This draw left me with an 1845 post-tournament rating. I’ve spent hours going over this game with Stockfish. Both of us attacked and defended inadequately. I’m sure we felt under control during the game, but it’s a post-mortem nightmare to look at with all of the missed win (I’d say around 20, which practically sets a record at this rating class). It should be said that most of the errors for both sides begin in time-pressure, and then it’s just non-stop. I sort of played his clock better than he did, as I played better in his time-pressure whereas he mostly equivocated during this time, and let me get back into the game and even achieve a winning advantage. It’s funny how without the time-pressure, he was clearly outplaying me and playing a calibre higher than I was.
In this game, I played against Buck, who is a National Master from the early 90’s. Haven’t played Buck in a while, and last couple times I’ve played him I’ve lost, so he had my full attention this time so to speak.
The prep that I did for this game was for how Buck handles the French. Alex told me that draw would be good against him, so even though I felt like playing a King’s Gambit, I toned it down and played a Scotch because that is where I’ve had success against Buck in the past, and I was more interested in the win column for this one. It seems like I haven’t played a Scotch in years, and I figure it’s been at least a year since I’ve played one.
It was harder to get an advantage out of this opening than I had realized; Kasparov makes it seem so easy somehow.
15.c5?! I realized it was objectively better to trade on d5, but I was seeking chances for an advantage. 16.Bd6? For some reason, it missed my attention that he had 15…Be7 until after I made my move.
17…g6? He should play 17…Qa5 now, but we were both seeing ghosts with the f4 push, but Stockfish prefers Black after trades on e8 and f5. Incidentally, Stockfish points out that Bb7 doesn’t work so much here, since Black has …Nf8, then …Bc8 discovery on the queen, but White is still better there after Qa6.
19…Rad8?? I knew this was a mistake, but not by how serious. He should have played 19…Nxc5, which is what I was hoping he wouldn’t play, and White is +.7.
20…d4?. If he had traded on c3 and won the pawn there, I was going to play Qb5, but now the position is crazy complicated in any line. I considered playing 21.Qb5! but didn’t have a true evaluation of how strong that would be after the queens come off.
21.Ne4. 21.Nd5! is also stronger than this move.
22.Ng5? This goes nowhere after 22…h6, 23.Nf3 (+1)
22…Nc5? Now he gives up the exchange in a bad way, but I couldn’t find the right continuation for White.
23.Bxc5? I knew this was wrong, but couldn’t find either 23.BxRe8 RxBd6 and either the sophisticated 24.b4!! or simply 24.Qf3!, attacking f7, are winning.
25…Qxb5? I thought for sure he’d keep it complicated with 25…Qe7 given my clock situation and how long he took to play this move, but he was looking for a sneaky endgame solution.
27.Ra1. I wanted to play 27.Re8+! but couldn’t calculate or see this long, tricky line in my time-pressure. 27.Re8 RxR, 28.BxR Bb3, 29.Rc1! d3, 30.Rc8 d2??, 31.Ba4+ (the discovery wins the light bishop and stops the d-pawn from queening.
The endgame, I could play a bit better than the engine over all because the key is to not spoil your winning chances. An engine will try to force down every aggressive reply, and this is not the right approach unless you love fighting draws.
39…Rc3? A blunder, curiously at the end of a natural time-control, although he still had around 40 minutes or so remaining. With the _help_ of the engine, I did find a more subtle win than this for White. Basically, you tie down Black to his a-pawn, and d-pawn, and then get your kingside pawns rolling, it’s too much to cover defensively, and his king is too exposed. He probably didn’t expect that the win would be like clock-work for me after this mistake.
A nice win against a higher-rated player, a chance to test and see where my chess is at. Well, I don’t work on Tuesdays so this helps a lot, but I’ve also done a bit of serious study as of late.
….but he didn’t see it.
4…e6?? Black could play 4…Bg6 here or 4…Nbd7
6…Nc6. Stockfish recommends 6…c5 first.
7…Be7. Stockfish wants Black to play 7…h5, which I wanted to play on the next move, but didn’t due to reply of Ne2-f4, so I wasn’t sold on …h5, and it seems stronger the later you play it.
9…Bh7. Stockfish likes 9…Nb4 and 10…c5.
10…Nd7!? A clever reorganization of pieces to the queenside, but Stockfish prefers the …Nb4 and …c5 plan so as to castle kingside, as White has space, but it’s Black who can continue to make the easy progress under this scheme!
13.exd? Josh clearly wants to push the play, and I felt White was better developed, but Stockfish shows that 13…Nb4! is -+. 13.b3 was better, and more what I was expecting, when I did see the 13…Ba3 followup (=+).
15…Bd6 =. 15…h5! is better here =+, although 15…0-0-0 is just as strong.
Josh resigned as he was a piece down. If 18.Bxc6, I was going to continue 18…Bb4+, but White has 19.Nc3. Stockfish actually prefers 18…QxBc6, 19.d5 Qxc4 -++.
Despite glaring errors, I’ve still managed to go 4/4 this month, so I’ll take that and forget the rest.
Sort of a crazy game. I played the early opening alright, misplayed the late opening, struggled to defend in the middlegame, then he was almost +2 when I recaptured with the rook on e5 (he can play Rxc6).
Then he blundered a pawn, and I knew I was significantly better but had two minutes on my clock and had already offered a draw twice ( once in the 0.0 position), so didn’t want to risk it playing for the win – which I would have played for if I had had more time.
Lastly, in a drawn endgame, with perhaps a couple tricks left for White to try, or not, he blundered his rook thinking it was a stalemate – instantly played – but then realized I could just take the rook and resigned after I took it. He knew it was a draw though (I didn’t yet), which made this result seemingly so sad, but he was okay with it.
10…Ne4?! Yes, I felt that 10…Nd7! was stronger, and that I might have an advantage there, but I also realized that I could only spend so much time on this move where neither move loses, and my opponent almost blitzes through the opening, or only thinks on my time. I had analyzed that the …Ne4 move was okay, and I realized I didn’t have another ten or more minutes to waste looking at …Nd7. I was mostly concerned with 10…Nd7, 11.Qa4 Bb7, and only considered 11…e5!! after playing ….Ne4, and I did spend nearly his whole time on his clock (since he stopped now to take a while to think) on what would have happened had I played that move instead. Nevertheless, I had played …Ne4, and it was a different game now – that is what Alex typically does to me, makes the opening all on my clock, and this often gets him what he wants against me, me in a passive situation and down on time. Years ago, this was probably more intentional, but now it just reflects his style and chess strength and understanding.
19.Rb7 I felt that 19.Be5 was much stronger, OTB, but stockfish says it’s only a miniscule difference of improvement for White from the played move.
22.h3 He debated between this and the stronger 22.Re7! (although an engine won’t say this because from this horizon it all looks the same to an engine, so you have to play the moves out to see the difference. Miraculously, he didn’t see my …e5 idea.
25.Rbb7? This move is given as +1, whereas 25.Rxc6! is given as +2. It’s interesting to consider that at +2, you also have to calculate Black’s counterplay more deeply, which may seem discouraging when you are making a “human” decision. It seemed more obvious to me to play this sort of strong move, but mostly because I am Black and can see that it removes my …Qf6 option. Alex does this from time to time, avoiding the knockout, and letting opponent’s slip-out because he doesn’t want to have to lay his cards down, on the spot, during complications, if he can’t see a clear reason why he should.
30…Qe6. Around here and on the next move, I offered Alex a draw because I thought I probably had some sort of perpetual chances against his king, and I was low on time so didn’t have much to play for myself because of that. For some reason, from my perspective during a game, it seems like Alex gets more conviction when it is close to a draw, perhaps because he doesn’t want to give up on what he had earlier in the game.
37.a4?? This is the trickiest practical point in the game, since Black can actually conjure up mating threats here, and this move is shutting his rook from the defense of his king. 37.Ra6 was a move given by Stockfish, but 37.Qe1 is the move it gives after a while with 37…d4 continuation. I was actually playing for the draw now because of time, but decided to play for a win with the extra pawn later in the rook ending, which is when Alex offered a draw and I decided to play on just to see where it went.
37…d4? Winning here is 37…Rf1! It’s +5 for Black. White can try conjuring up one last futile attack at Black, but then Black is mating as it was lethal to give up the back rank in this position with effectively queen and rook vs queen, and one less pawn on that side to shield his king.
At the end, it doesn’t appear there is a way to break through, and with 1 minute and nine seconds on my clock, probably would have offered the draw shortly, as I didn’t want to trade rooks against a better king and pawn player than myself. But as you know, he made a blitz-move blunder and the rest is history as far as tournament standing and rating goes. He probably blundered because he thought it was such an easy draw that he wanted to prove it to me by impressing me, but after the game he showed how it was as draw and how he had carefully considered everything, so the blunder was quite ironic and seemingly tragic.
I played Teah, my most frequent first-round opponent. I decided not to play King’s Gambit, nor Scotch. I wanted to settle my nerves and get into the game slowly, so played Ruy Lopez, but then she played a …Bc5 variation – remember, I’ve only ever seen her play a Portuguese Scandinavian before – and fell into an opening blunder/trap.
At the end of the game, I had an hour and six minutes remaining to her 46 minutes. Apparently, she resigned at the right time because after she moves her bishop, I can play Bc2 and she will have to sac her rook on f5 for nothing to stop mate.