Round 3 Colorado Springs (annual) City Championship. After two byes, I play my first game of this month’s tournament.
The long version might be: Of abilities, instincts, common-sense, sense of purpose, goals, style, superficiality, and maybe fitness in a chess game.
Paul Anderson is like “the Rosetta Stone” of my ever making Expert; until I can crack his playing style, I will hold onto the 1800 ledge with my fingers. Against Paul, I get these great positions that a 1.d4 player would revel in, but where I appear out of my element. Actually, I did take this Gurgenidze Caro-Kahn into something more resembling of a KID.
4.Nf3 4.Nc3 is by far the most commonly played move here.
9.Qc2 The first moment of real thought and choice. I played this solid move after much deliberation between first 9.Qd2, then h3, then Nfd2, then Nfe1, and also 9.a3, which appears in the database 3 out of 5 games from this position, and the most promising continuation. This was my longest think of the game, quite long. Threats I looked at included …e5 and …b5 in some lines. 9.a3 solves the problem of 9.h3 BxNf3, 10.BxBf3 Qb4, 11.Qe2 (ugly, but this was a factor in why I played 9.Qc2, as was this …b5 continuation that I didn’t get an objective hold on until later – …b5 weakens that diagonal after h3, Bxf3 Bxf3). After the game, Masters Bloomer and Wall both liked 11.Qb3 in this line.
15.e5 I spent quite a bit of time looking at 15.b5 but was very indecisive here, as it looks like a less centralizing move, but the lowly-looking at first glance 15.b5 is a very straight-forward continuation for a human to play for an advantage from. I would play b5 on this move or the next, if I were to every hypothetically get this position again. 15.e5 was also strong.
16.exd6?! hoping for 16…Nxd6, 17.Ne5 From this move forward, I was feeling the effects of time-pressure. 16.b5! not releasing the tension, was best. White is virtually winning, in a technical sense.
17.Bf4 This turned out to be as taking a pass on the position, hoping for the opportunity to play 18.Ne4 (attacking d6). Now, either 17.d5 or 17.Qb3 are best, but I would prefer making a more decisive, definite-looking move like 17.d5.
19.c5 19.d5 is also still strong, but I like 19.Qb3 best, now, in this position.
21.Bd4 A pleasing-looking move in time-pressure, and I had seen 21…Bh6 before playing it, but time gives you a chance to evaluate better. Master Bloomer was chomping at the bit to play 21.b5! during our post-mortem, where we all headed to the bar afterward.
22.Rb1 I felt 22.Be3 might be objectively better, and regretted not playing it, but it looks a bit weird in the psychological sense, to see it played.
23.Bd3? This is where the “ghosts”, and lack of true objectivity began popping up in time-pressure. Certainly, I wanted to play 23.Na4! with Nb6 fork on the way, but I was figuring after 23…Bf5 he would work out of that fork. Of course, it turns out that a knight on b6 is wildly strong regardless of its cheapo value. Ironically, now 23…Bxh3, which I had been concerned about all game long, is now a path to equality for Black.
24.Be5 Again, 24.Na4 is stronger, but I wanted to “give it up temporarily”.
25.Nd4?! Objectively, this looks strong, but again 25.BxNf4 BxB, 26.Na4 is the strongest continuation, as my Nd4 becomes a target for trading.
25…f6? I missed this move, so in time-pressure assumed it must be strong. Black’s best are the commital 25…Bxh3 followed by 25…NxBd3 as second stronges move.
27.Bf1 Here, I wanted to finally play 27.Na4! but was, after trading off my Bf4 defender, correctly worried about his …Bxh3 threat, however I completely missed the idea in this line. 27.Na4 Bxh3, 28.Nb6 (…gxBh3? Black is better, and I would easily lose this in time-pressure since it’s best to sac a piece back after this). I completely missed this intermezzo, shamefully, but Master Bloomer saw this intermezzo seemingly without thinking. That should have been instinctive for me to examine not taking on h3.
28.Nc3-e2? Now I am definitely “on-tilt”, in time-pressure. Yet again 28.Na4 is best, and my best next move would have been to move this Ne2 right back to c3. Not only would it cut out his future Ne4 move, but puts the Na4 option back on the table, minus a tempo.
30.Qg3? 30.NxNe6 is best, which is why this Nc3-e2 move was so unnecessary in the first place.
31.Ne2-f4?? Blundering the exchange. Again 31.Nc3 to redress the past wrong. It’s as if it were better had I done nothing in time-pressure and not made moves, as my moves to try to “defend” somehow were just weakening my position further and further.
36.Qh4 Instead of playing this out of obvious desperation, 36.Qd2 was better.
37…f5 I thought for sure he’d force the queen trade with 37…Qg5, and I’d be done for, but he didn’t see it, as often happens with winning moves – not seen or decided on by both players.
39.Qg3?? Again, this time I played it at bullet-speed, but in the next instant saw that I had blundered by not playing 39.Qf4. Naturally, I thought he and everyone else watching had noticed this, and that 39…f4 would finally put me out of my misery, but again he didn’t play the winning move.
41.Qc7? Hey, at least now I can pretend to blame their not being a second time-control for this blunder. I didn’t trust 41.Bxa6??, but after the game felt silly for not playing it; actually, Black traps the queen after 41…Qd8! 41.Nd4 is the path to the draw.
42…Be8? I was under ten minutes when he had 55 minutes, but ultimately I did bring him under 3 minutes eventually. Here, he plays this quickly, whereas after 42…Qf6, his queen can still infiltrate my position with threats.
44.Rc1 Stuck for a move, I played this, thinking if 44…Qb2, 45.a4, but then 45…Qa3, 46.Bc2 Rb8 wins the a-pawn via double-attack. Better was 44.Qd2.
46…Kg7? Paul is finally biting on one of my mock threats (it loses time, and commits his pieces to more defense instead of attack. Master Wall said he thought I could draw with 47.h5!?, although oddly, Stockfish thinks even stronger for Black is to trade off a pair of rooks here with 47.Re1 (I told them after the game that I should have traded a pair of rooks far sooner, but this is a curious moment to do so.)
47…h6? Ironically, it is only here, after continuing to pursue the wrong plan, that Black finally throws away the win. 47…Qc3 is better, attacking without weakening his kingside.
50…Qc3?! A waste of time.
51.Qd4+ It would be easy to attack an exclam to this move, even if only for psychological reasons, but better was 51.Rd1, and if 51…Qxa3??, 52.Qd4+ followed by 53.Ra1 traps the Black queen.
53…Kf7?! After the game, I told him I thought he could win with …f4! a couple times. Naturally it has the appearance of a commital move, and players can be loathe to play such moves during a game.
54.Kg1?! I should offer a rook trade now with 54.Re1, if I were ever going to, but strongest is 54.b5 which does equalize because at the end of the captures Black cannot play Rxc5 because the Nd6+ fork.
55.Kf1? After the game, Master Bloomer kept saying to play Kg2 (it seemed instinctive for him), and this move illustrates why.
55…Bb7? He’s stuck making quick moves by this point as well, and throws away another win. 55…f4!. If 56.Kg2 fxg3, 57.fxg3 Re3 infiltrates. After 56.g3xf4 Rh4, 57.Kg2 Bf5, 58.Rd1 Bg4 wins back the pawn (h4) while the pawns on the f-file are doubled and isolated. Lastly, 57.Kxg3 in this line will allow Black to win by trading pieces on f5, which will then open the g-file for one his rooks to penetrate down.
58.Nf3 Master Wall thought that 58.h5! might win; White is better, but not winning according to Stockfish.
72…Bxa6?? Unfortunately, this move was played on sight alone. I figured it should be either winning or probably enough for a draw, but both Masters Wall and Bloomer afterward were praising how I had created a fortress, and it struck me as obvious that they would have forced the draw and not kept playing on the way I did, by their comments afterward. This move needed to be calculated, and I got too excited and didn’t want to pass it up – played with a minute on my clock.
76…Kf7? Ironically, 76…fxg4 wins, but does not win the knight. Black’s d and g pawns are far enough that the White king can’t stop both, while the bishop drops back to c8 to cut off the knight from reaching the pawns in time – it can reach one pawn, but not the other. Black needs to play either 77…g3 or 77…Bc8 in this line to win, as other moves draw. We both wondered about 77…g3 after the game, and felt it should be losing for White, but it’s not easy to calculate or tell, OTB.
77…d4! I didn’t see this move. I was expecting 77…Kg6, 78.Ke3, which draws.
78.h5?? I felt this move would surely lose, but didn’t know what else to do as my clock was expiring. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that I could try losing a move with my king, as he cannot stop every pawn without letting one of my kingside pawns run (h or g pawns), and this is why I can play 78.a5 as well. I considered playing this, though the only move that really loses is the one that I played.
After the game, Paul tried to pass the d-pawn, while letting me queen a kingside pawn, and he finally checkmated me on the first rank that way, but he can’t force my king from a dark-square blockade of his passed d-pawn, I simply mistakenly let him do it, so I would credit his play in the post-mortem, but it’s not a win.
One last point to this endgame is that White does have to play a5 eventually, or Black’s king will be able to come in and play …Kxf4 because White’s pawns are not in time (now I can’t even find that position anymore). During the game, I figured that Black’s king would be able to come in and take my b4 pawn, but the …d4 move blocked his path (it was a draw anyway) so that after a5 it is a perfect fortress, where if Black tries to win he loses. If I had to take this position again before 78.h5?? I’d take White, as it’s Black that has all the interesting chances that all lose, which is possible OTB in time-pressure, which we both were.