5.d4 Not the most challenging line, but I had an idea.
7.Nc3 My head is not in the game yet. My idea was to play the line I had played against Daniel. 7.a3, with 8.Bd3, even thought about it, but somehow played this instead.
8…Qa5? I had never seen this move before, and thought it bad, but could not come up with a refutation.
9.NxNd5 In my mind, I suffered a hallucination here, thinking that if Black took with the queen, that I would win the Bb4, as if my queen were forming a battery from e1. Anyway, I looked at 9.Rc1, and should have played it, also 9.a3 is good, but I even miscalculated this OTB and saw how it worked almost as soon as I noticed the computer’s eval on it. Just wasn’t firing on all cylinders yet.
10.a3 Again, plugging this in, it makes sense that 10.BxB is a better move, as it decentralizes his knight.
12.b4 I knew this was bad almost as soon as I played it, still too afraid to make 12.Rc1 work, which it does easily 12…Na5, 13.Qe3.
24…Rfd8? The mistake I had been hoping for.
25.Nc4? I needed to take on c8 first, to ensure that a rook would be on that square as a target.
25…a6? He misses, as did I, the creepy looking but effective …d6! Taking away this future outpost from my knight.
29.Rc8 I figured there had to be a stronger move than playing this right away, and 29.a4 and 29.Kf2 are equally good.
31.Nxb6? I strongly considered 31.Be2, but didn’t realize that this was so necessary. Gifting him the d4 pawn was drawing (I thought he might even take the h2 pawn instead).
33…Nc2?? I was hoping for this blunder, as I could see that 33…Kf7 looked equal, and is.
38.Ke3?? Paul had spent so much time on his last move, that instead of playing the winning 38.Bb7, I decided to be sneaky and played this blunder instead. As soon as he had moved, this was the last thought that I had had in my head, so that I played it immediately, not even blunder-checking the same obvious reply 38…Nd5+, such that I played 39.a5, and he said “You’re in check”. I didn’t know if I could still win it after this, but I knew instantly that I had blown the win, if there was one there, and let out a sigh.
I’ve examined quite a few lines with Stockfish, and there are tricky forks that obviate many a strategy. The most direct line for a win is 38.Bb7 (dare I say the only winning move, this is what I found out by going deep into the other lines, anyway) Nd5 (here I had noticed, OTB, that taking the knight would be a draw), and here simply 39.a5 Kd6, and now for some reason it’s tempting to play 40.a6?, but 40.b6! is the win, forming a cage against his king. It’s always important to remember that, outside of a forced pawn-race, the king and then other piece(s) become the major targets, such that one should aim to lock the opponent’s pieces out of play, unless it’s still necessary to snipe pawns.
Continuing the line above, 40.b6 Nxb6, 41.axN Kc5, 42.Bxe4 Kxb6, and now the seemingly natural 43.Bxh7?? would still draw, as the Black king can get back to h8 in time. Correct is 43.Kf3, Kg3 or Ke3 because the important thing is not the pawns, but to block out the Black king!
Time-pressure makes fools of us all, and leaves us to guesswork. This was my biggest mistake of the game, I was playing under 2 minutes while my opponent had an hour and 2 minutes, and these were the times basically at the very end of the game!
[Event “Strong Swiss”]
[Site “Club Chess!!”]
[White “Brian Rountree”]
[Black “Paul Covington”]
[TimeControl “G/90, Inc 30”]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c3 Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. d4 cxd4 6. cxd4 Nc6 7. Nc3 Bb4 8. Bd2
Qa5 9. Nxd5 Qxd5 10. a3 Bxd2+ 11. Qxd2 b6 12. b4 Bb7 13. Rc1 O-O 14. Qe3 Ne7
15. Bc4 Qe4 16. O-O Nf5 17. Qxe4 Bxe4 18. Nd2 Bb7 19. Nb3 Rac8 20. Bd3 Nh4 21.
f3 f5 22. exf6 gxf6 23. Nd2 f5 24. Bb5 Rfd8 25. Nc4 a6 26. Nd6 Rxc1 27. Rxc1
Bxf3 28. Bxa6 Bxg2 29. Rc8 Rxc8 30. Nxc8 Be4 31. Nxb6 Nf3+ 32. Kf2 Nxd4 33.
Nxd7 Nc2 34. Nf6+ Kf7 35. Nxe4 fxe4 36. b5 Ke7 37. a4 Nb4 38. Ke3 Nd5+ 39. Kxe4
Nc3+ 40. Ke5 Nxa4 41. h4 Nb6 42. Bb7 Nd7+ 43. Kd4 Kd6 44. Bc6 Nb6 45. Be4 h6
46. Bc6 Nc8 47. Kc4 Nb6+ 48. Kd4 Nc8 49. Ke4 Ne7 50. Be8 Ng8 51. Kf4 Nf6 52.
Bc6 e5+ 53. Kf3 Kc5 54. Ke3 Kb6 55. Kd3 Kc5 56. Ke3 1/2-1/2