Possibly the two strongest players of the tournament, Pete notwithstanding, faced off in this game with all the tension and prizes on the line.
18…Qxe7? (played quickly) I made a greedy move here, trying to give myself easy drawing chances, should Daniel not punish me here, but punish he did. I wanted the queen on e7 and then …Nh6, but that was asking way too much. As soon as I saw 20.e6, I knew I had overlooked this strong move, and it’s “refutation-central” as Alex might say.
I almost went for 24…Nd7, and asked Daniel after the game what he would have played, and he played 25.NxNd7! keeping the initiative so that he can follow it up with 25.bxc bxc, 26.Qf3 hitting another sensitive diagonal, when he wanted to play Qf3-e2xc4, and putting pressure on c6 as in the game.
27…Rd8?? I felt like this would be a blunder, but I also felt that 27…Nd5, 28.Nxc4 was game-over, which it would have been as well.
38….NxBd5? A blunder, but it’s already next to helpless.
39…Qc8?? I still had two and a half minutes remaining, but the position is hopeless. I played 39…Ne7 post-mortem, and he quickly replied 40.Qxc4, and then got his rook over onto the d-file and pinned it against my king. 40…f3, 41.gxf resigns might be a cute finish as White is in total control, and as Daniel appropriately put it “You have a weak king!”
Walking into this game, I felt as though Daniel should be the favorite, and yet I hadn’t seen much of his games in quite a while, and wasn’t sure of how his style would be now. I feel as if his style is a cross between Gunar and Paul Anderson’s styles. Post-mortem he wanted to go for one speculative combo, which I could easily refute, but then said “it’s probably bad” – he used to go for those sort of things and lose games that way, but in the final round he knew not to play anything speculative.
I feel a game like this is a “maker” sort of moment, and Daniel easily played this game at Expert level, and I learned something as well. I drank a bunch of coffee that I didn’t need because I was more enamored by the waitress than the game, and let up at the key moment on this effort, but I feel that this game was really more a “coming out” of Daniel’s chess-strength, to me anyway.