Hi Dan, As I felt I learnt so much about chess in annotating Kapil Gain's game against his uncle (also posted on chessexchange - and on my web page too), I thought I'd take a stab at your offering. Why? Well, if I'm honest, mainly cos I find it a lot of fun! But also, during my first scan over this game, there were moves that I didn't immediately see the point of. So I determined to try to understand the whole game, and, as it was not a hugely complicated game, this turned out to be not too hard - although I'm well aware that my annotations remain fallible! But I can honestly say that I learnt more about how to play good chess going through this game. Hopefully you, and others on chessexchange, will enjoy reading through this too. All the best for the future, Chris Tilling
1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 I suppose that one would expect the Smith-Morra, with 3.c3. Normal moves like, 3 ... e6, d6 or Nc6 allow White to transpose back into familiar territory. But was there a way for Black to take advantage of this less common move order? Perhaps Black could play 3 ... e5 or Nf6? But it all looks good for white [A) 3...e5 4.Bc4 d6 5.c3 dxc3 6.Nxc3 Nc6 7.Ng5 Nh6+/= ; B) 3...Nf6 4.e5 Ng4 5.Qxd4 d6 6.Bb5+ Nc6 7.exd6+/= ]
4.Nxd4 Qb6!? OK, its not usual to mark move 4 in a relatively well-known Sicilian with a "!?", but this is all pretty new for me! I'm not sure what this opening is called, but it has some rather obvious pros and cons: This, at least, challenges Whites centralised Knight thereby forcing one of <b>three main reply-ideas</b>. (i) Either White can defend the Knight with 5.c3 (as in the game) but this has the obvious disadvantage of taking away the square for the b1-Knight. This in turn weakens the e4 pawn as its usual defender (the queenside Knight) won't want to stay on the d2 square. This of course doesn't mean that White is lost, but it would make me look for another move.
5.c3 [(ii) The <b>second option</b> is to defend the Knight with the bishop. The players can then argue out on the board whether the lead in development White gets is enough for the pawn and the broken White pawn structure. Play could continue (at least in my Junior 8 opening book): 5.Be3 Qxb2 6.Nb3 Qe5 (or: 6...Nf6 looks like an interesting try that I haven't found in my (extensive) database.) 7.Bd3 Nf6 And the question is, does white have enough compensation (in the shape of better development or more space with 0-0 and f4) to balance the aforementioned problems? This is a good choice for Blitz, I dare say, but it is probably no more sound (or less so?) than the Smith-Morra.; (iii) The <b> third, and I suspect best, option </b>is to move the Knight to safety, of which the move Nb3 looks best. For example, the 5.Nf3 move looks unambitious leading to an equal position at best. Why? The f4 push is not going to happen so soon, and black has got two centre pawns and a solid position to compensate for White's slight space advantage. 5.Nxc6 just strengthens black's centre. 5. Ne2 blocks in White's Bishop, and, finally, a move to the 5th rank (f5 or b5) looks decidedly odd as the Knight would be a lone ranger and could be chased away with advantageous and time gaining pawn moves. 5.Nb3 Of course after this move the plethora of plans to choose from is enormous. I would be inclined to play 5...Nf6 to hinder any plans White had to put his pawn on the c4 square, setting up a kind of Maroczy Bind. Actually, an analogous plan employed by players of the Accelerated Sicilian defence is, after playing the Knight to the f6-square, to at sometime play a5 chasing away the Knight on b3 with the idea of playing a quick pawn to d5. But this is taking me too far off of the game at hand.]
5...Nf6 A good move emphasising one of the problems involved in playing 5.c3. However, 5. ...d6 may have been more prudent, putting a halt to the e5 pawn push idea that becomes important in later analysis.
6.Nxc6 If a following 6.e5 doesn't work, then this looks dubious. White strengthens Black's centre (after bxc6) as now d5 is even more inviting, and at least before this Black may have decided to swap of the Knight on d4 and given White a strong pawn centre (e4, d4). On top of this, the move is not particularly consistent. The main point behind 5.c3 was to maintain the White Knight in the centre. That was arguably the only good thing the fifth move had going for it! And now the proud central Knight is off the board. Having said all of that, there is a point behind this move, as will be seen. [6.f3 After this black can play 6...d5 straight away. White is solid, but Black has slightly better development. Any talk of a White advantage is, of course, history!; 6.Bd3 Could be tricky if Black gets greedy. e.g. 6...Nxd4 7.cxd4 Qxd4?! 8.Nc3 and again the battle centres around black extra pawn and White's lead in development. But this time White's pawn structure is not so messed up and the Black Queen can be chased away with further gain a time +/-. But the point is, Black doesn't need to be greedy. He can simply play 6 ... d5 with relatively simple equality.; 6.Na3 is an interesting attempt to exploit the fact that the Black queen is slightly exposed. Nd2 probably amounts to the same thing, but with the Knight on a3, Black's choices are more limited, and this makes calculation an easier task!]
6...bxc6 To take back with the other pawn is to miss out on the positional gift that is just been given to him. Surprisingly, my computer calculates that dxc6 is the best. Perhaps it is right, but this could also be a case in hand that goes to prove that they have a lot to learn yet!
7.Nd2? White misses his opportunity to make use of the otherwise pointless move, Nxc6, to push e5 and c4, gain space and all with time at the expense of the fleeing Knight. This was the reason why I couldn't put a "?" on the Nxc6 move. I wanted to, but after 7.e5 White is certainly not worse. [7.e5 Such forcing moves are easier to calculate, even for us mortals! 7...Nd5 forced 8.c4 Nc7 leads to an unbalanced position that, to be honest, I'm not too sure about! <b>I'd be very interested to hear what you stronger players think about the following positions </b>. Although I'm just marking most of the resulls of my analysis with "unclear", I think I found a line that equalises. But as I say, I'm not too sure. Interestingly, a similar position can arise in the Nxc6 lines of an opening I play - the Accelerated Dragon. The differences being, Whites queen would be on e4, and blacks g-pawn on g6. Given that White seems to have the better of the differences (a centralised queen that is not so easy to chase off) and that Black, in this line of the Acc. Dragon, doesn't have trouble equalising (if Silman, Donaldson, Heine Nielsen and Carsten Hansen are to be believed), then things are probably about equal here too. Nevertheless, I have the feeling that the aforementioned authors may have been over-optimistic in their analysis ... (another option is 8...Nb4 9.Nc3 (9.a3 Qa5 10.Nc3 Qxe5+ 11.Be2 Na6 ) 9...c5 10.Be2 Bb7 11.0-0 Qg6 12.Bf3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Rc8 (13...Rb8 14.Be3 Nd3 15.b3 Nxe5 16.Qe2 Ng4 17.Bxc5 Qh5 18.Bd6!+/- ) 14.Be3 Nc6 15.Bf4 Nd4 16.Qd5~~ ) 9.Nc3 Ne6 the Knight looks good here 10.Bd3 g6 11.Qe2 Bg7 12.Be3 Qb4 (12...Qa5?! This weakens Black's pressure down the b-file. 13.f4 d6 14.exd6 Bxc3+ 15.bxc3 Qxc3+ 16.Kf2 exd6~~ ) 13.f4 Rb8 14.Rb1 d6 15.0-0 dxe5 16.fxe5 0-0= Looks OK for Black]
7...d5 Making use of the fact that his centre is stronger after the Nxc6 exchange.
8.Qe2?! White need not decide so soon as to where to put his queen. I think the e5 pawn push looks better. [8.e5 Nd7 9.f4 e6 10.Nf3 Having said that 8.e5 was preferable, I still think Black is a bit better for the following reasons: 1) Black has a larger pawn centre. 2) One plan presents itself based on Black's use of the half open b-file. Firstly, provoke weaknesses in the White pawn structure by targeting the b-pawn. Next, push the "a" and/or "c" pawn(s) to exploit the provoked weaknesses. 3) Black's Knight could jump into the juicy e4 square via c5. Although White could perhaps make gestures of activity on the kingside, Black's game play should flow more smoothly.]
8...e6 [Getting the bishop out of the pawn chain straight away doesn't work because of 8...Bg4?! Black still needs his in-camp white squares defended 9.f3 Bh5 or else Black has simply lost time with this whole manoeuvre. 10.exd5 cxd5 11.Qb5+ Qxb5 12.Bxb5+ Nd7 13.Bc6 Rc8 14.Bxd5 and White is a healthy pawn up. Mr Heisman has another Bishop developing idea altogether!]
9.e5 Nd7 10.Nf3 [10.f4 and we reach a similar position to the one already analysed in the notes to White's eighth move. The only difference is that, instead of a Knight on f3, we have a queen on e2. I'm of the opinion that Black has the better of this difference. As I said earlier, it was too early to know where to put the queen. This is probably better for Black.]
10...a5! Black's problem piece is the c8 Bishop, stuck in behind a wall of white-squared pawns. This move not only gains space on the queenside (remember the plan outlined above for activity on the queenside), but also sets the stage for Black to develop his Bishop to a6.
11.Be3 Bc5 My first impression while playing through this game was that this was a small mistake. Why would Black want to swap off his good bishop? However, I think I understand why Dan played this now. If Black doesn't do this then he moves his queen i) either in the way of his rook or bishop, if he leaves it on the b-file, or ii) if he puts it on say, c7, the pressure down the b-file is relieved. Furthermore, Black can now exchange off a defender of the b2 pawn, and by so doing induce weaknesses in the White queenside pawn structure - that his pawns are ready to charge at!
12.Bxc5 Nxc5 and another reason why the Bishop exchange was a good idea: now the Black Knight is a move nearer to the e4 square
13.Nd4? Whites position is already not easy, but this will add another weakness to his list. Black can now play Ba6 and stop White castling. And this means that White cannot rush his King away to the kingside when the lines open up on the queenside. This also means that it will be not so simple to connect the White rooks, making a tactical blow involving the a1 rook more of a possibility.
13...Rb8 [13...Ba6 For the reasons given above, this move looks like the more obvious choice. Play could continue 14.Qc2 Bxf1 15.Rxf1 a4 fixing the b2 weakness 16.f3 at least stopping Black using the e4 square. If White can plug up all the holes in his position and hang on ... 16...0-0 now another rook joins the offensive 17.Rf2 to defend the weakest point, the b2 square, and to be ready to swing over to help the crisis on the queenside. 17...f6! But while White is stuck to the defence of his queenside, Black can seek activity elsewhere. Black can make use of "The Two Weaknesses Principle" (see Mark Dvoretsky's article, presently with the following web-link <url>http://www.chesscafe.com/dvoretsky/ dvoretsky.htm</url>]
14.b3 Ne4? Hard to resist such a move, but a little patience, and White could still have played the previously discussed Ba6 move. Now, White can avoid the loss of castling. That means that there is one less problem for White to worry about, making a successful defence more probable. On top of that, White can chase away the Knight with his f-pawn, after the Bishops are exchanged, getting rid of another problem. Oh chess can be so hard to play accurately, especially in blitz game like this. After all the solid play by Black, and the number of dubious White moves, most of the gathered advantages disappear like a puff of smoke!
15.Qc2 Ba6 16.Bxa6 Qxa6 17.f3 Nc5 18.c4? Dan wrote "I think the sequence 18.c4 dxc4 19.Qxc4 is where White started to go wrong. Better is 18.Qe2." [18.Qe2 indeed draws 18...Qb6 (18...Qxe2+?! 19.Kxe2 Why help White march his King to defend on the queenside? Not that it really matters, it looks drawn whatever, but why make life easier for the opponent?; 18. Qe2 challenges Black's control of the d3 square as now 18...Nd3+ doesn't work because of 19.Kd2 ) 19.0-0 0-0 White can defend all his weaknesses on the queenside as freely as Black can attack them. He is also in no position to try for activity on the kingside (e.g. an f4 pawn push lets the Knight back into e4, and White may start building a list of problems again!). Therefore, the position looks drawn; no chance for active play anywhere, by White or Black]
18...dxc4! A well-timed move. Black has a kept a keen eye-out for tactical possibilities. White will now loose at least a pawn.
19.Qxc4?! This means that White will have the task of defending without queens on the board, thus reducing his chances of complicating matters and thus making life easier for Black. [19.0-0 Slightly better was castling. At least then White gets his King out of the line of fire, and, more importantly, gets to keep his queen on the board. 19...Rd8 20.Rad1 Nd3 what a great square for this Knight. White must get rid of it, but it will cost him a pawn. 21.bxc4 Rxd4 22.Rxd3 Rxc4 As far as White is concerned: The King is safe. The rooks and queen are both ready to try and hang on! I'm down a pawn, but it is definitely worth playing on! The rooks are active (compare the h8 black rook) and making something out of Black's passed pawn will require a bit more work.]
19...Nd3+! the "!" is also for aesthetic value!
20.Kd2 Qxc4 21.bxc4 Nxe5 and picking up a pawn to-boot. This line is much easier for Black to win than had White played 19.0-0. Queens are off and White is a pawn down. And not only that, but Black is also able to gang up on the poor White c-pawn.
22.Rhc1 Kd7 23.Kc3? It doesn't really mater too much now anyway, but this helps Black win another pawn. White ruins his own piece coordination in defence - specifically as it relates to the c-pawn
23...Rb4 24.Nb3 Rxc4+ Another pawn gone, also creating a passed pawn for Black. Before this, Dan would have had to play pretty poorly (forget to play "real" chess, perhaps he would say) to let the win escape - even in Blitz. Now Mr Heisman would have had to play <i>really</i> bad to let it go. Game over.
25.Kb2? Going down in style! White was now probably well aware of the fact that he was lost and didn't stop to consider simple tactical threats possible for Black after his move. This trend continues and makes annotating a little less rewarding ... So, here I sign off, and congratulate the players on providing me with a game that has taught me more about chess
25...Nd3+ 26.Ka3 Nxc1 27.Nxa5? Ra8 28.Rxc1 Rxc1 29.Kb4 c5+ 30.Kb5 Rb1+ 31.Nb3 Rxa2 32.Kc4 Rxb3 33.Kxb3 Rxg2 34.Kc4 Kc6 35.h4 Rh2 0-1