The following game is a learning game that Macpo was kind enough to indulge me in. Unfortunately, he's not going to be playing chess for awhile, so I thought I'd post the partially played (but finalized and finished) game here for some more input.
I'm especially interested in the following position:
Here I played 14. g4 hoping to counterattack in the centre, which at the time felt like a great breakthrough but in hindsight feels like a game-losing blunder. Here is the game log for that move, to give you an idea of what was running through my head at the time:
"Sorry it's taken so long to move, but I did discover something...I was afraid to make a bad move, and even more afraid to spend the time doing an analysis! This is probably why I haven't improved as much as I should have recently, I'm a procrastinator. At least I learned something about myself! Now to see if I can fix it...
White - positives: White has a superior pawn structure, and a nice home for the knight on d5 (although that's currently being challenged)
White - negatives: White has two knights, so if the position opens up I could be at a disadvantage, my bishop is playing a defensive role (a useful one, but still limiting its scope), and I have less control in the centre than Black.
Black - positives: Black owns two bishops, and since he has more control in the centre he is more free to open it up at a time of his choosing.
Black - negatives: Black's dark-squared bishop is still passive at the moment, but that could be alleviated by opening up the position at a later time.
What to do? Some ideas are (1) to increase the activity of my pieces to take advantage of Black's passive dark-square bishop, candidate moves Qf3, Qh5, Nce3; (2) to bolster the centre, candidate move f3; (3) to counter-attack in the centre, candidate moves f4, g4; (4) continue with safe development, candidate move O-O.
(1) 1. Qf3 fxe4 2. Bxe4 f5 3. Bd3 e4! forking the bishop and the queen. Other lines where the queen captures the pawn are just as bad. 1. Qh5 fxe4 2. Bxe4 f5 3. Bf3 e4! is another disaster that drops the knight on d5. 1. Nce3 fxe4 2. Bxe4 f5 3. Bc2 and then maybe 3. ... Ra7 to try and swing the rook around for kingside play or to defend h7 if necessary. This position looks relatively even, with Black increasing his control of the centre, but with White's pieces well placed and active.
(2) 1. f3 f4 (closing things up is probably best, as 1. ... fxe4 here opens up the kingside, and after 2. fxe4 f5 3. Qh5 Black's king will feel uncomfortable pressure) 2. a4 trying to create some action on the queenside. This position again looks relatively even, and quieter (for the time being) than Nce3.
(3) 1. f4 fxe4 2. Bxe4 f5 3. Bf3 e4 and White's knight is ever more precarious on d5 and my side of the board becomes cramped. 1. g4, an interesting move that counter-attacks the centre and also leads to open lines against Black's king, possibly at the cost of a bit of material. This position is rife with tactical opportunities (which is where my analysis is worst) after 1. g4 fxe4 2. Bxe4 f5 3. gxf5 Bxf5 4. Bxf5 Rxf5 5. Nce3 where the position is very open, but White's knights are well posted, or after 1. g4 f4 2. h4 closing up the centre but moving the action to the kingside with a pawn march. Black would probably prefer a more open game to take advantage of the two bishops, but this could lead to sharp play on both sides.
(4) 1. O-O fxe4 2. Bxe4 f5 3. Bf3 e4 4. Be2 Ne7 and Black is slowly encroaching on White's space while threatening White's best posted piece.
So it seems the best alternatives are 1. Nce3, 1. f3 and 1. g4. Between 1. Nce3 and 1. f3, I prefer 1. Nce3 as it's more flexible and less cramping, so it's really down to 1. Nce3 and 1. g4. The positional player in me wants 1. Nce3, but I just lost an OTB game yesterday because I was too slow and too passive, so I'm going to choose the sharper 1. g4! Let's see what happens.
Any comments are appreciated.