So I played Dragan, for the fourth time I believe, with the White pieces.
When I got there, he seemed ready and determined (isn’t this always the case). I had just taken some tylenol and aspirin for a headache and was have a low-energy day. But okay that is neither here nor there, I suppose. He played The French Def. Arggh, right off the bat I had forgotten that he plays the French and had prepared The Scotch opening. I have four books on the French that I will study in earnest some day, but the last thing I wanted with Dragan was a closed, strategic struggle.
He surprised me early with 11…Na5! I am completely stumped. I knew that if I got stumped I would have a long think because I wasn’t feeling so spry and energetic. Okay, he is definitely having his day and it is not mine, I felt this throughout the game. I was going back and forth, but later (of course), I determined the best reply would have been Nfd2, to trade knights on c4 and not a bishop. But okay I play Na4 and he plays …Qc6 instead of taking it. Okay, so yes it is starting to feel like his day.
We play on, and it seems that if I push b5, then he can play …Na5 and best I would have is a draw, but I went for something far more dubious with my plan to launch a kingside attack. Okay, I realize that this plan fails tactically because he has threats like Nc4xBe3 followed by Bg5 after I have played f5, skewering anything on that diaganal.
Before I know it (I feel like I am playing against RollingPawns at this point. hehe) he is dictating on the c-file and I am scrambling to defend.
I wasted some ungodly amount of time early in the game after his …Na5, something ridiculous like 40 minutes on that move. So now I am down to 11 minutes vs his 18 when I finally create a tactical threat. I see that he can stop it by playing 27…Qe6, but I notice that I may have a tactical win if he plays 27…Nf8. I thought, yeah I’ll go home and Crafty will tell me all about it, wrong!
Crafty didn’t pick my clever 27…Bf2 move, and did not see that ..Nf8 is losing for close to a minute! What the heck, I thought we were supposed to let these engines find the tactics for us. But it takes some prodding, if it were just “going over the game” and set to pick out +1 high-points, it would probably never point this possibility out.
Anyway, I realized if he plays …Qe6, plugging up the hole there, I have nothing to play for, so I offered him a draw right away, not wanting to offer it after he plays ..Qe6, when he would have no reason to accept. He thought for two minutes and accepted.
I saw that he could play …Qe6-f7, then play ..Nf8-e6. I have the feeling that he would have finally settled on …Qe6, based on his reactions after the game, but I think he was also looking at putting a piece on h4 and not really looking at ..Nf8 at all, since he also saw the threat.
Anyway, I was at a low-energy level, and his was high, so that I was glad to escape with the draw. My next move after 27…Qe6 was probably going to be Bg3, and we both agreed that there was probably going to be a lot of piece-shuffling at a fast pace.
It was a four way tie at 3.5 (naturally the 2.5 guys get an easy opponent to knock off in the last round, so they got there the easy way – one 1400 player that I beat also had 3.5).
My first round opponent, Kenton, did not pay for the tournament, so that my win against him will not be rated. You should know when a guy shows up with no set, board, doesn’t pay and leaves his pen and scoresheet, which were likely supplied by the TD, that he may just skip on the rest of the tournament. ;-p
Dragan didn’t lose any games in this tournament, just draws and wins. I could sense that he was having a strong, determined tournament from how he watched my games in earlier rounds.
It’s too bad that this wasn’t a 40/2, G/1 game, it could have gone on for a lot longer, but I was satisfied with the draw. For example, (he knew a win was needed to avoid 4-way tie) if he had thought that ..Nf8 was something, he would have been like aha, strong knight on e6, I’ll keep playing! Actually, I think he missed that idea entirely and was simply about to play only a solid move when he agreed to the draw. Well, he was mostly looking at his rooks and ..Rc6 or ..Rf8 would have kept his slight advantage, so that I guess it was a rather nice struggle between us after all. I floundered around a bit, yet did not lose. I used to lose my games whenever I did that.
I though to myself “A GM would probably play 12.Nd2 here”. But I guess I couldn’t overcome my state of panic. It’s like you can see yourself from the outside looking in thinking “If I were a normal sane person, I would probably play Nd2”, but sometimes you think that and you are right not to play it, so it always appears more obvious later. I think that during the game it’s easier to think more about winning than simply playing solid chess.
Yes, that was it, I was convinced that the 12.Nd2 Rc8, 13.Na4 (only now) was best during the game, but it was based on intuition, and I still couldn’t describe to myself why I felt that was best. In the end, I got lazy and assumed Black would take on a4 rather than play ..Qc6, a surprise to me. With a Nd2 first, I could assure myself that I would grab control of the c-file first, where no ..Nc4 was possible. I did look at b5…Qc7, but then did not equate that with the following move Rc1. Perhaps because in the first variation that Rc1 move does not prevent a ..Nc4, but in the second variation, it does prevent it. So, I wasn’t putting the big picture together, but my opponent was. I had a sense that the Nd2 (playing it first) variation was different, but was a little too tired to work it all out like that. My opponent understood that he did not want to play his knight on a5 back to c6, but I mistakenly thought it was better on c6 (not as good as at c4 though, doh!), but it’s not as strong at c6 with the Qa4 pinning it. I wasn’t seeing the big deal so much with the Qa4 pin, but when comparing how much initiative that White would have had as to in the actual game, it’s a dramatic difference.
I just looked at this long line. It’s ridiculous how hard it is for White to try and get a winning advantage with this opening, OTB. Black holds too easily. I could just as well play 1.d4 against French Defenders, it’s ridiculous. I need to learn the Winnawer Def. I completely suck at that defense, with both sides. The Winnawer becomes closed, too, though. I think 2.d3 and f4, that’s still the line Black doesn’t like to see.