I decided to play the Open Sicilian, although I was more in the mood to play the C3 Sicilian, because Alex wanted to see me play it, and I also know that RP has potentially switched to it. ;-)
I debated between 5.Nb3 and 5.Nf3, but settled on 5.Nb3 for this occasion because I wanted to prevent the move …Bc5.
I’ll confess that I really don’t know the best way to gain an advantage against this variation at this time.
8.Bc4. I felt that 8.Bd3 was more circumspect, but didn’t want to spent time OTB calculation …d5 breaks, and 8.f3 seemed passive and problematic if I weren’t getting kingside castling in.
13.0-0? This turns out to be a strategic mistake. After 13.Nf1 Be6, 14.Ne3 BxB, 15.NxB White is holding a normal opening plus into the middlegame.
15.b3 My inexperience shows as it was apparently best to allow …Nc4. 15.Qd2 (gets out of …Bf3 pin as well) 15…Nc4, 16.BxNc4 BxB was White’s best continuation here.
16.Qd2 I considered 16.a4 here, and should have played it – it gives White the best chance, although Black should hold with best play.
21.a3?! 21.c3 makes the most sense here. I was even eyeing the trade of queen for two rooks, but Stockfish says it’s best to get the queen off of that file with Qe3 at some point.
21…Qg6? This moved seemed like a mistake, but I had so little time to refute it. 22.Qe3! is best.
23.Qxa6? I am trading two pawns, one of which is a center pawn, for a wing-pawn, very bad mistake. Simply 23.axb and White is better.
24…Rxc2? 24…Qxb4 should be played, and it’s even; this the move I feared, but didn’t prepare at all for 24….Rc2. The best response on this and the next few moves is simply to push the b-pawn.
27.Qc4?? In time-pressure, I decide to test Sara’s endgame skills, but this is one of those “game management” decisions that throws it all away. It throws away the tension and gives the opponent an easy problem rather than a “hard problem”. I was going to play 27.Qb6 Nc6, 28. Qc7 (Stockfish says to play 28.b4, but 28.Qc7 is apparently an even harder problem). In the post-mortem, I showed this, Sarah had seen it during the game and thought she’d have to give up the d-pawn. The variations are quite complex. The endgame was child’s play with her 20 minutes remaining, and I flagged in a lost position.
6…0-0?! Once again, castling is inaccurate because in case of 7.e5, you want to play …Ng8. Therefore, 6…c5! is the most accurate move-order.
9.h4 and 10.g4 seemed immaterial, losing time and giving me an endgame advantage.
13…Qf5. I spent a lot of time here, even though all I saw was what I played all along. However 13…Nb8, followed by 14…Nc6 seems best.
18…b5! How else can Black fight for the initiative, let alone crash through? The fi-file just didn’t seem like enough by itself.
23.c3? 23.Rd3! with the idea of 23.Rc3 is equal.
Now White defends with the best moves.
31….Bc8! The engine prefers 31…Ke7, and Master Bloomer preferred it as well, but when I played many moves on, White’s advantage petered out. This move may seem passive, but again illustrates the advantage of maintaining the tension, even as late as into the endgame. The only downside was how much time that I spent on this move debating.
43…Ne7? Regretfully, as soon as I blitzed this move I saw that I should have played 43…a5! and could have played it on the previous move as well, but was blitzing these moves.
47….Bf5?! 47…e4! is decisive, and as soon as Master Bloomer saw this position he told the me that I probably should have called his bluff and won the piece, and then whipped out his analysis as if this were bullet-chess (i.e., very easy) for him. The one thing to keep in mind here is that you have to know your knight and bishop mate from the best resulting position for White. I went over the bishop and knight mate endgame with Stockfish for a while, and am confident with it, particularly if I can get my opponent close to the side of the board.
54….Nb5? One thing that makes it hard when playing Jesse is that not only can he play a mean endgame, but that he blitzes them. Constantly as I was writing down my move he was making his move at the same time, so I’d look at it out of the corner of my eye before I could write my move, and then it would confuse my score-keeping. Both of us kept score, but after the game I noticed that his yellow copy, while looking neater than mine, was no more legible. You can read both of our scoresheets before the bishop trade. After the bishop-trade both of our scoresheets become illegible (I could read a lot more of my moves, but couldn’t make some of them out on either of our sheets, so I had to recall what happened at the end), and yet we were both scribbling down all of the moves. I really wish the increment was 1 minute, and the G/60, just to put an end to this sort of blitzing. Keeping score at 30 seconds feels about the same as keeping no score with a 10 second delay while blitzing.
58…Ng5?? 58.Kd4 is equal.
I remember him giving me a chance to not take his pawn, and that 58…Kc4! would be winning, telling myself not to take the pawn, but again I made the “game management” decision 58…Kxb4?? to not leave him with mating material as I made this move with around 9 seconds on my clock, even though I figured that he had about a 75% chance to draw the game with my move. I wasn’t able to yet see his draw, but was not shocked when it came.