Saturday, October 06, 2007

Playing Ugly

Yes, well, I've been trying to rebound for some time now - thought I had it again a few weeks back, but I keep coming down to earth. I think, finally, that I would have to identify rusty (read inconsistent) tactics as the biggest problem. Here are a couple of unpleasantries that I put myself through this weekend:

Hedgehog structures seem like a nice, safe place to begin for a player trying to find his feet. They're stodgy, slow, rather positional - they emphasize ideas rather than concrete strings. So here, I am behind the black side of one:
What's going on you ask? Well, I've weakened my queenside dark squares for a shot at some play down the long diagonal. The bishop on g7 also protects my king against possible pawn storms. The trick here is going to be to figure out what to do with my queenside bishop. I also need to make sure to keep an eye on the d6 pawn, as it can become weak in a hurry.
Okay, so he wants to exchange off the dark square bishops. How do I feel about this? Don't like it. If I had really thought about this carefully, I might have tried to leave my bishop on e7. I know that it's theoretically okay to have the bishop on g7 here though, so what now? Well, I thought I would get cute:
12...Nh5!? or ?!
13.Nde2 Ne5
So, I'm still trying to hold up that Bh6 move.
14.b3 b6?!
Probably Rfd8 I think. I was starting to lose track of the dark squares.
15.Rfd1 Bb7?
Whoops. It's about finished here - or at least it's going that way. There's no safe way to deal with both weaknesses.
And now, head in my hands, I sat there and thought long and hard, and came up with:
Like I say, it was an ugly weekend. Remarkably, I managed to hold this game, though it was as much my opponent's fault.
18.cxb5 Qb8
19.b6? d5
20.exd5 Bxd5
21.Rc7 Nhf6
22.Rdc1 Rd8
23.Nf4 Bb7
24.Qa5? e5
Ahh, a slim pulse has returned. It's not much though, as the threat of Nd5 is empty - he doesn't have to move the rook!
What? Ambition... This is a cute idea that he had, but unfortunately, it simply doesn't work.
25... Qxb7
26.Rc7 Qb8
27.b7 exf4
28.bxa8(Q) Qxa8
29.Bxf4 Qd5
And now, seeing as I had about 24 minutes and he had 7, I thought he would take my draw offer, and he did. Certainly, he is still meaningfully better with the extra pawn, but I have good holding chances now.

This position is from the following round. I had black again, and this time had taken active part in a rather obscure opening discussion that led to an unusual position from the Symmetrical English. With the benefit of subsequent analysis, I think that the best move here might well be 7...d5!? with many complications to follow. That's not the kind of thing that I'm likely to play without some kind of knowledge in advance though, so I opted to steer this game into the structure of the previous one... I should have learned something from the experience of that game though...
7... d6
8.0-0 Be7
9.Nc3 a6
And I'm already kind of shaky. a6 is often necessary in positions with a queen on b6 so that if she gets kicked back to c7 by Be3, she won't then get walloped further by Nb5. Here though, Be3 and then Na4 is pretty nasty. Looking at this threat absorbed a fair amount of my attention, as I worked on Nd7 and how I would have to go about extricating my white-squared bishop. Consequently, I never even looked at another looming threat.
10... Qc7
11.Rc1 0-0?
Absolutely necesary was 11... Ne5 with a fine position.
And now I'm toast - just like that.

Chess can be painful!


Blogger Loomis said...

Is the first game a symmetrical english as well? It looks like a Sicilian to me (accelerated dragon, maroczy bind). The only thing that looks way out of place is the pawn on e6 instead of e7. I don't know how often you see the English (I feel like I never do), but it may be worth while to know a little bit about typical plans/structures from the Maroczy bind Sicilian if you tend to transpose to something similar to it.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

I see the English every so often - usually not an especially theoretical version of it though. On the day of this tournament I was just kind of aiming for hedgehog setups wherever possible - I was trying to slow down the play and wind my way through positional games, but they ended up being all rather tactical inspite of my efforts...

12:55 AM  

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