Okay, so admit I titled it this way because it “gets the goat” of everyone from the Springs who’s not participating in it. ;-p Mekonnen played on board two, so it was interesting to have someone there that hasn’t been to the club in a while. There were some other new players, another one that I had never seen before.
This game was more interesting than it looks, but I’ll have to add the annotations tomorrow.
4.c4. Stockfish prefers 4.dxc, and I sort of remember that this is supposed to be the refutation of Black not taking on d4. I figured the only reason could be that it’s better to have the knight on f3 than d4, and it is because you can use the d-line right away, which is unusual in Open Sicilians. Black is put in a position to weaken something such as the d-pawn or the a4-e8 diagonal.
9.d5 I thought of Keres’ comment “If you prefer an open position, you can play this move”, and in this case 9.d5 is a tad stronger than 9.dxe5 followed by Nd5, much as it was in Keres’ game (albeit, in an entirely different opening).
10.Kh2 My longest think of the game. So, after 18 minutes I compromised on making this move, and immediately after thought I should have just played 10.Re1 Nf4, 11.Bf1 (which I had been considering since ten minutes previously), and then Kh2 could be played, but not g3 because by then h3 would be dropping from Nf4 and Bc8. The pickle was that I realized that trading either bishop for the Nf4 would be subpar, and Stockfish agrees, giving the nod to Re1 and Bf1. Even during the game, I knew that 9…Nh5! was strong (10.Nxe5?! is not good), and that with 9.d5, I had really ceded the initiative to Black.
10…f5? Of course, 10.Nf4 was indicated, and I noted OTB how lucky I was that it took him so long to play it.
14.BxNf4?! This is an error, as it will not open the e5 square up for his knight, not to mention the long diagonal, which you don’t want to do! Instead 14.Nc3-e2 takes control of the dark squares d4 and f4, and if 14…g5?!, which superficially seems to enlarge his attacking space (but all on dark squares), then simply 15.Ne2-g3, eyeing Nf5, takes advantage of such a weakening move from White, by positional means.
10.Qd2 This isn’t even Stockfish’s list of top ten replies, but it doesn’t dislike it much either compared to the other moves. Alex thinks I should have left his f4 pawn on the board to shield the f-pawn and my kingside, while I develop through the center. What do you think? In any case, taking the pawn ups the complexity of the position somewhat. It’s funny because during the game I considered 10.Re1 Ne5, 11.RxNe5 dxR, and Stockfish thinks that is no worse than what I played, even though 11.RxN is again not even a top ten reply. This is the point you come to in chess where the computer can no longer lead you, and perhaps barely even serve to guide you; it can mostly only serve to validate your own ideas and feelings that you had at the board.
This is also a point in the game where “human” planning becomes important. What is the plan behind 10.Qd2(?) Well, a logical test of the plan would be to evaluate the continuation 10.Qd2 Qf8, 11.Nc3-e2 Ne5 (hitting c4), 12.b3 Bg5, 13.Kg2 h5, which is approximately equal according to the computer. Therefore, 10.Qd2, despite it’s initial eval, signifies the start of an incorrect plan. Actually, Stockfish wants to course-correct after this by playing the queen to a light square such as c2 or e2.
17.b3? +1, whereas 17.Bg2 was +2, but I didn’t figure this out until a move later.
17…Qg5. OTB, I was expecting 17…Bf6! which is strong, and contains the threat of …Nxg4 followed by Be5 royal skewer, which I hadn’t seen. But even stronger was 17…Ng6, which I never even considered, 18.Qe4 Bf6, 19.Rac1 Be5+, 20.Kg1 Bd7, followed by …Qh4 and …h5, and possibly …Re8 or …Rf8 is a ready-made-attack for Black, which is only += for White! (i.e., no longer winning at this point).
18…Bd7? I knew it was over after this passive move. 18…h5 is +.87 for White. 18…Qd2 was most interesting, OTB, and I had planned 19.Nb5 Bxf2, 20.Qe2 (+2), but 20.Rad1 is even stronger (+5). It’s an easy win from here either way, so the rest of the game requires no comment.