In my last post about the Cannes Festival des Jeux, I detailed how I got to 3.5/4. After my 4th round win against Govciyan, I would have been shocked if somebody told me that I wasn’t going to win another game the rest of the way (5 more rounds!).
But, as fate would have it, that’s precisely what happened! Thankfully, I didn’t lose all 5 games, but I was clearly better or winning at some point in all 5 games. From those positions, I only managed 4 draws and a loss.
I started off the second half with black against GM Sergey Fedorchuk (2641, Ukraine). I had already lost to him in a Ruy Lopez as black in December 2009, although that game was a mess from start to finish. This time, I played a different variation of the Lopez against him and achieved a playable position – objectively it was probably about equal, but it was a bit simpler for him to play.
We were already in some mild time pressure and I had already made a serious mistake entering this position:
1rr2bk1/5p2/pn1p2pp/1p1P4/4p1P1/P1P3QR/1P2qPP1/2BR1NK1 w - - 0 35)
I’ve just played 34…Qc4-e2, and at first, I thought I was doing just fine. I had looked at 35.Rd2 Qe1 36.Rc2 Qd1, and White’s rook runs out of safe squares. Meanwhile, 35.Bxh6 didn’t look like it should be so dangerous. Unfortunately, he has 35.Rd1-d4 – after this obvious move, White hits h6 and Black has no good way to defend the pawn. If 35…Kh7, then White takes and plays Qh4 with a winning attack; meanwhile, 35…g5 is ugly, and after 36.Qh2, White sacrifices the exchange on h6 with a nice advantage.
I’m not sure why we both missed it (Maybe since I played 1…e5, neither of us ever seriously considered a piece could land on d4? Maybe he thought I had some sinister trap up my sleeve?), but either way, he didn’t play 35.Rd4.
I breathed a sigh of relief when he played 35.Bxh6?. Unfortunately, it was my turn to return the favor with a hasty 35…Bxh6?. After 36.Rxh6 Qxd1 37.Qh4 Nd7 (Black has to stop 38.Qf6 and mate on h8), White has nothing better than 38.Rh8+ Kg7 39.Rh7+ Kf8 40.Rh7+ and a repetition. That’s how this game ended in a draw.
I still had a bit of time to spare, and if I spent it, I might have realized that 35…Qxd1 was winning! After 36.Bxf8 Rxf8 (36…Kxf8 37.Qxd6+ Kg7 38.Qe5+ leads to mate), White has no good way to continue his attack – 37.Qh4 is met with 37…Kg7!, and White doesn’t have time to stop both …Rh8 and …Kf6 (if Qh7+). Finally, 37.Qxd6 doesn’t work after 37…Nxd5 38.Qe5 f6 39.Qxe4 Kg7 40.Rd3 Qb1 41.Qxd5 Rfd8, and White loses the endgame. Actually, that’d have been somewhat poetic, as the R + N vs. Q endgame is losing for him, and that’s the same endgame I lost to him in December! Still, to be fair – I was worse before I was better in this game, so a draw wasn’t such a bad result.
The next day, I was white against GM Christian Bauer (2610, France). I was surprised in the opening, but I came up with a strong double-pawn sacrifice at the board. With Black’s king stuck in the center, I figured I would have excellent compensation, but eventually, he managed to castle queenside. I threw a rook into the fire to keep things going, and my best chance of the game came in the following position:
1k1r3r/2pq1ppp/Qbp1b3/4N3/p2p4/B6P/PP3PP1/R5K1 w - - 0 24)