Learning from a Tough Loss

Everybody loses, but learning from those games makes you a winner. In today’s post I want to show a game that I lost but in return taught me the fundamental thematic ideas in the King’s Indian Defense.

Heading into this game, I was 1.5/3 at the National Chess Congress in Philadelphia, so for me, this was a must win game. Back then, I didn’t play as aggressively, but in this round I just attacked and attacked. While I lost, I discovered the importance of thematic ideas.

Adelson–Steincamp (National Chess Congress, 2012)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. d5 Nc5 9. Qc2

9…Ne8 Up to this point so far so good. Unfortunately, my knight on c5 was easily attacked later in the game, and cost me a bunch of tempi. Because of this game, I learned that I should play a7–a5 to solidify my knight on c5 and sustain pressure on e4.

10. Nd2 f5 11. f3

11…f4! This is a critical pawn push in many closed positions. The idea is to close off the White pieces from the kingside.

12. b4 Na6 13. a3

13…h5?! This is in the right spirit, but not the most efficient or orthodox way to attack the kingside. I need to play …Nf6 followed by a g–pawn push. By moving the knight, I would have brought in an additional piece.

14. Nb3

14…h4? Not a blunder, but terribly inefficient. Having moved the h–pawn, it makes my kingside attack awkward.

15. Na4 Nf6 16. b5

16…Nb8 Not a fun concession. By allowing White to attack my knight, he has successfully expanded the queenside and is ready to attack. If anything, he is slightly better.

17. c5 Nh5 18. Bc4 h3 19. Na5 b6 20. Nc6 Nxc6 21. dxc6+ Kh7 22. cxd6 Qxd6 23. Rd1 Qe7 24. Bd2

24…hxg2? White doesn’t have to take. In fact, by keeping his king on g1, he is perfectly safe. Meanwhile I had missed 25. Bb4.

25. Bb4 Qh4

26. Nc3? A good bluff from me scared my opponent. White should have taken the rook since my bishop would not be able to go from f8 to c5 because of the knight. However, by moving the knight to c3, White actually makes it impossible to take the rook. 

Bh3 27. Nd5 Rac8 28. Be7 Nf6 29. Qb3 Rfe8 30. Bb4 Bf8 31. Nxf6+ Qxf6 32. Rd7+ Kh6 33. Rf7 Qh4 34. Bxf8+ Rxf8 35. Qb4

35…Qd8?? While there is no easy win for me I am slightly better. By trading queens, I have no active pieces left, making the endgame an easy conversion for white.

36. Qxf8+ Qxf8 37. Rxf8 Rxf8 38. Rd1 Rf6 39. Rd8 Kh7 40. Ra8 Rd6 41. Bd5 g5 42. Rxa7 g4 43. Rxc7+ Kg6 44. Rd7 Rf6 45. c7 gxf3 46. c8=Q f2+ 47.Kxf2 g1=Q+ 48. Kxg1 f3 49. Qg8+ 1-0

While I lost, I learned a lot about attacking chess in this game. I saw how playing a7–a5 would have been a game changer for me, and I saw how a g–pawn push would have been much more methodical. By learning these ideas, I was able to win many games, this one a year later in Atlanta.

Jie – Steincamp (Castle Grand Prix, 2013)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. d5

8…a5! Not a brilliancy, but this move shows that I had learned from the previous game.

9. Rb1 Nc5 10. Nd2

10…Ne8 Unlike the other game, I can attack without worrying about my knight on c5. My position is a lot more simple.

11. b3 Because I played a7–a5, my opponent has to play the much slower b3, a3, b4 idea. This gives me more time to expand on the kingside.

11…f5 12. f3 f4 13. a3

13…b6! The simple solution. My knight will go back to b7, covering c5, making my opponent’s life even more difficult.

14. b4 axb4 15. axb4 Nb7 16. Nb3 Nf6 17. Bb2

17…g5! Again this is a much more effective way of undermining f3.

18. Ra1 Rxa1 19. Qxa1 g4 20. Rc1 gxf3 21. Bxf3 Ng4 22. h3

22…Ne3 Because I played the right idea, my attack is much more effective. Now I have an outpost on e3.

23. Ne2 Qg5 24. Kh2 Qh4 25. Nd2 Nd8 26. c5 bxc5 27. bxc5 Nf7 28. cxd6 cxd6 29. Rg1 Ng4+ 30. Bxg4 Bxg4 31. Qe1 Qh5 32. Nc3

32…Ng5 I have more active pieces, and while the game isn’t won yet, its much easier to play with black.

33. h4 f3 34. gxf3 Rxf3 35. Kg2 Rf8

36. Rh1 If 36. hxg5? Qh3# 

36…Nf3 37. Nxf3 Bxf3+ 38. Kh2

38…Bxh1 –+ By eliminating White’s defender, I now have much more play. The knight and bishop on b2 and c3 are doing absolutely nothing.

39. Kxh1 Rf4 40. Kg2 Rxh4 41. Qe3 Rh2+ 42. Kf1 Rxb2 43. Kg1 Qh2+ 44. Kf1 Qg2+ 45. Ke1 Qh1+ 46. Qg1 Qxg1# 0-1

By learning from an earlier loss, I actually became a better player, and my understanding of the King’s Indian grew substantially. If you think the game was a tough loss, then you probably were doing something right. Analyze and figure out what you need to tweak.

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!



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