Week 3 Recap: vs. Carolina
Arguably the worst match ever...pretty much all 8 players at some point made some egregious oversight, or horrible practical decision, or just played sloppily--anyways, maybe this tragicomedy of errors was enjoyable for the fans, who were once again reminded that everyone is human, and no one is impervious to making awful moves! With that, let's do a quick recap of the games. I'd like to start with my game, since it's only fair to talk about how badly everyone else played if I throw myself under the bus first, right?
Anyways, feel free to play through the game:
So I felt very comfortable with my position in the middlegame, and as soon as I started to feel really optimistic about the match is when I started to overlook things on practically every move. But ok, here was the situation before the series of unfortunate events that occurred on my board. FM Casella was in a completely dominating position and had about an extra hour on his clock. Tatev seemed quite pleased with her position, seeing as how she also had an extra 30 or 40 minutes and her opponent, FM Korley, was nearly flagging on every move. Zhanibek had comfortably equalized with Black and also enjoyed an extra 30 minutes on the clock. Not to mention, I was already liking my chances in my game, as I felt I also equalized without a whole lot of effort and had only 20 extra minutes or so. So with all that in mind I assumed nothing could possibly go wrong and naturally lost all focus and all my "soviet chess training" flew right out the window.
I missed 19.Qc4, with a double attack on g6 and c6. Ok, it's already a bit embarrassing that someone at my level could miss this move, but it's also certainly not unheard of that a master could miss a simple double attack. Anyways, since playing 19...Ne7 would run into 20.f4, where it seemed like White would get a dangerous initiative, I decided to sacrifice the pawn and try to put all my pieces on active squares, probably the correct practical decision. After that my opponent played reasonably well for the next few moves and I played sort of "meh", but then NM Jones blundered with 25.f4, and now I will spend a long time thinking, "how could I possibly miss Nxf4?". I mean it should be so mindbogglingly obvious, but I have no explanation for why I didn't even see it. And Nxf4 would have probably saved the game, I win back one of the pawns and all of White's other pawns remain weak, which means Black has pretty good compensation.
Ok, enough about my game, lets move on to the other gems in the match:
At first this was a semi-interesting game with two solid players playing solid moves and Zhanibek eventually getting a small middlegame advantage and more importantly, a significant time advantage. Then once he got low on time, looking for some kind of knockout blow that wasn't there, all hell broke loose. Fortunately for us, IM Schroer didn't find 43.Qxc6, which would have won the game immediately (and the match), Unfortunately for Carolina, he then went into an endgame with a healthy extra pawn but in horrible time pressure blundered two pawns and lost the game. Zhanibek was not happy about winning the game...instead he vowed to never ever let himself get into time pressure again, and he had a point. When time pressure rears its ugly head, it can cause two really really strong players to play like two really really not strong players!
Tatev's game was another anomaly--although she didn't too anything too extreme in the opening, her opoonent was still down to like under 10 minutes while the move number was still in the teens. Then, with FM Korley nearly flagging on every move, I guess Tatev lost focus and somehow overlooked 25...Qxg2+, which not only gets Black out of their speculative position, but leaves White on the defensive side of a difficult endgame. Fortunately for us, FM Korley was so low on time at this point, that he chose to give back his extra exchange (things around his king were looking a bit hairy) in order to go into a simplified rook ending which he could hold without needing more than the 30 second increment for each move.
Let this recap be a public service announcement that time trouble is as just as bad a problem as anything else. When you have low time, it's harder to find the best moves! Even if you do find the best moves, often they require a bit of calculation to justify that you just have no time for! Imagine doing Chess.com's Tactics Trainer but with 30 seconds on the clock for each problem...it'd be horrific! If FM Korley hadn't been so careless with his time early on, he would have had enough time to at least try and win that endgame.
This game was last, but certainly not least in terms of controversy. Michael has always had really good opening preparation but this time he just outdid himself. After the opening, he had a huge advantage on the board, and even a bigger advantage on the clock! But from then on he played indecisively and just couldn't put his opponent away. Finally, in that endgame where he had two extra pawns (and many ways to win), he didn't realize that a position was about to be repeated three times and that's all she wrote.
So a pretty disappointing match to say the least--first it should have been us to win with at least a score of 3-1, then it was Carolina who came oh so close to winning (literally, 43.Qxc6 in Schroer-Amanov and it's lights out for L.A.), but in the end, we drew. So that's that. In Week 4 we play Philly!