A Common Opening Error

The game below features a really common line in net chess. Black is doing well right off the bat but he risks being worse if he does not use his favorable imbalances (bishop pair and better central control). On the black side, and that’s the only side you should play, watch out for early missteps by white that expose his uncoordinated material. I missed one here that would have wrapped the game up earlier than I did.

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Bxf7+ Kxf7 6. Nxe4 d5 7. Neg5+
Kg8 8. Nh3 {? Doesn’t look terrible as it anticipates h6. It actually loses.
The tactics are brutal! The finish is hard to see but what about the motif
black must use?} Be7 (8… Bg4 {This wins a piece after a crazy forced
sequence. This line comes up a lot in net chess so it’s worth remembering.} 9.
d3 e4 10. dxe4 dxe4 11. Qxd8 Rxd8 12. Nd2 Nd4 13. O-O Ne2+ 14. Kh1 Nxc1) 9. d3
Bg4 {Late to the party} 10. Qd2 Qd7 11. Qe3 Bxf3 (11… Nb4 12. Qxe5 Nxc2+ 13.
Kd1 Nxa1 {It looks like black has the problems but so much of chess is about
balancing offense and defense. One cannot count on winning material without
defending. A capable player will make you pay for your material advantage.})
12. Qxf3 Rf8 13. Qg3 Rf6 14. Bg5 Rg6 15. Qe3 Bxg5 16. Nxg5 h6 {Qg4 is better,
to set up the battery} 17. Nf3 Rxg2 18. Nxe5 Nxe5 19. Qxe5 Kh7 {If black isn’t
careful he could be in for a long game.} 20. O-O-O Re8 21. Qd4 Re2 22. Rd2 Rxd2
23. Kxd2 b6 24. c4 Qf5 25. Rf1 dxc4 26. dxc4 Rxh2 27. Kc1 Rg2 28. Qe3 {
Jockeying for position. White should look for ways to keep pieces on the board.
The best defense is to keep both heavy pieces on the board.} Qg5 29. f4 Qg6 30.
Qc3 Qf6 31. Qd3+ g6 {This moves looks premature. What good is weakening the
king when the pawns aren’t advancing any further? This also necessitates
covering the h7 – b1 diagonal with a piece.} 32. Qd7+ Qg7 33. Qb5 Qd4 34. Rd1
Qxf4+ 35. Kb1 Qe4+ 36. Ka1 Rd2 37. Rf1 Qe6 38. Qb4 Rd7 39. Re1 c5 40. Qc3 Qf7
41. a3 Rd4 42. Qh3 Rxc4 43. Rh1 Qg7 44. Qd3 Rd4 {I’m not making any progress.
Do I play against the king by weakening white’s queenside pawns?} 45. Qc2 Qe5
46. Qc1 Qf4 47. Qe1 Qe4 48. Qc1 Qf4 49. Qe1 Qf7 50. Qe3 Qg7 51. Kb1 g5 52. Rf1
Qg6+ 53. Ka1 Qg7 54. Qe6 Rf4 55. Rd1 Rf6 56. Qe4+ Rg6 57. Rd6 Qf7 58. Qd3 h5 {
Of all times to play this…I totally forget about the pin on my queen. It’s
playable but not pretty.} 59. Rd7 Qxd7 60. Qxd7+ Rg7 61. Qf5+ Kh8 {It’s just
passive. There’ll never be an opportunity to move the pawns to their
destination. The king can approach while black remains in virtual zugzwang.}
62. Kb1 h4 63. Kc2 Kg8 64. Kd3 g4 65. Qd5+ Kf8 (65… Kh7 66. Qh5+ Kg8 67. Qxh4
g3 68. Qc4+ Kh8 {A very interesting try! I dismissed the line after seeing
that it dropped material. Always calculate to the end!}) 66. Qf5+ Kg8 67. Qc8+
Kh7 68. Qf5+ Kh6 69. Qf6+ Kh7 70. Qxh4+ Kg8 71. Qg3 Kh7 72. Ke4 Kg8 73. Kf5
Rf7+ 74. Ke6 Rg7 75. Qb8+ Kh7 76. Kf6 Rg6+ 77. Kf5 Rg7 78. Qg3 {It seems easy
to draw this with passive defense although the computer thinks this is not so.
Watching an engine match involving this ending would be quite illuminating,
and is worthy of a future write-up.} Rf7+ 79. Ke5 Re7+ 80. Kf6 Rg7 81. Qh4+ Kg8
82. Qh6 Rf7+ 83. Kg6 Rb7 84. Qh4 Rg7+ 85. Kf6 Rf7+ 86. Ke6 Rg7 {With time on
my side I need to be careful of perpetual check. My opponent has mere seconds
remaining.} 87. Qd8+ Kh7 88. Qf8 g3 89. Kf6 Rg6+ 90. Kf5 g2 91. Qf7+ Rg7 92.
Qh5+ Kg8 93. Qe8+ 0-1


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