I have been playing at the Chess Castle for a couple of years now. I play in the Thursday Knighters, an all-month event, which, coincidently, takes place on Thursdays. :) The tournament director, Norm, is particular difficult for me to beat. I nicked him once in a King's Gambit in 11 moves, but I was really lucky there. Otherwise, he has beaten me in all of our other meetings.
Tonight I played him again; I have the White pieces.
1. e4 e5. Every game with him starts this way. I've played the King's Gambit and the Scotch against him, but I wanted to try something different, something he did not see me play before.
2. c3. My goal with this was to eventually push d4. What I liked about this move was that it gave me a safe pocket for my White-squared Bishop.
By move 7, I had pushed my d4, and we both had castled. I had a pinned Knight on f3, but that was not a concern.
On move 8, Norm played Qb6, attacking my Pawn on b2. I calculated a couple of variations, but 9. b3 was the safest move. I did not feel a need to rush into anything just to lose material later.
We exchanged Pawns, which I liked, via 9...exd4 and 10. cxd4. I had both center Pawns as well as the f2, g2, and h2 Pawns. This left me with another chain of Pawns on a2 and b3. Norm on the other hand had four connected Pawns on his Queenside, and three connected Pawns protecting his King.
It appeared that the reason for Norm's exchange was to attack with Qb5. Inaccurate play on my part would have led to 11...Bxf3 12. Qxf3 Qxg5, losing a piece. I thought this a good attacking move on Norm's part, so I brought my Bishop back to safety with 11. Be3.
Qh5 looks like trouble for me, but it also his third Queen move. I played the natural Nbd2 to protect the Knight and to take pressure off my Queen guarding the Knight on f3.
Norm played 12...Na6 to prepare for the 14...Nb4, attacking my Bishop. I loved that Bishop, I certainly was not going to allow tradeoff of it. The trouble with that sequence is that I chased the Knight back to a6 in a couple of moves. That was a rough spot for the Knight.
I spent eleven minutes before 17. e5. I knew that push was going to open up counterplay, but I was prepared for it. He responds with the very logical 17...Nd5. I spent another eleven minutes before 18. exd6. Only after this game did I realize that the imagined threat of 18...Nc3 was nothing to fear, as I would have played 19. dxe7, 20, exf8=Q+ and ended up with a strong material advantage despite losing my Queen on d1.
We traded off a couple of pieces, and I ended up with what I thought was a worse Pawn structure. I had three sets of Pawn islands, each with two, while Norm had three and three.
He captured one of my center Pawns, but I could not take back because my d-Pawn was pinned. However, I had the handy 24.Bxh7+ followed by 25. Rad1 which protected that remaining Pawn and took some pressure off.
At this point I was feeling alright, as I had over thirty five minutes left, while Norm was getting close to eight.
I took the pin off my Pawn by retreating my King to h1 and off the dark square. Whew!
He goes Pawn hunting and ends up a Pawn ahead. However, I had my pieces in better spots, so I was looking for attack and mate. He brought his Queen over to g5 to protect the Bishop and Pawn if I decided to try to win the Pawn that was now on g7.
My nifty 33. Kh2 to drive his Queen away was what I needed for victory. On 34. Rh5+, he resigned due to 34...Kg8 35. Bh7+ Kh8 36. Bg8+ Kxg8 37. Qh7#. It felt good to win against him, as he is a tough opponent for me. It also feels good to write up this entry, as I need to wind down after a long tense game--it was over four hours long! I'm wiped now, so good night!
[Event "Thursday Knighter IX"]
[Site "Chess Castle"]
[White "Joe Erjavec"]
1.e4 e5 2.c3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bd3 c6 5.O-O Be7 6.Bc2 Bg4 7.d4 O-O 8.Bg5 Qb6 9.b3 exd4 10.cxd4 Qb5 11.Be3 Qh5 12.Nbd2 Na6 13.h3 Bxf3 14.Nxf3 Nb4 15.Bb1 Rae8 16.a3 Na6 17.e5 Nd5 18.exd6 Nxe3 19.fxe3 Bxd6 20.e4 Bf4 21.Bd3 Qa5 22.Qc2 Qb6 23.e5 Bxe5 24.Bxh7+ Kh8 25.Rad1 Bf6 26.Kh1 Rd8 27.Ne5 Rxd4 28.Ng4 Rxd1 29.Rxd1 Qb5 30.Bd3 Qg5 31.Rf1 Nc7 32.Rf5 Qh4 33.Kh2 Qe1 34.Rh5+ 1-0