A little over a month ago, on 1st July 2017, I played the game that will cost me the 2nd ANCC Closed Championship. It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon at the YWCA Hostel where my club meets. I was originally supposed to play against Pranjal Parikh but when it became apparent that the Deshpande siblings weren’t going to make it for their scheduled games, the fixtures had to be modified to accommodate whoever would be turning up. Pranjal would now play her sister Nikita and I would take on Brian Kariuki Waweru with the Black pieces.
I don’t have a photo of us playing but here’s one of Brian playing his Round 4 game against WFM Sanjana Deshpande:
Unsure of what to expect from the almost U18 national champion, I was still relaxed and confident of my chances. Brian started with 1. Nf3 and I decided to challenge him for centre control immediately with Nc6 (Reti Opening: Black Mustang Defense). He continued with his plan to fianchetto his light squared bishop and so did I.
The game went on with White playing both central pawns to e4 and d4 and Black having a very awkward knight on h8 after White’s perplexing h5 move. After his queen tried to squat on g4 threatening Bh6 and Qxg7#, I surprised him and myself with the f5 pawn push gaining space and buying myself some time to come up with a plan. After the next set of moves was played and a bit of pondering I saw the opportunity of a lifetime with my queen controlling the h4-d8 diagonal and my bishop having access to the h2-d6 diagonal, both leading to his hole-in-a-wall kingside with potentially devastating effect.
Alas, I didn’t calculate well enough and made the first major mistake that cost me the game with 13. .. f3 where I was to have played Qh4 instead. Even after Brian responded with 14. Bxf3, I had another opportunity to rip apart his kingside with 14. .. Qh4 but I blundered with Bf4 instead. With White now able to exchange my formerly lethal dark squared bishop, it was all but over.
Trying to salvage the game, I formed a battery with both my rooks and the queen on the ‘f’ file, only to make another blunder on move 20 with Bxf3+ (20. .. Nxe5 21. dxe5 Qf7 22. Bxc6 Rxf2+ would have given me another shot at winning the game).
By move 38, we had equal material but his pawns had advanced further and my weak endgame skills meant that I couldn’t even get a draw from a game I should have won.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was the game that cost me the 2nd ANCC Championship. Had I not lost against Brian, I would have gone into my last game with 8 points from 9 games needing a draw to secure my win instead of the 7 that I now have.
Let’s hope I can still finish in second place by winning my final game.