[White "Li, Ethan"]
[Black "Nikitin, Mike"]
[Opening "French: advance variation"]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 b6
4. f4 g6?!
To seriously improve, I recommend before each move asking yourself, "Does the move I'm about to make.."
a. [ ] Lose material immediately (i.e. am I leaving anything hanging)? <Here, no.>
b. [ ] Weaken squares, particularly around my king? <Here, yes! f6 and h6>
d. [ ] Threaten my opponent's king? <Here, definitely not>
e. [ ] Improve my control of squares in my camp? <Nope.>
f. [ ] Improve my control of squares in my opponent's camp? <Nope.>
g. [ ] Stop my opponent's threat? <Not really... see below.>
So, let's recap: 4. .. g6 doesn't lose material, but it also carries no threat and it weakens squares.
5. Nf3 Be7 6. Be3 Bb7?! (See note to move 3. What is this bishop doing?) 7. Bd3 Nd7
8. Nbd2 Rc8
9. Rc1?! (Inaccurate. White's play is on the kingside, and trading rooks along the c-file does not further that plan. After 9. .. c5 10. c3 cxd4 11. cxd4 black has no penetration points on the c-file, and black can really see why Nd7 and b6 were not so good. If b6 was played with the intention of recapturing on c5 with a pawn after dxc5 at some point, then the move was illogical because white won't (shouldn't) do that.
9. .. Nh6
- Moving one piece multiple times in the opening = bad
- Moving one piece multiple times in the opening to capture a bad piece = very bad
Author's Note: IMHO -- It is this ability, to be able to discern the instantaneous relative value of each piece and pawn, that separates masters from amateurs. (e.g. when and why is a knight better than a bishop?)
10. Qe2 (Here 10. h3 has a point: it keeps the knight from g4 and it threatens g4 and f5 at some point. Unless black retreats before then, the Nh6 will be hanging. If 10. .. Nf5 then 11. Bf2 and 12. g4 next. 10. c3 is an alternative.) a5?!
13. .. Nxe3 14. Qxe3 c4?!
15. Bb1 b5
OK, so the fight is transferred to the b-file with b5-b4 on tap. The problem is that beyond that, black doesn't have any meaningful way to invade. If white just allows 16. .. b4 with 17. axb4 axb4, he'll just ignore any further invasive moves and mate black on the f-file. Black has no targets. Houdini rates this position as just about equal, but I'd bet that most masters would say white is much better long-term. In fact, white has the aggressive 16. g4! here with the thematic idea to crack open the f-file.
16. b3? (This is a bad positional move that actually gives black chances! Don't open lines where your opponent has space. White's mistake will ensure that black can create a useful target on the queenside. At the very least, white will have to fight a two-front war whereas before he could have localized the fight to the kingside where he was superior.) Nb6 17. Bc2 Ba6
18. Rfd1?! (This is not where this rook needs to be. White is not following the demands of the position by pursuing black on the kingside.) Rc7?! (Just 18. .. 0-0 or 18. .. b4 were better.) 19. a3? (This is an outright mistake that looks tactically cute, but just pitches a pawn.) Bxa3 (20. cxb3 first was better since it avoids the coming complications.) 20. Ra1 b4 21. Nb1 Qe7?
21. .. cxb3! was the best move. This works because now if 22. Bxb3 any and 23. Nxa3, black has Rxc3 forking the Bb3 and Qe3. The queen move tosses most of black's windfall advantage.
22. Nxa3 bxa3 23. b4 (Another inaccurate move. You can see why White should have opened the kingside...he could be hunting black's king by now instead of parrying threats to pawns.) axb4 24. cxb4 Bb5? (Perfectly good was 24. c3! defending the a-pawn tactically by opening the c4 square for the Nb6.)
25. Rxa3 O-O
26. Ng5 Ra7
Black misses the hidden danger of having an enemy knight so close to his seemingly safe king. White could have turned the tables here with 27. Rxa7 Qxa7 28. f5!!. Black cannot allow the pawn to reach f6 and put him in a mating net, that leaves:
29. .. f6? 30. e7 fxg5 31. exf8=Q+ Kxf8 32. Qe5 and white is threatening a winning king hunt or picking off the black queen with Qh8+.
Taking the pawn is asking for trouble:
29. .. fxe6 30. Qxe6+ Kh8 31. Re1! is strong. If instead 30. .. Kg7, then 31. Qd6! and white invades. If black tries to stay active, he comes to grief. 31. .. Re8 is met by 32. Ne6+ Kf7 33. Nc7 and white has some work to do, but he's up a piece.
So, best apparently is:
29. .. Qe7 30. Nxf7 (30. exf7+ Rxf7! and white comes up empty handed) Be8 (White is threatening 31. Bxf5!, so black must act fast to eliminate that entrenched knight.) 31. Bxf5! (Anyway! The piece is immune because of 32. Qg3+ and mate in 2.) Bxf7 32. exf7+ Rxf7 33. Be6 Kg7 34. Qe5+ Rf6 35. Re1 c3! and black can just hold a draw.
27. Qc3 (Bad since it misses black's next possibility.) Rfa8 (After the simple 28. .. Rxa3! 30. Qxa3 Ra8 31. Qc3 Ra2 and white is getting paralyzed and the b-pawn will drop.
28. Rda1 Qd7 29. Ra5 Qc6 (Ooof! Here, black should have recalled the first item on my checklist) 1-0
- Ask yourself what the purpose is of each move in terms of what it does to improve your position.
- Don't make unnecessary, weakening pawn moves.
- Don't make bad piece trades. Especially at the expense of your development.
- Work with direct, simple threats. Aim to keep your opponent defending and moving backward.