I got paired with a brand new opponent whose first rated games have been played in the still ongoing Thursday tournament, which will be rated before this one, and therefore I stood to lose a lot of rating points should I have lost this game.
Mike is a guy around my age, new to tournament chess, but plays casual chess at the Mate Factor, along with many other locals. It’s been a famous hangout for the last few years where new players are recruited by Pete.
Alexander F. had won his game against Mike on Thursdays, but I had the feeling from the start that this game could go either way.
I played the not so hot 5….a5?! which led me into this 8…Bxe3, which I had never tried before in a rated game. I didn’t like the position I got, and so played the opening in a very definite, and circumspect manner.
I liked the result of the opening, but in the middlegame I simply used to much time searching for a workable plan. Nerves lead me to not calculate well. I was worried he might have a double-exchange sac on f6 for a perpetual, but as long as a rook isn’t on f8, I can run that way, and I could also capture with a pawn on f6, as long as my king can run. The fact that I didn’t calculate this correctly was a big part of why I didn’t attack well on the other side of the board. I got down to half a minute when he had over 70 minutes remaining.
I tried an exchange sac, but simply didn’t see his move. Then I just panicked and played my knight move, letting him take on f7 even though I knew his rook could get away. Then I went after his king and was dropping my knight should he play 46.g4. He said he saw this, but thought my b-pawn was more important – I let him know he could have taken that pawn later. After surviving that hairy ordeal, I calmed down and played very matter-of-fact. Now it was up to him to either find a win or offer a draw.
He sacked a pawn for what he thought would be mate, but he missed that I had 64….Nxc5. After realizing he had missed this, it was now his turn to feel a demoralized sense of panic. He still had around 66 minutes by the end of the game, but appeared to have lost his sense of control of the game, once I survived his mating-net.
Like I told him after the game, 36…bxa4 was simply a dreadful mistake (played in time-pressure). 36…b3 was much better.