23 November 2013

FT: Young Norwegian takes world chess title

Magnus Carlsen's victory in the 2013 World Championship has deservedly received a great deal of press attention, including a front-page article in the Financial Times (FT).  The world's most influential grandmaster had this to say:
Kenneth Rogoff, a professor at Harvard, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and a chess grandmaster in his own right, told the FT: “Magnus was magnificent, showing enormous talent and a will to win, the likes of which can compare with the greatest in any sport.”
He added: “Carlsen has emerged as the most important public personality the chess world has known since the great American champion Bobby Fischer, he will draw many new devotees to the game.”
The "Lunch with the FT" article featuring Carlsen was also well worth the read, for those who have not seen it.

21 November 2013

Training quote of the day #6

...Two monks were walking side by side down a muddy road when they came upon a large puddle which completely blocked the road.  A very beautiful lady in a lovely gown stood at the edge of the puddle, unable to go further without spoiling her clothes.
Without hesitation, one of the monks picked her up and carried her across the puddle, set her down on the other side, and continued on his way.  Many hours later when the two monks were preparing to camp for the night, the second monk turned to the first and said, "I can no longer hold this back, I'm quite angry at you! We are not supposed to look at women, particularly pretty ones, never mind touch them.  Why did you do that?"  The first monk replied, "Brother, I left the woman at the mud puddle; why are you still carrying her?"
From Taijiquan: Classical Yang Style by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming

14 November 2013

Commentary - 2013 Russian Championship (Women's Final Round)

The final round of the 2013 Russian championship featured another Caro-Kann Advance similar to the round 4 game between Kosintseva and Kosteniuk previously analyzed.  White (Alina Kashlinskaya) plays a less challenging variation and Black (Daria Charochkina) eventually decides to liven up the game by creating a pawn structure imbalance on move 20, which features a passed c-pawn.  Black's 22nd move allows White to grab the initiative and make threats on the kingside, which eventually nets White a pawn.  Black from that point defends well, however, and shows how to use an active rook in the endgame, enabling her to hold the draw.

[Event "63rd ch-RUS w 2013"] [Site "Nizhny Novgorod RUS"] [Date "2013.10.14"] [Round "9"] [White "Kashlinskaya, A."] [Black "Charochkina, D."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2435"] [BlackElo "2343"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "121"] [EventDate "2013.10.05"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 {taking the pawn is the most challenging line, although if White is unfamiliar with the opening, the text move may be safer.} Nc6 5. Be2 cxd4 {Black eliminates the possibility of a delayed capture on c5.} 6. cxd4 Qb6 (6... Bf5 {is the other alternative, where Black chooses to delay developing the queen. For example} 7. Nf3 e6 8. O-O Nge7 9. Qa4 Qd7 10. Nc3 Bg4 11. Be3 Nf5 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Bxf3 Ncxd4 14. Bd1 Nc6 15. Bf4 Bc5 16. Rc1 Bb6 17. Qa3 Nfe7 18. Ba4 O-O 19. Rfd1 Ng6 20. Bh2 Qd8 21. Bxc6 bxc6 22. Ne4 Qh4 23. Nc5 {0-1 (23) Walter Travella,G (2055)-Illescas Cordoba,M (2640) Barcelona 1996}) 7. Nf3 (7. Nc3 {is normally played here, the idea being to force Black to close the diagonal for the light-square bishop.} e6 (7... Qxd4 8. Nxd5 Qxd1+ 9. Bxd1 Rb8 10. Nf3 $14) 8. Nf3 Nge7 {and this now looks like a standard French defense, with a positional plus for White.}) 7... Bg4 {Black does not waste the opportunity to get the bishop out.} 8. O-O e6 9. Nbd2 Nh6 {the knight is going to f5, so this is a typical idea in this type of position.} 10. h3 Bxf3 { normally Black exchanges off the bishop in this situation. Time would be lost with a bishop retreat and it is "bad" in any case because of the pawn structure.} 11. Nxf3 Nf5 12. Be3 Nxe3 13. fxe3 {this is not in fact a bad structure for White, who now has a half-open f-file and full protection for the d4 pawn.} Be7 14. Rb1 {White signals a plan involving queenside pawn expansion.} (14. Qd2 {seems more flexible.}) 14... O-O 15. b4 f6 {another thematic move for Black, attacking the head of the White pawn chain.} (15... Nxb4 $2 16. a3) 16. b5 Na5 (16... Nxe5 {is an interesting tactical alternative. } 17. dxe5 Qxe3+ 18. Kh1 fxe5 {and Houdini evalutes the position as equal, although obviously a lot of play can be had with the piece versus 3 pawns situation.}) 17. Qd2 Rfc8 18. exf6 {White chooses to conduct the exchange of the e-pawn on her terms. Otherwise, the Nf3 is essentially bound to protect e5, since a pawn exchange initiated by Black would then create two weak e-pawns.} Bxf6 19. Nh2 Nc4 20. Bxc4 dxc4 {the riskier choice, although Houdini evaluates it the same as ...Rxc4. With the new pawn imbalance, Black hopes to use the passed c-pawn to her advantage while containing White's central pawns.} 21. Ng4 Bg5 22. Qc3 {although the queen is not normally an ideal blockading piece, here it remains well-placed, protecting e3 and occupying the long diagonal, which potentially could be useful after a d5 push.} a6 {this seems unnecessary at this point, as White was not going to make any more progress with the b-pawn.} (22... Qd6 23. Ne5 Rc7 24. a4 Qd5 {is one possible alternative approach that does not allow White nearly as much latitude as in the game.}) 23. d5 h5 {entering a long tactical sequence.} 24. bxa6 Qxa6 25. Qe5 hxg4 26. Qxg5 c3 27. Qe7 c2 28. Rbc1 exd5 (28... Qb6 $5 {and if} 29. Qxe6+ {then} Qxe6 30. dxe6 Rxa2 31. e7 Re8 {is fine for Black.}) 29. Qf7+ Kh7 (29... Kh8 { gives Black an extra defensive resource in the form of the g-pawn.} 30. Rf5 g6) 30. Rf5 {the threat is mate on h5.} Rc6 31. Rxc2 $14 Rh6 32. Rg5 Qf6 33. Qxf6 Rxf6 34. Rxg4 {the dust has settled and Black is disadvantaged in the rook endgame, but not fatally so.} Ra3 35. Rg3 Rc6 36. Rb2 Rg6 37. Rxg6 Kxg6 38. Kf2 Kf5 39. Rxb7 Rxa2+ 40. Kf3 Kf6 41. Rd7 Rd2 42. h4 Rd1 43. g4 Rf1+ 44. Ke2 Rh1 45. h5 Rh2+ 46. Kf3 Rd2 47. Rd6+ Kf7 48. Kf4 Rf2+ 49. Kg5 Rf3 50. Rd7+ Kf8 51. h6 gxh6+ 52. Kxh6 Rh3+ 53. Kg6 Rxe3 54. g5 {now the draw seems assured.} Rd3 55. Rf7+ Kg8 56. Ra7 Kf8 57. Ra8+ Ke7 58. Kg7 Rg3 59. g6 d4 60. Ra1 d3 61. Re1+ 1/2-1/2

13 November 2013

Commentary - 2013 Russian Championship (Women's Round 4)

As I mentioned a while ago, I am continuing to work on commentary for several international games that caught my eye over the past month.  This next game, from round 4 of the women's section of the Russian championship played in October, features the sacrificial 3...c5 line of the Caro-Kann.  Alexandra Kosteniuk employs it well and the game is complex both tactically and positionally; the original ChessBase report mentioned that it was a "very strange game", which is difficult to deny, which of course also makes it very interesting.  Among other things, multiple pawn sacrifices are offered, refused and finally accepted.  Tatiana Kosintseva missed (or deliberately passed up, hard to say) more than one chance to force a draw and seemed to be pressing at the end as well, but overextended herself and allowed Black to win the ending.

[Event "63rd ch-RUS w 2013"] [Site "Nizhny Novgorod RUS"] [Date "2013.10.08"] [Round "4.2"] [White "Kosintseva, Tatiana"] [Black "Kosteniuk, Alexandra"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2515"] [BlackElo "2495"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "130"] [EventDate "2013.10.05"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 {less challenging than taking on c5, but of course solid for White. This move is frequently seen at the Class level.} Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 {this is essentially Black's ideal setup out of this variation and the database statistics show it, as Black scores close to 63 percent.} 6. dxc5 {Kosintseva has played this frequently, including a prior game against Kosteniuk from earlier this year in May. Black therefore must have had the expectation that White would enter this line. The capture is usually made on move 4 when first possible; this variation can be reached alternatively by White playing the capture and following up with 6. c3, which however is not the most aggressive continuation.} a6 $146 {a novelty on move 6! However, perhaps not so unusual when it's one of Houdini's top choices. The move also appears in their previous game, at a later point. Here it helps restrain the idea of White pushing the b-pawn.} (6... e6 {is what Kosteniuk played before and is most common.} 7. b4 Bxf3 8. Qxf3 Qc7 9. Bf4 a6 10. Nd2 g5 11. Bg3 Nge7 12. Bd3 Bg7 13. Qe3 h6 14. f4 gxf4 15. Bxf4 d4 16. cxd4 Nd5 17. Qf2 Nxf4 18. Qxf4 O-O-O 19. Nf3 Nxd4 20. O-O Nxf3+ 21. Qxf3 Bxe5 22. Rad1 Bxh2+ 23. Kh1 Rd4 24. Be4 Rhd8 25. Bxb7+ Qxb7 26. Qxb7+ Kxb7 27. Rxd4 Rxd4 28. Kxh2 Rxb4 29. Rxf7+ Kc6 30. Rf6 Re4 31. Rxh6 Kxc5 32. Rh3 Re2 33. Ra3 Kb5 34. Kg3 a5 35. Kf3 Rc2 36. g4 a4 37. g5 Kb4 38. Re3 Rxa2 39. g6 Rd2 40. Rxe6 Rd7 41. Kf4 a3 42. Ra6 Kb3 43. Rb6+ Kc2 44. Rc6+ Kb3 45. Rb6+ Kc2 46. Rc6+ {1/2-1/2 (46) Kosintseva,T (2517)-Kosteniuk,A (2491) Geneva SUI 2013}) 7. Be3 Bxf3 {this "little tactic" was of course foreseen by White. In other lines with an earlier dxc5, White may try to hang on to the extra pawn. Here white cedes the e5 pawn, but in exchange gets the two bishops.} 8. Qxf3 Nxe5 9. Qd1 {White evidently wants to keep her options open regarding future placement of the queen.} e6 10. Be2 Ne7 {in this French-type structure, the knight development with Ne7-f5 is both common and effective.} 11. b4 {reinforcing c5 and untying the Be3 from the pawn's defense.} Nf5 12. Bf4 Nc6 {by this point Black has comfortable equality, with a dynamic balance between the minor pieces and pawn structures. Black's position looks more natural to play, although there is no real advantage.} 13. O-O g6 (13... Be7 {is also possible, with the idea of exchanging off the Bf4.}) 14. Bd3 {the bishop was accomplishing nothing on its previous diagonal and has limited scope, given Black's pawn structure, so now it is going to exchange itself off.} Bg7 15. Bxf5 gxf5 {this looks like a strange line for Black to enter, but a similar structure can occur, for example, in the Caro-Kann Exchange Variation. Black argues that the possibility of using the open g-file and stronger central pawn structure outweigh the weakening of the kingside.} 16. Bd6 a5 (16... Bf8 {is Houdini's preference, seeking to exchange the Bd6 or drive it away.}) (16... Nxb4 17. Re1 Qd7 {is an interesting possibility; the c3 pawn cannot capture, as it is pinned to the Ra1. Black cannot hold onto the pawn (the d5 pawn can be captured once the knight moves, due to the pin on the e6 pawn), but it would be another way to disrupt White's queenside pawns. Play could continue} 18. a4 Rg8 19. g3 a5 20. Ra3 Na6 21. Qxd5 O-O-O $5) 17. bxa5 {this seems to be exactly what Black wanted.} (17. b5 {it is unclear to me why White would not prefer this to the text move, as it mobilizes the queenside pawn majority to good effect.}) 17... Rxa5 18. Nd2 {evidently heading for b3 to help protect c5. White offers the c3 pawn in the process.} Qd7 (18... Bxc3 {leads to complicated play.} 19. Rb1 b5 20. a3 (20. cxb6 Qxd6 21. Nc4 Qc5 22. Nxa5 Qxa5 23. a4 $15) 20... Qa8 {and Houdini evaluates this as equal, but there is a lot going on for both sides here.}) 19. Nb3 Ra4 {a master-level move, keeping the rook advanced and mobile along the open fourth rank.} 20. Nd2 Ra3 21. Rb1 Be5 { Black finally decides to exchange off the bishop.} 22. Bxe5 Nxe5 23. Re1 Ng6 ( 23... Nd3 24. Re3 Nxc5 25. Nb3 Nxb3 26. axb3 O-O {is evaluated as equal by the engine.}) 24. Qc1 {perhaps with the idea of exploiting the c1-h6 diagonal, although this does not happen in the game.} (24. Nf3 $5) 24... Rxa2 {Black now decides to take one of the pawns offered to her.} 25. Nf3 O-O 26. h4 f6 $6 { this covers g5 and e5, but weakens e6 at the same time.} (26... Qc7 {instead seizes a key diagonal and allows Black to make some threats.}) 27. Rb6 { White fails here to put Black under maximum pressure, allowing her to strengthen the center.} (27. h5 {would be the most testing move.} Ne7 28. Rb6 Nc6 29. Nd4 Re8 30. Qb1 Ra7 31. h6) 27... e5 {although the earlier ...f6 may not have been fully accurate, the text move is now possible.} 28. Qb1 Ra7 29. Rd6 Qc8 30. Rxd5 Ne7 31. Rd6 Qxc5 {the position has simplified now and is equal, with Black's small material plus offset by the weaker pawn structure (3 pawn islands versus 2) and White's piece activity.} 32. Qb3+ Kh8 (32... Kg7 $2 33. Rd7) 33. Rd7 Ng6 34. Qe6 b5 {going for further simplification, at the cost of one of Black's doubled pawns.} 35. Rxa7 Qxa7 36. Qxf5 Qg7 (36... Qf7 { would neutralize a possible h5 push.} 37. h5 Nf4 38. Re4 Nxh5 39. Rh4 Nf4 40. Nxe5 fxe5 41. Rxh7+ Qxh7 42. Qxf8+ Qg8 {and White takes a perpetual check.}) 37. Rd1 (37. h5 {again would challenge Black most effectively.}) 37... Nf4 38. g3 Ne2+ 39. Kg2 Qg6 40. Qxg6 hxg6 {Houdini considers this an equal endgame, although Black has a small advantage based on her knight's activity.} 41. Rd7 Nxc3 42. Rb7 (42. Rc7 Ne4 43. Rb7) 42... Kg8 (42... Rd8 $5) 43. g4 {White seems to be overpressing on the kingside and creating potential weaknesses.} Rd8 44. h5 g5 45. Nh2 $6 {this appears to needlessly let Black's rook onto the fourth rank.} (45. Rb6) 45... Rd4 $17 46. f3 Rd2+ $11 (46... e4 {is what Houdini prefers.} 47. fxe4 Rxe4 48. Kf3 Rf4+ 49. Ke3 b4 $17) 47. Kh1 {forced.} (47. Kg1 $2 Ne2+ {and now the knight and rook combine to penetrate the kingside, for example} 48. Kg2 Nf4+ 49. Kg1 Rg2+ 50. Kh1 Rg3 51. Rb8+ Kg7 52. Rb7+ Kh6 53. Rxb5 Nh3 54. Nf1 Nf2+ 55. Kh2 Rxf3) 47... Rb2 48. Nf1 e4 49. fxe4 Nxe4 50. Ne3 (50. Kg1 $5) 50... Rb3 51. Nd5 Nf2+ 52. Kg1 Nxg4 {White's weakening pawn advance is finally exploited by Black.} 53. Ne7+ Kf8 54. Nf5 ( 54. Kg2) 54... Rh3 (54... Rb2) 55. h6 $6 {not sure what White's intent was here.} (55. Rxb5 Rxh5 56. Rb8+ Kf7 57. Rb7+ Kg6 58. Ne7+ Kf7 59. Nf5+ {and Black cannot escape the checks, due to the knight fork on g7.}) 55... Nxh6 56. Kg2 g4 57. Nd4 {Houdini shows a win for Black now.} (57. Rxb5) 57... Re3 58. Kf2 Re4 59. Nxb5 Rb4 60. Rh7 Rxb5 61. Rxh6 Kg7 {unlike in the move 57 variation, White's rook now cannot attack Black's pawns and king from the side, making the defense impossible.} 62. Rh4 f5 63. Kg3 Kg6 64. Rh8 Rb3+ 65. Kg2 Kg5 0-1

12 November 2013

Annotated Game #108: Opening preparation?

This is the final game from the last Swiss tournament in the Slow Chess League.  One of the interesting features about playing in a Chess.com league is that all of your opponents' games on the site are accessible and downloadable.  This naturally can work both for you and against you.

It seemed to me at the time that my opponent must have looked at the previous round's game (Annotated Game #107) as part of his preparation.  The idea of playing the ...e4 advance as in the previous game could perhaps be improved by preventing the response Ng5 (which wins a pawn by force).  This appeared to be the idea behind Black's 4...h6 in this game, which otherwise has little point.  The opening takes a very different path from the previous game, but unfortunately I make some similar kinds of errors, including following a dubious and uncertain plan, which allows Black to take over the initiative and create too many threats for me to find my way through.

In general, I felt that my last two opponents were better focused during the games and wanted to win more than I did, so by that measure they certainly deserve their results.  I hope to do better on that score in my next games.

[Event "Slow Swiss #9"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2013.11.03"] [Round "5"] [White "ChessAdmin_01"] [Black "Gunners2004"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A28"] [WhiteElo "1443"] [BlackElo "1718"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "52"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "45"] 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 {the English Four Knights} 4. e3 h6 {this is not as effective as Black's normal continuations that assist development, such as with ...Bb4 or ...Be7. The only benefit of the text move is to prevent a possible Ng5.} 5. d4 {the response of choice among master players in the database. White seizes the chance to strike in the center, where Black has less support than he should, after the previous move.} exd4 6. Nxd4 {this is the only move played in the database, but the pawn capture can be considered as well.} Bb4 7. Nxc6 {played with the idea of exchanging both the Nc6 and Bb4. } (7. Be2 {was played in the only victory (for White) in the small game sample. Houdini also likes it. White ignores the threat of doubled c-pawns, knowing that he will receive the two bishops in return, and gets on with development.} Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 O-O 9. O-O $11) 7... bxc6 8. Bd2 O-O 9. a3 Bxc3 10. Bxc3 $11 { White now has a pleasant game with the two bishops, although possesses no real advantage.} Ne4 {Black looks to force an exchange of White's excellent bishop on the long diagonal. Houdini spots a tactical, sacrificial alternative to simply allowing the exchange on c3, based on the fact that the Ne4 is hanging.} 11. Qd4 (11. Bxg7 $5 Nxf2 (11... Kxg7 12. Qg4+ Ng5 13. h4 d6 14. Qd4+ Kg8 15. hxg5 Qxg5 16. O-O-O $14) 12. Qf3 Kxg7 13. Qxf2) 11... Nxc3 12. Qxc3 f5 13. g3 { played to control f4, otherwise the Black f-pawn can be used as a battering ram. Part of the plan for White is castling queenside.} Rb8 14. Bd3 (14. c5 { is something I had considered, as it fixes Black's c-pawn and opens up the a2-g8 diagonal for the bishop, which is less effective in the game continuation. I also was stubborn about sticking to the idea of queenside castling, to the detriment of other positional factors.}) 14... c5 15. O-O-O $6 $15 (15. O-O {and White is safe enough, despite the light-square weakness, since it is difficult to exploit. White could then have pursued a queenside expansion strategy, for example} Bb7 16. b4 Qe7 17. Rab1 $11) 15... Bb7 { Black now effectively takes over the initiative.} 16. Rhg1 Bf3 17. Rd2 Rf6 18. Be2 Bxe2 19. Rxe2 Qe7 20. Rge1 {I had a long think here, as White does not have an obvious plan and multiple weaknesses to cover.} (20. Rd1 {was another alternative considered and probably simpler and better. At the time, the hanging Re2 bothered me and I did not see a good follow-up for White. Play could continue} d6 21. Qd3 {with a number of possibilites, but White should be OK.}) 20... Rfb6 (20... Qe4 $5) 21. e4 $11 {this felt risky at the time, but I calculated that it would work. I was correct, but unfortunately went astray afterwards.} Rb3 {I had in fact missed this move, focusing on the variations with the exchange on e4, and failed to find the correct continuation.} 22. Qa5 $6 (22. Qd2 {I wrongly rejected, fearing a possible breakthrough against White's king.} fxe4 23. Rxe4 Qf7 24. Qf4 Qxf4+ 25. Rxf4 Rxb2 26. Re7 Rb1+ 27. Kc2 {and Black has nothing more than a perpetual check with the two rooks.}) 22... fxe4 23. Qxc7 (23. Rxe4 {might have provided better practical chances.} Qf6 24. Re8+ Kh7 25. Qd2 Rxb2 26. Qd3+ Qg6 27. Qxg6+ Kxg6 28. Rxb8 Rxb8 $15 { and White has a pawn-down rook ending to defend.}) 23... Qf6 24. Qxd7 $2 { this leads to an immediate collapse, but I didn't see anything better at the time.} (24. Qf4 {would make things much more difficult for Black.} Rc3+ (24... Rxb2 {no longer works due to} 25. Qxf6) 25. Kb1 Qxf4 26. gxf4 Rxa3 27. Rxe4 $15 ) 24... Rxa3 25. Qd5+ Kh8 26. Rc2 {White is lost at this point.} (26. bxa3 Qc3+ 27. Rc2 {and I had previously missed in my calculations that the Qc3 could now capture on e1.}) 26... Ra1+ 0-1

11 November 2013

Commentary - World Championship 2013, round 2

Although some have criticized the recently-started World Championship for its drawishness, we are still in the feeling-out period between the two contenders.  I found the second round game to be well worth studying, as it shows off the Classical Caro-Kann, and the unusual sideline selected by Carlsen, to good effect.  Anand's aggressive setup, including 11. f4, is handled well by the challenger, who never lets White get moving on the kingside and instead initiates some key exchanges in the center.  Black's opening is designed to neutralize White's initiative and then counterattack if White becomes too lazy or loose.  The opening selection worked well for Carlsen, who threatened a minority attack on the queenside and pressured Anand into repeating moves on the kingside to secure the draw.

[Event "FWCM 2013"] [Site "Chennai"] [Date "2013.11.10"] [Round "2"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B19"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2870"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [EventCountry "IND"] [TimeControl "40/7200:20/3600:900+30"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 {these days the Advance Variation with e5 is the most played (and also the most theoretical).} dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 { Spassky introduced this move into top-level play and made it the standard. It is an aggressive pawn thrust, but it makes perfect sense in the context of the bishop's location and White's natural orientation to kingside play in this variation.} h6 7. Nf3 e6 {a rare move, although Anand himself has played this, along with the main line ...Nd7 and the alternative ...Nf6. The main line prevents Ne5 by allowing Black to immediately exchange off the knight, so the game continuation is the natural reaction.} 8. Ne5 Bh7 {no other square is safe for the bishop.} 9. Bd3 {exchanging off the bishop is the most popular, also logical from the standpoint of gaining time, as Black's bishop has made more moves than White's equivalent and White will be left with more pieces developed afterwards. Other commentators have also pointed out that Black's attempt to snatch a pawn with ...Qxd4 fails to 10. Nxf7!} Bxd3 10. Qxd3 Nd7 { this knight needs to be developed sooner or later and challenging Black's Ne5 sooner is certainly a good idea.} 11. f4 {this is by far the most popular move, although by no means forced. If White is going to play aggressively with 8. Ne5, then this continuation makes sense to keep the space advantage on the kingside. With this move, however, White is essentially committing himself to castle queenside, as the kingside pawn shield is now almost nonexistent. (See move 14 notes, however, for a game featuring Anand castling kingside)} Bb4+ { a typical idea in the Caro-Kann, provoking the c-pawn advance and weakening the future home of the White king.} 12. c3 Be7 13. Bd2 Ngf6 14. O-O-O {this is an interesting choice. In the database Anand had previously played Qe2 and won (as shown below). Every other database game saw the text move played, however. Anand's previous play was somewhat risky and he probably expected that Carlsen had prepared an improvement.} (14. Qe2 c5 15. dxc5 Qc7 16. b4 O-O 17. O-O a5 18. a3 Nxe5 19. fxe5 Nd7 20. Ne4 axb4 21. cxb4 Qxe5 22. Bc3 Qc7 23. Rad1 Rad8 24. Qg4 g6 25. Nd6 e5 26. Qc4 Nb6 27. Qe4 Nd7 28. h5 gxh5 29. Qf5 Bf6 30. Qxh5 Qc6 31. Rxf6 Nxf6 32. Qxe5 {1-0 (32) Anand,V (2783)-Ding Liren (2707) Paris/St Petersburg FRA/RUS 2013}) 14... O-O 15. Ne4 Nxe4 16. Qxe4 Nxe5 {Carlsen plays a new move, according to the database, trading off the well-placed knight and then centralizing his queen.} (16... Nf6 {is another logical continuation and a standard idea in these types of positions.} 17. Qe2 Qd5 18. g4 h5 19. gxh5 Qe4 20. Qf2 Qf5 21. Rdg1 Nxh5 22. Qf3 Rfd8 23. Rg5 Bxg5 24. hxg5 g6 25. Ng4 Qd5 26. Qh3 Kg7 27. b3 b5 28. Re1 Rh8 29. Nh6 Rad8 30. Re5 Qd6 31. Qe3 Rxh6 32. gxh6+ Kh7 33. Rc5 Qc7 34. Qd3 Rd5 35. Qxb5 Nxf4 36. Rxc6 {1/2-1/2 (36) Fercec, N (2477)-Zelcic,R (2531) Zadar 2004}) 17. fxe5 (17. dxe5 Qd5 {forces the queen trade, as otherwise the g2 and a2 pawns are forked.}) 17... Qd5 18. Qxd5 (18. Qg4 {is what bloodthirsty fans wanted to see. Black again cannot snatch a pawn, this time with ...Qxa2, because of 19. Bxh6!} f5 {is Houdini's continuation, which it evaluates as completely equal, although it certainly makes for some interesting play.} (18... Kh7 {is also a good defense and simpler.}) 19. Qg6 Qxa2 20. Bxh6 Rf7 21. g4 f4) 18... cxd5 19. h5 {this frees up the Rh1 from its protective duties.} b5 {putting a minority attack in motion.} 20. Rh3 a5 21. Rf1 Rac8 (21... b4 $5) 22. Rg3 Kh7 (22... b4 {now no longer works.} 23. Bxh6 bxc3 24. Bxg7 cxb2+ 25. Kxb2 Rb8+ 26. Ka1 {and Black no longer has threats against the White king, leaving White with a winning advantage. One possible continuation is} Rfc8 {which avoids major material loss but leaves Black in a hopeless position.} 27. Bf6+ Kf8 28. h6) 23. Rgf3 Kg8 24. Rg3 Kh7 25. Rgf3 Kg8 1/2-1/2

09 November 2013

Annotated Game #107: Don't be afraid of the center

This game is from round four of the last Swiss tournament run by the Slow Chess League.  Some all-too-familiar lessons can be seen from analyzing this loss:
  • Don't be afraid of the center!  White could have established a fine center with d4-e3 early on, consolidating his pawn advantage and giving Black little scope for counterplay in the center.  White also shied away from "posting up" in the center with e4 later on.
  • Following general principles without concrete analysis can lead to trouble; in this case, I did not properly evaluate some of the exchanges that I initiated, although Black also made some similar missteps with exchanges.
  • Planlessness and negative trends.  I drifted planless starting around move 17, when a simple plan would have done fine.  This contributed to the establishment of a negative psychological trend for me and letting my opponent take over the initiative.  He was able to make a series of threats without having to worry about my counterplay, which in the end gave him the game.

[Event "Slow Swiss #9"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2013.10.26"] [Round "4"] [White "ChessAdmin_01"] [Black "Lavner"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A22"] [WhiteElo "1454"] [BlackElo "1478"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "45"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 {a common transposition into the lines with ...e5, although it is still more common to play the pawn move first.} 3. Nf3 e4 { this loses a pawn by force, although it has been played as a gambit in some master games.} 4. Ng5 {White scores over 60 percent with this.} d5 (4... b5 { is the master-level continuation, deflecting the c-pawn before playing ...d5. The sacrificed pawn is therefore the b-pawn rather than a central pawn.}) 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Ngxe4 Nc6 7. d3 {here was my first long think. I wanted to get the bishop out without giving Black a target, was the idea, but a relatively passive approach.} (7. d4 {followed by e3, building a strong center, is significantly better. Black will have some good piece activity and easy development, but no other significant compensation for the pawn.}) 7... Bf5 8. Nxd5 {an exchange that gives Black an active queen, so not the best decision. I was following the principle of exchanging down when ahead material; however, in this case the material advantage is limited to a lone pawn and I had lesser development, so exchanging off one of my two developed pieces and giving Black another developed piece resulted in a gain in time for Black.} (8. g3 { immediately would be fine, as White has no need to exchange in the center.}) 8... Qxd5 9. Nc3 Qd7 10. g3 Bb4 (10... Bh3 {seems like it would be annoying, but in fact Black would be reducing his time advantage with the exchange and White's king would not be in any danger.} 11. Bxh3 Qxh3 12. Qb3 {and now Black cannot penetrate on the kingside effectively, for example} Qg2 13. Rf1 Bb4 ( 13... Qxh2 $2 14. Qxb7 $18) 14. Be3 Qxh2 $6 15. O-O-O {and now White has the advantage in activity and threats after having returned the pawn.}) 11. Bg2 O-O (11... Bh3 {here would be more effective, since the Bb4 blocks the b-file threat after Qb3.}) 12. O-O Rad8 13. Bf4 {I debated here between this and Bg5. Houdini prefers the latter.} (13. Bg5 Rde8 14. Nd5 Bd6 15. e4 {is one possibility. I had in fact considered the idea of "posting up" in the center with e4, but thought that the d-pawn would be too weak. However, Black has no way of effectively getting to it, while the Nd5 looks quite strong. In this line, Black also has no time to play ...h6 and kick the bishop.} Bg4 16. Qd2) 13... Bd6 {this is a good exchange for White, reducing the minor piece count further and leaving Black with less effective pieces.} (13... Nd4 {would be more troublesome for White.}) 14. Bxd6 Qxd6 15. Rc1 $16 {despite White's uninspired play, at this point in the game there are no weaknesses for Black to target and White is a solid central pawn up.} Rfe8 16. Re1 a6 {preventing any any ideas involving Nb5, but White now has some other good moves available. However, I failed to come up with any real plan and started "drifting".} 17. a3 {the idea was to prevent ...Nb4 and allow Qc2, but this is rather slow.} (17. Ne4 {I considered in the game and it would be simple and good, centralizing the knight while giving the Rc1 some useful pressure down the c-file. Nc5 would now be a threat as well, so Black should probably exchange on e4.}) (17. Na4 {is another idea targeting the c5 square and looking to break up and weaken Black's queenside pawns. For example} a5 18. Bxc6 bxc6 19. Qc2) 17... Qh6 {hoping to generate some kingside pressure.} 18. Nd5 {I missed Black's next move, which takes away the knight's support on d5 and makes the idea of snatching the c pawn less strong, since the knight would not have a retreat square afterwards. Despite still having a significant advantage, mentally the disruption of my original idea helped move the game towards a negative trend for me.} Bh3 19. Nf4 $6 (19. Nxc7 {is in fact still possible, although not best.} Bxg2 20. Nxe8 Bh3 21. Nxg7 Qxg7) (19. Bh1 {this is a standard way to avoid the trade of the fianchettoed bishop, but unfortunately it did not occur to me during the game. I thought the e-pawn would be too weak or it would require too much awkwardness to defend, but Houdini finds a concrete, tactical continuation leading to an advantage.} Bg4 20. Rc4 {interesting to see how this rook lift idea works well here, but less so in the game continuation.} Ne5 21. Rxc7 Rxd5 22. Bxd5 Qd6 23. Bxf7+ Nxf7 24. Qc2) 19... Bxg2 20. Nxg2 { obviously awkward for the knight, but I was worried about threats to the knight after the king capture.} (20. Kxg2 g5 21. Nh3 {should be OK, however.}) 20... Re5 {an aggressive move which should have been countered easily by White. } 21. Rc4 {with the idea of playing Rh4 to disrupt Black's plans on the h-file. } (21. e3 {would shore up White's center while leaving Black no real threats.} Rh5 22. h4) 21... Qd6 22. Qc1 $6 {a subtle queen move which in fact hurts White. I thought the queen would do better on the c1-h6 diagonal and also could get out of the way of any tactical threats on the d-file.} (22. Nh4 $5 { would reactivate the piece, heading for f3 and the central fight.}) 22... Nd4 $11 {Black now takes full advantage of White's passivity in the center. White is too weak to boot the knight with e3, as the f3 square is vulnerable.} 23. Ne3 {a defensive move to cover the e-file threat.} c5 24. b4 b6 25. Qb2 { this looks good, protecting e2 again, pressuring d4 and covering b4. However, the defense of the back rank is weakened and the queen is unprotected, leading to the winning tactic later on.} (25. bxc5 {immediately might be better, if White is going to play this anyway.}) 25... h5 26. Ng2 $2 {simply a waste of time, also removing the defensive function of the knight by covering the e-file (why move 23 was played in the first place).} Qf6 {lining up various tactical threats, which however could have been countered.} (26... Rde8 { would have more effectively gone after White's weaknesses.}) 27. bxc5 $2 (27. f4 Red5 28. Kf1 $11) 27... bxc5 (27... Nf3+ {is something we both noticed after the fact, winning the exchange.} 28. Kf1 Nxh2+ 29. Kg1 Nf3+ 30. Kf1 Nxe1 31. Kxe1 Rxd3) 28. Ne3 {this covers the various threats involving taking on e2, but I miss the rook sacrifice, which after being accepted allows for the win of the queen.} Rxe3 29. fxe3 $2 (29. Rxd4 $1 {is the tactical defensive exchange sac that Houdini finds. I assumed that I would simply be down a piece and lost if I didn't accept the original sac, so did not even look for an alternative.}) 29... Nf3+ {with a discovered attack on the hanging Qb2.} 0-1

03 November 2013

Relish the challenge, don't fear it

The following excerpt from an interview with Ashley Merriman at Chess Life Online reinforces some of the mental tournament preparation techniques that I've identified and worked to adopt.  The idea that you should strive to win, while not fearing a loss, is probably the most fundamental concept.  Letting go of the emotional and off-the-board distractions can sometimes be hard, but I do think it's a sure way of increasing one's chess performance.
You need to ask yourself if the idea of a competition is a stressful experience or an exciting experience. Psychology and physiology are connected. Under a stress or threat condition, you might think “Everyone is waiting for me to fail. I am not prepared.” There are physiological changes that occur. Your veins contract and your blood pressure rises. You burn out the glucose that is circulating. You might feel tightness in your lungs. In contrast, when you are in a challenge state, your veins dilate. You burn glucose stored in fat cells, which means you have longer sustained energy. In a challenge state, two extra liters per blood can pump per minute. In chess, that means that more oxygenated blood to your brain.
As much as you are practicing it will be different in competition. If you are stressed about tournaments, you might want to play MORE tournaments to get used to tournaments. That’s called the stress inoculation model. You will build stress immunity by playing in competitions. If you are excited about competitions, make sure that your testosterone peaks at the right time. You want to be revved up and challenged and excited but not too early – it's about timing. 
Ask yourself, “Is a particular match a threat or a challenge?” Be mindful of your state of mind entering the game and during the game. Even when you are winning, the fear of screwing up may make you more fixated on an error when you need to move on to the next move or the next game.