Monday, April 8, 2019

My Game Against Toby Rizzo

Today is a special occasion - we get to analyze one of my greatest losses in recent memory.

In the second round of the Rochester Monday Night League, I lost to Toby Rizzo (1889), in what I think could rightly be considered the best game of his life so far, and perhaps the most instructive loss of mine so far. Let's see how it happened.

I think we need to turn the clock back to January of 2018 to find the last game I lost to an under-2000 player, when I lost to John Manning with black by playing 3. ... Bd6?! against the Ruy Lopez :)

So, what takeaways can we make from this game?

First of all, it should be abundantly clear that Toby is a very dangerous player when handling the initiative. He surprised me in the opening with 8.dxe5!, taking advantage of my slow and weakening 7. ... b6?!, and although he missed 10.Bxf7+!, which would have won on the spot, he played absolutely flawlessly from move 25 up until the end of the game, perfectly executing his attack and taking full advantage of my mistakes.

Secondly, for whatever reason my sense of danger was not sufficiently active this game. In particular, it is alarming that I even allowed 10.Bxf7+ in the opening, but I also overlooked the extremely important 27.h4! idea and failed to take two chances to escape into an inferior, but possibly still defendable endgame on moves 28 and 30 - and I knowingly rejected those chances too, because I thought white's attack wouldn't be so strong. That misjudgement cost me the game.

However, I would say the most critical moment and my biggest mistake of all was on move 22 when I played Nxg3??, an absolutely atrocious positional decision. I think my reason for making that blunder was that I had half-seriously looked at the better alternative 22. ... Bb7 23.Rc7 Nec5!, but had seen the possible tactics with 24.Nxe5? (which didn't work) and just wanted a simple option to grab the bishop pair. In hindsight, I definitely should have spent more time on that move as it was the pivotal turning point of the game.

You don't win or lose games because of your rating! You win or lose because of the mistakes that you or your opponents make. Those upsets can and do happen, just as David Phelps (2078) defeated GM Sergei Kudrin or I won against the almost 2700-rated GM Kamil Dragun (2678) last year. In both of those games, the higher rated player made some serious mistakes and the lower rated player successfully took advantage of them. My game against Toby is no exception to that rule.

Congrats to Toby on winning an excellent game; I will definitely have to be much more careful against him in the future!


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