How to lose a won game
I just was analyzing this game with Deep Shredder 9 when, ...
1.e4 c5 2.d4 e6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d5 exd5 5.exd5 Qe7+ 6.Be2 Ne5 7.O-O Kd8 8.Bf4 Nxf3+ 9.Bxf3 d6 10.c4 g5 11.Bd2 f6 12.b4 b6 13.bxc5 Bf5 14.cxd6 Qxd6 15.Nc3 Qc5 16.Qb3 Rc8 17.Be2 h5 18.Be3 Qb4 19.Nb5 Rh7 20.Nd4 Bd7 21.Rfb1 Qxb3 22.axb3 Rc7 23.b4 Nh6 24.b5 Nf5 25.Nc6+ Bxc6 26.bxc6 Nxe3 27.fxe3 Bc5 28.Rb3 Ke7 29.Re1 Kd6 30.Bd3 Rh8 31.Kf1 a5 32.Bb1 a4 33.Rd3 a3 34.Ba2 Re8 35.Ke2 Rce7 36.Kf3 f5 37.g3 Re4 38.Rb3 f4 39.Bb1 Rxe3+ 40.Rbxe3 Rxe3+ 41.Rxe3 Bxe3 42.gxf4 Bxf4 43.h3 h4 44.Ba2 Kc5 45.Ke4 Kb4 46.Kd3 g4 47.hxg4 h3 48.Ke4 h2 49.Kxf4 h1=Q 50.Ke5 Qh2+ 51.Ke6 Kc5 52.Kd7 Qd6+ 53.Kc8 Qe7 54.Kb8 Kd6 55.Bb3 Qc7+ 56.Ka8 Ke5 57.c5 bxc5 58.Bc4 Kf4 59.d6 Qxc6+ 0-1
... all of a sudden, the idea of looking up Dan Heisman's column Novice Nook on chesscafe.com dropped into my mind. Had not looked at it for a while and thought, hey, would be nice to see if he has to tell me something new. And what I read there really electrified me!
Because it gave me an answer to an old, unsolved question of mine: How come that I lose won games such as the one above? Hard to believe, but there is a simple answer. If you want to lose a won game, just violate the Principle of Symmetry!
It says that if you have an advantage it is best to keep all other things equal rather than trying to get more advantage and in turn concede counter-advantages to your opponent. So simple. But I have been violating this principle time and again. In the above game I had two very similar pawn decisions to take on the same two files, and twice I chose the wrong one.
Of course, I had missed Re1 earlier several times. Another bad habit: If I see a good blitz move in a slow game, I take time to look for a worse alternative and then take it. My main goal seems to be to surprise my opponent with unusual moves.
But now let's talk Symmetry Principle! The first occasion came on 14th move. Black just had dropped a pawn and I had to decide which one to take. The Symmetry Principle says that I have material plus and active play, while my opponent has nothing. Taking on b6 would leave my advantages and keep the rest in balance, because the activation of the black Ra8 is compensated by a scattering of black pawn structure. Taking on d6 would add a new white advantage, a passed pawn on d6, but also allow black counterplay and bring the bad bishop f8 to life. Hence cxb keeps symmetry and cxd increases asymmetry. I took on d6.
On 26th move I had to decide how to take back? The Symmetry Principle says that I have a passed pawn and my opponent has none. Taking dxc6 would leave this balance unchanged, promote my passer to 6th rank and open a rook file. Taking bxc6 would add more advantage of white (2 passers), but also of black (1 passer). Hence dxc keeps symmetry and bxc adds asymmetry. I took bxc6 and lost the game in a pawn race. That is, I wasted time with my King and dropped my last counter chance of getting my own queen.
P.S. Dan H just contacted me (he has no blogger account) and suggested me reading an earlier arcicle on this subject: When you are winning ...