So for Round 3 of the 2012 Peter Sibbald Spring Open, I was matched up against David Chan, a junior which I drew with just a few weeks ago in the final round of the 2012 Kingston Chess Club Championship. I told myself I would learn from my mistakes there, and play a more aggressive game. Ironically, my “more aggressive” game was more of a repeat of last week’s game against Sid. And if you recall, I lost that one after a critical blunder / miscalculation.

Anyway, I decided to open with my trusty English Opening, with a King-side fianchetto. Black opts for an early d5 to contest the center.

At move 10, I decided to play more tactically, by bringing out my queen. I managed to control quite a bit of space in the center and the queen-side. I would say I had a comfortable position, while Black was struggling for counter play.

At move 18, I managed to constrain Black’s queen to c8, blocked in but its own bishop on e6 and pawn on f5. Playing aggressively meant that there were some weaknesses in my pawn structure, but it would be difficult for Black to penetrate through my front lines.

However, at move 24, I made a critical error, and miscalculated a key continuation. As a result, I lost my dark square bishop, for only a pawn in return. With my bishop gone, it looked like it was only a matter of time for Black to penetrate my defense. Although I was ahead 20 minutes on the clock, I quickly blew away my time advantage thinking up a solution, which I couldn’t find.

As I have seen time and time again, with my opponents and my own play (I’m reminded of a game against Jay Serdula where he played the Gruenfeld against my opening d4), when you’re up materially against a stronger opponent, you tend to play cautiously, sometimes too cautiously, allowing for the opponent to counter attack. This was a classic example of that.

Black had many opportunities to clamp down on his advantage. Instead, by playing “safely”, he allowed me to stay in the game. Eventually, time became a factor with both sides being low on time. So it all came down to who would buckle under the pressure first. At move 34, Black blundered a knight!

The time pressure was obviously working in my favour. At move 41, Black ran out of time. Black had a losing position, with a forced mate in 2-3 moves. I got lucky! It certainly could have gone the other way!

I learned quite a bit in the last game. But most notably, I’m noticing that my games are suddenly becoming more tactical (like my last game against Sid). I used to play very positionally. Perhaps I’m starting to become more comfortable with my own play, and am venturing into tactics. Strategic / positional play in my opinion is a little safer in nature (less likely to lose, more likely to draw scenario). There must be a good blend between the two that I can reach.

Anyway, as mentioned earlier, I think my key takeaways from this match stem mostly from emotion. Some examples:

  1. When you think you’re winning positionally (and have a time advantage too), like I was at move 23, don’t get complacent with your calculation. Avoid that horrendous blunder!
  2. When you think you’re winning materially, like Black was at move 24, don’t play it too safely, or you will allow your opponent to stay in the game. You have to fight to stay in the game.

Round 4 is not for another 2 weeks. I will say here, that I will probably meet with the tournament leader, Wayne Coppin, in the next round. My current record with him is 2 wins, 1 loss and 2 draws. I still have a chance of winning this tournament, if I’m able to beat him. I’d better prepare!

Wish me luck!

Annotations for Round 3 have been added to my website: