NH Open 2008 – Part 2

The results are in. Braden Bournival has won his fifth straight title as NH State Chess Champion, the first of which he shared with me in 2004. Congratulations, Brad. As for me, I tied for the U2000 prize with Winston Huang.

My last round game was a quick “grandmaster draw” assuring me of at least a piece of the cash, so let’s have a look at the far more interesting third round. I woke up with a migraine, due in no small part to the grueling effort the previous evening, and it was definitely a factor in my draw offer at the end. We were pushing a late lunch at that point, and I wanted to conserve energy. Indeed, I almost withdrew after this game to curl up in a ball in the dark at home, but somehow managed to at least sit at the board to vie for a portion of the U2000 prize. I’m glad I did, but ouch…

Some moments of note:

9.0-0 is a novelty. Previously, 9.Be3 had been played followed later by castling queenside. It certainly came under consideration. The same setup was used there as in the current game, i.e., f3, Be3, and Qe2. We just chose different homes for our kings.

After 21 moves, White has a dominating position, but care is still required. For example, both 22.Rc4 and 22.Qc4 would lose the Be3. Hence the king move.

Black’s 30…a5 is understandable given that White was threatening his own pawn push to that square with the idea of Bb6, etc.. White could take advantage of the pawn’s weakened post on the next move—or even as a correction on the 32nd—with the much better plan of Bf2-Be1. The Be3-c1 maneuver seemed good enough too as Black had to concede either the b-file or the second rank. I also liked it for the fact that it kept an eye on the f4 square where Black’s knight might post. More about this decision and a question for the reader below.

In the final position, I saw 51.gxh5 gxh5 left no route for my king into the kingside and felt the enemy king could keep me out of the queenside. Patrick Sciacca, who kibitzed with us afterward, was convinced the win was to be found in this line. Instead, I focused on the tricky 51.g5 fxg5 52.Bxg5 Ka7 53.Bd2 Nd6 54.Bc3 Nf7. My conclusion in either case was that sure I could punish him some more and maybe pull out the win, but with my headache, I wasn’t sure who I was really punishing. ;)

Quick poll: Is it more painful to discover in post-mortem a winning move you missed entirely or that one of those you considered but ultimately rejected was a winner? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Maybe it’s because of how more frequently the latter occurs that it definitely has my vote. Maybe it’s because it feels like a sort of chessic cowardice to have not played it; you saw so many of the good lines arising out of it yet still couldn’t muster the courage.

Yes, I’m frustrated by this game.   I was happy to have built up a position that reminded me of Botvinnik-Capablanca. I felt I was on my way to a beautiful middlegame squeeze capped by a grinding endgame. To have ruined it with unplayed-but-seen moves leaves me baffled for an explanation and saddened by the missed opportunity.

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