Monday, 13 October 2014

Queen's Gambit Declined

I recently won my first face-to-face Chess game for months.  I think it's only my third or fourth win this year, so I'm really pleased.  It wasn't a perfectly-played game, but it went well enough.

David Leese (rated 95) Kidsgrove vs Ben Lack (rated 64) Newcastle
30 September 2014, South Cheshire Shield, Board 4

As you can see, I played the Queen's Gambit, as I often do, and have discovered the move 4. Bf4 from some of the reading I've been doing.  I was very surprised by my opponent's move 4. ... g6 which seemed a little early, and took my chance to play something a little unusual myself; 5. Nb5, threatening 6. Nxc7+

Black's move 4. Bf4 significantly weakened the darker squares on his kingside, and although I couldn't exploit them immediately, I knew this was something I could work on in the future.  I envisaged that Black's response to 5. Nb5 would be ... Bd6, where I would capture, and after his recapture with his c-pawn, he would have doubled pawns.  I didn't expect his reply which was 5 ... Bb4+.

I had to retreat my knight, but I wasn't expecting him to return his bishop to f8, as he did on move 7.  He's clearly desperate to fianchetto his bishop on g7, and is going to take as many moves as necessary to make it happen.  In theory, anyway.

Another disadvantage of having all those pawns on light squares is that it severely impeded his kingside knight, a situation I was able to exploit with my kingside pawns in the start of the middlegame.  Blacks pawns are unable to support his knight on f6, and by pinning it with my bishop on g5, I was able to obtain a pawn advantage.  I was then able to construct various further threats against the knight, and drive it back to g8, cramping my opponent and preventing him from castling.

I made a blunder on move 14.  In order to develop my queen, possibly castle queenside and watch black's queen, I had just played 13. Qb3, which attacks the pawn on b7.  Black pushed this pawn, and I missed an opportunity to threaten his queen, trap it and gain material.  I should have played 14. Bd2, which would be followed with the threat of Nb5 and Nc7+ winning a rook or the queen (which would have previously been forced to a6).  As it happened, I played 14. Bd3 which looked like a natural developing move, and my opponent was able to complicate the game and escape from this trap - but not without losing material.  I was able to win his bishop (following his interesting but inaccurate sacrifice) and then start simplifying - a process my opponent seemed happy to help me with. 

I was surprised by 17. ... Na6, as I was predicting Nc6 which kept the knight away from the bishop and made it harder for me to capture the b-pawn, while attacking my pawn on e5.

Speaking of my pawn on e5, I made an unfortunate blunder on move 29, when I failed to protect it!  I was too busy wondering about how to push my a-pawn and close out my opponent's passed pawn on d5 that I missed the obvious and helpful f4 pawn push.

All in all, I am pleased with this game.  I'm pleased with the result, but also pleased that I spotted some key tactics (although I didn't fully appreciate them at the time) and that I also noticed some of my errors or misses while I was at the board and was able to address them and still develop a win.  So far this season, I have played three, won one, drawn one and lost one, so it's a better start than last season, and I've ended my losing streak of seven or eight games!