I played John for the second time. I last played him two weeks back where I lost as White in the French Advanced variation.
In this game, as White he played a variation of the English opening which I can’t remember playing against on FICS, even though it is a mainline.
I can’t help but say that this game came down to one bad plan 16…Qc4. I spent perhaps five minutes calculating 16…Qe5, 17.Bf4 Qb5, but I overlooked that White can’t trade queens because the Na4 will be attacked by a pawn, and therefore 18.Qb3 is forced. I had meant to play that continuation all along, but at the last second I spotted 16…Qc4 and went for that. Didn’t take long before I regretted it. That would seem to be the game, in a nutshell.
I remember that move 16 now, I had seen that the queen trade on move 18 would lead to Na4 being attacked by pawn, but I had a nebulous idea that Nc5 would be the reply and wished I had more time to look at that variation. 18.Nc5 is not possible in that line because I would reply BxBf3, and if he trades bishops on b7, then my Nb7 covers c5 square, so Nc3 c6 and I am fine.
In blitz I would have simply played the queen correctly to begin with. I felt during this game that if it were G/2, I would draw this from that position. I should be able to calculate faster, not need that much time. From this lesson, I have discovered that when calculating, I need to calculate a whole line through, for depth, before worrying and looking over my shoulder for intermediate replies. There is a notion of spotting all of the candidate moves first, threats, refutations. But I can say if your intuition is strong, and you are experienced, follow your gut the whole way through first, as fast as possible, undistracted. Then after making the full determination, having looked without any question all the way through the variation to the very end, one can come back and do a sort of quick blundercheck/backcheck to see if there were any panzy replies/tactics that you may have missed, which your opponent could have inserted. There isn’t room for uncertainty and hand-waving in chess, must accurately determine a calculation and have no shred of doubt. These positions just aren’t that complicated, it’s not a GM-level complication, and my opponent was letting me off the hook left and right as it was up to that point, anyway.
This was definitely one of those games where I went, “this looks bad, therefore I’ll play this instead”, “this” being any other move, even if worse.
First Crafty, going back to that 18.Qb3 possibility, I would have played 18…QxQ, which is bad. Interestingly, I knew which variation to choose for White to win, but Crafty did not and I kept drawing the play against Crafty’s analysis. But anyway.
I just remembered, he said …g6 was dubious, and I replied, “yes, but I didn’t want to play for a draw” whereupon he did one of those “ppsshhhh!”, scornfully. I seriously thought about …Bb4, and didn’t like …Bc5 (since if I play ..d6, he can try to trap bishop with Na5…Bb6, c5). But …g6 looked playable, and he didn’t challenge it much in the opening with his Be2 move. Crafty gives ..Bb4 as the main reply, and ..Bc5 as the secondary replay, but …g6 was okay.
Incidentally, I played 18…Bc8 instantly, then immediately saw that I could have played 18…Nd6, but that move also loses an exchange (as well as the c6 pawn), that is how powerful the bishop pair was in that position.
On further reflection, I think that if I had played 16..Qe5, that he probably would have played 17.Qc5 just because he is such a strong positional player, and White should go on to win. I knew that playing …d5 would probably mean taking on doubled c-pawns, which I remembered from a Purdy book ‘art of Annotation’ that this was a bad thing to do, but I figured that I might have chances to sack a pawn and force him to give up his bishop pair. What I didn’t realize is how devastating that his bishop pair would actually be. Plus, if I do sac a pawn, I can’t exchange knight for bishop if that means leaving us with same colored bishops (e.g., a Nd4, Nf6xNd4, BxNd4, BxBd4 exchange).
My intention when playing ..d5 was to play ..Be6, when the position “looked good”, but I was seeing ghosts in regards to hanging the c6 square and that diagonal. Really, the complications I feared were above my level to analyze, and if this had been blitz, I certainly would have not gone into some sort of “deep fear” mode, but rather instead calmly played 10..Be6 where White has only the normal small pull.
I was also seeing ghosts with 12..dxc, which gives him a big edge. Simply 12..a5 with the idea of 13..Qb4 would have answered the opening. 13..Qe7 is even playable after 13.Bf4.