So many things I wish I could do over at the start of this tournament or the day before. The day before I spent all day doing Alex and my taxes, after his sister visited, and I went on a 3.5 mile walk/jog. We left after 1 am and it was snowing so bad on the way that the route where people normally drive 80-90mph was reduced to 30 mph for long stretches. When I got to Alex’s mom’s townhome it took me about 2 hrs to fall asleep on the couch, so I got about 3.5 hrs sleep. Next day was crazy snow. All in all between Friday night and Sunday last round we got about 2 feet of snow in Denver – it was the most I’d ever seen in so short a span. I went to my car to get a snack after each round, and get the 8 inches of snow off of it – it was a lake around the car.
Before round 1, I had a light breakfast, but not many carbs, which I need most to think properly. The opening I was most worried about was The Alekhine’s Defense, from a preparation point-of-view, and I would have studied it on Friday. Ironically, there I was with the Four Pawns Attack, and should really not play this when not up for a big fight. This opening is just as tactical as the Sicilian Defense when played well. I was feeling out of it before round 1, as I got tired the moment I drank coffee (this is what happens when I am only living on adrenaline for the previous day), and was hoping for an easy pairing. After the game, my opponent said he was 1576 or so after one tournament, but he was higher-rated, yet provisional, so paired as if one of the weakest.
After Michel’s 8…Bg4, I figured he was most likely playing a beginner’s sort of move. I thought the refutation might be 9.c5, which it is, but thought I could still play it carefully, no rush.
10.b3? he can force the trade …BxNf3, gxf3 anyway, so I should have played Be2. I was more annoyed that his queen could get to g5 after the check, but then I still have Rg1 or even h4 to hit it with, although even that isn’t necessary.
11…Qe7. For the record, this is not the strongest move. Strongest is 11…BxNf3, 12.gxf3 Qh4+, 13.Bf2 Qh5 because this will open up winning tactical possibilities in the center of the board for Black. Normally this pawn capture is bad for Black, but not when White screws up the move order (with 10.b3) and allows Black to get it in advantageously. I had the feeling during the game that I was going to screw up the move order, and did so.
12.Be2?! It’s funny that I saw the right idea here in an analagous position in Round 3 (keep this in mind for when you see that game). I wanted to play 12.a3, but didn’t see the idea of …Bxa3?, 13.c5!, yet I won with this same idea in Round 3 when I felt physically stronger (neither of us had seen this in the post-mortem either).
13.Bg5?? My alternate move here was 13.a3!, and I couldn’t decide on which one, particularly because I didn’t see the correct idea behind a3.
18.0-0?? His tactics had taken me completely by suprise, and tired of thinking I wanted to play this move to get out of the pin, and not think about the position any longer. Unfortunately, the only move here is 18.Qe3.
In the final position, I let my flag run out, but I will be down a rook and pawn for no compensation. The first three rounds were G/90, delay 5 seconds, and so the disaster that I thought could very well happen did happen.
8…Nc5. I wanted to play 8…Qd3!, but wasn’t sure, and was still in that mindset of wanting to play it safe, particularly as Black, given the tournament situation here.
First missed chance, 9…Ne6 9…b6!, 10.b4 Qd3, 11.QxQ NxQ should be enough position and material to win from.
12…f6 This is Stockfish preference by just a tad. My other plan of 12…f5 and …Qf6, which I backed off from after virtually over-thinking it, is a strong second choice and much more suited to my style. I decided to play puristically here. Actually, I held off from playing …f6 just yet with 12…Qe7.
13.Ne4?! 13.b4 is best, and I had seen …f5 here, but didn’t bother to check out any further the complications and see that after 14.Ng5?? f4! is winning a piece for Black (now that my king is not pinnable over on h8).
14…Qf7?! Here is sort of the second-phase of the game, where I am not playing technically up to par, and then I run into a holdable but difficult position in time-pressure later on, and give up everything I worked for, as well as the game. 14…b6 (which I constantly wanted to play), but apparently didn’t see, or it was so novel for me that I couldn’t hold it in my head that this move permanently controls the c5 square, and if 15.NxN, I can defend the c6 knight by recapturing with the queen. Simple enough, but deceivingly difficult if your style is not that of a technical player, and you don’t spend time working out and calculating complex positional situations.
15…Ncd8? I regretted not taking on c5 here after the game, but this just goes to show how uncomfortable I was with the situation of having to play positional chess, was like a fish-out-of-water. I can say even now that going over this game has helped me the most out of all five games because this is exactly the style of game that I am finding the most improvement from after the tournament.
16…Ng5?! Resorting back to my natural style while not solving the technical problems with the position. 16…b6! I saw 17.Qd5?? ghost, but c6 obviously wins after that. This is the sort of position that Expert Paul Anderson would laugh while playing and probably beat anybody with from the Black side, because the technical style of the position is right up his alley.
17…NxNf3+? By this point, I was so psyched out that I was afraid he would “repeat the position” after 17…Ng4-e6! with 18.Qc4? Man, I practically had “Stockholm Syndrome” by this point. Originally, I wanted to play 17…Bg4?? which drops a piece to 18.NxNg5, but didn’t even notice that, just noticed that it would mess up my pawns. Stockfish points out that 17…Ne8-e6? is also a mistake because after taking twice on g5, that e5 pawn will hang (which was my same concern for the other line).
18…Rb8? I was wondering how to develop my rook, but 18…a5 is one way, and I can also play 18…Ndc6 now that I have all that extra space to work with now that one of my pieces has been traded off! Once I played my move, I saw that it was a blunder due to doubling rooks after trading on d7, but was still sort of shaking my head wondering what I was supposed to have done here.
22.Qd5 The score is 0.0 here. I was expecting 22.Bxa7, which is a tad better, but then it allows me to trade rooks, and he must have noticed this.
22…Nf4? Sheer panic in time-pressure. Stockfish wants me to bolster my defense of the back-rank so if 23.Bxa7, I have 23…QxRd7! 24.QxQ Rad8 which is equal.
25…Rdb8?? Interestingly enough, I wanted to play 25…Qc2 here, which is correct and -1 for me. I had two and half minutes remaining, lost my cool and blurted out this move, upon which he immediately captured my rook without even spending any time thinking. I missed that this ended up with check, and played f3 at the end of it, whereupon he said, “You’re in check!” The crazy part is that if I really wanted to throw in this coffee-house idea, I should have prepped it with 25…Kh7, whereupon, 26.Qf3 (attacking the f-pawn) Qg5, 27.Rdd7, doubling rooks on the 7th rank is winning. But, if 26.Rxb7?, then 25…Rdb8! does work because trading queen for rooks is losing for White, and 26.Rd7 RxR, 27.QxR f3, 28.g4 Rxb2 followed by 29…Qc2 should draw.
The time-control for the first three rounds was G/90, delay 5, so that, combined with how I managed my clock, and my general energy level from fighting the snow, and spending too much energy on Friday with little sleep doomed me. A draw from Round 2 would have still left me outside of the prize money, so I would have had to win this game for it to be successful from a monetary standpoint.
Josh essayed the Scandinavian this time, instead of the Sicilian Defense, and quite expectedly played it like a neophyte, down -1 in position after 5…Nb6? Unfortunately, instead of playing 5.c5! +-, I immediately returned the favor with 5.b3, after which White has += advantage, according to Stockfish.
9.Bg2 Not easy to decide on a move OTB in such a position. Stockfish says it’s equal after my move and likes 9.Bb2, 9.Qd2, and 9.f4. The most common-sense approach for White here would be to play 9.f4 with idea of 10.Bd3, and if ….0-0, then both 0-0 and 0-0-0 are possibilities!
I’ll let the rest of this game speak for itself. Keep in mind the similarities in pawn structure between this game and Round 1 where I both played the weak b3 move, but in this one I ultimately had the “guts” to play the winning c5 move!
6.h3 Starting here, Stockfish wants White to play b4, and on Black’s turns wants Black to play …a5 to stop b4, not all the time but that is sort ‘of the elephant in the room’ during this game.
7…Be6?! Stockfish doesn’t like this, but it made my task easier during this game.
10.Qe2?! Computer may not think this move was weak, but I was expecting 10.Nbd2. He could play a Re1, a4, Qb3 idea. There is really no need to box the queen in like this, and I wasn’t too worried about his threat to win the e-pawn, although I did spend a lot of time considering it.
12.Re1?! Starting around here, he should play BxNf6, and I knew this OTB, but took a chance that he wouldn’t want to, and then he proved me right.
12….Qg6?! I wasn’t as sure OTB, but …Na5 should be right away, to not allow the BxNf6 trade.
13…Rae8. This is really a ‘half-measure’, as I should play …Nh5 so that I can get in …Raf8 in one go. Here is a sample of how this game could have gone 13… Nh5 14. Kh2 Nf4 15. Qf1 Nxh3 (piece sac – I had tried to make this sac work OTB, in my analysis) 16. Kxh3 Rf4 17. Nbd2 Raf8 18. Kh2 Qh6 19. g3 Rxf3 20.
Nxf3 Rxf3 21. d4 exd4 22.exd5 dxc3 23. Rxe6 Qd2 24. Re2 Qxd5 25.
bxc3 g5 26. Rd1 Qf5 27. Bxg5 Qxg5 28. Qh3 Bd6
16…Ref8 I knew I was ‘doubling down’ on nothing, and that after 17.b4, I should play …Bd6, which is half a pawn better than …Bb6, but I sort of had my fingers crossed that he would come up with a blunder, and if not then I will restructure my pieces, no problem, just disappointment.
17.Bg5?? As soon as he played this, I saw my sac, but hesitated to play it because 17…Bxf2 wins a pawn. In the end, I went with my gut, and figured it would be more fun and exotic than trying to hold an extra pawn in time-pressure.
30…Qxf3+ He resigned, since it’s unavoidable mate-in-one.
This game was 0.0 score until my opponent played …a5. It was still only += until he took the pawn on b4 instead of castling.
20.BxBe7? Played instantly, but it has the problem of connecting rooks for Black. Bc1 is winning instantly because after taking on b7, the Na7 will drop off. Those retrograde moves, always tricky to spot.
21…Nc6? It’s already losing, but 21…Rhc8 is better. Now 22.RxR RxR, 23.Qg5+ followed by Nb5 is winning. I got really nervous knowing the position was winning, and that I didn’t have a lot of time left – I could have played better feeling loose.
22.Rb1? I was actually thinking that 22…Rhb8 was very close to a draw, but this should have been my opponent’s last chance out of it. Like I said, I was feeling too tight to find the win.
The amount of tactical errors that I make from this point on is apalling, although one reason is that I’ve had a bad habit of not wanting to calculate my own king’s safety – something which starkly shows here.