Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Self-Analysis Of A Middlegame

This game was played not so recently against a player of the same strength as I.

This post is going to be long so please bear with me. I'm essentially writing down the thoughts and ideas behind this game and I will stop only at what I feel were critical junctures in the game. I'm sure there are plenty of mistakes galore and both my opponent and I missed stronger continuations suggested by chess engines.

The game started out as a Scandinavian Defense and it didn't take long to go out of book.

My lack of opening knowledge was very telling. I was basically wasting precious tempi and there was a lot of shuffling to and fro in the beginning.

We now arrived at the 1st critical juncture of the position.

20... c5 (see 1st diagram on left)

I sank into a deep thought for this.

What are the plusses for White?

White's twin rooks occupies strong central positions and there is immense pressure (or going to be) on the d and e-files. Black's weak square here is e5 (green square in 2nd diagram on left).

What are White's minuses?

The problem is that Knight on a5. In 2 moves, it can jump from a5-c6-d4 (see red arrows) pretty much gumming up the works and solidifying the position.

So my plan is stop this Knight. This is Black's plan and why Black played c5.

21. Ne5

This move accomplished 3 aims.
- Opening up the a8-h1 diagonal for my bishop
- preventing Knight going to c6
- attacks Black's bishop.

21. .... Bc8
22. Re3 Bb7
23. Bxb7 Nxb7 (See 3rd diagram of the left).

Now the 2 Knights are at least 3 moves away from going to the outpost on d4. So my next course of action is simple. I plan to
open up the d-file for my Rook by pushing the d-pawn. Before I can do that, I need to solidify my position and over-protect the square d4.

The other main reason I did this is because I have a Queenside pawn majority and I feel that with a pawn majority, it is important to use it to my advantage while Black is currently regrouping.

24. Ne2 Nd7
25. Nf3 Nf6

26. d4 cxd4
27. Rxd4 Qc5
28. b4 Qc8
29. Red3 Rxd4
30. Rxd4 Rd8 (see 4th diagram on left)

Now we reach another juncture. I've got 3 moves here.

31. Rxd8+
31. Qc3
31. Qd3

I looked at the continuation 31. Rxd8+ Qxd8. After this move, I can't find a reasonable continuation to improve my position. What's worse, I've handed the open d-file to my opponent for nothing. I toss this one out.

31. Qc3 looks ok. The Queen is still protected but I feel that White is being too passive here and needs to go for the throat.

31. Qd3. I liked this move a lot. I maintain a strong control on the open d-file. My c-pawn cannot be taken because it's mate after 31. Qd3 Qxc4 32. Rxd8+.

If Black exchanges Rooks, my Queen is still in a dominant position. I also have attacks on the b6 pawn and can move my Knight to e5.

31. Qd3 h6
32. Ne5 Rxd4

33. Qxd4 Qc7
(see 5th diagram on left)

The battlefield has cleared somewhat but it's still a tense struggle. I have a Queenside pawn majority and I intend to use it. Now how I can improve my position better?

Black's Knight is threatening Nd6-f5 to chase away my Queen. So that gives me 2 tempi to do something before that happens.

Since I intend to push the c-pawn now to break Black's position, I plan to move my e2 Knight to a better position via f4 and d3.

34. Nf4 Nd6
35. Nfd3 Nf5 ( See 6th diagram on left)

Okay. Time to move my Queen. I looked at Qc3 and I wasn't happy because it created unnecessary pressure after Ne4 in which my Queen has to move again. But now I see something.

36. Qb2! Accomplishing 2 aims. I plan to attack down the b-file which is going to be open pretty soon.

36.... Qd6
37. c5 bxc5
38. bxc5 Qd5

We have now reached the last critical juncture of the game. Please see the last diagram on the left.

After this, it was pretty much downhill for Black as the c-passed pawn was creating havoc in Black's position. Here I played the automatic move:

39. c6 (adhering to the maxim: passed pawns must be pushed)

But there is a much stronger move here and one I should have taken my time to calculate (but I was nearing time control) and chose the easy albeit more cumbersome continuation. Can you see the move I missed? I'll leave it to you as a tactical exercise.

Answer can be found by highlighting between the brackets

[The stronger continuation is
39. Qb8+ Kh7
40. Nxf7!! Ng8 (notice how the Knight on d3 cannot be taken by the Queen?)
41. Qd8 (the c-pawn now wins the day) ]


  1. this is real chess beauty in moves and text and diagram alike. thank you! a lovely, perfectly done post! warmest, dk

  2. as always dk, you're far too kind with your compliments. thanks! :)