Continental Open 2013, Round 1, "About that draw..."

Aug 17, 2013, 9:55 AM |

The game opens with a demonstration of my lack of Sicilian "theme" knowlege. For example 11...Nxd5, instead of the thematic 11...Rc8. After all, why did Black bother to open the c-file...?

Moves 14-16, both players are clearly on two different fishing expeditions, resulting in a quick transition to a Queenless endgame. Moves 17-25 further transition to a Bishop same-color ending. Black is worse because he has two pawn islands as opposed to one, but nonetheless should be able to get a draw, if he doesn't blunder and lose (keep reading).

Moves 26-36, further exchanges, now we are in a pure King and pawn endgame. Equal number of pawns, Black still has two pawn islands, and theoretically Black should lose, which begs the question of why did Black exchange down in the first place? All good questions, and maybe I can explore my endgame choices in a future blog.

37.Kd4, critical position. White simply needs to pick on Black's two weaknesses (two pawn islands) and the Black King probably couldn't move around fast enough to defend everything. On the other hand, 37...b5 helps to secure a draw. What did Black do?...

37...Kd7??, but of course! Black found it compelling to toss in a game ending blunder just to make the game sporting. I did that several times in this tournament - lol...

38.Kd5+-, White has a decisive advantage, but wait there is more... 38...Kc7??, Black wants to really test the ability of White to spot the wining line. But instead of 39.Ke6, taking opposition and using pawn moves to run Black out of tempo, White plays 39.c5, giving Black the opportunity to exchange off the bad pawn with 39...dxc5 (whew), and the game is once again a draw. The game mercifully ends on move 44 with a draw.

My opponent Evan Maclure is a fine young gentleman, and I enjoyed post-mortem analysis with him. Jason Specter (5th place U2200) helped us analyze. My opponent and I both thought the game was a draw the whole time, until he quietly said "that loses" after 37...Kd7. Evan and I just looked at each other and sighed... for two different reasons of course - lol.