Game 17: SmithyQ-Gavacho_Iberico: A Beginner Analysis

The game I’m about to share isn’t especially interesting.  My opponent made a silly mistake, losing a pawn, then a sillier mistake, losing a piece.  That’s about it.

Rather than trying to explain advanced strategy or positional nuances behind unforced blunders, I have instead annotated this game for beginners.  It has lots of commentary, few variations and a constant stream of what I’m thinking on most moves as well as my goals.  I hope it’s useful for you improving players.

So, without further adieu, let’s take a look.

[Event “Let’s Play!”]
[Site “”]
[Date “2015.05.02”]
[Round “?”]
[White “SmithyQ”]
[Black “gavacho_iberico”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “C68”]
[WhiteElo “1779”]
[BlackElo “1593”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “62”]
[EventDate “2015.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{A game where my opponent makes unforced errors, and I take advantage without
risk in the later stages.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 {This opening makes
perfect sense. White attacks Black’s pawn, Black defends it, and now White
attacks the defender of the pawn. I recommend this to beginners, because it’s
easy for Black to lose a pawn.} a6 ({In my 1400-1600 days, I won at least
three games with the following ‘trap’.} 3… d6 4. d4 a6 $2 {This move is
bizarrely popular at low levels, even though it loses a pawn rather clearly.}
5. Bxc6+ bxc6 6. dxe5 dxe5 7. Qxd8+ Kxd8 8. Nxe5 {[%cal Ge5f7,Ge5c6] and in
fact White will win even more material, as Black can’t defend both threats.})
4. Bxc6 {In this game, I decided to trade right away. I sometimes go through
periods where I want to work on my endgame play, and exchanging pieces helps
get there. It doesn’t happen in this game, though.} bxc6 {Already a curious
decision from my opponent. Normally, given a choice, we want to capture
towards the center, so this move makes sense. At the same time, the goal of
the opening is to develop the pieces as fast as possible, so the other capture
makes more sense.} (4… dxc6 {[%cal Gc8g4,Gd8d4] We can see how capturing
with the d-pawn instead opens lines for both the Queen and Bishop, letting
Black develop much faster.}) 5. O-O ({Many beginners think that White can win
a pawn here, but Black has a powerful counter-attack.} 5. Nxe5 Qg5 {[%cal
Gg5e5,Gg5g2] Hits both the Knight and the g2-pawn.} 6. Nf3 (6. Ng4 {is another
option, trying to use the Knight to block the Queen, but it doesn’t work.} d5 {
[%cal Gc8g4,Gd5e4] and there is another double-attack.}) 6… Qxg2 {Black has
equal material and the two Bishops, so he is perfectly fine.}) 5… d6 {
This is a good move, because now that I’m castled and the g2-pawn protected, I
really am threatening to win the pawn.} 6. d4 {[%cal Gd4e5,Gf3e5] As a general
rule, if you have castled and can play this move, do it. It’s almost never a
mistake in the opening, and here it threatens Black’s pawn.} Bg4 $2 {Black now
makes the second most common mistake in this opening, trying to pin this
Knight without first developing his other pieces. We’ll see why in a second.}
7. dxe5 $1 Bxf3 {Black must make this exchange now, or he will lose a pawn in
a similar way to a variation quoted above.} ({If Black plays the automatic
recapture} 7… dxe5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nxe5 {[%cal Ge5c6,Ge5f7,Ge5g4] White has
won a pawn and threatens to win even more next move.}) 8. Qxf3 dxe5 {[%csl Rc6,
Rc7,Re8] Black has managed to keep even material, but his position is much
worse. He has no pieces developed. His pawns, especially the doubled c-pawns,
are weak. His King is also still in the centre while mine has already castled.
Black is in deep trouble.} 9. Rd1 {I develop my Rook and make him move his
Queen.} Qf6 {Black wants to trade Queens, because then it won’t matter that
his King is in the centre. I, of course, want to keep Queens. The best idea is
to move the Queen while threatening something in Black’s position. Here, the
best target are the weak c-pawns.} 10. Qc3 c5 {Black tries to defend it.} 11.
Be3 {But now my Bishop develops and attacks it again.} Bd6 12. Bxc5 Rd8 {
I’ve win a pawn and now need to decide what to do next. Notice that it took a
few moves to actually win the pawn, and now Black has caught up in development:
we both have three pieces in play. I thus need to keep my development
advantage and get my Knight into the game. I could put it on d2, but then it
blocks my Rook, so let’s put it on the other square.} 13. Na3 Ne7 14. Bxd6 {
I make this exchange now because Black either needs to get another weakness or
lose another pawn.} cxd6 {[%csl Rd6][%cal Gd1d6,Ga1d1,Ga3c4,Gc4d6] Black
recapture with the pawn, but it’s a backwards pawn on an open file. All my
pieces can easily attack it.} ({If he tried to recapture with the Rook} 14…
Rxd6 15. Qxc7 {then instead of having a weak pawn he just loses one.}) 15. Rd3
{[%cal Ga1d1] I start my strategy of attacking the weak pawn. The other Rook
will slide over, and then all my pieces will be developed and doing an active
task.} O-O {By contrast, none of Black’s pieces are very active. Rather, they
have to defend his weaknesses.} 16. Rad1 Nc6 $4 {Black now suffers from chess
blindness, as he doesn’t see that I can take the Knight for free. In fairness,
when he first played this move, I thought for nearly three minutes before
realizing the Knight was hanging, so we both nearly overlooked the same
blunder!} 17. Qxc6 Rb8 {[%cal Gb8b2] I am up a piece, but as the saying goes,
there is nothing harder to win than a won game. My goal now should be to a)
exchange pieces, and b) stop any threats and eliminate counterplay. If I can
win more material, great, but my focus should be the above two. Black is
attackng my b-pawn, so I need to defend that.} 18. Rxd6 {First, I take the
pawn with my Rook, attacking his Queen. He has to move it, and then I’ll
defend my pawn.} (18. Qxd6 {Taking with the Queen seems like a good idea,
trying to exchange Queens just like I said above. The problem is that:} Qxd6
19. Rxd6 Rxb2 20. Rxa6 Rxa2 {and we’re exchanging PAWNS now. When up a piece,
we never want to exchange pawns. We want to WIN them. If all the pawns
disappear, then White is only left with a Knight, and that’s not enough to win.
Remember, trade PIECES, not PAWNS, when up material.}) 18… Qg5 19. Nc4 {
I now protect the b-pawn with my Knight, while also attacking his e-pawn and
improving the position of my worst piece. Excellent move.} ({Again} 19. Qxa6
Rxb2 {would be the wrong idea, trading pawns. There’s no rush to take the
a6-pawn. I will defend all my weaknesses, eliminate counterplay, and only then
take it.}) 19… Rbc8 20. Qd5 {Yes, I could have won the a6-pawn again, but
winning material isn’t my main goal. It’s to STOP his threats and EXCHANGE
pieces. Qd5 keeps complete control over the d-file, it threatens the e5-pawn
and it keeps everything protected. Because I’m up a piece, I’m in no rush.} Qg4
{Black may threaten my e-pawn if my Queen moves, and he may have some
back-rank checks if my Rook leaves the back rank. That’s why I do one more
defensive move.} 21. f3 {[%cal Gf3e4,Gg1f2] My e-pawn is now protected forever
and my King has an escape square from checks.} Qf4 22. Rxa6 {Now Black has no
threats, so I take the time to win the pawn. Isn’t it better to win pawns
rather than trade them? I now have three connected passed pawns.} h6 23. c3 {
[%cal Gc8c2] I want to move my Knight, so I play c3, so as to protect the pawn
behind it.} Rfd8 24. Qxd8+ {Many beginners would rather have the Queen over
two Rooks, but most of the time two Rooks are better than the Queen. You see,
if the two Rooks attack something, the Queen can’t defend, and if the Queen
attacks something, only one Rook needs to defend it while the other can do
anything. That’s why two are better than one.} Rxd8 25. Rxd8+ Kh7 26. Rd1 {
I bring my Rook all the way back because I don’t want to give him a single
check. Right now, he doesn’t even have one. That said, this move might have
been a little too scared. Even if he did check me, I didn’t need to worry.} ({
For example, I could have brought my Rook foward, attacking his pawn, and if
he tried to check me, then} 26. Ra7 Qc1+ 27. Kf2 Qc2+ 28. Rd2 {Everything is
fully protected and his Queen has to go somewhere funny like b1. Do you see
how all my pieces defend each other? The Queen has nothing to attack.} Qb1 29.
a4 {and there’s no way to stop my pawn from just marching up the board.}) 26…
f5 {I need to be careful, because even though I’m winning, my opponent still
has tricks. Again, I don’t need to win pawns and I don’t need to exchange
pawns. I just need to exchange pieces (pretty much all done) and stop his
counterplay.} 27. Re1 (27. exf5 $2 Qxc4 {and things are a whole lot less easy.}
) 27… fxe4 28. Rxe4 {Yes, Black did manage to exchange pawns, but now his
e-pawn is terminally weak. See? I’m attacking it with two pieces, and the
Queen alone cannot defend it.} Qc1+ 29. Kf2 Qc2+ 30. Re2 {I’m keeping
everything fully protected. The Queen can run around and check, but it’s
really helpless.} Qd3 {[%cal Gd3a6] Again, playing for tricks. If I rush to
take the e-pawn with Nxe4, then suddenly I lose my Rook. I break the pin while
also defending my Knight, and there’s nothing Black can do.} 31. Ra4 Kg6 {
Black resigned before I could play the next move. He probably saw his mistake
just moments after making his move. We all know that feeling. A nice, clean
win.} (31… Kg6 32. Nxe5+) 1-0


This game had two distinct parts, before and after the blunder if you will.  Before Black lost his Knight, I was constantly talking about weaknesses, specifically the weak pawns.  I zeroed in on the weak c-pawns, and then the weak d-pawn.  This is how I think: I look for weaknesses and I figure out ways to attack them.

After I won the Knight, my thinking changed.  I no longer needed to attack weaknesses because I was already up so much material.  Instead, I focused on exchanging pieces and stopping counterplay.  By doing that, I was able to win safely, with no risk at all.  Also, notice how I didn’t trade pawns.  I resisted as much as I could, and that made the victory again much easier.  I have seen many lower-rated players play great middlegames only to unnecessarily trade pawns and make things so much harder for themselves.

Attack weaknesses.  Stop counterplay.  Trade pieces, not pawns.  Those were the ingredients of my victory.

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