22 Dec 2009

Underdog wins

With this game - my opponent's rating was 400+ higher than mine - a very strong player - my opponent resigned before the end of the game and the game was annotated as follows by Earl of Norfolk.

1.e4 e5 2.d4 d5!? Playable, but not the best. Black can't afford to mimic White's moves, especially when it comes to centre Pawns. The obvious (2...exd4) is best. 3.f3 Weakening the King's position. Best is simply (3.dxe5 dxe4 4.Qxd8+) and Black loses the castling priviledge, although with the Queens off the board this isn't too critical. 3. ... Bb4+ Wastes time, as White will simply interpose the c-pawn and the Bishop will have to retreat. Best is (3...exd4). 4.c3 Bd6 5.exd5 exd4 6.Qxd4 Nf6 7.Bg5 O-O Since the shaky first three moves, both sides have played quite well, but here (7...Nbd7) is better, as White will now be able to shatter Black's King's position. 8.Bxf6 gxf6 (8...Qxf6 may be safer, if not better, for if 9.Qxf6 gxf6), Black has the same Pawn formation as in the game, but White's main attacking piece (the Queen) is gone. 9.Bd3 Qe7+ Since White can cover the check with a developing move, it may have been better to start chipping away at the White centre with (9...c6). Also worth considering is (9...Be5). 10.Ne2 b6 11.Be4 An unnecessary moving of the same piece twice in the opening. White should complete her development with (11.Nd2), followed by castling (Queenside being safer in this case, because of the semi-open g-file). 11. ... Bb7 Logical, given his previous move, but (11...f5) would've forced White to retract her last move. 12.c4 Another unnecessary move, as the d-pawn was amply protected. White should once again have played (12.Nd2). 12. ... Nd7 It's hard to knock a move that develops a new piece, but (12...Be5) was stronger here. 13.Nd2 White finally makes this move, but as long as the c-pawn is no longer preempting c3, this Knight would be better placed there. c5?? Once again, (13...Be5) would have been an uncomfortable move for White to face. The text is a blunder which should lose a piece. 14.dxc6 Be5? Wrong time for this move now, as it just compounds his previous error. Better is (14...f5 15.cxb7 Rab8 16.Bd3) etc. 15.Qd3?! Good enough to maintain the advantage, but (15.Qxd7 Qxd7 16.cxd7 Bxe4 17.Nxe4 Bxb2 18.Rb1 Be5 19.f4) is much stronger. 15. ... Bxb2? Here Black had a chance to avoid the worst with (15...Nc5 16.Qc2 Bc8 17.Bxh7+ Kg7). 16.Rb1 Good, but better is (16.cxb7 Rae8 17.Rb1 Nc5 18.Qe3) etc. 16. ... Ne5 (16...Bxc6) is probably better, although Black would still be losing. 17.Qc2 Ba3 Again, (17...Bxc6) is better, but perhaps Black was trying to confuse the issue. 18.cxb7 White now has an overwhelming advantage, and should win with reasonably careful play. Rab8 19.O-O Prudent, but White should have played (19.Bxh7+) while the opportunity presented itself. 19. ... Bc5+ 20.Kh1 Qd7 Here Black might have tried getting rid of the thorn in his side with (20...f5 21.Bxf5 Rxb7). 21.a4 There's still no reason why White can't play (21.Bxh7+). 21. ... Nc6 Seals off White's b-pawn, but (21...Ng6) would have saved Black's h-pawn ... 22.Bxc6 ... except that White doesn't seem to want Black's h-pawn for some reason. Qxc6 23.a5 Worth considering is (23.Qe4). 23. ... Rxb7 Black finally eliminates White's advanced Pawn, but is not yet out of the woods. For one thing, he's still a piece down. 24.a6 More of an annoyance move than anything else. (24.Ne4), with the idea of exchanging off Black's Bishop, is better. 24. ... Re7 25.Nf4 (25.Ne4) is still probably the better move, but the text isn't bad, either. 25. ... Be3 Flashy, but inconsequential. 26.g3!? A bit dangerous. With (26.Nd5) White would be assured of eliminating Black's Bishop. 26. ... Bxd2?! Obliging White by exchanging the Bishop himself, thinking only of winning the c-pawn. Something like (26...Rd8) is probably better. 27.Qxd2 Qxc4 Black regains a Pawn, but the real threat was White moving her Knight to h5, followed by Qh6 threatening mate in two. Therefore, (27...Re5) is safer. 28.Ra1 Fortunately for Black, the above-mentioned threat doesn't occur to White. Qc6 29.Kg2 Once again, (29.Nh5 would force 29...Re5, then 30.Qh6 threatens mate in two, so Black would have to play 30...Rxh5), losing the exchange. 29. ... Rd7 30.Qc1 Offering the exchange of Queens, which isn't a bad idea, as White is a piece ahead. Qxc1 Black should have avoided the exchange of Queens by, say, (30...Qb5). 31.Raxc1 Rd2+ Black gets more mileage out of this move than he should. 32.Kh3 Better would be (32.Rf2), when Black would either have to exchange Rooks or retreat. 32. ... Ra2 33.Nh5 White trades her a-pawn for Black's doubled f6-pawn, not a good deal as Black will now have two connected passed Pawns. Better is (33.Ra1). 33. ... f5 Of course, Black doesn't have to let the forward f-pawn go easy, but it would have been better to take the a-pawn. 34.Nf6+ Once again, better is (34.Ra1). 34. ... Kg7 35.Nd7 Rd8 36.Ne5 Here White might have tried (36.Rc7, and if 36...Rxa6, THEN 37.Ne5). 36. ... Rdd2 Black doubles Rooks on the second rank, normally a very strong manoeuvre. However, it's stronger when White's King is still on the first rank. 37.g4!? Much safer would be protecting the h-pawn with (37.Rh1). 37. ... Rxh2+ 38.Kg3 Rag2+ It was at this point that Nikita asked me to look at this game. My comment at the time (not giving her any actual advice as to which move to make, of course) was, "If you can avoid checkmate in the next few moves, you may have a chance at winning." Prophetic, as it turned out. 39.Kf4 Ra2?! Back to attacking the a-pawn, but he should have first played (39...fxg4). 40.gxf5 The natural move to make, but (40.Rc7) is much stronger. 40. ... f6? Gives White the game. (40...Ra4+) would have made a fight of it. 41.Rc7+ Kg8 42.Rg1+ Rag2 Forced, as (42...Kf8 43.Rf7+ Ke8 44.Rg8) is mate. 43.Rxg2+ Rxg2 44.Nd7 Rg7 It makes little difference what Black plays now. 45.Rxa7 b5 46.Ra8+ A bit of a slip. (46.Nxf6+) would have won quicker. 46. ... Kf7 47.Nc5 And now (47.Rf8+) is stronger, but White is wrapping up the point. 47. ... Rg8 48.Ra7+ And here exchanging Rooks was quicker, but it would be hard for White to lose this game almost regardless of what she plays. Kf8 49.Rxh7 Even better would be (49.Ne6+), but the text is still good enough to win, as Black can't stop White from queening the a-pawn. Black rightly resigned at this point. 49. ...

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