Following the relative success in Annotated Game #70 against a higher-rated opponent, in the next round of the quad tournament I faced another Class A player. My opponent employed an offbeat defense as Black, starting with a queenside fianchetto; see Annotated Game #30 for a similar start. Although White could have made some early improvements in play, he gets a favorable position out of the opening. By move 11 there is an opposite-sides castling situation, which even without queens on the board can be dangerous for the player (in this case Black) with a weaker king position.
The course of the rest of the game demonstrates how weak my thinking process was at the time and the dangers of passive play once a winning advantage has been obtained. Black in the middlegame ignores White's potential threats down the half-open c-file, which eventually are realized on move 22. Breaking into Black's king position, White misses a mate in 3 on move 26 - a shocking rook sacrifice to shut off the king's escape - but nevertheless emerges with a comfortable winning material advantage. Here is where things start going wrong, ironically.
Black refuses to go quietly and instead plays the most threatening moves possible, which is the best (and usually only) way to aim for a swindle. White's key mistake is on move 35, where instead of calmly taking Black's h-pawn, he backs his king into h1. Objectively he is still fine, but the conditions for the swindle have now been created.
Black's immediate next move gives White a mate in 2. I recall thinking hard about the position, knowing that there must be a winning possibility, but I was simply unable to see it. The psychological pressure - all self-inflicted - simply got to me. This is also another example of the importance of CCT (checks, captures and threats) in the thinking process. The failure to see the mate is also symptomatic of a more general weakness of mine in visualizing mating nets. I've gotten better at it, especially in the last year, but it's still an area for improvement. The ratings gap (around 300 points) also contributed greatly to the psychological pressure; I've subsequently learned to put aside ratings fear and instead treat it as an opportunity.
The remainder of the game - still won for White up until move 43 - is a classic example of the winning side making a series of passive moves and failing to calculate the more active ones, for fear of losing. This is punished effectively by Black, who never stops looking for aggressive continuations and finally traps White's king on the back rank.
I remember that after the game, one of the kibitzers mentioned to me that I had missed a mate. I told him, feeling somewhat bitter, that I knew that. Too bad that as it happened, it was a mate in never.