Sunday, 18 September 2016

My analysis of Maze - Goh, Helsingor 2016

A highly critical game that I needed to at least make a draw to keep my GM norm chances alive. Ultimately, I was overpowered by my strong opponent but the game was very complex and I had good chances at certain points in the game. Enjoy!

A game that I liked (ChessBase 13)
[Event "Xtracon Chess Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.07.30"] [Round "9"] [White "Sebastien Maze"] [Black "Goh Wei Ming, Kevin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C18"] [WhiteElo "2628"] [BlackElo "2435"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [PlyCount "109"] {This was an extremely important game in the tournament as a win would mean a GM norm and a draw followed by a win in the last round would have given me very good chances for a 10 game norm. Just like any other sport, it is important to come to a chess game and focus all your energy on the game but if there's a good time to really use everything in the tank, this would be it. Unfortunately, I started my pre-game preparation by doing something I really shouldn't have done - I played in the festival's blitz tournament the night before! The tournament ended around midnight and I was completely exhausted at the end. I could have put the 3-4 hrs to good use by checking my lines and catch a good night sleep. I tried to justify my decision by thinking that I should play the blitz despite the importance of the next day's game as I have already paid the entry fees. This was irrational and I was merely trying to come up with excuses to make myself feel better on making a bad decision. The result may or may not have been different but the blitz definitely broke my momentum somewhat and I heavily regretted playing it especially after this game.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 $6 {As already mentioned, a win would grant me a 9 game GM norm, and that a draw in this round, followed by a win in the last round might also be sufficient for a 10 game norm. As such, given that a win is not particular vital at this point, I understood the importance of playing solidly especially when I knew that my opponent would probably play seriously for the win. In this respect, it can be argued that the French Winawer, an opening known for its huge complexity and aggressiveness is not the best opening choice for this particular round. It is therefore quite important to be flexible in your opening preparation especially when you may need to face very strong opposition. You should always have a very solid line and a line where you can play for a win although that normally comes in exchange for some risk. In my opinion, this flexibility in your repertoire is even more important when you are having the Black pieces.} 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 {This particular move order is played to avoid some of White's options.} ({For instance,} 6... Qc7 7. Qg4 Ne7 8. Bd3 {is a line that is not that dangerous but it requires a fair amount of study.}) (6... Qa5 {is probably a more "solid" line that I mentioned earlier and it has recently become very fashionable mainly thanks to the efforts of GM Kovalenko who has scored many wins with it recently.}) 7. h4 $1 {My opponent played this very quickly and has obviously prepped this. I smelt a rat but decided to continue with the mainline in my notes anyway.} (7. Qg4 cxd4 8. Qxg7 ({Comparing with my note to Black's 6th,} 8. Bd3 {can now be met with} Qa5 $1 {although there are complications there that have to be worked out. The young Indian star Parimajan Negi had recommended this approach in his 1.e4 GM Repertoire series.} ) 8... Rg8 9. Qxh7 Qc7 {is the traditional Winawer Poisoned Pawn, one of my favourite openings of all time. In round 4, my game with Daniel Naroditsky continued} 10. Ne2 Nbc6 11. f4 dxc3 {and now, the young American talent continued with the trendy} 12. h4 $5 {and had very good chances to obtain a significant opening edge. The game eventually ended in a wild draw.}) 7... Nbc6 {A slightly different move order that was designed to confuse. I had already played 2 games with this move and it was slightly naive of me to repeat the line despite knowing that my opponent must have prepped seriously against this. On the other hand, I didn't have a back-up to what I usually play and this cost me dearly in this game.} ({After what transpired in the game, perhaps the classical move order with} 7... Qa5 8. Bd2 Qa4 {should be considered.} 9. h5 { and now, a recent game of the French expert Emmanuel Berg continued} b6 (9... h6 $5) 10. h6 gxh6 11. Nf3 Ba6 12. Bxa6 Nxa6 13. Bxh6 cxd4 14. Nxd4 (14. cxd4 Rc8 15. Rc1 Rg8 {is fine for Black according to Berg.}) 14... Rc8 15. Qf3 Nc5 16. Bg7 Rg8 17. Rxh7 {and now in Smirin,I (2644)-Berg,E (2549) Minsk 2014,} Nc6 $3 $17 {with the idea of defending f7 with ...Rc7 if the need arises gives Black a significant advantage.}) 8. h5 $1 ({After the innocuous} 8. Nf3 {,} f6 $1 $132 {leads to interesting play where I believe Black is able to generate a fair amount of counterplay. This has been analysed in Steel - Goh, Istanbul Olympiad 2012 elsewhere on the blog.}) 8... Qa5 9. Bd2 cxd4 $6 {Again, naively following a previous game of mine and continuing to walk into my opponent's prep. Against a 2600+ GM who is known to be well versed with high level engines, this is almost a suicidal approach. However, I was unable to find a satisfactory alternative and if White indeeds gets an opening edge by force, the entire move order with 7...Nbc6?! may no longer be playable.} (9... Qa4 10. h6 gxh6 {is a line although I think} 11. Rb1 $1 {gives White some initiative.}) ({I was also not entirely satisfied with Black's position after} 9... h6 10. Qg4 Nf5 11. Bd3 O-O 12. Nf3 {when Black seems to be passively placed.}) (9... Bd7 {is the old mainline that was favored by the famous French expert, Germany's Wolfgang Uhlmann.}) 10. cxd4 Qa4 11. h6 $1 {White continues to blitz out the opening moves. Here, I was starting to feel more and more intimidated.} ({The famous stem game Kasparov - Anand continued} 11. Nf3 Nxd4 12. Bd3 { but this line has been largely diffused recently.}) ({The position arising after} 11. c3 Qxd1+ 12. Rxd1 h6 {is also known to be completely fine for Black despite White's having the bishop pair as Black would gain sufficient counterplay down the c-file and playing on the light squares with ...Bd7, ... Na5 & ...Rc8.}) 11... Qxd4 12. Nf3 Qe4+ 13. Be2 Nxe5 14. Bc3 $1 {The principled option.} ({Both} 14. Kf1 Nxf3 15. Bxf3 Qc4+ 16. Be2 Qd4 {and}) (14. hxg7 Rg8 15. Kf1 Nxf3 16. Bxf3 Qd4 {are fine for Black.}) 14... f6 15. hxg7 ({ A recent game of mine that was in the database continued} 15. Nxe5 fxe5 16. Qd2 $2 g6 $1 {and Black was much better although I eventually suffered a horribly painful defeat. This was covered in another article elsewhere on this blog. This fact that this game is on the database has not slipped my mind and at this juncture, I was certain that I was walking into some high level opening preparation. In such sharp lines, it is entirely possible to lose immediately from the opening with deep analysis and I became worried.}) 15... Rg8 16. Qd2 $1 $146 {The big novelty that my opponent had prepped.} ({The mainline in my notes continued} 16. Nxe5 fxe5 17. Qd3 Qxd3 18. Bxd3 d4 19. Bb4 Rxg7 20. Rxh7 Rxh7 21. Bxh7 {and in ½-½ (62) Miton,K (2383)-Shabalov,A (2620) Stratton Mountain 1999, White has sufficient compensation for the pawn deficit in view of his powerful bishops.}) 16... Rxg7 17. O-O-O $1 {Energetic follow up from my opponent. White is a couple of pawns down so he had to continue his active play and not allow Black to consolidate his forcces easily. Specifically, it was essential for him to stop Black from castling long.} ({For example,} 17. Nxe5 fxe5 18. f3 Qf5 19. Bd3 Qf6 20. Rh6 (20. Bxh7 $6 {gives Black time to do what he wants with} Bd7 21. Rh6 Qf8 $1 {with the idea} 22. Bxe5 Rxg2 $1) 20... Ng6 {followed by ...Bd7}) 17... N7c6 {Played after 30 mins of thought. Black's idea was simply to strengthen e5, and at some point, ...Rc7 may be a possibility.} ({My opponent had analysed} 17... Bd7 18. Nxe5 fxe5 19. Bh5+ $1) ({and} 17... N7g6 18. Nxe5 Nxe5 19. Bh5+ $1 {both leading to a large edge for White. There is no need to go into any deep variations here but it just goes to show how detailed my opponent's preparation was. Fortunately, my opponent had not analysed the move played in the game.}) {At this point, my opponent had 1 hr 35 mins on the clock while I was already down to 55 mins. This is a significant time advantage and also in practical terms, I had already invested too much energy just to stay alive from the opening. In this respect, it is clear that White's opening choice was a tremendous success.} 18. Nxe5 {The first independent move that my opponent had to make and he immediately makes an inaccuracy! Still, the position remained very tricky and complex.} ({ As my good friends on a particular Facebook group chat soon discovered,} 18. Nd4 $3 {is an incredibly strong move. The point is to immediately weaken the e5 knight indirectly, and at the same time, open up the possibility of nasty Bh5 checks, creating ideas of f3 or f4, followed by Rde1. For example,} Nxd4 19. Bxd4 Rxg2 20. Rde1 Qf5 21. Rh5 $1 {is already almost close to winning for White. With this in mind, it can be said that the entire line may well be lost and Black can do better by investigating the options at move 9 or 7 (but not the first move. The French is a great opening!).}) 18... fxe5 19. Qh6 { Strong practical chess. White introduces a series of nasty threats into the position.} Re7 $1 {The most solid, defensive move.} ({I rejected} 19... Qxg2 { simply because of} 20. Rdg1 $1 Qxg1+ 21. Rxg1 Rxg1+ 22. Kb2 {as White has at least a perpetual check and that it would be extremely difficult to fend off White's powerful pieces. In a practical game, there is no need to calculate further - this conclusion should already be enough reason for you to hunt for alternatives.}) ({I also considered} 19... Rxg2 {but again, I did not see any sense in opening up another avenue for White to continue the attack. In particular, I did not like Black after} 20. Qf6 $1 Qf4+ 21. Qxf4 exf4 22. Rxh7 {. Black may have some kind of a defence here but it is clear that it would take many moves before Black manages to coordinate his queenside.}) 20. Bh5+ Kd7 21. Rhe1 Qf4+ $1 {Not the engine's first choice, but I felt this was the most practical move.} ({The machine suggested} 21... Qf5 {and claims that Black can ride out the storm but it is obvious that Black would be subjected to a lot of pressure after the simple} 22. Re3 $5 d4 (22... Qf4 23. Qxf4 exf4 24. Ree1) 23. Kb1 $5 {. I really wanted to get rid of the queens even at the expense of some material.}) 22. Qxf4 exf4 23. Bf6 {winning the exchange but Black has decent compensation as we shall soon see.} Kd6 24. Bxe7+ Nxe7 25. c4 Bd7 26. cxd5 Nxd5 $2 {Played without hesitation, bearing in mind that I was already experiencing mild time trouble at this point.} ({Thomas Luther pointed out that the dynamic} 26... e5 $1 {would have been very strong. White's d5-pawn shields the Black king perfectly and Black's plans are simple enough. Go for ...Nf5-d4, or ...Rg8 and ...Bf5 and White almost invariably loses the d5 pawn. Some sample lines:} 27. Kb2 (27. Rh1 Rg8 28. Bf3 Bf5 $44) (27. Bf3 Bf5 ) 27... Rg8 28. Bf3 Bg4 29. Rh1 Bxf3 30. gxf3 Nf5 31. Rxh7 Rg2 32. Rd2 Nd4 33. Rxb7 Nxf3 {and Black has sufficient counterplay. In many of these lines, White can very easily find himself in a lot of trouble with a couple of imprecise moves which makes this variation even more appealing.}) 27. Bf3 {Now, White has an edge as all his pieces now make a lot of sense and he has a simple plan of ganging up on the h-pawn before continuing the squeeze.} Rc8+ {I wanted to defend my h-pawn from the c7 square.} (27... Bc6 28. Rh1 {would transpose to the note on White's 29th after} Rc8 29. Kb2) 28. Kb2 Bc6 $5 {This sets a little "trick".} 29. Rxe6+ $6 {Walking into the trap although White should have still gained an edge after it!} (29. Rh1 $1 {with the idea} Rc7 30. Rh4 { was considerably stronger.}) 29... Kxe6 30. Bg4+ Ke5 31. Bxc8 Nb6 $1 32. Bh3 Nc4+ {The point. White loses the a3 pawn almost by force and this was the end of my calculation. However, I had missed a very important detail.} 33. Kc3 (33. Kb3 Ba4+ $1 {was what I was praying for and Black even turns the tables!}) (33. Ka2 Bd5 {leaves the White king in an inactive position and my opponent made the correct decision to choose activity over material.}) 33... Nxa3 34. Re1+ $6 {White decides logically, to go for my h-pawn without waiting.} ({Here, I froze when I saw White could have played} 34. Bd7 $1 {which would have posed a lot more questions for Black to solve. For instance,} Nb5+ (34... Bxg2 35. Kb3 {, trapping the knight was the whole point although here Black could have gone} h5 36. Kxa3 h4 37. Rd3 {and the amazing move} b6 $3 {, continuing the fight according to the computer! I did not analyse this too deeply as I am certain that White would be winning with normal moves.}) 35. Kb4 Nd4 36. Bxc6 Nxc6+ 37. Kc5 Ke4 38. Rd7 Ne5 39. f3+ Nxf3 40. Re7+ $1 (40. gxf3+ Kxf3 41. Kd4 h5 42. Rh7 {was also winning but there was no need to analyse the resulting pawn vs rook endings with Re7+.})) 34... Kd6 {The next few moves do not require any comments.} 35. Re6+ Kc5 36. Re5+ Kd6 37. Rh5 b5 38. Rxh7 a5 39. Rh6+ Kc5 { Black has clear compensation with his connected passies on the queenside and was already very close to a draw at this juncture.} 40. Rh5+ Kd6 $2 { Unfortunately, I made an inaccuracy on the infamous 40th move. I was obsessed with keeping my pawns that I had not even considered the other king move.} ({ The paradoxical} 40... Kb6 $3 {, moving away from the defence of the f4 pawn was very strong. The point is that the Black king would help to support the passed pawns and it would be very difficult for White to make any kind of progress. For example,} 41. Rf5 b4+ 42. Kb2 Nc4+ 43. Kb3 Nd6 $1 44. Rxf4 Bd5+ 45. Kb2 Kc5 {(Black's pieces are coordinating beautifully)} 46. Bd7 {(stopping ...a4)} Nc4+ 47. Ka1 Nb6 48. Be8 Bxg2 {and Black should hold this comfortably. Again, the quality of the remaining pieces on the board matter a lot more than material itself.}) 41. Kd3 $1 {A nice move, almost putting Black in zugzwang.} Bd5 ({Black has to be careful not to push his queenside pawns too fast as he would risk losing them one after the other.} 41... a4 $2 42. Kc3 Nc4 43. Kb4 { and White soon collects the pawns.}) 42. Rh6+ Kc5 43. Rh5 Kd6 {A repetition of moves that did not in any way means that White was ready to offer a draw. This is simply a demonstration of power during the game and is a common technique among strong players. One shouldn't overdo it though, for instance, repeating moves in your opponent's time trouble and giving him extra time and moves to reach the time control. At this point, White found the only move to test Black in this position.} 44. Bg4 $1 {An extremely high class move. White only has 2 remaining pawns and he did not shy away from giving away one of them. White's threat was obviously Bf3 and I did not spend too much time over my next decision.} Bxg2 ({As it turns out, White had a very difficult win after} 44... b4 $5 45. Bf3 Bxf3 46. gxf3 a4 47. Rf5 $3 {Another paradoxical move.} ({ After the forcing sequence,} 47. Ra5 b3 48. Kc3 Nb1+ 49. Kb2 Nd2 50. Rxa4 Ke5 51. Rb4 Nxf3 52. Rxb3 (52. Kxb3 Ng1 $1 53. Kc2 Nh3 54. f3 Ng1 55. Rb3 Kd4 56. Kd2 Nh3) 52... Nd2 {, Black has arrived at a theoretical draw. This was not so easy to determine over the board but Thomas Luther promptly took out his old copy of Encyclopedia of Chess Endings and pointed out that this sort of endgame was already analyzed by Averbakh in 1962!} 53. Rc3 Ne4 54. Rc2 Kf5 $11 (54... f3 55. Kc1 Kf4 56. Kd1 Kf5 57. Ke1 Kf4 58. Rc8 Kf5 59. Rf8+ Kg4 60. Rf7 Ng5 61. Rf6 Ne4 62. Rf8) 55. Kb3 Kg4 (55... Kg5)) 47... b3 48. Kc3 Nb1+ 49. Kb2 Nd2 50. Rxf4 {and now without the f-pawn, Black has no more chances left.}) 45. Kd4 $1 {Threatening the powerful threat of Rh6+. Black's reply was almost forced.} Nc2+ 46. Kc3 Na3 47. Kb3 {To my horror, I realised I was about to lose my precious queenside pawns. During the game, I remembered feeling very disappointed and that my position was already lost here. Not so! Chess is a game full of wondrous possibilities and it is important to fight till the bitter death, even when all hope appears to have gone.} Nc4 (47... Nb1 48. Rxb5 Bd5+ 49. Kb2 Nd2 50. Kc3 Ne4+ 51. Kd4 Bc6 52. Rb6 $1 Ng5 $3 53. Ra6 a4 { also retained some drawing chances.}) 48. Rxb5 Ne5 $2 ({I had actually seen the little trick} 48... a4+ $3 {but I had brushed this possibility off after calculating} 49. Kc3 a3 50. Rb4 {, thinking that I would probably lose the a-pawn very quickly. However, after} Bd5 51. Be2 a2 $1 52. Ra4 Ne5 53. Kb2 f3 $1 {, Black would have saved his position by going after the f2-pawn. This would have been the cleanest way to force an immediate draw with no complications or deviations along the way.}) 49. Bf5 $1 {A good square for the bishop, covering both the g4 and d3 squares.} a4+ 50. Kc3 Bc6 (50... Bd5 51. Ra5 Bb3 {was a possible defence but it was clear that White retains very good winning chances.}) 51. Ra5 Be8 $2 {Collapsing in time trouble but Black's position was already very difficult.} 52. Be4 Ng4 53. f3 Ne5 54. Ra6+ Kd7 55. Kd4 1-0