David versus Goliath

David versus Goliath‎

GM vbhat
15 | Strategy

I recently competed in a very strong Category 15 tournament in Montreal. There were 12 players, 8 invitees and 4 qualifiers. I qualified by finishing 3rd in the Quebec Championship in June (from which I have already discussed a few games in this column). For me, the average rating of my opponents was a massive 2628, the strongest field I had ever faced.

The top seed in the event was French GM Etienne Bacrot. This was the first time I was facing Bacrot after our encounter in the 1995 World Youth Under-12 Championships in Brazil. He was already 2400 FIDE then, and that game ended quite badly for me - Bacrot checkmated me in 17 moves with a basic mating pattern! He went on to take the gold medal while I had to be satisfied with a tie for second. This would be our second meeting, and like the first, it would be a big rating mismatch. Unlike the first, though, this one went much better for me.

Question 1: What would you play for Black here after 9.e3?

Question 2: What would you play for Black here after 18.fxg5?

Question 3: What would you play for Black here after 25.Be4?

Question 4: White offered a draw here, and I had 2 minutes left. If you were playing Black here, would you take the draw? If you would play on, how would you continue?

Playing on would have been the right choice objectively, but I had a little under 2 minutes at this point, and although I knew I was clearly better, I didn't see a quick knockout. After my first 3 games (2 bad losses and one near-loss), I felt like I needed to "earn" a half point and so I decided to take it. Surprisingly, this might have been the worst position Bacrot had the entire tournament, so had I continued, I might have been the only one to take out the top seed. Maybe next time ...

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