Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picking Up Steam

So, five games back into the swing of things, and still not a loss! Feels good, very good. Of course, I haven't played anyone higher rated than I am, but hey, gotta put one foot in front of the other one, right?

Tuesday night at the club I put together what I thought was a pretty nice effort:

White: Tim Bromley (1735)
Black: Joshua Haunstrup (1880)
Event: MCC Independence Day Swiss (1)
Date: 2007-07-04
(E04 Catalan)

1 d4 Nf6
2 Nf3 e6
3 c4
Knowing Tim, I was expecting a London System, but it seems that the big London splash at the MetroWest Chess Club has ended. Everybody's getting bored of the opening, amen!
3... Nc6
I think this is a terribly interesting move order for black. I actually came up with it on the fly a while back, maybe a year and a half ago, and then of course I found that I wasn't the only one who had thought of it. The idea is to get a flexible position and wait and see what white does with chances to transpose into a glut of openings. It can become a Nimzo-Indian, a Bogo-Indian, a Catalan, something like a KID, a KID directly, etc. It's a great practice move if you're trying to learn d4 openings and feel them out.
4 g3 d5
Alright, a Catalan. I haven't seen too many of those in my games - the opening is just a bit subtle for us mortals - but I was ready to have some fun with it.
5 Bg2 dxc4
6 0-0 Rb8
7 e3 a6?!

This is somewhat inconsistent. The right move has to be: 7 ... b5! My move seems sensible enough, but the trouble is that the open a-file helps white and takes away the a5 square from my c6 knight. I just wasn't familiar enough with the themes of the opening to have a good feeling for this question.
8 a4 b5
9 axb5 axb5
10 b3 cxb3
11 Qxb3 Be7
Instead, 11... Bd6 came into consideration, but I didn't like the Ne5 options that this would bring about given that my pieces would now face a potential pawn spike.
12 Bb2 0-0
13 Rc1 Bb7

We're at a fairly critical position. Technically, I think that Tim's activity is sputtering, and he doesn't really have enough compensation for the pawn, but in a practical sense, the position is fairly uncomfortable for me to play, and that means a lot over the board. I played 13...Bb7 hoping that I could goad him into snatching on b5, and that really helped to relieve the pressure. If he had played 14.Nc3 here, after the forced 14....b4, I think that Tim could have kept up the pressure and retained some compensation for the pawn. Probably not quite enough, but it would have been tougher for me.
14 Qxb5 Nxd4
15 Bxd4 Bxf3
16 Qe5 Bxg2
17 Kxg2
Now it was time for a solid think.

I had actually anticipated that the position would be easier to play than it seemed to be. There are a lot of ways for me to go wrong and just equalize. The key really is to find a way to sufficiently contest the dark squares and gain enough time to get that pawn moving.
17... Bd6
18 Qg5 h6
Now, 19.Bxf6 hxg5 would have been pretty good for me, I thought - with ideas like g5-g4 to clamp down on white's kingside structure, etc.
19 Qa5 Qe7
20 Qc3 Nd5
21 Qa5 Rfc8
22 Nc3?

Another critical moment. I think that Tim would have retained reasonable chances of holding me up if he had played 22.Bc5. If he had succeeded in getting the dark square forces off the board, ie. the bishops and queens, I think that it would have been very hard for me to make real progress with the passer. Probably I'm still winning, but it would have just been very taxing, and I would have had to work for it steadily in a long game. His move, instead, enables me to improve my structure, and then I'm doing much better.
22... c5
23 Nxd5 exd5
24 Bc3 Qe4+?
Argh! My turn to make a mistake.

Here, the immediate d4 was right, because after 25.exd4 cxd4, 26.Bxd4 runs into 26...Qe4+ The way that I inverted it, it has a big flaw. If 24...Qe4+ 25.Kg1 d4 26.exd4 cxd4 27.Re1! Qg4 28.Ra4 and I'm losing my pawn. Thankfully, I saw all this before going into it and mucking up the game! So, having played inaccurately, I had to just ease up the pressure a bit and relax with better structure for a few moves and try to consolidate.
25 Kg1 Rd8
26 Ra4 Qe6
Tim thought I had better here, but I wanted to prevent him from bringing the rook over to the kingside while still supporting my pawn at the same time.
27 Qa6 Bf8
Fritz doesn't like this move, asserting that 27...Qf5 retains a much clearer advantage, but 27...Bf8 seems to me to be a good, lazy human move. It just cuts out a lot of nonsense giving me less to have to worry about in my calculations on each turn. Clearly, it can't be good for white to take off the queens and improve my structure even further.
28 Qe2?

This really seems to have been the losing move. It allows a clinching blow. Instead, 28.Qd3 would have been much more pugnacious. And, while I'm pretty certain that I'm still winning there, it would have taken a lot of effort wherein of course there would have been room for error.
28... d4
29 Ra6 Qe4
30 Ba5 d3
31 Qa2 Rd7
32 Rc4 Rb1+
33 Qxb1 Qxc4
34 Ra8 d2
35 Rxf8+ Kxf8
36 Qb8+ Ke7
37 Qe5+ Qe6
38 Qxc5+ Qd6 0-1


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