Know Your Position's Agenda
The guy playing White has a wonderfully colorful name. For those not in the know about what "boomstick" alludes to, it was used in the movie ARMY OF DARKNESS in which Ash (played by the legendary Bruce Campbell), after being accidentally transported back in time to 1300 A.D., uses his 12 gauge, double barrel Remington shotgun (which he refers to as his BOOMSTICK) to battle demons.
Sargentboomstick (1689) – unknown (1910), over the board game.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.e4 b4 10.Ne2
Boomstick said: “I think Na4 is main line but I didn’t know that at the time.”
10.Na4 is indeed the only move anyone takes seriously. The reason is that …c6-c5 is a critical break for Black, and 10.Ne2 doesn’t have anything to do with that super-important plan. On the other hand, 10.Na4 takes direct aim at c5. Then 10…c5! (anyway!) is black’s best reply. After 11.e5 Nd5 12.dxc5 Bxc5 13.Nxc5 Nxc5 14.Bb5+ Black has played both 14…Kf8 and 14…Ke7 with reasonable results.
10…c5 11.e5 Nd5 12.O-O h6
12...Rc8 was played in the game K. Sasikiran (2470) – P. Wells (2530) [D47], Torquay 1998. After 13.Re1 Qb6 14.Bg5 h6 15.Bh4 Be7 16.Bxe7 Nxe7 17.Ng3 cxd4 Black was already better. One can see why 10.Ne2 was never popular.
13.Bd2 Be7 14.Rc1 O-O
White’s making reasonable looking moves, but he doesn’t seem to fully comprehend that his fate will pretty much depend on whether or not he can generate play against black’s King. This shouldn’t be a secret: white’s e5-pawn deprives black’s Knights of the use of the f6-square, the h6-pawn means that a defensive …g7-g6 will hang h6, and white’s Bishops and Knights are (or will be) aiming at the kingside. Far more to the point would be 15.Bb1, intending Qc2.
This is one of the differences between amateurs and professionals – pros know what the position is begging for, and every move is dedicated to pushing their own agenda. Amateur’s, on the other hand, often make good looking moves, but those pretty moves sometimes don’t really address the position’s needs.
Boomstick said: “Wanting Ne4.”
Yes, but you should be “wanting” the enemy King. Once again, 16.Bb1 was indicated.
A little soft. 16…Qb6 puts immediate pressure on white’s center.
Still making “normal” looking moves, and still ignoring the white position’s silent screams for kingside action. This move defends d4 but gives Black a free hand - in other words, white’s reacting to his opponent and not pushing his own agenda. Instead, White should (if at all possible) try and stamp the position in his own image – meaning the generation of kingside play. One way to go about this would be 17.Bb1! intending Qc2. Things get interesting: 17…cxd4 18.Rxc8 Qxc8
Boomstick said: “Black gives up his solid Bishop for a easy to see tactic. I don’t understand this move.”
It’s easy to understand (Black is going after a tactic that he feels wins material), but the real question is whether or not it’s best. I suspect not. Instead, 17…cxd4 18.Rxc8 Qxc8 19.Bxd4 (now the Bishop is no longer eyeing h6) 19…Nc5 20.Bb1 Rd8 21.Qc2 g6 seems nice for Black.
Boomstick said: “Not Qxf3 when …Nxe5 picks up a pawn and stunts my attack with a clear advantage for Black.”
I can’t agree with you. Since your 18.gxf3 leaves Black much better after 18…cxd4 (as we’ll see), you should have “fallen” for black’s trap by 18.Qxf3! Nxe5 19.dxe5 Qxd3 20.Red1 Qa6
As you can see, by sacrificing the pawn, you gain time to get your kingside play going.
However, after 18.Qxf3 Nxe5 19.dxe5 Qxd3 20.Red1 Black does much better with 20…Qg6! (allowing the Queen to defend the King – isn’t it a wonderful sight when a woman rushes to the aide of her besieged, terrified man?). After 21.Ne4 (hitting c5) White gets a bit of compensation for his pawn, though Black will retain the better chances.
Boomstick said: “This may look solid but it releases all the tension in the center and allows me to focus on the kingside. I feel …cxd4 was much better, but maybe I’m wrong.”
You’re completely right. After 18…cxd4 (blowing up the center – a wise thing to do when you remember the old rule: “The best reaction to an attack on the wing is a counterattack in the center.”) 19.Rxc8 Qxc8 20.Bxd4 Rd8 Black enjoys a clear advantage (very active center pieces and far better pawn structure) since white’s once dreamed of kingside play is nowhere to be found.
Black’s horrible 18…c4 not only takes the heat off white’s center, it also virtually forces White to start his kingside attack.
Boomstick said: “This is sad but might be forced. I’m not sure if my advantage is clear.”
White now has plenty of play (far more than he deserved), but Black retains sufficient defensive resources. After all, his dynamic queenside majority and his (apparent) iron control over the d5-square has to count for something!
Boomstick said: “I think this is best and has to be played - I isolate the e-pawn and keep up my kingside attack.”
Not so fast, Boomstick! While I completely understand where you’re coming from (and your logic seems spot on), the fact is that black’s better after 20.exf6 (not by much, but still a tad better) thanks to his control over the d5-square. So, instead of 20.exf6 you have the chance to unleash a surprise that deals directly with black's d5-square stronghold: 20.d5!! Nxd5 21.Bxf5 Nc7 22.Rxc4! (Worse is 22.Be4 Nxe5 23.Bd4 Nd3 24.Bxd3 cxd3 25.Qxd3 Bf6 26.Rcd1 a5 27.Qe4 Bxd4 28.Rxd4 Qf6 29.b3 Nb5 30.Rd2 Kh8 and white’s inferior pawn structure leaves Black with a small but annoying plus.) 22…exf5 23.Rd4 Qe8 24.Rxd7 f4 25.Bxa7 fxg3 26.hxg3 Ne6 27.f4 with an interesting and more or less balanced position.
Okay, okay! This is hard to see and harder to fully calculate, so your logical (though perhaps not the very best) choice makes complete sense.
Boomstick said: “I expected 20…Nxf6.”
Quite right, 20…Nxf6 had to be played. Then 21.Qc2 Qe8 22.f4! Nbd5 23.f5 Bd6! 24.fxe6 Qxe6 25.Qf5 Qxf5 26.Nxf5 Rfd8 leaves Black with the better structure and (though it’s by no means the end of the world) all the chances.
Boomstick said: “Simply leaving the Rook and losing the Exchange maybe is not so bad for Black - he might have enough compensation with the queenside pawns.”
Often an Exchange sacrifice can nullify the opponent’s attacking chances and leave the defender with some positional perks and a safe position for the material loss. However, in this case Black doesn’t get enough because White continues to have pressure against the enemy King and the e6-pawn: 21…Bd6 22.Nxf6+ Qxf6 23.f4 Nd5 24.Qg4 with a very double-edged position that seems to be quite good for White. A sample is 24…Nxf4 25.Bxf4 Qxf4 26.Qxe6+ Kh8 27.Qg6 Qxh2+ 28.Kf1 Nf8 29.Qg2 and though Black still has some compensation, it’s not enough.
Black’s best defense was 21…Rf7! 22.Bg6 Rf8 when white’s better, but it’s a hard position for both sides to play.
A quick sample of the kind of thing that might occur: 23.Bd2 Nf6 24.Nf4 Qxd4 25.Nxe6 Qxb2 26.Nxf8 Bxf8 with serious compensation for the Exchange.
Black had to try 22…Rf5 23.Ng3 g6 24.Bxh6 Nf8 25.Nxf5 exf5 26.Qd2 Nd5 when he has some nice pieces, but an Exchange and a pawn is just too much.
After 22...Nf6 White finished off the game in a nice manner. We'll offer the final moves in problem form so you can share in Boomstick's triumph:
LESSONS FROM THIS GAME
* Never play an opponent who is wielding a boomstick!
* If you don't know what the position is begging for, you won't be able to find a move/plan that caters to that critical need.
* A "nice looking" move isn't necessarily a good move.
* Just because you see an opponent's trick doesn't mean it's really a trick!
* The best reaction to an attack on the wing is a counterattack in the center.