My Round 2 pairing for this month was against Katie, who has been up and coming but is also a player who I’ve felt that I match up well against.
I had no special preparation for the opening, other than to play “Russian-like” and give her some challenges to throw her off her game, or more precisely her opening. Such was the case with an early ..Nd4.
Move 17.d4+? was the critical move/moment in this game. I had three choices, and first mostly ruled out 17…Rc7, which she thought was best after the game, but I saw that she could push the rook around starting with Be5.
The second choice I looked at and felt was right, but couldn’t calculate conceptualize it, was 17…a5!, which was winning. I kept coming back to this move, but didn’t find the purpose to it after 18.bxa Bc5+, 19.d4 Here I had to look deeper and see that 19..Bd6! Now White’s bishop is blocked in, can’t trade itself for the Nf6, can’t go to e5 attacking a Rc7 for example. Also, Bd6 is threatening to attack the f4-g3 pawn chain beginning with 20..Nh5 for example.
Beyond this, Black can can continue after 19..Bd6! with 20..Bc7! and is now raking White’s queenside pawns with the bishop pair and winning both of them, for a winning advantage. After the game is when I began to notice that I should have noticed how the bishop pair is potentially destroying White’s queenside (pawns).
It probably didn’t help that I have had weird sleeping patterns, like sleeping only 1 and 1/2 hours before going to work in the morning, which is what I did in Round 1 against my lower-rated opponent. Sleep really helps when it comes to the ability to conceptualize what is happening at the board.
In the end, I went with 17..d4+ because it was easier for me to follow the point behind it, and I was hoping for some cheapo against the king. I instantly played 18..Bc6??, which isn’t such a wise thing to do under 1900 – we probably aren’t strong enough to know which moves should be played instantly.
Of course I had considered playing 18…Nd5, but didn’t notice until after the bishops were traded on c6 that Black could simply play BxNf6..BxB, Ra2 and she is simply a pawn up in a winning position, which is what she played. I have no good excuse though because as pointed out earlier, I should have seen that this BxNf6 was a main freeing move for her position all along in just about any decent variation for White.
After the game she revealed that the purpose of the king maneuver was to bring her king to c2? Which was a blunder in our skittles post-game analysis. During the game, I thought she was pushing the king to entice me to blunder while going after her king, or threatening me with a draw in some sense, by having an aggressively posted king. Well, I was obviously looking at this position from a psychological perspective rather than from a concrete or conceptual perspective.
In the future I need to stay competitively tough in this early middlegame stage where more conceptualization needs to take place, and not simply hope for tactical cheapos, which is probably a big problem with the seeing the game of chess as 99% tactics school of thought.