After winning my second round game, I was feeling good heading into round three. I was to play the white pieces against Stephanie Ballom. The round started oddly as my opponent was not on time. I started the clock and waited. Suddenly, a guy rushed up to the board, moved a piece, punched the clock, and began to sit down. Since he really didn’t appear to look like he was likely to be named Stephanie, I checked his score sheet. Sure enough, he was at the wrong board. I sent him on his way, reset the pieces and the clock and began my wait again.
Stephanie arrived a few minutes later unaware of the false start I had just experienced. She proved to be very capable opponent whose play was as solid as she was pretty. Thanks to an early blunder and some less than precise play, I lost my third round game. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable game.
Todhunter, James - Ballom, Stephanie
I like the Tarrasch variation of the French, but I rarely see this variation.
Other common moves here are Be3, Bd3, and c3. But this line has the best results in master play.
This is not a thematic choice. Best is probably a6. Also good is Be7.
Preventing the intrusion on g4. Perhaps a more assertive line would be 9. Ne5 O-O (9... Bxe5 is not good for black because after 10. dxe5 white gains space and initiative).
Ruining a nice game. This gives up the pawn with no real compensation.
And white can't recapture in light of 12. Bxd5 Nxd5 13. Qxd5 Bh2+ losing the queen.
Black threatens to dominate the position with Nd3.
The problem knight has been taken care of, but black stands better.
Breaking the pin and fortifying the e file.
This is a mistake. It allows 23... Rxe2 24. Kxe2 Re8+ 25. Kf1 with advantage to black. Fortunately, black missed this opportunity. White should consider 23. Red1 with the idea of building up pressure on the backward d-pawn.
23… Rae8 24.Rae1
24. Rd2 is still probably better here.
Allowing the exchange of minor pieces is not such a good plan. The resulting endgame favors black strongly. Exchanging off one of rooks might be a better idea.
28. fxe3 is better. But white is trouble either way.
28… Rxe3 29.fxe3
Even better is29… h4 when black will be able to exchange off the white g-pawn and end up with a simple game. For example, 30. gxh4 Kh7 31. Kf2 Kh6 32. Kf3 Kh5 33. Kg3 Kg6 or 30. g4 f6 31. Kf2 Kf7 32. Kf3 Ke6 33. Kf4 g5+ 34. Kf3 f5 35. gf+ Kxf5. Of course, the played move still leaves black with the advantage, so now the kings begin a dance to find a way to progress.
White begins to seek some counter play, but his plan is flawed. Of course it doesn't really matter as white is already lost.
And now we see the flaw in white's plan. White was playing for 45... Kxe3 46. Kxf5 Kd3 47. g4 Kxc3 etc., getting his queen first. But it does no good as the ensuing position doesn't allow for a perpetual check. More to the point though, black doesn't have to go after the c-pawn with the king. The simple 46... d4 is decisive as black then get the queen first and early enough to prevent white from getting one at all.
Queen vs. queen and pawn is often a draw, but not here. The proximity of black's queen to the king will make it difficult for white to execute a perpetual check and white can't afford to trade queens because his king is out of play and behind the black a-pawn.
White is out of productive checks.
A blunder as black can now force the queen trade. But, white's game is hopeless anyway.
White resigns in light of 59. Qxb1+ Kxb1 with an easy finish for black.