The Full Spectrum

This is from the final round of the Virginia State Champs. I had 2.5 points and was fighting for first. My opponent was Caijun Luo; he was rated 1700 USCF before this tournament. He was not in top form during this game. Note: I’ve mostly used the past tense here but chess belongs in the historical present; I suppose I deviated here for aesthetic reasons. I felt like I was was part of something virtually fait accompli, fully alive and in charge of my own destiny – it was my game to win or lose. I don’t normally feel that way but I suspect that good players often do.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 {I’d never seen this move
before. It’s called the Worrall Attack. It is not critical due to its rarity
and the simplicity of fighting against it. Schiller plays it to good effect
however. See his game at
This denied me the Open Lopez lines, and I’d forfeited the opportunity to play
the Bird Defense however.} Be7 {Bc5 gives white some issues because the d4
push isn’t so easy.} 6. O-O d6 7. c3 b5 8. Bb3 O-O 9. Rd1 Na5 {White could
have had d4 in exchange for a great piece.} 10. Bc2 c5 11. d3 Re8 12. Nbd2 b4 {
This was bad and I knew it at the time. White’s pieces were poised for an
attack that looked to be long-lasting and ferocious. I was willing to create
some weaknesses in order to establish my own activity.} 13. Nf1 bxc3 14. bxc3
Bd7 15. Rb1 Rb8 16. Bg5 h6 17. Bh4 Nh7 18. Rxb8 Qxb8 19. Rb1 Qc7 20. Ne3 {
Never in a month of Sundays did I imagine I’d get to trade off the bastard son
on e7. I suppose white was eager to trade off one of my defenders. He was
missing pawn play however.} Bxh4 21. Nxh4 Rb8 22. Qd1 Rxb1 23. Qxb1 {I was
fine by this point. Around this time my competition for first place had
offered a draw to his opponent. I took that as kind of a slap in the face; he
was sitting right next to me and did not think I had a chance to win or draw.}
Nf6 24. Nhf5 g6 {My first real mistake of the game. I can’t trap the knight
like I supposed. Can you see why?} 25. Ne7+ Kg7 26. N3d5 Qb7 27. Qxb7 Nxb7 {
White’s position seemed superior but it is eminently reasonable for black.
Black’s bishop was a great piece.} 28. Bb3 Na5 29. Nxf6 Kxf6 30. Nd5+ Ke6 {I
was happy about this move. It’s probably as close as I’ll ever come to a real
“!” but since it isn’t strictly necessary I can’t apply that much sought-after
label. I’ve never moved into double check willingly!} 31. Nc7+ {I exhaustively
examined all of the variations during the game and determined white should
repeat.} Ke7 32. Nxa6 {? My opponent was extremely tired and did not allow
himself to check the lines over again. At an amateur level it’s often wise to
ignore Kotov’s advice and check your work.} Nxb3 33. axb3 Bb5 34. Nc7 {This
can’t be held with best play from black. I draw a lot of these but my play has
been insulted by two people in as many hours. I’m winning this one.} Bxd3 35.
Nd5+ Ke6 36. f3 f5 {I tried to create a weak pawn.} 37. Kf2 (37. exf5+) 37…
fxe4 38. Ne3 d5 39. fxe4 Bxe4 40. g3 h5 {Not the best. The plan was to lock up
the pawns in order to create zugzwang. Knights can’t lose moves.} 41. h3 g5 42.
g4 h4 43. Nf1 Bc2 44. Nd2 d4 45. cxd4 exd4 46. Ke2 Ke5 {White was forced to
give way.} 47. Nf3+ Kf4 48. b4 d3+ 49. Kf2 cxb4 50. Nd4 {Allowed d2} d2 51.
Ne6+ Ke5 52. Nxg5 d1=Q 53. Nf3+ Qxf3+ 54. Kxf3 b3 * 0-1



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