1.a3 A strong second to 1.Nc3. OK, not really. Anti-computer strategy actually, namely, anti-computer-much-better-book knowledge-than-me play.
1...e5 no surprises there!
2.e4 I had the computer thinking on its own, and I wasn't about to go and forget my centre.
2...Nf6 Now, one would think, the computer will definitely not find a transposition line and start playing from the book again. Possible, perhaps, after 3. Nc3 so ...
3.d3 d5 Wonderfully predictable!
4.exd5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Nc3 I've gotta challenge that centralised Black Knight
6...Nxc3 7.bxc3 Computer: "Stupid. Human. Weakened. Pawn Structure. Die." Human: "Hopefully that strengthens my centre, and opens avenues for my queenside rook"
7...Bc5 Still, all as expected!
8.Be3 Please take me too! Then watch me use my centre pawns! (the c, soon to become d-pawn actually goes all the way and wins for me in this game - more by luck than good judgement though)
8...Bxe3 OK, actually, was expecting ...Bb6 when exchanging it would open up the Black Rook's grin down the a-file to my lonely pawn.
9.fxe3 0-0 10.Be2 e4!? 11.Nd2 This looses White a pawn, but after Black's follow up leaves White with a resultant initiative, and a nice pawn centre. [11.dxe4 This is what the computer recommends, but I just couldn't stand the thought of such a pawn structure. I wanted, at least, a nice pawn centre, even if nothing else!]
11...exd3 12.cxd3 Qg5 13.Kf2 defending both e3 and g2
13...Qf6+ going for the win of the c-pawn, but now my minor pieces find nice squares. This is where White gets the initiative I mentioned earlier.
14.Bf3 Qxc3 15.Ne4 a nice centralised knight, with gain of time on the Black queen
15...Qe5 16.Qb3? I thought this would hinder the development of the Black bishop. I was wrong, as Junior 8 later showed me. Black gives back a pawn for centralised pieces and an initiative (see notes to next move).
16...Rd8? [16...Be6! 17.Qxb7?! Bd5 and Black is making the threats. Couple this with the White king position, the time needed to bring the White queen to a safer square ... and White's centre pawns will probably not mean much]
17.Rac1 planning to gain time on the Black queen by moving the rook to c5, then double on the c-file. This also immediately pressures the Black queenside.
17...a5 not sure what this is about. Perhaps to bring the Black a8-rook out via a6?
18.Rc5 Qe6 19.Qxe6 I'm a pawn down, but I will still be left with nice pressure for my pawn deficit. Perhaps I should have kept the queens on, but where should I have put it? [19.Qc2 Ne5 20.d4 (20.Rxc7 Nxd3+ 21.Ke2-/+ ) 20...Nxf3 21.gxf3 Ra6 and Black relieves the pressure on the queenside and weakens my h-pawn in an endgame - at the expense of slightly strengthening my centre. Is this better than the game continuation? I prefer the tangible pressure on the queenside in the game continuation. In my mind it is easier to make something of that compared to the better central pawn structure as in this variation.; 19.Qc3 Qa2+ is also not what I want to allow]
19...Bxe6 20.d4 Interestingly, Junior 8 on 19 ply depth considers this to be very good for White
20...h6 21.Rb1 Ra7 Well, that's one way to defend it! Doesn't look too pretty though!
22.Rcb5?! The computer assures me that Nc3 was the better move. This wasn't the most deeply thought out move, to be honest. I think most club chess players are capable of good moves and cunning plans, but keeping up the performance over a whole game is what separates the Masters from the rest of us.
22...b6 23.Nf6+! But now, at least, I had created a concrete pawn weakness on the Black kingside. Perhaps that's why I played the rook to b5, I don't remember.
23...gxf6 24.Bxc6 Bc4 The Black bishop goes nuts, places himself on to enemy turf (making himself simply more vulnerable), and starts chasing my rook - to an arguably better square!
25.Rh5 So, I can start to pick on the freshly created weaknesses straight away ...
25...Kg7 26.Rc1 chasing that rabid bishy
26...Bd3 27.Rc3 Bg6 28.Rh4 Black's queenside pawns are not moving for a while. Black can, at the moment, defend all his weaknesses on the Kingside. I'd better start thinking about how to increase my pressure i) get the pieces to better squares, and ii) make some movement in the centre
28...Rd6 29.d5 Rd8 Black is clearly bursting with ideas of what to do! Better was perhaps ...f5 hindering an e4 pawn push
30.e4 Rd6 Only a computer would have the shame to play like this!
31.Rch3 But now, wha t to do? Black has weaknesses on the Kingside, queenside (c7 pawn), and White has the centre and wonderfully active rooks. Should I improve the centre of my King first, or force the Black pawn to h5. i thought it might be later handy to have the Black pawn on h5, instead of h6: it stops the bishop from taking the d1-h5 diagonal later on, and my Bishop can now help in attacking it if the need should arise. I'd be interested to know what others would have played here.
31...h5 32.Rf3? I thought ... well, the game is pretty much about me finding the weak spots to pick on now. Black hasn't got anything to do that I cannot stop. So, lets just have a little fun, and pick on another kingside pawn! Actually, 32.a4 was far more sensible, stopping any thought of ...a4 - Ra5 - Rc5
32...a4 33.Rhf4 Ra5 the Black rook makes a bid for freedom!
34.Rc3 Rd8? [34...Rc5! 35.Rxc5 bxc5 36.Ke3 Rd8 37.Kd3 Rb8 38.Bxa4 Ra8 39.Bb3 Rxa3 40.Kc4 and el-stupido has let Black get out of trouble!]
35.Ke3 The King is a total wimp, lets be honest, but when the forces are few, or packed behind pawns, he does have his uses.
35...b5 36.Kd4 Black should have played the rook to c5 when he had the chance. Now it is clear that White enjoys a great position. Just win a pawn, and then it will be a clearly better position.
36...Rb8 37.Rc5 Rb6 38.Rf2 f5!? Nevertheless, Mephisto Nigel Short is a very direct computer programme, active in attack and defence. Why is this active? Well, at the cost of a pawn, Black secures other advantages. White needs to now keep his f5-pawn defended, and White has all th emore reason to do so as it, at the moment, keeps Black's bishop locked out of a nice diagonal. This means that operations on the queenside cannot be made without immbalancing the game on the board as a whole.
39.exf5 [39.e5 I'm pretty sure I would have considered this alternative, I cannot remember - nor can I the reasons why I chose exf5 over this.]
39...Bh7 40.Ke5 move the King over to defend the pawn. Without thinking of Mephisto's response - a bad sign. I ceased to play "real chess".
40...f6+ Ahh. Hmm. Yes, well Ke6 may well be good. But what if it gets tangled up behind the Black lines? Could calculate it all. Or, lets just play safe....
41.Ke4 [41.Ke6 Ra7 42.Rxb5 Rxb5 43.Bxb5 Bg8+ 44.Kd7 is OK, but not something I would readily choose]
41...Kh6 42.h4?! stopping any dubious ideas the Black king had. But this weakens my g2-pawn.
42...Rb8 43.Rb2? without considering Black's possible responses, (I was loosing concentration), I attack a pawn on the queenside, and forget about my own newly created weaknesses. Mephisto jumps on them immediately.
43...Rg8 44.Bd7 now I sunk into thought, kicking myself for my error. I must loose at least a pawn - which one is least important? This question guided my next move. In the end, I decided that my h-pawn was the least important. Among other reasons, I wanted to keep the Black bishop from off of the b1-h7 diagonal. [44.Kf3 Bxf5 45.Rbxb5 Rxb5 46.Bxb5 was actually perhaps the best way to keep an advantage]
44...Rg4+ 45.Kf3 Rc4? Black's doesn't calculate too deep, and decides to protect his c-pawn. But this leads to a nice advantage for White, though I didn't play it very accurately at all (understatement)
46.Rxc4 bxc4 47.Rb5 By now I was thoroughly disconcerted at the play I had allowed Black, after the wonderful strangle-like position I had earlier. Psychological factors entered the fray - and objectivity got lost somewhere on the way. I just wanted pieces off. Nevertheless, I had convinced myself that, with rooks swapped off, I could win. "Less pieces on the board to mess with my head", I thought.
47...Rxb5 48.Bxb5 Bxf5 [48...c3 49.Bd3 ]
49.Bxc4 Kg6 50.Ke3 Bc2 My thoughts were: 1) My king is better played, 2) my pawn structure is slightly more solid, and 3) he will have one more pawn on a light square than me (important as my Bishop will be able to attack one more pawn than his)
51.Bd3+? But, getting caught up in a more or less forcing variation, I convinced myself, wrongly, that White still had the win if Bishops were off too. Now, the three advantages that I listed in the previous note, where whittled down to just two (slightly more solid pawn structure, and slightly better placed king - both "slightly"s indicate that I was too optimistic to trade off the real trump - the factor relating to the Bishops, as in the previous note)
51...Bxd3 now the position is actually a pretty straightforward draw - I had simply calculated wrong (but then, so will Mephisto - or, rather, not deeply enough)
52.Kxd3 Kf5 53.Kd4 Kg4 so far so good; all as planned
54.Kc5 Kxh4?? Just as I had calculated and the whole reason I swapped off the Bishops. But ... [If Black had played the mean, 54...Kf4 or Kf5, I would have had to accept a draw. In my excitement, I didn't realise this till the iron logic of Junior 8 pointed it out, and in a split second! e.g. 55.Kb4 Ke4 56.Kxa4 Kxd5 57.Kb4 Kd4 58.a4 c5+ 59.Kb3 Kd3 60.Kb2 Kd2 61.Kb3 Kd3 ]
55.Kc6 now the win is easy and my centre pawns had the last laugh after all!
55...Kg3 56.Kxc7 Kxg2 57.d6 1-0