Game 2: Winning a Won Game

We’ve all heard it before, the old trope, “There’s nothing harder to win than a won game.”  We’ve all been there.  Our opponent blunders a pawn or a piece, we have an obviously winning advantage … and then we don’t.  Something happens.  We come under pressure, there’s a flurry of tactics and suddenly our easy game has vanished into dust.

I hate that feeling.  Absolutely hate it.  I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to win such ‘easily’ won games.  Here is another example.

In my head, I almost stop playing chess.  I don’t worry about imbalances, strategy, good or bad bishops, none of that.  Only two thoughts dominate: get ahead in development and trade pieces.  That’s it.  If I keep doing that, I’ll win the game.  It might take longer, but it’s infinitely better than losing.

[Event “2- Chess is for fun – Round 1”]
[Site “Chess.com”]
[Date “2015.03.27”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Shreyas_Reddy”]
[Black “SmithyQ”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B43”]
[WhiteElo “1331”]
[BlackElo “1481”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “54”]
[EventDate “2015.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{White drops a piece in the opening, and then I just guide it home with
accurate consolation.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6.
Bc4 $4 {Opps.} Qxc4 7. Qd3 {White does me a favour, freely swapping Queens.}
Qxd3 8. cxd3 {I’m up a clean piece. Now I just need to guide it home. On the
downside, I have literally no pieces developed, and White’s Knights could be
tricky. My first order of business is clear: neutralize the Knights and get
caught back up in development.} Nc6 9. Nxc6 dxc6 10. O-O e5 {An important move,
securing the centre and allowing my Bishop an open diagonal. If White can ever
advance his pawn to e5, then his Knight has a nice square on e4. This stops
that.} 11. Be3 Nf6 12. Rac1 Be6 13. Bb6 Nd7 {Correctly neutralizing my
opponent’s piece. Why allow it to stay there? I’m also preparing Bc5, wapping
another piece.} 14. Be3 Bc5 {Offering another exchange. With this, I’m
actually caught up in development. White has no threats.} ({The computer
prefered a different idea.} 14… O-O-O 15. Rfd1 b6 16. h3 Kb7 17. d4 exd4 18.
Bxd4 Bb4 19. a3 (19. Bxg7 $6 Rhg8 20. Bh6 Bxh3) 19… Be7 {is the computer’s
suggestion. My choice seems easier to play, though.}) 15. Na4 Bxe3 16. fxe3
Bxa2 {I’ve caught up in development, White has no threats, so I happily start
taking material again.} 17. Rc3 {That said, you must always remain alert.
White is now threatening b3 and Ra1, trapping my Bishop.} Be6 18. Nc5 Nxc5 19.
Rxc5 f6 {I’m happily exchanging pieces while remaining solid. White has
nothing to complicate matters with.} (19… Rd8 {This is a more accurate move,
recommended by the computer, though it’s similar to the game.} 20. Rd1 (20.
Rxe5 $6 Rxd3 21. Rf3 O-O 22. Rc5 Rfd8 {White’s pawns are terrible and easy
targets.}) 20… f6 {is similar to the main line.}) 20. d4 exd4 21. exd4 Rd8
22. e5 O-O 23. exf6 Rxf6 24. Rd1 {Up until now I’ve played virtually perfect.
Now with} Bd5 {my Bishop has a great square but it interfers with the Rd8. In
addition, I don’t notice how the d4-pawn is a big target here.} ({The correct
plan was to attack the d4-pawn, not just blockade it.} 24… Rf4 {The
attacking move.} 25. Re5 Bb3 26. Rd3 Rdxd4 27. Rxd4 (27. Rxb3 $4 Rd1+ {and
it’s mate next.}) 27… Rxd4) 25. Re1 Rdf8 ({The attacking move} 25… Rf4 {
is again the best idea.}) 26. Rc2 Re6 27. Rd1 $2 Bb3 {A fairly unremarkable
game, though it’s heartening to see my accuracy so high during the
simplification phase.} 0-1

This game was a textbook example of winning a won game.  After he dropped a piece, I didn’t give White a chance to come back.  I didn’t fall behind in development, I didn’t go looking for more pawns and I didn’t create any weaknesses.  Notice how after move 18 or so, it was very hard for me to blunder.  By that point, I had material advantage, no weaknesses and equal development.  Very hard to lose a game like that.

Not impossible to lose, but very hard.

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