My third round opponent was Kevin Wicker, a prominent player and author during the 70s and early 80s. He was joint British U18 Champion in 1970 and very active for some years thereafter before disappearing from the chess scene sometime in the mid 80s. I played Kevin three times in the 70s, being fortunate to draw twice (Bloomsbury 1973 and Charlton 1977) but on this occasion I was out of luck. His grade at the time of this game was 201.
My opening wasn’t very impressive: I usually play too negatively against strong opponents and my opponent launched an attack against my castled king.
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e3 Bb4 4. Nge2 O-O 5. g3 Re8 6. Bg2 c6 7. O-O d5 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. d4 e4 10. Qb3 Nc6 11. Nf4 Bxc3 12. Qxc3 Bg4 13. h3 Bf3 14. Bxf3 exf3 15. Qb3 Qd7 16. Qd1 g5 17. Nd3 Qxh3 18. Qxf3 Ne4 19. b3 Re6 20. Bb2 Nd2 21. Qxd5
I decide to grab a centre pawn, also hitting the g-pawn. The engines now think Black has is doing well if he defends his g-pawn with Qg4 or Ne4 but instead my opponent plays more directly, ignoring the g-pawn and threatening mate.
21… Rh6 22. Qxg5+ Kf8 23. Ba3+ Ke8 24. Qg8+ Kd7
Now I have two plausible checks. Nc5+ leads to a perpetual check in all variations but instead I make the wrong choice and Black soon manages to evade the checks. I guess it looked natural at the time to capture the pawn but surely bringing another piece into play, even without any calculation, is more likely to be correct.
25. Qxf7+ Kd8 26. Qf8+ Kc7 27. Qf7+ Kb6 28. Bc5+ Ka6 29. Nb4+ Nxb4 0-1
In the fourth round I had black against an ungraded opponent who launched a premature king-side attack.
1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4 e5 5. d5 Nf6 6. Be2 O-O 7. Bg5 h6 8. Be3 a5 9. g4 Na6 10. g5 hxg5 11. Bxg5 Nc5 12. h4 Qe8 13. f3 Nh5 14. Nb5 Qd7 15. Nh3 Ng3 16. Rh2 f5 17. Qc2 fxe4 18. fxe4 Ngxe4 19. O-O-O c6 20. dxc6 bxc6
I’ve won a pawn and opened up the centre against the white king, but here Qxc6 would have been a simpler and stronger alternative. Now White decides to sacrifice a piece to set up a pin on the d-file.
21. Nxd6 Nxd6 22. Qxg6
White could instead have regained the piece by playing Be3, followed by c5 when the knight moves away, but this is also good for Black.
This is not good for Black, though. The right move is Nce4. Now White should play 23. Bd3, with dangerous threats against the black king. The engines claim equality for black only by sacrificing his queen after 23… e4 24. Nxe4 Nxe4, and there’s no way I would have found that over the board.
23. Bg4 Qf7 24. Qc2
Not wanting to trade queens is understandable but now Black has an attack as well as an extra piece.
24… Nd4 25. Rxd4 exd4 26. Bxc8 Raxc8 27. Bf4 Qxc4
Either a strange decision or an oversight. After Nxc4 Black’s just a rook ahead. For some reason I choose the ending with an extra exchange, but it’s still more than enough to win.
28. Bxd6 Rf1+ 29. Kd2 Bh6+ 30. Ng5 Qxc2+ 31. Kxc2 Bxg5 32. hxg5 Kf7 33. Bc5 Rd8 34. Rd2 Rf4 35. Rd3 Rd5 36. b4 axb4 37. Bxb4 c5 38. Bd2 Rf2 39. Kb3 Re5 40. a4 Ree2 41. Kc2 Ke6 42. Kd1 Ke5 43. Be1 Rg2 44. Rd2 Rxd2+ 45. Bxd2 Kd5 46. a5 c4 47. a6 Kc6 48. Bf4 Kb6 49. Be5 d3 0-1