8. ... Qc7 9.Re1 Continuing to improve my position - the X-ray of rook against king may open up some tactical opportunities later on. 9. ... g5? Although I understand the ideas behind this move, I still consider it a serious positional mistake in this specific position - the entire concept of starting an attack without proper development is inherently flawed and furthermore the newly created hole on f5 is a serious problem. 9. ... g6 and 10. ... Bg7 was better and probably what I would have played instead. 10.Ne3 this and my next move are obvious and easy to play. 10. ... Be7 11.Nf5 Nf8 (D)
12.b3?! Although this doesn't spoil anything, I simply missed that 12.Ng7+ Kd8 13.dxe5 wins on the spot since 13. ... dxe5 allows 14.Bxb5+ with a discovered check and a decisive advantage for white. But why did I miss it? Because I actually wasn't even looking for any knockout blows here! My firmly ingrained positional instincts tell me to develop the rest of my pieces before looking to take decisive action, so I just banged out b3 and Ba3 without much thought. 12. ... Ng6 Now black has f8 for his king so Ng7+ is not as strong. 13.Ba3 (D)
13. ... Bxf5? It's admittedly a very difficult position for black - I'm not sure if white is actually threatening anything here (Nxe7 followed by Bxd6 and then dxe5 would be the kind of knockout blow I would look at in the diagrammed position for white), but likely there isn't a satisfactory defense - the weakness of d6, f5, along with the bad king for black makes this position nearly lost in my opinion. 14.exf5 Now my Re1 comes into play with tempo. 14. ... Nf4 15.dxe5 dxe5 16.Rxe5 Stronger than capturing with the knight, since I have an immediate threat. 16. ... N4d5 16. ... N6d5 loses instantly to 17.Bxe7 Nxe7 18.f6. 17.Bxe7 Nxe7 18.Qe2 (D) White has a winning position after any reasonable move, but this is the strongest, keeping black's king in the center by attacking the pinned Ne7.
18. ... 0-0-0 I was expecting 18. ... Kf8 19.Re1 Ned5 when black is still at least only down one pawn but the position is lost in any case. The text move simply drops a piece for no compensation. 19.Rxe7 Qd6 20.Bc2 Here I was actually looking for a way to end the game on the spot with Bxb5 or Nd4-xb5, but didn't see anything clear so just played a normal move to save my bishop. 20. ... Rhe8 21.Re1 I made sure that there was no counterplay with 21. ... Rxe7 22.Qxe7 Qxe7 23.Rxe7 g4 - I have 24.Ne1! Rd2 when my bishop on c2 is defended and black has nothing. 21. ... c5 22.Rxe8 Rxe8 23.Qxb5 Rxe1+ 24.Nxe1 Ng4 25.Qe8+ Kc7 26.Qxf7+ Kb6 (D)
Exercise 1: White is of course winning after any reasonable move, but I'll give you a chance to play like Stockfish here and find the strongest continuation - if you go by computer evaluations the engine actually announces mate after this move while the alternatives are "only" +10. I'll add the answers at the very end of the post when the tournament is over. In any case I ended up winning this game without any problems. 1-0
In summary, Clif played strongly in the opening and middlegame to build an initiative, but was unable to ever land a decisive blow. In the endgame the critical blunder was 33.Kh2 simply hanging a pawn for no compensation. Ken won his game too, which means he will get to play me as black in the final round; we are the only two people with perfect 4/4 scores.
With that win I am the sole person with 5/5 and thus the 2018 CCCR Club Champion! Many thanks to Ron Lohrman, the tournament director and arbiter, as well as to Mike Lionti for organizing this event.
A notable upset from the last round was Toby Rizzo's (1853) win against David Phelps (2005) with black. Chris Brown blundered a piece early on against Kharroubi but nevertheless was able to thrash around quite a bit in the endgame before finally succumbing to a defeat. Finally, MacKenzie won on board three against Stubblebine, creating a four-way split at 4/5 for second place. After the smoke cleared, Ken McBride won 2nd place on tiebreaks and Clif Kharroubi took 3rd. All in all it was a great tournament and I look forward to doing another simul next summer!