Black against Jeroen Piket, I had to win - as did he - and decided to adopt my favourite English Defence as in Jim Plaskett's splendid win on Saturday. It's a wonderful opening, putting pressure on White from the very first moves and still relatively unexplored. But there are several lines which are rather dicey if White knows what he's doing.
In the recent Olympiad, the Israeli Boris Avruk had horribly crushed me with 4.Bd3 - but at least I had some new ideas ready for that. Instead Piket played a line which the Indian international master Krishnan Sashikiran had used against me at the British Championship in August. Then I had replied with 5...Qh4+ 6.g3 Qh5 7.Nh3 e5!? and got quite a good game. But fearing an improvement I wanted to vary.
There is a known if very dubious gambit with 5...f5 6.exf5 Nh6 7.fxe6 (not 7.Bxh6 Qh4+!) Nf5. At the board I invented a new one which I fear is quite unrepeatable.
After 9.Bh3, I realised I was in trouble since if 9...dxe6 10.Nge2 Qxf3 11.Rf1 Qh5 12.Nf4 Qxd1+ 13.Kxd1 is vile. Hence after 25 minutes the inspired but absurd 9...h5 so to meet 10.Nge2 with 10...h4!. But after the simple 10.Bf4 I could find nothing better than to recapture on e6.
One possibility was 13.bxc3; at least after the natural recapture I got some play. After "winning" the exchange I was clearly lost - a computer would have murdered me - but had managed to randomise. Now 18.h4 was much simpler than 18.Nh3 and if Rg8 19.Bh5+.
If 20.Qd2 I would have tried Rd8 and if 21.d5 perhaps Bxd5. In fact if 22.Qd7+ Kf8 a) 23.Bxe7+ Rxe7 24.Rf1+ Rf7 25.Qd6+ Kg7 26.Qd4+ e5 27.Qxe5+ Rf6 28.Qe7+ Rf7 29.Qe5+ is a draw and b) 23.Rf1+ Nf5 24.Qd6+ Kf7 25.h4 very dangerous. But White was still doing fine until he blundered with 23.Rd1?, rather than 23.Qd1!: missing that if 25.Bxe7+ Rxe7 27.Rf1+ Kg8 28.Qxe7 Qxc4+ wins the rook. A bloody battle!
White: Jeroen Piket
Black: Jon Speelman