I’d like to say that I was calm, cool, and collect, but actually I was a bunch of nerves. I finished with 4:56 left on my clock, and her 12 and half minutes.
Dealing with the vicissitudes of play during a King’s Gambit at G/90 is like living a miracle. Actually, I’m grateful that I got this one under my belt so that I can study and learn from it because I didn’t have a clue regarding how to evaluate what I was looking at. It was a bit of a tortured mess, and Fruit thought I was ranging from +- to += the whole way, but I was “tripping out” over a lot of what I saw.
Alexa is is very sweet and a strong analyst. The fact that I probably study chess more than her is what gives me the big advantage, I feel. She was definitely more composed at the board than I was, as I sort of lost my mind at the critical points.
In the opening, I could have played 5.d4 straight away, and you can see how worried I was about a …Qh4+ after Black sacking a piece on d4, but it’s a ghost threat. Anyway, in this opening Alexa basically made the mistake of trying to combine a KG Accepted with KG Declined, “mixing systems” in chess parlance.
When I played 11.Qc2 it was after a long think where I felt I couldn’t quite find the handle on the position, and after playing it and leaving the board, it suddenly occured to me, blindfold-style, that 11…BxN, 12.RxB Bxd4, 13.cxd4 Nxd4 forking the Rf3 and Qc2 is really weird and I thought I had blundered and that that would be good for her, but Fruit says no, still gives me a +=, but what a weird position! As Black, a little confusion should be desirable, whereas for White it’s a nightmare to lose order over the board like that.
After 11…Rde8 the threat I described was even a more legitimate looking one, to take on f3 with 12…Bxf3, but I realized that trading queens and then taking on f7 was always a bailout plan and I was surprised that Fruit likes White here. At the board, there is a lot of worry and speculation, which eats at the clock. Even playing the King’s Gambit against her took two minutes off my clock thinking whether to do it because I thought I would have had Black against her.
The reason I avoided 12.Rae1 was because of 12…Nh5, which gives Black an instant attack and turns the tide in her favor, plus it’s my bad bishop getting chased.
After 16…a5, 17.b5, I was basically up a piece with her bishop out of play like that, so I turned my attention back to the kingside, knowing that I had a free hand to attack with, even though the action is taking place in front of my king.
I thought she had finally cracked a bit when she allowed me to play 19.Rxf6. No doubt she was probably looking to reply …Qg4, and had just missed 20.g3
I saw that I could win the h6 pawn on move 20, and that was probably best, but as Magnus says “I decided to shut it down” as in this case my nerves and ability to calculate that huge mess at G/90 were getting taxed.
I was stunned at 22…d5, since I had not considered it, and at this moment my nerves were turning to jelly as I just took the pawn, thinking that I needed to keep reacting confidently, and then noticed that I had blundered the bishop before she took it. At this point a crowd suddenly gathered around and right after she took my bishop I said to the crowd “I know, I dropped a piece.”, and then we both smiled at each other for a moment (her smile is always a nice smile). Luckily, I then found h4 and went with that, focused just as much on managing the clock by this point. BTW, the relaxed response was to see that all is in order with White’s position and simply play 22.Bf1.
My basic idea after 28.h5 was to create a pawn-roller while her rooks were still fumbling around and her minors out of play. Naturally, I was happy that she had blundered quite a bit, later on, as I didn’t want to be tested on the clock. It was a fortunate escape because even though the computer can like your position and suggest that you not panic, that is rarely the case OTB and this is where ratings come into it. A GM is not going to panic in the times when I am freaking out trying to figure out what is going on.
Next week, I won’t be so lucky, I will play William who is another one of those players that can finish a game with an hour on his clock.