10 May, 2010

Team 4545 League (T45 Round 1)

First game of the T45 cycle, and I am lucky enough to be drawn as White against an opponent within 50 points of me, so I was hoping for a relatively balanced game.

Checking my opponents games, I noticed that he usually played the Petroff against e4, which didn't excite me, but I thought that it would be possible to switch into something more to my liking if I played 3.Nc3.

This is exactly what happened, and after d4, I end up in a Scotch Four Knights so gaining quite a lot of time as he stuck to the mainline for 11 moves : very useful !

Here I have played 11.Ne2.

This is recommended by Nigel Davies, as more sound than the most popular move Qf3. It actually has a  higher success rate ( 50% compared to 48%) but is played significantly less often. In Team League its only been played once before. Of course this doesn't mean much at my level, but it does give you a good feeling when playing it ! Na4 is another move which has a similar idea to Ne2.

[Black plays 14...c5]

I reply  with 15.Bxd6 and an exchange follows...On reflection Nf5 is probably the better move but the exchanges leave my bishop well-placed in my eyes, and also remove the threat of Bxg3, so I am happy with this.

I'm not quite sure why 17...Rad8 is played, possibly to allow the Queen to move away from the d-pawn, but it allows me to seize the e-file, and the subsequent exchange of all the rooks brings me to this, after 21...Nxe8.

I think this is quite balanced, but that White has better pawns, although Black has more centre control.
My plan was to threaten the a-pawn with Qa5 and use the Bishop on c8, f3 or d3 to get at the d-pawn.

Qa5 was also intended to threaten a check on the back rank.

Not that much of a plan, but something.

I have to admit that I didn't really consider 22...Qb6 (next diagram) as a reply, and it rattled me a bit, with the threat of losing the b-pawn being the most evident.
The exchange of Queens didn't appeal as it seemed to make the Black queenside pawns better. There are options of Qe1 or Qa4 to threaten the Knight, but I don't think that will accomplish much. So I am left with either Qc3 or Qa3, and I choose the latter as I am pretty sure that Qc3 will result in c4 and then Qa3 anyway!

In fact Black plays the better Nd6 to activate his Knight and also threaten the Bishop.

My immediate reaction is to move the Bishop, but there aren't too many good squares, and the natural c4 will force another retreat of Be2. It will also cut off some squares for the Queen.

So instead of a Bishop move,  24.g4, which though it seems like a blitz reaction,as well as protecting the Bishop, it also gives an escape square to the king, so I don't have to worry about back-rank mate so much.

There followed 24...Nc4 25.Qd3 Qc6 26. b3 which gave me a chance to relieve the pressure as I now have the knight as a target. I expected a capture on b2, but Black elected to defend his d-pawn instead.

However, I think his 26...Ne5 was not as good as Nd6. which is what I was expecting, against that I had prepared  27.Be6 fe 28.Qg6+ Kf8 etc and a probable draw guaranteed. Although I didn't go into it extensively, I thought I would be OK.

[Black plays 25...Ne5]

The next few moves result in an exchange of pawns that leads to Black offering a Queen exchange, and this time I do not refuse. [Black plays 29...Nc4]

A few moves later and we have the the following position, which I think is favourable to White.

The White Queenside pawns are better, the h-pawn can support the g-pawn, and the King is more active.

Black plays 33...Nxf5 and I think this seals his fate. The slightly better Nb5 threatens Nc3 but with moves such as h4, g5, and subsequent kingside pawn exchanges put Black on the defence as well.

The Knight-for-Bishop exchange of move 33 puts White in control with a King firmly centred, and after a5 I feel confident enough to refuse the offered draw. I'm not the best endgame player, but I can see that even though material is equal White has the advantage that all Black's pawns advances are blocked and eventually the Black king will have to retreat to e7.
I'm sure my next moves aren't the most accurate, but this position almost plays itself, and  after 37.a4 finally means that Black must either lose a pawn or retreat the King with subsequent loss.

Zugzwang is, I think the technical term, but I've never really consciously played it, or for it, to my knowledge.

Black resigns...

Overall, an enjoyable game, and a lot of good play from both sides.


Scotch Yeti said...

Nice game, Signalman!

15. Nf5 would keep up the tension and give your opponent more chances to go wrong.

At move 22 I would have prefered Qe3, then it's time to get the pawns rolling. It's completely equal though, you are right.

The possible queen exchange on move 23 wouldn't have been too bad. You would have had the chance to create a passed a-pawn (and the bishop is able to protect the promotion square!).

Move 26-28 were nice tempo moves and the Zugzwang at the end was very nice. Next time you could even plan to reach such a position instead of falling into it.


Signalman said...

Thanks for the comments.

I agree with you on all of those, Qe3 and the pawn advance would have been a better plan, but in defence, at least I had a plan this time!

Still not sure of Nf5. I see now that Bxg3 isn't so bad, s the re-capture with the f-pawn, rather than the h-pawn allows the threat against the Knight on f6. Food for thought.

I think if I had foreseen Qb6 more actively, I may well have exchanged, but I didn't really like allowed the a-pawn to join its friends...

As I mention, I think Black passed the initiative across to me with Ne5 ,rather than Nd6, as subsequent moves allowed White, as you point out, to target the Knight.

"Next time you could even plan to reach such a position instead of falling into it." Well, its a thought, but I am not Karpov, or Ulf Anderssen !!