A game

I played the game last Monday and it took approximately 4 hours. I know that a few of the readers find chess interesting, so I thought I might as well blog it. I didn’t play particularly well, but it was good enough for a win – my opponent made the last mistake, though for much of the game I was clearly worse. I guess if you don’t know but would like to have some idea how strong ‘average club players’ are when they play games with standard time control, you can sort of use this game as a starting point. You can watch the game here – I was black. Moves, diagrams and comments below the fold:

1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nf6, 3. Nxe5 d6, 4. Nf3 Nxe4, 5. Be2 Be7, 6. O-O O-O, 7. d3 Nf6, 8. Re1 d5, 9. Bg5 h6, 10. Bh4

I was out of book after Be2 – I’ve never seen that move (..order) before, but nothing really unexpected has happened so far, perhaps aside from the fact that white seems to be in no particular hurry to develop the queenside knight. I thought for a while before I played h6 and I’m not sure I’d play it again – however the next move was where one of the major decisions had to be taken, and of course it was related to the delayed knight development; to play, or not to play, 10…d4. I thought I sort of had to play it if I was given the chance, but I gave it a lot of thought before I did. I thought it had to be followed up with c5 and b6, with a strong (?) queenside pawn chain. It turns out it doesn’t, and the computer really doesn’t like c5. I didn’t know that when I played the game, and I hadn’t realized that the white a-pawn advancement would be as annoying as it turned out to be. Anyway:

11. Nbd2 c5
12. a4 Nc6
13. Nc4 Be6
14. Nfe5 Nxe5
15. Nxe5 Nd7
16. Bxe7 Qxe7
17. Bf3 Nxe5
18. Rxe5

I was playing against a quite strong opponent with the black pieces, so from the beginning I’d considered a draw to be a perfectly acceptable result. I didn’t mind exchanging pieces and I’d assumed that after the exchanges the position would be perfectly ‘drawable’ after Qc7 or Qd6 – the computer agrees about that, giving evaluations like 0,07-0,11 in those positions. After thinking for 15 minutes I then decided that it would be more fun to ruin my position by playing a bad move, so I played …Rab8 instead. No, it’s not a bad move as such, but I wasn’t happy with it after the fact.
19. Qe2 Qd6
20. Re1 a5(?)
21. b3 b6
22. Bg4 Bxg4
23. Qxg4 Qc6
24. Qe2 Rb7
25. f4 b5?

Just like c5, the computer really doesn’t like a5 – and it actually isn’t a big fan of b5 either (it seems there’s a pattern here…). Of course it instead just finds a simple and brilliant resource that basically solves all black’s problems: 20…Bd7. After that move white can’t stop black from contesting the open e-file and the players can shake hands (the computer gives -0,03 after 20…Bd7). Instead, after a5 and the moves that followed, black is now in quite a bit of trouble – white owns the open file and the f-pawn advance I clearly found myself having underestimated in the game. b5? is just another mistake, and against a stronger opponent that probably would have been the losing move – black’s queenside was much easier to defend without that advance, and black’s vague ideas of opening a file on the queenside and play against c2 is much too slow. All b5 accomplishes is to seriously weaken c5, a move that wasn’t even necessary in the first place. At this point I’m thinking I’m lucky if I get a draw, but that I should be able to hold it if he doesn’t play it completely correct.

26. axb5 Qxb5
27. Qh5 Rc7
28. f5 Rc6
29. Re8 Rf6
30. R8e5 Qb4

I’ve stopped the f-pawn advance and bought a bit of time. White’s only sort of potential weakness here is the c2 pawn, though it isn’t actually weak at all. Anyway I figured that unless I got the queen transferred to the kingside I’d be dead in the water. I found it hard to find useful plans in this position though, as the awful Ra8 move below illustrates.

31. Qe2 Ra8? (If it had to go to c8 anyway, why give white a free tempo?)
32. Qe4 Rc8
33. g4 Qd2?
34. Re2 Qg5
35. Kg2 h5
36. h3 hxg4
37. hxg4 Rh6

What is this? It almost looks like counterplay… During the game I felt that Kg2 could not possibly be accurate, but the computer disagrees. However it turns out that the d2-g5 queen maneuver I really liked during the game isn’t actually all that great. White had 34.Qb7! which is much stronger than the rook defence of c2. Another thing is that the whole idea of moving the queen to the queenside and keep it there way longer than was healthy was to open files for the rooks and get some counterplay that way – and at move 33, black actually has the option of doing that without loss of material with 33…a4. So why didn’t I play that? I asked myself that same question a short while later, as I realized that I’d overlooked that resource. Luckily my opponent was starting to get into time trouble at this point (10 minutes left for another 6 moves) so he missed Qb7.

38. Kg1 Rh4
39. Rg2 Qc1+
40. Qe1 Qg5

This was just after the time control, and at this point I felt perfectly justified in offering a draw – the computer agrees and gives a 0.00 evaluation for the two main lines. My opponent thought for a while, figured he might have found something strong, and decided to play on. I had of course seen 42…Qd6 before I offered the draw – I assumed he had too, but his time expenditure here and during the next few moves suggests that he probably hadn’t and that he had assumed that g5 won a rook:

41. f6 Qxf6
42. g5 Qd6
43. g6 fxg6
44. Reg5 Rh6
45. Qe4 Kh7

Everything is covered and it’s no longer black that’s playing for the draw. White seriously understimated how fragile his own king position was at this point, presumably partially due to time pressure (he has 16 minutes left at this point, I have 38). If black doubles on the f-file white is toast, so there’s no way he can ever take that weak c-pawn. He didn’t realize that:

46. Rd5 Qf6
47. Rgg5?? (Yes, I think that blunder deserves two question marks. At this point, the computer evaluation jumps from -0,5 (drawable) to -11 (more than a queen down). All it takes is one imprecise move – he’d been equal or better for more than 3 hours, but in some positions one mistake is all it takes. After Rgg5 it’s just game over if the opponent manages to find the winning moves, chess is brutal that way. And I did find the winning moves without problems:
48. Qe2 Qf4
49. Rxc5 Qc1+

Resigned. The end position is # in 2:

Not a particularly well played game, but after the game I felt at least that I’d earned the draw.


November 5, 2012 - Posted by | Chess


  1. My observations (without computer analysis – I do not have a chess engine installed, and do not plan to have one):

    1) I do not think you give yourself enough credit for 28… Rc6 and 29… Rf6. You slowed down his K-side attack a lot, and he wasted two tempi by going with his rook from e4 to e8 and then back to e4.

    2) With the benefit of hindsight, indeed 31…Ra8 was a waste of tempi, which negated the two tempi he gave you.

    3) I do not think his 35 Kg2 was that bad, but I really do not like the consequent 36. h3. Perhaps I am blind, but I would have gone for Kg3 with the intention to trade Queens whether you take on g4, or play h4 (then Kf3, followed by Qf4). As Tuco said in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.” He was committed to a K-side attack; he should have pressed to put a pawn on g5 to dislodge the rook, with a view on pushing g6 eventually, and exploiting your weak back rank.

    4) 37. hxg4 was his undoing. I still think he should have forced a trade of Queens. 37. Qxg4 still left a dynamic position – his K-side push against whatever you can conjure up on the Q-side.

    5) 43. g6 was a desperation move, hoping for you to respond with f6, which is a disastrous blunder. After the correct fxg6, you are golden, as you demonstrated.

    Good game.

    Comment by Plamus | November 7, 2012 | Reply

    • (you should try using an engine – it’s a wonderful tool)

      If Kg3 instead of h3 I think I would have just exchanged on g4 – all ideas about an attack ends there, as far as I can see. I don’t see how white has any realistic winning chances in the resulting position, what’s the idea? 43.g6 was probably bad, but I’m not sure the position after fxg6 is objectively winning yet at that point with correct play (I’ve drawn way too many rook- and queen endgames to consider anything like that ‘objectively winning’).

      Incidentally, earlier this week I played a rather good game against a 2150 FIDE rated player (Grünfeld Defence, I was white) with a 45 minute time control. I ended up losing it in the time trouble, which was the a priori expected outcome conditional on him not killing me out of the opening (comp. eval. after move 30 was ~ -0,3 in equal-pawn knight-bishop endgame and he was down to probably less than 2 minutes before the game ended – so I held on for a while). Even if I lost the game, it was actually a very satisfying experience to play it – I may decide to post it as well later on.

      Comment by US | November 11, 2012 | Reply

      • Here’s the game I was talking about:

        It’s not the entire game, we played on a bit after that (he had very little time so I felt justified) but I stopped writing at that point because of time trouble.

        31…f4?? of course loses the game, but all things considered this wasn’t a bad game. I tend to think losing this way is perfectly okay against a stronger player.

        Incidentally my rating performance in this tournament after 8 games is 1808. The tournament is unrated because the games are rather short (45 min/player), so aside from the fact that I perform at that level I can’t really use it to anything. If you’re wondering why I’m at that level though I lose games like that, here’s my recent win against a 2000+ FIDE player in the same tournament with black (he had something like 30 seconds left when he played axb5 and at that point he wasn’t thinking about moves any more, he just played one move/second or so). I had 7 minutes left on the clock so he would have been justified in giving up sooner but I don’t blame him.

        Comment by US | November 13, 2012

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