I played a new opponent, as White, in this game. Really old guy, at first I thought he must be 1100 or something, but then he told me he was around 1950.
It was a pleasure to play him as he really concentrated, as did I, no annoying mannerisms so that I think we were both deeply focused.
There is a caveat to this game score. The actual game ends at move 23…Bb5 whereupon he immediately offered me a draw, and I accepted it, having no reason not to. The reason I offer a long score here is that our post-game analysis went to move 27…Ba6, where both of us thought that he must be winning because of either his ability to double on the c-file, or due to his ability to play …e5. Not so, as you can see by what happens after that. Actually, Crafty prefers not to trade knights there as White at the end and instead play Nc4, but you can see that the two pawns and bishop for rook give White at least a +1 advantage. But look at how long it takes to reach a quiescent position!
Anyway, it was the same old story because of the tactical shots that I missed. His 19…Rd8 looked suspicious, but then I reminded myself that he was higher rated, after all, so it was perhaps best. He thought I could win with 20.Bf4, and I did think at first that I could take advantage that he hadn’t played …Nd5 yet, but then saw 21.Ng6 as nothing, which is correct, but I think I only briefly glanced at 21.Nc6, thinking my knight may be trapped after 22.NxRb8. What I didn’t realize is that I was very lazy and didn’t even come close to calculating that to a quiescent position.
What’s worse is that we both missed that White is simply mating after 20.Bxh6! I saw Crafty’s score and thought “How does that work? The only possible follow-up is…let’s see…Qg3”, but then I utterly did not check this line out, looked at Bxh6 for a split second and blew it off, for the second game in a row I have done this sort of thing!
Another ironic part to his 20…Nd5 is that, after playing this move, his only piece defending his king is the Nf8, the other 5 pieces are out of play for that purpose. I did realize that he was trading off his only really good piece when he played …Nd5xBd3, as the queen and knight combo were almost all he had going in his favor. If I hadn’t noticed this minimalist, safe advantage, then surely I would have looking for more. It’s like the fox that drops off the $1 bill in front of you so that you don’t notice the $100 bill behind you (just made that up). If I had played this mating attack, Black virtually has to play …Qc7, then White plays Rc1 and gets both rooks into the mating attack against his paltry defense of knight and queen (the f8 knight gets traded off on g6).
For two moves I had this Bxh6 mating attack, but what did I play the second time, I play 21.a3, doh!
Oh, regarding 23.Rf1, that was the one move where I looked at the position, just made a sensible looking move and went to take my only bathroom break. When I got back I noticed that I had completely overlooked his 23…Bb5 threat (he still hadn’t played it yet) and realized that I’d have to defend with 24.Nc4, as 24.Qe4 can be met by ..f5 attacking both queen and Rf1 still.
I accepted his draw offer with 20 minutes on my clock and just under an hour on his clock. This is basically what I am doing, I am spending too much time and energy on the opening, then I get to this point where I already think that this is the “technical phase” of the game, when in reality it is far from that and is in reality the most explosive, combinative high-point of the game. I am moving relatively quickly here and simply seeking to pad my positional advantage rather than trying to “guess which briefcase has the million dollars in it”, already.
I studied checkmates this weekend and that is still my most egregious shortcoming as a chessplayer, I feel, not seeing the mates or bothering to calculate them, granted that more time and energy at that point might of helped. I can take comfort in the familiar refrain from RollingPawns which goes something like this “Well, at you can take confidence in knowing that if you had seen/played the mating attack, you would have won.” hehe. My mating attack in these past two games has been non-existent.
The ironic part of this game was afterward when he told me that he should play better, as of late, but that he spends too much of his time and energy in the opening – naturally, he appeared to have both the time and energy still, but rather this has been my problem! If anything was slightly wearing him out (he didn’t seem tired at all to me) was all the time that had been spent on my clock.
Here’s the mating line I was looking at:
20. Be3 Nd5 21. Bxh6 Qc7 22. Qg3 g6 23. Bxf8 Rxf8 24. Rac1 Qd6 25. Bxg6 fxg6 26.Qxg6+ Kh8 27. Re4 Nf4 28. Qh6+ Kg8 29. Rc3 Qe7 30. Rg3+ Qg7 31. Qxg7#
I picked 23.Bxf8 because it is straightforward, removes a defender immediately.
I can say this, this situation is possibly the one time in the game where you have to look away from the board to visualize possible combos and use your conscience to determine what is right. The question isn’t “Is there a checkmate?” as that can and will be blown off “Oh, Bxh6 looks risky and ‘out there’ “. The real question you have to ask yourself is “Why _isn’t_ it a checkmate?”, which forces a person to give it some introspective and accurate analysis. “Why isn’t it?” That is the question which must be answered. The hardest part to find are all of the sham-sacs involved, and sacs for mate are what give chess it’s beauty, otherwise it would be like “Yeah, you dropped the exchange, now it’s over”, but the GMs know there are a lot of times you don’t want to accept the exchange, that it’s not all about material, but having “an attack” as well.