I played a new opponent tonight, a computer programmer as it turns out. I am 0-3 in this tournament, worst result since I was 1500. My opponent said that he has done little more than look at a few tactics puzzles a while back. Well, I played the opening quickly, eight moves with still the full hour and a half remaining, but then lost my nerve once he defended against my first attack with 14.Rg3.
14….h5? was bad, sort of a pass really, since after …h4, he can still defend with Rg4. I considered 14…c6, and Alex confirmed that I should have chosen this, with the idea of keeping his b2 bishop entombed, plus I could play …b5 later, possibly, to kick his other bishop.
15….0-0-0?? At first, I planned to play 15…Nd4-e6, 16.Ne3 g6, 17.BxN and wasn’t sure about this, so I avoided the whole argument altogether by castling, only once looking at, and summarily dismissing his taking on g7 as bad for him. Well, he went for 16.NxNf5 exf, 17.Rxg7 without hesitation and only then did it slowly dawn on me that my move was like a nuclear bomb going off in terms of mistakes. I had unleased his bishop pair, saddled myself with a weak f4 pawn, was trying to salvage what I had left, without even attempting to dispute the g-file, and worst of all the trades seemed all in his favor not mine, and I would be lucky to get them in yet still!
I spent my longest think on 17…Ne6, eighteen minutes; it would have been my blitz move, but it would be nice to see some sort of active plan with 17….Rdf8, ….Qe8, ….f5, …fxe followed by …f4, but this isn’t so realistic in any battle of tempos.
18.Rg2? 18.BxNe6 would have harmed my pawn structure irreparably
19.RxR? RxR Suddenly, I am getting back into the game. 19.Qg1 is close to curtains for Black.
20.BxNe6?! He should have taken sooner. Now my pawn structure has been repaired and my tempo situation looks a lot healthier than it did.
22.Qh1. This was the first move I looked at, and later thought he could grab space with his pawns, perhaps pushing the a and b pawns as far as they will go, although this plan with 22.Qh1!? turned out to be more effective than I otherwise would have suspected.
25.Rxh5? 25.Qg2 would have given him a lot control over the position and a definite advantage.
25….Kb8! I need to eliminate back-rank issues and free my pieces for other tasks.
26….Rg8!? Black’s attack is extremely annoying. The alternative was …Qc6.
27.Kg1?? 27.Kh2. This move is obviously losing.
32.Kd3? I was much more worried about 32.a3! and was even considering 32…Qg7, which may be good enough for the win (Alex, thought so, and it seemed so).
32…Qxa2?! 32…Bxf2! as Alex pointed out, was even more effective.
41.Qxf3?! As Benjamin pointed out here, after he resigned, White has 41.Qd1 mate!
Scary to think that I was that close to going 0-4, and even got under 3 minutes before finding 37.Rg2+! putting away the game.
Next month, the City Championship is 5 rounds at G/90, increment 10, and I am not looking forward to playing at those unplayable controls(!)