Me and Alex have this little joke where if someone beats a higher-rated player they can say “I did it!” even if they’ll only beat that other player once ever. Well, in this case, I didn’t do it, but drew it. It was a great game that’ll be interesting to go over, since much was missed and possible but not played.
I believe that both of us played well for most of the game. Daniel thought his …a5 move was a blunder, and he showed me a win that I missed, but overall it was quite interesting. I got down to two minutes to Daniel’s 17 minutes when I offered a draw and he accepted.
27.Qc3+ Here, I was looking for a flashy move, but the simply 27.Ne4-f2 is already winning. Both his a and f pawns would be “hanging”, and the knight makes a great kingside defender in ensuing complications.
It’s interesting that if I play 27.Ne4-f2, and he responds 27…Rf6, I felt right now that best would still not to be to take the a-pawn and Stockfish agrees. In fact, I was looking at this follow-up g4 move a lot OTB. 28.g4 hxg, 29.Nxg4 Rg6 (I had seen this sequence OTB in some variation, and I found this whole line quickly by myself right now) 30.Qc3+ Kf7, 31.f5 easy win (31….Qxf, 32.Rf1 skewers). It’s funny that I was trying to make this idea of g4 and Nxg4 work OTB, but I wanted something “less complicated”, which didn’t happen because I missed the simple wins anyhow. I was worried about his two hitters on Ng4 OTB, but once I set this position up, the f5 block was easy to see in the line above.
29.Bxf5 was one of the “easy wins” that I missed. Another easy win was 23.Nc3-e2-g3 maneuver, easily picking up the f-pawn. This is one of those things that in the calm of your own home, the next day, is readily apparent. Any sort of two-move piece maneuver in time-pressure can seem stressful to look for OTB, which is probably why I only found this one-move rook maneuver 23.Rfe1 OTB. Or maybe I am just stressed OTB, which is why I look for the crazy blitzkrieg instead of the calm/simple?
30.Bg2? Again, at a natural time-control with no more time to optimize, I decided to go into my shell or “porcupine” mode as me and Alex call it. There was no reason not to play the other move that I was looking at 30.Re3 h6, 31.Nf3 Ng6, 32.Rde1 Rf8, 33.Qd2 Qe8 (I let Stockfish play Black’s moves). Stockfish gives this position (which is obviously better for White) at +1.5 roughly, but I can see that if I can move my queen to h4 here, trade knights on h4, then e7 has no knight defender (my own plan, Stockfish just shows a bunch of moves and no real plan here).
34.Nf3 Time-pressure panic. I wanted to play 34.Nc6 (which I also liked because it controls d4 square) Rd7, but was worried about his Nxf4 tactic after 35.Bd5 (which is what I wanted to play here), but you can see that in the calm of battle Kh1 can simply be played.
38.Re1-d1 The computer likes this move, but for a human it’s much easier to understand that winning is the simple. 38.Bh3, when you can gang up on the f-pawn with 39.Re5 (saw this move OTB, but it was difficult to plan in time-pressure, wasn’t sure which idea was best), 40.Nh4. If he defends f-pawn by retreating the knight, you can sac on f5 if it pins the pawn to his king because then you have g4 to win it back. It’s probably going to happen and be crushing or you just win the f-pawn outright if Black avoids this by putting his Kh8.
39.Ne5? A time-pressure blunder, which is how I said it right after the game. Again, just gang-up on the f-pawn and it’s all over at the human level. 39.Ne5 is one of those moves best described as “not flagging”, as I was under half a minute when it was played. An instant blunder with no real purpose behind it. I thought I could get my Rd7, but 39…Nd4 (completely obvious reply) simply blocks the file. I had seen this, and yet not seen this with my hope-chess continuation. This shows how the need to play a blitz move can affect calculation ability.