Friday, November 6, 2009

A First Scandinavian Game, Quiet yet Deadly

Sorry for not posting this for a very long time. I was...well, i don't know how to say. Deep study I guess. Anyway, after some time, I finally found some motivation in myself after reading some books about world championship games. It made me ask myself what I can contribute to the chess world and so I publish this game here in my blog.

Losing all my games from the first round till the fifth round excluding the third and fourth because I took a bye, I was disappointed and sad despite the fact I’m playing in the open section. Still, I had some hope of winning. I was black against Kevin Wu in the last round. I saw him play e4 before which means I’ll be mostly likely able to play my favourite Center Counter. At last, after four months of waiting, I’m able to finally play my opening again in Toronto. My chess buddies who also know Kevin said that I’ll easily beat him and I shouldn’t worry about him. I did play him before just once and concluded he’s okay but not yet strong enough to play as master. Those did encourage me did put my spirits up but still...those three loses still affected me especially the second one where I had to defend the entire middlegame. There was one thing I remembered saying myself before: “An advantage unused is useless.” If this should favour me, then I should make the most out of it and so I did. I played the same moves, moved the same pieces, thought the same way I thought. For the reader’s sake, I will not hide from you the game and so here it is:

2009 Toronto Thanksgiving Open CFC/FIDE rated 2 hrs/40 + 1 hr
White: Kevin Wu
Black: Jan Edmund D. Lazo
Opening: Center Counter Defense

1. e4 d5 2. exd5
It’s interesting to see that the last two boards at the last round played the same opening only to deviate at move 2. In the end, both had the same result! The difference is that the supposedly sharper move played by my friend later became dead drawn and the supposedly drawish, safe, quiet reply was the one winning!

2. ... Qxd5
I chose the quiet reply. 2. ... Nf6 involves more risk and should be played if one knows how to play the Alekhine (1. ... Nf6) since it usually involves a kingside fianchetto. It’s much more complicated than in the Qxd5 lines which opt for solidity. Besides, I’ve been playing this ever since I learned it.

3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Bd2
Threatening 6. Ne4 Qb6 7. Nxf6+ gxf6 doubling black’s pawns. The pawn structure would then resemble the Bronstein variation of the Caro-Kann (4. ... Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6). Black gets active play in form of the g-file and a stronger hold of the center. The disadvantage is the fact that it has doubled pawns, a loss of flexibility in the kingside. If one doesn’t like this possible, then c6 should be played by Black instead of Nf6 so that Black can play Qc7 (!) removing White’s threat. The white bishop has to move later anyway so the tempo used in the opening would return later. This plan of an early c6 would also plan on Bf5, Nbd7, e6, and only then Ngf6. This is quite solid. Whatever White does, he won’t be able to do a miniature!

5. ... Bf5
I’ve experienced 5. ... c6 (?!) before against Elliot Raymer in CYCC last summer. Instead of 6. Ne4, he first played 6. Bd3!? I played 6. ... Bg4?! and got a bad middlegame after 7. Ne4! Qh5?! (Bxd1) 8. Nxf6+ exf6 9. Be2 (f3!? is probably more testing exploiting Black’s bishop and queen.) Bxe2 10. Qxe2+ Qxe2 11. Nxe2. White has the pawn majority and I have the wrong set of doubled pawns. I managed to equalize after setting up a blockade and post a good knight on e5. He got caught in a discovered attack and had to defend an ending a pawn down after chopping his isolated d pawn. In the opening, 5. ... Qc7! is better and only then Bg4! forcing Nge2/Nf3 or a concession with f3.

The difference with the text move is that 6. Ne4 now allows 6. ... Qb6 7. Nxf6+ Qxf6! Black’s pawns remain flexible and the queen is safe and if needed, can reach to almost every square in the 6th rank.

6. Nf3 c6
Only now since it can no longer be prevented. Unless one is comfortable with 6. ... e6 7. Ne4 Qb6
8. Nxf6+ gxf6 9. Bc3 when Qd2 and 0-0-0 threatens Ba5 trapping the queen. Of course there are ways to avoid this but if it means moving the queen again, then it shows the inferiority of e6 over c6.

7. Bc4
And now it transposes back to the main line.

7. ... e6 8. 0-0
8. Nd5 Qd8 9. Nxf6+ Qxf6 if basing on the number of games somewhat new even till today. It retains pawn flexibility and therefore is much more solid and safe. The drawback is that the queen might find itself misplaced and should later think about relocating itself to c7 where it should be since Black usually castles queenside for king safety and is much more vulnerable. Black has fared fairly well though.
9. ... gxf6 instead opts for a structure similar to the gxf6 variation of the 4. ... Nf6 Caro-Kann. Black might find itself lagging in development but the solidity of the pawn structure and central control make up for it. Black would also castle queenside and aim for some active play in the center and kingside with the half-open g file.
8. Qe2 is still the main line with the idea of d4 d5. If White ever achieves this successfully, most likely Black within a few moves. The fullness of it is shown after 8. ... Bxc2? 9. d5! cxd5 (forced)
10. Nxd5 (discovered attack) Qd8 11. Nxf6+ gxf6 12. Bb5+! Nc6 13. Rc1 Bg6 14. Rxc6! bxc6 15. Bxc6+
or 12. ... Nd7 13. Bc3 Bg6 14. Rd1 +- After Black players realized that, they played 8. ... Bb4 with the idea of Bxc3, removing a piece controlling d5.

8. ... Qc7 9. Re1 Be7
The move for flexibility and protection against any d4-d5 breakthrough because it removes the indirect pin on the e-file. 9. ... Bd6 entails more risky but nonetheless is playable since 10. d5? cxd5 leaves the bishop hanging. Qe2 should be first played first before d4-d5 but one should not forget c2 is hanging.
Black can opt for queenside castling or kingside castling depending on the white player and play Bd6 or Bf6 if the f6 knight leaves.

10. a4?!
Too committing. In order prevent b5, White weakens b2, b3, and b4. It puts White’s rook the job of protecting the a4 pawn. Black doesn’t necessarily play b5 and chose to play in the center instead. Even 10. Bb3 is better allowing Qe2, Rad1, c3, etc. aiming center and kingside play or h3 preventing Bg4, giving h2 for the king, and giving possibilities for a kingside pawn storm with f4, g4, h4, etc as shown in my game against Nicka Kalaydina. See Calgary Junior Chess Club Yahoo Newsgroup. If White can pawn storm in the queenside, this can be justified but unfortunately for White, this is not possible.

10. ... 0-0 11. h3 Nbd7 12. Nh4
White sets on removing Black’s key defender of the light squares. Black has no escape from the imminent capture but can content itself for the kingside pawn structure which controls f5, g6, and h5 and gives the king an escape square on h7.

12. ... Bg6 13. Nxg6 hxg6 14. Qf3?!
An inaccuracy. Better is 14. Qe2 simply doubling on the e-file and protecting the light-squared bishop. White can then think of playing of f4 and g4 later if allowed to break through the enemy pawn fortress. It transposes if an exchange of knights occur. The idea is breakthrough with d5 but this is misguided. One plays d5 not because of the extra defenders defending the d5 pawn but the e-file pin!

14. ... Nb6
Black sets on an exchange of pieces to change the pawn structure to his favour or reduce of his slightly cramped position.

15. Bb3 Nbd5
Now c5 is a possibility since d5 is occupied. Any exchange gives Black a fair share of the center and so equalizes.

16. Ne4
White removes the knight blocking him from playing c2-c3 or c2-c4 but Black happily obliges to give way for the dark-squared bishop to f6, attacking White’s main weakness, d4. 16. Nxd5 cxd5 just gives Black a fair hold of the center.

16. ... Nxe4 17. Qxe4 Bf6
The position is obviously equal now. Now, Black aims to put pressure on d4 and hold d5 as well. Now, it seems the d pawn will not see light of the day. It lacks c3, a very important pawn move maintaining d4. Also, the rooks and bishop are wrongly placed to defend d4 since there are no tactics to support d5 thanks to Nd5.

18. g4?
Premature kingside pawn storm. White forgot that his d pawn is weak and lacks protection. Petrosian would have played something like 18. Be3 or 18. c3 holding d4 when Qb6 Qc2 protects b2 and the bishop protecting his pieces before even thinking of an attack. Black’s pressure on d4 now doubles.

18. ... Qb6!
Now c3 is impossible without protection on b2 and b3. White’s next move is forced.

19. Be3 Rad8!
The right rook. The rooks here are meant for d8 and e8 so that d5 exd5 attacks the queen. Ironically, the break is meant for c5! The difference between Rad8 and Rfd8 will show itself later.

20. Rad1 Rfe8
Black is ready for pawn breaks.

21. g5?
This is truly losing now. White loses a pawn and is in an unfavourable opposite-coloured bishop position where the dark-squared bishop hails supreme thanks to d4, e3, f2, g3, h4. Much more tenacious was 21. Qf3 or 21. Qg2 or 21. Qd3 for king/queen safety. If Black wants to win, he needs to keep the queens and his knight on for now. With g5, the evaluation changes drastically.

21. ... Nxe3! 22. fxe3 Bxg5
Without the g4 pawn, the White can’t expect to breakthrough on the kingside and is more open to heavy piece attacks such as Qb6-a5-g5. This is should be more than enough in this ending.

23. h4?
Even more weaknesses. To prevent any Black piece going to g5, it puts itself on a dark square. Moreover, it weakens h3 and so is another square of the queen to go to. Miraculously, this saved him. How though it is the question. The reply would be at least defending e3 by Rd3 then, the doubling in the d-file with Re1-d1-d2, and then c4. This would allow Bd1-f3 relocating the bishop and supporting the d4-d5 break while giving protection to the white king. The queenside pawns would be able to defend itself with b2-b3. It would be needed in the near future since e3 would be always under attack after a c5/e5 break.

23. ... Bf6 24. Kf2
The king is running away but is only making itself vulnerable along the 2nd rank. 24. Rd3 is still possible with ideas shown in 23. h4?!

24. ... c5!
Exploiting White’s previous move opening up the position for the heavy pieces. Things are not looking rosy for White.

25. dxc5 Qxc5 26. c3 Qb6 27. Rxd8? (!)
White goes for a swindle, a risky one. White gives up the d-file to the opponent but why?

27. ... Rxd8 28. Qc4!
White sets a trap letting h4 hang since Bxh4 Qxh4 Qxb3 hangs a pawn. There’s one weakness in Black’s camp: the open h-file.

27. ... Bxh4+??
Black throws away his advantage and half a point. Stronger is 27. ... Qd6! when White has no good reply.
a.) 28. Qf4 Qxf4 29. exf4 Bxh4+ loses the exchange and the game
b.) 28. Kf3 Qh2! 29. Qg4 Rd2
c.) 28. Rd1 Qh2+ 29. Kf3 Qh3+ 30. Bxh4+ Ke2 31. Qg2#
d.) 28. Rh1 Qe5 29. Qe2 Qf5+ 30. Kg2 Qe4+ 31. Kh2 Be5+ 32. Kh3 Rd3 with the threat of Rxe3+
As one would see, Black advantage is decisive and should lead to a mate or huge material loss for White. The text move however was just too greedy. A tip for Scandinavian players: don’t be too greedy. When in advantage, be calm and simplify if material advantage and maintain if positional. Simplify in the sense of exchanging everything up until to the endgame where the extra material outweighs any compensation the opponent might have. Maintain in the sense of keeping your advantage. Keep on pressuring until the opponent cracks.

28. Qxh4 Rd2+ 29. Re2 Rxe2+ 30. Kxe2 Qxb3 31. Qd8+ 1/2-1/2
Despite the result, I think both sides have learned a lot from the game what and what not to do. My opponent to think ahead of a good plan that makes sense in the given position and for me to maintain the initiative and not simplify allowing counterplay which is perpetual.

I don't know if there are other tournaments I'll be able to join to this month but there's are other things that will make this month busy for me besides school. I'm gonna be starting volunteering in Maria A. Schuka for the Chess in the Library program. I'll be posting all the progress of it right here or use another blog for it...nah, I'll do it on both. Also, I'll be annotating live games of the Alberta Junior Chess Championship. If I can, I'll kibitz but I don't know how to make it public. If anyone has ideas, please tell me. So for that, I conclude this post.