SmithyQ-Gringo, April 2017: An Opening Crush

My opponent in this game is Gringo, long-time blog reader.  He offered a challenge, I accepted and the result is what you see here.  I can’t play against everyone who comments, but I’ll do my best, and I promise to analyze each game.  Best to do it now, because once I become a GM I’ll be charging money for this.

I’m joking.  Maybe.

In this blog, I’ve said repeatedly that the opening doesn’t matter and you don’t need to study it.  That’s true… and yet I won this game in 17 moves because of my opening.  What gives?  Some openings work much better at amateur level than professional level.  Most gambits, for instance, and systems like the Alekhine or Pirc score significantly better by those under 2000 rating.

I think the inverse is also true.  That is, there are some openings that masters play and do well with that are nonetheless not suitable for amateurs.  Any opening that leads to a solid but passive position is inherently dangerous at lower levels.  That’s basically what happened here.  Gringo got a normal QGD position, but he doesn’t have the requisite skills to play it properly.  I don’t think I have those skills.  I think the QGD is a terrible opening, but anyway, let’s take a look.

[Event “SmithyDestroyer”]
[Site “Chess.com”]
[Date “2017.04.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “SmithyQ”]
[Black “Gringo012345”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “D61”]
[WhiteElo “2144”]
[BlackElo “1728”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “33”]
[EventDate “2017.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{My first game against a blog reader.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6
5. Bg5 {There are two main options here, either this, the natural developing
move, or e3, which leads to much calmer positions. Bg5 can lead to some of the
craziest positions in chess, and in some ways both sides are bluffing the
other. Will one side chicken out and opt into a more passive opening, or will
he or she take up the torch so to speak?} Be7 {My opponent does not play the
critical mainline, which is probably good for me, as I only know the bare
basics. This move is not bad, of course … but it kinda is. Let me explain in
a few moves.} ({The mainline of mainlines is} 5… dxc4 6. e4 b5 7. e5 h6 8.
Bh4 g5 9. Nxg5 hxg5 10. Bxg5 {White will win back his piece and we get an
almost comically silly position. There’s about 8,000 moves of theory here,
neither King is safe, every natural move is a mistake, tactics breed more
tactics and the player who has memorized the latest GM theory will do the best.
On a serious note, these positions are fascinating but I won’t pretend to
understand any of it.}) 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Qc2 O-O {Just look at Black’s position
for a second. He has one piece on one good square, his Nf6. His other Knight
is passive, both Bishops are passive, his Rooks have no open lines, he has no
targets to attack, nothing. True, Black has no weaknesses, but this has to be
the least fun position to play ever. I don’t get it. At the GM level, I can
understand playing a passive but solid position to always keep the draw in
hand, but at amateur level, this seems a recipe for disaster. This shows in
the game, where my opponent, not a bad player, nevertheless cannot handle the
position and loses literally ten moves from now.} 8. O-O-O {I also choose the
most aggressive variation. As a general rule, when I play 1.d4, I want to
attack, and when I play 1.e4, I want a more positional game. I know, that
seems backwards, but that’s how I roll.} dxc4 {Mistake number one, Black
breaks the tension, allowing my Bishop to develop to c4 in one move.} (8… a5
$5 {[%cal Ga5a4,Ga4a3] I think this is the best move for Black. The idea is to
play a4 and a3, opening lines. Now the Rook is in play. Black will later play
b5 or c5, opening move lines and try to attack on the Queenside. If nothing
else, it’s an active plan, which is infinitely better than a passive one.}) 9.
Bxc4 b5 {This is the standard break in the ‘normal’ variation, where White
castles on the Kingside, but I can’t help wondering if there’s something
better. That is, I’m not sure what the active follow-up is. If Black has no
active plan, his middlegame won’t be fun, whereas I just want to blow open the
Kingside.} 10. Bd3 g6 $2 {This is the big mistake in the game. Gringo said he
felt the pressure and wanted to neutralize it. g6 is a common move in the
Exchange QGD, but White doesn’t castle Queenside in the Exchange. I have a
very obvious plan of h4-h5 to come.} (10… Bb7 {First off, White has no
immediate breakthroughs, so there is no need to make immediate defensive moves.
Just develop, simple opening principles, and prepare Rc8. Play might continue.}
11. h4 Rc8 12. Kb1 {White really should get the King and Queen off the same
file. Black can try for the c5 break, either playing a6 first or b4, to
protect the pawn … or maybe even gambit the pawn and just play c5 and hope
for compensation. Again, active play is better than passive almost every time.}
) 11. h4 {Because of g6, this pawn attack now comes much swifter.} h5 {This
move loses tactically, because of course it does. Pawn moves near your own
King when you are under attack are almost always bad.} 12. Bh6 {This is a
great move, likely winning … but I had a better one.} (12. Bxg6 {This
sacrifice is obvious, but the follow-up is not. After five minutes of
calculation, I couldn’t get it to work definitely, whereas the mainline gets a
very easy advantage.} fxg6 13. Qxg6+ Kh8 14. Ne5 {The threat is Nf7+, of
course.} Qe8 (14… Nxe5 {I spent a little bit of time calculating this, but
opening the line for the Rook cannot be good.} 15. dxe5 Qe8 16. Bxf6+ Bxf6 17.
Qh6+ Kg8 18. exf6 $18 {[%cal Gh1h3,Gh3g3,Gh6g7,Gc3e4,Ge4g5] White has two
pawns and a devastating attack still. Black surely can’t survive this.}) 15.
Qh6+ Kg8 {I reached this position in my calculation, but I couldn’t see how to
continue. The computer says that only one move leads to a winning advantage,
and with everything else Black holds.} 16. Ng6 $1 {This is the move I missed.
Black can never play Rf7 or Qf7, normally key defensive moves, because of Qh8#.
Without those moves, Black is defenceless. He plays normal, non-forcing
attacking moves and wins easily. For example.} Bb7 17. Rh3 b4 18. Rg3 {The
Rook comes in, and though the g-file is blocked, it un-blocks very fast.} bxc3
19. Bxf6 Bxf6 20. Ne7+ Kf7 21. Qh7+ Bg7 22. Qxg7# {Black can delay this by
sacrificing loads of material, but the attack is unstoppable.}) 12… Kh7 {
As it is, my choice wins quickly as well, as Black immediately loses the
exchange.} (12… Re8 {This natural move loses to the same sacrifice, which is
now even stronger.} 13. Bxg6 Bf8 {The best try.} (13… fxg6 {is a trivial
mate.} 14. Qxg6+ Kh8 15. Qg7#) 14. Bxf7+ $1 Kxf7 15. Ne5+ {White has three
options, all of them bad.} Nxe5 (15… Ke7 16. Nxc6+ {is a royal fork.}) (15…
Kg8 16. Qg6+ Kh8 17. Nf7# {is a royal fork that doubles as a mate.}) 16. dxe5
Qe7 17. Bg5 $1 {White gets the whole piece, as well as Qh7+ coming. That’s gg.}
) 13. Bxf8 Nxf8 {Qxf8 was necessary. Without the Knight on d7, I can jump to
e5 without repurcussions, and the end is nigh.} 14. Ne5 {[%cal Ge5c6,Ge5f7]}
Kg7 15. Nxc6 {Around here Gringo noted that his position was completely busted.
We chatted for a few more moves.} Qc7 16. Nxe7 Qxe7 17. Bxb5 {Down an exchange
and two pawns, Gringo throws in the towel … though not before swearing
revenge. Sequel baiting!} 1-0

Conclusions

The fundamental mistake, I believe, was playing a passive opening system against a higher-rated opponent.  That’s basically it.  If Gringo plays the Benoni or the KID or the Budapest or basically anything that is active, he lasts more than 17 moves, guaranteed.

Specifically, my opponent let me attack him.  He had no counterplay.  Part of that was the opening he chose, but there were still active possibilities.  He could have marched the a-pawn, or he could have played Bb7, Rc8 and marched the c-pawn, or he could have pushed the b-pawn, chase my Knight and then prepare a b3-pawn sac.  There were possibilities there.

Once he made one defensive move, my attack picked up steam, and he never had a chance to get active after.  That’s why it is so important not make pure defensive moves unless absolutely necessary.

Thank you for the game, Gringo.  It was fun.  Hope you enjoyed it as well.

3 thoughts on “SmithyQ-Gringo, April 2017: An Opening Crush

  1. JP Post author

    I have 18 years experience in martial arts. Those dark alleys should be scared of me.

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