One Game, Step-By-Step
Chess could be viewed as being composed of the elements of space, time, and quality (harmony). Perhaps you could even also see life in the same way, falling into the famous cliché of “life imitates chess”. Here we will see a game which fell from one era to another, while constantly the balance between time, space, and quality altered. Chess games typically have this pattern. Although some are constantly changing from beginning to end, most enter some stable period for awhile, then suddenly become altered, and then fall into the next epoch – and so on.
This game took place in the sixth round of the 2012 Limpedea Cup in Baia Mare, Romania. In 2011 I had won this tournament and thus was invited back. It was to be my last tournament before returning to Philadelphia. The tournament was very strong, with nine out of the twelve players having the Grandmaster title. I was very happy to have the opportunity to play such a strong tournament, although I wished it could take place when I was in decent form.
As in almost every other tournament in the past year, the tournament had started well. After a draw with black in the first round, I had defeated GM Jianu (again with black) in round two – an excellent start. However, in round three I had blown a pretty-much won position and only drawn. And in round four I had a solid advantage the whole game but was unable to win. Then in round five I had lost against GM Nanu with the white pieces. I had a dangerous-looking attack, although it did not really amount to anything concrete and the position became very drawish. When I finally reconciled myself to a draw I lost concentration completely and made about four blunders in a row.
As a result, before this game I was in a very bad mood. My next opponent, IM Dragos Dumitrache was the second lowest-rated player (after myself!) in the tournament, and I badly wanted to win even though I had black. Fortunately the game was not until the next afternoon, so I had some time to calm down after the upsetting game against Nanu. It is very hard to calm down and stop being angry after a stupid loss, but time works wonders.
When you are angry you might want to completely crush your next opponent. However, unlike in other competitive activities, in chess strong emotions like this do not usually lead to the desired result. It is better to be calm and objective, but this is easier said than done. Especially when you have black, you need to maintain your objectivity, first equalize, and then look for your chances, especially when your opponent is a solid player who was rated over 2500 for a long time.
In the early part of the game I had been worried. There was a sort of shadow over the game at this point. I had made a mistake with 15…a6, and I realized that. On each move I saw potentially dangerous opportunities for my opponent, particularly with 19.c6. But around this time some light came, and the game entered a new era. My opponent felt that his position was won, but actually it was not so, and he started to consume lots of time. I felt proud that I had emerged from some danger to create this very deceptive position where it seems White is better but in reality he is in danger.
Things had apparently improved for me and now both players considered the position to be a big advantage for Black. The space advantage White established early in the opening had melted away, and now the black pieces controlled the board. The white knight was very bad and the passed d-pawn dangerous. Now it appeared that the white weaknesses were in more danger than the black ones. But at this moment came some turmoil. I had to calculate some variations and make some decisions, in order to guide the game to victory. Meanwhile, my opponent’s task was simpler – to just create problems. The advantage is often a burden, as in this case.
Black sold his positional advantages for a material one. This is often the clearest way to win. Nevertheless, it requires delicate judgment, and here I got it wrong. I had been unable to see through the many variations, and instead took the “sure thing”. But in fact he had nearly enough compensation, and my position was now only slightly better. A long and dreary period commenced, where I tried with frustration to find winning chances, all the time worried that the position could become dangerous for me.
Finally my opponent had decided to trade rooks, feeling that it was the simplest way to make a draw. Probably he was right, although psychologically it made things easier for me. Now I had some hope of one last chance. I chose a line which led to an ending which I knew should be a draw, but still had some slight hope of victory, imagining that my opponent could blunder. This “hope” almost caused me to lose. I over-pressed (as I have so many times before) and had to find a study-like draw. Finally the game ended with the last few stragglers still hanging out on the field – knight and two passed pawns against a rook, a theoretical draw.
It is fascinating to me how the game wends its way, between the thoughts of the two players, from this complex position out of the opening with opposing pawn chains, through multiple adventures, and finally to this balanced ending. My opponent’s knight had done remarkable work after its inauspicious time stranded on g3. However, my rook finally held it at bay.