1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 After the game Mark called this a mouse slip. Usually in over-the-board games Mark plays Philidors Defence or reverse Philidors (so here I expected 3.d3) but I am guessing he plays a wider variety of openings in correspondence chess.
3...exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nxc6 bxc6 This move has some history for me. Last year I had been saving it up for an important game to play against Anthony Ker because I noticed that in three games Anthony had played 6.Bc4?! and won quickly with White. But 6.Bc4 is dubious because of 6...Qh5!, a move that none of Anthony's opponent's played. Eventually I had my chance at the 2015 Wellington Club championship, but then Anthony played the stronger move 6.Bd3.
6.Bc4?! But at last my preparation will be useful, if only I can remember any of it!
6...Qh4! Diagram At first sight it looks like a childish attempt at scholar's mate. But it defends against White's immediate threat (which was Bxf7 followed by Qh5+). Also the equally childish reponse 7.Qf3 can be effectively met with 7...d5! due to the pin against the e-pawn.
7.0-0 Nf6 8.g3 Qh3 9.Qf3 In time to meet Ng4 with Qg2
9...0-0 10.Nc3 d5 11.exd5 Bg4 12.Qg2 Qh5 13.h4 Bf3 14.Qh3 cxd5 15.Bd3 I remembered this as a positon from my preparation. My first inclination was to play Ng4 stopping Qf4 exchanging Queens, but after some playing around with the computer engine I settled on the move Rae8.
15...Rae8 You may wonder why I bring the a-Rook and not the f-Rook to the e-file? A similar position occurs in the Marshall Attack where the general advice is to double Rooks on the e-file, but first use the a-rook to keep open ideas of a f7-f5-f4 push.
16.Na4 16.Qf5 Qxf5 17.Bxf5 Nh5 works out well for Black. And that was about all I remember from my preparation from more than 6 months ago. In my last annotated game for NZ Chess I introduced my use of the zugzwang symbol, which I use just for my own game notes to signify when my opening preparation finishes (and usually where my bad moves begin). But if I was to use it here, then this is the spot.
16...Bd6 17.Qf5 Qxf5 18.Bxf5 Diagram
18...Be2! Exploiting the loose knight on a4 to punish White's lack of development.
19.Re1 Bb5 20.Rxe8 Rxe8 21.Nc3 Re1+ 22.Kg2 Black has a decisive advantage here. The computer demonstrates that 22...Bf1+ is the strongest move here, but I found the line I played more direct and easier to calculate.
22...Bc6 23.f3 Nh5 Good enough, but again the computers second choice - it prefers 23...d4
24.f4 I had calculated 24.g4 Nf4+ 25.Kf2 Rh1 and evaluated this position as winning for Black.
24...d4+ 25.Kf2 Rxc1 26.Rxc1 dxc3 Diagram The g3 pawn is also going to drop because of Bc5+. Mark gives up even more pawns, I guess in the hope for some activity.
27.b4 Bxb4 28.Rb1 Bc5+ 29.Ke1 g6 30.Bd3 Nxg3 31.f5 Nxf5 32.Bxf5 gxf5 33.Rb3 Bb6 The rest of the game wasn't recorded but Black's material advantage wins quite simply. There was only one further amusing moment in the game. At one point I moved and pressed the clock next to me. But it was the wrong clock! Russell looked at me angrily for interfering with his game while Mark claimed illegal move. I'm not sure if Mark was serious or just joking (I can never tell), but I apologised and pushed the correct clock and we continued. 0-1