Today’s video features an important game I played yesterday in the Pittsburgh Chess League. My opponent missed one opportunity to get play, but after that, all bets were off as I was left pressing in the final position.
This was a crucial fixture for the University of Pittsburgh, as the winner of the match would clinch the league title. In the end, our team won, pulling a 3-1 victory over the Carnegie Mellon alumni team.
I hadn’t planned to play a rated game until Saturday’s Pittsburgh Chess League finale, but when I got the email saying my Tuesday night class had been canceled, I quickly found myself playing an extra rated game against a local expert from Carnegie Mellon University at the Pittsburgh Chess Club.
Usually when I post a game to chess^summit, I make sure the selection has some sort of specific instructional purpose. That being said, I can’t say that this game can be marginalized into such a general category. Even though he fell behind early, my opponent did really well to hold and even missed a few chances to equalize!
So if today has a theme, let it be complicated positions. Honestly I can’t remember winning a game this difficult (and almost blowing it too!).
1. This move doesn’t develop or get Black’s king safe.
Okay, this is obvious, but still a valid point. By postponing the fundamentals, Black risks falling behind positionally should the attack not pan out.
2. Black cannot push …f7-f5.
This is the main problem with this move. If the f-pawn is pushed, Black gives White an outpost on g5 for a knight or a bishop.
Knowing this, I opted for 10. f3, giving me the option of Rf1-f2 if needed. Furthermore, if Black tries …h5-h4, g3-g4 can now shut down the position.
10.f3 Bxg2 11.Kxg2 h4
As I mentioned before, the g5 square becomes weak, yet it’s not so easy to exploit. At this point, I began to look at 14. gxf5, but I didn’t like it on account of a few reasons:
1. The g-file opens
Even if this is tenable, I do feel like Black is getting the play he intended with his opening choice. With the g-file open, Black’s plan is to play … f5-f4 and queenside castle to bring his d8-rook over to g8. This is a lot of pressure, which brings me to my next point.
2. I’m not punishing Black!
Remember back when Black played 9… h5 when I said my opponent wasn’t following opening principles? 14. gxf5 not only fails to capitalize on this detail, it actually rewards Black for his play!
So this being said I played the anti-positional move
Taking away from the center! But it turns out here that matters aren’t so trivial, Black’s king is still in the center, so opening the e-file with a future f3-f4 or d3-d4 push may be lethal. It was here that I noticed that Black’s weakness wasn’t the square on g5, it was the f5 square! By taking in this manner, the structure has changed; so a pawn on g4 helps support a knight on f5 and close the g-file. As my knight reroutes to f5, my bishop will find the right moment to go into g5 and cramp Black’s position.
And the best part? 14. exf5 was one of the computer’s best moves!
So Black opted for the stingiest move, but it also once again neglects development and king saftey. Immediately I wanted to play 16. gxf5:
The concept of cousre is to break Black’s center, leaving his king out in the open. This all works if Black plays along: 16… Nxf5 17.Nxf5 Qxf5 18.f4
Because of the discovery threats on the queen, castling for Black comes at the cost of a pawn. However, not all captures are forcing! I soon realized that my dystopic outlook on the position was not only incorrect, but potentially losing after Black’s amazing resource, 16… Nh6!
This shifts the game from dynamic play to static play. With 16. gxf4? I’ve actually given up any chance of securing the f5 outpost and opened the g-file for Black’s rook. Trying to stop Black from castling with 17. Bg5 still looks grim after 17… Nhxf5 =+.
And here it’s clear that Black is simply better with no real counterchances for White.
So I had to be less direct, yet still keeping the position in a dynamic state. With my next move, I highlighted that the f5 pawn is still weak.
My c3-knight was no longer planning on reaching d5 since Black can play …c7-c6 now, so trading it for Black’s best piece was appealing. Black took drastic measures with his next move, but he had several options to consider.
After some post-game analysis, I’ve come to the opinion that this was the best shot to equalize. While it creates light squared weaknesses, it neutralizes my grip on f5 and g5, while blocking in my bishop on c1. I had seen this during the game, and thought I had found a tactical resource in 17. Nxd4 fxg3 18. Re1 g2+ 19. Kg1 0-0-0 20. Nf5
But after some research with Stockfish, here it’s my play that’s burned out, and soon I will find that the g2 pawn is not protecting my king, it’s a protected passed pawn! All endgames favor Black here.
However, my opponent didn’t play this move when originally given the opportunity, so he must have thought the assessment was the same as before.
16… Nxe2 17.Qxe2 fxg4 18.fxg4
With evasive play, Black has avoided the loss of a pawn, but even after 18…0-0-0, my opponent will find his lack of development and counterplay concerning. My knight will find the f5 square, and my bishop, g5. White’s position plays itself.
This isn’t really a move for Black, but it does a nice job of illustrating his dilemmas after 17. Nxd4 exd4 18. Re1+
The win still needs work, but you get the idea. A trade on d4 eliminates Black’s ability to pressure the long dark squared diagonal, and opening the e-file will favor me.
So my opponent, uncomfortable with his options, played a move I hadn’t considered.
16. … Nxf3?!
The idea that opening the long diagonal will give Black strong play. However, this is the first innacuracy of the game! With this line my opponent forces me to seal in his bishop and open the e-file.
17.Rxf3 Qc6 18.Nd4!
18…exd4 19.Nxf5 Be5 20.Bg5! +=
Black really needed to try 22… Qd5 to force me to play slower.
White’s plan would be to play Qe2-e4, trade queens, and go into an endgame with small winning chances. But with my next move, my opponent realized how active I had become.
The computer gave me an option here that holds on to my grasp on the position with 26. Rf1 Rh7 27. Kg1 getting out of the pin 27… Nf6 28. Ng3 += with a slight edge.
I do have to say, so far the game has been very complex, yet there have not been any missed tactics by either side. Coming from the position of strength, I have to say this is a testament to my opponent’s defensive resourcefulness to find holding moves each turn. However, with the queen trade on c6, I must win again – this time however with an advantage on the clock.
26. … Qxc6 27.Rxc6 Kd7 28.b5
29.Bxh6 Rxh6 30.Nxd4
I had to make sure that this trade worked, and I think again my opponent found the best resource in 30… Rhf6. Let’s quickly look through some of Black’s choices:
30… Rxf3 31. Nxf3 Rf6 32. Nxe5+ does not win a piece! Black can prolong the fight with 32… Ke6!
…and White must stop the threat of mate on f1 with 33. Kg1, meaning that this is the position that must be understood. While Black may still be able to hold, I assessed that my advantage had increased since Black must give up the c7 and a7 pawns (the importance of a prophylactic measure like 28. b5!). Since I believed I had better winning chances, I was okay with this position.
So simplification does not come to Black’s aid. Black can’t afford to be passive either since the backward 30… Rhh8? has a tactical problem. Can you find it?
Here I had found 31. Rxf8 Rxf8 32. Rxc7+!! since now 32… Kxc7 is met with 33. Ne6+ with a winning minor piece endgame. Black can’t save himself with 32… Ke8, threatening mate on f1 and the knight on d4, because 33. Rc8+ forces a trade of rooks, and now I must find Nd4-f5, followed by d3-d4 to limit Black’s ability to attack my h2 pawn.
It’s clear that only White can be better, and of course I knew my opponent wouldn’t go for it. There was one last option I didn’t consider until after I had made my move in 30… Bxd4?! the concept being that my king is stuck on h1 and the constant threat of mate is a problem for me.
While this may be a potential drawing resource in other positions, my b5 pawn makes c7 a permanent backwards pawn and target. So in the line 31. Rxf8 Re6 32. Rc1, Black cannot both be active and defend c7 as 32… Re3 33. Rf7+ still gives White reasonable winning chances.
But as I said, I thought my opponent found the most aggressive try despite his time troubles.
31.Nf5 Rg6 32.Rc4 Rb8?
Black had much better in the more flexible 32… Rfg8 33.Ne3 d5 34.Ra4
And while Black remains a pawn down, he has reasonable drawing chances. Having a bishop in the center of the board alone should be enough compensation for the extra g-pawn, not to mention, my queenside stucture is also quite hideous.
33.Rxh3 Rxb5 34.Rh7+ Ke6 35.h3
35…Rb1+ 36.Kg2 Rb2+ 37.Kf3 Rxa2 38.Rcxc7
42.Ra7 a3 43.Ra5+ Ke6
44.d4 Bh2 45.d5+ Kd7 46.Ra7+ Kd8 47.Rb4
Missing the simplest win in 47. Ra8+ Kd7 48. Rac8, and Black must give up an exchange to stop the threat of Rc4-c7#. But at this point I was already playing my opponent’s clock – with 8 seconds left, he can never hold this, right?
47. … Rb2 48.Rxb2?? =
Here I thought that my opponent could make no progress with the b2 pawn, but with it on a dark square, his bishop can hold it until the rook comes to the rescue. So as I promised, one blunder… moral of the story? Don’t look at your opponent’s clock! If I had just spent 1 more minute, I would have realized that 48. Rxb2 allows too much play and that 48. Rba4 is a lot simpler.
48. … axb2 49.Rb7 Be5 50.Ke4 Kc8 51.Rb5
As my opponent correctly pointed out in our post-mortem, …Kc8-c7, followed by …Rf6-f8-b8, not only is the best mechanism but now I have to worry about losing the game entirely. White should be fine if I bring my king to c2, but my kingside pawns become weak and won’t be able to promote with the bishop on e5 guarding both g7 and h8. But I got lucky…
Here my opponent resigned after realizing my rook is protected on b4, and my f-pawn is soon queening. Tough game and my opponent did well to hold, but he simply just made more mistakes than me.
As I said before this (really, really long) analysis, there really isn’t a particular theme I can sum up here. But there were some key points:
Early attacks mean neglecting development. Sometimes the best defense is to find ways to punish your opponent for not following the fundamentals.
Captures aren’t a truly forcing move. In this game, there were two points where a pawn takes pawn move could be ignored, and thus change the entire evaluation of the position.
This brings me to my next point, always evaluate who is statically better each position. This constantly changed throughout the game, so it changed the focus for each player’s goal as well.
Time trouble for your opponent is not time trouble for you! Say what you want, but I’m going to kick myself for this Rxb2 move more than I’ll pat myself on the back for winning. Next time I won’t be so lucky.
I thought this was a really interesting game, and I hope you did too. For me, winning (despite some errors) was a great way to rebound from the Pittsburgh Open and start thinking about my summer calendar – specifically the US Junior Open!
In today’s video, I review Vishy Anand’s win over Levon Aronian from the 2016 Candidates Tournament in Moscow. While everyone will be discussing Giri’s missed chance against Caruana, a lead change this late into the tournament cannot be overlooked!
I haven’t done a Free Game Analysis post in a while, so I was extremely pleased to get two game submissions this week from tournaments in both Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. If you too would like to have your game analyzed for free by me, send your game PGNs to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Our first game is from Joe P’s last round of last week’s Pittsburgh Open. Joe scored 3.5/5 in the U1800 section, and saw a rating boost of 71 points to break 1600! Congrats Joe!
So what should Black do instead? The main lines in this position are 6…0-0 and 6… c6 with the intention of keeping a closed position, and standard QGD play. While there’s nothing objectively wrong with this, Black doesn’t score very well at the top level.
With this quick look in ChessBase’s free online Mega Database, Black only has two decisive games in the position after 6… 0-0 7. Rc1. If you look at some of the names, strong players like Sargissian, Naiditsch, and Kryvoruchko all lost to lower rated players in this line. Black’s relative passivity in this line makes life tough for Black, which is why I’m going to recommend the much more active set-up in the Ragozin. Putting the bishop on b4 instead of e7 gives Black alot more flexibility and space, and while there is plenty of theory, it’s clear that Black can play for a win in the opening.
My thoughts on the game? Aside from the opening, Black was never really in trouble of losing the game, but at times played too passively. White should have secured the half point, but Black played the better game. Congrats Joe on the strong finish and the big rating gain!
On to our next game, from Jeffrey, a chess^summit fan and my former teammate from my MLWGS days. Jeffrey’s currently at the Virginia Open, and after a rocky start, managed to pick up a round 2 win to reach 1.5/2. Let’s see how it went!
I think both 12. fxe5 and 12. f5 are possible here, but upon further evaluation, White’s choice doesn’t really matter since Black’s plan should be …Nf6-h5 with the idea of putting pressure on f4. Black’s opening play has been kind of poor, but White’s play hasn’t exaclty been punishing. I analyzed the move order with an engine and came to a few conclusions.
First, Nf3-h4 was a waste of time in this position, not only because it should have failed tactically, but it loses the value of having played 1. f4. What do I mean? Well if you think about it, White can reach a similar position in a King’s Indian Attack set-up:
Next, 9. h3 is what gives Black the …Nh5 resource since g3 is weakened. Usually this move is played to allow for Bc1-e3, taking away the g4 square from the knight, but seeing as Jeffrey didn’t play this move, 9. a4! would have been much more prudent.
It’s not that we are expecting Black to play the poor 9…Nb6? its just that this move restricts Black’s ability to expand with …b7-b5 on the queenside. Now it’s up to Black to come up with ideas. 9… a5 is a natural move for Black to secure the c5 outpost, but a knight on c5 won’t help Black with the pawn on d3. White can just play Kh1 followed by f4-f5. Also reasonable is b2-b3 and Bc1-a3 putting pressure on d6 once the f4-e5 tension is resolved (I will admit this is less agressive).
Anyways, I thought it was interesting that Black still had a tenable position after violating several opening principles.
This game was a lot more tactical than the first, but also proved as another exemplar as to why these …Nb6 ideas don’t work. Sure, Black got away with it in the first game, but that was White’s choice, not Black’s genius. As a coach, I’ve noticed that this manuever, though incorrect, has been played alot by lower rated players. When I started working with one of my current students, he played a line of the King’s Indian like this:
Of the three cases we’ve discussed today, this is the worst …Nb6, and while my student knows much better now, I think it shows that even at the 1400 level, this move still shows up.
If we’ve learned anything today, it’s that this amateur-ish …Nb6 idea is not only a weak move, but its a bad plan! It’s passive, and it slows the natural expansion of the queenside for Black. In more active openings like the King’s Indian, this move is even more unforgiveable since Black falls behind too many tempo in the sharp position.
Well, I hope you’ve made it this far – this is my longest free game analysis post yet. Make sure to send your games into email@example.com to have your game analyzed by me in my next post!
Check out my video for today! In this video, I reset my tactics trainer rating to 1200 and tried to bring it up as much as possible in 10 minutes. With the exception of a small slip up in the end, I was nearly perfect! See if you can do better by pausing the video before I try and solve each puzzle.
Well – I wish I could say that a week of intensive study and deep preparation paid off, but I simply had a rough outing at the Pittsburgh Open this past weekend. Only scoring 1/4 in the top section, the weekend’s performance showed me that the road to becoming a master and playing for the US Junior Open is a lot longer than I had anticipated.
While there were a lot of negatives for me in this event, I did want to share my second round match-up.
My only point of the weekend, but hopefully the short-term disappointment will lead to long-term success. I have a match for the Universtiy of Pittsburgh in two weeks, and I don’t intend to let that one go.
With less than 24 hours before my first round of the Pittsburgh Open kicks off, I thought I’d share another game of mine from the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Open. While I wasn’t happy with my finish in that event, it’s certainly propelled me to work harder this week in each phase of the game. I’m not sure what that means for this weekend in what should be a tough open section of Continental Chess’ Pittsburgh Open, but confidence is never a bad thing to have.
I like the game I’m about to share, because to an extent, it balances practicality with precise play, while at the same time showing what happens when your opponent jumps ship on opening principles. My opponent is a young, ambitious player who is closing in on 1700, let’s see how he holds up.
Steincamp – Cao (71st Annual Pittsburgh Metropolitan Open, 2016)
My opponent made me play on till checkmate, but the win is simple.
My opponent really only made two mistakes this game:
1) He didn’t stop my d-pawn push, which allowed me to gain too much time and space.
2) Giving me the protected passed pawn on d5 not only lost a tempo but caused long-term problems throughout the game. Because of the time he lost, it allowed me to march my f-pawn and then squeeze for space.
But the two principle abandoning gaffes were enough to lose this one. My opponent is a relatively strong player for his age, but even this game shows the importance of two basic opening principles: controlling the center and not moving the same piece twice.