As expected, I was Black against Paul. I arrived a minute or two early, but everyone had started and my clock had a minute ticked by. Paul gave me a gruff sort of handshake as he usually does, and it was on. It sort of feels like that scene from the Titanic at the end where everyone is waiting for you to arrive at that moment (Titanic crew in heaven scene).
So, I am quite satisfied to be playing Paul, but I don’t really know what to expect in this game. He plays 2.e3 and it occurs to me that I will probably see a Reti, since that is what he taught his prodigy (student), Isaac to play.
I am wary that he may have something prepared, if I play the KID setup against it, which I feel best. I don’t want to be surprised, so I play the system I am most comfortable with, yet is drawish. I quickly play …b7, and it suddenly occurs to me that this game will be an acid test of MDLM’s advice on how to play – “no long thinks” as he likes to say.
I don’t want to advance my c-pawn to c5, even though Crafty says “Yes, go ahead and do it!” Reason why is the c-pawn advance is really marching into the jaws of the lion, White’s system is all setup for counterplay, so that I don’t want to disturb it.
We play on and I don’t have my first long think until 16)..f5, which I spend 9 minutes on – not smart, but what can I say, trying to break bad habits still. I had an hour and six minutes remaining after 15)…g6 (keeping with MDLM’s advice), but by move 19)..Ng4, I am down to thirty-four minutes; so, I had too many long thinks in there. He plays 20)h3, and I am slightly embarassed that I thought I had 20)…Nxe3? All the same, my plan was to weaken the squares around his king, so for that it got the job done, sort of.
I say that I was following MDLM’s advice because at first I thought to play ..h6, then quickly went with ..g6 instead with the idea of ..f5. Afterward, I thought that ..h6 with ..g5 idea looked stronger, but in this case I actually felt rewarded because it turned out that being able to think on his time by playing quickly was even better than choosing one move over another. I did this many times throughout the game.
Another voice spurring me into this direction was Walter Browne, who in his ‘The Master Game’ matches would say a whole bunch of long tactical possibilities and then end them with something like “I am just going to play Qc2 (a developing move) and see what he does.” Key phrase, just go with the plan, make a move, and see what one’s opponent does! Just as likely, it will have little to do with whatever your plan is.
I move my knight back to Nf6, and see that he has the initiative. 21)Ne5 is no surprise and I automatically reply with …BxN. Okay, I play the cheeky 22)…Ne5, surely expecting that he will capture it and I will have this version of a bad opposite-color bishop endgame, since he has worked up such a nice clamp on my position.
23)f4? What’s this, he doesn’t want to exchange the bishop for my nice knight? Okay, Ng3, my original plan, isn’t looking so hot, and I feel he may about to be turning on the grinder machine on me and grind away on my position with his space, passed pawn and two bishops advantage. Then I spot that he has played f4 a little too hastily, although he did spend a few minutes on it.
You know what’s whacky? I was thinking whether or not I had enough time on the board to play 23..Ne4-g3-h5-g7-e6 where it has a nice outpost, overlooking future operations such as ..c5 or ..Qh4. Now I’ll to run that by Crafty and see whether it’s terrible or not. I could have been thinking about something more productive, like curing world hunger, but no, I was contemplating a 5 move knight maneuver. ;-p Wow, interesting, I did have time for that maneuver, and after Rf3, Rg3…Rf8, I can get my ..c5 idea in, how cool is that? Position is rated by Crafty as dead-even. Largely this is so because the White queen also has to spend an inordinate amount of moves extricating herself from the corner of the board.
Will the exchange win for me? He seems to have a pretty good clamp on my position. But then, MDLM’s advice starts kicking in, as he has been spending too much time and letting me do most of my thinking on his time. He lets me out of the clamp, putting everything on his clock into a sleeper-mate.
Suddenly, he is sacking a pawn and prying open the center. I think it doesn’t work, but I am wrong, he has a draw by perpetual. But, in the true wisdom of being a d*ck in the middle of your opponent’s otherwise superb tactic that he had put much time into, I decide to throw him a monkey-wrench, displacing his queen by …Rb3. He is just as expectedly disturbed by the move, but then goes for broke once again, ditching his bishop on b2.
Actually, his attack doesn’t work, but would have the way I was going to play it, exchanging rooks on d6. The correct way to play it is to end up with two rooks and a bishop for a queen – he plays ..Rd6, then Black responds with …Rxb2, followed by ..Rb1+ and BxRe6.
Then, he takes my …c5 pawn and I immediately had seen that I could trade queens with …Qb6. Actually, I could have simply taken his Be4 for free.
Later, I do not setup mate threats properly on the back rank, but we are both in time pressure. I had 3 1/2 minutes at the end of the game to his 2.
So, the verdict is that yes MDLM’s advice does work. This was just as much a clock-win as a win on the board. My scoresheet wasn’t messed up until the last couple moves, and I think I only had two inaccuracies on it other than that (Rd1 instead of Re1 sort of thing). After the game, my first realization was still “How could I play like this against those H.S. kids who are rated higher than me? Surely they don’t use all of their clock as my opponent had.”
Next week, I will have the White pieces against Dragan, which will mean a Scotch Def. We are both tied for first with 3/4 points.
I can’t believe this, I actually played a game that I could be proud of, no real errors other than not winning it more cleanly at the end. I can hardly think of a game of mine that I would ever include in a ‘best game’ collection, or more importantly ‘instructional games’, but this one actually qualifies. Hard to believe, I think that both me and RollingPawns are actually on our way to making Expert someday.
The weekend after next they are having a first tournament in my home-town, it’s only a block away from my house. EF is $30. Unfortunately, it is G/30 with 30 second delay. I feel like maybe I should play only to represent (if it weren’t close by then no way), but there would go all of my rating points, probably wouldn’t win anything, plus it’s a fund-raiser event, so not much prizes. I feel more guilty for thinking of not going, but it seems like a bad idea to me. I told Dean “It took me a year just to figure out how to play at G/90, I would have to relearn how to play at G/60.” I also told him I don’t like 30 second delay because my heart is racing for an unknown extended period of time and it is easy to blunder. It’s not his tournament, but I wanted to get my 2 cents in. Apparently, a number of uber-high-rated players didn’t show up to the last tournament because they protested the 30 sec increment, and he thought it was because “they wanted to win on time.” That’s why I had to give him the other side of the story.