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Player: United  KeSetoKaibaChessHere Moderator Subject: It’s A Trap! Why You Should Calculate A Lot

2020-03-14 19:30:01
It’s A Trap! Why You Should Calculate A Lot

This was an OTB (over-the-board) game I played back in 2018. At the time, I was rated around 1600 and my opponent here was rated around 1800. Now that I am rated around 1800 myself, it is interesting to look back at how far my chess has come; I suspect this is the case with all dedicated chess players. Not always will the rating change dramatically, but you will find places where you improved if you look for it. Improvement can take many forms in chess. For some it is rating points. For some it is a change in perspective, or opening repertoire. However, for all: it should be about learning. Chess has a massive amount of information to learn and absorb; like with anything else: putting in the quality work and time will yield fruits of improvement, so keep at it!

I found this game to be instructional back when I played it and I still find it instructional today. Naturally, I find different elements that appeal to me now, but these are minor details on the journey of an upcoming chess player. The key is that we are always learning and trying to improve. By no means would I consider this an “immortal game.” It does have a nice finish though and it features some key lessons along the way. The “lesson” I would like to emphasize here is that calculation is a big part of chess and a chess player should always be aware of potentially dangerous plans. These are plans you come up with and it also includes plans you anticipate from your opponent. Great chess players know that more often than not: being able to detect these plans from both sides can be the difference between winning and losing.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Obviously, most players know the Queen’s Gambit – at least by name. If 3…Nf6 is played here, we then have the standard Queen’s Gambit Declined that offers positional play where White is usually trying to squeeze a slight advantage and not much more.

Bb4 4. a3 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 In this Black minor book line: they have doubled White’s pawns, but this line seems to have a better reputation for White. Black gives up the Bishop Pair without too much compensation.

Ne7?! This Knight move looks a bit dubious for a few reasons. The most obvious reason is because it appears too passive; Black may be better with 5…Nf6 transposing into the Sämisch Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense. Perhaps my opponent also wanted to avoid placing the Knight of f6 for fear that I knew a lot of opening theory for this move and simply wanted to avoid the Bishop pin from the g5 square. To be fair though, the Nimzo-Indian Defense Sämisch Variation looks better for White with this move order because many of the sharp lines have been avoided. The second reason this Knight move is a bit dubious looking is because White’s center isn’t put under a lot of pressure here. Rather than placing the Knight passively on e7, the 5…c5 move looks like a fighting way for Black to try and get some counterplay going.

6. e3 It is worth noting that White is playing this move to develop the light-squared Bishop and not solely to protect the c4 pawn. If Black were to grab c4 a move earlier (when the White Bishop isn’t defending the c4 pawn) with 5…dxc4?!, then White would be happy to let them take it. A sample line may look something like this: 5…dxc4?! 6. e3 b5 7. a4 c6 8. axb5 cxb5 9. Qf3!? To eye the Black Rook in the corner just like a well-known trap in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Unlike in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted trap, Black can defend with 9…Qd5 here. However, Black is on the defense and White has initiative and adequate compensation for the temporary material deficit. 10. Qg3 and now Black’s attacked g7 pawn is a problem.

Nbc6 Most of this game (for both sides) is played pretty logically with focus on development. As a result, many of the moves are somewhat predictable.

7. Nf3 b6 8. cxd5 Nxd5?! The pawn capture alternative was stronger, but I missed the chance to take advantage of this. In the game, I played 9. Qb3?! But this misses a chance to exploit the d5 Knight and take total command of the center. Correct was 9. e4! when the c3 pawn is poisonous because 9…Nxc3? is answered with 10. Qc2 and White will win the c3 Knight or the c6 Knight due to the x-ray tactic. Alternatively, 9. Bd3! Nxc3? Qc2 succeeds for the same motif.

9. Qb3?! Na5 Now Black has the opportunity to harass the White Queen. I found this somewhat annoying (as White) - still though, how much is the Knight on the rim doing? Is it worth the tempo to move if it will take another move to get your piece back into play? Perhaps Black could invest in 9…Bb7 instead of the game move, but then again this would allow 10. e4 to take the initiative. Lots of post-game analysis and in-game calculation is asking these “what if?” questions and going through alternative lines.

10. Qc2 O-O 11. Bd3 h6 Bishop to d3 develops with time as leaving Black's pawn on h6 just loses a pawn to Bxh6+. Then ...Kh8 and White's Bishop just retreats.

12. O-O Bb7 13. c4 Nf6 14. Ne5 Qd6 As noted earlier, this game had both sides developing pieces swiftly. Black’s primary goals were piece development and attacking the center; White’s goals were primarily piece development and defending the center. Many openings fight for the center this way, but it is important to note that this isn’t the only way to play chess effectively. Many openings play what is coined “hypermodern” theory. This type of opening is characterized by one side (usually Black) allowing the opponent to build a center, so that they may have a target to attack by undermining the central stronghold. Probably the opening I think of most when I hear “hypermodern” is the theory-heavy Grunfeld Defense. The aggressive King’s Indian Defense and Dutch Defense also follows the same motif in many lines because White usually gets the central control and Black thematically goes for the …f5 pawn break to undermine the center. Naturally, these hypermodern openings are always sharp and risky – but it is an interesting way to approach chess in contrast to the “control the center [early in the opening especially]” opening principle that chess beginners are taught to follow.

15. f3 15. Bb2 is perhaps slightly better as it reinforces d4; additionally, a pawn advance gives this Bishop a nice diagonal (a1-h8 diagonal). However, 15.f3 has its logic too; it cuts down on the scope of Black's Bishop and prepares e4 to take even more of the center.

Nc6 I pondered for creative ways to keep my centralized e5 Knight, but found nothing other than the exchange. However, during this time I calculated a bit deeper and my line actually happened! After I exchanged Knights, I played every move instantly! As a side note, I think that 15…c5 might offer Black better prospects than the game move. Black could thematically attempt to undermine the White pawn center, but I still believe that White is slightly better after 16. Bb2.

16. Nxc6 Qxc6 17. e4 This move looks like it innocently grabs the center and cuts down on the Queen & Bishop battery, but there is more than meets the eye.

Rad8? This natural looking move is wrong. It misses the shot 18. e5!

18. e5! The Knight has no good squares after 18.e5! but the computer likes the move 18…Ng4 best; it fights tactically with threats like ...Qd7 attacking d4, or in some lines the Dark Knight jumps to e3. White needs to play accurately, but is still better. Important to state that if 19. fxg4 Qxg2+ there is no mate due to the White Queen on c2, but the position is still delicate if Black just plays one of the ideas mentioned above instead.

Nd7?? Looks normal to retreat the attacked Knight, but this is the worst option. As mentioned, ...Ng4 was the best fighting try - while...Nh5 loses Black's Bishop to White's 19. Be4, or maybe ...Qd7 and 20. Be3 wins for White with positional fashion, instead of grabbing the en prise b7 Bishop.

19. Be4!! Again this was played instantly as I calculated these lines earlier. Black’s Queen is elegantly trapped. After about a 30-second glance, my opponent tipped their King and resigned.

I was keeping composure after this game, on the outside - but on the inside I was fist pumping in classic excitement from the adrenaline rush of winning against an opponent circa 200 rating points stronger than me. The way that Black's Queen is simply lost - has a bit of a romantic flare that I usually do not experience in my games; some of my friends play chess romantically with traps and gambits, but I am usually in positionally slow struggles - yet I love it. I'll take many dry positions and slowly progress any day; just slowly transform one advantage into another and convert the endgame is a typical day for me - so I don't usually get a game like this (to be fair though, the game was still pretty slow and positional).

The 18. e5 idea looks odd from a pawn structure standpoint, so I can understand how e5 was not considered (although it should have) by my opponent. I think this game just serves as another testament to the fact that chess is an unforgiving game. As a result, the lesson here is to calculate a lot: the game you save could be your own game.
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2United  abbyknotChessHere Moderator2020-03-21 17:20:34
Very nice and professional.
Thanks Kevin.

3Ukraine  maxlankaster2020-06-02 19:24:06
Great article. Thank you, Kevin!