I played Mark again, as White, this time for the final round of Wednesdays, and for the month.
The game roughly followed a GM game that I had seen before, with the a3 followed by Bd3 and Qc2-e2-e4 idea. So for me, the opening didn’t involve too many decisions, but he spent a long time on his clock analyzing traps that White may have in store for him. I, OTH, was pretty much oblivious to these traps, simply trying to get out of the opening with an advantage. e.g., Bxf7+ followed by Qf3, e6 Qf7 mate – I mean, I lost a game online once sacking two pieces for Rh8 but it was simply bad, but he was worried about mate in this case.
In any event, after move twelve I had 1 hour to his 6 minutes remaining, and after move thirteen I had 51 minutes to his 2 minutes. It’s funny how both players can have a lot of the same thoughts during a game, but I had figured it was +/= at times and +/- near the end, but he had been worried that is was more like +/- even back when Crafty was calling it equal. I told him that he should have played …Be7 and ..0-0 about a half hour before he did and also to play ..Bd7.
Well, by the end of the game he had 11 seconds left for his last few moves, and I had 8 minutes left, and yes the time did come in handy! Who won? Well, my take on it is that the clock did! Naturally.
I thought that 12..f6 was his best moves, but he thought it was weakening. Really, it is a +/= playable middlegame, not as much a big deal on the board as on the clock, since 13.exf is best and playing a waiting move like 13.g3 and letting Black take on e5 is only equal. During the game I was contemplating 12..f6, 13.Nh4 Nxe, 14.f4?? which didn’t look quite promising enough for the pawn anyway, but 14..Nxf is a discovered attack on the Bd3 and is winning for White (also a ..g5 fork threat after a recapture on f4). Crafty prefers 12..Bd7 or 12..Bc5.
I told him afterward that I thought that his 13..Nd4? was a mistake. But I knew that time was affecting him, and it seemed he felt like he needed to “take on the world” in this position instead of looking for a calmer developing move, and letting his game take care of itself more.
After move 15..f5, Mark asked for a draw. I immediately replied “I think I am winning a pawn here, ask me again later.” Incidentally, this was also Crafty’s first choice 16.NxNd5 fxQ, 17.NxQ axN (doubling his b-pawns) 18.Bxe4 (winning a pawn and giving us a bishop-pair endgame, all forced BTW). So he was looking at that when I finally decided against the plan of tussling with him in an endgame and played 16.exf followed by 17.Qg6.
I spent quite a bit of time deciding between the Rg1 plan and the Ne4 plan, went back and forth and finally chose Kh1,Rg1. But this was a huge screw-up on my part.
I had seen 17.Ne4 NxN, 18.BxN Kg8, 19.Qh7+ Kf7, 20.Bxh6 Bf6, 21.Bg6+ Ke7, 22.Bxg7 and I was thinking “Well, now his king takes flight using the square that his bishop just vacated (e7) and I am potentially only gaining a pawn.” Very bad interpretation of the position, as Black will lose his rook on f8 the very next move or get mated. Crafty gives it +16.0 in favor of White.
Anyway, on move nineteen he plays 19…Nd5?? Which, I had just as awfully predicted he would make. When in fact, he had 19…Qe8! with a slight advantage. His 18..Qc6 had surprised me, and since he plays it ‘with tempo’ he gets to e8 one move sooner. I didn’t realize how good for him that move was, and only really noticed that I was getting my attack in before he could play Bc8-d7-e8. Instead of the 18…Qc6 idea, I had only suspected 18…Rg8
So, my checkmating skills left a whole lot to be desired, and yet it was my clock management skills (relatively speaking) which carried the day. Often, I will lose and still think that I am the better player, but with Mark I win and still suspect that he is quite possibly the stronger player. Without a doubt, opening theory gave me a big edge compared to someone who is trying to figure it all out OTB. You know, if the clock times were the other way around, I would have traded queens for the pawn, but having played more than my share of online games knew that it would be too difficult on the clock to defend accurately against a mating attack.
After the game, we discussed it outside and I told him how I thought that he could have improved or try differently, so that next time it will probably be a much greater struggle to garner a full point against him.
I don’t think that quicker time-controls than G/90 are a good idea for me, since G/90 is just barely enough time. Reason I say this is that I went 3/4, but will be lucky if my rating goes from 1757 to 1770. I could lose twice that much of a rating point swing from a one day G/60 quad tournament simply due to time-pressure. I had sort of given up on the rating points improvement game, but rating points do earn respect when it comes to pairings, so I can’t pretend to think that they simply don’t matter when it comes to one’s “fate” in chess. Anyway, if I do lose at quicker games, people will simply think that I am incompetent regardless.
I had felt rather strongly that 12…f6 was his best move, and even told Mark that “It looks like a middlegame, but it’s really an ending opening (which is what scared me OTB considering how we _both_ mismanaged our clocks). To prove this assertion, I want the reader to look at this game continuation after 12…f6. For the first 5 moves I show how I was planning on playing it as White, and after that it is all Crafty playing both sides. I found this to be comically horrible as trusting Crafty to play an endgame, yet it would also be difficult to do anything better than draw with White with best play. If you put this position up against your engine, it will tell you that White should play 13. exf, but if you notice, the middlegame position is very similar or nearly identical whether White takes on f6 or doesn’t.
After the game, Mark told me “You outplayed me”. I guess I did have a handle on that position after all, but it came from having read Gary Lane’s entire openings monograph (minus a lot of the sidenotes) on the C3 Sicilian, and then applying my own intuition OTB after all that, to find a move like 12..f6. It’s one of those “I know they aren’t telling me something” types of moves.