Played against an Expert as Black. Older gentleman, friendly, outgoing. After the game, after the part where he blundered, he said “Now this is chess!”
The game started in typical fashion, I overslept my nap and was 10 minutes late. I spent about 25 minutes on 11.Ne1, the alternative was ..Na5, which probably would have been better. I could played that move in just a fraction of the time, but got lost in a ‘smell the roses’ moment which I so typically do.
My opponent surprisingly blundered soon after, but I had made the even bigger blunder of not saving enough time on the clock to play an endgame vs. an Expert. My endgame was very passive, conservative, and superficial, and he quickly played all the right moves. I waited too long to get in ..b4, and so he quickly snuck in c3, which left me with little counterplay and a bad bishop. I asked Anthea her opinion after the game, and I liked her suggestions for more active play on the kingside, such as ..f6, ..Kf7, ..g5 (well, at least the first two moves would have been a lot better). I was still thinking middlegame, how ..f6 would weaken e6, but the very slight importance of such a middlegame notion had long passed, plus I had that bishop covering it anyway.
Once I had played 34…NxNe4, giving myself that symmetrical pawn position, he felt he had the win assured at that point. Really, I noticed my opponent had lost to a 1600 level player last month, so I took it for granted too much that he would make a bad move somewhere in the endgame, but that was probably the last thing that was going to happen there. This game probably merits a lot of study to find improvements for Black, where they were and why, alternative ways of playing it.
My feeling after the game was that:
A) I was lazy
B) Wasn’t sure what to think of it; probably need to put more analytical work into the endgame.
He didn’t spend much time on this game, had over 45 minutes left when I resigned, so it wasn’t like I was sitting around on his turn looking for improvements – weaker players seem to give me that time, and stronger players don’t.
BTW, I should have played …Bc8 before he forced it with g4. I say that because that was an easy improvement to find, I mean improving play after that point. We both thought that I should have recaptured with the pawn on move 34 to maintain more active chances. When I blundered at the end with the insta-move, the position was already far lost.
One thing is that he did blunder later with Bf4. I was expecting Bc1, he trades a rook, then he can play Rb2 and Bf4, although it takes a few more tempos. Black had …NxBf4, NxN..Nxb2 winning. It’s interesting that you can look at it two ways: 1) It’s a spurious tactic and I should have figured out a way to save the endgame structure. 2) There is no endgame structure worth all the thought to hold or able to hold, you simply have to find the random shot that the opponent serves up for you. I actually think #2 is correct. I played that move quickly, but not because I wanted to, simply didn’t notice the shot in the half a minute that I looked at it. Shot aside, the position looks difficult to hold for Black on a practical level – I am sure a postal player could hold this position. hehe.
This position was easily won with pawn takes on e4 instead of knight. In time-pressure, I was worried about the “tactics” of holding onto the isolated pawn. There are no tactics, the Knight easily holds a4 and also prevents an unprotected f5 push by White. In my heart, I felt like taking with the pawn might be my only chance (and in fact is easily winning). This was another time-control loss, with an additional SD 30 minute period (don’t need that much time, just saying) I easily win this game. Completely unnecessary loss. It’s like my brain wasn’t keeping up with the fact that fewer and fewer pieces were on the board.
The b3 with c4 push, attempt to dislodge the knight from defending the e4 pawn, will lose a pawn, plus Black’s pieces and passed pawns get loose; e.g., Knight recaptures on c4, then wins the pawn on a3 while simultaneously covering the c2 square so that the rook can’t get at the backward c-pawn. The knight was really working well with that pawn structure, but I didn’t realize it. Plus, recapturing with a pawn on e4 not only means that it is passed, but even more importantly gives a way for the bishop to enter the game – bishop gets to d5 via f7.
As great as this sounds, I am still looking at Black mating in 69 moves because both sides promote a pawn. Theoretically, the win is a done deal, but he probably had the better sense that he could drag me out on the clock like that. I believe he had 49 minutes left at the end, and most of the time he spent luxuriously was on the opening. So once he blundered, he went into fast-play mode, which I can’t stand because it seems like I spend too much effort writing down moves as opposed to playing them. Lesson learned.
Anything other than 38…Ke7 is losing for Black, may take 80 moves before the mate, but losing. Now I have to look at that move. This has been the most endgame analysis that I can ever remember doing for an OTB game that I played. 38…Ke7 is losing elegantly. It’s beginning to look as if it’s fair to say that my intuition was correct, that the Nxe4 instead of d5xe4 was too symmetrical to gain pawn or piece play and is a slow loss for Black. White can mess it up, but after the game he suggested that he could have played Re2, etc, he was really on top of the endgame.
Instead of 36…c5, which is the losing move as it introduces another weakness, Anthea’s suggestion of 36…f6 holds on for the draw, as long as Black doesn’t try and disturb the position (hopefully someone doesn’t move their king around in circles here to get me to forfeit on time. 😉 ). If after …f6, Black still wants to go for the win (Crafty suggests ..c5 at this point), then in the continuation that I followed through with Crafty, Black is getting mated in a mere 102 moves! Mah head asplode! And more importantly, my clock explode! 😉
I need to pace myself now because I’ve seen enough of these quick bad moves to know that I can monopolize on them through a patient, complete game. I don’t really need to be a genius or anything. In these big tournaments, I don’t have the luxury of knowing my opponents that well, although I will eventually get around to playing them. So, I won’t have that advantage of knowing their game, but I will often have that extra time.
Another wasted opportunity. I’ll get there, it just pushes the marker back further when I do this.