Eastern Open 2014, part 1

Dec 30, 2014, 8:30 AM |

My least successful tournament since I started playing again, but it was fun and I finally (in the last two rounds) got to play some players higher rated than me. Half a year since the last tournament (World Open) is a long time, so it took me a couple of rounds to feel comfortable.

In round one, I attacked overambitiously as white, not realizing how effective the break ...e5 would be. My plans relied on the Rxh7 sacrifice, but black defends easily. I almost got a chance to survive when he played 24...Rd8 instead of Rh8, but I squandered it by playing 26.b3?? instead of Rd1.

In the second round I was black and got to play the French defense for the first time in a tournament game. I am still new to it, so I didn't make the best use of my opponent's opening mistake. (Note to self: in response to this common error, black should take the second time with the queen, not with the knight. In the line I played, the best continuation would have been 12...d4, leadng to wild tactical complications from which black emerges roughly half a pawn better, according to Houdini.) Lots of errors on both sides, including my overambitious 29...Be2 (when 29...Bc6 safely seals the win), failing to calculate 30.Qc2 at all, assuming that the exchange of queens would be hopeless for white. Thankfully, he returned the favor a few moves later with the terrible 35.Rb8:
In the third round, I was white and had a frustrating game: I get my break on the h-file, but it leads to nothing; the ensuing good-vs-bad-bishop endgame is a dead draw because the board is completely locked. Ironically, I could win if I didn't have the a-pawn. But Houdini didn't find any major (more than about 0.25 pawns) improvements anywhere, for either side. I just need to choose riskier variations as white.