I played my final game in the club championship last Tuesday. I already knew that I had won the competition, as the only person who could have caught me, Anthony Higgs, had just agreed his adjourned game against Phil Stimpson drawn. The game was in fact against Anthony and finally ended as a draw, although I achieved a very strong position and probably should have won.
There is a funny story behind the opening line we played, or at least my experiences with it. I have now – after this game – had the position after 8…b5 three times in serious games. The first time was in the final round of the Week 1 “Harry Baines” tournament in 2000 against Paul Smith. The “Harry Baines” events were week long nine round tournments held as part of the British Championship congress. There were two such events, one in each week of the congress. For a number of years I used to enter both events as I found them more enjoyable than the Major Open. Anyway, in that game I played 9 a3, which was a passive move that offered White nothing. In our post mortem analysis, my opponent and I did not query the move and only looked at later alternatives, concluding that Black was OK. However, I looked at the game again over the weekend (the game was played on a Friday), when I had a break before the Week 2 “Harry Baines” started on the Monday, and discovered that White had something much stronger. I had a chance to use this discovered sooner than I anticipated, as I was again paired against Paul Smith in round one of the Week 2 event, and again I had White! My opponent confidently repeated the game up to 8…b5, only to be shocked by response 9 Bf3, with the terrible threat of 10 e5. He crumbled very quickly, losing in only 17 moves. As it happens, he could have defended more stoutly, as Anthony did in our recent game.
I give the game below with some notes, and also the scores of the two previous games.