It wasn’t decided that Josh would for sure be playing in this round, but that he might, Paul said. In fact, I asked Josh as he was leaving if he was going to play next week as well, and he replied “probably”.
All in all, it was probably a good thing that I got paired with Josh, as Black, since I only stood to lose two rating points, and I didn’t have the starch in me, physically, to survive the opening. Right before I left, I ran three miles, and decided to practice my sprinting, then jumped in the shower and headed over, so I was relatively gassed before the game started. I was going to buy a soda when I got there, but didn’t bother, and I was six minutes late.
To be honest, my bigger focus was on the Senior Championship, which I will be playing in this weekend, and need to adjust my sleeping hours. I got to bed a couple hours earlier than my usual, after this game, so all in all, everything served it’s purpose as far as I’m concerned.
I looked at around 40 games of chess on Monday (which includes the Candidates, and followed them Tuesday as well), so I was feeling chessed-out a the board to the point I wanted to play something different, hence my …Nd5-f4-g6 maneuver. I always seem to throw away tempos at some point to Josh.
One thing I realized about being tired is that it’s not one’s ability to analyze lines that goes away so much, it’s one’s ability to grasp a (novel) chess position that goes away when tired. For me, the hardest part of playing a Master is that they try to stick it to you in the opening – which is natural, or why would else would they be a Master, to some extent? Some Masters like Brian Wall play 1.h4 just to get out of normal opening channels, and force opponents to play by their own wits “or a chess game” as I call this. At some point, when an opening is over, a player can play on their general ability – I call this this is when “a chess game breaks out”. For a Master, “a chess game breaks out” on move one, since they can use their general abilities to navigate any position.
Anyway, the game-losing blunder is realistically 13…Bb7?. I was torn between the better 13…d5 (yes, Josh pointed out he thought this to be my only chance) and 13…Bb7, but that also describes most of my moves in this game. At first, my intuition told me only to play 13…Bb7, so natural moves and intuition aren’t always right, particularly in a position outside of one’s strike-zone. Everything feeds into a bad move, tiredness, time-pressure, unfamiliarity with a position.
14…Rb8?? This is definitely a game-losing blunder, no doubt about it. At this point, my clock had just gone under 20 minutes and I could see the seconds count down, so finally gave in to just making a move. My initial desire was to play 14…Ne7 (it’s only here that I noticed that …Ne7 covers c6, should have noticed it on the previous move), but I felt that only 14…f5 could put up stiff resistance. After the game, I asked Josh about this, and he quickly mentioned the Nd2-b3-a4 maneuver, which I didn’t see OTB. In fact, this maneuver wins against either 14…f5 or 14…Ne7.
I did a long post-mortem of this game with Mike Smith, which was enlightening (I’d say his practical strength is over 1900) – he was much more comfortable finding moves in the resulting positions after move 14 than I. After that, Josh was still there and I did get his quick thought on this game, but it was clear that he was easily finding winning moves in any given position (there’s a reason why he’s 2362).
Josh had used less than 10 minutes up to move 15, so it’s not a stretch that after 14…Ne7 he could have found the best (positional) move of 15.Qf2 (this keeps the queen on the g1-a7 diagonal, discouraging Black’s castling there, it supports f5 pushes, f7 attacks, prepares Re1 and the opening of the center, gets out of the way of Bc1, and any …Nf5 attacks; IOW, easy move for a Master to find. Nevertheless, you can plug in 14…Ne7, 15.Nb3, and if you go further in any direction, you will find the computer’s eval steadily climbing after each succeeding move to around +2, but any false-step by Black; i.e., every move I could find, quickly loses even worse than that.
When I played 14…Rb8, I noticed right away that I had dropped that pawn, and when I looked up Josh’s face was glaring at that square like a laser (like 2 seconds after I moved). I figured I could play my queen back to defend, but when he played the intermezzo, 15.f5, I let out a groan and knew I could resign right then. I play on until mate because I don’t want to let myself off the hook, and it’s useful to see his technique.
One reason I played 14…Rb8 was that it prepares 15…Be7 against 15.Qb3. Once I played 14…Rb8, it hit me that I can’t play this move before he plays 16.Qb3, which he will never play anyway because Black can simply play 0-0-0, which he pointed out after the game. It was difficult for me to pay attention to all of the possibilities like this, when I didn’t have a lot of nervous energy.
On the move before he castled, which I knew he would after I had analyzed this little trap, I had calculated this: 14.Qb3 Rb8, 15.Bxc6+ BxB, 16.QxR Ke7, 17.0-0 (to defend the Rh1) exd! to get the …Bc5 because after all I saw that I would be playing …Nxf4 and …Qh3. This actually works for Black, and I had calculated it all relatively quickly, but it was also an energy drain of nervous energy, and because it worked, I realized he would never play into it. The hardest part when making a calculation like this is pulling out of it, and finding other ideas and moves because it leaves you (or me at least) so drained.
This is like one thing I had calculated, I was also calculating f5 pushes, Ne4 h6 (after the game I realized that getting Nc5 or Nd4 is better for White.
So yeah, silly game, silly blunder, haha. LM Brian Wall posts this on my FB timeline, which I deleted today (yes, I know I lost, who cares with two minutes, I was forcing myself to take all my time once I was lost). I mean, I only needed to remember 15 moves of the game-score even if I lost my scoresheet. So there it is. I’m sure Brian was just being helpful. I have this weird thing about posting games to my FB account. I don’t want anybody to feel publicly embarrassed over the result of one game.
After the game, Josh also (correctly, of course) said that 11..d6 is bad because of 12.g3. 12.g3 is the first move that got me “on tilt”, as it first looked a bit silly, but then I quickly realized that it stops 12…dxe?? because 13.f5 wins my knight – it has no place to retreat.
In this line, the correct move was 11…f6 rather than 11….d6. I was scared of the reply 12.Bd3, but that’s not as strong as I had feared, can even be better for Black. I was trying to create a novel opening position, but this goes to show that anything can instead turn into a critical opening position.
I guess I should do like most Masters do, decide on repertoire lines, examine some games in the database, so at least when I face a Master again I won’t get stuck in the opening using too much time and energy there. I should feel inspired to play the lines that I plan to play, and the prep should be more comprehensive than mere hand-waving.