In what is likely to have been my last game in CA, and my last game for quite a while I guess, I got a brand new opponent. Joe is an older gentleman, who was an Expert back in the 90’s and before they computerized the ratings in 1992. He finished last months Wednesday tournament in 2nd place out of 24 players, and has played in 421 tournaments listed, to my 330 or so, quite an experienced player.
I was Black, but once again I feel that I blew any real chances that I had in time-pressure, making the move 30 time-control with but 20 seconds to spare (30/90, G/30, d/5).
2…e6 I felt this move was premature, after I had played it. It offers White to play the London with 3.Bf4, where I can’t counter with the easing …Bf5. Still, my move is seen in a system at the top-level against the London, I remembered.
3…c5 An offer to sharpen the play, but he counters with the Colle, so I figure he’s probably played this system forever and knows the ins-and-outs of it.
6…Nc6 Again, trying to sharpen the play as ….Nbd7 ought to be less risky.
9…Re8 Rather optimistic. I didn’t play …Qc7 (which would control e5) because I was trying to stop the e4 push with the threat of winning the d4 pawn. Perhaps more prudent would have been 9…b6, 10.Ne5 Bb7, in the nick of time, and then …Rc8. The rook on f8 is actually doing a good job of defending f7, I thought later, to my chagrin. 😉
10…Bd7 I played this move to connect the rooks, as I was concerned about, for example 10…Qc7, 11.Nxf7+ KxN, 12.Bxh7 (tattering up my kingside) Nxh7, 13.Qh5+ Kg8, 14.QxRe8.
12…Rd8 During the game, I was concerned this had been too optimistic, that I should take the Ne5 now, less he play 13.g5 Ne4, 14.NxBd7, but then looking now I see 14…NxNd2, 15.Ne5 Ne4, and I am still not losing a pawn (didn’t want to lose both pawn and minor-exchange).
15…NxNe5 Other moves considered were …f6 and …f5. OTB, I was scared off by 15…f6, 16.Bxh7+ KxB, 17.Qh5+ Kg8, 18.Qf7+ Kh8, and 19.Ng6+, but that is hand-waving as I can see now that simply 18.g6 should do the job for White. 15…f5, 16.exf Bxf, 17.Qh5 BxNe5, 18.Qxh7+ Kg8, 19.fxBe5 is going to be winning for White, and 17…g6, 18.Bxg6 hxg6, 19.Qxg6+ Kh2, 20.Nf7 mate rules out …f5, so I thought I did well to rule out these two moves OTB.
17…BxBe4 I considered 17…Bd5, 18.c4 Bxc, 19.Bxb7 Bd5, 20.BxB RxB, but saw no need to ruin my pawn chain and give him all the freedom of removing his c3 pawn and stopping me from simply playing ….c4 first. Plus, I wanted his queen stuck in front of his e-pawn upon recapture, when he likely spends another tempo moving his queen.
19.Rb1 In relative time-pressure, I missed this move, only seeing 19.Qc2.
21…Qc6 I am panicking a bit in time-pressure. I had seen when I had played …Rd5 that I could counter b3 with …Rb5, and now would be the time to play it, as after …b3, c3 hangs, and otherwise I have …Ba3, exploiting the pin, which looks quite bad for White.
23…Rc5 Again, panic-mode in time-pressure. I rejected 23…gxh, 24.f5!, but perhaps I should not have rejected 23…Rd1, 24.QxQ bxQ, 25.Ke2 RxR, 26.KxR Rd3, 27.Ke2 when White now has both Bd2 and a3 available, so it was correct to avoid this variation. However, the other variation that I was looking at 23…Qd7 (my ”back-out” plan), 24.b3 Rb5 does still look good. I was too unsure of myself when I decided to trade queens in time-pressure. However, I was also trying to somehow “avoid” 24.b4, which I saw in this position, and which would not be possible had I played …Rb5 earlier, instead of …Qc6.
26….Rcd5 Unfortunately, this was already a blitz move, as I had grossly mismanaged my clock. 26…Rcb5 just looks screaming to be played, and after I had played this move realized I had let the cat out of the bag with his 27.b3. Somehow, when calculating tactics so much in time-pressure, it can be easy to lose sight of the strategic picture. The strategic picture is easier to gain sight of when thinking on the opponent’s clock.
27…cxb3 This is not what I had previously had in mind; this is another good example of how time-pressure can warp your strategic thinking. 27…Rb5 looks very natural, and then 28.b4, and if …a5, 28.a3 looks kind of okay for Black, so 28…Rb5-d5 (once again, very natural). If 29.Ba3, then …a5, but 29.Kf3 looks like it can hold. 29…Rd1, 30.RxR RxR, 31.Ke2 Rh1, 32.a3 Rh2+, 33.Ke2 followed by Bd2 with Kc2, letting the rook out in mind, looks like it could or should hold.
30.Rh6 My lack of technical strength/experience caused me to miss this idea of weaseling the rooks on the h-file and/or 7th rank.
30….BxBb4 His bishop is cutting off my king’s access to the f8 escape square.
33.Ke2 He spent around four minutes and then played 33.Ra3, which I immediately pointed out was illegal. I had 24 minutes, and although we were playing on a house chronos clock, I felt no need to summon the arbiter to get two minutes added, especially since he just gave me a free four-minute think on a forced move! He felt that his missing of the check was in bad form, and a likely disturbance to me (it wasn’t), so he offered me a draw. See, so if you are a gentleman to your opponent, and not an a-hole like a lot of players in CO who jump at every chance to add two minutes their clock, your opponent may return the favor and simply offer a draw; what a novel concept!
At this point, I was happy to get the draw, looking at the defensive-minded line 33…Rc2, 34.a3 Rd2, 35.Rb1 Rh2, 36.RxR RxR, 37. Rd1
After the game, he said he was going to play, after 33…Rc2, 34.Ra3 and it went Rxb, 35.Rxa Ra4, 36.Rb6! This caught me off guard, and I hadn’t realized that 36…Rxa??, 37.Rb8+! was mating, which he soon figured out, so 36…Rd8, 37.Rxb Rxa, and I eventually did manage to draw after all the pawns got traded down, but can’t say it was all best moves as it should probably still be winning for White. I definitely did blow my opportunities in time-pressure (blow you name it in time-pressure) as per the usual flaw-fatale in my games. So, it was nice to get a fun, interesting game, as Black, with a draw. I actually was happy to get Black since I knew it would give me a more challenging game, and there is no tournament on the line or anything like that.
So….now I can look at the game with an engine! I just downloaded ChessX on my new (Windows7) laptop that I got for Christmas.
So far, looking at it with Stockfish has been much as I suspected. 21…Qc6? When I played this move, I strongly wanted to play 21…Rd1 at first, but then thought I’d try this cheapo and then play …Qd7 once he steps out of it. 21…Rd1 is actually winning for Black! Also, now is the only time to play it with winning chances. After this, it is only a draw until I play …cxb3, as then I am just worse.