The middle days of the Doeberl Cup are when the tournament really sorts itself out ... and when it can become a bit of a grind also. Of the four games, I managed to score 1.5/4, beating a junior rated in the mid 1800s, drawing with a 2200 & losing to two high 2100s, so around what is expected of my rating. I thought I played well in my win, found a nice idea in the drawn game, but was a bit disappointed by my play in the two games I lost - although I was happy with the opening positions I managed to get, I followed up poorly (particularly in the Zulfic game) & really did not play as I would have liked. Anyway, onto the games ...
Round 5 saw me black against Yita Choong of Westerm Australia & I managed to get into a Dzindi Indian, which is a line of the Modern/Sniper that I particularly like. The game followed a David Norwood game from 2012 until move 12, when I decided to play the questionable 12... Ba4?! Although the move itself is not bad, the timing of the move was rather poor & it forced Yita's queen to a good square, e2. If you compare it to the Norwood game, playing 0-0-0 first followed by Ba4 saw the queen go to the less impressive c1 square & this allowed a variety of tactics for Norwood that saw him gain an advantage. As is a theme in the opening, white has permanent queenside weaknesses & the critical square for both sides is e4, with white trying to play it, while black tries to prevent it to keep white's pieces tied up. The critical point in the game came at move 26 after Yita played f5 & I needed a precise response to stay in the game, which unfortunately I didn't find. Although I tried to fight on for a while, ultimately my poorly placed king & bishop, combined with Yita's passed pawns on the kingside were enough to finish the game off.
In round 6 I was white against Victorian junior Jason Chew & once again I found myself in an Alapin French. This time the position took on a very different nature, with Jason castling queenside & the position in part being somewhat blocked. A key idea in the position is that of space & breakthroughs - in this case along the a-file. The point in this position (and somewhat analogous ones like the famous Karpov-Unzicker game of 1974 or Reti-Carls 1925) is that white can open the a-file at any time (black capturing b6xa5 simply helps white & makes the a7 pawn an easier target to attack), so I have time to double rooks, or possibly add a queen to triple on the file before opening it, while black's lack of space means that he can only put one rook on the a-file & must place his hopes on some sort of back rank defence, or try to generate play elsewhere in the position. In this case I tried to nullify any play on the kingside before the breakthrough on the a-file, with b6 being the weak pawn that was ultimately the target of my rooks & bishop. I found a few tactics to win some material & with a material deficit & an unsafe king, Jason resigned.
Round 7 saw me playing black against Victorian Eugene Schon & I played the Gurgenidze system & achieved a solid, but cramped position. Although I had notional control of the e-file early in the game, I had no entry points & Eugene had better control of the centre, so I decided to 'blunder' by playing 16... Re4, knowing that 17. Ne5 would cut off the protection for the rook & lose an exchange. However it would also change the nature of the position significantly, leaving me with an extra pawn for the exchange, as well as taking the initiative in the position. This is something that is important when playing strong players, as it is much more difficult to win or draw when they are the ones with the initiative & dictating terms. On the other hand if they are on the defensive, then there is a chance that they could go wrong & give you a point (or half a point) as a result. With this in mind, I made sure I protected my extra passed d-pawn, which would mean that any pawn ending would be advantageous for me. I saw that Eugene was going to try to challenge my control of the e-file, which was critical as it was the only open file on the board. In response to this, I came up with an idea to sacrifice my queen to maintain control of the file & try to set up a fortress-like position to hold the position together. Eugene saw this idea as well & decided to repeat the position & take a draw rather than risk playing against the fortress position he saw.
In the final position, the alternative for white is to play 35. Qxd3, which I intended to follow up with the following (forced) moves: 35... Bd4+ 36. Kh2 f4 with the immediate threat of Re1-h1#, but more importantly I retain control of the e-file & there is no obvious way for the white rook & queen to invade the position. If white tries to open the a-file with a4-a5xb6, I can simply leave my rook on e6 to defend the pawn & retain control of the e-file & if white tries putting their queen on e6 to prevent this plan, in some positions I can get my rook to c7 & my knight to b4 to trap the queen! Of course the white king is also stuck in the corner while the knight & bishop remain in place & it is difficult for the rook & queen to make progress easily. All-in-all I was happy to draw the game & particularly to find the exchange sacrifice & queen sacrifice ideas.
The final round of day 4, round 8, saw me playing white against Fedja Zulfic from South Australia. I decided to play something a bit different & go for a more positional approach in the opening & played the English rather than my usual 1.d4 with a gambit or unusual sideline follow-up. I was happy with the position I got out of the opening, with a sort of Benoni reversed after Fedja decided not to go down the path of a reversed Benko gambit. After 12... Nd7 I didn't come up with a good plan & drifted in the position without posing any problems to black. My attempts to retain the c5 pawn was a waste of time & I should have tried to develop more pressure on black's d4 pawn with moves like Na3-b5 & possibly a re-arranging of the back rank to put the queen on a1 to further target the d4 pawn. However as the game went, I played poorly, allowed Fedja to build up significant pressure on the queenside, before finally giving him two passed pawns on the queenside, which I could not stop promoting. A rather disappointing game.