I played in the two-day schedule, where the first two rounds were G/45+30. In round one I got black against GM Alexander Fishbein, who I've played a few times before. I've recently started learning the Classical Sicilian, a new opening for me, and was happy to get a chance to try it out against a good player. We had a long but instructive struggle, where both of us made several mistakes.
Almost 100 moves! I think I've only had two tournament games against GMs that went over 100 moves - one where I was pushing for a win in a rook and pawn ending against Shabalov (but drew) and a 133 move draw against Vladimir Belous where I had to defend RB vs RN+P.
To summarize this game:
- I went wrong early in the opening with 14. ... Rac8?!, rather than the correct 14.Rfc8!
- White returned the favor with 16.b4?!, when instead 16.Nb5! would have exploited the weakness of Rac8 by pressuring the weak a7 pawn and giving white time to play b3-c4.
- After the exchange of opening inaccuracies, the game was about equal, but I could have played for an advantage with 20. ... f5! rather than 20. ... Nd7?!, which only led to equality.
- Fishbein outplayed me in the open middlegame after move 25, and got a near-winning position by move 35, but missed multiple chances to finish me off and allowed me to fight hard for a draw in the rook and pawn endgame.
A relatively smooth win against a lower-rated player. I only made one bad decision with 11.Bxc6?! after which I had no advantage out of the opening. However, my opponent later failed to take the opportunity to correctly set up his hanging pawns with 17. ... c5!, and instead chose 17. ... Rfe8?!, allowing my knight on a4 to come back into the game from c5 to d3. He ultimately tried to get activity with the speculative 18. ... Nh5!? and 19. ... f5 idea but it backfired horribly as his own king proved to be weaker.
In round 3 we switched to the long time control of 40/90 SD 30 + 30 sec/move. This game was quite a scare for me, as my careless opening play against an expert quickly landed me in a disastrous position.
Well, my opening decision of 5. ... d6?! was objectively not the best, but certainly 6. ... e6!?, going into a Hedgehog with my knight already on c6 was pushing my luck (6. ... g6 was a better choice there). Once I realized those earlier mistakes, 9. ... h5?! was a gross overreaction (9. ... Bd7 and just putting up with white's Nd5 was relatively better), and of course 19. ... g5? was just awful.
This game is a good example of how too much knowledge can hurt you in chess! I have a lot of experience in Sicilian and English Hedgehogs, so I know how dangerous white's attack can get if black plays too passively. I certainly know how dangerous Nc3-d5 can be, especially if my king is still in the center. In this particular game though, the Nd5 lunge, although a good move for white, would not have been winning, and I incorrectly just assumed it would be without analyzing concretely. It would have been far better to allow Nd5 than to destroy my position with a move like 9. ... h5?!, embarking on the Nc6-e5-d7 maneuver at all costs.
In round 4 I had white against the young up-and-coming expert Alex Chen - I had done a bit of research on him and seen that his rating had been going up quickly and I think he had drawn a GM last year, so he was certainly dangerous. Therefore, I played 1.e4 and headed for the sharpest Sicilian possible...
...just kidding. I did play 1.e4, but quickly steered into an endgame where I outplayed my less-experienced opponent.
By the way, that 9.e5!? idea is not mine, I think credit should go to Vladimir Onischuk, who was the first GM to play it in 2014. He's won every single game with it, including three against strong GMs, so it's clearly not so bad!
Even though I didn't get to use that tricky sideline, my strategy of going to the endgame worked well - on moves 17-20 my opponent clearly didn't know what to do, and spent a lot of time on strange moves like Rd7 and then Rc7. Just one bad decision with Nd5-b4-d3 was enough to land him in trouble, and once I won the e5 pawn and invaded with my rook to the 7th it was all over.
In the last round I drew a master with black - I was actually lucky to get this draw too after misplaying the opening again.
So definitely my 10th and 11th moves weren't very good - 10. ... b5! instead of 10. ... Bb7 would have been a more active way to continue. I thought I could just develop naturally and play for ...c5 and be fine, but instead I just got a passive position and had to defend for the rest of the game. Probably I should study that opening line a bit more before playing it again, or find something sharper to play with black against lower-rated players!
Anyway, my next tournament is probably the New York State Open in a couple of weeks - I'll make another post about my games from that tournament too. After that, get ready for my simul on May 22! I'm planning to crush you all :)