My Blitz Game Against IM John Bartholomew (Fins0905)
I recently had the opportunity to play John Bartholomew (aka Fins0905) in a blitz game as part of John's new Twitch streams. I highly recommend that people follow and subscribe to the chess players on Twitch. It gives them a bit of monetary appreciation for a lot of the free educational content they provide and helps grow the larger chess community.
As those who may have seen my previous games on this blog, I am a big fan of the Semi-Slav as a weapon for black against 1. d4. The Semi-Slav helped me climb above 1800 USCF in 2017 and is a good sharp weapon with opportunities to play for all three results. John and I played arguably the most complicated line of the Semi-Slav - the dreaded Botvinnik Variation (5. Bg5 dxc4). Normally, I would opt for the more calm 5...h6 in this position heading for the Moscow Variation but I had no desire to be slowly ground down by John's superior positional play and instead opted for this sharp line. Let's take a look at the game and see how it worked out!
- Keep It Complicated: Against higher rated players, you will likely get crushed in a positional grind. Having watched a lot of John's games on YouTube I know he thrives on exploiting small mistakes and getting edges from such positions. Opting for complicated forcing and tactical lines is helpful as both sides can miss tactics (as we did around move 20).
- Know Your Theory: In lines as complicated as the Botvinnik, you need to know your stuff. There is simply no way around it. On move 19, I should know that Rxh2 is terrible and instead play with 19...Bxe7 20. fxe7 Rdg8 where the position is balanced. These complicated lines involve study which is not everyone's cup of tea but can prove rewarding.
- Trust Your Instincts: I instinctively knew that Rxh2 was a bad move because I had never seen such a position in any of the Botvinnik games I had looked at in the past. Similarly, my fatal mistake Qd4 was done out of greed (holding onto the c4 pawn) rather than playing the safer move Kc7 preventing invasion. Instuition is built by looking over games in these lines and getting a feel for what is wrong and what is right. Trusting that voice in the back of your head telling you that this move feels wrong is almost always a better idea than being greedy in such complicated positions.
Once again, I'd like to thank John for playing these games with his viewers. I really appreciate everything he's done on YouTube, Chessable and Twitch to help the chess scene. As always, here are some resources regarding the Semi-Slav and in particular the Botvinnik Variation.
John's Game Vs. Student: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCFHXetPan8
This is a game in the Meran and quite instructive. Interestingly, John replied to a comment I posted on this game regarding if he played the Moscow or Botvinnik. He noted that the Botvinnik was "fascinating but too theory intensive."
St. Louis Chess Club: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUXLjvZo8PM
The entire series on the Semi-Slav is an excellent starter for anyone interested in these lines.
Schandorff's Semi-Slav - Part of the Grandmaster Series, simply excellent
Dreev's Series - Dreev is an expert in the Semi-Slav. He recommends the Moscow/Anti-Moscow as opposed to the Botvinnik and I like his approach to the Meran/Anti-Meran.
Let me know your thoughts on the game.