….I’m sensing that this is one of the toughest things to do once you become a strong enough player, and I feel that this will always be the case, if not more so as my rating climbs. If evaluations of positions are based on process of elimination, then this implies a process that takes a lot of clock-time.
Paul wanted to play 17.Nxh7!!, and succeeded with winning the post-mortems, although he didn’t play it because for him he felt there was too much to verify before playing it.
After 18.Nh3, I sensed it was my turn to attack, and arriving early in time-pressure, this was part of the problem. I wasn’t nearly as nervous as Paul, perhaps because I was under the weather all day and I could hear my breath rate far, far slower than his, but his nervous energy prevailed, whereas I felt the lethargy you feel when your body was fighting something and relaxing. Anyway, the problem is that I though Black stood a lot better, though it was only equal or tiny bit of pull for Black.
20.Bg2! Once he played this, I noticed that I had missed the possibility of 21.Be4+, so I reluctantly closed the center.
24.f3! Here, I could not believe that this position should be equal, which it would be after the best move 24…exf3, 25.Qxf3 (which we both saw was forced, and I saw deep into this line), so I played the second best move 24…Rcf8 to get some tactical chances as we both approached time-pressure, me with over 2 minutes, and him with 9 minutes.
26.Rf1? Unfortunately, my idea was to follow-up 26.Rxe4 with …Bf5?, 27.Nf2 BxR, 28.NxBe4 forking rook and queen, which Houdini says is at least +1.
26…..RxRf1+! After sizing up the possibilities, intuition told me this move was best. After the game, I was miffed that I had lost my way from here, but it was clearly time-pressure affecting my ability to find and choose the right ideas.
27…Qf6?! A clear-headed decision would have been to play 27…e3 (which I considered), followed by 28…Rfe8, which I didn’t have the common-sense under-the-gun to see the obviousness of this plan.
28…Ne7? Both me and Paul had seen 28….Nxd4, he said he thought it was nothing, and I thought it looked okay, but a little “out there”. This was the first time that I noticed I could trade a piece for two pawns, and likely keep the pawn I was about to lose, but I still wasn’t so sure. It turns out that 28…Nxd4! would have been the best path for equality, and it’s equal there.
32…e3! Probably the best chance, from a psychological point of view.
33.Nd1? (Ne4!) It worked! However, now I played 33…Bc6?, with two seconds on my clock, and just shook my head because I knew that whatever the real move was I hadn’t found it in time.
This is where it gets a little strange. I had spent quite a bit of time examining 32…Nf4?? and concluded it must just be a blunder. So on this move, because Paul took so long, I was curious about 33…Nf4!!, seeing that I at least get to keep my pawn, have two connected pawns for the knight, saw that he could blockade the two pawns and thought to myself “He must be able to win the base pawn somehow down the road, but I like how his knight is out of play.” It turns out that he would have to sack his knight for the two pawns, but would then be a pawn up. This was my last chance to stay in the game, but in extreme time-pressure it was just too much for me to follow the logic of this line that far, and then to determine whether it was better than the alternatives.
I flagged as I played my last move, but I got a sense of satisfaction out of taking Paul down to 9 seconds on his clock as well, two moves before I flagged. It’s very rare that I can bring Paul down anywhere close to being under a minute with me, and see him get flustered like that. We both had a lot to look at in this game, and it’s too bad with a game like this that there is not a second time-control, as there would have been in most classical chess-games. However, at least from a creative point-of-view, this was a very satisfying game to have played at these time-controls.
After the game, Paul tried 53.Qe2, and I said that was best, and then pointed out that White is simply winning after 53…Qh1+, 54.Ke3 Qc1+, 55.Kf2!