Friday, 4 April 2014

Chess Queen's Gambit Declined Semi Slav

It's time for another annotated Chess game, and in this post I'll discuss my most recent game, played for Kidsgrove against Cheddleton F.  Cheddleton is such a large club that they have six teams (A-F) and Cheddleton F is in our division.

My opponent was Dominic Taylor, aged approximately 15~16 and a strong player.  I'm saying that now, as he beat me.  It was a very educational match (for me) and one where I was actually able to play my favourite opening for White, the Queen's Gambit Declined.  Here goes:

David Leese, Kidsgrove (White) vs Dominic Taylor, Cheddleton F (Black).  1 April 2014, Kidsgrove Club.

1.d4 d5
2.c4 c6
3.Nf3 Nf6
4.Nc3 e6
5.Bg5 Be7
6.e3 h6
7.Bh4 Nbd7

At this point, I thought I'd messed up my move order.  I wanted to play something like the Rubinstein Attack variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined, with a pawn on h4 and Black already castled.  However, I haven't quite managed to reach that position.  At this point I should also probably have resolved the centre.  Instead, I pursued my plan to attack the soon-to-be-castled king.

8.Qc2 c5
9.cxd5 ( 9.dxc5 )  9...exd5
10.dxc5 Bxc5

It was my intention to inflict an isolated Queen's pawn on my opponent, and I succeeded.  What I did not realise originally was how quickly I could attack - and capture - the isolated Queen's pawn.  Once I'd seen that the knight on f6 is pinned, I captured on d5.

11.Nxd5 Qa5+
12.Nc3 Bb4

I wonder now if 12. Nd2 was better.  I got very worried at this stage, as Black achieves pressure against the knight on c3, and that's why I played my next move.  I wanted to prevent Nf6-d5.

13.Bc4 b5
14.Bb3 Bxc3+
15.bxc3 O-O
16.O-O Ba6
17.Rfc1 Rac8
18.Qb2 Ne4

... hitting the weak, isolated pawn on c3.  I have not exchanged my bishop while the knight was on f6, I hit on a pleasing little sequence that activated my dark-squared bishop.  I was feeling fairly confident about my position at this stage, but was soon to play some very inaccurate moves.

19.Be7 Rfe8
20.Bb4 Qc7

Possibly the highlight of the game.  I have the bishop pair, on adjacent diagonals, pointing towards the black king. My isolated pawn is well defended, and I can double rooks on the c-file and start pushing the c-pawn and forcibly gain some space for myself.  And I am a pawn ahead (the e-pawn has no direct opponent).  What follows is perhaps a lesson in how not to hold an advantage.

21.Nd4 Ndf6

For one thing, I'm not sure why I played Nd4.  I had noticed that black's rooks can be forked by a knight on d6, and so I was planning a sequence around the board, Nf3-d4-f5-d6.  Except that will take a very long time to complete - three further moves - and black could move his rooks at any point in that sequence.  Additionally, I could play f3 and drive away black's annoying knight on e4.  Worse still, black has started to move his pieces towards the kingside, and I'm not paying attention to this.  Worse than 21. Nd4 is my next move, which black immediately exploited.


22.  ... Ng4

Bother.  I am now in serious trouble, due to my fiddling around on the queenside, and black has built a significant attack on the kingside, with all my pieces far away from the action.  If I'd played 21. f3 or 21. h3, then this dreadful situation would have not come about.  I am now in serious trouble, and my next move isn't perfect either.

23.f4 Nxe3

No, I hadn't realised that 23. f4 would mean that the e-pawn would drop.

24.g3 bxa4
25.Rxa4 Qb6
26.Ba5 Qc5
27.Bb4 Qb6

Can I persuade my opponent to go for a draw?  Yes, he's got a bigger attack going, but my pieces are still active.  I shouldn't have done this, either, really - better moves were Re1, Qa2, or Qe2.  I was hoping my opponent would fall for a trap and move his queen to b8, so that I could play Bxf7+ and capture his queen with mine.  I was underestimating my opponent's ability.

29.  ... Qg6

No, he's not going for the draw, he's playing for a win.  And look at my pieces - almost all of them in one corner of the board, while my opponent's knights are both massive in the middle of the board.  To allow one knight on an outpost would be bad, but these two are covering each other.  Any of the other moves I had considered would have been better than this.

29.Ra2 Nxg3

The situation is desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures.  If my opponent can sacrifice pieces, then so can I.

30.Bxf7+ Kxf7
31.Qb3+ Bc4

This is not going well.  I thought I could pull black's king out into the open, and I missed this annoying move, which skewers my queen and rook.  I have no option here but to go on with the attack (as weak as it is).

32.Qb7+ Kg8
33.hxg3 Qxg3+  (I was expecting Bxa2).
34.Rg2 Nxg2
35.Qxg2 Qxg2+

36. ...  Rf8

So, I'm down by a pawn and the exchange, but my pawns are a mess and I really don't anticipate holding on to the game for much longer.  Here, I should play Kg3 to cover the pawn, and keep it off the light squares and away from black's bishop.

37.f5 Bd3

I give up.

I suffered from ignoring my opponent's more immediate attack, and from diverting forces away from my king.  I failed to spot the incoming attack and the plan behind my opponent's moves - always a bad sign - and after going a pawn ahead in the opening, managed to squander it by playing my own game instead of watching my opponent's.  Maybe next time...!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Chess: Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation

Some games are classics.  Some are so disastrously filled with blunders that the only way you're going to win is by committing fewer blunders and, ideally, not be the last person to commit one.

This is one of those games.  It started off well enough, with the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation (I knew a few moves, which got me started), but then the game descended into a number of unusual moves.  Or blunders.  And I missed at least one key opportunity to secure a big win... again.

Here goes.

Dave Johnson vs David Leese, Kidsgrove Chess Club, Roy Bennett Cup. 25 Feb 2014

1. e4  e5
2. Nf3  Nc6
3.  Bb4 a6
4. Bxc6 dxc6 

So far, soo good.  All by-the-book.  I've had to recapture with my d-pawn (away from the centre) to ensure I don't lose the e-pawn (I can meet Nxe5 with Qd4, forking pawn and knight and subsequently regaining the pawn).

5. d3 Bd6    (White plays to protect his e-pawn, so the threat of Nxe5 is back on.  I protect my e-pawn with my bishop, which seems okay to me.)
6. O-O Bg4 
7. d4 exd4 (White's move surprised me.  What's he doing, moving a pawn twice during development?  I've pinned his knight on f3, so I am eyeing up the possibility of doubling his f- and g-pawns with an exchange).
8. Qxd4 Bxf3 (... so far, so good, it seems, all going according to my plan).
9. Qxg7 Qh4 (I missed Qxg7.  But I've decided I'm not playing cautiously, and if I can't save my rook, I'm going to get some counterplay out of it.  Here, I'm threatening Qxh2#, and I've decided that this game is not going to be a draw).

At this stage, I'm thinking of various threats, apart from Qxh2#.  I'm anticipating various defences, including 10. h3, where I'll then play Bxg2 and possibly Qxe4.  I really need to think ahead (I was playing on adrenaline, which is never a good idea) and I didn't see White's defence (which was also a mistake). 

10. e5? Be2? 

An error from White, followed by a massive, massive mistake by me.  After 10. e5, the best answer was Bf8, threatening all kinds of nastiness.  Here's the position after 10. ... Bf8, the best move for Black.

Note that Black is currently a piece up (White has not recaptured on f3, as he hasn't had time and opted to capture on g7 instead).  And his Queen is attacked, so he can't recapture on f3 just yet either.  I wish I'd seen this move at the time - I was too busy working out how to save my pieces, and this was the obvious answer:  if I can't threaten the King, then chase the Queen.  Here, White can't capture the rook, because Qxg8 falls to ... Qg4, and after g3, Qh3 has no reply.  White's only answer here is Qg5, and after an exchange of queens and Black's Bd5 or Be4, Black is a piece up for a pawn (although his pawn structure is a mess).

But no, I played Be2.  I moved my bishop away from its prime location in front of White's king, and attacked the rook instead... it's become a desperado.  In fact, both bishops have ... what am I thinking?
11. exd6 Bxf1 
 12. Qxh8 O-O-O

I have a plan here, working around Kxf1, Qc4+, and then either Re8+ or Qxc2 with various threats.  However, White isn't bothered with the Bishop at the moment.  I should probably have played Qg4 to press the issue (threatening Qxg2#) and force the capture.  Did I see this?  No.
13. Qe5 Rxd6  (here comes the rook...)
14. Nc3 Rf6?  (White plays Nc3, developing the knight and denying my rook the d1 square.  I decide, after some thought, to threaten checkmate - the threat is Qxf2 and the Qxg2#).
15. Qe8#

If there's only one thing quicker than 'checkmate next move', it's 'checkmate this move'.  I have got my king into trouble, and then disconnected the queen and the rook from the back rank.

All in all, I would have to categorise this as a series of missed opportunities, finished off with a disastrous mistake, and all because I got rattled by the Qxg7 move (which could have paved the way for me to win).  If I think clearly, and avoid panicking, I can probably be a much better player.

Until next time...