A chess game [new and improved 2015!]

As promised in earlier comments, Howard G has annotated our game from the chess club last week, including a few notes from a USCF master. I added some thoughts and reactions as well. Howard’s idea was that you rarely get to hear thoughts from both sides of the board.

Let us know if this is valuable or entertaining or just an unwise decision to break the rule, “People will think you’re a lot smarter than you really are if you just keep your mouth shut.”

[[NOTE: Stockfish evaluations and diagrams added Sept 2015.]]

[Event “November MCC”]
[Site “Natick, MA”]
[Date “2008.12.02”]
[Round “1”]
[White “Derek Slater”]
[Black “Howard Goldowsky”]
[Result “1-0”]
[Board “5”]
[PlyCount “103”]
[Section “Open”]
[Time “40/90 G/30”]
[WhiteUSCF “2100”]
[BlackUSCF “1850”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5

{HG: A Grunfeld. I’ve been playing this for a long time. It is a highly tactical opening.}
[DS: If I could hazard an opinion, I’d say this defense often allows White to gain space in the center, and Black relies on getting active piece play in return.]

4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7.Bg5

{HG: A rare move in this position. Typical moves are Nf3, Be3, or Bc4. My first impression after seeing this move was that White’s bishop gets put offsides: it’s not defending d4, the square Black is going to attack with an eventual …c5; and it’s attacking nothing but the e7-pawn, which is adequately defended. Bg5 is not in MCO-15, so it must not be a main line for a reason. Jonathan Rowson doesn’t cover the move in his book, Understanding the Grunfeld. Botvinnik, however, comments in his book, The Gruenfeld Defense, on a similar position, arising after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 dxc4 7.e4 Bg7 8.Bxc4 c5, where he dismisses White’s choice of moves when he says, “White’s queen’s bishop becomes unemployed.”}

{After the game, Slater commented on the benefits of this move, mainly that it might provoke …h6 in some positions, tying Black’s dark-squared bishop to defending the h6-pawn, hence lessening the pressure on the center.}

[DS: I think this particular Botvinnik comparison is irrelevant because the bishop is on h4 in that position, whereas in the line we played …h6 is met by Be3 with the idea Howard notes just above. Maybe more critically, Black is now “out of book” :) ]

7… O-O 8. Rc1 c5 9.d5

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 2.11.57 PM

{HG: My first impression after this move was that White is neglecting his development. How do I take advantage of this? He’s also loosening his a1-h8 diagonal. After talking with Frank Sisto (2200 USCF), however, it becomes apparant how Rc1 and d5 work together. According to Sisto, “d5 is one of the main goals of White in the Gruen, and he just got it, easily.” Rc1 protects the c3 pawn, allowing the d5 push.}

[[Stockfish: Essentially equal. And it recommends the move 9…Qd6, which seems freakishly non-thematic to my uneducated eye. ds]]

9… Qa5

{HG: Consistent with my last note. Attacks the c3 pawn a second time.}

10. Qd2 Re8

{HG: With the c3-pawn guarded a second time, I can’t give up this pawn for tempo, anymore.

The game is going to center around the advanced d5 pawn. I figured that this move did two things: defend e7 and provide some potential pressure down the e-file if Black can get in the push …e6. But if Black is going to get in …e6, he needs to figure out how to handle the push d6 (and the possible follow-up Be7, blocking the e-file) by White. So instead of …Re8, I was trying to find an alternative move that would deal with the d5 pawn more effectively. My time quota was up before I could find one.}

( 10… e6 11. d6 f6 12. Be3 e5 13. Bc4+ Kh8 {and Black continues with …Nd7, …b5, …Bb7 (Sisto). The d6 pawn is lonely and left to die behind enemy lines.} )

[DS: You have time quotas? :) ]

11. c4

{HG: Another pawn move! Is White nuts for neglecting his development? Probably not, because by playing c4, White hits the Black queen, and forces her to move (giving back the tempo). There is no adequate way for Black to defend the queen and develop at the same time. Sisto says, “You’re just worse now. 11.c4 is good here. White has a dream Gruen, and you’re not remotely close to being set up for countershots.” Blocking the bishop is not so bad, as the light-squared bishop’s future seems to lie on the b1-h7 diagonal; however, c4 also gives up the b4 square for my queen’s knight, and Slater has to deal with an eventual …Nb4. After the game, Slater commented that he didn’t think that c4 was very good. It turns out that b4 isn’t a very happy home for the knight, anyway.}

[DS: I liked your subsequent setup with Qa3, Nb4, Bd7 (potentially coming to a4). 11.c4 exposed all my dark squares to your g7 bishop. This is the kind of ‘piece activity’ I referred to earlier for Black. It works out okay for me but after you played …Qa3 (which I didn’t consider) I had to spend some time making sure I wasn’t losing the exchange – though the general concept of ‘trading’ a rook for the g7 bishop did occur to me, since as Howard noted afterwards, that would leave his kingside pretty drafty on the dark squares. I didn’t work out anything specific on that sac idea during the game.]

11… Qa3

{HG: trying to take advantage of the long diagonal and potential tactics with a pin on the queen.} ( 11… Qxd2+ 12. Bxd2 {simply trading and heading for a defensive setup with …Nd7-b6, …Bd7, …e5, …Nc8-d6, might have been passive, solid, but also it’s quite slow, and this is why I rejected this plan.} )

12. Bd3 Na6

{HG: heading for b4, where I thought the knight would put pressure on the a2-pawn, as well as cover the c2 square for potential combinations with my dark-squared bishop. e.g., if black gets a free move, he could play …Bb2, winning the exchange.

Normally, Black wouldn’t give up his dark-squared bishop for the exchange in this type of position, but since White must take back with his queen, queens will also be exchanged, eliminating any potential danger around Black’s dark squares near his king’s side.}

13. Ne2

{HG: Eliminating any funny business with…Bb2. The knight covers c3.}

13… Bd7 14. O-O Nb4 15. Bb1

{HG: I actually didn’t see this move, and now the knight looks silly on b4.}

[DS: On the other hand, it’s not exactly a stunning bishop sitting on b1. I thought it would be able to return to action after I pushed out your knight with a3. However, I subsequently decided to avoid a3 as long as possible in order to avoid at some point …Bg7 becoming a c1-a3 fork. You ultimately retreated the knight anyway, so I didn’t need to play it.]

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 2.13.44 PM

[[Stockfish: In fact, it looks like c4 was premature for all the reasons mentioned. Now simply 15…Bb2 16.Rd1 Nxa2 safely wins the pawn! Instead the computer gives the whacked-out line 15…Bb2 16.e5 f6 17.Be3 as equal, by perpetual check ten moves from now! Crazy. (Look it up yourself. It’s too long to go into.) ]]

15… Qb2

{HG: I don’t think it was necessary to trade queens. I was worried about my queen getting offsides and becoming a spectator, so I figured that trading it would eliminate this possibility.} ( 15… Bb2 16. Rcd1 Nxa2 17. Bxa2 Qxa2 18. Rb1 Qxc4 19. Rxb2 {is a risky line for Black} )

[DS: I agree that it was unnecessary – at the time I was happy because I thought the trade eased all pressure off my queenside and allowed me to start planning a center push.]

16. Nc3 Qxd2 17. Bxd2 Na6

{HG: Here’s where I should have come up with a better plan. Ideas include keeping the knight on b4, and playing for …e5, …Rb8, …b5, etc. I’m wondering if the bishop on d7 can act as a blockader in light of the knight’s inability to reach d6 easily. } ( 17… e5
{is an idea (followed by …Rb8) keeping White’s dark-squared bishop off the h2-b8 diagonal.} ) ( 17… Rad8 {acting as a blockader.} )

18. Rfd1

{HG: 18. Ne2 {is also possible, preparing f4.}
[DS: I had some goofy tactical reasoning for Rfd1 but this rook probably belonged on e1.]

18… Rad8 19. Be3 b6 20. Rd2 Nc7

{HG: The knight is not any better here than on b4. Net result: a waste of two moves.}

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 2.22.29 PM

[[Stockfish: Throughout all this white is roughly .5 better, half a pawn. But it persistently like Bf4 instead of my attempts to position for the pawn push to f4.]]

21. f4 e5

{HG: This move was going to be played at some point. Now it has to be played, or else White gets a winning pawn center, if it’s not winning already.}

[[Stockfish no likey. Now up to +1.

It doesn’t mind 21…f6. Wow.]]

22. f5

{HG: 22. Ne2 feels better here, though hard to argue 22.f5 (Sisto).}
[DS: I’m glad to hear Frank say that because afterwards I thought this might have been stupid.]

[[Stockfish likes 22.f5.]]

22… gxf5 23. exf5 e4

{HG: This is a complicated position, and I haven’t yet gone through all the variations.}
[DS: I did think …e4 was the right idea here. Forces White to pay attention to the e-pawn, obviously.]

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 2.25.02 PM

[[Stockfish: Welp, The Fish prefers …Rf8. Now it has white much better, at +1.4.

However, it doesn’t like my next three moves, and I give back about half the advantage. Evidently when I don’t deal correctly with the e-pawn, it does give black necessary counterplay.]]

24. Bf4 Be5 25. Bxe5 Rxe5 26. g4

[DS: This was my big decision point. It seemed to me that allowing 26…e3 entailed some risk, but I couldn’t find any advantage in lines capturing immediately on e4. Specifically, it seemed that my c4 pawn was vulnerable to various Black rook moves. So, typically, I decided to go into the more complex line. It’s a bad habit. On the plus side, I had significantly more time left.]

{HG: White is better. He has more space, better piece activity, and Black’s e4-pawn is weak.}

[[Stockfish: +0.7]]

26…e3 27. Re2

{HG: White’s technique wins the game. First White consolidates, then he uses his king’s side pawn majority to open a file for his rooks.}

[DS: Historic moment – never before have I been accused of having technique. Thank heavens for Mr. Shereshevsky. However, I think there’s analysis still to be done here. I believed at the time that 28…Rde8 was the critical line, since I have to play Nd1 or something goofy to win the e3 pawn.]

27… b5 28.Rce1 bxc4

[DS: If not 28…Rde8, then in hindsight, strange tho it may seem, maybe 28…b4 was an idea. These doubled c-pawns after …bxc4 have no mobility; maybe playing …b4, …a5-a4 and …Rb8 would have given Black necessary counterplay, forcing my king to keep watch over the queenside. I dunno. I do notice that masters are really good at identifying opportunities, when they are being pressed, to give up a little material but arrive at a theoretically or practically drawn endgame.]


28…bxc4 is correct (+0.5).

28…b4 is a stupid idea (+2.9).]]

29. Rxe3 Rxe3 30. Rxe3 Nb5

[DS: I don’t recall thinking of a better move but this does seem to land Black in a simply worse endgame.]

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 2.32.41 PM

[[Stockfish: The better ideas are …Kf8 and, surprisingly, …h5. White’s still only about 0.3 better here.]]

31. Nxb5 Bxb5 32. Be4 f6

{HG: hoping to tame the White bishop, but there are just too many loose ends.}
[DS: I thought you were activating your king. Another funny example of how people look at the same position and thing about two different things.]

[[Stockfish: …f6 isn’t good. It recommends …Ba6. I guess the idea is to threaten to come to the b-file and make an active rook. 32…Ba6 33.Ra3 Rd6 and Rb6.]]

33. Kf2 Kf7 34. Rh3

[DS: I was happy to have stumbled across this idea, trying to tie down one of Howard’s pieces (king or rook) long enough for me to to bring my king to a more active and advanced position on f4. If his king were on e5, I can’t imagine that Black would be significantly worse.]


[[Stockfish: In fact, while 34.Rh3 was correct, Black’s idea of …Ba6 is so important that white should now prevent it with 35.Ra3.]]

35. Ke3 Rd6 36. Kf4 h6 37. Rc3 Ra6 38. a3 Rd6

[DS: This d6-a6 excursion didn’t help Black, and there are some other lines later with better resistence, but Howard had no time left. It’s actually an interesting endgame, to my poor eye anyway. One idea for White was to try to penetrate on the 7th rank to the c7 square, winning the c5 pawn and keeping an eye on the passer from behind. One idea for Black was to try to sac his bishop to liquidate the pawns, looking for a R+B versus R ending, which is tricky for both sides and sometimes drawn. Another trick with bishops on board is to try to sac down to a position where White has an extra bishop and (just) a rook pawn, but it’s on the side where his bishop doesn’t control the queening square – if the defender’s king is in position that’s a draw – but happily for me I have an a-pawn and the correct (light) colored bishop so that wasn’t an option for Black. I did think to examine this during the game.]

[[Stockfish: White finally has a probable winning advantage now, +1.25.]]

39. h4 Kf7 40. g5 hxg5+ 41.hxg5 fxg5+ 42. Kxg5 Rd8 43. Rh3 Rg8+ 44. Kf4 Ba4 45. Rh7+ Rg7 46. Rh3 Rg1 47.Ke5 Re1 48. Rc3 Bb5 49. f6 Rd1 50. Rh3 Rf1 51. Rh7+ Kf8 52. Ke6 1-0


6 thoughts on “A chess game [new and improved 2015!]

  1. Thanks for your additional notes, Derek. Hopefully some people will comment, and tell us how ridiculous (or not) we sound.

    I didn’t use an engine for any of my notes. What I’ve presented is sort of like a “first draft” of my impressions, so (if) when I do finally seriously annotate this game one day, I’ll know what I was thinking a day or two after it was played. But an engine should be consulted for basic tactical oversights, at some point, at least, if I were to annotate this game seriously.


  2. Sorry for the delayed response. I enjoy the format, but I was waiting to post until after I had played through the game. Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet.

  3. It’s nice to see both sides point of view during a game like this. Especially if its with two players I may encounter in the near future at the club… while I plan my chess world domination Bwa hahaha! Having a keen insight to your opponent’s thinking processs is part of Sun Tzu’s process in his Art of War. Thank you.

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