Saturday, June 29, 2019

Every Move Matters

Hello everyone. July is just around the corner and those that have been following the blog since its inception in 2017 might remember what that means. What I like to call the "Summer Tour" is coming up, and so with that said, this will likely be the last post of mine prior to that Summer Tour, but once I get back in late July, analysis from those games is what will be covered.

For those unfamiliar with what I'm referring to, each year in July, I usually will travel long distance to play in a couple of tournaments outside both of the Carolinas. When you have played as many tournament games as I have (over 2900), it's hard to get opponents you haven't played before, and so in 2017, I went to New Hampshire (The New Hampshire Open) and Virginia (The Charlottesville Open) while in 2018 I went to Kansas (The Kansas Open) and Maryland (The Potomac Open), and both years I followed that up with coverage of those games in late July, August, and possibly into September, depending on how many of those games were worth covering. The only tournament of those four where not every round was covered was the Kansas Open, if that gives you an idea how bad that one was compared to the others. So in the coming weeks starting with the end of July, be on the lookout for that. This year's stops will be in Iowa and Michigan. For those of you that haven't seen the previous two years, you can go to the archives in the late Summer of 2017 and late Summer of 2018 and you can find them there.

So then the question became, what would I cover in the final article before then? Well, we are going to be looking at a game with many missed opportunities where those opportunities were literally available once and only once each, where literally every move mattered. This may be anything from a favorable trade to a raging attack, and chances were available for both sides in this game, and so without further ado, let's see what both players missed!

Tuesday Night Action 53, Round 4
W: Patrick McCartney (2051)
B: Jeff Prainito (1711)
King's Gambit Accepted

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 d6

This is a very passive move, and probably not a good one as we are going to see that White is the one with all the shots early on. Far more common are the tempting 3...Qh4+, although this move isn't very good as after 4.Kf1, White will gain time in development by attacking the Queen when he develops his Knight, making Black move the Queen again, and the stronger moves, 3...Nf6 and 3...d5. In the former, 3...Nf6, Black gets on with his development and intends to build a strong center via ...c6 and ...d5 while White is spending time getting his Pawn back on f4. With the latter idea, 3...d5, Black is willing to give the Pawn back immediately to free up his minor pieces and try to achieve easier development.

4.d4 Nf6 5.Nc3


Some might be wondering "Why not the fork trick with 5...Nxe4?". The answer is that the Black King on the open file is a problem here, and Black is not ready to take on e4. White is better after 5...Nxe4? 6.Qe2 f5 7.Bxf4 Qe7 8.Nd5 Qd7 9.Bd3 Nc6 10.Bxe4 fxe4 11.Qxe4+ Kd8 (11...Ne7 12.O-O-O Kd8 13.Nc3) 12.O-O-O Qf5 13.Qf3 g5 14.g4! Qg6 15.Bd2 Bg7 (15...Nxd4 16.Qc3! is even worse) 16.Ne2 Rf8 17.Qg2 Nxd4 18.Nxd4 Bxd4 19.Rhf1 Rxf1 20.Qxf1 Qg7 21.Kb1 Be5 (21...Bxb2?? is losing due to the extra tempo given to White to move the Rook to the e-file after 22.Bxg5+ Qxg5 23.Qf8+ Kd7 24.Qf7+ Kd8 25.Re1 Be5 26.Qxc7+ Ke8 27.Qxd6 and Black's busted.) 22.Qb5 (Now taking on g5 would only be enough for equality) 22...a6 23.Qb3 b6 24.Nb4 and the weaknesses induced around the Black King combined with the better development gives White a clear advantage.

6.Bxf4 O-O

And here the fork trick once again doesn't work as White wins a Pawn because the Rook is still on h8 with no threats of going to e8 on White. Therefore, after 6...Nxe4?!, White gets the advantage with 7.Nxe4 d5 8.Bxc7 Qxc7 9.Bxd5 Qa5+ 10.Nc3 and now 10...O-O 11.Ne2 or 10...Bb4 11.Qe2+ Be6 (Or 11...Kd8 12.Qf3!) 12.O-O-O Bxc3 13.Bxe6!.

7.Nf3 Nxe4

Now is the best time for this move, but as we will see, White will maintain an advantage due to Black's passive 3rd move. Already we are seeing a case of one move spoiling it for Black. This is not unusual in such a sharp opening like the King's Gambit.

8.Nxe4 d5 9.Bd3

This time, taking on c7 isn't as strong as with the Black King still on e8. Now 9.Bxc7 Qxc7 10.Bxd5 Qa5+ 11.Nc3 Bb4 12.Bb3 Bxc3+ 13.bxc3 Qxc3+ 14.Kf2 Bg4 is equal.

9...dxe4 10.Bxe4 Nd7 11.O-O Nf6 12.Bd3 Bg4 13.c3

The other option for White is to get off the slightly open diagonal by playing 13.Kh1 with maybe a slight pull after 13...Bd6 14.Qd2 Bxf4 15.Qxf4 Bh5 16.Rae1 Bg6 17.Ne5 Bxd3 18.Nxd3 Qd6 (other moves are worse for Black) 19.Qxd6 cxd6 with the better pawn structure in the endgame, but with careful play, Black should survive this.

13...Bd6 14.Qd2 Re8 15.Ne5 Be6 16.Bg5 Be7

Here we have a very critical position, and White has the opportunity to get a clear advantage immediately. Do you see how?


And just like that White's advantage is gone! There are two very strong moves here for White, of which I like the second one because the benefits are more concrete. White can get his last piece into the game with 17.Rae1 with a clear advantage on the basis of space and better development. The other move is 17.Qe2, and the pressure on Black's center and Kingside virtually forces him to jettison a Pawn for virtually no compensation after 17...Ng4 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.Nxg4 Bxg4 20.Bxh7+ (20.Qxg4 Qe3+ wins back the piece) 20...Kxh7 21.Qxg4 Qe3+ 22.Rf2 and Black has virtually nothing for the Pawn. White's got a clear advantage in this position.


Both players missed the consequences of this move. Pressuring the White center with the immediate 17...c5 leads to a balanced position.


White missed his only chance at a tactical shot on the Black King. After 18.Bxh6! gxh6 19.Qf2 c5 20.Qg3+ Kf8 (Or 20...Kh8 21.Ng6+ fxg6 22.Qxg6 Bf8 23.Rxf6 Qd7 24.Raf1 Qg7 25.Rxe6 Qxg6 26.Rxg6 cxd4 27.cxd4 Rad8 28.Rf7 Re7 29.Rxe7 Bxe7 30.Rxh6+ and White's up 3 Pawns) 21.Ng6+ fxg6 22.Qxg6 cxd4 23.Qxh6+ Kg8 24.Qg6+ Kf8 25.Rf4 dxc3 26.Raf1 and White's winning.

18...c5 19.dxc5?

And when it rains, it pours for White. Better is to fess up that you made a mistake and play out a roughly equal position with either 19.Bb5 or 19.Be3. Black might have a slight pull in the form of initiative, but nothing more. Now instead, Black's in the driver's seat.

19...Bxc5+ 20.Kh1 Qc7 21.Rae1 Bd6 22.Nf3 Bd5 23.Bc1 Ng4 24.Rxe8+ Rxe8 25.Qa4 Qc8

Once again, a very critical decision for White.


This allows Black the additional critical move to make a wild tactical shot work. White should play the immediate 26.Bf5! with only a slight disadvantage after 26...Be6 as here, 26...Nf2+ only leads to an equal position after 27.Kg1 Qb8 28.Kxf2 Bc5+ 29.Nd4 b5 30.Qd1 Qxh2 31.Qg4 Be7.

26...Bc5 27.Bf5 Be6?

Black is winning immediately after 27...Nf2+ 28.Rxf2 Bxf3. The Queen on c8 is poisoned due to make threats on the back rank. With the Black Bishop on c5, going to g1 would never be an option for White, unlike in the previous line where White plays 26.Bf5 immediately.

28.Bxe6 Qxe6

Once again, White has one move that keeps the balance, and all other moves should lose. Do you see the right move?


Once again, White fails to see the only defense, which was 29.Bg3!, but at the same time, we are going to see Black miss yet another golden opportunity via a sacrificial attack, similar to the opportunity White had on move 18.


Better is 29...Qe2, winning on the spot, but this gets even worse!


Again there was only one move for White, and this time, it was 30.Be5! with a roughly balanced position. Now Black has a beautiful sacrificial combination available that he just outright missed.


This move leads to a better endgame for White. Theoretically, it's equal, but with White having the majority that is away from the Kings, it's Black that has to be extremely careful, far more so than White.

Instead, Black wins after 30...Qxe1+!! 31.Nxe1 Rxe1+ 32.Kh2 Bg1+ 33.Kg3 and now the tricky part of the combination, and the only move that wins for Black, 33...g5!! wins the Bishop as abandoning the c1-h6 diagonal allows mate in 1 via 34...Re3, and going to d2 gives Black a Knight fork, and so the Bishop is lost, and so is the game for White!

31.Rxe8+ Qxe8 32.Qxe8+ Nxe8 33.b4 Bd6 34.Be3 a6 35.Bd4 Nc7 36.a3

White's last move wasn't very good, and Black should now play 36...b5, tying down the White Pawns onto the dark squares, which is the color square the Bishops are on. Instead, Black makes a few inferior moves here, and White will come out with a significant endgame advantage.

36...f6 37.c4 Ne6 38.Be3 Bc7 39.Kg1 Kf7 40.Kf2 b6 41.Ke2 Nf4+ 42.Bxf4 Bxf4 43.Nd4 Bc1 44.a4


This is probably the worst of Black's legitimate options, but none of them are very good. White is still better after 44...Ba3 45.b5 axb5 46.cxb5 or 44...Bf4 45.Kd3 Bd6 46.b5 axb5 47.axb5 Ke8 48.Ke4 Kd7 (Or 48...g6 49.Kd5) 49.Kf5 and White is clearly better in both cases. As we can see, not all cases is the Bishop better than the Knight when the position is open and there are Pawns on both sides. In this case, other factors outweigh the specific piece owned by each side. For White, his majority is on the side away from the Kings, his majority is farther advanced than Black's, and his Knight is centralized, all positive factors that outweigh Black having the piece that is traditionally better in open positions.

45.Kd3 Bxd4

This trade is horrible for Black. He must keep the final piece on the board to hope to survive.

46.Kxd4 Ke6 47.c5!

Now it's dead won for White, but hold on...

47...b5 48.axb5 axb5 49.h4 g5 50.hxg5 hxg5 51.g4! f5 52.gxf5 Kxf5

Now, with roughly a minute left on White's clock and about 30 seconds on Black's clock, each side getting 15 seconds per move, the unthinkable happens to both players.

There are two moves that win for White. 53.c6 and 53.Kd5, the latter working because promotion comes with check if Black goes for the Pawn race.


But this move throws the win away completely!. The position is now a draw, or at least it should be!

53...Ke5 54.Kf3 Kf5 55.Kf2

And now the simple opposition move, 55...Kf6, is completely drawn. After 56.Kg3 Ke6 57.Kg4 Kf6, White can't make progress as every time White goes to g4, Black goes to f6, and every time he moves away from g4, Black moves adjacent to f6, and going to h5 doesn't work as ...Kf5 keeps Black in the box of the White c-pawn. However, Black now does the unthinkable.


Black cannot advance the Pawn due to a zugzwang available to White.


And now Black realizes the problem. Going to g5 with the King puts the Black King out of the box of the White c-pawn and the c-pawn promotes. Therefore the g-pawn falls, and White then triagulates the Black King to force his way through and win with the protected passer.

56...Ke5 57.Kxg4 Ke6 58.Kg5 Ke5 59.Kg4 Ke6 60.Kf4 Kd5 61.Kf5 Kc6 62.Ke6 Kc7 63.Ke7 Kc8 64.Kd6 Kd8 65.c6 Kc8 66.c7 1-0

WOW! Talk about a game littered with errors! We saw a game where the assessment swung between winning for White, winning for Black, and drawn numerous times because of many opportunities that were literally only available once, where waiting even the slightest completely changed the assessment of the position. Playing lazy moves, such as Black's 3rd move, can immediately put you in a hole. But those opportunities, as we saw on White's 17th, White's 18th, White's 26th, Black's 27th, White's 29th, Black's 29th, White's 30th, Black's 30th, Black's 36th, White's 53rd, and Black's 55th, are opportunities that were all available literally once each, whether they be winning moves, or moves to simply survive.

Always be on the lookout, every single move, and don't let the opportunities pass you by.

I hope everyone got something useful out of this, and good luck to everyone in your games in the coming month, and be on the lookout for game analysis of the games played on the Summer Tour in Iowa and Michigan when I get back in late July.

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