Round 1 of Eastern Class is played on a Friday night. Only half of the Eastern Class players are there, the rest showing up the next morning for the compressed schedule. I haven't been playing much tournament chess recently - two games at SWFLCC in Naples FL, and part of a tournament at MetroWest CC last November. Further, I had just come back from FL - very long drive... - and that week I was on travel with very heavy workload. Nonetheless I was very eager to play, regardless of outcome.
If you read some of my recent blogs you'll know that I am trying to switch over to the opening repertoire of the new Lev Alburt books. I decided to switch repertoire to force me to learn new openings (see my Training Regimen blog). Plus the Lev book are very easy to read, even without using a chessboard.
Despite all these good intentions, I am by no means versed in all these openings, so all I can do is make best effort, and course correct after the game with a post mortem.
In this round, my opponent plays the Caro-Kann. Since I switched to the "new openings", this is the first time I've encountered the Karo, so I was going on old knowledge, not the Lev book. I played mainstream Caro - in book - for nine moves! I surprised myself. After the game, during analysis, I discovered that Lev recommends the Caro-Kann Exchange, so I played that in Round 2 (luck of the draw to get White twice in a row, _and_ play Caro-Kann twice...).
This game was pretty even for quite a while, mostly trading material, for the first 27 moves. At this point we are in a minor piece N-B endgame, where Black should have an advantage because there are pawns on both sides of the board. White has a 3-2 majority on the Queenside, and Black has a 4-3 majority on the Kingside. I am keenly aware that the game is at risk.
I decide it's time for my King to be activated, and proceed to centralize the White King. However on move 31 (for some inexplicable reason) I move the White King in front of it's own pawns, instead of pushing from behind... The White King quickly gets in trouble (see Black's 33rd move), with White's King is serious trouble on Black's 36th move.
I should mention, that during post-mortem, it turns out that my opponent's friend who was helping us analyze was GM Sam Shackland! During the game, in my head after Black's 36th move, I was thinking "wow, I messed up, so now is the time to 'go big or go home'". I very much did not want to go home, so I made a move which normally I would reject (I'm trying to get out of that bad habit), with 37.f4. During the game I thought "I just might be able to stave off mate, and loop around my own pawns (to the Kingside and down under) and hold a draw, maybe"... During the post-mortem, as soon as we replayed 37.f4, Sam said "draw!". Interesting. I looked at the Houdini evaluation and didn't see a sharp change, but I'm not sure what Black has after that, if White is careful. By Black's 40th move (Houdini doesn't like the move, prefers pushing the passed pawn), the engine evaluates the position as a draw.
I was very happy for the draw considering the massive blunder with my King position earlier!