Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of the Anti-Meran

After a month-long hiatus, I finally returned to the lineup, sneaking away from work in the afternoon to play against NY. With the black pieces against Irina Krush, I could look forward to an interesting game, although I managed to get into more trouble than I should have.

The opening was an Anti-Meran (Semi-Slav) with 6.Qc2 and 7.b3; not the most topical of lines anymore. Amusingly enough, the first time I faced this line was in a US Chess League match last year (against GM Alejandro Ramirez). Like that game, this one finished in a draw, but this was a bit more eventful. The plan of ...a6 and ...e5, accepting the isolated pawn in return for some more room for my minor pieces, is a known one, and I felt like I had achieved an about equal position after the opening. But then things got interesting.

I made a couple of oversights, and by missing simple responses to my moves, I managed to get into a worse position. The most glaring of these was my plan with ...Qf6, instead of taking the c-file with a move like ...Rc7. To add to the mess I created, we seemed to be in real trouble on board 1 (where Pascal turned around a seemingly worse position) and a bit of trouble on board 3 (where a tactical oversight seemed to leave David in a slightly worse endgame, in my estimation). That partly led to my decision to start pushing on the kingside with moves like ...h5, ...Re5, and ...g5!?. Throw in the time factor (both of us were down to about a minute or two at that point), and the game became a real toss-up. Irina made a mistake by not liquidating into a clearly favorable endgame by exchanging queens on f6; she must have wanted to get the same exchange on a more favorable square (on g7), but by doing a little Kansas City shuffle with my king, I threatened to trap her queen with ...Re8. That forced her to jettison the g4-pawn, after which I should be better. But, with the time situation and my inability to see anything clear after ...g4, I took the draw with ...Rg4+.

As it turns out, ...g4 would have been a better move, if only because the natural response Rd7 loses to ...Rh2+! (as Black follows with ...Qxf2+ and ...g3!, winning); White has to play Qe7, after which Black should probably take the draw with ...Rh2+, Kxh2 Qxf2+, with a perpetual check coming soon. Another possibility was ...Qg6!? (instead of either ...Rg4+ or ...g4; Black threatens ...Rg4+, Kf1, ...Qd3+ winning), but again, without any time to calculate properly, I didn't want to risk anything. And as it turns out, all's well that ends well as once again, Josh showed some real defensive skill in saving a draw, clincing victory for us, 2.5-1.5.

With 3 draws out of 3 games against this Anti-Meran, it might be time for me to go back to the drawing board to see if I can find a more enterprising line ... the "simple" positions arising from this ...a6/...e5 combination might not be the most appropriate for a team match.

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