I was quite surprised to be playing Eric at all, because he didn't play yesterday's
match. He was a kind of a surprise player who was parachuted in for today's
1.e4 e6 He also surprised me by playing the French defence. I always thought of him as someone who plays the Caro Kann or the Sicilian.
2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 a6 This is a very well-known position, and the most common move here is for White to castle. But since he is not a regular French player I thought I would confuse him by playing something a little bit unusual.
10.g3 I played a move that has been used by Kasparov on at least one occasion. I suspect that Kasparov won't be playing this move 10.g3 regularly, but even if he plays it only once it can't be a really stupid move. So I thought it was probably okay to play it. The idea is that instead of castling queenside White also leaves open the option of also possibly castling kingside.
10...0-0 11.Bg2 Now White can castle on either side, but more likely he's going to caslte kingside, having spent two tempi on g3 and Bg2
11...Bxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 I was somewhat surprised by this move, which allows me to retain my dark-square bishop, which can become a rather powerful piece - in fact later in the game it does become rather strong. The alternative would have been for him to exchange on d4 in this position, which may be slightly better.
13.Bf2 I decided to punish him for not exchanging the bishop by keeping it. Now he thought for quite a long time, because Black has to consider how to get counterplay. He decided on a plan which involved transferring the knight from d7 to e4. In fact I think this is quite a good plan. If Black doesn't get some kind of active counterplay White can consolidate his position, and then the pressure he has on the dark squares will definitely give him the advantage.
13...Bb7 14.0-0 Qe7 15.Rad1 Rfd8 Now Black is ready for the knight transfer from d7 to c5 to e4, so White has to consider how to react to this. In fact I decided to just allow the knight to come to e4 and to leave it there, play instead to maintain control of the blockading square d4.
16.Ne2 I played my knight away from control of e4, but it is heading for d4.
16...Nc5 17.Nd4 Ne4 Both sides executed their plans and the knight duly arrives on d4.
18.Qe2 Now it's an interesting position, because Black has this knight on e4, but White can at any moment exchange it. So Black always has to take into account the possibility of White playing Bxe4.
18...b4 19.Be3 Keeping my dark-square bishop, but more importantly keeping it on a square where it will blockade the e-pawn, if White exchanges on e4 later. Because the one thing White does not want to happen is to exchange on e4, see the black e-pawn go forward to e3 and be mated along the long diagonal leading to h1.
19...Rac8 I rather expected him to play 19...Nxd4 followed up by ...a5, with the idea to develop the bishop on a6.
20.Nb3 I don't have to take immediately on e4. First of all I improve the position of my pieces by playing Nb3. Now the bishop diagonal e3-a7 is open, and then if I take on e4 at some point the knight or bishop can come to c5 or the bishop to b6, which increases my possibilities.
20...Qc7 This stops the last of these possibilities, i.e. the bishop going to c6.
21.Bxe4 Since I have no more useful preparatory move, so I might as well take on e4.
21...dxe4 22.Qc4 Actually White would very much like to exchange queens in this position because Black has a number of weak pawns, like the pawns a6 and b4 on the queenside, and the pawn on e4 will become weak. So in an endgame, if you imagine that all the queens and rooks are exchanged, White would have a large advantage, because he would have various possibilities to attack the queenside pawns, or just to play the king to e3 and win the pawn on e4.
22...a5 23.Qb5 I think White has a slight advantage in this position and I expected him to play 22...Qb8, but instead he aimed for a tactical solution to his problems.
23...Rxd1 24.Rxd1 Rd8 This is quite a tricky idea but in fact it increases White's advantage.
25.Rxd8+ Qxd8 26.Kf2 I think he overlooked that I could play this move. [ The tactical point is that if I take on b7 he has 26.Qxb7 Qd1+ 27.Kg2 Qf3+ which forces a draw.]
26...Qc8 White has a large advantage: there is no real danger of perpetual check, Black's queenside pawns are weak and White's pieces can penetrate on the weak dark squares. [ The critical point was that if he played 26...Qd1 then I play 27.Nd2 stopping the check on f3. 27...Qh1 He has to go for counterplay because he was losing a piece here. ( If he plays 27...Ba8 28.Qa6 I play and win the piece.) 28.Nf1 Qf3+ and after 29.Ke1 the fun's over, he has no more checks, my king is secure and he's just dropping a piece on the queenside. That is why he could not play 26...Qd1 but instead had to go for something passive and play 26...Qc8.]
27.Nc5 Ba8 28.Qa6 As I said White would like to exchange queens
28...Qd8 Now comes a nice tactical point.
29.Nd7 threatening to win a piece with Nb6, trapping the bishop. This is actually a very ackward move.
29...b3 He tried to solve his problems tactically by getting b4 for his knight [ after for example 29...Ne7 White plays 30.Bb6 and wins the pawn on a5]
30.axb3 Nb4 attacking the queen and the pawn on c2
31.Qd6 threatening Nf6+, so he has no time to take the pawn on c2 at the moment
31...Qc8 32.c4 This is useful because it controls the d5 square.
32...Nd3+ 33.Kg1 Bc6 [ The point of 33.Kg1 is that if he plays 33...Nxb2 I go 34.Nb6 Qe8 35.Nxa8 Qxa8 36.c5 and there is no way for him to stop this pawn, because the white king is ideally placed on g1 to stop any checks by the black queen, which cannot actually get out in time to prevent the pawn from promoting. That's why I chose g1 for my king, rather than some other square.]
34.Nb6 Qe8 35.Qc7 Now there is a terrible threat of Nc8, followed either by Ne7+ or Qxc6. So again he doesn't have time to take the pawn on b2
35...h5? I think Black was losing anyway, because White has an extra pawn and his pieces are extremely active.
36.Nc8 In fact he has almost no moves after this. I'm threatening Qxc6.
36...Qd7 This rather shortend the game [ If he wants to avoid immediate loss of material the only move is 36...Ba8 but this really speaks for itself. If nothing else I can just play 37.Nd6 and then take the pawn on a5]
37.Qxc6 and after losing the piece he resigned. 1-0