This past week I spent a bit of time in rural Maine at a wedding, where an 8-year-old girl scored an imposing 3-0 victory against me in Jenga. Her name was Madeleine, and she taunted me with hilarious quips like “risk it for the biscuit” when I touched a sticky block. Later, we would be engaged in a high stakes hand of Apples to Apples with her mother and my girlfriend as she repeated “I know your cards Gregory” each time she was the judge. She also had the coolest toothbrush ever. In any case, “risk it for the biscuit” is my new anthem for swashbuckling chess games, and the following Sicilian Najdorf i played online -replete with blunders and sacrifices and ending in a draw by repetition- embodies that.
10…e5 was a blunder by my opponent, as my knight can jump into the juicy square f5 and likely win the d6 pawn after 11.Nf5 exf4 12.Bxf4 Ne8 13.h4 Bf6 14.Nd6 when White’s attack is overwhelming. However, I immediately return the favor with 12.Nxd6 which is a blunder as it can be met by 12…Ne5 when the bishop on knight on d6 is lost. Luckily, my opponent missed this idea playing Qb6 instead, when again White should have a winning advantage as outline above. 14.Ne2 leads merely to equality, while 14.Bxf4 would have been good for White. 17.Qxf5 misses the point, better was capturing with the pawn when the position would be roughly equal. Now, Black is able to push back with g6 or h6, when black’s pieces quickly coordinate and overwhelm White’s awkwardly placed pieces. 19…Ne3 leaves Black clearly better, and forces White’s hand into a truly “risk it for the biscuit” sacrifice with 20.Rxg7?! after which White is hopelessly lost objectively, but the practical chances get interesting quickly. With Horowitz bishops pointed at his king, Black errors with 29…Bxe5 when White is suddenly back in the game! It breaks my heart that I missed the elegant 33.Be4, which would win on the spot as Black would be forced to jettison his queen to avoid mate. And again on move 34 I missed the elegant 34.Bh7+! Kh7 35.Qxg5 when mate is to follow. However, in the heat of battle I felt i still had an advantage depsite being down a pawn and the exchange, and my engine confirms this. The game contains a few more tactical chances overlooked (I had 36.Rxg4!) but eventually peters out to a repetition. Interestingly, my engine thinks that white is still +2 at the point when I chose to go for repetition, but I was happy to draw considering the fact that I was completely losing at one point in the middle game. I’m debating playing in the grand prix tonight at the marshall, if I do I’ll be sure to add a few games soon. Until the, feast your eyes on this blunderfest.