One important trait of any good chess player is to be resilient in any position, especially against better players. In my first round of the 2014 Baltimore Open, I got off to a clearly worse, if not losing position, but was able to salvage a draw as a 100 point underdog.
Brown – Steincamp (Baltimore Open 2014)
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. O-O
5… e5?! The first iffy move. As an English player with the white pieces, I’m trying to reach a Reversed Botvinik set–up, but being a tempo behind, white’s idea of c2-c3 and d2-d4 can create chronic weaknesses in my pawn structure.
6. Qe2 Nc6 7. c3 Nge7 8. Rd1
8… g6? My second critical misunderstanding of the position. My Bishop will be passive from g7, whereas the c1 bishop will find activity after the center opens.
9. d4 cxd4 10. cxd4 exd4 11. Nxd4 Bg7 12. Nb5 O-O
13. N1c3 A respectable choice. White does win a pawn with Rxd6, but 13… Nd4 14. Rxd7 Nxe2+ complicates the position. Choosing to develop here is a good choice for white, as the d6 pawn will be a lasting weakness in my position.
Rad8 14. Bf4 Nc8
15. Bg5 Here white was supposed to play Bxd6, and hold onto a material advantage. By playing this move, he stands only slightly better.
f6 16. Bf4
16…Qe6 I think after this moment in the game, I started playing more solidly. My plan is to play f6–f5 and maybe a7-a6. I have to make slow improvements in my position to get back into this game.
17. Nc7 Qf7 18. N7b5
18…Qe6 I am perfectly happy with repetition here, so I put the question to my opponent to find something else. White needs to find Nd5 to utilize his positional advantage.
19. Rd2 a6 20. Nc7 Qf7 21. N7d5 f5 22. exf5
22…Qxf5 While still worse, I am making progress. My queen is much better placed on f5 than the d7 square it was on earlier. Also, my g7 bishop is much better now. Step two of my plan is to put a piece on e5, trades would be good for me, but the development could help me acquire space.
23. Qc4 Kh8 24. Bg3 Be5 25. f4
25…Bg7 By provoking f2–f4, I have lessened the scope of the bishop on g3, and my bishop is clearly a better piece.
26. Re1 Rde8 27. Rxe8 1/2-1/2
Following Rxe8, my opponent offered a draw and I accepted, as there is no clear way for me to find any advantage. One thing to take from this game is that, even at 2000, players still make small mistakes. In this game, even though my opponent had a much better game, only a couple of small positional errors (15. Bg5 and 25. f4 in particular) gave me enough time to be flexible and improve my position.
Whenever you are in a worse position, try to make slow improvements in your position if there are no clear ways to drastically improve your position. In this game, after 16… Qe6, it became much more unclear as to how white should play, and soon enough, white was reacting to the moves I was making than I to his (21… f5 and 24… Be5).
Feel like I missed something? Feel free to leave a comment below!