Tim McGrew's 2006 Michigan Open Games

Annotated by Tim McGrew

Editor's note: We are very pleased to present you with Tim McGrew's games from the 2006 Michigan Open with his own annotations. Tim finished in a tie for first place, sharing the title of Michigan Champion.

Andy Catlin (1870) - Tim McGrew (2122) [A03]

Bird's Opening
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (1.42) 2006

My first round game, against my lowest rated opponent, was also by far my worst.


1. f4 d5 2. Nf3 Bg4

I played this move, which I have never played before, on the spur of the moment. It definitely isn't an experiment I'm eager to repeat!


3. d4 Bxf3 4. exf3 e6 5. Be3 Nd7?!

Aiming to reinforce the c5 point to force through ...c5. Optically there's nothing wrong with this move, but in the sequel Black's knights get awfully tangled up.


6. Nc3 Ngf6 7. g4!?

I confess that this move and the 9th simply struck me as positional madness on the part of my opponent. I had no idea what an avalanche of White's kingside pawns might really do to my position.



7... c5

Pursuing the plan consistently. Better may be 7... Bb4, but I was reluctant to give up the minor exchange twice.


8. Qd2 Rc8

Again, this move looks okay in isolation but it does nothing to avert the impending kingside disaster.


9. h4 a6?!

Much too slow. It is strange to play over this game after the fact and to realize that at the time I thought Black's queenside play was unfolding nicely. What a reality check! Better 9... cxd4.


10. h5 Bd6

The final inaccuracy. Now a mountain falls on Black's position.


11. g5! Ng8 12. h6!? g6

Played in an instant. I'm getting a nice square at f5 for my knight right in front of the backward, doubled f-pawns, right?

In hindsight, it would have been preferable to play 12... gxh6 13. dxc5 (13. gxh6 Qf6) 13... Bxc5 14. Bd4 Bxd4 15. Qxd4 f6 with a messy position that is probably not as bad for Black as what happens in the game.


13. dxc5

Only at this point did the awful truth dawn on me that the kingside isn't really blockaded and that the rook is trapped on the long diagonal.


13... Bxc5 14. Bd4 Bxd4 15. Qxd4 f6 16. O-O-O Ne7?

Black's position is bad, probably lost, but this move should have lost fairly abruptly.


16... Qb6 makes sense, trying to get the queen off of the hot diagonal. But after 17. Qxb6 Nxb6 18. Bh3 Kf7 19. Nxd5! Black is more or less obliged to enter a strange endgame with 19... exd5 20. Bxc8 Nxc8 21. Rxd5 Nge7 22. Rd7 and Black's clumsy knights don't look like a match for White's rook and extra pawns.


17. Re1?

This is a little slow and gives Black a chance to catch his breath.


The right move is 17. Bh3! Kf7 (17... Nf5 18. Bxf5 gxf5 19. Rhe1 Kf7 20. Nxd5 and Black cannot recapture because of 20... exd5 21. g6+! hxg6 22. Qxd5+ Kf8 23. Qd6+ Kg8 24. Qe6+ Kf8 25. Rxd7! and it's all over.) 18. Nxd5! Nxd5 19. Bxe6+!


17... Kf7 18. Bh3 Nf5 19. Bxf5! gxf5 20. g6+?

Here White loses the thread because he has too many tempting alternatives! Andy told me afterward that he wanted to close off the possibility of ...Kg6. But there isn't really anything attractive about that move, and by this pawn sacrifice White reduces his control of f6 just enough to give Black an unusual defensive tactic.


Better 20. Nxd5! (This sacrifice works right away.) 20... Nc5! (The only defense. Black sets up a check on d3 after a queen exchange down on f6. White has enough control of f6 to meet 20... Nf8? with 21. Qxf6+) 21. b4 Nd3+ (Luring the queen away from the f6 square.) 22. Qxd3 Qxd5 23. Qxd5 exd5 24. Rh2 The rook ending is much better for White, who is a pawn up and has only two pawn islands and more active rooks.


Alternately, 20. Rxe6 forces an immediate draw: 20... Kxe6 21. Qxd5+ Ke7 22. Re1+ Kf8 23. Qd6+ Kf7 24. Qe6+ Kg6 25. gxf6 Qe8 26. Rg1+ Kxh6 27. Rh1+ Kg6 28. Rg1+=


20... hxg6 21. Nxd5?

White understands that the position calls for a sacrifice, but he doesn't know which one to play. He chooses the one that invests the least material, but there is a tactical problem with this move.


The correct 21. Rxe6! still forces a draw here and was the move I most feared: 21... Kxe6 22. Qxd5+ Ke7 23. Re1+ Kf8 24. Qd6+ Kg8 25. Qd5+ Kf8=


21... Nf8!

This clumsy-looking retreat is the refutation of White's sacrifice. When we judge the strength of a move, it isn't enough to look at the piece moved -- we must also look at the other pieces to see how they are affected. Here, the pin up the d-file exploits White's undefended Queen.


By contrast, accepting the sacrifice with 21... exd5 just draws: 22. Qxd5+ Kf8 23. Qd6+ Kf7 24. Qe6+ Kf8 25. Qd6+ Kf7=


22. Qb4 Qxd5 23. Rd1 Qc6 24. Rh2

24... Rxh6!

Finally, the tactics work out in Black's favor.


25. Rhd2 Rh7 26. Qb3 Kg8 27. Rd6 Qc4

Once queens come off, Black's extra material wins easily. A harrowing game!


[Tim McGrew]

Tim McGrew (2122) - James Canty III (2016) [B23]

Sicilian Defense, Grand Prix Attack
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (2.41) 2006

1. e4 c5

What to play against a fast-rising junior with tremendous tactical talent? I decided to adopt a quiet continuation that would not provide many opportunities for quick fireworks.


2. Nc3 g6 3. f4 d6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bb5+

The positional continuation; 5. Bc4 leads to a sharper battle.


5... Bd7 6. Bxd7+ Qxd7 7. d3

The position now resembles one that might arise from 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7, except that White has a bit more kingside space with f4 played already. Objectively White has little or no advantage, but that's okay; I felt comfortable with the pawn structure, and there is still a full game of chess waiting to be played.


7... Nf6 8. O-O O-O 9. Qe1 Nc6



10. Nd1

This is a new move. The idea is quite simple: White wants to shift this knight to e3 where it is slightly more useful. Again, the idea was to let things unfold slowly.


10... e5?!

A positionally suspect decision. White can exchange here immediately, leaving Black's bishop blocked in. Little details like this matter; the resulting pawn structure favors White slightly but clearly.


11. fxe5 dxe5 12. Ne3 Rfe8 13. Qh4 Nd4 14. Bd2 h5?!

White's knight on e3 stifles Black's play. But the plan Black develops now -- working toward ...Bh6xe3 to eliminate the strong knight -- actually does more damage to his position than simply sitting tight.


15. h3 Nh7

The knight is withdrawn as part of the plan to make ...Bh6 possible.


16. Bc3 Bh6 17. Nd5!

Without any tactical shots being fired, White's position is gradually improving.


17... Qd8

Realizing that the situation on the kingside is spinning out of control, Black tries to swap off queens.


Black has no time for 17... Nxc2 because of 18. Nxe5 Rxe5 19. Bxe5 Nxa1 20. Ne7+! Kf8 21. Nxg6+ Ke8 22. Qxh5! when most of his pawns evaporate.


18. Qf2

White, consistently, refuses the swap.


18... Nf6?

The knight is only nominally defended here. If you look through the two knights on the f-file, White's battery of queen and rook is targeting the pawn at f7.


Better is 18... f5, though after 19. Bxd4 cxd4 20. Qg3 Black still has a lot of weaknesses.


19. Nxd4!

I showed this position to a number of A-players, and without exception they chose 19.Nxe5, which is probably good enough to win the game. But taking the knight is actually stronger because of a point that becomes apparent at White's 21st move.


19... Nxd5 20. Qxf7+ Kh8 21. Ne6!

The point. With Black's queen and knight both under fire and 22.Bxe5+ threatened, there is no time to consolidate.


21... Rxe6 22. Qxe6 Nxc3 23. bxc3 Bf4 24. Rxf4

A practical decision. White is clearly winning this ending on the strength of his extra pawns alone. There is no need to give Black any counterplay on the dark squares.


Best is 24. Qxg6 from a Fritz's-eye point of view: 24... Qh4 25. Rf3 Rg8 26. Rxf4! Qxf4 27. Qxh5+ Kg7 28. Rf1; but 24. g3?! Qg5! gives Black the sort of chances that might enable him to turn the tables in a time scramble. No thank you!


24... exf4 25. Qe5+

I considered 25. Qxg6 as well, but I decided to keep the finish "clean."


25... Kh7 26. Qxf4 Qe7 27. Rf1 Kg7

James hangs tough through the technical phase, but it is a thankless task. The remainder of the game was played in time pressure, rather intense on James's part.


28. d4

Mobilizing the pawns.


28... cxd4 29. cxd4 Rd8 30. e5 Rc8 31. Rf2 Rc4 32. Qe4

32. e6! would practically force resignation because of 32... Qxe6 33. Qf8+ Kh7 34. Rf7+ etc.


32... Qd7 33. c3

Luring the rook away from the attack on d4. 33. e6! is still good here.


33... Rxc3 34. Rf6!

Hitting g6, which ties down Black's queen. At this point I stopped keeping score, so the remaining moves are filled in from memory.


34... Qe8

34... Rg3 35. e6! wins immediately.


35. Qxb7+ Kh6 36. Qf7

Still another practical decision: there are fewer things that can go wrong once Queens come off.

36. Rf7! is again faster ... if you're a computer.


36... Qxf7 37. Rxf7 Rd3 38. Rd7

Might as well keep the connected passed pawns.


38... Kg5 39. e6 Kf6 40. d5 g5

41. Kf1

There are lots of ways to win here. 41.e7 is probably the quickest, but I formed the plan of putting my king on d6, and this was easy to carry out.


41... a5 42. Ke2 Rd4 43. Ke3 Rd1 44. Ke4 Re1+ 45. Kd4 Rd1+ 46. Kc5 Rc1+ 47. Kd6 Re1 48. Rf7+ Kg6 49. Kd7 Rd1 50. d6 Re1 51. Rf8 Kg7 52. e7 Re2 53. e8=Q


[Tim McGrew]

Manis Davidovich (2077) - Tim McGrew (2122) [C31]

King's Gambit Declined, Falkbeer Counter-Gambit
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (3.41) 2006

Though neither Manis nor I knew it, his choice of opening here violated Brattin's Law: "Never play either side of a King's Gambit against someone who is older than you are!"


1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5

Once again I chose a move on the spur of the moment. But this time it worked out much better than it had against Andy Catlin in round one!


3. exd5 e4

This is the "old" Falkbeer Counter-Gambit, by contrast with 3...c6, which is much more fashionable now. If you look it up in the books you'll find that the Old Falkbeer is completely busted because of a game from the 1960's. Well, maybe. Or maybe the few people who actually play the Falkbeer know something the rest of the world doesn't ... ?


4. Nc3

Manis gives the opening a Vienna-like twist.


4... Nf6 5. d3 Bb4 6. dxe4?!

I was surprised by this move, but after a moment I decided that White is running more risks than Black is.


6... Nxe4 7. Qe2?

But this is a serious error, clogging White's development at a time when he can ill afford it.


A better try is 7. Qd4 since it at least hits the bishop on b4. During the game I was thinking about 7... Qe7 (7... Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 O-O is also reasonable) 8. Nge2 O-O which looks comfortable for Black.


7... O-O!

At this point Manis realized that something awful had happened, and he sank into deep thought -- necessary, as it turns out, for White to avoid being on the short end of a brilliancy.


8. Qf3

It is imperative that White do two things: get the queen off of the e-file, and defend c3. Therefore either this or 8.Qd3 was pretty much forced. But of the 30 minutes allotted for this game, Manis had used all but 8:45, most of it on his last move. His time pressure now becomes a major issue.


8... Re8 9. Be2 Qxd5

Black exploits the pin to regain the pawn.


10. a3 Nxc3 11. Qxd5

Relatively best -- 11. axb4 is unplayable because of 11... Qd1+! 12. Kf2 Nxe2 and White can resign.


11... Nxd5+ 12. axb4 Nxb4

Black has cashed in his superior development for a pawn. But beyond that simple bit of arithmetic, there is an additional problem: White's king is caught in the center, and Black's pieces give him a good deal of grief there.


13. Kd1 Bf5 14. c3 Nd3

Black forks the bishop on c1 and the f2-square, forcing White to give up his bishop pair.


15. Bxd3 Bxd3 16. Nh3 Be4 17. Rg1 Nc6 18. Nf2 Bd5

Now the threat is 19...Bb3+. White's reply is nearly forced.


19. Ra3 a5 20. b3 a4 21. bxa4

Unexpected. I had spent my time calculating the consequences of 21. c4 Be6 22. Rxa4 Rxa4 23. bxa4 Bxc4 which looks like a fairly easy win for Black.


21... Rxa4?

With time pressure approaching for me (and already upon Manis), I decided not to be brilliant but just to grab that pawn. Unfortunately, this makes the win much more difficult. Instead, 21... Na5! is nearly winning on the spot, with threats like 22...Bb3+ or 22...Rad8.


22. Rxa4 Bb3+ 23. Kd2 Bxa4 24. Re1 Rxe1 25. Kxe1

Black is still better here, of course, but the presence of bishops of opposite colors gives White something to hope for. On the other hand, White is down to 51 seconds on his clock at this point. The 5 second delay helps, but not as much as you might think.


25... Na5 26. Nd3 Nc4 27. Nb2!

Correctly trying to exchange knights, after which it would be extremely difficult for Black to make his extra pawn count.


27... Nb6!

Equally correctly avoiding that trade.


28. Be3 Bc6 29. g3

If I had been White, I think I would have gone for 29. Bxb6 here. But how easy it is to second-guess someone when you aren't the one trying to hold the game in desperate time pressure!


29... Nd5

Immediately removing the offending knight.


30. Bd2

30. Bd4 looks more active.


30... b6 31. Nd3 Nf6 32. Ne5 Bb7 33. Bc1 Ne4 34. Bb2

This is a wretched post for the bishop, babysitting the c-pawn.


34... f6 35. Nc4

and a time scramble ensued in which Black's king arrived in the center, White was pushed back still further, and White eventually lost on time.



[Tim McGrew]

Eric Torman (2454) - Tim McGrew (2122) [D08]

Albin Counter-Gambit
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (4.41) 2006

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5

A brazen attempt to lure the higher-rated player into murky waters.


3. e3

Eric politely declines. This move doesn't promise White any serious advantage, but it also doesn't expose him to much risk -- great strategy for the higher-rated player.


3... Nc6

Offering him a chance to enter a Chigorin and have a theoretical discussion.


4. Nf3

Again White declines to enter the hot lines by capturing either of the pawns.


4... Bg4

One last chance to get back into theory that Black may know better than White.


5. Be2



5... exd4

Black swaps pawns, reaching a position that can also arise from the Exchange Variation of the French Defense.

5... Bb4+!? is also worth a look.


6. exd4 Nf6

6... dxc4 gives White an isolated d-pawn. I wasn't sure during the game whether that would be favorable to him or to me, so I passed the ball back to him instead.


7. O-O Be7 8. c5

Standard procedure: White takes the extra space on the queenside.


8... O-O 9. h3 Bh5

In hindsight, I wish I had retreated down the other diagonal.


10. Be3 Ne4 11. Nc3 Nxc3 12. bxc3 b6!?

This is Black's standard procedure against the c5 clamp, threatening to isolate the c-pawns. Positionally this is a great idea. Tactically, it gets a little difficult because Black's knight is undefended.


13. Qa4 Na5

I would have liked to play ...Bd7 here, but of course the bishop is on the wrong diagonal for that now.


14. g4!? Bg6 15. Ne5 f6?

Spooked by White's knight, Black plays one of the worst of the plausible moves.


I thought long and hard about 15... c6 But not long and hard enough! After 16. Nxc6 Nxc6 17. Qxc6 Rc8 18. Qa4 bxc5 19. Qxa7 White has an extra passed pawn on the a-file. But that pawn will not become a queen any time soon, and meanwhile White's kingside pawns leave a lot to be desired from a defensive point of view. If I had a time machine, I'd be very tempted to go back and give this a whirl.


16. Nxg6 hxg6 17. Qc2

Eric immediately abandons the queenside and targets the weakness at g6.


17... f5

This is more or less Black's only chance. If he cannot get some counterplay against White's king, he will be ground down.


18. Bd3

18... f4!?

Here I really burn my bridges, essentially tossing the front g-pawn to the wolves in order to gain a tempo and set up the threat of wedging White's kingside with ...f3.


As Eric pointed out after the game, 18... Qd7! is a better way for Black to fight for the initiative on the kingside. The position is then quite tense and unclear.


19. Bd2 bxc5 20. Bxg6 Nc4 21. Rae1 Nxd2

It would have been better to play 21... f3! right away, when White may actually be worse.


22. Qxd2 f3 23. Qe3 Bd6 24. Bf5 Kh8

Black conceives a mad plan.


25. Qxf3 g6 26. Qe3 Qh4 27. Bxg6

Better 27. dxc5!


27... Rae8??

Down to a few seconds now -- no time to calculate. Yet just here, Black overlooks a remarkable resource.

27... Bf4! forces White' s queen to dance in order to maintain defense of h3. But since White failed to exchange pawns on c5 earlier, Black can meet 28. Qd3 with 28... c4! Then White's best is probably something like 29. Qe2 Qxh3 30. f3 Rf6 when it's still anybody's game -- except that Black is losing on time, of course.


28. Bxe8

The rest bears no resemblance to chess whatsoever.


28... Bf4 29. Qe7 Rf6 30. Re6 Bh2+ 31. Kg2 Rxf2+ 32. Rxf2 Qg3+ 33. Kf1 Qd3+

Black was down to mere seconds here, so the score is incomplete, but eventually the checks ran out.


[Tim McGrew]

Tim McGrew (2122) - Kevin Czuhai (2229) [B23]

Sicilian Defense, Grand Prix Attack
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (6.3) 2006

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 e6 4. Nf3 Nge7 5. d4

Switching back to ordinary Sicilian lines.


5... cxd4 6. Nxd4 a6 7. Be3 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 Nc6 9. Qd2 Bb4 10. Bd3

10... d5!

Suddenly Black has a serious threat of ...d4 and White has to figure out what to do about it. I used a great deal of time here looking for the best way to avoid getting burned.


11. exd5 exd5 12. a3 Ba5 13. Bc5!

This move is critical. Black cannot castle, which means that White can sacrifice a piece and still be in with a chance.


13... d4

14. b4?!

But this isn't so great.


The right move is 14. Qe2+ Kd7 (14... Be6 15. f5! b6! 16. Be4!! and even with two pieces hanging, White is winning, e.g. 16... bxc5 (16... dxc3?? 17. Bxc6+) 17. Bxc6+ Kf8 18. fxe6 dxc3 19. O-O) 15. O-O-O! Now Black doesn't want the Knight. 15... Kc7 16. Be4 Bxc3 17. bxc3 White emerge s with an extra pawn, and his King is not really more exposed than Black's.


14... dxc3 15. Qxc3 Bb6!

The only good move. Black gives back material to get his sidelined Bishop back into the game.


16. Qxg7 Bxc5 17. Qxh8+ Bf8

During the game I felt sure that White had a large advantage here, with a rook and two pawns for Black's two undeveloped minor pieces. But things aren't so simple. White does have an advantage, but his pawns are loose, his king is rather exposed, and his development is not all that much better than Black's.


18. O-O-O?

This move lets Black back into the game. While it was tempting to put the rook opposite Black's queen, it turns out that there is no good way to take advantage of this. Of course, 18. O-O! is much stronger, putting a rook behind the f-pawn and threatening 19.Rae1+


18... Be6 19. g3?!

Right idea, wrong timing -- 19. Bc4 Qc7 20. Bxe6 fxe6 (20... Qxf4+ 21. Kb1 fxe6 22. Rhf1 Qh6 23. Qg8) 21. g3 still leaves White with a small edge, though it will be difficult to wring a win out of this position.


19... Qd5 20. Bxh7?

20. Rhe1 was preferable both on general principles and in concrete tactical terms. After 20... Qa2 21. Qc3 White is threatening Bc4, so a probable continuation is 21... Ne7 22. Bxh7 Rc8 23. Qb2 Qxb2+ 24. Kxb2 Bg7+ 25. Kc1 when the Rook and three pawns look like they should eventually overpower the two minor pieces, though it's still a fight.


20... Qh5!

The pin on the bishop gives Black a great deal of counterplay. Here the clock becomes a factor in the game. White has over an hour left to reach the time control at move 40; Black is down to 8 minutes and 46 seconds. If the position were simple, this might not matter much. But the position is still very tense, and there is no easy way to play it. Both players need a lot of time.


21. Rhe1 Ne7 22. Kb1

White wants to get in f5 without being hit by a check on f6.


22... Qh6

Black puts his queen on a good square anyway.


23. h3?

This ridiculous move was the product of a hallucination. I simply couldn't find any way forward, and as I felt sure that I had some advantage I reasoned (incorrectly) that there must be some way to prove it here.


23... Bf5?

Black blunders back, perhaps convinced by the same hallucination. 23... Qxh3 24. f5 Bxf5 25. Rh1 Qg4! Of course: Black stands by his bishop.(25... Qxg3?? 26. Bxf5 Nxf5 27. Rhg1 Qc7 28. Rg8 is crushing) 26. Bxf5 Qxf5 27. Rhf1 Qe6 and it is very difficult for White to claim any advantage, though perhaps 28. Rf6 offers him a nominal edge.



24. Rxe7+!

This exchange sacrifice is forced, but now White untangles all of his pieces and Black's king is caught in a furious crossfire.


24... Kxe7 25. Qe5+! Be6 26. f5! Rd8

26... Qxh7 27. fxe6 is crushing.


27. f6+!?

Good, but not best.


27. Rxd8! Kxd8 28. fxe6 Qxh7 (28... Qxe6 29. Qxe6 fxe6 30. Be4 is probably a win for White because of the connected passed pawns on the kingside. But with the opposite color bishops, it would still mean a lot of work.) 29. exf7 Qxf7 30. Qb8+! Ke7 31. Qxb7+ Ke8 32. Qxa6 and with five pawns for the bishop White has every reasonable hope of winning.


27... Ke8 28. Rxd8+ Kxd8 29. Qb8+

Black loses most of his queenside here, but White has to be careful not to let too many pawns go while Black still has an extra piece.


29... Kd7

29... Bc8 30. Bf5 Qxf6 31. Qxc8+ Ke7 32. Qd7#


30. Qxb7+ Kd6

Black is down to 6 seconds at this point, and he needs to make 10 moves to reach the time control.


31. Qb8+!?

It is objectively better to take the a-pawn, but I wanted to put my queen on the back rank and keep Black's king away from the pawn on f6.


31... Kd5 32. Bd3

Back to safety!


32... Qxf6??

Kevin whipped off the pawn almost instantly. The best chance is 32... Bd6, though after 33. Qb6 it is still Black who is looking for the draw.


33. Qxf8 Qc3

As Kevin played this move, the clock beeped indicating that his flag had fallen.



[Tim McGrew]

Tom Mazuchowski (2000) - Tim McGrew (2122) [C26]

Vienna Game
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (7.3) 2006

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3

This variation of the Vienna is quiet but not exactly tame.


3... Bc5

I decided to avoid the sharp lines with ...d5 and stick to very solid development along the lines of the Giuoco Piano.


4. Bg2 d6 5. Nge2 Nc6

Given a free tempo, Black will play ...a6 here to prevent the exchange of his bishop.


6. Na4

Tom has no intention of giving me that free tempo.


6... Bb6 7. Nxb6 axb6

So White has picked up the minor exchange, while Black has gained a little time and has an open file. On balance, things are ... balanced.


8. d3

White is delaying castling so that Black will not launch a lightning attack with ...h5-h4.


8... O-O 9. O-O

Now it's safe.


9... h6 10. h3

10... d5

Given White's very quite play, I decided that it would be acceptable to open the center after all.


11. c3?! dxe4 12. dxe4 Qxd1 13. Rxd1 Be6 14. a3 Bb3 15. Re1

15. Rd3 Na5! gives Black a nearly decisive advantage.


15... Na5 16. g4 Bc2 17. b4 Nc4

During the game I discarded 17... Nb3 because of 18. Ra2 Bxe4 19. Be3 when the knight has no retreat squares. Was this a good practical decision or a failure of nerve? You decide, dearreader! 19... Rfd8 20. Nc1 Nxc1 21. Bxc1 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Rd3


18. Ng3 Rfd8 19. g5!

White's only hope for counterplay is to make something happen somewhere other than the queenside.


19... Nh7

This may be overly refined. I reasoned that I could pick up a pawn on h6 almost at will, and that meanwhile it would be nice to activate my knight.


20. gxh6 g6 21. f4! f6 22. h4 Rd3 23. Ne2

Despite his strange looking kingside pawns, White has overcome the positional bind and may even stand better here.


23... Nf8

Bringing the knight back to life.


24. fxe5

This isn't a bad move, but perhaps White should have kept the tension a bit longer.


24... Nxe5

25. Bf4?!

Tom was understandably eager to get this piece off the back rank, but the f4 square would have been an even better landing spot for his nimble knight.


25. Nf4! forces a retreat with the rook since 25... Rxc3? walks straight into the punch: 26. Nd5! Rc6 27. b5!


25... Ne6 26. Rec1 Bb3 27. Kh2 Bc4 28. Bxe5 fxe5 29. Ng3 Rd2

29... Nf4 was probably better right away.


30. Kh1 Nf4

Now Black has once again assumed the initiative.


31. Bf1 Be6

Avoiding trades. Here I was slipping into time pressure -- a bad place to be, as I should have known from my opponent's fate in the previous round!


32. c4 c6 33. a4

The pawns are coming! Or are they? At the time, I thought I was in real trouble. Looking at it now in hindsight, I'm not sure why I thought that.


33... Rb2 34. b5 Bg4?!

This dubious move was the product of too much analysis crammed into too little time. I kept hallucinating fantastic lines where White cleaned up my pawns while I wove a mating net around his king.


35. c5?

This move, ayed quickly in my time pressure, squanders White's queenside pressure.

Better is 35. bxc6 bxc6 36. Rcb1 Rxa4 37. Rxb2 Rxa1 38. Rxb6 and though is slightly better, it's doubtful that there is a win here any longer.


35... cxb5 36. Bxb5??

And this ends the game.


36... Bf3+ 37. Kg1 Rg2+ 38. Kf1 Rxg3

Now it's just a matter of making the time control and cleaning up.


39. cxb6 Bxe4 40. Rc7 Rf8 41. Kf2 Nh5+ 42. Ke2 Nf4+ 43. Kd2 Rd8+ 44. Kc1 Rg1+ 45. Kb2 Rd2+ 46. Kc3 Rc2+ 47. Kb3 Rg3+!


[Tim McGrew]

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