17 September 2011

Annotated Game #10: Upset

This is my greatest tournament game upset.  At the time, I was a Class C player and my opponent was a strong Class A player rated 400 points above me.  He was also the tournament organizer, which perhaps added some insult to injury for him.  In the tournament itself, a four-round weekend Swiss, I had dropped the first two games as Black but won my third as White, thereby drawing a last-round White pairing.  This tournament marked the beginning of a sustained rise in my over-the-board performance, which lasted until I went to university and stopped playing competitively.

No doubt in part due to the ratings gap, I recall that my strategy was to simplify down and keep a drawish position.  My playing style then (as it more or less is today) was to aim for a solid game and then let my opponent make the first mistake.  The English opening is well suited to this as White, since there are usually no targets for Black to attack early on.

My opponent surprisingly chose the Symmetrical variation, which is by nature more drawish.  Perhaps he assumed (rightly) that I had less experience with it, but the ideas are not hard to grasp and if White is not looking to push for an edge (for example as could have been done by playing 7. d4) then Black cannot easily complicate matters.

In the game, I succeeded in exchanging off a pair of minor pieces early on, although could have more profitably focused on additional development.  In my assessment Black was overly aggressive with his h5-h4 push, as White could just as easily switch his own forces to the h-file after the g-pawn is exchanged; I'm sure the ratings difference helped dictate my opponent's choice of strategy.  Black set a trap on move 14 by exchanging his g7 bishop for my c3 knight and leaving the e7 pawn unguarded, which however I avoided.  I was positionally better but should then have refrained from executing my own bishop-for-knight swap, which would have allowed Black an attacking advantage had he recaptured with the queen on the long diagonal.  Black then attempted to force the issue on the h-file, leading to a successful counterattack by White.

My attitudes have shifted to the point where I no longer wish to take rating differences (either way) into consideration during play.  I find that I enjoy the games more that way, feel much less pressure, and usually play better chess.  However, I will say that an upset win like this never loses its satisfaction.

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