"Strip" joins us after beating Joel Benjamin.
1. e4 c6
10. Re1 is the normal move here, but I know about 10. a3: Greg mentioned it to me recently. The idea is that black has a choice next move of two set-ups: 10... Nf6 or 10... Bf6.
10... Nf6 is the older line-- the idea is to open the black queen along the d file to potentially threaten d4, and to bring the knight back to defend the kingside. It always looked very weird to me though. Against 10... Nf6, white's plan is usually 11. Bc2 b6 12. Qd3, with the idea of Bg5 x f6 and Qxh7#. By playing a3, Bc2, Qd3 before Re1, white avoids allowing black to stop Qd3 with ...b6 and ... Ba6.
However, 10. a3 doesn't make so much sense against 10... Bf6. Luckily, this is also the line I like better.
11. Be4 For a long time, I thought white was kinda threatening to take on d5, to force black to recapture with the pawn. This belief was reinforced by the fact that everyone plays Nce7 here, reinforcing d5. But if you "reference" it, white doesn't usually take on d5 when black makes a different move. Can anyone explain that to me?
Another thing I know is that black has to avoid getting an endgame with bad light-squared bishop and pawn on d5 against knight.
12. Qc2 I'm pretty sure it's better to bring the queen to d3, where it operates on the b1-h7 diagonal but also can transfer along the third rank.
12...h6 Another thing I "know" but do not know why: in the 10... Bf6 lines, it's safer to play ... h6 than ....g6. Maybe ... g6 gives white too easy of an attacking plan with h4-h5??
Originally, I wanted to play 13... b6, but then I became afraid of 13... b6 14. Ng4 and my bishop I think has to take 14...Bxd4 and then I thought after 15. Rd1...
...that things looked very tenuous. Honestly, I didn't seriously consider the computer's favorite move 15... Bxc3, maybe I should have, but on the other hand why would I want to let Andrew Ng (who I know as an energetic tactician) attack me?
So I thought I would develop my bishop this way, because I remembered Gregory Kaidanov talking about this structure at the US Chess School, and saying black often takes back on c6 with the b pawn and gets a great position: the c6 pawn
--is not as weak as d4,
--cuts out any white counterplay with d4-d5
-- defends the knight that will live on d5 in such a way that white can never take, because the recapture ...cxd5 will leave white with a weakness on d4 and black with no problems
-- takes away b5 from the white knight on c3
-- gives black an open b file.
I feel very safe and reassured when I am playing a game and I remember something someone told me about the position (structure).
14. Rd1 Bc6
15. Ng4 (15. Nxc6 bxc6!)
15... Rc8 I started looking at ...Nf5 ideas around this move, but couldn't find any compensation yet 15... Nf5 16. Bxf5 exf5 17. Qxf5
16...Re8 It's not even so easy to move here: my queen needs to stay on d8 to protect the bishop in case white takes twice on d5 and then on f6. My knights don't want to move. My bishops kinda can't. I felt very inert and like a small seed of panic was emerging.
I saw this funny idea during the game: 16... Bxd4 17. Qxd4 Nxc3 18. bxc3 (18. Qxc3? Qxd1+) 18... Bxe4 but it doesn't work because of 17. Bxd5! Bxd5 18. Qxd4
I also considered 16... Nf5 17. Bxf5 exf5 18. Qxf5 but I couldn't see compensation here, or a decent place to move my bishop.
I was starting to feel frustrated with my position, and like I needed to do something before Andrew moved all his pieces to the kingside and checkmated me. The idea of 16... Re8 is to prepare some kind of pawn sac with ...Nf5. It was a vague idea at the time.
17. Qf3 Bg5
Now the computer likes 17... Nf5 because the Be4 will be quasi-pinned: 18. Nxd5 (18. Bxf5? is bad because of Nxc3 19. Qxc3 exf5 20. Nxf6+ Qxf6: black's pieces are active and white has no compensation for the pawn weakness.) 18... Bxd5 19. Bxd5 Qxd5 20. Nxf6+ gxf6 21. Qxd5 exd5. I was looking at stuff like this a lot, but I didn't think (realize?) I was better: I know his bishop is bad but my pawns are too.
18. Bxg5 hxg5
I had 33 minutes here to his 20. I did not want to get low on time, because I panic and collapse like a baby under pressure.
19... f5 was my first instinct, but there was also a strong voice telling me I was insane to give the e5 square to his knight forever. In the cold light of morning, I regret my decision and think 19... f6 would have been a lot more adult of me.
20. Bxd5 Nxd5
20... Bxd5? I thought this was the worse recapture, because in this variation, white gets to keep his knight on e5 if he wants my bishop, whereas in the game he only gets to keep his Nc3: 21. Nxd5 (21. Qh5 --rybka likes this) 21... Nxd5)
21. Qh5 Qf6
22. Nxd5 Bxd5
23. Rac1 Red8
24... Kf7 Dmitry Shneider suggested this move afterwards "if I wanted a draw," but I didn't feel worse and I was enjoying myself, so going for a draw hadn't occurred to me. Also moving into a discovery hadn't occurred to me.
25. Rxc1 Bc6
26. Rxc6??! '
It's a nice idea if it works! I was expecting 26. Qh8+ Kf7 27. Ne5+ Ke7:
and I thought my king is fine, but Dmitry didn't seem so sure and rybka likes white's initiative: 28. Qh3 Rxd4 29. Qe3 Rd5/e4 +/=
27. Qh8+ Kf7
Otherwise 28... Ke7? 29. Nxc6+ Kd7 30. Qxd8+ Qxd8 31. Nxd8 Kxd8 32. Kf1 and the pawn ending is lost.
29. Qh5+ g6 0-1
I was so proud and happy to have won this game! Also, Ilya Krasik promised to do an interview with me after I won a game in the USCL, so let's look forward to that!
My teammates had some funny games too:
I'm a big fan of Arthur Shen as a player (and was consequently very glad to be on the "safer" board three), but here he made an outrageous blunder with 44... d3. How should white have replied? (answer after next position!)