Postmortem versus GM Khachiyan

[Result “1-0”]
[Round “1”]
[Event “Golden State Open 2013”]
[Black “Slater”]
[Site “Concord, CA”]
[White “GM Melikset Khachiyan”]

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c4 Nb6 6. e6 fxe6 7. Nc3 g6 8. h4 Bg7 9. h5 e5 10. d5 Nd4 11. hxg6 hxg6 12. Rxh8+ Bxh8 13. Bd3 c5 14. dxc6 bxc6 15. c5 dxc5 16. Bxg6+ Kd7 17. Ne4 Kc7

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 8.01.54 AM

Weird openings lead to weird positions. White’s pawn sac and Black’s basic setup are all book, although I haven’t seen White’s c5 push specifically. Looks great, though, right? Black’s up a pawn but all his pawns stink and his king’s on the lam. On the other hand, Black has one good piece on d4.

My general sense at this point in the game was that my position is pretty bad.

Here Stockfish calls it -.44 i.e. Black is maybe half a pawn better. And it suggests that White get rid of that one good piece w/ Nxd4. Not 18.Nxc5 Qd6 forking knight and Bg6.

Not sure this is a super computer-friendly position, but it is interesting that Stockfish doesn’t say the GM is better (yet). And it increases Black’s advantage to about -.6 after White’s choice.

18. Bg5 c4

Afterwards Khachiyan, who wasn’t too keen on this line for Black overall, said 18…Bf6 was very interesting. Didn’t really consider giving it up for a knight; didn’t know what to do but in the absence of a specific threat by White, why not put the c-pawn on a protected square. Stockfish gives 18…Qg8, which I considered probably because it’s thematic in this line, then 19.Nh4 Bf6.

I think my mindset and approach to the position were just too passive because I was uncomfortable and psyched out. Specifically I couldn’t seem to get my king settled so I could improve my other pieces,. Tsk tsk. Two moves later, White’s the one Stockfish likes by a half pawn.

19. Rc1 Kb8 20. Nxd4 exd4 21. Qh5 a6 22. Qh2+ Ka7 23. Qh7 Be6 24. Bxe7

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 8.03.26 AM

But wait wait. The evaluation keeps changing move by move. Stockfish says 24.Bxe7 and 25.a4 are both bad choices, and after 25…Be5 it shows Black ahead at -1.4! I, however, thought I was pretty much dead in the water at this point. Plus running out of time already.

24…Qc7 25. a4 a5 26. Qh4 d3 27. Bf6 Bxf6 28. Qxf6 Bd5 29. Kd2 Rb8 30. Rh1 1-0

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 8.04.15 AM

Even in the final position – I didn’t record whether I flagged or resigned – Stockfish gives Black a big advantage! I suppose Black’s d3 pawn creates more immediate danger than White’s beautiful but distant kingside passers. And, you know, a4 and b2 are weakish too.

Is Stockfish just badly wrong? Can the GM understand White’s long-term advantages in this weird position in a way that Stockfish (running for a few minutes on a Macbook Air) can’t?

So, my team of estimable seconds and coaches <g>, what do you propose I learn from such an annotation exercise?

I think I need to figure out why I didn’t give 18…Bf6 serious consideration. If it’s exchanged, Black’s pawns get straightened out. There’s some common sense to the move. GM Khachiyen liked it. Stupid when I think about it more – the Ne4 is strong and the Bh8 is just staring at my own e-pawn.

Maybe I’m overestimating the bishop pair in general. Something to test as I go through more games.

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6 thoughts on “Postmortem versus GM Khachiyan

  1. I can only guess that you were mostly thinking in generalities about “giving up a bishop for a knight” and didn’t really visualize what would actually happen after 18…Bf6 (I do this sort of thing all the time). It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback, but I think I would have been ecstatic to trade the Bh8 for the Ne4. The bishop has no future because the knight on e4 isn’t going anywhere and therefore neither is the e5 pawn. It would be another thing if you had any reasonable way to dislodge the knight from e4 in the near future.

  2. Thanks Dan – Agree on all points.

    Monday morning quarterbacking is precisely the object of the exercise :)

    Funny about substituting generalities for concrete thought. Last night I uncovered a long-missing college scoresheet vs John Kirby, in which you can see that there is ZERO general thought (by me). The only way you could play these moves is some rudderless if-this-then-that mentality. Which is how I played in college. The transition is complete! I am become Bizarro Derek!

    1. Everywhere you mentioned Stockfish’s opinion, Komodo 9 thought pretty much the same thing.

  3. Thanks for running that! K9 is as good (and as ‘human’) as it gets. I’m using a mac so not always 100% sure whether all apps are state-of-the-art.

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