8

this is a recent online game I played. I'm usually about an 1800 USCF player, but I had this very disappointing loss to a 1400 level player. Stronger players might look at this sub-par game and wonder how an 1800 could play so weakly, so no, it's not my best chess achievement! I've added my annotations and thoughts during the game, and would appreciate if some players could offer advice on my gaps in my strategy and positional understanding. Also, please don't just dump out engine analysis! Thanks!!


[FEN ""]
[White "Me"]
[Black "?"]
[whiteelo "1800"]
[blackelo "1425"]
[Result "0-1"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 {1. e4 e5 is generally one of the holes in my white
repertoire.  I haven't found any good resources on playing the Italian game for
white, so most of my knowledge is based on master games and experience.} 3...
Be7 {I rarely face this move in practice, and I have no special preparation for
it, so I decided to meet it by expanding in the center.} 4. d4 {In retrospect, I
have concerns that this setup leaves my centre too vulnerable, and I'm imaging
that 4. d3 serves me better.} 4... d6 5. O-O (5. dxe5 {I'm wasn't sure wheather
or not is wise to continue in this fashion.  My development seems slightly
beter, but I'm not the tpye of player to allow early queen exchanges.} 5... dxe5
6. Qxd8+ Bxd8 7. O-O) (5. Nc3 {Also seems like a logical move, strengthening my
centre.}) 5... Nf6 {I am already beginning to sense that my e4 and d4 squares
are way too loose, especially with ...Bg4 coming.} 6. Re1 {Sadly, I played this
move to defend my e4 pawn, feeling that I didn't have time in the current
position to develop my c1-bishop and b1-knight.  Perhaps 6. Nc3 was a much more
principled choice.} 6... Bg4 {This move now comes with a lot of force, and it
suddenly feels difficult to break the pin and defend the d4 square.} 7. d5 {This
seems like a very questionable decision to me, but I felt that it was necessary
to avoid losing a pawn.} (7. Be3 {I rejected this move immediately.} 7... Nxe4)
(7. c3 exd4 8. cxd4 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 {This looks too weakening to me, but should I
be considering this to play on the g-file?}) 7... Nd4 8. Nbd2 {My feeling during
the game was that this move is forced.} 8... O-O 9. h3 {Pushing the h-pawn gives
me a permanent kingside weakness that matters later in the game, although it
didn't occur to me at this point in time.} 9... Nxf3+ (9... Bh5 10. g4) (9...
Bxf3 10. Nxf3) 10. Nxf3 Bd7 {This move surprised, but it seems that black is
shifting his focus to breaking up my centre with moves like ...c6.} (10... Bh5
{I expected black to continue with this move, followed by a plan involving
...Ne8 and ...f5.}) 11. Nh2 {I played this move quickly and felt that it was
vital for me to break with f2-f4 at some point.  With the central pawn structure
however, it seems that white should be seeking play on the queenside while black
should be playing on the kingside.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm wondering if this
was a strategic turning point in the wrong direction.  Maybe I should be playing
for b2-b4 and c2-c4-c5 instead.} 11... Qc8 12. Bf1 {I played this move in order
to prevent any tricks on h3 and meet ...c6 with c4.  After a second look, I'm
wonder if ...Bxh3 is ever a concern anyways.} 12... c6 13. c4 Ne8 {Expanding
with ...f5 seems like a better idea than breaking up the centre with ...c6, so
I'm surprised black didn't play this already.} 14. f4 {Once again, it's unclear
whether or not playing on this side of the board favours me.  Meanwhile, I've
been neglecting the development of my c1-bishop, and hardly any of my pieces are
off the back rank.} 14... f5 {I was expecting something more along the lines of
14...f6 since 14...f5 allows me to open the e-file for my rook.} 15. exf5 ({I
spent a short time analyzing.} 15. c5 cxd5 {I thought that black's attack on the
c5-square would prove to be a problem.} 16. cxd6 Bxd6 17. fxe5 Bc5+ 18. Be3
Bxe3+ 19. Rxe3 dxe4 20. Rc3 Bc6 21. Bc4+ {This line actually doesn't look too
bad for white, but I feel that there isn't enough compensation for the pawn.
 Again, maybe I'm missing something big in this line.}) 15... Bxf5 {It's hard
for black to deal with the e-file weakness, but at the same time, my queenside
bishop and rook are useless pieces.} 16. fxe5 dxe5 17. Rxe5 Bd6 {Black's
regrouping moves start coming with tempo due to the loss in time that I
incurred by capturing the e5-pawn.} 18. Re1 Qc7 19. Nf3 {I was targeting the d4
square, so I didn't decide to play 19. Ng4.} 19... Nf6 20. Nd4 Bc5 21. Kh1 {Why
didn't I play a simple developing move like Be3?  During the game, I played Kh1
immediately.} (21. Be3 Bd7 (21... Bxd4 22. Qxd4 Rad8 23. Bf4 Qd7 24. d6 {And
white also seems in control.}) 22. Ne6 Bxe3+ 23. Rxe3 Bxe6 24. dxe6 {Looks
dominating for white.}) 21... Ne4 {But I suddenly gave gaping weaknesses on the
dark squares due to my struture and lack of development of the c1-bishop.  This
forces 22. Rxe4 I believe.} 22. Rxe4 Bxe4 23. Ne6 Qd6 24. Nxf8 {I thought for a
long time to make this move, hoping to find some play against g7, but I don't
think there was anything.} ({Looking back, I realize that I never considered
this move.} 24. Nxc5 {probably due to the loss of material.  Since my dark
squares are so weak, it makes more sense that black's dark squared bishop is
more powerful than any other rook or minor piece on the board.}) 24... Rxf8 25.
a3 {This is a ridiculous move to me, but I thought my only play was in
disturbing the bishop with b4. It's a little difficult to suggest an alternative,
but maybe 25. Bd2 so I can meet 25...Qg3 with 26. Qg4.  Although now, at the
time of writing this, I realise that black simple mates white with 26.  Rxf1+
27. Rxf1 Bxg2#} 25... Bb6 26. c5 {Total desperation, but this move makes no
difference in the dark-square domination.} 26... Qxc5 27. Be2 Qf2 28. Bf3 Rxf3 0-1

Also, sorry, I'm new to this site. Not sure how to format the PGN for the viewer.

  • From your comments it seems like it is time for you to fix the 1.e4 e5 hole in your repertoire. You seem overly self-critical over normal opening moves as it is, and it seems like your confidence in your own abilities has taken a big hit from this game, based on your commentary. – Scounged Jun 27 '18 at 8:08
  • When transformed to the reader, you questions got difficult to reference. I suggest to you and/or Glorfindel that the questions be left outside the reader. My answer answered your questions directly, however now they seem out of place and confusing. – Fred Knight Jun 27 '18 at 18:01
5

Enclose the game with the {} icon preformatted text.


[FEN ""]
[White "Me"]
[Black "?"]
[whiteelo "1800"]
[blackelo "1425"]
[Result "0-1"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 {1. e4 e5 is generally one of the holes in my white
repertoire.  I haven't found any good resources on playing the Italian game for
white, so most of my knowledge is based on master games and experience.} 3...
Be7 {I rarely face this move in practice, and I have no special preparation for
it, so I decided to meet it by expanding in the center.} 4. d4 {In retrospect, I
have concerns that this setup leaves my centre too vulnerable, and I'm imaging
that 4. d3 serves me better.} 4... d6 5. O-O (5. dxe5 {I'm wasn't sure wheather
or not is wise to continue in this fashion.  My development seems slightly
beter, but I'm not the tpye of player to allow early queen exchanges.} 5... dxe5
6. Qxd8+ Bxd8 7. O-O) (5. Nc3 {Also seems like a logical move, strengthening my
centre.}) 5... Nf6 {I am already beginning to sense that my e4 and d4 squares
are way too loose, especially with ...Bg4 coming.} 6. Re1 {Sadly, I played this
move to defend my e4 pawn, feeling that I didn't have time in the current
position to develop my c1-bishop and b1-knight.  Perhaps 6. Nc3 was a much more
principled choice.} 6... Bg4 {This move now comes with a lot of force, and it
suddenly feels difficult to break the pin and defend the d4 square.} 7. d5 {This
seems like a very questionable decision to me, but I felt that it was necessary
to avoid losing a pawn.} (7. Be3 {I rejected this move immediately.} 7... Nxe4)
(7. c3 exd4 8. cxd4 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 {This looks too weakening to me, but should I
be considering this to play on the g-file?}) 7... Nd4 8. Nbd2 {My feeling during
the game was that this move is forced.} 8... O-O 9. h3 {Pushing the h-pawn gives
me a permanent kingside weakness that matters later in the game, although it
didn't occur to me at this point in time.} 9... Nxf3+ (9... Bh5 10. g4) (9...
Bxf3 10. Nxf3) 10. Nxf3 Bd7 {This move surprised, but it seems that black is
shifting his focus to breaking up my centre with moves like ...c6.} (10... Bh5
{I expected black to continue with this move, followed by a plan involving
...Ne8 and ...f5.}) 11. Nh2 {I played this move quickly and felt that it was
vital for me to break with f2-f4 at some point.  With the central pawn structure
however, it seems that white should be seeking play on the queenside while black
should be playing on the kingside.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm wondering if this
was a strategic turning point in the wrong direction.  Maybe I should be playing
for b2-b4 and c2-c4-c5 instead.} 11... Qc8 12. Bf1 {I played this move in order
to prevent any tricks on h3 and meet ...c6 with c4.  After a second look, I'm
wonder if ...Bxh3 is ever a concern anyways.} 12... c6 13. c4 Ne8 {Expanding
with ...f5 seems like a better idea than breaking up the centre with ...c6, so
I'm surprised black didn't play this already.} 14. f4 {Once again, it's unclear
whether or not playing on this side of the board favours me.  Meanwhile, I've
been neglecting the development of my c1-bishop, and hardly any of my pieces are
off the back rank.} 14... f5 {I was expecting something more along the lines of
14...f6 since 14...f5 allows me to open the e-file for my rook.} 15. exf5 ({I
spent a short time analyzing.} 15. c5 cxd5 {I thought that black's attack on the
c5-square would prove to be a problem.} 16. cxd6 Bxd6 17. fxe5 Bc5+ 18. Be3
Bxe3+ 19. Rxe3 dxe4 20. Rc3 Bc6 21. Bc4+ {This line actually doesn't look too
bad for white, but I feel that there isn't enough compensation for the pawn.
 Again, maybe I'm missing something big in this line.}) 15... Bxf5 {It's hard
for black to deal with the e-file weakness, but at the same time, my queenside
bishop and rook are useless pieces.} 16. fxe5 dxe5 17. Rxe5 Bd6 {Black's
regrouping moves start coming with tempo due to the loss in time that I
incurred by capturing the e5-pawn.} 18. Re1 Qc7 19. Nf3 {I was targeting the d4
square, so I didn't decide to play 19. Ng4.} 19... Nf6 20. Nd4 Bc5 21. Kh1 {Why
didn't I play a simple developing move like Be3?  During the game, I played Kh1
immediately.} (21. Be3 Bd7 (21... Bxd4 22. Qxd4 Rad8 23. Bf4 Qd7 24. d6 {And
white also seems in control.}) 22. Ne6 Bxe3+ 23. Rxe3 Bxe6 24. dxe6 {Looks
dominating for white.}) 21... Ne4 {But I suddenly gave gaping weaknesses on the
dark squares due to my struture and lack of development of the c1-bishop.  This
forces 22. Rxe4 I believe.} 22. Rxe4 Bxe4 23. Ne6 Qd6 24. Nxf8 {I thought for a
long time to make this move, hoping to find some play against g7, but I don't
think there was anything.} ({Looking back, I realize that I never considered
this move.} 24. Nxc5 {probably due to the loss of material.  Since my dark
squares are so weak, it makes more sense that black's dark squared bishop is
more powerful than any other rook or minor piece on the board.}) 24... Rxf8 25.
a3 {This is a ridiculous move to me, but I thought my only play was in
disturbing the bishop with b4. It's a little difficult to suggest an alternative,
but maybe 25. Bd2 so I can meet 25...Qg3 with 26. Qg4.  Although now, at the
time of writing this, I realise that black simple mates white with 26.  Rxf1+
27. Rxf1 Bxg2#} 25... Bb6 26. c5 {Total desperation, but this move makes no
difference in the dark-square domination.} 26... Qxc5 27. Be2 Qf2 28. Bf3 Rxf3 0-1

  1. The Italian game is easy to play, but difficult to get any advantage. The Max Lange Attack is a better opening.
  2. Be7 is the Hungarian. It is best to open the center, or castle first, as black's pieces are passive.
  3. dxe5 allows black to equalize. Nc3, d5, and c3 are the best moves. The problem with d5 is that the closed center helps the weaker side, even though this does gain space. I would play Bb5 then d5 becomes a threat.
  4. Nc3 is the correct move. Even Qd3 would be better.
  5. Opening the g-file doesn't help before black castles. Although it fails in this position, Bb5 and sacing the d4 pawn to open the center is often good.
  6. Be2 is better. Due to the Nxd4 threat, e4 is secure. The LSB is a bad bishop, so Nxe2+ isn't all that good.
  7. h3 is normally a weakening move, especially if the kings have castled on opposite sides. c3, kicking the knight, is a safer move. If you notice, this isn't the weakening move, f4 is.
  8. Bd7 saves black's good bishop. Bh5 may be bad after g4 and clamping down on f5. Black would, in effect, be playing without a bishop when white breaks open the queenside.
  9. Yes, white should be playing on the queenside. Even if you have to play f4, you must take care to recapture with a pawn to prevent e5 from becoming a hole.
  10. Bxh3 isn't a threat yet, because black doesn't have enough material to conduct an attack. After an f5 break, black will have a rook attacking and may have enough.
  11. c4 maintains the "cramping" pawn, but I prefer dxc6 first. The pressure on d6 if better than the space advantage.
  12. Absolutely right. g4 clamping down on f5 is an interesting move. Be3 must be played soon, however Bd3 to, not stop f5, but to recapture on e4 with a piece is playable.
  13. ...f6 allows 15. f5 and a blockade on the white squares. Does it look like either black bishop will do anything? 15(var). The final position: you're down a pawn, e5 is really weak, and black has a protected passed pawn. The position look lost to me. On move 17, instead of fxe5, Qxd5+ keeps the material even, but black, being better developed, has a better game.
  14. I agree. On move 17, you should play dxc6 first. With the d-pawn gone, playing Bd6 is bad due to Rxe8.
  15. Although your dark squares are weak, my first thought is the play Rxf5.
  16. This is the best move, not for control of d4, but Ng4 loses a protector of the dark squares.

I just answered your questions. If you want deeper notes just ask.

  • Saying that the Max Lange attack is better than the italian is not a fact, but rather a subjective opinion. Moreover, looking at what the Max Lange attack actually is, there is absolutely no way to force black into playing it. – Scounged Jun 27 '18 at 8:04
  • Most of my comments are opinion. My decades of experience and my master rating does give credibility to my opinions. And just to be silly, there's no way to force someone from playing the French; just exchange and get a bad version of the Two Knights. – Fred Knight Jun 27 '18 at 17:57
  • How is anybody but yourself supposed to know about your years of experience and master rating? I think it's better to point out when something is based on personal opinion (e.g. opening X > opening Y) rather than just stating it like it's a fact, no matter who you are. Secondly, I have a hard time deciphering what your second statement is supposed to mean. I meant that Max Lange is a specific variation arising from the Italian (and many other openings), and that both players need to cooperate for it to arise. Therefore it's strange to write that Max Lange is better than the Italian. – Scounged Jun 27 '18 at 18:48
  • As stated before, most of my comments are opinion. I just clarified why my opinion is based on empirical evidence and can be accepted as fact. I used an example of another opening in which you can't "force" your opponent to play. Technically, the Max Lange is a variation arising from the Two Knights Defense. It is a general consensus among GMs and coaches/teachers that the more open/tactical positions are better for young or inexperienced players--or players who preform better in these types of positions. Therefore the Max Lange is better than the more closed Italian. – Fred Knight Jun 27 '18 at 21:14
  • Ok, so what you're essentially saying is that Max Lange is better than more closed variations of the Italian for certain player types. This I can agree with, but I felt it was not clarified that you meant this to begin with. However, I feel a need to point out that justifying an assertion with a simple variation of "I'm a competent person" is a logical fallacy known as the argument of authority, and should be avoided since it's based on faulty reasoning. – Scounged Jun 28 '18 at 3:59
4

From a theoretical/concrete point of view:

That late Kh1 is definitely your losing move of the game (only counting what your opponent exploited; you had other bad moves earlier in the game as well like Nd4 itself because of Bh2+, which he didn't exploit). I understand the idea; you want to unpin the knight and everything. So instead of Kh1, if you want to unpin the knight then you should play Be3 (the engine recommends b4 by the way but Be3 is almost just as strong at +0.80 for White). This makes more sense because not only you're developing your last piece, but also the c5 bishop is a CRITICAL POINT. We can categorize CRITICAL POINTS by a handful of guidelines:

  1. Pieces or pawns with the same number of attackers and defenders on it.
  2. Unprotected pieces
  3. The king is always a critical point
  4. In caters where there are weaknesses and stuff, squares and where pieces are scattered or lack harmony.

The bishop on c5 is a critical point because it is unprotected, and by playing Be3 which x-rays the bishop on c5, it gives Black problems to solve. For example, you are already threatening Nxf5 (the f5 bishop is another example of a critical point). I think the engine recommends b4 because it is the absolute concrete way to exploit this critical point.

My chess coach told me that out of 90 of his students in his life time, only 12 followed the concept of critical points and used them. They all became masters, and most everyone else who didn't follow and use critical points never got a title. Critical points are a very important concept in chess for trying to put pressure in a position.

Another important concept is critical constructions. These are basically files or diagonals or ranks where there are 2 pieces of opposition or like a lot of pieces on that one file. This is good for taking forks in the account as well as pins and interferences and stuff.

So yeah, critical points = for positional play, and critical constructions = for tactical play.

What i'm getting at, is that with the king on h1, it becomes more of a critical construction. Ne4 was good by Black, of course, and the threat is Nf2+, forking. Kh1 makes the 1st rank more of a critical critical construction, when instead you could have met the critical construction on the c5-g1 diagonal with simply Be3 (or the engine idea b4).

Yeah then after that, it is very hard to defend. People crack down when they defend... (i.e. Nxf8 which loses because of the strong threat of Qg3 threatening Qxh3#. But with the knight on e6, you attack the c5 bishop so that you can take c5 and meet Qxh3+ with Kg1. The knight on e6 also just covers a lot of squares and can be used as a defensive resource in other means, such as blocking files).

So yeah Kh1 was your main problem because it put you in a position where you had to sacrifice an exchange only to give Black an abnormally strong attacking position, one that is totally defenseless if you're made of carbon and not silicon.

From a practical point of view:

You could have definitely punished Black's early Be7 better. Be7 is really passive and stupid because of d4, which is what you did, and good job for that (Bc5 prevents d4, well OF COURSE :P). But when you castled, instead you could have played d5 instead of castling when he played d6 (because the knight has to retreat to b8 or b4 since there is no e7 square for the knight, since the bishop takes it up). After castling, you're fine but Bg4 makes it kind of tricky and creates you some problems; it screws up certain attractive plans related to attacking the kingside, that you might have wanted to set up.

1

The big blunder of the game is 14.f4?. There may have been less-ideal moves before that one, as the other answers have suggested, but the f4 push is the move that swung the game in your opponent's favor.

When White has a pawn chain of e4-d5 and Black meets it with d6-e5, as you see in openings like this one or the King's Indian, a lot of middle-ranked players will go for that f4 push, thinking that blowing open the center helps them. They're often wrong. Pushing f4 leaves the e4-pawn without another pawn to support it, which your opponent immediately exploited by playing f5. It also weakens the dark squares around your king and leaves you vulnerable to opposing pieces on the a7-g1 diagonal, which also happened in the game.

Lesson: if your opponent's position is cramped, it might seem tempting to open up the center, but it can also allow his pieces to gain activity.

1

I don't disagree with others comments but these are the points that scream out to me:

You didn't play a good opening but were let off by your opponent's strange Bd7 decision and are now fine. Your queen-side is completely undeveloped so as a matter of absolute urgency we need to complete our development so you ... move an already developed piece from a good square to a worse one? Not just bad but baffling. Develop!

After some reasonable reactive moves you have a free hand again on move 14. Your queen-side is crying out for development but now you play the move f4. The move's fine on positional grounds but there's a huge problem playing it here. How can you be so insensitive to the fact that all your pieces are undeveloped? Four of them are on their starting squares and the knight on h2 is hardly any better. Any opening of the position must favour Black.

Rxe5 was your last chance to develp something but you grabbed a pawn instead. After 19 .. Nf6 Black's position is very promising with a direct assault imminent. It's probably too late but you have another chance to develop a piece and ... you move the knight again ... away from your king ... and walk into a pin for good measure.

You seem to have no sense of urgency about developing your pieces. The sad final position with your Rook, Bishop and Queen still unmoved illustrates this. Make developing an absolute priority otherwise you're just playing with half your army.

1

In short I would say that you made more Pawn moves than Piece moves which is never advisable .

  1. Your Q-side fails short of Development .
  2. The Queen/Bishop on c1/Rook on a1 did not move till the end of the game .
  3. The f4 pawn move on move 14th was just a blunder . You must develop pieces instead of being just too ambitious .

I will say this sort of games should be encouraged more in this forums where you would constantly learn more insights from others .

0

I think 5.O-O is already a bit inaccurate - it's premature to castle here. 5.Nc3 is the way to go. It's better to delay castling so that, if necessary, white can chase off a black bishop with h3/g4 and then castle queenside.

After 5.Nc3, if Black wants to play ...Bg4, he has to do it immediately, because otherwise after 5...Nf6 white plays 6.h3 followed by O-O and a4, and has no problems at all.

After 5... Bg4, there is no knight on f6, so white can kick the bishop immediately with 6.h3 - after 6...Bxf3 7.Qxf3, black cannot capture on d4 because of the mate threat on f7. 6...Bh5 is met by 7.d5, and if 7...Nd4, 8.g4 Nxf3+ 9.Qxf3 Bg6 10.Bb5+ causes black some problems. So Black probably has to do something like 7...Nb8.

All of these are much better for white than the game continuation.

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