Here is the first annotated game. It was played on icc with a 5 minute time control. The opening went like this:
I played Be2. Normally you'd see Bc4 or Nc3 from me on this move. The reason I didn't play Bc4 is that I vaguely remember reading somewhere that that move is not actually that great, even though it is very commonly played especially at my level. However I'll have to do more research into finding out whether this is true or not. Hopefully I can find the source of that statement that Bc4 is not a great move. I can tell you that I've had almost no success with Bc4 practically.
Be2 is not that bad of a square for a bishop, it can support another bishop going to e3 (which happens later) because it protects the e2-h5 diagonal. This stops a knight on f6 from doing just about anything on the kingside.
Why not Bd3? I think Bd3 may be a slight mistake, not because it's staring at a pawn (the pawn formation could change) but because it's blocking the d-file which is my half-open file. I may want to put pressure on the d6 pawn later, if black ever plays c7-c5 or c7-c6.
Re1 seems logical to me. The rook can give extra protection to the e4 pawn (sure, there's a bishop in the way, but what's one piece in th way gonna matter when discoveries are in the air?), it can support an eventual push of the e4 pawn to e5 (for example, by playing pawn to f4 and then pawn to e5). It also does a few other things, like leaving the protection of the f-pawn , which creates a target on f2 (a negative thing), and gives the bishop on e2 an extra square on f1.
I played h3 so that I could finish development with Be3, without having to worry about being harassed by black's f6 knight (Ng4). Also note that black ended up playing c6 a move ago. Now I can dream of either outposting a piece into d6, or, if black trades on d4 with his pawn, applying pressure to the d6 pawn on the half-open d-file.
I played a4 here to stop his queenside expansion temporarily (if he played b5 right away he'd lose the pawn due to a pin on the a-file).
I also have a future goal of pushing the a pawn to a5 where it stops b5 cold, and may give me an outpost for my dark square bishop, (or a knight) on b6.
So in the last few moves, I recaptured the pawn with the knight (now d6 is weak), centralizing my knight. This knight could be very useful hopping into f5 or what not. Then I played f4, to gain space on the kingside and restrict his knights in general. I was planning on playing e5 at some point during the game, but I'm not sure doing that early is a good idea. Maybe after a lot of preparation.
I then wanted to place my bishop on f3, because I was afraid of the e-pawn's protection. I saw that if I played Bf3, he could attack it with Nh4. With that in mind, and also the idea of restricting his knights further and completely pushing him back, I played g4. (diagram).
Unfortunately, this move g4 is a big blunder. Neither me nor my opponent saw why, but with the help of Houdini I now know to be careful in a situation where you leave a lot of holes around your king, in this case, the h4 -e1 diagonal is open, and the e4 pawn is insufficiently protected. With that in mind, my opponent should have played:
As you can see in the above diagrammed moves, Nxe4 followed by Bh4 would have attacked too many pieces, opened up the e-file, and left me in a ton of trouble. My pawn advances would have backfired, and I'd lose some material.
Suffice to say, I'll be more careful in the future about playing moves like g4, and looking out for discovered threats (nxe4, bishop move).
The rest of the game is pretty simple...I attacked d6 with nf5, (put my bishop on f3 to protect e4 like I mentioned earlier), and threatened to win the d6 pawn. Black tried to defend it but got skewered on b6.
Thanks for reading my first game analysis in a while. I hope you either learned something, or got some insight into what I am thinking during a game (or after). It took quite a while to write this post, so I'm thinking I'll have to do this only for slow games, and not every game as I originally planned.
-Jacob Wagner, available for chess coaching $15 an hour, but I take an active interest in your progress, unlike others who teach you for an hour and then forget about ya :)