Before posting, I looked up his ratings history on the U.S. Chess Federation site. This made me feel somewhat better, as he was only provisionally rated and his excellent result in the previous tournament had jumped him from Class C (where he actually was at the time in the live ratings) to Class B. Another useful example of why players should ignore ratings.
My opponent deserves credit for his excellent opening preparation, as he avoids the main line of the Caro-Kann Classical but plays his sideline quite well through move 12. At that point, I pursue an idea from the main line variation (the thematic ..c5 break) which however lands me in trouble, due to the differences in White's setup. The remainder of the game is a complex and remarkable seesaw where my opponent repeatedly gets in strong moves, but I either find defensive resources or (more often) he fails to follow them up and put me away. I note the following key sequences:
- Moves 12-18: White punishes ..c5 by creating a strong advanced passed pawn in the center and opening lines for his pieces, but lets up the pressure enough for Black to set up a blockade of the pawn and free up his forces.
- Moves 20-22: Black recovers from a sequence where he moves away a key defender, not seeing White's threat.
- Moves 25-29: Black finds a key defensive idea, but then fails to resolve White's outstanding threats.
The problems I faced with the game dynamics were largely psychological. White was pressing for the entire game, while objectively Black achieved equality multiple times, recovering from White's initial threats. However, I felt like I was on the ropes and always having to struggle against superior forces, which clouded my judgment. Failure to look for more active options (a key point from my games in general) was also a common theme. All in all, an instructive game to analyze.