It was quite an honor to play the world champion at this years nationals. He was dominating just about everyone and I had a goal to obtain 1 drawn ballot versus him. I achieved that the first ballot and almost obtained another draw the third game, but failed to do so thanks to a poorly played move in the beginning, and a losing move blunder at the end. Lets also credit a very strong game played by the champ.
9-14, 22-18, 10-15, 18-9, 5-14, 26-22 (25-22 is also strong and a line I know much better, but Alex has already put me on a line I have little experience playing) 15-18, 22-15, 11-18, 31-26, 8-11, 24-20, 6-10, 25-22, 18-25, 29-22, 3-8? (very questionable move and not a good choice, 4-8 and 2-6 are better alternatives. I thought hard about 2-6 but it looked very questionable and to risky) 28-24 (I was expecting Alex to squeeze with 22-18, but he waited with 28-24 which is a lot better and attempts to trap me up) 1-5, 22-17, which leads to this position.
11-16 (11-15 looks like a loss after 23-19, 8-11, 26-22 but 2-6 actually forces a miracle draw, but there was no way I was looking for that and thought I had better chances with the 11-16 exchange) 20-11, 8-15, 26-22, 12-16 (pretty much forced) 23-19 ( 23-18 is not as strong as I could squeeze with 16-20 forcing 32-27 and now I can attack the piece on 24) 16-23, 27-11, 7-16, 24-20, 16-19, 20-16 leading to this interesting and critical position for red
My first instinct was 6-9 because I think Alex was expecting 4-8 and new it would lose. I knew I had to do something good here. 4-8 does end up losing for red. 6-9, 16-11?
Here I go over another variation Alex had in mind and demonstrated earlier- 17-13 would allow 19-24 which looks very beneficial for red. But actually loses as follows! 16-11, 9-13 I thought this was the saving grace because it prevents 11-7 as shown below
Now 30-26, 10-15, 26-23, 24-28 (24-27 loses by 23-19) 11-7, 4-8, 7-3, 8-11, 3-7, 11-16, and now 22-17, 13-22, 6-10 for a double fork win. Some very good endgame principles to be learned here. After the 17-13 earlier, 10-15 actually forces a tough bridge ending draw for red, but honestly, if Alex would have played 17-13, I would have gone 19-24 because I would have wanted to avoid the bridge.
After 16-11, 9-13, 32-27, 14-18, 22-6, 2-9, 11-7, 13-22, 21-17, 9-13, 17-14 (phew somehow I got out of that and now have a easy draw, no use thinking anymore! Who is this Alex guy anyway?)
4-8, 7-3, 8-12?????, 3-7, 12-16, 30-26! and game over. Of course it had to be an in and out shot, I fall for them all the time and the second time it beat me in this tournament. 8-11 instead of 8-12 would have drew, but I made a careless rookie mistake by assuming the game was over and no win was possible. While I can say I just blew the game at the end, that really is not the truth. A bad move earlier on made this game very difficult to me and wore me out, I was tired and eventually it got to me at the end. While a good lesson here is to never let down your guard, I know I could have played this line a lot better. Well played by Alex and was one was my favorite games of the tournament.