Lead intro to the game, I played the same Master tonight as I faced on Tuesday. Oddly, I decided not to play on Thursday because it was 30/90, G/20, d/5 and as it turns out I would have faced him on Thursday as well had I shown up there.
This Master has had a tough month, since he drew a 1700, beat another Master a little higher-rated than himself, and then drew an 1800 player last night in a position that was for a long time very winning, but then he got down to seconds (5 second delay), messed up and drew. Oddly, that is exactly why I didn’t play! Anyhow, I figured he was probably going to be looking for blood against me tonight. I showed up late, 19 minutes off my clock, not expecting to get paired against him.
I didn’t know he would play 1…e5 (usually plays Sicilian), nor the Marshall Attack. I played what I made up OTB, since after g3, I was pretty much on my own. A more standard move order would be 15.Be3, instead of 15.Qf3, followed by 16.Qd3.
I didn’t get any physical activity in today (even 10 minutes makes a big difference) as I had to rush out the door, and by the end of the game I was surprisingly very tired, almost listless for my usual level.
At the end of the game, I blundered with under a minute on my clock, but by then I suppose the tension had gotten to me, and I sort of collapsed. It was still a good feeling to know I didn’t blunder until after the first 30 moves (in case of a second time-control).
25.Bd2 Another way to play is 25.Qxc6 Nd3, 26.RxNd3 Bf8 (to avoid 27.d5), 27.Qf3 QxR, and I have two pawns for the exchange. Being over an hour down against my well-booked opponent, I didn’t even look past his ….Nd3 reply.
25….Ne2? He knew this move wasn’t good, but was trying to avoid a draw. It came as a surprise to me, as I was only seriously considering the d3 square for this knight, which is correct.
28.f4? I know this move looks foolish, and I nearly played the correct 28.Be3 here, but by now I was in severe time-pressure, and I began to realize I was blundering just as fast as I was making the moves. The brilliancy line here is 28.d5!!, completely winning, but as you can guess this was never on the radar here for me. In fact, if you saw this line 28. d5!! cxd5 29. Be3 Rg6 30. Bxd4 Rg6 31. f3 Rge6 32.Be3 Rxe3 33. Rxd6 Nxg3+ 34. Qxg3 Rxe1 35. Qxe1 Qxf3+ 36. Kg1 Qg4+ 37. Qg3, then you should possibly be in contention for the chess world championship.
28.Be3! Rg6, 29.Qxc6 Kf8, 30.Qg2 and here I thought that Black could play …Nf4??, which is laughable, since after 31.BxNf4 BxB I don’t have to take back, and am simply up two pawns. Not only that, but White is winning that bishop anyway, after all, after 32.RxR+ KxR, 33.Re1+ Re6, 34.Qa8+ Ke7, gxBf4 ++-.
Oddly enough, instead of the correct move 29…Kf8 in that line above, he was planning to play 29…Bf8?! (which Expert Daniel immediately said he also would have played). It’s funny how often the higher rated player will choose an inferior line, but one which is far more tricky to analyze or not as clear. In this case, it’s simply a matter of depth. So, after 28.Be3! Rg6, 29.Qxc6 Bf8, 30.Qg2 Bd6, 31.Rd2 Nf4, 32.BxNf4 RxR, 33.BxBd6 RxNf1, 34.QxRf1 RxBd6 and White is simply up two pawns (I thought that 31.Rd2 was losing at first in the post-mortem – we both did).
He may also in this line above have played 30…h6, 31.f3 RxBe3, 32.g4! (not 32.NxRe3?? Nxg3+, 33.QxNg3 RxQg3 wins the queen) Ng3+, 33.NxNg3 RxRe1, 34.RxRe1 and once again White is simply up two pawns.
29.g4? As soon as I played this move, I realized I had mistakenly just given his queen the h4 square. White’s should now play the the thematic, but strange-looking move 29.d5! cxd, followed by 30.Be3 This gives White a solid advantage because after 30…RxB?, 31.NxR RxN, 32.g4 the queen cannot now go to d5 to trade herself off with the opposing queen, and thus after 32…Qg6, 33.RxNe2 RxR, 34.QxRe2 White would be up the exchange +-. After 30…Bxf4, White can go up two pawns for piece with only h2 pawn as king cover after 31.gxf4, or can go for the easier to play queen ending up a pawn after 31.Rxd5 f5, 32.RxNe2 BxBe3, 33.NxBe3 RxNe3, 34.RxR RxR, 35.Rd8+ Re8, 36.Qd5+! Kf8, 37.RxR QxR, 38.Qxf5 or 37…KxR, 38.Qg8+ Ke7, 39.Qxg7+ and White is up a pawn. The funny thing about this game, is that if you are looking at the right reply, which is admittedly tricky or takes some patience to find, then you really only need to look at the line deeply enough to evaluate it properly. This game is a case where depth matters, versus simply finding the moves.
31.Bd1?? I had wanted to play the correct 31.Be3, but after …Nf4, I simply didn’t spot 32.Qf3?, which actually loses to 32…Nh3, but 32.Qg3! is a drawn eval after 32…Qe7 33.Qf3.