its not a blunder!

24. Qxf4 Qb7  25. Ng3 a5 26. Nf5 a4 27. Nxg7 1-0

So that’s three straight games where I have gone from a better position (the previous two were outright winning) and thrown it all away.