h1

…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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