It took until round 5 of the Box Hill Autumn Cup, but I finally managed to play a decent game! This time I was white against another junior, Karl Zelesco (ACF 2187; FIDE 2147) & ended up playing a 'White Lion', or the aggressive Philidor Attack, as I prefer to call it. It is an opening I was shown many years ago by Ronald Scott, who seemed to play it constantly online & managed to rack up win after win with it! It is essentially a system you can play against most openings & I decided to use it against Karl's Caro Kann, which in itself was something of a surprise, as I was expecting 1.e4 e5 & was hoping for the white side of some 'Spanish Torture', as most of Karl's recent games I had seen had him playing 1...e5. Of course I had played against Karl's Caro Kann in the past, when I wheeled out a BDG, but decided that such a blatantly unsound opening might be giving him a bit too much of a head start, particularly now that he has established himself as a 2000+ player, so opted for something more 'normal'.
The opening is interesting, as the idea of 2.d3 & 3.Nd2 is to remain flexible, while keeping queens on the board. I have the option of heading into a King's Indian Attack with Nf3, g3, Bg2, 0-0, etc, or to play in Philidor style with Be2, c3, Qc2, Nf3, etc. I decided on the latter, as the attacking ideas for white are fairly straightforward & its surprisingly easy for black to go wrong early on in the game.
Karl's first problematic move was 6...0-0, as it gives me a target early on in the game & my position is flexible enough that I still have options involving 0-0, 0-0-0, or even leaving the king in the centre, which can lead to very different types of positions. The difficulties were compounded when Karl played 9...h6, creating a 'hook' for a pawn storm, which will allow white a fairly simple way to open a file on the king-side. This inaccuracy was compounded by the next few moves, 10...Kh7 & 11...Ne8, after which I think I have a fairly solid edge. I think the position after move 14 really highlights the problems for black when you look at things in terms of general principles - although white's king is still in the middle, all four minor pieces are developed on good squares, while the semi-open g-file is an obvious place to put a rook, with only the a1 rook not in a useful attacking position; black on the other hand still has a knight on b8 & rook on a8, while the e8 knight doesn't have too many potential squares to head to. Although black may notionally have more central control with pawns on e5 & d5, the lack of development & somewhat 'airy' king are very problematic & mean that black will have a hard time holding the position.
In terms of the position itself, Karl seems to have missed an opportunity with 18...d4, which would have created a few problems for me that are awkward to deal with & my engine in fact prefers 18.d4 to the Qd1 I chose to play in the game. 18...Qf7 however was quite a serious error from Karl, although the position is already getting difficult to defend at this early stage of the game. After 19.Ngf5! white is clearly better, with multiple threats, including Nh6 & Nxg6. Once Karl allowed 20.Nh6, winning an exchange, I think the game then turns into a more technical phase - yes, there may be mating possibilities (which I may or may not see), but if nothing else I have a material advantage for the endgame.
I really liked the move 22.Bh5, although I don't think I reacted as best I could after Karl's 22...g5 & I spent quite a bit of time looking at 23.Bg6+ (the idea being to clear h5 for the queen), as well as 23.Nf5 before finally deciding on 23.Bg4. Although Bg4 is by no means a bad move, my computer prefers the immediate 23.Nf5, giving me a +6 advantage (as opposed to 23.Bg4, which is evaluates as roughly +4.5). I was somewhat frustrated by the position after 26...Nh7, as I could not see an immediate checkmate & spent some more time trying to make 27.g6 work (my computer thinks it is best, with a +12 evaluation!), although I was not unhappy with my choice of 27.b3, as it essentially killed off any counterplay by black (there were a few lines where I was concerned about Qxa2 & Qa1+ ideas) & retained the attacking chances on the king-side. The main point is seen after 29.Nh6, when black is again faced with a difficult decision, with g6 being a serious threat, as well as having to deal with Nxg8 & the potential issues with the rooks on the g & h files. The finish with 33.Rxh7 seemed fairly logical, although there was apparently a few quicker wins with 33.Ne7 or 33.f3.
The win leaves me a full point clear of the field, although there are quite a few players on 4/5. In terms of likely opponents, I think I might get David Hacche (I had overlooked pairing rule B5 in my previous post & doubt I'll play Eugene in round 6 due to rule B6), although with so many players in the 4/5 score group there are a number of possible opponents for me.
Full results for the round are on ChessChat.