With two rounds to go I was on 5½/9. Two more good results would give me my best ever tournament performance. In round 10 I was black against a good friend, Bill Phillips, who had started Pinner Junior Club shortly before Mike Fox and I started Richmond Junior Club in 1975. Bill is still an active player, having recently participated in the FIDE Open at the London Chess Classic, and, now as then, about the same strength as me. We’re still in touch, as well, following each other on Twitter.
Our encounter was not short on excitement, as you’ll see.
1. Nf3 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. Nc3 Bg4 5. e3 c6 6. h3 Bxf3 7. Qxf3 Nd7 8. Bd2
Ngf6 9. Bd3 e5 10. O-O-O
Looks risky, especially combined with the rather random g-pawn push which follows. 10. O-O was safe and equal.
11. g4 Qb6
12. g5 Nh5
Allowing a tactical blow giving me a nice position.
14. exd4 Nc5
15. Bc2 Ne6
16. Be3 c5
Piling the pressure on the pinned d-pawn. White could defend with Qe4 or Qg4 but instead goes for some dubious tactics.
17. Rd3 cxd4
18. Rb3 Qc5
18… Qa6 would have given me a winning attack after, for instance 19.Ra3 (19.Bd2 is relatively best: 19… Qxa2 20.Ra3 Qxc4) 19…Qxc4 20.Bd2 Rac8 21.Qd3 Qc6 22.Re1 Nc5 23.Qf3 Qb5 with d3 coming next.
19. Bd2 Qxc4
20. Kb1 Nc5
Looks natural, I suppose, but this is a mistake, losing the d4 pawn. The computer prefers Rae8 here with pressure on the knight on e2.
21. Rb4 Qe6
22. Nxd4 Qd7
After this nice move White is doing fine.
24. Qxh5 Ne4
An exchange sacrifice at this point is also possible: 25.Rxe4 fxe4 26.Bxe4 f5 27.gxf6 Bxf6 28.Bh6 Kh8 29.Bxf8 Rxf8 which looks equal. Now I might have played 25… d5 to prevent this idea.
26. Rxe4 Qc6
Or 26…fxe4 27.Bxe4 Rfe8 28.Qxh7+ Kf8 29.Qf5 Qxf5 30.Bxf5 which is about equal. Instead I go for the other rook.
27. Rh4 Qxh1+
28. Bc1 Rfc8
29. Qxh7+ Kf8
30. Qxf5 Rc5
Better was 31.Qe4 Qxe4 32.Rxe4 d5 33.Re2 with equal chances.
A dreadful mistake, presumably overlooking White’s 33rd move. Instead I have to stop and defend the d-pawn: 31… Be5 32. Qe4 Qf1 when my computer gives me an advantage.
32. Qxd6+ Ke8
33. g6 Rxc2
Black’s king is too exposed. The best I can do is 33…f5 34.Qe6+ Kd8 35.Qg8+ Kc7 36.Qxg7+ and the king flees to safety but at too much cost.
34. gxf7+ Kxf7
Bill chooses the wrong check. He has a forced mate with 35.Qd7+ Kg8 36.Qe6+ Kf8 37.Rf4+ Bf6 38.Rxf6+ Kg7 39.Qf7+ Kh8 40.Rh6#.
And here we agreed a draw, although White can reach a queen ending a pawn ahead after 36.Qg6+ Kd8 37.Qd3+ Kc7 (37…Ke7 38.Re4+ Kf7 39.Qd7+ Kg8 40.Qe6+ is mating) 38.Qxc2+ Kb8 39.Rc4 Rxc4 40.Qxc4 Bh6 41. Qc3 Bxc1 42. Qxc1 Qxh3.
A very lucky escape for me, so I was still on +2, and found myself with white against a leading local player, John Henshaw, who was graded well above me, in the last round.
A Sicilian Defence with c3 soon transposed into a French Tarrasch. It wasn’t really deserving of any more than a brief commentary.
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c3 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5. d4 Nc6 6. Bb5 Bd6 7. O-O Nge7 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. Nb3 Bd6 11. Nbd4 Bg4 12. Bg5 (Be2 and Qa4 are the usual choices.) 12… Qb6 13. Qb3 Qc7 14. h3 Bh5 15. Bd3 a6 16. Qc2 Bg6 17. Bxg6 hxg6 18. Qd3 Rac8 19. Nxc6 bxc6 (There’s no real reason not to play Qxc6 and keep the a-pawn.) 20. Bxe7 Bxe7 21. Qxa6 Bd6 22. Rfe1 Rb8 23. Qe2 Rb6 24. Rab1 (I now have a solid extra pawn, but as so often I chicken out by offering my opponent a draw which he has little choice but to accept. I guess I was tired after a long tournament and happy to share the point with a much stronger adversary.) 1/2-1/2
So I finished the tournament on 6½/11, an excellent result by my standards, which demonstrated again that, on a good day, I was able to hold my own against county standard opposition.
What happened next? You’ll find out next week.