In the middlegame, White's incorrect choice of strategy with 12. b4 leads him nowhere in particular, although Black continues an to make some positionally weakening moves. White starts to go astray with his awkward move 22, essentially ceding the initiative - at least mentally - to Black. A remarkable tactical idea for White on move 27 (and afterwards) is completely missed by both sides, which if the engines had a sense of humor would no doubt very much amuse them. After a good deal of back-and-forth, Black's attempt to press White comes to naught and a draw is a agreed, with neither side seeing how to make progress. It's worth noting that Black was rated around 100 points higher than I was, which I think weighed on my decision-making process and made me more inclined to look for a draw and pass up other opportunities. With more mental toughness that wouldn't have happened.
Key points that can be drawn from this game:
- Applying the plan of pushing the b-pawn, which is common in other variations, was not called for here. Playing an opening on automatic and not critically evaluating different positions can lead to ineffectual play.
- It is important to look for central pawn breaks and exchanges in the English. The play here was typical of my past refusal to consider these types of moves, which I wrongly felt were uncharacteristic of the opening.
- Similarly, I failed to consider key alternatives on move 25 and 26 which would have been superior and probably winning. This was symptomatic of my failure to look for tactical options in many situations, as these did not fit with my self-imposed mental image of having a "positional style" as a player.