My next game was again with the white pieces against Mike Singleton, a very experienced player graded slightly above me.
We’d played twice before, a long time ago, and in each case I also had White. Mike beat me in a London League match in 1979, and we drew, again in the London League, in 1982.
1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 g6
3. Nc3 Bg7
4. Nf3 O-O
The Smyslov Variation: unless your name is Vasily you might consider this a cowardly way to avoid the main lines. To be fair to myself, though, the stats are pretty good for White after 5… d6 6. e3.
An excellent choice as long as you’re happy with a Benoni formation after White plays d5, which is really the first player’s only chance for an advantage.
6. e3 Qa5
7. Qd2 is usually played here.
8. O-O Bg4
A poor choice, completely misassessing the position after the minor piece trades.
10. h3 Bxf3
11. Qxf3 Nc6
The immediate cxd4 was probably better as I could now have played dxc5 with equality.
12. Qf4 cxd4
13. exd4 f5
By now I realised that I’d misjudged this position. I’d assumed that Black’s crippled pawn formation would give me the advantage, but in fact it’s Black who stands better due to the weakness of White’s d-pawn. Black’s fianchettoed bishop is very strong here.
14. Nb5 Rad8
He might also have played 14… a6 15. Nxd6 Bxd4 when the knight on d6 is in trouble.
According to Znosko-Borovsky in How Not to Play Chess: ‘The great Steinitz used to say that if he could establish a Kt at his K6 or Q6, he could then safely go to sleep, for the game would win itself’, although Edward Winter has failed to find any contemporary references to Steinitz saying any such thing.
You may recall a previous game in which I excitedly established a white knight on d6 only to find that it was neither strong nor stable on that square. Perhaps I should avoid putting my knights there in future.
15. Nxd6 Qc7
16. c5 Nxd4
17. Rac1 Ne6
My position is falling apart. My knight on d6 is being undermined and my pawns on b2 and c5 are both under attack.
18. Qf3 Nxc5
A desperate attempt to find a tactical solution.
19… Bxb2 was the way to maintain an advantage. Now a forced sequence leads to a level ending.
20. Rfe1 Rxd3
21. Rxe5 Rxf3
22. Ne7+ Kh8
23. Rexc5 Rf4
Not the most accurate move. It would have been better to do something about the b-pawn immediately…
25. Ne3 h5
… because Black could now have won a pawn: 25… Ra4 when both my queen-side pawns are en prise.
26. Rc7 Rb4
Misplacing the black rook. Instead 26… Ra4 was equal.
27. b3 Bh6
28. Rd1 a5
29. Rdd7 Bxe3
30. fxe3 b5
31. Rxf7 Rxf7
White has won a pawn, but it’s probably not enough to win the game. Black aims to eliminate the queen-side pawns.
33. bxa4 Rxa4
34. Rf2 Kg7
35. Rb2 Kf6
Settling for the draw. I could have tried to keep the pawns on but it was unlikely to affect the outcome of the game.
37. Rb6+ 1/2-1/2
A fair result, I suppose. I didn’t deserve anything more after a craven opening choice followed by an error of judgement on move 9.