Beating a lower-rated opponent – Game#35

Failed chess tactics

My opponent had a combination of failed chess tactics and poor development – a recipe for disaster.

This is my second game against Steve2 in the Gameknot 188th tournament. He played very well during our first game but not in our second. Watching players of equivalent playing strength can be instructive. However, sometimes it’s insightful to see how a stronger player beats a lower-rated opponent. This is such a game.

The main theme in this game is to avoid passive play. My opponent spent too much time shuttling his pieces and not enough time creating threats. Chess is about offense and defense. There is a balance though. Too much of one or the other can be a recipe for disaster.

In this case, failed chess tactics caused my opponent to lose. If you’re going to sacrifice a piece, make sure you can get it back!

Game#35 – Beating a lower-rated player – failed chess tactics

Paul H. – Steve2
King’s Gambit [C28]

Post-game analysis

Calculating tactics. On move 18, my opponent played Nxe5. It’s clear he did not calculate the simple Qd4 which holds the bishop. Even after Be5, Qc4 threatened mate on f7 and set up a barrage of crushing moves that led to a loss of material. When calculating tactics, it’s important to ask, “If it were my opponent’s move, what would he play?”. For this position, it’s clear that Qd4 is forced and that Qc4 is always an escape option that threatens mate.

Develop your pieces early. Rooks belong on open files. This is a core principle of chess strategy. You’ll notice in this game that Black’s queenside rook never left its home square. This is an example of why development is so important. If you’re going to lose a game, fine – but don’t lose with your heavy pieces being idle. Instead, force yourself to bring all forces into the game. Then and only then should you embark on a broader strategy.

Dealing with a dominant bishop. Trading off pieces should always be done with care. Black was very quick to trade of my f3 knight. This made sense given that after h3, things were getting cramped (see diagram below)

Beating a lower-rated opponent - Game#35

Instead of Bg4, Black should have considered a move like Na5, trading off White’s good bishop before deploying his own. Giving your opponent the bishop pair is something you have to carefully plan. Ask yourself – does giving him the two bishops put me at a disadvantage or not?

Have you ever played a game where failed chess tactics played a role in your defeat/victory? Please share below.