Surviving a Terrible Opening

OTB Game Analysis 17

This game was played in round 6 of an OTB tournament last summer. At this point, I was on 3.5/5.

I was black in this game and didn't really know what to expect from the opening. My opponent played the Alapin against the Sicilian which is an opening where I don't know much theory and also have little practice in this line. My opening was shaky (to put it mildly) but I managed to stabilise my position and in the ensuing ending I tried to push for the win, without too much success.

1.e4 c5 2.c3

I haven't faced the Alapin in a serious game before and I didn't know much about this opening apart from a bit of theory

2...d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 e6

5...Bg4 I thought about this during the game, but I thought that it wasn't the main move and I didn't want to be too adventurous in the opening.
6.Be2 e6 7.h3 Bh5 8.O-O Nc6 9.Be3 cxd4 10.cxd4 Be7 =
6.Qa4+ Bd7 7.Qb3 (7.Bb5 cxd4) 7...cxd4 8.Bc4 Qe4+ 9.Kf1

6.Na3 cxd4

I thought that black should take the pawn as soon as white plays Na3.But this is a bit inaccurate, although it's still fine for black

6...Qd8 7.Nc2 Nc6 8.Bd3 cxd4 9.Ncxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 =

7.Nb5 Qd8?!

7...Na6 8.Nbxd4 Be7 ⩲


8.Qxd4 Qxd4 9.Nfxd4

8.cxd4?! Be7 9.Be2 O-O And black has a fine position

8...Be7 9.Be2 O-O 10.O-O b6?!

I didn't realise the danger connected with this move

10...Qc7?! 11.Nb5 Qb6 12.Be3 Bc5 13.Bxc5 Qxc5 ⩲

10...a6! 11.Bf4 Nh5 12.Be3 Qc7 And black is fine

11.Ne5 Qc7??

11...Bb7 This was the only move in the position. Here white should only be slightly better


Luckily for me, white misses their chance to get a winning advantage.

12.Bf4! Now black is in big trouble since the queen has to stay on c7 otherwise white would win with Bf3
12...Bb7 13.Ng6! Qd7 14.Nxf8 Bxf8 +-
12...Nd5 13.Bg3! White keeps the pin since black cannot escape from it. 13...Bb7 14.Ng6 +-
12...Bd6 13.Nb5 +-

12...Bb7 13.Nb5?!

White tries to force things but this only releases the pressure on black's position

13.Bf4 Qc8 14.Qe2 ±

13...Qc8 14.Nd6 Bxd6 15.Bxb7 Qxb7 16.Qxd6

After the piece exchanges, black's position has improved a lot. Now the game is equal


I intended to finally finish my development and trade the strong white knight off.


My opponent thought for over 20 minutes on this move.

17...Nxe5 18.Qxe5 Qe4

Now I felt a bit more confident


19.Bf4 Rfd8 20.Qxe4 Nxe4 21.Bc7 Rdc8 22.Bf4 =

19...Nxe4 20.f3 Nc5

I think that c5 should be the best square for the knight and also didn't mind the exchange of bishop for knight on c5 since black gets play against the b-pawn.

20...Nf6 21.Bg5 Nd5?! (21...Rfc8 22.Bxf6 gxf6 23.Rd7 ⩲ This is Stockfish's recommendation, but it's certainly more pleasant for white) 22.c4 ⩲ Now the knight has to go to a worse square


21.b4?! Na4 22.Bd2 Rac8 23.Rac1? Nb2 24.Rf1 Rfd8 25.Be1 Nd3 ∓
22...Rfc8 23.Be1 (White shouldn't try to hold on to the c-pawn: 23.Rac1? Nb2 24.Rf1 Rd8 25.Be3 Rac8 26.Bd4 e5! 27.Be3 Rd3! -+) 23...Nxc3 24.Bxc3 Rxc3 25.Rd7 ⩱ Black has a slight edge, but white should hold this


My opponent spent a lot of times for their last couple of moves and was now down to 38 minutes compared to my 63 minutes.

22.Bxc5 bxc5

I liked this structure because I can attack the white b-pawn

23.Kf2 Kf8

23...Rab8 24.Rxd8+ Rxd8 25.Ke2 =

24.Ke2 Ke7 25.Ke3

White thought for 13 minutes over this move. Now my opponent was down to 17 minutes against my 60.

25.h4!? I thought about this during the game to stop black's kingside pawns. The ending is equal, but it makes more sense to me that white tries to stop the black kingside pawns.

25...a5 26.Rab1

This move looks quite strange to me.

26.h4 a4 27.g4 c4 28.Rd4 Rdb8 29.Rxc4 Rxb2 30.Rc7+ Kf6 = I analysed lines like this one but they are just equal.


I intended to gain as much space as possible with my kingside majority.


27.f4?! gxf4+ 28.Kxf4 f5 ⩱ White should still hold this, but now black has a passed pawn.

27...f5 28.Rxd8 Rxd8 29.b4 f4+ 30.Ke2 Rb8?!

This is inaccurate since it allows white to get a passed pawn.

30...axb4 31.cxb4 Ra8 32.bxc5 (32.Rb2?? cxb4 -+ Now black is winning. 33.Kd3 (33.Rxb4 Rxa2+ 34.Kd3 Rxh2) 33...Ra3+ 34.Ke2 (34.Rb3 Rxb3+ 35.axb3 Kd6 -+) 34...Kd6) 32...Rxa2+


Missing the chance to put some pressure on black.

31.b5! c4 32.a4 This should still be a draw but white is certainly the one pressing in this ending. 32...Rd8 33.h4 h6 34.hxg5 hxg5 ⩲

31...a4 32.b5 c4 33.Rb4 Kd6 34.Rxc4 Rxb5 35.Rb4

I missed this move

35.Rxa4 Rb2+ 36.Kd3 Rxh2 37.Ra5


35...Rxb4 36.cxb4 Kd5 37.Kd3 e5 38.h3 h6 39.Ke2 Kd4 40.Kd2 e4 41.fxe4 Kxe4 42.Ke2 = I calculated this during the game and saw that it was only a draw.

36.Kf2 Re3 37.Rxa4 Rxc3 38.Ra7 Rc2+ 39.Kg1 Ke5

This was a bit of hope chess. Since my opponent was down to 1 minute, I thought that they might miss my idea. But I didn't see any other try to win, so I went for this.

39...h6 40.h3 Ra2 41.Rh7 Rxa3 42.Kg2 Ra2+ 43.Kg1 e5 44.Rxh6+ Kd5 45.Rb6 =


40.Rxh7 Kd4 41.Rd7+?? (41.Rb7 Ke3 42.Rb3+ Ke2 = I saw this during the game but felt like advancing the king was a good winning attempt) 41...Ke3 -+

40...Ra2 41.Re4+

I missed this check.

41...Kd5 42.a4 e5 43.Rb4 h6 44.Re4

Now white can simply wait with the rook on the fourth rank, so I offered a draw with my next move.

44...Ra1+ 1/2-1/2


The biggest learning point for me was that I need to pay much closer attention to my opponent's resources in the opening. I often tend to think that it's the opening and all natural moves are fine, so I don't think for too long. This can obviously be a huge problem.

I also got a huge time advantage during the game, but I didn't really manage to capitalise on it. It always seems like a time advantage of 30 minutes is a huge advantage in a practical game, but I never feel it when I'm the one with the time advantage. I should work on setting more problems for my opponent and keeping the position alive instead of setting up one thinly veiled tactical trick that leads to a dry position, if my opponent doesn't fall for it.