Game#17 – Sacrificing pawns for passive play
Center Counter Defense [B01]
3 days per move
Increasing the difficulty level
I started the Gameknot 188th Tournament Part II winning my first two games against a 1700-rated player. The rating systems used for online chess sites varies quite a bit. On this site (Gameknot) I am rated around 1880 so beating a 1700 was not totally unexpected. To be fair though, I was much worse in the second game against blackjackgeary but managed to win.
This next opponent, banora was rated 1932. I was the under dog in this match. Patience and focus would be needed to win both games. Each chess game takes on a personality of its own. Banora was much more aggressive than my last opponent. He played active moves throughout the game. In fact, he sacrificed a pawn to get the initiative. The problem was that his active play never caused enough threats to disrupt my play. There are lots of subtleties that Black missed in this game.
Post-Mortem Analysis – Game#17
Sacrifice pawns for a purpose. After 8…e6, it seemed that Black forgot he was down a pawn. He kept playing natural moves as if the material count was even. A move like Qb6 was more in the spirit of the position. It stops castling and prepares to bring the rook to the d-file. My 9. d4 was not a good reply. Castling first and then deciding to occupy the center made more sense. After 9. d4, Black could have played Qb6 with an equal game.
Be aware of the piece count. Playing 15. a4 was an obvious move. Black simply has to take this. The inexplicable reply of 15…Bd6 just loses a pawn. If we look at the pawn skeleton of this position, White will have a pawn majority on the queenside that will be difficult to stop.
Bring all pieces into the action. Being up two pawns does not translate to an automatic win. It should be enough to win though. The theme in this game was to consolidate all pieces to participate in the pawn march. Trading off material is important too. It simplifies the position and magnifies the two pawn advantage.
Game#18 – Beware simple recaptures
Gruenfeld Defense [D94]
3 days per move
Sometimes the simplest of recaptures can lead to a loss. Chess is cruel that way. Just when you think you’ve seen this move a hundred times, it comes back to bite you. Always pay close attention to recapturing a piece. Your opponent might have something planned that you are not expecting. In this game, capturing with a rook led to the loss of more material. Don’t assume! Look from your opponent’s perspective. Calculate the possibilities and move only when you are sure you haven’t missed anything.
Post-Mortem Analysis – Game#18
Be prepared to strike – even in the opening. I blundered in the opening. The innocuous 4… Be7 is just bad. It loses control of the center and gives White a lasting advantage. My opponent never saw this though. He kept playing as if everything was equal. I think the reason for this is that opening moves like Bg7 just look normal. So am I suggesting that you should be vigilant as early as move four? Yes. Moves like Bg7 are normal but the sequence in how they are played is critical. White should have seen that by not playing 4…Nf6, I would have problems fighting for control of the center.
Keep calm, be composed. My opponent hung a pawn early in the game. This happens to all of us. In this case, I didn’t play the position correctly. Missing gf5 was a problem. Without a pawn to reinforce the e4 pawn, White would have an easier time maneuvering his pieces. My opponent didn’t see it that way though. I could tell he was bothered about being down a pawn and started to get careless.