On Saturday I came out of my funk in style, winning three and drawing one for a share of first in the BCF Davis Square Open, and that's not all - the games included a win over a master, and a draw with a 2400 IM! I guess things can snowball the other way too...
The tournament began a little clumsy, as many of my games against lower-rated players have been over the past few months:
I was white here in a position that looks deceptively similar to a mainline Yugoslav Dragon. Unfortunately though, I treated the position as if it was a mainline when in fact, the inclusion of the moves a6 and g4 critically alters the evaluation. Normally here, white would play exd5, Nxc6, and then Bd4. In this position though, g4-g5 followed by Nxd5 is a major improvement based upon the extra move g4. If I had thought to look for this, I would have had a significant advantage. Of course, I didn't, and had to struggle through a tight and tense game for a lot of moves before reaching this ending:
This position should be a draw so long as black keeps the e-pawn out of reach of my king. However, after:
White is suddenly winning nicely!
My first win in fourteen tries!
In round 2 I geared up for my customary thrashing at the hands of National Master Lawyer Times. I have suffered plenty against his Colle, so I tried to be evasive and push play into something a little more off the beaten path, but I only succeeded in making my position worse than usual!
From here, I thought that Lawyer would simply play 18.d5, cementing his space advantage, perhaps to follow up with Na5-c6 with all kinds of ugliness. Instead, he blundered with 18.Rc7, allowing the shot 18...Bxe4, and the nature of the game changed radically. Play followed 19.Rxa7 Bxd3 20.Qxd3 and here I missed that 20...e4 would have secured me an advantage. Instead, I played 20...Qxa7 and we waded through many moves of rather dry play where I kept parrying threats until Lawyer finally broke through and won a pawn. However, he made a hasty move in my time trouble that turned out to be a horrible blunder, and he quickly succumbed in a piece-slamming time scramble. It was a little goofy beating a master for the first time in a game where he blundered instead of in a game that I played particularly well, but I'll take it!
Round 3 saw a raging Sicilian battle with opposite sides castling.
Here, I was already well on top, but after 16.gxf7+ my opponent needed to play the cringe-inducing 16...Kxf7 in order to hold e6 (at least for the time being). Instead, he played 16...Rxf7, and quickly collapsed after 17.Nxe6 Qd7 18.Ng5 Rf8 19.Bh3
Finally, having won my first three games, I found myself on the black side of a battle with IM David Vigorito for first place. It was especially intimidating facing Vigorito seeing as some of my preparation comes from his excellent book "Challenging the Nimzo-Indian." Sure enough, the game proceeded right out of the pages of his analysis and I was quickly worse.
Having been suffocated steadily for essentially all of the game to this point, I decided to shed a pawn to try to unravel and get some counterplay on the dark squares.
Vigorito later suggested that he should have varied here, perhaps with 30.Qc6 to try to force me to make a passive move, meeting 30...Rd1 with 31.Ra1.
In the game, I was able to generate counterplay with:
And now, instead of 32.Ra1, Vigorito played,
This really stunned me, especially as the move seemed like it was sort of asking for trouble, and it came after a long think that brought him below 5 minutes while I still had 15+.
Instead, I think that 34.Qe4 must have been stronger, as the text gives me some ferocious threats that might well have been decisive had I had the nerve and wherewithal to try to see it through.
And here, I just couldn't make anything work. Fritz suggests a materialist approach with 38...Rd5. Several BCC players suggested that I might try 38...h5 to limit the white king's retreat squares and continue my attack. I felt that 38...Qh1+ would lead to an endgame that was very unclear... so, I opted to try for a draw by repetition with
Maybe I should have figured out how to win that one too, but there's no need to be greedy. It was quite a way to bounce back!