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I recently played a not-so-good tournament, my US rating is a little under 1900, and this is a game where I had a draw against a 1600 player that reminds me of how I played when I was 1700. My opponent showed up 45 minutes late and unfortunately I let that get to me psychologically, and started having a bit of an impatient attitude while playing. This caused me to make some positional mistakes that I shouldn't have been making. So I have a few questions in the game PGN, if you guys could answer those and point out anything else that's important, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

 [fen ""]
 [Event "Michigan Amateur"]
 [Date "6/2/2018"]
 [Round "3"]
 [White "Brandon O'Neil"]
 [Black "Raymond Burwell"]
 [Result "1/2-1/2"]
 [WhiteElo "1896"]
 [BlackElo "1600"]
 [ECO "A13"]
 [Opening "English Opening: Agincourt Defense"]

 1. c4 e6 2. g3 f5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Nf3 d6 6. d4 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. d5!? { I thought I could take advantage of black's slow development, but I ended up shutting in my bishop eventually. Should I be more patient and play something like 8.Qc2? I think 8.d5 could work if I follow up well. } (8. Qc2) 8... e5 9. Qb3? { Played quickly and impatiently. This move allows black to close the center, allowing me to shut in my bishop. Would 9.c5 be the best try? } (9. c5) 9... c5 10. e4 (10. Bh3 { Maybe if I followed this move with e4, I could try to trade my bad bishop, but is that really worth it with the weakening of my light squares? }) 10... Nxe4 11. Nxe4 fxe4 12. Nd2 e3 13. Qxe3 Bg5 14. Qc3 Bxd2 15. Bxd2 Qf6 16. b4 { Doesn't seem like this really accomplished anything. Maybe 16.f4 straight away? } (16. f4) 16... b6 17. a4 Na6 18. bxc5?! { It seems to me that this really helped black with his central influence. 18.b5 seems more limiting, and then I could follow with a5. } (18. b5 Nc7 19. a5) 18... Nxc5 19. a5 Bf5 20. f4 exf4 21. Qxf6 Rxf6 22. Bc3 Rff8 23. Rxf4 Bd3 { The after-effects of not playing 9.c5 start to show more. } 24. Rxf8+ Rxf8 25. axb6 axb6 26. Ra7 Rf7 27. Ra8+ Rf8 28. Rxf8+ { In hindsight, I should have realized how bad this ending is for me and repeated rook moves. } (28. Ra7) 28... Kxf8 29. Bf1 Be4 30. Kf2 Bxd5 31. Bxg7+ Kxg7 32. cxd5 Kf6 33. Bc4 { Bishop in front of the pawn (on c6) is probably a more solid setup. } 33... Ke5 34. Ke3 Nd7 { Already having trouble defending my central pawn. } 35. g4 Nf6 36. g5 Ng4+ 37. Kf3 Kf5 38. Bd3+ Kxg5 39. Bxh7 Nxh2+ 40. Ke4 Ng4 41. Kd4 Kf4 42. Bd3 Ne5 43. Bb5 Nf3+ 44. Kc4 Ke5 45. Bc6 { Seems like I'm safe now. } 45... Nd4 46. Kb4 Ke4 47. Bb7 Nc2+ 48. Kb5 Ne3 49. Kc6 Nc4 50. Kb5 Kd4 51. Bc6 Ne3 52. Kxb6 Nxd5+ 53. Kb5 Nc3+ 54. Kb6 Kc4 { My opponent wants to stubbornly play out this drawn ending, so the rest of these moves aren't too important. } 55. Bh1 Kd4 56. Bg2 Ne4 57. Bf1 d5 58. Ba6 Ke5 59. Ka5 d4 60. Kb4 Nd2 61. Bd3 Kf4 62. Ba6 Ke3 63. Bb5 Nf3 64. Ba6 Kd2 65. Bb5 Ne1 66. Kb3 Nc2 67. Ba6 Ne3 68. Bb5 Ke1 69. Ba6 Kf2 70. Bb5 Kg3 71. Kb4 Kf4 72. Ba6 Ke5 73. Bd3 Kd5 74. Ba6 Nf5 75. Bb7+ Ke5 76. Ba6 Nd6 77. Bd3 Kd5 78. Ba6 Ke4 79. Kb3 Ke3 80. Kb4 Ne4 81. Bb5 Nd2 82. Ba6 Ne4 83. Bb5 d3 84. Bxd3 1/2-1/2
  • Edit: not sure what I'm doing wrong with the PGN viewer – Brandon O'Neil Jun 7 '18 at 23:57
  • 7
    It's been fixed now. Please consider writing your main questions also outside of the annotations for more clarity (e.g. as bullet points below the diagram). – Phonon Jun 8 '18 at 0:30
  • PGN viewer here is not very good. We can't see your annotation until I click on the moves. – SmallChess Jun 8 '18 at 7:19
  • You were lucky not to lose, especially after the abysmal bc Nxc5. What's good or interesting about d5? Just seems bad to me allowing an immediate e5. – TheMathemagician Jun 13 '18 at 16:32
3

If your rating is 1900, this game must have been quite disappointing. But it also seems to me that Black played well above 1600-level.

  • 7...c6 is a rare move, but not so bad that you should look for an immediate refutation. 8.Qc2, intending to open the center with e2-e4 (either fast or after b3-Bb2) is indeed very logical. If Black goes for d6-d5, he is one whole tempo down compared to the Stonewall with Be7 (which is already considered a bit passive for Black); then your plan could be Rb1,b4-b5, Bf4, Rfc1 with initiative on the Q-side. If Black refrains from d6-d5, you open the e-file with e2-e4, build pressure on e6 and fianchetto your dark squared bishop. Black only plan to finish development seems to be Na6-c7 and Bd7, but then he still have problems to solve: his queen has no great square and d6 is unprotected (can be targeted by Ba3, for instance).

  • I don't think 9.c5 would have acheved much more than what you got in the game. After 9...e4 the most plausible scenario is a complete swap of c- and d-pawns, after which your space advantage has vanished. 9.Qc2, 9.b3 or 9.e4 would be my main candidate moves here: you still have to complete development.

  • I don't believe in 10.Bh3. Sure, exchanging light-squared bishops is formally good, but it wastes time (Bg2 moves again and Bc8 has not used any tempo), weakens your king (because you've played g3, Black's eventual kingside attack with f5-f4 can be very dangerous even without a ...Bc8xh3 idea) and Black doesn't even have to allow it (he can also defend f5 with g6 and develop slowly, either with Na6-c7, Bd7 or Nh5-g7, Nd7-f6).

  • If I was Black, I would have given some thoughts to the pawn sac 10...f4 11.gf4 Nh5 12.fe5 Bg4, but White is clearly on top after 12.f5!

  • After 15 moves the position is almost equal, the bishop pair doesn't mean much with a closed center and you lack a knight to post on e4. 16.b4?! and 16.f4?! are both hurrying too much, you should slowly build some pressure with a3-b4-Rb1-Be3 with a slow, manoeuvering game.

  • Black should absolutely take 16...cb4 17.Qb4 Na6 and 18...Nc5, catching up in development and with the same excellent knight he got later. Similarly, after his erroneous 16..b6?, 17.bc5 is very tempting when he has to take back with a pawn. 17...dc5 would be good if the knight could reach d6, but it is just bad because you will target Pe5 and Pb6 (with a4-a5) long before. After the correct 17...bc5 18.Rb1, you have good chances of exploiting your lead in development, either with Qa5-c7 or f2-f4.

  • 17...cb4 18.Qb4 Na6 19.Qb2 Nc5 20.a5! is less clear than one move before, but it's still better for Black than what he did.

  • After 17...Na6? you should absolutely go for it with 18.b5! Nc7 (18...Nb4 is a not-totally-convincing pawn sac after 19.Qb3) 19.a5! Bd7 (or Rb8 20.ab6 ab6 21.Ra7) 20.Ra2, etc... Note how bad Black's Nc7 and Bd7 are compared to his Nc5 and Bf5 in the game. 18.bc5? is maybe your worst move in this game.

  • 20.f4 is the typical pseudo-active move we all play when we feel something has gone wrong. But here I've nothing much better to suggest, maybe doubling on the a-file was more stubborn ?

  • I feel like after 20...Bd3!? Black will end up picking Pc4, say after 21.fe5 Qe5 22.Rf8 Rf8 23.Qe5 de5 24.ab6 ab6. Then you will possibly save a draw thanks to his own weak pawns (much like in the game). But compared to the game, you each have gained a passed pawn in the process, which makes the game sharper. Moreover, 20...ef4 is probably very imprecise because...

  • ...Was 22.ab6! possible ? Looks like your passed pawn on the Q-side will turn the table.

  • The draw on move 28 would have been a fair result.

  • 30.Bd4 avoids Black's small combination and preserve your bishop pair. After 30.Kf2? you're in serious danger.

  • Was 36...Nxd5! possible ? With the extra pawn it looks like Black is winning.

  • The Bishop vs knight endgame with 2 vs 1 looks indeed drawn. You are a bit lucky at the end: in case of 41...Nf6 42.Bd3 Ne8 43.Bb5 Nc7 (attacking d5 and blocking b5 for the wK), you have just two squares to wait with the bishop, so that there is no zugzwang and your king can stay on d4: 44.Bc6 Kf4 45.Bb7 Kf5 46.Bc6, you never allow ...Ke5, draw.

(Comments without engine, since I believe that's what you are looking for. But there may be some tactical flaws in the lines above...)

  • 2
    Fantastic, thank you for the analysis. And yes, that is what I was looking for, analysis without an engine, perfect! :) – Brandon O'Neil Jun 8 '18 at 20:03
2

Any Dutch player (and any white player who is prepared to face the Dutch) will tell you that the position after white castles is the standard one and that the immediate aims for the two sides which define the course of the game over the next few moves are -

  • White: force through e4 (and prevent black from playing e5 or f4 advantageously)
  • Black: force through either e5 or f4 and prevent white's e4

If either side achieves their aims they have "won" the opening. They will have the initiative with good prospects for an attack. Of course, with good play on both sides this doesn't happen and the struggle for the upper hand goes on into the middlegame.

.7. ...c6 is very unusual / bad because it does nothing to prepare e5 for black and nothing to fight against white's e4. It also blocks Black Nc6 which can be played later in some variations, perhaps after 7... a5, creating an escape square on b4 for the knight.

.8. d5 shows a complete lack of understanding since it gives black e5 for free. After this the position is at best equal for white. Dutch aficionados will tell you that black is better. He has achieved his dream position out of the opening.

.8. Qd3 would have punished black because now the only way black can prevent 9. e4 is by 8. ...d5 which transposes to a bad Stonewall Dutch a move down and with the bishop misplaced on e7. All the dynamism has gone out of black's position. He has given up all hope of pushing e5, given away the e5 square to white's knight and has a dour prospectless middlegame ahead.

PS I hate the fact that I had to put some random character before 7, 8 and 8 in the last 3 paragraphs to stop the formatter turning them into an enumerated list. Bad enough in itself but it "corrected" the last "8" into a "9"! Let me choose when it is an enumerated list and when it is a list of moves.

  • @RemcoGerlich Thank you. Corrected. – Brian Towers Jun 11 '18 at 9:05

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