Rejoining the fight - game 6
This is a blog about a former NM who basically retired from serious chess for about 15 years to pursue family and career, trying to make a mini comeback without studying too much or working too hard. Each blog will see me annotate a game from my tournament play, with a general smattering of my thoughts during the game, and what I hopefully learned from it.
Finally entering the last round of this grindingly long tournament, I must admit I was somewhat looking forward to it being over. A lengthy review of the crosstable indicated to me that a last round win might actually result in some prize money, so I was reasonably well motivated for the game, as well as knowing I'd have white and be facing a similarly rated opponent who was having a tournament that she'd like to forget.
In preparing, I saw that she generally responds 1...e5 to my standard e4, and seemed reasonably well prepared. However, if you've read my previous blogs, or looked at my profile, I am a firm believer that the main lines are the main lines for a reason, and that is because they are the best moves. I was fully aware that the Marshall doesn't have the best reputation for white at the moment, but that's at the super GM level; I assumed for us mere mortals there was still plenty of room for error, and in a situation where my opponent was clearly off form, I felt even better about my chances.
[Event "PokerStars Masters"]
[White "the big dumdum"]
[Black "Zahn (WFM), A."]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. Re1 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d3 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3
So far, so good, all according to my preparation. I spent a fair bit of time studying the alternative for black on move 13 (Bf5) as it seemed the trendier move and my opponent seemed like a hard studying junior type who'd be up on the latest theory. As a result, I didn't give Qh4 enough of my time, and because I didn't really understand the position or themes behind d3 very well, I immediately go off the normal path, which would be Re4, threatening Rh4.
15. Qf3 Bg4 16. Qg2 Qh5 17. Nd2 Rae8 18. Re4
At this point, I was starting to feel a very standard feeling for white in the Marshall - yes I'm a pawn up, but how do I complete my development? My knight kind of has to stay on d2 to stop Bf3, which means my bishop on c1 and rook on a1 are locked in. My basic plan was to try to hold the efile closed, then play f3, then Nf1, and hope this somehow untangled me. Black would like to play f5-f4-f3, and it looks like a pretty solid plan. There are some tricks related to the a2-g8 diagonal where the knight can get in trouble, so my opponent figured, hey, no way to untangle without more weaknesses, so play a safe move and then cram the f-pawn down my throat.
18...Kh8 19. f3 Bh3 20. Qf2 Qg6 21. Nf1 f5 22. Rxe8 Rxe8 23. Bxd5 cxd5 24. f4
So, during the game, I figured that this was pretty much the end of the black attack; my king is now safe enough, I will be able to develop relatively smoothly, and I still have my extra pawn, to say nothing of the isolated d-pawn and the bad light squared bishop. I was congratulating myself around this stage for pretty much refuting the Marshall, while my opponent just kept playing aggressive moves.
24...Qh5 25. Be3 h6 26. Re1 Kh7 27. Nd2 g5 28. fxg5 hxg5 29. Qf3 Qf7 30. Qf2 Qh5 31. Nf3
My king, which I'd formerly assessed as "impregnable" was now still under heavy attack, with the threat of f4 looming constantly. I have just declined the implied draw offer by repetition, and played Nf3, feeling the threat against g5 will force concessions. However, I didn't really reckon what would happen if my opponent just played f4 right now, and I am at a bit of a loss to remember exactly why she didn't. With this missed chance, I finally take actual control of the game (instead of my imagined control) and consolidate.
31...Rg8 32. Bd4 f4 33. Be5 Bxe5 34. Rxe5 Bg4 35. Re7+ Rg7 36. Rxg7+ Kxg7 37. Ne5 Bh3 38. Qf3 Qe8 39. gxf4 gxf4 40. Qxf4
The second pawn win and now her king is no better than mine; positions like this are very easy to trade down from because of the ability to check and create double attacks, and I believe by this point, she'd had just about enough of this game, this tournament, and probably chess in general.
40...Qh5 41. Nf3 Bf5 42. d4 Be4 43. Qe5+ Kh6 44. Qxh5+ Kxh5 45. Nd2 Bd3 46. Kf2 Kh4 47. Ke3 Bg6 48. Kf4 Kh3 49. Ke5 Bf7 50. Nf1 1-0
Huzzah, finally a win! I left feeling pretty good about the game and that I'd just won a nice smooth one, before realizing I'd messed up the opening, and realizing that the missed chance to play ...f4 meant that my position wasn't nearly as good as I'd thought. Even worse, I realized that I'd completely misread the crosstable and that despite winning, there was no prize money.
At least, however, I can take things away from the game:
Learning 1: If you're going to play the main lines, you better really know the main lines. Walking into the Marshall gambit with some half baked idea of the moves that relies on a rapidly deteriorating memory is a risky idea at best.
Learning 2: These sorts of openings (early pawn sacrifice for long term positional compensation) are never really over until they're really over. You can't really claim to have consolidated your pawn until all your opponent's counterplay is extinguished; it's not enough to just finish your development or repulse the immediate threats.
Learning 3: Know the rules of the tournament! I almost didn't attend the prize ceremony, but decided to just to hang out with GM, and was shocked when I was called up as the winner of the U2100 prize (as it turns out, in this event, the class prizes are based on biggest rating increase rather than gross score). Yes, I would have gotten the prize eventually, but it's still more fun to walk up, get your picture taken and shake the hand of the organizer.
With that tournament behind me, next up was the local city championship, where the opposition would be decidedly less challenging. Coming soon - the hunted becomes the hunter.