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.