Drawing my First FIDE Master

As I mentioned in my last post, I drew my first FM at the Northern Virginia Open. Here is my game.

Steincamp – FM Lopez (Northern Virginia Open, 2014)

1. c4 g6 2. g3 Bg7 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nc3 d6 5. d3 O‑O 6. e4 c5 7. Nge2 Nc6 8. O‑O Rb8

9. Rb1 I lost a game at the Northern Virginia Open because I never moved my rook from the a1 square, susceptible to the fianchettoed g7 bishop. 

9…Ne8 Black will reroute the knight to c7, with the potential plan of b7-b5, or relocation to e6.

10. Be3 This is a fairly theoretical position that was actually in Amateur’s Mind by Jeremy Silman. In the book, white played f2-f4 immediately, but I decided to opt for a different plan. My goal is to eliminate the g7 bishop and then push f2-f4.

10…Nd4 11. Qd2 Nc7 12. Bh6 Bxh6

13. Qxh6 I was very surprised to see …Bxh6 from my opponent. The queen cannot be punished from the h6 square, and now f2-f4 is very strong.

13…b5 Black’s only plan is Benoni-like play, but without his dark squared bishop, he is very limited in his attacking options.

14. b3 A prophylactic measure. Black can’t really stop f2-f4, and if he captures on c4, I will respond 15. dxc4! and Black has no play. If my opponent tries 14… e5, I still have 15. f4 f5 16. Nxd4 exd4 17. Ne2 yields interesting play.

14…Nce6 15. f4! b4 16. Nxd4 Nxd4 17. Nd5 f5

18. Qg5 I thought for 20 minutes on this move, but I honestly couldn’t find anything better. 18. exf5 is bad as Nxf5 19. Qg5 e6 20. Qxd8 Rxd8 21. Ne3 leaves me with an awkward backwards pawn and no activity. Pushing ahead with 18. e5 wasn’t promising either, as 18… e6 leaves an unclear position.

18…e6 19. Qxd8 Rxd8 20. Ne3 Ne2+ 21. Kf2 Nc3 22. Rb2 fxe4

23. Bxe4 Taking with the pawn loses to 23… Bb7 and now 24. Kf3? does not work as it blocks the bishop. My opponent missed this move in this calculation.

23…Nxe4+ 24. dxe4 Bb7 25. Kf3 Kg7

26. Rd2 At this point I figured the easiest thing to do was pressure the d6 weakness with my rooks. After all, it is a backwards pawn on a half open file. 

26…Rd7 27. Rfd1 Rbd8 28. Ng4 Bc6 29. Ke3 1/2–1/2

Here I thought my opponent could just move his king to e7 and draw easily, but it turns out that I am slightly better. I have an interesting Ng4-f2-e3 maneuver, and I can always plan for a e4-e5 push. Even though I did not see a convincing plan, I probably pushed on anyways, just to see if I could finagle something out of the position.

Despite agreeing to a draw too early, I thought I played a reasonable game. Having a strong pawn structure was one of the main reasons I got a result here. Once the dark squared bishops were traded, my opponent had limited counterplay.

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!

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