Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Game Analysis: NC Closed Championship - Round 3

In this article, we will analyze my round 3 game of the NC Closed Championship. So after re-entering the tournament with a half-point bye for round 1 and the strong performance in round 2, I walk into the room Saturday night with a point and a half and am assigned to play Black against the only other player with a point and a half, Scott Haubrich, at board 5.

The game is a French Tarrasch, and for those of you that have read my previous articles on Beating the French Tarrasch in September and on my game analysis from The New Hampshire Open in July, specifically round 2, will know that my take on beating the Tarrasch is understanding the ideas and not memorizing reams of theory. (NOTE: Clicking the article titles will take you there for those of you that haven't read them previously and would like to.)

This game is an excellent model game for understanding the ideas, and knowing how to put White away when he or she violates many of the principles in the French Tarrasch. You will also note that rather than the overly passive play in the game from The New Hampshire Open, the biggest violation committed in this game was not developing all of his pieces, and White gets put away in very short order.

So, without further ado, let's see what happened.

NC Closed Championship, Round 3
W: Scott Haubrich (2044)
B: Patrick McCartney (2090)
French Defense

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.exd5 exd5

Pretty much following the repertoire in the article posted in September. More often, the fourth and fifth moves will be inverted, but as was discussed then, move order tricks are always available to White, and what you do against 4.Ngf3 has to mesh with what you do against 4.exd5 because one can lead right back to the other, as was the case here via White opting to exchange the pawn rather than advance the pawn.

6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Qe2+

This is an alternative to the main line, which is 7.Bxd7+, but it is not played nearly as frequently at the master level because the Queen can get harassed on the open file by a Black Rook in the near future, gaining time, as we will see later on in this game.


Playing 7...Qe7 is inferior. White gets the better position in an endgame because of the pawn structure. Black is about to be saddled with an isolated queen pawn, a.k.a. IQP, and the main trump for the player with the IQP is free piece play. Well, trading them off, and particularly the Queens, is not best in these circumstances.


More normal here is 8.dxc5, but the pawn grab is only temporary, like it is for Black in the Queen's Gambit Accepted (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4). After 8...O-O, White can't really hold on to the extra pawn without destroying his own position. For example, after 9.Nb3 Re8 10.Be3 a6 11.Bd3 Ba4 12.Nfd4 Nbd7 13.O-O Nxc5, Black has regained the pawn with a level position. Note that Black can also regain the pawn by tactical means after 9.Nb3 via 9...Bxc5 10.Nxc5 Re8 11.Be3 Qa5+ followed by 12...Qxb5 or 12...Bxb5, depending on how White gets out of check.

Note that 9...b4? is even worse. After 9...Bxc5! 10.bxc5 (10.Bxd7 Nbxd7 doesn't help the cause) Re8! 11.Ne5 Bxb5 12.Qxb5 Rxe5+ is significantly better for Black. As mentioned in the note to White's 7th move, this idea of putting the Queen on e2 in order to grab the pawn on c5 can severely backfire on White.

Therefore, White should simply castle and make Black recapture the pawn with his Bishop rather than with the Knight like he normally does in the 5...Nf6 line and test Black's knowledge on the position. There is no advantage for White in this line outside of a psychological one if Black doesn't know his stuff.

So now let's go back to the game move, 8.Ne5, and look at a diagram.

So compared to the more normal lines of the Tarrasch with 5...Nf6, whether it be the main line with 7.Bxd7 as discussed in the Tarrasch article from September, or the 7.Qe2+ line discussed above, what can we say about the position after 8.Ne5? Well, for starters, White has moved a piece in the opening twice for unnecessary reasons. The Knight was not attacked, unlike the Bishop on move 7, which gives it the right to move again, and in this case, would normally capture its perpetrator on d7. The Knight was not in the way of other pieces, unlike say, in the Round 2 game in the previous article where White moved Ne5 early on to get out of the way of the Bishop and Queen to control g4 and h5, and allow White to go for the h-pawn advance. Here Black has not advanced his Kingside pawns at all, and so there is no hook for White to latch onto, and hence no reason for early advancement of the Kingside Pawns for White. It does attack d7 one more time, but Black has it well covered with his Knights on f6 and b8, and the Queen on d8. So the only thing that Black needs to figure out is whether or not there is a major problem for Black if he gives up his Light-Squared Bishop for a White Knight. Well, if Black is without his Light-Squared Bishop, he can harass the White Bishop with the move ...a6, and if the Bishop retreats to d3 rather than trade itself off, Black can play the move ...c4, forcing the Bishop to f5, and since Black still has his Dark-Squared Bishop, the move ...g6 should be fine for Black provided the Knight on f6 doesn't hang, and this would again force White to either take on d7, making the light squares a complete non-issue, or else retreat the Bishop to a passive square like h3. Now even if White takes the pawn on c5 first, allowing the Bishop to rest on d3, the move ...g6 will still plug up the diagonal, and Black's Bishop or Knight will land on c5, activating yet another piece for Black. Black also has tempo-gaining moves coming like ...Re8, hitting the White Queen. In the meantime, White spends another move to take the Bishop on d7, and in that time, Black develops a piece via the recapture, whereas White has traded away his developed piece. So what this boils down to is that Black should not mind giving up the Bishop for the White Knight on the basis that he can't get immediately killed on the light squares, and he will be light years ahead in development by not spending time doing something like taking White's Bishop on b5. Therefore, through basic logic and reasoning, Black's next move should be obvious.


Now even here I would say that White should probably castle and not fall behind in development. The d-pawn, while technically hanging, is not a real issue for White as Black would be left with doubled isolated pawns and White should easily be able to gain one of them.


Instead, White trades off what is arguably his best placed piece on the board, and grabs what is arguably Black's worst minor piece just to get the Bishop pair, and in the mean time, Black gets to develop his last minor piece in the recapture. This is a prime case of reasoning out what to do when White doesn't play the main moves, and understanding what to do here is more important than memorizing "correct play". You can use these ideas to figure out the right moves in correct play if you don't remember them, but not understanding these ideas will throw you for a tailspin when correct play is not executed by White.

9...Nbxd7 10.O-O a6

As mentioned previously, Black's idea is to force White to part with his Bishop for a Knight, and development of yet another piece for Black at the cost of a developed piece for White, or else force it to h3 and then follow that up with ...Re8.


White decides to part with the Bishop so that he can follow up with saddling Black with the IQP.


Those that have read the articles mentioned at the top will know that a sore spot for Black is f5, and not e5. Therefore, connecting the Rooks and taking with the Queen, which covers f5, makes more sense than taking with the Knight to cover c5 and e5. If White takes the pawn on c5, the Bishop can always recapture now that Black has castled. Outside of re-positioning the connected Rooks, presumably to e8 and either c8 or d8, Black's development is done! White's? Not so much! His Bishop and Rook are both undeveloped. The f1-Rook will want to re-position itself, presumably to e1, and the Knight has to relocate itself to let the Bishop out. Black is already at least slightly better.

12.dxc5 Bxc5 13.Nb3


An intermezzio move that once again shows that putting the Queen on e2 early on just to check the Black King is going to come back to bite White in the butt.


Black has a big advantage after 14.Nxc5 Rxe2 15.Nxd7 Nxd7 16.c3 Rae8.

14...Bb6 15.c3 Ng4

With the threat of 16...Nxf2 and 17...Re1+. In the mean time, the Knight is headed for e5.

16.Nd4 Ne5 17.Qd1 Rad8

Black develops his final piece while almost all of White's pieces are where they started. Black also has a cunning trap set up if White falls for it. If he doesn't, Black's position is still better. Putting the Rook on d8 backs up the Queen,and allows Black to use the e4 outpost without White having a tricks of taking and using the pin on the d-pawn to the Queen. There didn't seem to be any activity available for Black on the c-file, and hence the decision to go to the d-file instead.


White falls right into it! White should have developed the Bishop, whether it be to e3, f4, or g5.

18...Bxd4 19.cxd4

Unfortunately forced as 19.Qxd4? drops the exchange to 19...Nf3+


A very annoying move for White to have to face.


The lesser evils were either 20.Re2 Qg4 or 20.Rf1 Nb4, holding Black's advantage to a minimum.

20...Rxe3 21.fxe3 Qf5!

White is in a heap of trouble now.


This move loses on the spot. White had to try either 22.Bd2 or a Queen move like 22.Qd2, 22.Qe2, or 22.Qf1, but Black has a winning attack in all lines. Just not quite as easy as the one in the game.

22...Qf2+ 23.Kh1 Ne1 0-1

Game Over! The only way to stop both mate threats on f1 and g2 is to jettison the Queen, and even then it's only temporary.

Through basic understanding of the position, using the ideas from the articles mentioned at the beginning, Black won this game fairly easily, and it should be noted that with the game having a time control of G/120 with a 5 second delay, Black still had 81 minutes on the clock! There were only two moves the entire game where I spent more than 4 minutes, and that was figuring out where to put the Bishop on move 14 (d6, b6, or a7) and figuring out where to put the Rook on move 17 (c8 or d8). Otherwise, basic strategy and understanding of the opening themes instead of deep opening theory carried me through.

So at this point in the tournament, I have two and a half points out of three. Another major factor was that both games on Saturday (see the previous article on Round 2 for the Saturday afternoon game) were fun to play. In neither game did the opponent put up much resistance, and as a result, neither game was highly stressful, and energy levels were fully intact heading into Sunday.

Stay tuned as the Sunday games will be published shortly after the holiday weekend. Everybody have a good Thanksgiving.

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