The French Defense has her ways

Round 3

6…cxd4  Perhaps it’s telling that the #1 move in the DB is 6…c4, by almost 2 to 1.

7….Be7  This move has a 23% success rate.  I even saw him about to move and just assumed it was going to be 7….Ne7, mistakenly wrote that down, and was pleasantly surprised when I looked up at the board.

8….f6?!  I feel it a compliment that after the game, he pointed to this move as not so good, to think a mistake could be made so early in the game.  Let me digress about this Alex, I haven’t played him in a long-time, and he has old-world charm, in suit and tie, a throwback.  I often think he’d fit in with the past masters of the 19th century.  8…f6 is playable, but he needs to take on e5, and then play …Nf6.

11.Na4  11.exf6 Nf6, 12.Bf4 is much stronger.  I thought about play exf6 on each move, but I was not wanting to waste time yet in an elusive hunt for the best move, since that is best done at home, as I’m doing right now.

12.Bf4  Houdini says 12.Be3 is more accurate.  I get lucky in this game, as my opponent played what I wanted him to play 12…f5, rather than …g5.  I got away with one here, but I shouldn’t try to do that so much.  Even after ….g5, Be3 is best by Houdini and Stockfish.

16…Qb6.  I felt this was risky, though understandable that he was looking for complications.  I saw his coming attack, rather quickly, and felt he should be playing 16…Nge7 instead, working on completing development.

17.b5  Not the best move.  Right here, I thought that I should continue to develop my position, but wasn’t confident precisely how I should do it, so I got loose and headed for the complications too soon, exactly what I was trying not to do, but lacked the impulse control not to.  17.Bd2, a move I had definitely considered, is much better, as is 17.Qa1 with idea of Rb1 and pawn pushes at the right time.  I was trying to keep it positional and not go into tactical too soon, but oh well, it’s even a big part of my style at this point.

17…Nxd4.  This is what I wanted him to do, or else I would not have spent so long on this move.  I felt his best was 17…axb5, 18.Bb5 Nge7, 19.Bg5, but even here White is close to +2.  He was right, in this line, not to take on b5 first, else after Bxb5 my queen will be able to recapture on d4.

18….Qxc5, best, but still +1.8 for White.  I had missed this obvious capture when analyzing, looking only at 18…NxNf3, 19.Qxf3, but I felt confident that the move played in the game should still be losing for him.  Notice that psychologically I am much more comfortable here, with Black attacking with his only developed pieces, rather than both sides cooly completing development.

21.Qe2  I was jumping to play 21.Qb1, and certainly would have done so in a blitz game without a thought, but wasn’t finding the right line OTB.  21.Qb1 Ka8, 22.Qb6(I was planning on playing) Rb8, 23.Qc7 (threatening 24.Nc6!) Rb7, 24.Qd8+ is the move I missed, but noticed it instantly once I got to this position with Houdini Rb8, 25.QxBd7.  If 23…Ne7, then 24.Nc2 threatens Black’s queen and mate on a7.

24.Nd4??  In time-pressure, I was getting a case of nerves, thinking it wasn’t hurting to repeat, but here 24….Qa4 would be +=, whereas he quickly repeated, instantly in fact 24….Qa3??  I was looking at 24.Ra1 Qb2, 25.Bb7+ KxB, 26.Qa6+ Kc7 (and now looking at 27.Qa7+, when I should be trying to get the Ra1 onto this square with check), 27.Qd6+ Kb7, 28.Ra7+! Kc8, 29.Qc7 mate.

29.Rb1  29.Rc1+ is an easy winner, but I missed this being in time-pressure, under 5 minutes.

33….Rd8.  I knew it was over when I saw this move, not even trying to create counter-play with 33…Rb1+.

My live rating is approx. 1822 after this game (but perhaps a few points lower than that).  This is nothing permanent of course, as my result in the last round could drop this by as much as 60 points with the tournament performance boost up or down in effect.

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