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!

 

Advertisements

Playing a Good Game of Chess

In my experience, chess is defined by wins and losses, not by quality of play, especially at the scholastic level. Unfortunately, this is a grave misconception. A competitive player should let every game be a stepping stone, or a lesson. Often times I find that parents of young players react more to a result than a quality game or best effort. Typically, these parents aren’t exactly chess masters. They know what ratings are and what they mean, and they see each game as a statistic; being 100 rating points lower than the opponent is a huge disadvantage, and the higher player should always convert. This is exactly the wrong mentality, things happen and players make mistakes. For any chess parents out there reading my blog, let the coach decide if the match was well played, especially if your child is higher rated than you.

I began this post with this intro because I wanted to show that you do not have to win to play a respectable game. Today’s game is a match I played in November 2013 at the Northern Virginia Open. I was playing a 2000+ rated player, so for me, it was of the upmost importance to focus on playing the best chess I could. Even though I had just broken 1900, playing expert players was a rare opportunity. While I drew this game, it is extremely important to understand that at no point I was playing for a draw. If you play for a draw against a strong opponent, you will lose. If you play for a win against a strong opponent, anything can happen. Just make the best moves you can make and play along.

Steincamp – Lohr (Northern Virginia Open 2013)

1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. e3 e6 6. Nge2 Nge7 7. O-O d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. d4 cxd4

10. Nxd4 A different idea for me. If you read my last post, I got the idea from the Franco–Steincamp game in which I failed to find a strong defense. By playing this move, I avoid immediately accepting isolated pawns. This is important because now if Black exchanges on d4, my bishop from g2 is not blocked by the knight from f3.

10…O-O

11. Nce2 Perhaps not the best way of going about things. The bishop on g7 is becoming stronger and I didn’t accomplish anything substantial with this move. In reflection, I would have considered 11. Qb3, with the idea of attacking d5. Nonetheless, the game is still very much in the balance.

11…Qb6

12. b3?! A risky idea, but one worth trying. I have to keep an eye out for any tactics as a result of the pin. If I were a more passive player, I think I would have further delayed the development of the c1 bishop, but this position mandates rapid development.

12…Bf5

13. Ba3 Black’s pieces are better placed, but this move is certainly more challenging to deal with than 13. Bb2. By pinning the knight, I give myself time to move my rook from a1.

13…Rfd8 14. Rc1 Qa5 15. Bc5

15…b6 Black cannot take on a2, as the queen will be trapped after Ra1,  followed by Ba3. By playing b7–b6, my g2 bishop gets some more scope, and with the exception of my opponent’s isolated pawn, the pawn structures for both sides are identical. I have solved all of my opening problems, and could even be slightly better.

16. Bxe7 Nxe7 17. Rc7 Rd7 18. Qc1 Be5 19. Rxd7 Bxd7 20. f4 Rc8 21. Qb2

21…Bd6 I was fairly surprised to see this move, as the bishop was far better placed on g7. While black has the pair of bishops, it is not quite clear how his light squared bishop will join the fight.

22. a4 Qb4 23. Rc1 Rc5

24. Nc3 An important idea, as black has no entry into my position. Meanwhile, it is clear that the pawn on d5 will weigh him down.

24…a6 25. Na2 Rxc1+ 26. Qxc1 Qc5 27. Bf1

27…a5 In this position, it is very clear that the pair of bishops does not yield any advantage. This position is probably equal, but I played along to see if I could undermine his isolated pawn.

28. Qd2 Nf5 29. Nxf5 Bxf5 30. Bg2 Be6 31. Nc3 Qb4

32. Qd4 Getting out of the pin and protecting the a4 pawn in the case that b3 pawn falls. In this position, While I may finally win the d5 pawn, black will win the b3 pawn. If black trades the queen, I will have an isolated pawn, but my king and knight can protect it with ease. If 32… Qxb3 33. Nxd5 = If black takes the knight, it will be an opposite colored bishop ending, and if he refuses to trade, his b6 pawn will become a target. 1/2-1/2

I hope by showing this game I conveyed that it is perfectly possible to play a strong game of chess without getting a winning result. In this game, I challenged myself to find ways to eliminate the pressure of the g7 bishop while undermining the d5 pawn. It is extremely important to plan in chess. Find a solid plan and execute it. In this game, while I was happy with a draw, I knew that I did everything I could and a better result was not possible. Always play your best.

 

 

Beating the Lower Rated Player

Chess is tough, and a lot of it has to do with ratings. Personally, I find facing lower rated opponents more intimidating than higher rated players because there is an expectation that you win. Meanwhile, as you slowly chip away at your position, the lower rated player solidifies and plays for a draw. This can be frustrating (trust me, I know), but there are simple ways to prepare for these games without taking too much time. By going over games in which you are the lower rated player, try to understand how the opponent broke your position down, especially if they play a similar opening. Odds are, you take the same mentality when playing a higher rated player as the lower rated player takes against you.

Below I have two games, the first, in which I was the underdog (2153 v. 1799), and the other where I was the favored player (1941 v. 1476). Hopefully by reading this post, you too can learn how to strengthen your play against stronger players.

Franco – Steincamp (2013)

1. c4 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 c5 5. e3

5… e6 Already, this is a passive idea. This would make more sense if I could put a knight on e7, put preparing the d7–d5 push will likely leave me with an isolated pawn in the center.

6. Nge2 d5 7. cxd5 exd5 8. d4 cxd4 9. Nxd4 I think I would prefer taking with the pawn, but I actually used this line a month later at the Northern Virginia Open and drew a 2000+ rated player. By taking with the knight, white does not have a isolated pawn. However, in exchange he has a passive bishop on c1. If white can make this bishop active, then I have no compensation for my isolated pawn.

9…Nc6 10. O-O O-O

11. a4 This is an interesting idea. Usually this move prevents a b7–b5 push, but seeing as the position is open, this attack would not be a strong idea for me. White typically opts for Qb3, immediately putting pressure on my d5 pawn.

11…Nxd4 By exchanging the knights, White’s c1 bishop can get in the game. While White now has an isolated pawn, his g2 bishop is better than my g7 bishop since there is no knight on f3. Seeing that my opponent has more flexibility, he is definitely slightly better.

12. exd4

12…Be6  While it may not have been my intention, this move is not only passive, but communicates that I want a draw. 12… Qb6 may have yielded more play since 13. Nxd5 Nxd5 14. Bxd5 Qxd4 = solves my problems. White will most likely ignore the d5 pawn, but this queen move gives me some much needed development and flexibility.

13. Bf4 Nh5 14. Be3 Qd7

15. a5?! At this point I didn’t really see the idea. White is trying to open the queenside by bringing a knight to c5. This is an interesting thought, but white has plenty of time to do whatever he wants. My knight on h5 is doing very little, and my queen–bishop battery is doing nothing.

15…Rac8 16. Re1 Rfe8 17. Na4

17…Qd6 This move accomplishes nothing. For my opponent, he can take away two things. First, I don’t see his plan. Second, I don’t really know what I need to do in this position.

18. Nc5 b6 19. Nxe6 Qxe6 20. Qb3 Rc4 21. Bd2 Qd7 22. Rxe8+ Qxe8 23. Bxd5 Rc7 24. axb6 axb6

25. Ra8 White has opened this position, and has found far more active play. My passive play has resulted in an easy win for white.

25…Rc8 26. Bxf7+ 1-0

So for me, a game against such a highly rated player was rare, but my performance was extremely disappointing. However, since I play the English, I got some key take aways from this game. First, I learned that in these open isolated pawn positions, it is extremely important to activate as many pieces as possible. My opponent did a great job of rendering my pieces obsolete throughout the game, and made it hard for me to plan. Secondly, when both kingside bishops have been fianchettoed in an open position, having a knight on the f3/f6 square drastically reduces the play of the bishop. When I played this game, I should have considered this disadvantage when trying my e6–d5 pawn pushes in the opening.

These observations seem fairly basic, but in turn, I now know how to break down passive players in these kinds of pawn structures. The other thing is to keep in mind is that if I were to play a passive lower rated player as white in this kind of position. My performance in the game above is likely better than his will be. This doesn’t mean underestimate the opponent, it just means that in all likelihood that more tactical ideas will be possible in this game. After reviewing this blowout loss, I took what I learned into a game in which I was a 450+ point favorite.

Steincamp – Chen (2014)

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 d6 4. Bg2

4…Be7 This move is extremely passive. There is no plan for this bishop, and frankly should have been fianchettoed.

5. e3 O-O 6. Nge2 c6 7. O-O d5 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. d4 exd4

10. exd4 So despite starting with a different opening, we have reached the same pawn structure as the previous game. Two things I should note in this position are that a) Black wasted tempi playing d7–d6–c6–d5, when he could have tried 3… d5 line. And b) Black’s bishop is misplaced since it cannot easily attack my isolated pawn, whereas my bishop is. Already I have a better position as white as my earlier opponent had against me.

10…Nc6

11. Nf4 Here I chose to veer away from the a–pawn push idea like in the other game. This mostly had to do with less than perfect position of the bishop on e7. Also I have a tactic if Black tries …Be6

11…Be6? 12. Re1 Qd7 13. Nxe6 fxe6

14. Bh3! The critical idea. By weakening his d5 pawn I was able to create an even bigger weakness for black.

14…Kf7?

15. Bg5? Too much finesse I should have just taken the pawn and gone ahead in material.

15…Rae8 16. Bxe6+ Qxe6 17. Rxe6 Kxe6 18. Bxf6 Bxf6

19. Qb3 While I have a substantial advantage, the general thematics in the position have not changed. The d5 pawn is still very weak.

19…Rd8 20. Re1+ Kd6 21. Nb5+ Kd7 22. Qxd5+ Kc8 23. Qe6+ Kb8 24. d5 Nd4 25. Nxd4 Bxd4 26. Re2 Rfe8 27. Qxe8 Rxe8 28. Rxe8+ Kc7 Following the simplification, I won a fairly easy ending. 1-0

In this game, I didn’t follow the exact plan that I had lost to earlier, but the core of my plan remained the same. Activate pieces, make forcing moves, and win the d5 pawn. By understanding how I lost to a higher rated player, I actually learned how to beat a passive player in that position. Don’t let the lower rated player scare you, and learn from your own games!

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

Teaching Group Classes

14650886903_1a9b0b0537_o

 

For starters, sorry for the hold–up on the posts. This past week, I’ve been directing Dragon Chess Camp (see teachmechess.com) as a fundraiser for my school. Between my school friends and I, we helped teach 40 campers (double that of last year) how to play better chess.

Yesterday, as we were running our end of camp tournament (see results here), a highly rated player from a nearby high school asked me how I prepared a curriculum for my class. I thought that I would share my answers to you all in this post.

In my class, I taught five students rated 820–1280, and had to prepare nine and a half hours of curriculum to fill the blocks of the camp. As I developed my lesson plans, I made a couple observations that made it both easier for me to teach, but also made the material more accessible for the students.

1) Use your own games as exemplars

Stay away from the Grandmaster games. Yes, they are high quality, and yes, the tactics are spectacular, but for a class rated 1000 on average, its asking a lot for them to grasp your points. Mistakes made by Grandmasters are generally really subtle.

By using your own games, you don’t need to calculate every move before the lesson because you are already familiar with the position. Also, if you’ve gone over the game with your opponent, you might be able to talk about what your opponent was thinking, and whether it was good or bad. You can’t do that by picking up games on ChessBase. Furthermore, the blunders that you and your opponent make are far more easy to understand.

2) Explain Basic Themes

For kids rated about 1000, the biggest problem is generally hanging pieces. Unfortunately, I don’t think you can dedicate a week’s course to not hanging pieces, but you can at least show them how to get in positions where they won’t lose material.

For this week, my main theme was optimization, putting pieces on their best possible squares in the opening, so they don’t have to be rerouted later. One issue I’ve noticed with scholastic players is that they love developing their bishops to e2 or d2, even though there is no plan with that piece. Furthermore, they usually box in this bishop with their center pawns and play practically down a bishop with limited space. So in my first lesson, I showed a game where I optimized my pieces, and where my opponent played the aforementioned passive structure. By talking about optimization, I was able to teach the concepts of space, pawn structure, and thematic opening ideas for the rest of week.

The key is, have one major theme, and all the sub–themes should connect back to it. More connections will help the kids learn.

3) Ask questions

If you lecture, your students will sleep. Try to let the students collectively talk as much as you are. This is hard to do, but if you can make the kids feel like they are beating the 1800+ rated player and not you, it will be a lot more exciting for them.

4) Assign Homework

This past week I assigned some pawn endings and interesting studies to get the kids thinking as a warm–up. Even if the homework is really hard. Having a crazy tactic to start the day might impress upon the kids. The critical point is to talk about the ideas behind the right move and show the students why it works and other variations don’t.

5) Practice Games

Get the kids to play practice games against each other, in tournament–like conditions. This will not only help you gauge the talent of your players, but also give you an opportunity to work one–on–one during game analysis. While it is critical to show them the best moves throughout the game, it is even better if you can connect the moves back to your lesson.

With those five tips you can be well on your way towards teaching a group lesson!

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment!

 

Sensing the Decisive Moment

So I’m back from the World Open! I finished the U2000 section with 2 wins and 7 draws, but no losses. While I didn’t reach my goal, I did finish higher than I came in, and still gained rating points.

Here is my first game. I think that in this game, I got off to a slightly worse position, but found a way to turn the result around.

Yan–Steincamp (World Open 2014)

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4

3.c3 This is the Smith–Morra Gambit, probably the last opening I wanted to play against a lower rated player in the first round.

3…g6 4.cxd4 d5 5.exd5 Nf6 6.Nf3 Bg7

7.Bc4 I thought this was an odd idea, 7. Bb5+ is the main line, followed by 7… Nbd7 8. d6 exd6.

7…O-O 8.Nc3 Nbd7 9.Ne5 Nb6 10.Bb3 Nfxd5

11.Qf3 Despite awkward placement for the bishop, white has found a way to attack the kingside.

11…e6 12.Ne2 Bd7

13.h4 This move scared me a bit, even though there is nothing in it. I played 13… Qf6? Thinking that I could trade queens, but after 14. Qh3, I have to move my queen due to the threat of Bg5, and a following queen trap.

13… Qf6? 14.Qh3

14…Qe7 Due to the wasted move, I stand slightly worse.

15.g4? This is actually a mistake. But its hard to find the reason, isn’t it? This move doesn’t really threaten anything immediate, and gives me a free move to try to get back in the game.

15…Bxe5! This is the decisive moment. Despite being under attack, I trade my fianchettoed bishop for his e5 knight. In order to make this move, I had to find a string of forcing moves. 15… Qb4+ isn’t nearly as strong, because I won’t be able to put my queen on e4. 

16.dxe5 Qb4+ 17.Bd2 Qe4

18.Kd1? My opponent flinches, and concedes that there is no perfect defense with this move. Now that white can’t castle, it will be very easy for me to find a win.

Bb5 19.Ng1 Nf4 20.Qf3?

20….Qxf3+ Not the best move. In this game, it never occurred to me that the knight can be overloaded from g1. 20… Be2+ wins on the spot, if 21. Nxe2 Qxf3 –+ or 21. Kc1 Rfc8+ –+.

21.Nxf3 Be2+ 22.Kc2

22…Rac8+ No need to take the knight yet, need to improve my position first.

23.Bc3 Bxf3 24.Rh2 Nbd5 25.Re1 Nxc3 26.bxc3 Bxg4 27.f3 Bf5+ and white resigned.

0-1

I thought that this was a interesting game because if I didn’t find 15…Bxe5, I don’t think I could have still won in such a fashion. The key is, always look for active play, as the best defense is a great offense.

Ancient Greek Warfare and Chess

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that this week is the 42nd Annual World Open . I’ll be leaving tomorrow, so in all likelihood, this will be my last post until I get back.

Chess is a lot like ancient Greek warfare. Each soldier would line up with both a large shield (pawns) , and a spear/sword (pieces). After a few fights, it was noted that to attack with the spear alone was difficult, and had limited levels of success with high casualty rates. Greek generals opted to use the shield instead, with the goal of pushing the opponent of the field (gaining space). However, shields don’t kill people. A side only won the battle if the other side ran away  and opened the potential to be stabbed by turning their backs (retreat). This battle strategy seems fairly basic, but it actually is important to understanding space in chess. I thought for today’s post I’ll share my first game where I outplayed and  beat a 1700 (I’d beaten one 1700 before, but he had hung a rook in a winning position, so that doesn’t really count). When I played this game, I had just broken 1500, so there are a couple obvious missteps I made, but nonetheless, I think it is a good example of “Greek Warfare” chess.

Steincamp – Dommalapati (Virginia Closed, 2011)

1. c4 e6 2. d4 d5

3. e3?! I tried to avoid all Queen’s Gambit Declined theory in all my games when I was younger. Obviously, this is not such a good idea, but when you are constantly playing up, it is sometimes advantageous to play non–main line moves to throw off your higher rated opponent.

3…Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Nf3 O-O

6. a3? This is not so much a mistake, but an unnecessary precaution. If I played this game today, I might try 6. cxd5, trying to reach a Carlsbad pawn structure.

6…c5 7. Be2 Nc6 8. O-O a6

9. dxc5 One of the reasons I became a stronger player was my ability to expand on the queenside and gain space. My idea is to immediately follow up with b2–b4.

9…Bxc5 10. b4 Be7 11. cxd5

11…exd5?! This move creates an isolated pawn in the center. While White can force Black to have an isolated pawn, he should have played …Nxd5 first trying to trade down before creating the weakness.

12. Nd4! The critical idea. By creating a blockade, black cannot push the d5 pawn to d4 with hopes of a trade. Now I have the option to try Be2–f3 and put pressure on the blocked pawn.

Qc7 13. Bb2 Be6 14. Rc1 Rac8 15. Qd2 Qb8

16. f4 My computer believes that this is the best move, but I don’t think it is the most principled approach. My pawn on e3 is backwards and if black can trade down, a rook on e8 could spell problems for me. The reason I played this move is because it gained space on the kingside. Black is playing very passively, and is letting me do what I want with the position.

16…Bd6 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. g4 Ne7 19. g5 Nd7

20. Bg5! The whole point of 17…Nxe6. Black’s pawn on e6 is way weaker than the former isolated pawn was on d5. Even if this move does not win a pawn (it does), my development alone is enough for me to have a significant advantage.

20…Nf5 21. Nxd5! Rxc1 22. Rxc1 Kh8 23. Bxf5 Rxf5

24. Qd4? My first real “miss” in the game. I don’t have record of if I was in time pressure, so I don’t know how I missed this opportunity and later tactics in the game. Much better is the hard–to–find 24. Nc7! If Black tries to keep his bishop with 24… Bxc7 25. Qxd7 Qg8 to stop mate 26. Rxc7 Rf7 is the only way to stop the threat of Qxg7+ followed by Rc8. 27. Qxf7 +- and Black could have easily resigned. At least on the bright side, 24. Qd4 still gives me an advantage.

24…Qf8 25. Nc7 e5 26. Qd3 Nc5 27. Rxc5 Bxc5 28. Ne6 Bxe3+ 29. Qxe3 exf4 30. Qd3

30…Qe7 The queen was overloaded, guarding both back rank mate, and the rook. Unfortunately, black will lose the queen regardless of what he does. The queen most move in response to the threat from the knight, and Bxg7+ is a very strong possibility. After 30… Qf7 31. Qd8+ and mate will follow shortly.

31. Qxf5 1-0

Even though I missed some tactical opportunities in this game, it became very clear that I got a strong advantage after acquiring a lot of space. Because Black did very little to contest both the center and the wings, I was able to expand on both sides, while toggling my pieces to attack my opponent’s weak central pawns.

I think one key takeaway from this game is that you can’t get by playing passively. Unfortunately, there are some players who think that good defense and passive play are the same thing, so choose to make nothing moves in complicated positions. However, there is a critical difference between these two ideas. In my ten years of competitive play, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a master say: “This is a very strong passive move.” The reason is, strong defensive play means that the defender is always creating areas for counter play, and is ready to pounce should the attacker make a mistake. With a passive player, there is no such thing.

In this game, my opponent played extremely passively. For example, you may have noticed that my opponent played 15… Qb8?! and from that square, it effectively did nothing for the rest of the game, and when it did move, all it did was defend from f8. As I created space, my opponent chose to give it to me.

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