Monday, April 30, 2007

Chess -- positional analysis of a blitz

Today a quick analysis (not analysis as in 'calculation') of a recent blitz (3 10) at FICS. Not that it's a particularly profound or interesting game (and I have barely looked for missed tactics with a chess computer, but in this analysis I'm more interested in ideas and position than exact lines anyway), I just feel that I have something to say about it. It's a Caro-Kann, which is my preferred opening as black in response to 1.e4.

First some opening moves, then this position:

In my mind, the next positional goal for each side is pretty clear: White wants to play f5 and go for an attack on the black king. Black wants to play c5 and take on d4 (opening the line, and also making the pawn on e5 pretty weak in case white plays f5.)

In these positions with each one playing on each side of the board, speed is important. The one breaking through first can hope to force the other one to defend, getting the initiative. (As long as no one is forcing the other to defend, no one has the initiative the way I see it, but I've seen this view disputed.) So, with that in mind my next move in the position above was a6. The idea was to prevent Nb5 and Nd6. I didn't have time to calculate whether that manoeuvre is actually playable or meaningful. However, I think a6 is bad and that it's better to just capture the knight (Bxc3) and then play c5 (or c5 directly if I deem Nb5-Nd6 to be of no threat).

Then white played a3, I responded with Bxc3 and white played Pxc3.

Then I made another, much graver, mistake. Kind of a positional suicide. Here is the position before the mistake. See a good way to play positionally badly?

I should have played c5 here. In case of dxc I can't retake the pawn immediately, but it's undefendable, so I can then play Rc8 and hopefully start getting some play on the c-file.

I played Nb6. The idea being, of course, to play it to c4. Which makes a nice outpost, however it's bad because now c5 isn't playable anymore, and without that the Knight on c4 is pretty much all I get on the queen side, and I will have to start to seriously worry about the safety of my king, because now white played f5, at last. And it's a killer. Pawn takes, knight takes, knight takes, rook takes. Then we have the following position. Black's king is starting to get really scared:

Black to play. How to get out of this mess? The Bishop will take on h6 at any moment. Looks lost. The only move I can think of is Qh4, getting some extra defence against the attack (white won the race and has the initiative), hoping to exchange queens.

I did play Qh4, and white played the natural Raf1. Black then played the also natural Nc4, finishing that manoeuvre. White played Bf2 threatening black's Queen. Positional mistake though, allows for Qe4 (which I played) almost forcing an exchange of queens. And he did play Qxe4, I took with the pawn and he played Re1 (going to take the pawn). I can't defend it, so I take the pawn on a3, Nxa3, and white played Rxe4. The attack on black's king failed (or is it any life left in it?) and now the game takes on a different character once again, so it's time for a diagram (black to play).

I can't say who has the best position at this point (GNU chess prefers white despite the hanging pawn on c2), but I do know that I by far prefer black's position. Why? Because it's easy to play. The positional goal is clear: running with the a-pawn to promote it, while fending off whatever white is going to try to do. What should white try to achieve positionally? I'm not sure but maybe marching onwards with the center pawns (which is what happens), maybe even going for an attack on black's king.

Btw, black shouldn't waste any move on capturing the pawn on c2. I played a5.

Some more moves where made. White played rather aimlessly (as I too would have as white in that position, I think) and managed to lose both center pawns in a desperate attempt to create some threats. Eventually this position came up (white to move):

White is lost, of course. I managed to get my rook now on d7 to b1, and won.

Here's the complete game. (Is it possible to switch side on these boards, to see it from black's perspective?)

The End.

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