28 April 2013

Annotated Game #92: Subtle Symmetry

The following sixth-round tournament game featured the Symmetrical English, a rare guest at the chessboard at the Class level.  Black players rarely know the ideas behind it, but then again White has no real possibilities for tactics early on and many White players are also unlikely to know how to play it properly.  What usually happens, as in this game, is that White gets a small positional edge but then lacks the requisite skills to follow up on it in the middlegame and endgame.  Learning how to play more subtly as White in these types of positions will be a necessary part of achieving mastery.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A39"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "61"] {A39: Symmetrical English vs ...g6:4 Bg2 Bg 5 Nf3 Nf6 6 0-0 0-0 7 d4} 1. c4 c5 {the Symmetrical English is a rare beast at the Class level.} 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O Nf6 6. Nc3 {the Symmetrical Four Knights variation.} O-O 7. d4 {the best try for an advantage.} cxd4 8. Nxd4 a6 {Black can play almost anything here, but exchanging on d4 is the most popular. The text move takes away the b5 square from White, but does little to help Black's development, so is a little passive.} 9. Nxc6 {White similarly has a wide range of choices here, with Nc2 played most often.} bxc6 10. Bf4 {Houdini's first choice, although not often played in the database.} Nh5 11. Bd2 {a passive retreat.} ( 11. Bg5 {would be a stronger follow-up.}) 11... Qc7 12. Qc1 {following what was essentially the only plan I knew in these types of positions, to exchange off the fianchettoed bishop.} Bb7 13. Bh6 Rad8 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. Rd1 (15. Qe3 { would be more accurate here, getting the queen out earlier to an excellent central square and generating pressure down the e-fiile, while also connecting White's rooks.}) 15... f5 16. Bf3 {this might have been a good idea earlier, say on move 13, but now Black simply moves the knight to a better square.} (16. c5 {looks like a good alternative, gaining queenside space and fixing the Black c-pawn.}) 16... Nf6 {Black now has a similar kingside structure to the Leningrad Dutch.} 17. Qe3 Rfe8 (17... d6 {would be the more elegant way of protecting e7, also preparing the ...e5 push to gain space in the center. This is a major theme in the Leningrad Dutch.}) 18. Na4 d6 {Black now plays this anyway, to cover c5.} 19. Qb6 Qxb6 20. Nxb6 e5 21. e3 d5 {Black could simply play ...e4 here without opening lines for White, as happens in the game.} 22. cxd5 cxd5 23. Rac1 Re7 24. Rc5 {a rather obvious move that does not in fact challenge Black.} (24. Na4 {is what the engines give as the best chance to keep playing for an advantage, although things are still balanced.}) 24... e4 { while not losing, this allows White more of a free hand on the queenside than necessary.} (24... Rd6 $5 25. Na4 Bc6) (24... d4 25. Bxb7 Rxb7 26. Rc6 $11) 25. Be2 $14 {the engines give White a small positional plus here.} Rd6 26. Nc8 (26. Na4 {again would try to exploit White's positional plus and in any case would allow White to transfer the knight to a much better square (to c3 or c5 if the rook clears it).}) 26... Bxc8 27. Rxc8 Rb7 28. b3 Kf7 29. Rdc1 {the point of White's play, dominating the c-file.} Rbb6 {here I failed to find a way to practically use White's positional advantage.} 30. Kg2 (30. R1c7+ Rd7 31. h3 Ke7 32. Rc6 Rd6 33. Rxb6 Rxb6 34. Rc5 {is one possible continuation, as White attempts to exploit the 2v1 queenside pawns and the bishop's queenside reach to target the a-pawn.}) 30... Ke6 (30... g5 $11 {would instead help give Black counterplay on the kingside.}) 31. R8c2 $11 {White gives up trying to find a winning advantage and offers a draw.} 1/2-1/2

U.S. Chess Championships 2013 -- Fantasy Chess

This year the internet home of the 2013 U.S. Chess Championships is once again hosting a Fantasy Chess site.  The selection method is much improved over last year, which forced users to choose from certain pre-ordered player groups when assembling their teams, which was not completely intuitive and also not very fun.  This year it's a more flexible format, with each user given a budget of Fantasy Bucks to spend on selecting players onto your team, with the object simply being to score the most points over the 9 rounds of the championships.  Naturally, the higher-rated players cost a good deal more than the lower-rated ones.

I went with a more or less balanced approach for my team, going with proven champions currently playing very well internationally (Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush) and then a few players who have done well in the past and that I'm pulling for to do well in the upcoming tournament.  I am for example glad to see GM Ben Finegold back in form and enjoying the game, after previously declaring he would retire from competitive play due to poor tournament results.

The championships begin on May 3rd (opening ceremony is May 2nd), so it should be a good month for chess.

20 April 2013

Annotated Game #91: Opposite-side aggression in the Caro-Kann

This fifth-round tournament game features highly aggressive play from Black right out of the opening, a Caro-Kann Advance by transposition, starting with 8...Nh6.  Black's execution of the idea is somewhat off, but the basic idea is similar to what occurs in some French Defense variations.  White is tempted to play Bxh6, which gives Black the two bishops and the half-open g-file to attack White's king position.  The result is a dynamic game with unbalanced, competing strategies.  Black's decision to castle on the opposite wing further enhances this dynamic.

Although Black does not dominate the game until the later stages, it's clear that his strategic ideas are the ones that are driving the situation, giving him the initiative.  White fails to understand the key factors in the position, for example playing weakening moves such as 18. f4?! followed up by an inaccurate pawn recapture.  Ironically, Black's strategic advantage is then immediately thrown away with the poor choice to exchange his two rooks for White's queen, giving new life to White's pieces and taking away the pressure on White's position.  The position remains complicated, however, and White in turn soon goes astray, chasing Black's king onto a safe square and then allowing Black's queen to take the key d4 pawn.  Black then returns to dominance and finally figures out how to win by pushing his passed d-pawn to victory.

While this is not a particularly high-quality game, the strategic themes and tactical considerations were useful to see in analysis, especially how certain choices lead to rapid changes in both sides' prospects.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "100"] {B12: Caro-Kann: Advance Variation} 1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 {this line has little independent significance, without even a name for it. The move contributes nothing to the struggle for the center (unlike Nc3 or d4).} d5 3. e5 {Black will now transpose into a favorable line of the Advance variation.} c5 4. d4 Nc6 5. c3 Bg4 6. Bb5 (6. Be2 {is typical here. An example:} e6 7. Be3 Nge7 8. dxc5 Nf5 9. Bd4 Bxf3 10. Bxf3 Nfxd4 11. cxd4 Qa5+ 12. Nc3 Qb4 13. O-O Qxd4 14. Qxd4 Nxd4 15. Na4 g5 16. Bh5 Bh6 17. Rad1 Nc6 18. h4 Rg8 19. g4 Nxe5 20. hxg5 Nxg4 {Bakre,T (2462)-Shaposhnikov,E (2519)/Athens 2001/EXT 2002/0-1 (75)}) 6... e6 7. O-O Qb6 {increasing the pressure on White down the b-file and in the center.} 8. Ba4 Nh6 {this is a developmental idea common in similar types of French Defense pawn structures. Here it is a little premature, as the pawn exchange on d4 should occur first.} (8... cxd4 $5 {is the obvious follow-up.} 9. cxd4 Rc8 $11 (9... Nh6 $5 10. Bxh6 gxh6 $11)) 9. Bxh6 {White rushes to take the knight, but could have pushed Black around some first.} (9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. b4 Be7 11. Be3 Qd8 12. Bxh6 {and Black has much less space (and White has more) than in the game continuation.}) 9... gxh6 10. Qd2 {this breaks the pin, but otherwise does nothing for White, allowing Black a free hand on the kingside.} (10. Nbd2 {would protect the Nf3 again, develop the piece and connect White's heavy pieces on the first rank.}) 10... Rg8 (10... Bxf3 {would take immediate advantage of White's last move. In the game, I was too protective of the two bishops.} 11. gxf3 Rg8+ 12. Kh1 Qa6) 11. Ne1 {forced, due to the threat of Bxf3 with the g-pawn pinned. Moving the queen to support f3 does not work either, as White would then drop the b2 pawn after an exchange of pieces.} O-O-O {Black goes for an aggressive, opposite-sides castling situation. This is consistent with his strategy of opening the g-file.} (11... Rc8 {would instead keep the king in the center, where perhaps it might in fact be safer in the long run.}) 12. Bxc6 Qxc6 13. b4 cxd4 14. cxd4 Qb6 {played with the idea of getting the queen and king off of the c-file. However, this essentially wastes a tempo, as the king will need to be moved anyway and the b6 square is not necessary best for the queen.} (14... Kb8 15. a3 Qa6 16. Ra2 Be7 $15 {is one possible continuation.}) 15. a3 Kb8 16. Nc3 Be7 (16... Rc8 { is a more accurate continuation, as this is clearly the best place for the rook and immediately generates pressure down the c-file, while the bishop development can wait.}) 17. Kh1 {White is looking to advance the f-pawn without creating potential problems due to the Qb6 presence on the g1-a7 diagonal.} f6 {...Rc8 would be significantly better here, as the Rd8 is effectively doing nothing at the moment. Black's alternative idea is to open the f-file and generate further pressure that way, however, so he reserves the Rd8 for that purpose.} 18. f4 $6 {this creates further weaknesses for White.} ( 18. h3 Bh5 19. Qe3 {would be an effective way to combat Black's plan.} fxe5 $6 20. Qxe5+) 18... fxe5 19. fxe5 {this choice of recapture facilitates Black's plan.} (19. dxe5 $5 {looks like a viable alternative, says Fritz.} d4 20. Ne4 Qc6 $15) 19... Bg5 $15 {having chosen to preserve the two bishops earlier, Black now makes the most of them.} 20. Qf2 $6 (20. Qd3 Bf5) 20... Rdf8 $2 { this lets White off the hook, rather than increasing the pressure on him.} ( 20... Rc8 21. Na4 (21. Ne2 Rgf8 $17) 21... Qb5 $17) 21. Qxf8+ $11 Rxf8 22. Rxf8+ Kc7 {now White's rooks are quite active and Black's king position appears precarious, although Black should be able to hold the position.} 23. Rf7+ $2 {White in turn now gives Black an easy way out of his diffculties, chasing the king to a much better square and allowing Black to take the key d4 pawn.} (23. Nd3 {was the best way to proceed, with the d4 pawn protected tactically due to the fork on b5.} Qa6 24. Rf7+ {now this works, as the Ra1 covers the back rank.} Kc8 25. Nc5) 23... Kd8 $17 24. Na4 $4 {leading to a quick end, notes Fritz.} (24. Nf3 Bxf3 25. Rxf3 Qxd4 26. Re1 $17) 24... Qxd4 25. Nc2 Qd2 26. Ne1 Bd1 (26... Bh5 $5 {makes it even easier for Black, comments Fritz.} 27. Rf8+ Ke7 28. Rf1 Be2 29. Nf3 Qf4) 27. Nf3 Qe2 {with the threat of Qf1+} 28. Nc5 (28. h4 Ke8 29. Nc3 Qb2) 28... Qf1+ 29. Ng1 Qxf7 30. Rxd1 {now White is down too much material and Black's protected passed d-pawn will decide the game.} Be3 31. Nf3 b6 (31... Bxc5 {might be a simpler route to victory, as the Black queen can easily dominate the R+N here, with no counterplay from White.} 32. bxc5 Qf4) 32. Nd3 Qc7 33. Re1 d4 34. b5 Qc3 35. Nb4 Kc8 36. Nc6 a6 37. a4 a5 38. h3 Kc7 39. Kh2 Bf4+ 40. Kh1 Be3 {Twofold repetition, notes Fritz. I hadn't yet been able to calculate how to best advance the d-pawn and so repeated to make the time control.} (40... d3 $5 41. Rf1 d2 {wins.}) 41. Kh2 Qc4 {White threatens to simply mop up the queenside.} 42. Ra1 d3 43. Rd1 Qc2 (43... d2 $1 44. Nxd2 Bxd2 45. Rxd2 Qf4+) 44. Rf1 Bf4+ 45. Kh1 Qe2 {here I dither for a few moves before figuring out that I can simply push the d-pawn and win.} 46. Ra1 Qb2 47. Rd1 Qc2 48. Ra1 d2 49. Nxd2 Qxd2 50. Rf1 Qe3 0-1

14 April 2013

Annotated Game #90: R+P <> N+B

This fourth-round tournament game offers some interesting lessons and contrasts in how to count the material balance.  I did well out of the opening as Black, then faced a major decision on move 10, whether or not to take the f2-pawn.  Houdini validates the choice made in the game, which focuses instead on not falling too far behind in development.  However, several moves later, Black again targets the f-pawn and does the classic B+N for R+P exchange.  This is a classic material counting error, from the days where a piece was considered to be worth 3 pawns.  In reality, it's better to consider a piece as 3.25 pawns, which makes it clear that the above trade is detrimental.  The bishop pair can also be considered to be worth up to 0.5 pawns as a rule of thumb, making the trade even worse on counting considerations alone.

I wasn't completely ignorant of the above at the time, but also made an error in judgment in this particular game that the rooks would be able to compensate by operating down the central files.  This turned out not to be the case, as by move 22 it's clear that the rooks have nowhere to go and cannot penetrate - until White blunders by snatching a pawn and allowing a rook fork on the second rank.

As a secondary lesson, this game pointed out a consistent thought process error, which was Black's failure to advance the g-pawn (on two different occasions) to attack and trap the White knight.  Black simply failed to even consider the possibility of a g-pawn advance, based on the "general principles" of not making weakening pawn moves in front of the king.  This is another example of where using CCT (Checks, Captures and Threats) would have resulted in finding the correct candidate move (the threat to trap the knight), which was worth far more than the resulting positional weakness.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class C"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "66"] [EventDate "2007.01.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "7"] {D10: Slav Defence: cxd5 (without early Nf3) and 3 Nc3} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 {played most often at the Class level in tournaments, from my observations, with the idea of transposing into another main line variation or other opening such as the Semi-Slav. Or perhaps it just seems the most obvious follow-up, instead of the main line Nf3. Black's response is the most testing.} dxc4 4. a4 {if White is going to play the Queen's Gambit, he really should follow through, rather than be so concerned with blocking ...b5 at this early stage. Central play with e4 has proven more effective, with White scoring 57 percent.} e5 ( 4... Bg4 {is an interesting possibility here.}) 5. Nf3 {Black scores around 60 percent from this position.} (5. dxe5 Qxd1+ 6. Kxd1 Na6 {scores very well for black, around 67 percent.}) 5... exd4 6. Qxd4 Qxd4 7. Nxd4 Nf6 (7... Bc5 { is by far the most popular move, although the text move scores about the same (very well, around 67 percent) for Black.} 8. e3 Bxd4 (8... Na6 9. Bxc4 Nb4 10. O-O Nf6 11. Nb3 Bb6 12. a5 Bc7 13. Ra4 Nbd5 14. Nxd5 Nxd5 15. Bxd5 cxd5 16. Bd2 Bd7 17. Rd4 Bb5 18. Rb1 Bc4 19. Nc1 Be5 20. Rh4 Bf6 21. Rf4 Be5 22. Rh4 f6 23. Bc3 {Doric,D (2402)-Dabo Peranic,R (2262)/Bosnjaci CRO 2006/The Week in Chess 583/1/2-1/2 (53)}) 9. exd4 Be6 10. Ne4 Ke7 11. a5 Na6 12. Bd2 Nf6 13. Nxf6 gxf6 14. Rc1 Rhg8 15. g3 Bd5 16. Rg1 Rg4 17. Be3 Nb4 18. Bxc4 Bxc4 19. Rxc4 Nd5 20. Ke2 Kd6 21. Rgc1 Rc8 22. Kf3 {Ortlauf,E-Degering,F/Bayern 2000/EXT 2001/0-1 (39)}) 8. e4 (8. e3 $5 $11) 8... Bc5 {now this move has some bite to it, hitting both the d4 knight and through it the weakened f2 square.} 9. Nf3 Ng4 { taking advantage of the weak f2 pawn.} (9... Be6 {played first might be a more effective approach, getting another piece out and forcing White to pay for recapturing the c4 pawn.} 10. Ng5 Ng4 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. Bxc4 Nxf2 13. Rf1 Rf8 { and now} 14. Bxe6 $6 (14. Ke2 Nd7 15. Bxe6 Ne5) 14... Nd3+ 15. Ke2 Rxf1 16. Kxf1 Nd7 {gives Black a lead in development and the isolated e-pawn to attack.} ) 10. Bxc4 Nd7 {is in fact preferred by Houdini. Black does not want to fall too far behind in development.} (10... Bxf2+ {is the material grabbing line favored by Fritz.} 11. Ke2 Bb6 12. h3 Nh6 (12... Nf6 13. e5 Nfd7 {and White has good compensation for the pawn with his space advantage and Black's hampered development.}) 13. Bf4 {again, White's lead in development and open lines (such as the d-file) compensate for the pawn.}) 11. Rf1 (11. O-O { seems more logical. Leaving the king in the center with most of the pieces still on, even with the queens gone, will allow Black some possible threats.}) 11... Nde5 12. Nxe5 Nxe5 13. Be2 Ng4 {Black intends to trade on f2, reasoning that in the material swap (gaining R+P for N+B) will be good, as Black's second rook can operate on the central files. This is both bad counting in general terms (normally two pieces are worth more than rook and pawn) and a misjudgment of this particular position.} (13... Ng6 {is Fritz's preference. The knight is no longer hanging and eyes the f4 and h4 squares.}) (13... Be6 { is Houdini's choice, placing the bishop on its best square.}) 14. h3 $14 Bxf2+ $2 {Fritz is horrified! The engine gives White a +- here.} (14... Nf6 {would be OK here.} 15. e5 Nd7 16. f4 Bd4 $11 {White has more space, but his pawn structure is weaker.}) 15. Rxf2 $16 {Houdini is less horrified, but still gives White over a pawn equivalent advantage after the trade.} Nxf2 16. Kxf2 Be6 17. Be3 O-O 18. Bd1 {White's central maneuvering seems a bit slow.} (18. b4 {White can use all his pieces to support action on the queenside. For example} a6 (18... a5 $5 19. b5 cxb5 20. Nxb5) 19. a5 Rad8 20. Na4 {and Black already has problems defending.}) 18... Rfe8 (18... f5 {would seize an opportunity to try and open more lines for the rooks, or if White avoids an exchange, at least break up White's total central control.} 19. e5 Rad8) 19. Bc2 {now the Re8 effectively isn't doing much of use, as the e-pawn can't be attacked again easily.} Bc4 {Black does some slow maneuvering of his own.} 20. b3 Ba6 21. Ne2 (21. Na2 b6 22. Nb4 Bb7 23. a5 c5 24. Nd5 {looks superior.}) 21... Rad8 22. Nf4 Rd7 {Black hopes doubling rooks on a central file will be useful, but the e-pawn is adequate defended and the rooks have nowhere to go on the d-file, unless White blunders.} 23. Bxa7 $4 {White blunders, evidently entranced by the hanging pawn.} (23. Kf3 {with excellent chances for White, notes Fritz.}) 23... Rd2+ $19 {the loose king placement finally comes back to haunt White.} 24. Kf3 Rxc2 {Black is up an exchange and has powerful piece placement, compared with White's weak, uncoordinated pieces. The rest of the game is not difficult, although Black now misses a key tactic that would have shortened it further.} 25. Rb1 {White fails to see (although so does Black) that the Nf4 has no squares left, as e2 is dominated by Black's rook and bishop.} f6 (25... g5 $1 {the failure to find this move was an obvious flaw in my thinking process.} 26. b4 Bc4) 26. g4 Rc3+ 27. Kg2 (27. Be3 g5 28. Nh5 Kf7 29. Ng3 { would have put up more resistance.}) 27... Rxe4 28. Nh5 Re2+ 29. Kg1 Rxh3 30. Bf2 Rf3 31. Bc5 Rc2 (31... g6 {again, Black misses the fact that the knight is out of moves.} 32. b4 Bd3) 32. Bd4 c5 33. Ba1 Rff2 {and White can only postpone mate, due to the fact that the bishop covers the f1 square.} (33... Rff2 34. Nf4 Rxf4 35. Rd1 Rxg4+ 36. Kh1 Rh4+ 37. Kg1 Rhh2 38. Rd8+ Kf7 39. Rd7+ Kg6 40. Rxg7+ Kxg7 41. Bxf6+ Kxf6 42. a5 Rcg2#) 0-1

09 April 2013

Training quote of the day #2

I fear Benedict.  He is unlike any other being in Shadow or reality.  He is the Master of Arms for Amber.  Can you conceive of a millennium?  A thousand years?  Several of them?  Can you understand a man who, for almost every day of a lifetime like that, has spent some time dwelling with weapons, tactics, strategies?  Because you see him in a tiny kingdom, commanding a small militia, with a well-pruned orchard in his back yard, do not be deceived.  All that there is of military science thunders in his head.  He has often journeyed from shadow to shadow, witnessing variation after variation on the same battle, with but slightly altered circumstances, in order to test his theories of warfare.  He has commanded armies so vast that you could watch them march by day after day and see no end to the columns.  Although he is inconvenienced by the loss of his arm, I would not wish to fight him either with weapons or barehanded.  It is fortunate that he has no designs upon the throne, or he would be occupying it right now.  If he were, I believe that I would give up at this moment and pay him homage.  I fear Benedict.
From The Guns of Avalon by Roger Zelazny 

07 April 2013

Opening Study Model: Typical Positions (QGD)

For opening study, while I have occasionally run across some excellent resources, it has been difficult to find published works which take a holistic approach to explaining opening play, which should include the typical middlegame plans that result from an opening.  Too often opening lines are presented and analyzed up to the middlegame, then abruptly abandoned for the next line.  This means that someone who is an openings specialist, especially at the Class level, can easily fall into the trap of knowing what to do in the opening phase, achieving a good position and then quickly botching it a few moves into the middlegame.

I'd therefore like to start highlighting resources that are models for a comprehensive approach to opening study.  Some are already mentioned on this blog as review summaries of books or DVDs that I've completed.  The one I'm highlighting today is the Chess.com article by WIM Iryna Zenuk Typical Positions (Part 2).  It is humble, practical and shows how an improving player can research and better comprehend key lines in their chosen opening.  In this case, she looks at some key Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) positions and the typical plans for both White and Black, using her own recent Philadelphia Open game as the starting point and then examining how top-level professionals have treated the positions.  Even if you don't play the QGD, a look at the methodology and ideas can be valuable.  I noticed some common themes with some English Opening positions, for example, that involve a space advantage for White and an open a-file.

This may seem like a lot of work - and it is.  That is one reason I want to point out these atypically useful opening resources which offer us specific revelations of middlegame plans.  It still requires some effort to understand and digest the analysis, but the insights provided by these model opening studies can save a player a great deal of frustration (and losses).

06 April 2013

Annotated Game #89: Counting a Loss

The outcome of this third-round tournament game was decided by a counting error - luckily made this time by my opponent, not myself.  Ironically his miscalculation on move 16 came immediately after I handed him two possible combinations, one involving a use of his rook versus my queen on the c-file, the other being a thematic bishop sacrifice on g2.  The counting error involved captures on multiple squares, so it's easy to understand how my opponent went astray.  This Dan Heisman article at ChessCafe describes the problem of counting errors in detail.

Analysis of the opening and endgame phases of the game also offer up some instructive points.  I failed to take advantage of Black's incorrect handling of a Nimzo-Indian setup (the bishop retreat 5...Be7), instead parroting the original moves for the Nimzo-English contained in my opening repertoire.  This was done out of ignorance, since at the time I had no idea about what strategies are involved with the Nimzo-Indian setup.  In this case, the fight for e4 (a key Nimzo theme) is immediately won by White after Black retreats, something which I should have punished by 6. e4 or 6. d4.

The endgame is completely won for White, but I still had to win it.  Black played until the bitter end, attempting to use his two connected passed pawns on the queenside as compensation for the material.  However, White's rook is dominant (and could have been used to even greater effect on move 21), while Black's pieces cannot effectively support the pawns.  White finishes Black off in an effective manner after finding a clear way to win, the key being to calculate variations giving him safe, obvious winning advantages rather than searching for the most rapid kill.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A17"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "113"] [EventDate "2007.01.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "7"] {A17: English Opening: 1...Nf6 with ...Bb4} 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 { the Nimzo-English} 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 {the point of Qc2, as now an exchange on c3 won't double White's pawns.} Be7 {almost never played, as Bxc3 is the only move consistent with the Nimzo-Indian strategy of indirectly fighting for the e4 square. The retreat is also simply a waste of time.} 6. e3 (6. e4 {scores 90 percent and would take immediate advantage of the failure to exchange on c3. }) 6... b6 7. b4 Bb7 {Black has now established a Queen's Indian setup. White has a small space advantage, but is developing solidly rather than aggressively, which lets Black equalize.} 8. Be2 d5 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. O-O c5 11. Nxd5 $6 (11. bxc5 Bxc5 12. Bb2 {looks more promising for White, for example preparing for play down the c-file after targeting the Bc5. White also can use the extra central d-pawn to good effect, although the position is still evaluated as equal.}) 11... Bxd5 $6 (11... Qxd5 {is the real problem with White's decision to exchange on d5, as Black's queen then can move to a much more dominant square.} 12. bxc5 (12. Bc4 $6 Qh5) 12... Rc8) 12. bxc5 $14 Bxc5 13. Bb2 (13. d4 {is preferred by the engines, but I thought that better chances were offered by developing the bishop on the long diagonal.} Bd6 14. e4 Bb7 15. Bd2) 13... Nd7 14. Rfc1 Rc8 {this should be an immediate tactical danger signal for White, lining up against the Qc2.} 15. Ne5 $2 {this gives Black a choice of combinations.} (15. Qa4 {would remove the queen from the line of fire;}) (15. Ba6 {would control c8 and prevent Black's combinations.}) 15... Nxe5 (15... Bd4 {is the main combinative alternative.} 16. Qxc8 Qxc8 17. Rxc8 Bxb2 18. Rxf8+ Nxf8 19. Rb1 Bxe5 $17 {and Black has a healthy two pieces for the rook.}) (15... Bxa3 {is also possible and gives Black an advantage, although White ends up with a better defensive position.} 16. Qxc8 Qxc8 17. Rxc8 Bxb2 18. Rxf8+ Nxf8 19. Rxa7 Bxe5 20. Bb5 $15) 16. Bxe5 $17 Bxa3 $4 { Black miscalculates here and hands White a winning advantage.} (16... Bxg2 $1 { a thematic sacrifice made possible by the hanging Be5 and the queen fork on d5. } 17. Kxg2 (17. d4 Bb7) 17... Qd5+ 18. f3 Qxe5) 17. Qxc8 $18 {now Black's counting error is evident, as he will end up a piece down in all variations.} Bxc1 (17... Qg5 {threatening mate on g2 does not in fact allow Black a way out. } 18. Bg3 Rxc8 19. Rxc8+ Bf8 20. Rxa7 {and now White's rooks dominate, allowing him to eventually win the pinned Bf8.}) 18. Qxd8 {this is the simplest way of consolidating the material advantage.} (18. Qxc1 {is the other possibility} Bxg2 19. Rxa7 Be4) 18... Rxd8 19. Rxc1 f6 20. Bb2 (20. Bc7 { seems even better} Ra8 21. Ba6 $18) 20... Rd7 {Black is obviously concerned about White penetrating on the 7th rank, but this leaves his back rank dangerously unprotected.} 21. Bb5 (21. Rc8+ $1 {is a better version of the idea, as Black then loses material or can be mated.} Kf7 22. Bb5 Re7 23. Ba3 $1 Rb7 $2 (23... f5 24. Bxe7) 24. Be8+ Kg8 25. Bg6# {an unusual and effective mating pattern.}) 21... Rd8 22. d4 a5 {Black's only possible counterchances come from trying to mobilize the two connected passed pawns. However, given White's extra bishop and the rook dominating the c-file, Black is lost.} 23. Kf1 Ra8 24. Ba3 Bb7 25. f3 Ba6 26. Bxa6 Rxa6 27. Rc6 Kf7 28. Bc5 {White decides to eliminate the b-pawn using the pin on the Ra6, having calculated that Black will be one tempo short of queening with the a-pawn.} a4 29. Rxb6 Rxb6 30. Bxb6 a3 31. Ba5 a2 32. Bc3 {just in time.} Ke7 33. Ke2 Kd6 34. Kd3 Kc6 35. Kc4 Kb6 36. e4 Kc6 37. d5+ (37. Kb3 {would be the simplest way to wrap things up on the queenside.} Kb5 38. Kxa2 Kc4 39. Kb2) 37... exd5+ 38. exd5+ Kd6 39. h4 {White intends to break through on the kingside while keeping Black's king tied to defending against the d-pawn's advance. The Bc3 has to keep an eye on a1, but still dominates the long diagonal.} h5 40. g4 hxg4 41. fxg4 Kd7 42. Kd4 Kd6 43. Ke4 Kc5 44. Bd4+ Kd6 45. g5 fxg5 46. hxg5 g6 47. Be5+ Kd7 48. Ba1 Kd6 49. Kd4 {forcing Black to give ground} Kd7 50. Ke5 Ke7 51. d6+ Kd7 52. Kf6 (52. Kd5 {would be quicker, repeating the procedure.} Kd8 53. Kc6 Ke8 54. Kc7 Kf7 55. Kd7 Kf8 56. Ke6 Ke8 57. Bf6 Kf8 58. d7 Kg8 59. d8=Q+ Kh7 60. Qh8#) 52... Kxd6 53. Kxg6 Ke7 54. Kh7 {now the pawn marches through.} Kf7 55. g6+ Kf8 56. g7+ Kf7 57. g8=Q+ 1-0