Friday, 3 January 2014

Chess: Bird Opening 1 f4 2 e6

After a long break from Chess writing, I'm returning with an analysis of a game I recently played face-to-face.  I've played almost exclusively online for a number of years, and recently decided it was time to start playing 'real' people.  I've joined Kidsgrove Chess Club, and signed up to the English Chess Federation in order to obtain a ranking through the games I play.

My first game in this new face-to-face era is a friendly - the rest of the club were involved in a match against Stafford Chess Club, and I was able to play against one of the Stafford team after he completed his game.

I played Black, and for possibly the first time ever, I faced the Bird Opening, 1 f4.  My reply was 1. ... e6, intending at some early point to get my Queen to h4 and deliver a potentially uncomfortable check. 

David Barker vs Dave Leese, 4 December 2013, Kidsgrove Chess Club (Home, Friendly)

1.f4 e6
2.b3 d5
3.Bb2 Nf6
4.e3 c5

If there is space in the centre to be claimed, I'll claim it.  My opponent seems to be playing for a very slow build-up.  I am resisting my urge to play my normal, attacking game and am playing cautiously - after all, I don't want to lose quickly in my very first game in front of my new team-mates. Also, I am concerned about the white Bishop on b2 and the way it looks into my kingside - I brought out my Knight to f3 in order to liberate my Bishop from having to defend h7.  In time, I may play d4 and look to shut White's Bishop out of the game.

5.Nf3 Nc6
6.Be2 Bd6

 In this position, I opted to play 7. ... O-O.  I don't want to capture on d4 - White could recapture with his Bishop or his Knight and start to develop a grip on the centre.  Additionally, I also have a brief tactic developing where I begin to attack the now-backward pawn on e3.  Here's what I was thinking at that time:

7. ... O-O
8. dxc5  Bxc5 attacking e3
9. Nd4  Nxd4

Now after:  10. exd4 White has weakened pawns, and I can attack them with 10. ... Bd6 11.  O-O Qc7, and I have the options of moving my Knight on f6 to an even better square.

The position after my theoretical 11. ... Qc7
However, the game didn't proceed that way at all, and we resume the game after my move 7. ... O-O

8.  Ne5?  Ne4

I was very surprised by my opponent's decision to play Ne5.  This Knight is the only piece protecting the dark squares on the kingside and preventing me from getting in a Qh4+ and hopefully initiating a king-side attack at some point.  I moved my Knight to e4 in order to open the diagonal for my Queen, and also to take a look at f2, the weak spot in white's position.  It's also a great outpost for my Knight, as my opponent has played f4 and d4.

9.  Nd2  Qh4+  0-1

I suspect my opponent saw the threat of my Knight on e4, but missed the Queen check, and after a moment's thought, resigned the game.  The immediate threat is 10. g3 Nxg3 11. Rg1 Qxh2 or 11. Ndf3 Qh5 which wins a pawn and starts a moderate king-side attack (preventing White from castling king-side and causing longer term complications).  I was surprised at the early resignation, but pleased that my first face-to-face game in front of my new team-mates was a win.

The position after 9 ... Qh4+ and White resigned.

We took back White's ninth move, and instead White played 9. O-O, and play continued:

9.  O-O  f6?
10.Nxc6 bxc6

11.Nd2 Nxd2  (I'm not sure I should have given up my Knight on this great outpost, but I suspect my opponent would have swapped them off anyway).
12.Qxd2 cxd4

I took this pawn in order to straighten out my own doubled pawns.

13.Bxd4 c5
14.Bb2 Bb7
15.Rad1 Qb6?

I missed the gathering threat on the d-file.  I moved my Queen to an attacking position, planning to advance my c-pawn and expose an attack on the diagonal to the King, and missed the attack on my own d-pawn. Following this, I got into a potentially very messy position where I could have lost at least a pawn.

16.c4 Qc6
17.Bf3 Qa6
18.Bc3 Bc6
19. e4?

After a lot of shuffling around (which surprised me, I was sure my position was going to fall apart) my opponent played 19. e4.  I was lining up my Bishop and Queen so that I could re-capture on d4 with my Bishop before my Queen.  One benefit of 17... Qa6 was the attack on a2, which required a defence, but otherwise, I was scrambling around for acceptable moves until this point.  19. e4 gave me the chance I needed to reinforce my position and get out of trouble, and I played this move very quickly.

19.... d4
20.Ba1 Rab8
(moving onto the semi-open file)
21.Qe2? Bxf4
22.Bg4 Be3+
23.Kh1 Bxe4

My opponent later said he wasn't having a great night - he'd previously played another member of the Kidsgrove team and lost, and I guess he was becoming tired.  Or just having a bad day, but I had moved two pawns ahead through two blunders (although 22. ... Be3+ is one of my favourite moves of this game).  After 23 ... Bxe4 I was two pawns up and they were connected passed pawns on the d- and e- files.  There were a few exchanges made as I started to trade off pieces, then I began advancing my passed pawns and getting my rooks involved.  After move 29, my opponent resigned, as I completed my defence and started looking to push my passed pawns.

24.Bf3 Bxf3
25.Rxf3 e5
26.Rg3 Rfe8
27.Qc2 e4
28.Qe2 Bf4
29.Rh3 Rbd8 0-1

The final position, after 29 Rbd8.

Not a perfect game, and I made a few blunders throughout, but held together and took the opportunities.  We discussed possible continuations, and Qh5 and Qxc5 look like a good start for White, but Black can reply with Qxa2, and Black's passed pawns present a continued threat.  All in all, an interesting game, and an enjoyable return to face-to-face Chess.

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