Dodging A Bullet

Sep 2, 2008, 12:11 PM |

Having continued to overhaul my opening repertoire, tweaking even up to the last minute, I expected my results at the 2008 FL State Championship to be underwhelming.  What I didn't  expect after the first two rounds is a performance rating in the 1600's.  Generally, I have a very good track record against lower-rated players, so early setbacks against two players (a draw to Chaz Daly [1899] and a loss to Sebastian Fernandez [1826]) left me beyond flummoxed.

Fortunately, I recovered to start finding my form with a victory over Hengyi Wu (1947) and a draw with Grant Ho (2008).   I rounded out the tournament with a victory over Toby Boas (2011) and a draw with Matan Prilleltensky (2116).

I learned a lot about opening preparation from this tournament, largely a consequence of my game against Wu.  Against the Sicilian, I chose to adopt the recommendation of Lev Alburt and Roman Dzindzischaschvilli in their book "Winning Chess Openings for White Explained".  They espouse the Sicilian Grand Prix, where white looks to play Bb5/Bb5+ and exchange off the bishop in conjunction with a pawn wall of d3, e4, and f4 with knights at c3 and f3.  Specifically, what I learned is Fritz-check your lines beforehand!

    I submit for the reader's approval the line that Alburt et. al recommend and6 claim for advantage to white, after 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bb5 Nd4 6. O-O Nxb5 7. Nxb5 d5 8. ed a6 9. Nc3 Nf6 10. d4 Nxd5 11. dc Nxc3 12. Qd8+ Kd8 13. bc Bxc3 14. Rb1 Kc7 15. Rb3 Bf6 16. Bd2 Be6 17. Ba5+ Kc6 18. Rb6+ Kxc5 19. Nd2 (D)

The book gave 19....Bd5 as black's next move without considering any other options.  Also, as a sidebar, I'll have to confess to being a little unsettled at the rate my opponent whipped out these first 19 moves, consuming a grand total of three minutes.  Wu instead deviates, uncorking the perfectly sensible continuation 19....Bd4+ 20. Kh1 Bxa2.

Checking with Fritz, this was indeed the #1 continuation from this position, which it rates as =+.  LOL, this was a big lesson not to take these "book" lines at face value (since they are frequently from games where the participants are weaker than the 2400+ engines).  If you're a tournament player, make sure you double-check your lines as well!

Anyway, after this abysmal performance, I only lost 7 rating points, going from 2087 (unpublished) to 2080.  Looking forward to my next chance to redeem myself!