Friday, March 14, 2008

Reykjavik Open round 5

Now I was back in the same situation as before round 3, where I didn’t want to lose and end up playing down against lower rated opposition; I wanted at least a draw. To make matters worse, I was really stressed out over what had happened in the game from round 4, and this didn’t allow me to get much sleep. I got up and dutifully began to prepare, but my heart was not in it today. I simply felt burnt out on chess. This is sad because my preparation really helped out today, more than in any other game I have played.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.07"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Bjornsson, Bjorn"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C54"]
[WhiteElo "2079"]
[BlackElo "2194"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5
I had seen from the databases that he always met Bc4 with the Giuoco Piano, though there were no instances showing how he plays against the 7. Bd2 variation. For more than twenty years I had played the mainline 7. Nc3, but my experiences with that had shown me that too many players knew the line cold and black just plain comes out better, so I decided to switch to the more solid Bd2 variation. This game was the first time I got to use it in a real game.
4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2
It really is nice when your preparation works out, because you feel that you are much better prepared than your opponent for what is coming. This line is considered boring by most people, and it is very drawish, but it is hard for white to lose and does give white some practical chances at an advantage. That is exactly what I wanted for this round when I didn’t want to lose and I wasn’t truly in the mood to even play.
7…Bxd2+ 8. Nbxd2 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Qb3 Nce7 11. O-O O-O 12. Rfe1 c6 13. Ne4 Qb6
Well darn. This line is very drawish, and I was hoping he would play the more active 13…Nb6. I had studied the Qb6 move at home, though, so I was ready for it.
14. Nc3 Be6 15. Qxb6 axb6 16. Ng5 Nf5?
This was the first new move for me, and I had not seen it in my home preparation. I had no idea whether it was an ok try or a blunder. I examined the position for awhile, especially the obvious move 17. Nxe6. I became worried about letting him take my d4 pawn with the knight, and since I recognized the endgame after taking on d5 instead and knew it left me with a small edge, I went with that. A better move for black is 16...b5 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. Bb3 and white retains a small edge.
17. Bxd5?!
If I wanted to win then I needed to go for it with 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. Rxe6 Nxc3 (18...Nxd4 19. Re4 Nc2 (19...Nf5 20. Nxd5 cxd5 21. Bxd5+ Kh8 22. Rd1 Rfd8 23. a3 Rd7 24. g4 Nh4 25. Kf1 g5 26. Bb3 Rxd1+ 27. Bxd1 Rd8 28. Ke2 Ng6 29. Bc2 Nf4+ 30. Ke3 and white wins) 20. Nxd5 cxd5 (20...Kh8 21. Ne7 g5 22. Rc1 Nb4 23. a3 Na6 24. Bxa6 and white wins) (20...Nxa1 21. Ne7+ Kh8 22. Ng6+ hxg6 23. Rh4#) 21. Bxd5+ Kh8 22. Rd1 Rad8 23. Rc4 Rfe8 24. g3 Ne1 25. Kf1 g6 26. Rc7 Re5 27. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 28. Kxe1 Rxd5 29. Rxb7 b5 and white wins) 19. bxc3 and white has a winning advantage. Notice the cute little checkmate if he takes the rook on move 20!
17...Bxd5 18. Nxd5
I offered the draw despite knowing I had an endgame advantage. I had seen a very similar endgame on my computer that morning, and though white had the clear edge, it nearly always still turned out to be drawn. Since I wasn’t in the mood and just wanted to get out of there, I figured this was a convincing position to offer a draw and expect that he would take it. At least it offered me one more round against strong opposition. {18...cxd5 19. Nf3 Rfe8 and white has only a slight edge.}

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