Giving up the Initiative: A Sucker’s Bet

There are two competing schools of thought when dealing with winning positions. The first says “reduce, reduce, reduce” and the other says that the material disparity is just one imbalance among many. I subscribe to the second approach. The game today is a cautionary tale about the dangers of overvaluing material advantage.

This is a Game 30. My opponent is rated 1500 and I am 1600. I have the black pieces.

1. e4 e5 2. f4 Bc5 3. Nf3 d6 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. d3 O-O {Nc6 is a bit better. The
game will transpose, but castling first means white has 6. fxe dxe 7. Nxe5?!
It’s not very testing for black but it’s more theory to learn.}

6. f5 {I couldn’t find the f5 push in my database so we’re in new territory. Actually,
this is a common move among amateur players. The e-pawn isn’t under much
pressure now so breaking in the center will be easier.} …c6 {It is a developing
move of sorts. I plan on putting my knight on d7, bishop on b7 and queen on c7.
Black should have no problems then.}

7. a4 {This ignores development. White doesn’t need to play prophylaxis here.} Nbd7 8. c3 {This is pretty thematic. If white wants to castle short he’ll need to control d4. He’s a step slow here because of the f-pawn push.} Nb6 {This necessitates a5 for black. I could’ve
opted for b6 instead and saved a tempo.}

9. Ba2 a5 10. d4 {I’m ahead in development and white can’t break when that’s the case. His e-pawn is loose too.} exd4 11. cxd4 Bb4+ 12. Nc3 Nxe4 13. O-O {So black has won the won opening in every respect. How would you continue here?

What is black’s best plan?

This is the game’s critical position. How do you estimate white’s counterplay
if you grab the second pawn after exchanging? More importantly, how would you
make such an assessment? Do you have a bias? It’s clear here that I
must fight harder against my own materialism in the future.}

13…Bxc3 14. bxc3 Nxc3 {Look at white’s remaining pieces! They’re roaring to life. There’s not a worthwhile defender of black king’s side. Black has provided white easy counter chances.}

15. Qd3 Nxa2 16. Rxa2 Nd5 17. Raf2 Qb6 {It’s not clear what the queen’s doing here.
It almost pins the d-pawn, but white doesn’t care about that! He wants an
attack. I would’ve moved it before too long but every move must be constructive.}

18. f6 {This is crafty. Black will need some accuracy.} Nxf6 19. Ng5 h6 20. Rxf6 hxg5 21. Rxd6 {White has better pieces and has almost resolved the material imbalance.} Be6 22. Bxg5 {?! There’s no need for this yet. It allows black a helpful exchange.} Qb4 {!}

23. Be7 Rfe8 24. Rxe6 Rxe7 25. Rxe7 Qxe7 {This is no cakewalk. Black can’t
really lose but converting the extra pawn won’t be easy against perfect play.}

26. d5 Qc5+ 27. Kh1 Qxd5 {This helps black of course.} 28. Qe3 Rd8 29. h3 c5
30. Qe7 Rf8 31. Rb1 c4 32. Rxb7 Qd1+ 33. Kh2 Qxa4 34. Qe4 Rc8 35. Qe7 Qe8 36.
Qa3 Qe5+ 37. Kh1 c3 38. Qa2 Qf5 {Maintain the initiative whenever possible.
You can’t predefine a value for it but mobilizing your opponent’s army gives
full compensation for a pawn. This much I’ve learned.} 0-1





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