I played a new opponent tonight. He was friendly before the game, mentioned that he was friends with Sid Pickard (the player author who wrote a book on the Latvian Gambit, and compiled a book on Adolf Anderssen, and one on Wilhelm Steinitz). He said that Sid retired in the forests of Tennessee.
At first he kidded that he would play the Latvian Gambit, and then told me that he liked endgames. It turns out he was an Expert in the early 90’s, then he only played sporadically after that, one tournament in 2016, one in 2011, and one in 2010.
If I had a dime for every chess player who fills out their scoresheet while I set up the equipment before the game, knowing that I have the White pieces. Mike Smith, Dean Brown, and Alex B., and Earle W. are the only ones I can think of that like to have their equipment set up promptly. I bite my tongue, but it’s been a source of pre-game stress for me like about a hundred times. It goes away after everything is set up, and that’s why I never mention it til now.
People should want to talk particularly after the game instead of before the game, while everything’s getting set up and other people are making moves. But no, after the game, most opponents want to leave right away and not talk. Anyway, my opponent was a pretty nice guy, nice board manners, and he seemed excited to want to play next month as well.
I played an Open Sicilian, as I figured that would give me the best chance for a last round win. We got into a Nimzovich, which became an Accelerated Dragon.
I didn’t know what to do after 8…Qa5, it was a new move to me. I wanted to play either 9.f4 or 9.Qe2. I had seen the line, but somehow forgot (wanting to play 9.Qe2 to stop …Ba6), and after I made my move, I remembered the line 9.Qe2 d5, 10.Bb3 d4, appearing to win a piece due to the pin on the bishop. When I got home, the DB and engine said that 9.f4 and 9.Bf4 were playable. I couldn’t figure out why 9.f4 was playable, but actually calculated this one line for 9.Bf4 d5, 10.Bb3 d4, 11.Qf3 Bb7, 12.Bd2 (relieving the pin, and threatening 13.Qxf7+), but Black still has 12….Qxe5+, 13.Nd2 in this line. The move I failed to see is best shown in this line. 9.f4 d5, 10.Bb3 (10.exd6?? Bxc3+) d4??, 11.Qc4 (attacking both f7 and c6, I simply didn’t see this move) winning.
Incidentally, my first instinct was to castle 9.0-0, and let him have the pawn, and this is best. One idea is to follow this up with Re1, and Nc3-e4-d6. It’s difficult to figure this out OTB because often your opponent is playing too fast to let you spend too much time on it, anyway, realistically.
12.Qf3 I should have played 12.Bb3 first, just in case he still goes for …d4, thought about it. After the game, he indicated that he was surprised by my Qf3 idea.
15.Qg3?! I should have played 15.Qe3, which Mike F. suggested after the game, and I could easily see why. This is one of many moments in the game where it’s important to notice that one move is advantageous over another in the static sense. After …QxQe3, BxQe3, White gets some static plusses out of that.
27.Kg2 I played this move near instantly because I didn’t want to spend time coming up with a plan, since I was in time-pressure. After I made this move, I saw the plan Qh5 followed by c4, but now it’s too late to be so effective, as I give Black the tempo to play …Nd7. I also considered 27.Nc5 Qb6, 28.Qf2, which is better than what I played.
30.Qe2?! 30.Qf3 g4, 31.Qd3 is a better continuation due to the statics of the position. The lines calculated after 30.Qf3 will lead to much better positions for White than the lines calculated after 30.Qe2.
31.cxd? A mistake with the static appraisal of the position (in time-pressure). I figured he would take on f5 so readily, that when he correctly played 31…exd5, I practically wondered if this were a legal position as it first struck me, did a “double-take”.
34.Qc3?? I reached to play 34.Qc2, but then stuck it on c3 instead, instantly realizing I had made a gross time-pressure blunder. Even this blunder can be judged as bad based on the static differences between Qc2 and Qc3.
38…Qe5! Hammering away on my static weakness, the f5 pawn. Meanwhile, his static pawn on g4 is an advantage, as it rescues his rook with ….Rf3, if I chase it.
40…Bf6! Giving an escape square for his king on g7.
41…Rb4! Even his creeping moves are well-played from a static perspective.
IMHO, most Black players play the Sicilian Defense, hoping for an opening blunder like mine, and then Black usually wins. This must sort of make up, in the Sicilian player’s mind, for all the times they get checkmated as a result of using this opening.