Today, I played for a “chess lesson” against Isaac. He’s the only player I’d do this against, play to learn, but our post-mortems are interesting, and sometimes I feel that he is the only player I can learn from. He plays well in complications, particularly with his queen, and me, not so much with the queens on. The secret to the queen seems to be how well that it triangulates the board, particularly back and forth across longish diagonals, zig-zagging her way.
He handled the complications well. I figured that I could get a materially equal endgame position, and probably outplay him for the rating-points win, or sac a piece and see how that goes. After I sacked, I realize it wasn’t going to work out because of ..f6, which he also found. Still, I thought that my chances were alright until he played ..Qg7, which took me by surprise, probably the strongest move on the board. Of course I saw that g4 was a blunder as soon as I had played it (in time-pressure), but we tried other moves after the game and there is no saving move.
Fort that reason, I could try 22.Kh1 dxe4, 23.g4 Rg8 (he played this move in the post-mortem), and now 24.Re2 is forced, else Black would have 24..Bxf and it can’t be taken because the of mate on g2 threat. So 24…Nf3 forks queen and knight, and that will trade off too much of my attacking material. Wow, that continuation goes on elegantly. If 25.Qf2 then ..Rd8, so continuing on 25.NxN exf, 26.Rf2 (was attacked by the pawn) Ne5, 27. h3 Bxf!, 28.gxB Rad8!, threatening to remove the Rd1 defender of the back rank, so 29.Rd1-b1 Qh6, 30.Rbf1(say) Rg5 (the bishop is no longer defended by the g4 pawn, so that Black pins it to the queen and wins it).
Our post-mortem was interesting, as usual. Isaac has such great board-vision. He saw his ..Qh6 then going down to d2, for instance and attacking my king in conjunction with his knight. I hardly need to come home and look at an engine, as he sort of is like playing against one. Well, I played for fun and the learning and experience, and I got both.
There was one post-mortem variation where he made a lazy blunder that he wouldn’t have OTB, but we played on and I got a winning endgame position, but it’s not wildly surprising as that is my (relative) strength.
There was one post-mortem variation where he goes Qh6-d2, then plays ..h6 defended by the queen, then I though I had him on h6, but he covers it by playing ..Kg7. He saw all of the back and forth sacking on g6 immediately. It feels like watching “Houdini” at work, the way he gets out of stuff when the kings are in jeopardy. In another post-mortem where I thought I had him, he played Bxf5 attacking my Qg4 (which also defends against the mate on g6) and deflecting it from my Rg8, which was also now attacked by his Ra8 – not a tempo too soon, but he saw it right away when I thought I finally had him.
The amazing thing about this game is that the sac isn’t losing, if Black makes a touch of a mistake. Qg4+, that was my losing move, and I had lost confidence in it before I played it, but I did not know how Re3 with b5 plan (I also wanted to play this move) could be alright. If Black does not respond to b5 with ..Na5 then there are drawing and level lines, or winning. Well, it was a losing sac in any case. We did briefly both mention 18.f6+ and shoot it down as quick. After 18..Kh8, Black develops his pieces rapidly and ideally, infiltrating to nice squares.
14.f4 was the way to play for an advantage, rather than 14.Re1. f4 should have lead to a +1 +- for White. Even should I have done that, this is a lot of tactical complexity for a G/90. The Lopez is a much safer G/90 opening for an experienced player playing against a tactical player.
I almost played the Spanish game against him, but was worried that he may play the Marshall well or something like that, but that would seem to be irrational now that I think of it. He probably only knows this opening as well as he does because I play it against him. Next time I will play the Spanish against him.
That f4 line is the black-hole for Black. White builds such a strong structure that Black has nowhere to go. It’s virtually a forced win. I’ve looked at so many checkmating attacks resulting from it, or wins material with Bc5xRf8 – can’t really stop it even when you know it’s coming. F4 is the critical line because it allows White to reposition the misplaced bishop to f3. Of course, I saw this but was looking for more direct tactical chances, which didn’t exist against best play from Black, and he achieved that.
Also, I was going to play 15.Nf3, but again I wanted more. There’s something about G/90 that makes me want to get more of a cheapo advantage before getting into time-trouble. In a 6 hour game, I would be playing all of these solid moves, if not finding the best attacking move, such as 14.f4. For a G/90, I was following the tactical trail, but it never lead to anywhere.
If you think this is a bad defeat, Anthea lost as White to that 1200 kid that I narrowly beat last week. It was an even ending, he offered a rook exchange and she had to take it, but would have been better or even anyway (probably would have won for White if played correctly), but she refused the trade and lost. That is crazy. Folks, I know we talk about “must-win” a lot, but that goes to show that a draw is better. Around a 600 rating point difference between the two.