If you are looking for a game where the players exhibited positional genius, keep looking. If you are looking for a very simple down and dirty mud wrestle... this game is for you. This is a game where Black simply applied pressure until his opponent (the brother of my Round 1 opponent) cracked, in the form of allowing tactics resulting in the loss of a pawn and a degree of uncoordination. This in turn layed the foundation for an attack, where Black could use most of his pieces, and White's only defence was his King and pawn shelter which was easily overwhelmed.
Continental Open | Sturbridge MA | Round 3 | 9 Aug 2014 | ECO: B88 | 0-1
1. e4c52. Nf3d63. d4cxd44. Nxd4Nf65. Nc3Nc6(5... a6The Najdorf which is what I am trying to learn)6. Bc4Now White is developing and applying pressure on Black at the same time. White has four ranks of space, while Black has two ranks of space. Ok for a few more moves, but Black needs to finish developing and find the right kind of pawn break to equalize. 6... e67. O-OBe78. Be3O-OBoth sides castled. Black still behind in development. Still thinking about pawn breaks. 9. Qe2a610. Rad1White's development is complete with tempo. 10... Qc7Black prudently develops his Queen out of the path of the opponent's ROok. 11. Bb3I'm still not sure what this accomplishes for White. Black is thinking about exchanges to free up his position. 11... Nxd412. Rxd4b5Blck is thinking about repositioning such that he has a Rook on c8, LS Bishop on b7, perhaps a pawn push to d5, then a battery with Queen on c7 and DS Bishop on d6. 13. Qf3Change of plans, the WHite pawn on e4 may be able to be pinned. 13... e5Block the e4 pawn with tempo pushing the White Rook away, which also removes a defender. Two good results from one pawn push. 14. Rd2Why not retreat all the way back to d1? THis leaves the White Rook en prise, which will come back in a few moves to allow a tactic winning a pawn. 14... Bb7White pawn on e4 is blocked, Rook defender pushed away, time for the relative pin on the White Queen by the Black LS Bishop. 15. Bg5White's DS Bishop move did not address the growing problem in the center, especially with his e4 pawn. This move allows a tactic to gain a pawn. 15... Nxe4In many games, there is a build up of tension, which rarely gets resolved peacefully. One side or another gains, and it takes nerves to keep the tension up without losing material. Here White is not taking steps to meet or resolve the tension, but rather to develop his DS Bishop as another piece en prise. There are now two en prise White pieces, and the Black Knight is forking them, after taking a pawn on the way to the fork. 16. Nxe4Bxg5Allowing Black to capture White's DS Bishop, with tempo, because the Black Bishop is attacking the other White en prise piece. The White Knight wants to take the Black Bishop, but can't because it is pinned by the Black LS Bishop. The pin has lasted and been useful for several moves and with three pieces occupying e4, White pawn, Black Knight, White Knight. White's en prise Rook must move. 17. Re2Kh8Still working the pin on e4! Black's King removes himself from the pin on f7 imposed by the White LS Bishop. THis frees up the f7 pawn to advance to f5 attacking the pinned White Knight, resulting in loss of material. 18. Qh5White's Queen removes herself from the pin with tempo. 18... Bh6Black's DS Bishop was en prise and had to move toward protection. This gives White a "free move" coming next. 19. c3Protects the White c pawn, giving more mobility to the Black LS Bishop. 19... f5Still the Black f7-f5 pawn push is effective. This kicks the White Knight, opening the a8-h1 diagonal for a Black Queen-Bishop battery. 20. Ng5Move the White Knight from attack. But still the Black DS Bishop on h6 interposes between the White Queen on h5 and the Black h7 square, and no fast way to get rid of that Bishop. 20... Qc6Black's Queen-Bishop battery is now in operation, and the g2 pawn is only protected by the White King. 21. f3White's f3 pawn defends against the mate threat, but at a cost of slightly weakening the White King's castled position. 21... Bxg5Now is the time to capture and remove a latent threat. (21... a5Let's say Black did not address the latent threat of the 3-1 attack on the f7 square by White.22. Nf7+Rxf7Forced to avoid a discovered attack, winning Black's Queen.(22... Kg823. Nd8+Kh824. Nxc6)23. Bxf7)22. Qxg5f4Block out all defenders of WHite's King side, except for the White Queen who can be easily evicted. 23. Qh4Looking for an escape route. 23... Rf6Black's Rook gets ready to evict the White Queen. 24. Bc2White makes an obvious mate-in-one threat, easily parried, but what else? 24... Rh6Again, a Black piece interposes on a direct mate attack by White. 25. Qe7White's Queen is evicted, and where can she go? (25. Qf2Probablhy better for White.)25... Re8Keep chasing the White Queen. 26. Qf7Bc8Swing the Black LS Bishop into action against the Black King's casted position. 27. Be4Empty threat, forcing the Black Queen to move, with tempo, into the position she has wanted to be in, ever since 22...f4. 27... Qb6+28. Kh1Qd8Now Black has positioned overwhelming force on the Kingside, ready to be positioned for attack. 29. Rd1White tries to muster some counterattack, but it is too little, too late. 29... Rf8Black has stronger threats than does White. THe White Queen must leave. Now. (29... Be6More to the point of attacking the White Queen.30. Qa7Qh4A bit more straightforward.)30. Qd5Now there is a credible threat by White to take a Black pawn by force, but Black has a stronger reply. But worse, White could instead reposition his Queen to meet the obvious and growing attack on h2. (30. Qa7Qh431. Qg1Better defense)30... Qh4Black threatens mate-in-one. 31. h3White could also move his King to g1. This path is quick to mate. (31. Kg1Qxh2+32. Kf1Bb7(32... Qh1+33. Kf2Qh4+34. Kf1Qf635. Ree1Rh1+36. Kf2Rxe137. Rxe1Qh4+38. Ke2Rf6)33. Qxb7Qh1+34. Kf2Qxd135. Qd5Qa136. Qd2Rh137. Re1Rxe138. Qxe1Qxb2+)31... Bxh332. gxh3Qxh3+33. Kg1Qh1+34. Kf2Rh2#
Black starts the third round humbled by a devastating loss in Round 2, due primarily to a false sense of overconfidence. Black very much wants to go back to the formula for success in Round 1, which is to play solid, build pressure and wait for his opponent to make a mistake:
Do not rush...
Do not assume you know the opening well...
Do play to fully develop...
Do play to keep and maintain pressure, especially in the center...
Do try to remain flexible and open minded...
Black plays the Najdorf Sicilian, and actually makes it to move 5 before deviating from plan. The classic Najdorf includes the trademark 5...a6. But no, Black plays 5...Nc6. I can't explain it except to say that I have never learned how to learn an opening.
Nonetheless, Black muddles through to an ok opening, albeit with the requisite need to catch up and equalize. Black is confined to the first three ranks, as opposed to White's four ranks, until move 11. On move 11...Nxd4, Black starts to exchange pieces in order to lessen the cramped nature of his game.
12. Rxd4 b5, Black prepares to fianchetto his LS Bishop, and consider what pawn break is appropriate to equalize.
13. Qf3, and Black goes into a deep think. The LS Bishop on b7 looks even more attractive now because this pins the e4 pawn, making it a target. Black's plans change from general development to something more concrete. To be sure the concrete version of the plan still included fianchetto LS Bishop, but also now features blockading the e4 pawn so it can't move (now with tempo).
13...e5 14. Rd2. With this Rook retreat White is slowly getting a bit uncoordinated. Safer is 14. Rd1 when the Rooks communicate and can support each other. 14...Bb7, now the fianchetto and pin are in place. How should Black exploit this? Black decides it's best to wait and keep building pressure.
15. Bg5, well Black didn't have to wait too long. White's DS Bishop on g5 allows a tactic which gains a pawn. 15...Nxe4 16. Nxe4, and now the pinned pawn is replaced by the pinned Knight. 16...Bxg5, threatening the now en prise White Rook. 17. Re2 Kh8, moving the Black King out of a pin as well. This frees up the f7 pawn to move to f5 winning the White Knight. White's Queen needs to break the pin and moves away 18. Qh5 Bh6 19. c3 f5 20. Ng5 Qc6. White tries to attack Black's King and misses. In the meantime Black steps up the pressure with 20...Qc6, threatening mate next move. 21. f3 forced, which then allows 21...Bxg5 22. Qxg5 f4 and now we are in a very different part of the game. The center is locked creating two halves of the board along the long diagonal h1-a8.
The initial pin lasted for 4 moves with no less than 3 pieces occupying the pinned square, and then resulting exchanges for 4 more moves. Afterwards we have a game where Black can attack White's Kingside at will, with h2 as a focal point. White finds it difficult to defend. One chance to defend with the Queen is unheeded.
23. Qh4, the White Queen instinctively shows herself to the door. Retreating here is an honorable option, as long as the retreat positions the Queen and other pieces for a long defensive game. Which is what I was expecting. 23...Rf6, position the Rook for attacking. 24. Bc2. Instead of White focusing on defense, White tries to counterattack with only two pieces. The venerable NM John Curdo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Curdo) once told me, "...don't forget you always need at least three pieces when you attack the King!" White was using only two pieces, with tenuous coordination, and easily blocked by Black's Rook.
24...Rh6, attacking the Queen. At this point a Queen retreat for defensive purposes is advised. However, White kept trying to counter-attack, now with only the Queen, and this activity is easirly parried, and with moves that help position Black's pieces for an attack on the White Kingside. 25. Qe7, leaving the White Queen vulnerable to continued attacks, with restricted freedom to retreat or hide.
25...Re8, Black continues to pressure the White Queen. 26. Qf7 Bc8, Black repositions his LS Bishop to join the Kingside attack against White's King. 27. Be4 forcing the Black Queen to move to where she wants to go anyway, with tempo besides. 27...Qb6+ 28. Kh1 Qd8, and the Black Queen is ready.
29. Rd1, White musters an illusion of counterplay. White may be better off swinging his Queen to a7 then g1 to defend against the inevitable. 29...Rf8, still time for Qf7 - a7 - g1. But White plays 30. Qd5 as if the weak Black pawn on d6 is important for counterplay. White needs to focus on thankless defense, not counterplay to get his pawn back.
30...Qh4 and the mate threat starts to build. 31. h3 to defend. Too little too late as the saying goes. White may try to delay by running, with 31. Kg1 (see notes in game viewer). Black has three pieces in the attack (Rh6, Qh4, Bc8), and the LS Bishop acts first to tear down the White King defense with 31...Bxh3, and mate in three moves.
White was a very gracious opponent and played the game to checkmate, similar to how I played my Round 2 loss to the end. For starters, if you are completely losing there is no harm in continuing to play, you might learn something. Second, every now and then an opponent who is winning may make a mistake and allow a stalemate, or worse!