June Quad, 12.06.2007
Time Control: 40/90 SD 30
Over the last three months, Sean's rating has increased by 150 points. He has won the last 14 of 15 games that he has played in OTB tournaments. So, it was with some fear and trepidation that I approached our game. Sean and I have played three games. He has won two of them, I have won one. The last time we played, Sean trotted out the Scandinavian against my e4. Before the game, I grabbed a sandwich and Americano at Starbucks, and booked up on this opening. But I kept telling myself, that the game would not be decided by opening theory, but tactics and blunders.
2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 c6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bd2 e6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nxf6+ gxf6
At this point I'm out of book. I seemed to remember some lines where White lets Black take on c2, but nothing seemed to make sense (and indeed, nothing does). So, I defended the pawn with Bb3. It turns out that's the book move.
This Rook on the half-open g-file bothered me. I figured that Nh4 was my only option, and I didn't like it. There are other options. This is a great position to set up and practice on. If you want to do that stop reading now.
Fritz informs me that Black's threat of Rxg2 can be ignored: 11.Qe2 Rxg2 12.Nh4 Rg5 Rg5? Ohhh, the e6 pawn supporting the Bishop is pinned. ( 12...Bg4 13.Qe3 Rxh2 14.Rxh2 Bd6 15.Rg2) 13.Bxg5 fxg5 14.Nxf5 Qa5+ 15.c3 Qxf5. The variation isn't impossible to see, but this is a case where you don't really pursue the line in the first place; you see that Black snatches the pawn, and don't calculate further. This results in a blind spot.
At this point I figured I Black would attempt to gain a Knight and two pawns, and a king stranded in the center, for a Rook. (Rxg3, hxg3, Bxg3+ followed by Bxh4.) But then I realized that I wasn't forced to take the rook, and could queen-side castle my king to safety. I figured, I'd be a pawn down, but with a playable position. Note: I burned about 25 minutes trying to decide what to do in this position. This is a very serious defect in my play.
I was surprised when Black didn't take on g3. It turns out my opponent had better sense (in this instance), than I. If Black plays Rxg3, then White has tremendous resources in this position. What? Worry about your king stranded in the center? Pshaw! says Fritz. 15...Rxg3 16.hxg3 Bxg3+ 17.Kd1 Bxh4 18.Bxe6 fxe6 19.Qxe6+ Qe7 20.Qc8+ Qd8 21.Qxd8+ Kxd8 22.Ke2 Nd7 23.Rxh4. With a big advantage to White.
Having survived the worry over g3, and gotten my king castled, I felt good about my position. At this point I'm eying Nxg5 as a possibility in the near future. Also, It's not hard to see that White should activate all his pieces and move the h-rook to the center.
16...Nd7 17.Rhe1 0–0–0
17...Nb6 18.Nxf5 exf5 ( 18...Qg5+ 19.Ne3) 19.Qd3
Ka-boom! The knight makes a dramatic entrance and wins the pawn. Or does he? Well, I calculated, that if Black took the Knight, and with the exchange of queens, Black would win the f3 pawn, but I would eventually win the one on f7. So, I've drawn first blood.
I think this is very telling. Frequently, when things start to go against us, we make things worse. It's important for Black to stabilize the situation, with Qg5+. Taking the Knight and allowing me to get my rook on the seventh is positional suicide. From a theoretical viewpoint, the game is over; practically, there's still a chance that I'll blunder.
19.Qxe7 Bxe7 20.Rxe7 Bxf3 21.Rde1 Be4 22.Bxf7 Rg5 23.Be6 Rh5 24.Re2
I know Re2 is a trivial move. But I like it; it's simple. I'm winning, just let the fruit ripen, no hurry.
This move and the resulting variation (as well as a few others) just popped out at me. I attribute it to the intensive tactical training.
25...Bf3 26.gxh5 Bxe2 27.Bxd7 Bxh5 28.Be8+ Kd6 29.Bb4+ 1–0
Obviously, I feel good about the game. For the most part I handled the problems well. I didn't go crazy and pursue a wild speculative variation, but chose reasonable moves to minimize my problems and activate my pieces (particularly thinking about my 15th move). For the most part I managed my time well, but I still need to work at this. As with most class-level games, this one was decided by a big oversight. Black didn't see nor fix the problem of his queen position, and thus allowed White to play 15. Nxf5. Afterwards, Black did not minimize the damage, but exacerbated the problems significantly with 15. ... exf.
What I don't know is how much of this was luck on my part, or am I really growing in the ability to skillfully apply my chess understanding to specific problems during a tournament game and win?
“Look to thyself, Sir Knight, and for mercy from heaven! For thy adversary will give thee none.”