5

This is a recent OTB tournament game I lost to a player of the same strength as me (1800). My feeling is that I played poor positional chess and continuously failed to capitalize on his suspect play. Any comments/critiques on strategy or tactics are greatly appreciated.

Thanks Everyone

[Event "Local Tournament"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Me"]
[Black "Opponent"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1800"]
[BlackElo "1800"]
[ECO ""]
[FEN ""] 
[CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 { My idea with the Nc3/e3 move order is to discourage dxc4 lines... } 3...dxc4 4.a4?! { I feel like this move was played because I wanted to enter my comfort zone. This is a psychological mistake, I think I should've taken the center immediately, right?! } ( 4.e4 b5 5.a4 b4 6.Na2 Nf6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Bxc4 { Looks reasonably strong for white. } ) 4...Nf6 5.Nf3?! { I'm doing it again. Why not just play 5.e4? I would be taking away black's chance to develop ideally with ...Bf5. } 5...Bf5 { Much to my opponents satisfaction, we've now reached a main line. For some reason, I felt more comfortable reaching this main line (that I in fact don't know extremely well) than I did playing 4.e4 or 5.e4. } 6.e3 { My feeling is that 6.Nh4 leads to more interesting play, but I know 6.e3 is theory. } 6...e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.O-O h6?! { Now I believe black is wasting tempo, and I should poised to punish his play. My opinion is that spending a move on h6 to give an extra square for the bishop isn't worth the time. } 9.Qb3!? { I'm thinking that I will have play on the b-file by driving away the bishop on b4. } ( 9.Ne5 { Perhaps this is another viable choice? The knight seems more active on e5 and this is a typical idea in the slav. } ) 9...a5 { I was expecting 9...Qe7, which also defends b7. } ( 9...Qe7 10.Bd2 { And bring the rooks to the center. What's white's plan in this position? I'm not sure it's clear to me. } ) 10.Na2 Na6 { I thought I could easily win a pawn with 11.Bxa6, but I got taken aback by the rook coming to b6. } 11.Bd2? ( 11.Bxa6 Rxa6 12.Nxb4 Rb6 13.Bd2 Qd6 ( 13...Qe7 14.Nxc6 { Here I thought white would be a little better, but 13...Qd6 was the move that concerned me. } ) 14.Ne5! { This is the move that I failed to see. White is simply winning. } ) 11...Nd5! { Here, I realized that I allowed black to fully equalize. } 12.Bxb4 { Trading my bad pieces for his good ones seemed like my best chance here. } ( 12.Bxd5 { Runs into } 12...Qxd5! { And I still think black is equal. } ) 12...Naxb4 13.Nxb4 Nxb4 14.e4? { This is a very bad decision in my opinion. It's both a positional and psychological mistake. I'm trying to complicate matters here and create some sort of winning chances that aren't even here. My idea is to take on e6. } 14...Bxe4 15.Bxe6 O-O { This is the move that I failed to consider. Now I'm simply left with an isolated pawn and not enough control over the d5-square. } ( 15...fxe6 16.Qxe6+ Qe7 17.Qxe7+ Kxe7 18.Rfe1 $16 ) ( 15...Qe7 16.Rfe1 fxe6 ( 16...Qxe6 17.Qxe6+ fxe6 18.Rxe4 $14 ) ( 16...Bxf3 17.Bxf7+ $18 ) 17.Rxe4 $16 ) 16.Bg4 Qd5 ( 16...Bxf3 17.Bxf3 Qxd4 { I figured my best chance was to meet this with } 18.Rfd1 Qf6 19.Rd7 { And try to create counterplay. } ) 17.Qxd5 { I'm honestly not sure if avoiding an exchange gives me any better chances in this type of isolated pawn position. I didn't want to give him extra tempi though. } 17...Bxd5 18.Ne5 { Now I want to eliminate his bishop at all costs. } 18...Rad8 19.Rfd1 { Fighting in slightly worse positions seems like one of the hardest tasks in chess. Now I have to spend my time trying to find ways to liquidate my weak d-pawn at all costs. } 19...Rfe8 20.Ra3 { Finding it hard to develop this rook on the first rank, I lifted it. I don't know what else there even is here. } 20...Be6?! { Why would he play this? I was happy to liquidate his powerful light squared bishop. } 21.Bxe6 Rxe6 22.f4 Red6? ( 22...f6 { I think he can just play this and invade my 2nd rank with an easy game. } ) 23.Nc4!? { I thought that trading my d-pawn for the a-pawn was my best chance. } 23...Rxd4 24.Rxd4 Rxd4 25.Nxa5 b6 26.Nb3 Rd3 { No he's threatening Nc2, and it seems that I'm forced to place my knight on a1. } 27.Na1 Rxa3 { I was thinking that he might try to keep chances with his rook on the board, but maybe this gives me time for regrouping. } 28.bxa3 Nd5 29.g3 Kf8 30.Nb3 Ke7 31.Kf2 Kd6 32.a5 { Undoubling my pawns seems like it has to be the only try. } 32...bxa5 33.Nxa5 Nb6 34.Ke3 Kd5 35.Kd3 c5 36.Nb7 { Perhaps instead I should be advancing with 36. g4 or 36. f5 in order to restrict his chances of creating breakthroughs on the kingside. } 36...c4+ 37.Kc3 Na4+ 38.Kc2 f5 39.Na5 { I didn't know what else there was. } 39...g5 40.Nb7 gxf4 41.gxf4 { Now he has created a path on e4 for his king to win a pawn. At this point, I stopped recording moves because my time was very low. I still feel like I can draw this somehow, but I ended up losing the game. The a-pawn and c-pawn were traded, and black won my f-pawn. Then I for some reason didn't use my knight actively in defense of the f-pawn, and let it advance too far, losing the game. It's hard to play so many moves in a slightly worse position without cracking at some eventual point. I feel like there were many missed opportunities by both sides to punish the other. If it matters for anything, my opponent was young (maybe 10-12 years old), and we had 90 minutes for the game. }  0-1 
  • +1 for the work you already put into the analysis. You imo already found the main missed opportunities for improvement in the middlegame. Still, at first glance, you seem to have equalized again around move 34, so you should probably have a little closer look at the following moves that do finally lose you the game. – Annatar Aug 18 '17 at 8:28
  • Especially the knights. His one does a great job at blocking off your play at the queenside (making you waste a lot of time with king moves), while yours moves around relatively aimlessly without stopping his advance at all. Too bad you don't have recorded the ending moves. – Annatar Aug 18 '17 at 8:38
6

I play the Slav with both colours. If you want to improve your play, check out The Slav Defense: move-by-move by IM Lakdawala. My comments are in the replayer:

[Event "Local Tournament"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Me"]
[Black "Opponent"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1800"]
[BlackElo "1800"]
[ECO ""]
[FEN ""] 
[CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 (3.Nf3 {This is more popular as it prevents the Winawer counter gambit, 3...e5}) 3...dxc4 4.a4?! {I don't think this is dubious. You can play 4.e4 in Geller gambit style, but you end up in a mainline Dutch position, which is white's best try against the Slav} 4...Nf6 5.Nf3?! {Again 5.Nf3 isn't dubious. You get a mainline Dutch, which is a decent opening. If you had played 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 then you would also have the choice of 5.Ne5 to recover the pawn, which is becoming quite popular} 5...Bf5 6.e3 (6.Nh4 {Nh4 is playable, but is most effective after black locks the bishop out of the pawn chain with ...e6}) 6...e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.O-O h6?! {8...Nbd7 would have been in book, but 8...h6 doesn't weaken anything either} 9.Qb3!? (9.Qe2 {Your move misplaces the queen. She thematically belongs on e2 to support e4-e5}) 9...a5 ( 9...Qe7 10.Bd2 { This shows why the queen is misplaced on b3 instead of e2 to support e4-e5.} ) 10.Na2 Na6 11.Bd2? ( 11.Bxa6 Rxa6 12.Nxb4 Rb6 13.Bd2 Qd6 ( 13...Qe7 14.Nxc6 { Doesn't this just lose material to 14...Rxb3 15.Nxe7 Kxe7?} ) 14.Ne5! { OP said: This is the move that I failed to see. White is simply winning. } (14...Rxb4 15.Bxb4 axb4 {This looks fine to me.})) 11...Nd5! { If the queen were on e2, then a pawn fork would be in the air} 12.Bxb4 12...Naxb4 13.Nxb4 Nxb4 14.e4? { I don't see what was wrong with developing the rooks to d1 and e1 } 14...Bxe4 15.Bxe6 O-O 16.Bg4 Qd5 17.Qxd5 {In general, the player who playing against the isolani should keep queens on the board, as it scares the king away from becoming a defender} 17...Bxd5 18.Ne5 18...Rad8 19.Rfd1 { I would seriously consider giving up the pawn to play for the initiative, e.g  19.Rfe1 with an aim to penetrate to e7} 19...Rfe8 20.Ra3 { This isn't so bad, as long as the rook ends up on e3 or f3 to attack the king } 20...Be6?! { Why would he play this? Ans: Black is trading off when playing against an IQP. Now he can double rooks and win that pawn soon} 21.Bxe6 {21.Bf3, keeping pieces on the board was better} Rxe6 22.f4? {This doesn't help white at all, as it creates an extra weakness and doesn't activate the a3-rook.} Red6? {22.Red6 isn't a bad move, as it wins material} 23.Nc4!? 23...Rxd4 24.Rxd4 Rxd4 25.Nxa5 b6 26.Nb3 Rd3 { I think Black should have played 26...Rxf4. The position would be resignable for white.} 27.Na1 Rxa3 { Keeping rooks on the board would give white counterchances, so trading was good. The endgame can only be won by black } 28.bxa3 Nd5 29.g3 Kf8 30.Nb3 Ke7 31.Kf2 Kd6 32.a5 32...bxa5 33.Nxa5 Nb6 34.Ke3 Kd5 35.Kd3 c5 36.Nb7 36...c4+ 37.Kc3 Na4+ 38.Kc2 f5 39.Na5  39...g5 40.Nb7 gxf4 41.gxf4   0-1

Summary:

  1. You seem to get muddled with the many choices in the Slav. You can play the mainline Dutch, Geller gambit, Nh4 or Ne5, but not all in one system. Stick to one system and learn it well
  2. The queen belongs on e2, not b3, to support e4-e5
  3. When playing against an isolated pawn, try to keep pieces on the board. You spent so much time worrying about black's light square bishop that you missed the chance to aim your pieces at the kingside
  4. Passive defence with the rooks didn't work because of the knight on b4. This is a key outpost for Black. I would have sacrificed the pawn to gain piece activity with Ra3-d3 or f3
  • Very good and to the point. – gented Aug 18 '17 at 11:27
  • Very helpful. I've went through all of these comments. Thank you! – Ciabatta_USA Aug 21 '17 at 0:25
3

Your analysis is pretty much to the point. I am not a 1. d4 or Slav player, but the opening looks fine to me.

Basically you liked the (sham) sacrifice starting with 14 e4 so much that you ignored the fact that black is not forced to take (15... fxe6). This whole line basically weakened your d4 pawn which is difficult to defend afterwards.

As it is quite obvious around move 20 that you are going to lose the d4 pawn sooner or later, you should have come up with some ideas for counterplay, perhaps along the e-file, and also I would have kept more pieces on the board increasing your chances. If you are down material you need to play actively. Your position at move 26 is the very opposite of that.

  1. a5 would allow you to avoid getting the doubled pawn. Black cannot try to win material with 27 ... Nc2 because of the passed pawn.

At some point around move 33 you achieved an equal position which you should not lose. It is not easy to play because black's king is more active and your knight on the rim, but if you can activate your king and get the knight to more active squares (perhaps via c4 or b3 since you got stuck shuffling the knight between b7-a5 later) there should be no danger. Having the remote a pawn vs the c pawn should slightly favor you.

2

You are a bit too harsh with yourself in the opening phase:

4.a4 is not the most aggressive line, but it remains a totally reasonnable choice

5.Nf3 is the right move. Instead, your suggested 5.e4?! fails to 5...e5! and then:

  • Taking the pawn with 6.dxe5 Qxd1+ 7.Nxd1 Nxe4 or 6.dxe5 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1 Ng4 forking f2 and e5 is great for Black.

  • The creative 6.Bxc4 exd4 7.Nf3!? dxc3 8.Bxf7+ Ke7 is not enough (I think this is an old Euwe-Alekhine game)

1

Just one point, in the variation of move 11, you find 13...Qe7 wrong due to Nxc6, but you didn't look at this one move earlier. Instead of 12. Bd2, 12. Nxc6 retains your extra pawn.

How do I add a replayer to my post? is one of the links about using the replayer.

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