That is how I felt during and after this Round 3 game, utterly helpless to defend myself at that G/90 time-control.
I wish someone could teach me how to defend better, be it a mindset or whatnot. This is something that RollingPawns seemed to calculate deeply at, and have a feel for, but which for me I can’t find even an elementary defense, nor know when to defend or how to combine attack and defense. Sure, it’s easy to attack when your opponent has zero counterplay, but this wasn’t the case in the game.
While trying to examine a little of theory, I played the …Bb4 line against myself last night as Black and lost. I can’t even defend against myself as Black. haha. So I decided to try a new line against Joe, knowing that I would be better off playing the line we always play, but at some point I need to grow as a chessplayer and not play that same line which I can hold at rather easily, but seem to draw every tim from, so I wasn’t going to be shocked, going into this line, if Joe were to win.
I did violate the rule where you are not supposed to have a big meal before the game, so I don’t know how much that hurt me, and Joe was moving fast throughout. I hate it when I can sense and know beforehand that all of Joe’s G/30 etc games will help him. He will play on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday all in the same week and I feel that this makes it hard for me to keep up with him at the board with the speed of play and of thought. I am trying to learn something and play, whereas I feel like everyone else is just going straight for the result/scoretable.
Stockfish likes …d5 just as much as grabbing the e4 pawn.
I was going to play …Be6 after his c4, but tried to get fancy with …Ba6, but each time I did something weird like this, I felt that the speed of his play was causing me to try to make some unjustified attacking move instead of stick with positional play and ignore that his attacking moves were played so quickly.
22…Rd7?! was my longest think of the game and where I first felt that I had lost the thread of position, simply not knowing what to do. Somehow I saw 22..gxh4, 23.Bxh4 Re5, 24.Qg4+ Qg7, 24.Qf4 threating Bf6 fork. But I completely missed that after 22…gxh4, 23.Bh4 I had the simple 23…Qe5+! trading queens, and maybe I can even win from here. I sensed I must be missing something but could not find it. Perhaps not being as mentally conditioned as Joe was was already taking an obvious toll on my ability to keep up in the game. My analyis was too shallow and not done in a systematic way. For example, I did look at 23…Qe5+! but only noticed that after 24.f4 that both my rook and queen are attacked, but did not notice that his queen is hanging there, so White must trade queens and my biggest middlegame situation of the game is solved.
So, there was a simple intrinsic defense to the position and my analytic abilities were too marginal to find it. I was looking at exotic moves/continuations like 23…RxBd3!? giving up the exchange for another pawn, and instead played 23…Rd4?! This has been my problem in nutshell. Instead of making more defensive-minded moves, when unsure, I give the position a steroid-shot of attackingness, which comes back to bite me. I need a lot of time to mentally settle in to playing a move whose highlight is a defensive value. Part of this stems from always needing to win to maintain rating points. Even this game was really only against an equally rated opponent, so I will lose a lot of points. I’ve had so many draws in last couple months that I really wanted to play for a win. I could have given up my queen for bishop and rook at the end perhaps, but didn’t want to bother with defending, didn’t want to switch mindset back to defense, but I’m lost on the clock anyway because quickly played defensive moves are what would have saved me.
After the game, we both preferred 24…hxg5, and I did spend a lot of time on this move, but spending a lot of time on it was the worst thing about my move, as Stockfish even slightly prefers 24…Qxg5 (but it’s very sharp).
25…h5?? At this point, I was not able to re-orient myself to the ever changing strategy on the board. I wanted to keep the h5+ double attack on Re1 open, but I was running out of time and needed a plan, even the bad plan of trying to trap his …g3 bishop. I was hoping to then be able to think on his clock, but this sort of thing doesn’t happen when playing against Joe, he just keeps on moving. When I got home, I figured that this must have been the moment that I should play the strong retreat 25…Ba6-c8, and Stockfish agrees.
26. Re1! This was already like a bolt from the blue for me, White is winning here. I was kicking myself for not playing 25…Bxc4, but after the game, realized that 26.Bxc4 (He seemed to initially miss the power of this move in the post-mortem and may have played differently, but he knew how to follow it up for the win) Rxc4, 27.Re2 Qg7, 28.Re1+ with 29.Be5 coming to finish it up for the win (something like that). Therefore, 25…Bc8 was correct, which threatens …Bg4 and can lead to …Be6, clogging up the important e-file from White.
27…Re5. I knew this was coming, but didn’t have time to calculate how decisive it was. My last move 26…Rd8 was already the end, as 26…kf8 even looks better. No, …f6 looks mandatory. The one thing I wanted to avoid was being “lost on the clock”, but really I already was here.
At the end of the game, he missed the Bh7+ sac mate, which I saw, but instead he played …Qh6 and I hardly remember what I did. I should have played QxBd3, but after Rg5+ Qg6, Be5 that would end any doubts as mate is coming up.