In my previous Round Turkey game against Rocky as White (Annotated Game #73), he played a sort of Old Indian type setup as Black. This time, he started off with 1...g6 and I expected him to go into a King's Indian Defense setup eventually. Instead, he surprised me with an early 3...c5 and took the game into the Symmetrical English, which is relatively rare at the Class level. I therefore don't have a lot of experience with it, but Rocky seemed to have even less, so I found that somewhat encouraging heading into the middlegame.
The middlegame opens up after Rocky's 13...b5, which although objectively fine (according to Houdini) I felt played into White's hands strategically. Essentially Black is forced to drop a pawn as a result of the move, but could have gained full compensation after the variation 16...Rc8, which establishes a strong center and kicks White's pieces around. In the game continuation, Black remains active, but White is able to consolidate on the queenside and activate the passed a-pawn after Black initiates an exchange of knights. I was, however, forced to think hard and find "only" moves that would protect material and at the same time give my pieces their necessary activity.
The last phase of the game occurs after Black's 23...Rc2 dangerously unbalances the position. While the rook is threatening-looking on the second rank, White's attack on Black's back rank comes first and White's minor pieces are able to combine with the queen on an effective attack on Black's king, while White's rook and king hold the defense together. The most challenging part of the calculation was when I had to find 29. Bd4, breaking a pin on White's queen by force, in order to finish the attack.
Thanks to Rocky for another well-fought game. The key difference this time was my lack of blundering (always helpful!) and more accurate calculation. I realized early on in the game that a Symmetrical English would require patience from me in order to eventually make progress, so having that mindset was a useful assist to my play.
Hopefully Rocky and I can do a regular set of matches; it would be good to get a monthly game going, for example. It makes a difference having someone available to regularly challenge you, since it's not as easy to hide your weaknesses from them as it is with random tournament opponents.