Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Steady Play

With each passing game, a growing confidence evolves within me. An insatiable growth in playing strength; afforded to me as result of sound judgement, positional understanding and tactics, make for steady play. Finally, study, time, effort and coaching are beginning to pay off dividends.

Granted I lost the first two rounds, but it wasn't due to any opening or middle game failures and may I remind the reader that I just returned from a 3 month hiatus. In both matches, I was quite solid into the late stages of the game with winning positions. It was only some old habits, cockiness and lack of concentration during the end game that led to my undoings in those games.

In the final round of this month's tournament, I was, once again, paired up against Doug Thompson. But before I get to the game, I need to say that Mr. Thompson is one classy guy and a credit to our club. A while back I wrote about "Chess Mannerisms"; Doug has all the class and sincerity that all club players should espouse too.

OK, so on to the game...

Smith,Warner (1471)
Thompson,Douglas (1477)
[C00] French: Kings Indian Attack
MCC New Years Swiss Natick MA (4)

1.e4 e6
Doug likes the French Defense. Last time I played him I was rather aggressive and played into the "Advance" version of the French Defense with 3.e5. However, I wanted to give Doug a different look this time around. So I decided to play a line I don't play much anymore...something a little less "edgy" and more conservative -- Kings Indian Attack.

2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Bd6
I considered a pawn push with 5.e5, but I was in prophylactic think mode with this particular player and wanted to continue with my opening development before putting together a solid attack plan. Moreover, I find that players of the French Defense sometimes forget about the simple pawn fork that can arise in this position with ...Nf6?

5.g3 d4!?
I found this early pawn push interesting and rather happy to see it, as I thought this move helped to justify White's development with the King's Indian Attack; blocking the important a7-g1 diagonal.

6.Bg2 Nd7 7.0–0 e5 8.Nc4 +=

Black has pushed for center space early on, but his pieces aren't well coordinated to make use of this current advantage. Meanwhile, White has finished with his preliminary development and now begins to form a solid strategy -- putting pressure on Black's pawn at e5 and await Black's intentions.

8...Bc7 9.a4
I don't want to make it easy for Black to push my Knight off of c4

9...Ngf6 10.Bh3
I begin to put into motion the "Removing of the Guard" at d7. Black's development is slow and his pieces appear "stuffy". I was waiting for Black's intent, but I can't sit around all day. I have development, sound strategy and tempo galore!

10...0–0 11.Bg5 Re8
A good move by Black and just in time. With this move, Black finishes his opening development and secures the life span of his pawn on e5.

White begins to put into place a new strategy; one that focuses on Black's King directly! With the center now locked up, White entices Black to play 12...h6. The idea, is once Black plays this move, the white squares around his Monarch become weakened and White would follow up with a Bishop retreat to 13.Bd2 to later play Nf5! adding heavy pressure to h6.

12...h6 13.Bd2
Everything is going according to plan...

Black's first counter play; but I like the options available to me. I want to exchange my light colored bishop with Black's. Remember what I said about the weak light colored squares around Black's King? Removing his biggest protector of such squares is beneficial for White.

14.Nxb6 Bxb6 15.Bxc8 Rxc8 16.a5
I want to keep Black's remaining Bishop in a bad state and inactive. With the center locked up, Black's Bishop becomes insignificant, whereas, White's lone Bishop enjoys his activity along the c1–h6 diagonal with strong pressure on h6!

16...Bc7 17.Nf5=

A fantastic outpost for White's Knight that helps to put pressure on h6. Black can't kick White's Knight out without losing material.

Black's best move! He's behind the eight ball here and needs to get his pieces well coordinated to defend against White's oncoming assault.

I'm only probing here to see what Black will do next.

18...Nh7 19.Qd1
Hmmm...let's see if Black decides to bring his Knight back to f6.

Not a good move for Black. I understand the reasoning behind the move to guard against Qg4 and to assist in Black's defense of his King. But this move is an illusory stay, as White will soon evict the Rook from it's fragile post. His best move is 19...Nf6 which helps guard against a Queen's invasion along the g and f-files.

20.h4! Nf8?
Better is 20...Kh8. Now, the Knight can't get to its elite post on f6, moreoever, his King is locked into a tight corner, accentuating the monarch's vulnerability to a sacrificial attack by White.

21.h5 Ra6 22.Qg4!±

White is about to win some material regardless of Black's next move.

22...g5 23.Nxh6+! Rxh6 24.Bxg5! Qd7

25.Qxd7 Nxd7 26.Bxh6 Kh7 27.Bg5 Rg8 28.Bh4+-

Better is 27. Bd2; come back to assist with a Queen-side assault and the move would also have prevented the loss of my h-pawn. However, White is clearly winning and my immediate focus at the time was maintaining a vigilant guard over my King, while looking for exchanges whenever possible. I know that the end game will play itself out.

28...Kh6 29.Kg2 Kxh5 30.Rh1 Kg6 31.Ra4
Now that my King is well secured and up material, I begin a Queen side push seeking exchanges wherever they may be.

31...Re8 32.c3 Re6 33.cxd4 cxd4
Ahh...another file for my Rook to play with; biding time.

34.Rc1 Bd6 35.b4 b5 36.axb6 axb6 37.Rc6 b5 38.Ra7 Nf8 39.Rb7+-

I missed the perfect opportunity here to end the game quickly. The following line is much better for White: [39.Be7 Bxe7 40.Rxe6+ Nxe6 41.Rxe7 Kf6 42.Rb7 Nf8 43.Rxb5 Nd7]

39...Bxb4 40.Rxe6+ Nxe6 41.Rxb5 Bf8 42.Rxe5
Black keeps missing his pawns; so White picks them up for him. At this point Black is desperately playing on hope alone that would, at most, grant him a draw.

42...Bd6 43.Rd5 Bb4 44.f4 Nc5 45.Rxd4

45...Bd2 46.f5+ Kg7 47.Kf3 Nb3 48.Rd6 Bc3 49.g4 Be5 50.Rd7
Better is 50.Rd5

Black begins a dream of checks in hopes of a potential fork; but will soon find out that he will only awaken to a nightmare.

51.Ke3 Nc2+ 52.Kd2 Nd4 53.Bf2 Nb3+ 54.Kc2 Na5 55.Bd4
Another exchange...another nail in Black's coffin.

55...Nc6 56.Bxe5+ Nxe5 57.Ra7 Nxg4 58.Ra6 f6 59.d4
A few moves later and Black resigns to the worthless effort ahead of him. 1–0

Rating Watch: 1472