In this defense, White generally has two plans, one involving Nf3-d2 followed by e4, and the one you see all the time in this day and age of b4, c5 queenside attack. So after the game, I let Shirley know of these two different ideas, and that she may want to try the first one, but that it’s a very theoretical opening, which is what it made it hard for her to know what to do after her basic setup was completed. But this is also the rub, because maybe the Nf3-d2, f4 plan only works if I play something like …c5 or …Nc5, and she needs to queenside attack versus the setup that I played. This is one of the reasons I take so long in the opening OTB because I don’t know it exactly.
I took half an hour in the opening, Shirley got impatient and sacked her knight for my g-pawn; we both wondered why she hadn’t taken the f-pawn instead if one is to be taken, so we looked at that continuation after the game and it’s much better for White than what happened next.
I showed Shirley the line I was looking at after the game: 8…Nc5, 9.Qc2 a5, 10.a3 a4, 11.Be3 and now …Bd7, 12.BxNc5 bxN, 13.Nxe5 drops the e-pawn, and 11..Nf6d7 just looks silly sitting there blocking in the …Bc8 as part of a static defense of the a4 pawn. It’s usually bad continuations that I need to “look off” that I need the time for. Once Shirley sacked her knight, I more or less played on the 30 second increment for the rest of the game.
At the end, 33…Qf2 mates against any legal move, so I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to play the variation 33.Qd2 Qf2+, 34.QxQ gxQf2 mate, which I also would have played against 33.Rd2 for instance, just because it’s such a pretty mate.
So the real question is whether Vishy will still have a chance to tie the match and go into tie-breaks if he loses today. Vishy says his favorite move is 1.e4, but plays 1.d4. Carlsen says his favorite move is 1.d4, but plays 1.e4; something is wrong with this picture.
BTW, for any local players reading this, the tournament conditions are outstanding at the Herman home. Coffee, espresso (even some wine!), we ate fresh-baked cookies. It’s very quiet and low key, so it’s easy to concentrate and be at your best, with good lighting too!