SmithyQ-DrawmeJoe, March 2017: A Mess From Start to Finish

If you’ve seen any of my chess games before, you’ll know I tend to favour fairly calm, logical positions.  I’m much more of a Karpov than a Kasparov, if you will.  Sometimes, though, logic goes out the window.  Sometimes you just have a mess and have to deal with it the best you can.

That’s what happened here.  We had a weird opening, where I won a pawn but got into a messy position.  This then lead to a weird middlegame, where both Kings were displaced and major weaknesses were everything.  Things then settled down in the endgame, but even here there was a mess that needed cleaning up.

It took me over a week to analyze this game.  Due to its messy nature, both my opponent and I made many mistakes, and it took a long, computer-assisted look to determine best play.  Those mistakes also make the game longer and, honestly, perhaps somewhat bloated, but there’s a lot to learn.  Let’s take a look.

[Event “Let’s Play!”]
[Site “”]
[Date “2017.01.10”]
[Round “?”]
[White “SmithyQ”]
[Black “drawmejoe”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A18”]
[WhiteElo “2176”]
[BlackElo “1971”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “99”]
[EventDate “2017.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{Simply put, a very messy game.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 Nc6 {Things start off strange
already on move 2, where Black plays this little-known line. It’s called the
Mexican defence, and all I really know is that 3.d5 is exactly what Black
wants and give White nothing, so I play normal development.} 3. Nc3 e6 4. e4 {
The most natural move, and definitely not a mistake, but if I ever play this
position again I think I’ll go for something different.} (4. a3 {The idea is
simple: it stops Bb4, so Black’s only plan is d5, which is a very passive QGD
type structure. Neither Black Bishop has a good square, Black has no real plan
and White has an easy edge.}) 4… d5 {A natural move, but I think Bb4 is
better.} (4… Bb4 5. e5 Ne4 6. Qc2 f5 {This is a fun, imbalanced position,
and the better player will win. This is also why I think 4.a3 is nice, as it
prevents this possibility.}) 5. e5 Nd7 $6 {I don’t understand this at all. Why
play d5, forcing e5 … only to retreat to a passive square? I thought it was
a straight blunder, but it turns out it has some poison behind it.} 6. cxd5
exd5 7. Nxd5 {I assumed I had just won a pawn, easy, and the game soon, but
it’s actually far from the truth. Let this game also serve that losing a pawn
in the opeing doesn’t mean you’ve lost automatically.} ({For the record} 7. Nf3
{is the best move, simply developing and aiming to take advantage of Black’s
cramped state.}) 7… Ne7 $2 ({Black had the amazing, counter-intuitive} 7…
Ndb8 $1 {No wonder neither of us saw this. An unforced, retreating,
anti-development move … that nonetheless attacks both d5 and d4 with the
Queen, and White can’t keep his extra pawn.} 8. Nc3 (8. Bc4 {This attempt to
keep the Knight rooted just leads to trouble after} Be6) 8… Qxd4 9. Nf3 Qxd1+
10. Kxd1 $15 {Black is slightly better, as the e5-pawn is more weakness than
strength.}) 8. Nc3 {Rather than exchange Knights, I simply retreat my Knight.
Black has a terrible position, and it’s going to take several moves to get his
Bishops into the game.} g6 9. Bg5 {This seemed the most natural move to me, so
much so that I didn’t even consider anything else. After playing through the
game, though, I think this is an inaccuracy and White should try something
different.} ({First} 9. Bc4 {deserves attention. It controls the centre, looks
at f7 and prepares fast castling. I didn’t like it because of} Nb6 10. Bb3 c6 {
, where Black is ready to jump to d5 with a Knight, but White has the
e4-square for his Knight, hitting the weaknesses on d6 and f6.}) ({Second, the
violent} 9. h4 {looks very good. Just push pawns and punish Black’s lack of
development and space. The computer really likes this move.}) 9… h6 10. Bh4 {
Be3 was perhaps better.} g5 11. Bg3 Nf5 {I suddenly realized here that the
position wasn’t so clear. I had assumed that h6 and g5 would weaken Black’s
position, and it does, but he also has annoying pressure against d4. If d4
falls or gets exchanged, say by a c5 from Black, then e5 is very weak. Normal
moves seem to lead to trouble. I thought very long here.} 12. Bb5 $6 {This is
not the strongest move, and I knew it, but it seemed very safe. I’m up a pawn,
so I figured if I could keep it, I always had the better chances.} (12. Qd3 Nb6
13. d5 {This was the best continuation, and I saw it, but it also seemed risky.
White’s pawns can easily become weak, and White’s King is far from castling. I
thought Black had counterplay here, though the computer isn’t impressed.}) (12.
Nf3 {This was the move I wanted to play, but I didn’t know what to do if} g4
13. Nd2 Nxd4 {It looks like I’ve just lost my pawn, and so I stopped
calculating. Turns out that White has a powerful resource.} 14. Nde4 $1 c5 15.
Bc4 Be7 16. e6 $1 $16 {and White has huge pressure, his pieces are active,
Black is in trouble and, though the material is equal, the computer says White
has a +2 advantage.}) 12… c6 13. Ba4 Bb4 $6 {Black missed a chance.} ({
I was much more worried about} 13… Nb6 14. Nge2 Nxa4 15. Qxa4 {Where Black
has two Bishops and an excellent square on d5 for a piece. I’m still up a pawn,
though, so I should be okay, but Black’s position is better than it was three
moves ago.}) 14. Nge2 f6 $6 15. exf6 {I rushed. This is the obvious move, but
it doesn’t take advantage of the early f-pawn push.} (15. Bc2 {Attacking the
Knight.} Nxg3 (15… Nb6 {[%cal Gc8f5] Trying to indirectly defend the Knight
also leads to a bad position.} 16. O-O Be6 17. exf6 Qxf6 (17… Nxg3 18. fxg3 {
The intermezzo doesn’t work, as the Rook now defends the f-pawn.}) 18. Be5 {
and Black loses material.}) 16. Bg6+ Kf8 17. Nxg3 $16 {[%csl Gf5,Gh5] and
Black has horrible light-square weaknesses to go along with his vulernable
King.}) 15… Nxg3 16. f7+ {This seemed like a good idea, as it stops Black
from castling, but it actually just helps Black get his Rook into the game, as
we’ll see on move 18.} (16. Nxg3 {was simple and strong, getting ready to
castle and threatening Qh5+.}) 16… Kxf7 17. Nxg3 Bxc3+ {Played to stop Qb3+
ideas, forking the Bishop.} 18. bxc3 Re8+ {We can see here the downside of my
f7+, as Black gets this check in.} 19. Kf1 {I was happy to play this, because
it seemd I would get good attacking chances. If Black doesn’t play Nf6, then
Qh5+ would be devastating, and I always have h4 on hand, ready to get my Rook
active that way. All the same, look to the confusion in my thought process. I
originally wanted to play safe and solid, and yet now I’m playing for
attacking chances, and soon I switch back.} Nf6 20. Bb3+ {Not a bad move, but
not necessary.} ({The straight h4 was best.} 20. h4 g4 21. Qd2 $1 {Threatening
h6 and provoking a weakness or a King move.} (21. Bc2 Be6 22. Qd2 Kg7 {leads
to the same thing.}) 21… Kg7 22. Bc2 Be6 23. Qd3 {[%cal Gd3g6] White is
going to invade with his Queen and have several threats.}) 20… Be6 21. h4 Qa5
{I didn’t consider this at all. Trying to counter-attack is the right idea,
but it seems to optimistic.} (21… g4 {was what I considered best, and I
would have continued with} 22. h5 {[%csl Gg6,Rh6][%cal Gh1h4,Gh4g4,Gd1d3,Gd3g6]
I have several ideas here, including invading on g6, attacking g4 and ganging
up against the weak and blockaded h6-pawn. Black’s uncomfortable, but he’s not
losing yet.}) 22. hxg5 Qxg5 23. Qc1 $5 {I now decide, whoa, that’s been way
too much complications and craziness, let’s just go into an endgame.} ({
I could have kept playing for activity, which looks very strong.} 23. Qf3 Bxb3
(23… Qd2 $4 {Fun fact, I didn’t play Qf3 because I couldn’t see what to do
against Qd2 …} 24. Ne4 {… and this one move completely wins the game. I
missed that the Knight was pinned.}) 24. axb3 Kg8 {Breaking the pin.} 25. Nf5 {
Attacking the h-pawn.} h5 26. Ng3 {Attacking it again and winning it.}) 23…
Qxc1+ 24. Rxc1 Bxb3 25. axb3 {I’m pretty happy now. I’ve got a simple endgame,
I’m up a pawn and Black has a weak h-pawn.} Kg6 26. Re1 {The computer doesn’t
like this move, but none of it’s alternatives look much better. This shows, I
think, that the endgame isn’t winning for White, but simply that’s it’s better.
That seems fair, because a single pawn often isn’t enough to win a Rook
endgame.} Rxe1+ 27. Kxe1 Re8+ {This is the wrong idea. In Rook endgames, it’s
all about activity. Find a plan, open lines, attack pawns.} (27… a5 $1 28.
Kd2 a4 29. bxa4 Rxa4 {[%cal Ga4a2] Black threatens Ra2+, hitting the seventh
rank and picking up pawns. If White is forced to keep his King on e3 to
protect f2, then he’ll never make progress. Also, a general drawning plan is
to trade pawns, and if Black trade all the Queenside pawns, then it would be
very hard to win as white.}) 28. Kd2 Ne4+ $6 {Again, the wrong idea. Trades
pawns, not pieces. If all the pieces get traded, then I win trivially.} 29.
Nxe4 Rxe4 30. Re1 {I offer the exchange of the final piece.} Rg4 {and Black is
forced to make a concession. White now controls the open file.} 31. g3 {
A normal move, defending the pawn, but I had a more active choice as well.} (
31. Re8 Kf7 (31… Rxg2 $2 {The pawn is poison.} 32. Rg8+ Kf5 33. Rxg2 $18) 32.
Rb8 Rxg2 33. Rxb7+ Ke6 34. Ke3 {Yes, some pawns got exchanged, but Black is
left with three very weak pawns, and they will almost certainly drop soon.})
31… Kf6 32. Kd3 (32. Re5 {This would have been a fantastic move, putting my
Rook square in the middle of the board, keeping Black’s King stuck in a corner.
My King can then effortlessly move towards the Queenside, and Black is
helpless.}) 32… Rg5 33. Re3 {I start playing very slow now, which is fine
but not super accurate. My idea is to play f4 and then Re5. As the above
variation shows, Re5 is the ideal position for my Rook. I need to protect g3
before I play f4, though, hence Re3.} Rb5 34. b4 Rh5 35. Ke4 {Slowly pushing
my King into the game. Again, I’m in no rush.} (35. Re8 {was again a possible
move, getting the Rook deep.}) 35… a5 36. bxa5 Rxa5 37. f4 {I’ve got f4 in.
Now I just need to re-manuever my King and get Re5.} Rf5 {Another poor move,
as it allows g4 with tempo. Besides, what does the Rook do here? I often say
endgames are my weakest area, and they are, but I still win many endgames
because my opponents are worse.} 38. g4 Ra5 39. c4 {I now have a new idea,
play c5 and completely anchor Black’s pawns down. If I can force Black to
defend b7, then the game is basically over.} ({The computer suggets a more
accurate way to reach the same general position.} 39. Rh3 Kg6 40. f5+ Kg7 41.
c4 {My pawns are more advanced, Black is more passive and his h6-pawn is a
permanent weakness.}) 39… Ra4 40. c5 {Stage 1 of plan complete. Now to
attack b7.} Ra1 41. Rb3 Re1+ {The correct choice, trying to harass my King
with checks and then, when my King moves one way, to attack the opposite side.}
(41… Ra7 {would be a terrible idea. Again, in Rook endgames, it’s all about
Rook activity. Here, Black is actually in zugzwang.} 42. Rb1 {Now whatever
Black does he loses material.} Ke6 (42… Ra2 43. Rxb7) (42… Kg6 43. Ke5 Kf7
44. f5 Ke7 45. f6+ Kf7 46. Kf5 {and the pawn soon Queens.}) 43. Rh1) 42. Kf3 {
Where should I move my King? The best idea is to move it to the Queenside …
and I start by going to the Kingside. It doesn’t really matter, as I get there
in the end.} Rf1+ 43. Ke3 Re1+ 44. Kd3 Rd1+ ({Black had another idea, which
may have been better, but accurate play still gives White the win.} 44… h5
45. gxh5 Re7 {[%csl Re1,Re2,Re3,Re4,Re5,Re6] Defending b7, and the Rook keeps
my King from crossing the e-file. Black will win at least one of the Kingside
pawns back.} 46. Rb2 Kf5 47. h6 Rh7 48. Kc4 {Black needs to use time to win
the pawns back, though, which give White the time needed to secure a winning
position.} Kxf4 49. d5 cxd5+ 50. Kxd5 Kf5 51. Rf2+ Kg5 52. Rg2+ Kf6 53. Rg7 {
The Rook finally manuevers to g7. Trading Rooks would be suicide, as White
easily Queens.} Rxh6 54. Rxb7 Rh2 55. c6 {and White has a winning endgame. He
just needs to get his King to c7 or c8 and he’ll have Lucena’s position, and
Black cannot prevent it.}) 45. Kc3 Rc1+ 46. Kd2 {I spent all this time just to
get my King to d2. Why? The winning idea is to get connected passed pawns. I
want to trade my g- and f-pawns for Black’s b- and c-pawns, which will secure
a win. I needed to prevent Black from counter-attacking the d-pawn, which is
why the d2 square is the best one.} Rf1 47. Rxb7 Rxf4 48. Rd7 {The whole point,
getting my Rook to d6 and picking up the pawn, getting the all-important
connected passed pawns.} Rxg4 49. Rd6+ Kf5 50. Kd3 {I protect my pawn … and
my opponent resigns. To see why, take a look at the two variations I list
below. Before I go, I hope it’s clear that I didn’t win this game because my
opponent ‘blundered’ a pawn in the opening. For one, he could have won it back
immediately. Two, if you check with the computer, my advantaged ranged from 1.
1 to 2.2 to 0.5 the entire time. It was a roller-coaster, constantly going up
and down, and even in the endgame White was one inaccurate move away from
merely drawing. Winning the pawn early definitely helped, but I didn’t win
this on move 4.} (50. Kd3 Rg6 {If Black tries to defend his pawn, White wins
as follows.} 51. Rxg6 Kxg6 52. d5 $1 {The pawn breakthrough!} cxd5 (52… Kf5 {
if Black doesn’t take it, then White gets an overpowering protected passed
pawn.} 53. d6 Ke6 54. Ke4 $18 {[%csl Gh6][%cal Ge4f4,Gf4g4,Gg4h5,Gh5h6] White
will slowly go, eat Black’s pawn and then Queen his own. Black must stay near
the d-pawn or he it will Queen, and he can never attack White’s pawn because
of the same threat.} Kf6 55. Kf4 Kg6 ({For completeness sake, how White wins.}
55… Ke6 56. Kg4 Kf6 (56… Kd5 {Black can’t attack the pawn.} 57. d7 Kxc5 58.
d8=Q) 57. Kh5 Ke6 58. Kxh6 Kf6 59. Kh5 Kf7 60. Kg5 Ke6 61. Kg6 Kd7 62. Kg7 Ke8
63. Kf6 Kf8 64. Ke5 Ke8 65. Ke6 Kd8 66. d7 Kc7 67. Ke7 {and Queens next move.})
56. d7 Kf7 57. d8=Q) 53. c6 Kf5 54. c7 {and White Queens.}) (50. Kd3 h5 {
If Black tries to push his own pawn, White wins as follows.} 51. Rxc6 h4 52.
Rh6 Rg3+ 53. Kc4 h3 54. Rh8 {Black cannot push his pawn without losing it, and
it’s impossible to stop White’s connected passers.} Ke6 55. d5+ Ke5 56. Rh5+
Ke4 57. c6 {and White will either Queen trivially or Black has to sacrifice
his pawn to get his Rook into a defensive position, after which Whtie still
Queens trivially.}) 1-0


It’s hard to draw any definitive chess conclusions based on such a whacky game.  If I must, I would say two things.  First, it took me 20 moves, but I did manage to turn the game into something more logical.  I was able to get my preferred type of position.  Second, endgames are the great equalizer.  When I traded Queens, the computer thought the position +0.6.  Within ten moves I had grown that to over +1.3.  It wasn’t that I was a great endgame player, but rather my opponent played it worse.  That’s incredibly common in amateur play.

This will also be my last ‘modern’ game analysis for awhile.  Rather than playing, I will be spending the next few months actively studying chess again.  I’ll then emerge in the summer and hopefully take my game to the next level.  In the meantime, I’ll still be analyzing my old games, but expect my blog to slow down a touch.

2 thoughts on “SmithyQ-DrawmeJoe, March 2017: A Mess From Start to Finish

  1. CitronJeune

    Hey SmithyQ !

    I was wondering if you played anywhere else than on, do you play OTB games or on Lichess ?

    I’m really happy that you said you were going to study a lot the upcoming weeks but how do you train the new things you learn if you don’t play ? Do you just wait until you worked on practice and then you start back trying to apply what you have learn ?

    Thanks again for these precious articles,
    Bye and good luck !


  2. Gringo

    Hi Pierre,

    From what I understand about the studying, as I am going through the GMPU course, it takes quite a bit of focused effort to complete one course. The a course may have multiple scenarios that re-enforce the lessons taught in the course dealing with critical moments.

    Smithy is shifting his free time from playing a chess game to properly internalizing the course by going through the assigned tasks. The final rating increases of the past since he started doing this with other courses is the proof of the effectiveness of following this studying plan. Once he has internalized the course he’ll likely return back to playing chess to get the rust off and guage where he stands.


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