OpaDragon-SmithyQ, April 2017: How I Think When Attacking

Let me start by saying this: I was in a bad mood, chess-wise, during this game, and so I was going to attack his King no matter what.  Today, we get to see an attacking game.  Is this the best strategy?  No, but sometimes you need to play chess for fun as well as improvement.

The game itself is surprisingly sound, all things considered.  The attack isn’t unfounded, and I still improve my position in my normal positional way.  What’s important in this game, I feel, is how I thought on each move.  That is, once the attack started, I was analyzing potential threats and sacrifices every move, several ply deep.  I didn’t stop until I found what worked, and then I dove it.

This analysis, then, will share exactly how I think during an attack.  It’s short and sweet, so let’s have a look.

[Event “2- Chess is for fun – Round 5”]
[Site “Chess.com”]
[Date “2017.03.18”]
[Round “?”]
[White “opadragon”]
[Black “SmithyQ”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B20”]
[WhiteElo “1714”]
[BlackElo “2139”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “47”]
[EventDate “2017.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{I felt like attacking from move one, and I play as aggressively as possible.}
1. e4 c5 2. Bc4 {This move, again! I was hoping for a regular Open Sicilian
and a chance to attack, but now we’re heading for something different.} ({
Since my earliest chess days, when I feel bloodlust, I’ve played the following
variation of Open Sicilian:} 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3 b5 6. Bd3
Bc5 7. Nb3 Bb6 8. O-O h5 {[%cal Gc8b7,Gg8f6,Gf6g4,Gd8h4,Rg4f2,Rg4h2,Rh4h2,
Rb6f2,Rh8h1,Rb7h1,Rh4f2] As the glut of arrows show, my plan is to bring all
my pieces to attack the White King. Bb7, Nf6 to g4 and hten Qh4. I plan to
sacrifice something to open the h-file for the Rook, and if not, I can always
play Rh6-g6 and attack that way. Of course, this can’t be the best way to play,
and I’ve only ever had mixed results with this line (not to mention how many
ways White can avoid it). I don’t think I would have played this line had
White let me, but it certainly was in the back of my mind.}) 2… e6 3. e5 Nc6
4. Nf3 {Amazingly, I’ve reached this exact bizarre position in 2015. Here’s a
LINK. I won that one pretty convincingly as well, which suggests how poor
White’s position is.} d6 5. O-O {White just castles, which may be the best
idea.} (5. exd6 Bxd6 {This is not the type of position White wants. He has
less central control, no lead in development and no target to attack. The
opening has been a complete failure. Interestingly, a very similar position
occurs in the game.}) 5… Nxe5 (5… dxe5 {Taking with the pawn is probably a
fine move, but I didn’t like this possibility.} 6. Bb5 {White will either win
back his pawn with a roughly normal position, more or less, or take on c6 and
give me the worst pawn structure imaginable … or both. By taking on e5 with
the Knight first, I get rid of this possibility.}) 6. Nxe5 dxe5 7. Re1 {
I now need to decide how to protect the extra pawn. Hanging onto the pawn
would be ideal, but I couldn’t see a way to do it and still get a good
position. That is, I would have to contort into a knot. Is a doubled pawn
worth that? Not really, and besides, I want to attack!} Nf6 {That’s why I
calmly continue development. I let White waste time regaining his material,
and already attacking ideas are swirling through my brain.} (7… Bd6 {This
may be the most natural move, but} 8. Qg4 {seems to force a concession. I
don’t want to play any of Kf8 or g6, and Qf6 runs into Nc3-e4}) (7… Qc7 {
or any other Queen move runs into} 8. Bb5+ Bd7 9. Bxd7+ {where I need to
displace my King if I want to keep the pawn. A King in the centre, that’s not
worth a pawn.}) (7… f6 {[%cal Gf2f4,Gc4e6,Ge1e6] This might keep the pawn,
but Black’s play isn’t clear. There are lots of weaknesses now and no obvious
plan, or even squares for pieces. How will I attack? I’d rather be White. One
future possibility is f4, aiming to open lines against the now weak e6-pawn.})
8. Rxe5 Bd6 9. Re1 {White has regained his pawn, but it cost three tempi (Re1,
Rxe5 and then Re1 again). I can castle and then launch a pretty devastating
Queenside expansion with a6, b5, Bb7 and Nd5/e4. That’s great and all,
probably best play … but I want his King.} h5 $5 {[%cal Gf6g4,Gd8h4,Gc8d7,
Gd7c6] This move may not be best, but it’s not unfounded. White currently has
no defenders around his King, and the rest of his army is sleeping. I can
bring reinforcements in very quickly. If White doesn’t play perfectly, a
single mistake could end the game instantly. Simple castling may be best, but
it doesn’t give White a chance to blunder, to crack under pressure. This plan
does.} 10. d3 {[%csl Rd3][%cal Gc4e2] This move is necessary, but notice how
it stops White’s Bishop from coming back to defend. Another small plus for my
attack.} Ng4 {I jump in right away. I have to, as otherwise White will play
Bg5, pin my Knight and make h5 look silly.} 11. g3 {White has two options,
either this or h3. g3 blunts the Bishop, but it increases the power of an h4
advance. Perhaps more critically, it weakens the light-squares, and White’s
Bishop can’t come back to cover them. Starting now, I’m calculating possible
sacrifices every move.} (11. h3 {This was prolly the better idea, though it
doesn’t really chase the Knight away and it doesn’t blunt my powerful Bishop.}
Qh4 $1 {and my pieces are becoming scary.} 12. Qe2 ({Taking the Knight is not
recommended, as it brings my Rook in as well.} 12. hxg4 hxg4 {And now the
computer says that only one move prevents complete disaster.} 13. Kf1 {Even
here Black has a great, dangerous attack with full compensation. At the very
least he can win a pawn back with} Qh1+ 14. Ke2 Qxg2 {[%cal Gg2f3,Gg4g3,Gh8h2]
and there are still more threats in the air.})) 11… Bd7 ({The thematic
sacrifice is} 11… Nxh2 12. Kxh2 Qh4+ {[%csl Yg3][%cal Yd6h2] Taking
advantage of the pin.} (12… h4 {This is another possibility, again using the
pin.} 13. Kg2 {Time and time again, as I check through the variations, this is
the defensive move that stops my attacking ideas. It side-steps the pin, gets
away from the Rook on the h-file and allows White’s Rook to slide over in
defence if necessary.} hxg3 14. fxg3 {[%csl Gg5][%cal Ge1h1,Gd1f3,Rc1g5,Gd8g5]
And though White’s King is wide open, there is no follow-up. I’d love to put
my Queen on g5, but I can’t find a way to distract the c1-Bishop.}) 13. Kg2 {
After this, though, there is no follow-up. If I could put my Bishop magically
on c6, though, then I’d be in busy. That’s why I played Bd7 first.}) 12. Nc3
Bc6 (12… Nxh2 13. Kxh2 Qh4+ (13… h4 {This is more promising, but it barely
doesn’t work.} 14. Kg2 Bc6+ 15. Ne4 f5 {I need to do this instantly, as White
has both f3 and Rh1 coming, completely stopping the attack.} 16. Bxe6 $1 fxe4
17. dxe4 {[%csl Ge4] The pawn is strong and blunts the Bishop.} hxg3 18. fxg3 {
The position is messy, but nothing is decisive, and White’s Be6 is strong both
in offence and defence. More fundamentally, it’s hard to get my Queen into the
attack because my Bishop is hanging, and if I move my Bishop then White trades
Queen. This variation doesn’t quite work.}) 14. Kg2 Bc6+ 15. Ne4 {[%cal Rg3h4]
And now the main problem is I need to waste time protecting my Queen.} Qe7 16.
f3 {And White holds.}) 13. Bd5 $2 {Better was Bb5, pinning the Bishop. This
looks quite nice, taking advantage of the pin and my leaving the King in the
centre, but it fails tactically.} Qc7 $6 {It’s funny, because I have
accurately calculated all the above, and now I miss a pretty elementary tactic.
} (13… Bxd5 14. Nxd5 Bxg3 $1 15. hxg3 Qxd5 {A pretty simple discovery. I was
too focused on keeping my Bishop to consider exchanging it.}) 14. Bf3 {[%cal
Gf1c4,Gc4d5,Gd5f3] One mistake often leads to another. This move makes sense:
White recognizes that he has light-square weaknesses, so he wants to keep his
light-square Bishop. He also knows that my Knight is a dangerous attacking
piece, so he wants to drive it away. It looks like I have to, as otherwise I
lose a pawn. Unfortunately, White has spent three tempi to get this Bishop
here, and trading it would cost another one. I can use that time to leverage
an attack.} (14. Bxc6+ Qxc6 15. Ne4 {This is a much defence. It may seem odd,
but because Black doesn’t have a light-square Bishop either, it’s harder to
take advantage of those weak squares. After Qe2 and f3, Black doesn’t have
anything on the light-squares.}) 14… O-O-O $1 {I don’t care about a pawn! I
want to attack! If White tries to win the pawn, he’s trading the only defender
near his King, and opening lines while he does so. Tactics are sure to follow.}
({Of course, I also checked to see if the immediate sacrifice works.} 14…
Nxh2 15. Kxh2 h4 16. Kg2 hxg3 17. fxg3 Bxg3 18. Bxc6+ $1 bxc6 {I have to take
with the pawn or the Bishop is lost.} 19. Rh1 {[%cal Gc3e4,Gh1h8] White
challenges the h-file and Ne4 is coming. White’s King is vulnerable, but it’s
hard to coordinate Black’s remaining forces, and a Rook is still sitting
unloved on a8. Better to castle, when this sacrifice may be stronger.}) 15. h4
{The losing move. Again, though, White had the right idea. He knew I was
trying to sacrifice on h2, and he knew that a h5-h4 advance was part of my
attack, so he tries to stop both. Pawn moves around your King are rarely a
good idea when being attacked, and this is no exception. Tactics time: what is
Black’s winning idea?} (15. Bxg4 hxg4 16. Qxg4 {Now, I may have talked all
high and mighty about not caring about a pawn, and in principle I didn’t, but
I STILL needed to think of a move in this position. If I have nothing, then
White will play Bf4, Ne4 and hold. If I can’t find a move, then the pawn
sacrifice is incorrect.} Rxh2 $1 $19 {Fortunately, I have this, which
absolutely destroys White’s position. For example} 17. Kxh2 Rh8+ 18. Kg1 Rh1# {
The only way to avoid this is by sacrificing a boat-load of material. White is
lost.}) 15… Bxg3 $1 $19 {This destroys White’s pawn cover, and I have four
pieces crashing through right after. Nxf2 might also work, but my move is
natural, strong and devastating, and I saw no reason to calculate anything
else.} 16. Bxg4 {To his credit, White finds the best defence over the next few
moves. Eliminate the dangerous Knight.} (16. fxg3 Qxg3+ $19 {and it’s mate
next move.}) 16… hxg4 17. Ne4 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Ge4f2,Ge4g3,Rc6h1] The Knight
is an excellent defender here, both protecting f2 and g3 while also blocking
the long diagonal. That said, it’s not stable, and an f5 advance would kick it
away. First, though, I need to protect my Bishop.} ({The Bishop is still
arsconic.} 17. fxg3 Qxg3+ 18. Kf1 Qg2#) 17… Bxh4 {[%cal Gh8h1,Gf7f5] This
simple move wins a pawn (woo!), but more importantly it fully opens the h-file
for the Rook and prepares the killer f5 thrust.} (17… Bxf2+ {This sacrifice
was also possible.} 18. Nxf2 Qg3+ 19. Kf1 Bg2+ 20. Ke2 Bf3+ {winning
everything.}) 18. Qxg4 {Again, the best defence, though it costs a piece, so
‘best’ is relative.} f5 19. Qg6 fxe4 20. dxe4 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Gd8f8,Rf8f2,
Rh4f2,Rh8h1,Rc7h2,Gc6e4] White’s pawn now blunts my Bishop. I don’t worry,
though, because I have the easiest plan in the world: Rf8-Rf6-Qf7 and power
down the open files.} Rdf8 21. Re2 Rf6 {Chasing the Queen away, and allowing a
doubling on the f-file.} 22. Qg4 Qf7 {With the dual threat of both taking on
f2 and also sliding over and pinning the Queen.} 23. Be3 {White stops one
threat but overlooks the other.} Rg6 24. Qxg6 {and he resigns before I could
re-capture … which, in a funny way, means White is up material in the final
position. Huh.} 0-1

Conclusion

Most of my games have more of a positional analysis to them, just because I generally play more positional games and I tend to think about such factors.  This analysis is quite different, and I hope it shows my thought-process during more tactical situations.

It also shows I know how to attack.  I said I was an aggressive player back in my youth, though I’ve rarely shown any examples of that.  This should prove I can be Alekhine just as much as I can be Karpov.

However, notice how I managed my attack.  I didn’t just play f4 and marched pawns all over the place.  I first got rid of White’s defender, and then, when attacking moves didn’t work, I improved my position.  In fact, most of my attack was first improving my position, and only then did a tactical shot open up.  That’s the proper way: position over aggression.

One thought on “OpaDragon-SmithyQ, April 2017: How I Think When Attacking

  1. Gringo

    This one felt like my game but with white pieces. This h4 move when king’s under attack usually ends up badly. It’s like a pattern. My QGD h5 lead to the same destruction. A sinking feeling is permeating my thoughts. I don’t think I can beat you in chess. You’re thinking about tempi and attack and a lot of stuff. My mind is relatively uncluttered, or empty.

    In all cases by the time a person is forced to push pawns to defend something horribly has already gone wrong. You also don’t try to protect the extra pawn, while I find it tough to let go. This is a new way of looking at the board instead of one pawn. To just use that as an opportunity to gain tempi and develop at the same time. ACTIVITY wins.

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