10 July 2007

Parallel Opening Theory

One of the reasons to maintain this blog is to force me to spend some time analyzing chess positions. Solving tactical puzzles, reading books & magazines, and playing all have their place, but it's pulling positions apart and seeing their components that teaches me the most about chess. The position in the diagram is a game from WCCC29SF14.

The opening moves were 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.f4 Qa5 5.Bd3 e5 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Be3 Nbd7 8.O-O Be7 9.h3 Bh5 10.Qe1 Bxf3 11.Rxf3 O-O. After Black's fourth move the game was already in a variation that I had never seen before. I used my usual trick in an unfamiliar opening; I followed theory until I found an improvement. In this game, theory ended at the diagrammed position.

Rudbeck, Juergen

Weeks, Mark
(After 11...O-O)
[FEN "r4rk1/pp1nbppp/2pp1n2/q3p3/3PPP2/2NBBR1P/PPP3P1/R3Q1K1 w - - 0 12"]

The game continued 12.a3 a6. I spent a long time studying the position after Black's 12th move. I looked at everything, but wasn't able to come up with a good plan. Black's position is hard to crack. The natural continuation looks like a Kingside Pawn storm and I finally played 13.Kh2. My reasoning was to get the King out the way in order to clear the g-file for a Rook and prevent any checks on the a7-g1 diagonal. I had the feeling that despite the time used, I hadn't really understood the position as well as I should. This feeling occurs frequently when I play higher rated opponents. It's one of the arrows in their quiver.

The continuation was 13...Qc7 14.Rd1 Rad8 15.Rf1 c5. At one point I found an interesting piece sacrifice that gave me winning chances in an endgame. After further study, I determined that Black had a path to draw and that the sacrifice was too risky to achieve only a draw. I found a more direct way to draw by sacrificing for a perpetual and I took it.

After the game ended I was surprised to see that my opponent had played the same opening against the top rated player in the section. I usually avoid playing the same variation twice in the same event. There might be a stunning novelty that upsets conventional theory. I've seen this happen to other players.

The other game continued 13.g4, the same as my idea, but more direct. White won after 36 moves. I should go back to my notes and recall why I decided against 13.g4. My overall results lately have been hurt by too many draws and I'm not sure how to tackle this problem. I might learn something from this example.

It turned out that there was a third game that reached the diagrammed position. That game continued 12.Rd1 a6 13.a3, which is a transposition into my game with 13.Rd1 instead of 13.Kh2. It also ended in a draw. Three parallel games, three master level players, three different continuations: chess is not mechanical.

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