In my final round I faced the tournament winner, Mr. Meredith. A jovial and friendly guy off the board, Mr. Meredith has made it a habit of winning FCC quads! Yet again, we were unable to stop him as I could only nick him for a draw (which handed first place clear to him).
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Not a good tournament for theory! Although this move has certainly been played by GMs before, it is certainly not common by any means! Ironically, I had just downloaded a file of a couple thousand or so games with this move a few days before the tournament. I was able to look through about 10 of them between then and the tournament, but wouldn't by any means describe myself as having a clear idea of Black's best plans. Nevertheless, I knew that most of the best players chose 3...d5, but I didn't have the guts to do it.
3...d6 4.d4 Be7 5.Bb5 Bd7 It was a comfort (I mean that sarcastically) to note that the great Anatoly Karpov, whose style I greatly admire, chose to exchange on d4 before playing Bd7.
6.0-0 Nf6 7.Re1 0-0 8.Bg5 Re8 9.Nbd2 Ng4 Although I did not want a draw in this game, black is cramped for space and trades are an important mechanism for relieving such cramps. Unfortunately, though, the trades I initiate lead to a position, as you'll see, where it's exceptionally difficult to make progress.
10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.Nc4 Nb8 Once again, I wasn't playing for a draw, but I thought this move was clearly best. The pressure on e5 was intensifying so I didn't want my defending knight on c6 to be traded. After the forced trade, the knight is better and more flexibly placed on d7. In addition, the pressure of the cramp is relieved still further. And yet, as mentioned, it will be difficult for black to make any progress in the ensuing position.
12.Bxd7 Nxd7 13.h3 Ngf6 14.Qb3 Rab8 15.Rad1 What is black to do here? The only plan I could come up with was to provoke White into moving or exchanging his d-pawn. Then my knight could come to c5 and I could try to make progress on the q-side. But how could I entice White to move that pawn?! After considerable thought, the only move I could decide on was
15...Qe6 threatening, perhaps, Nxe4 and d5, when I would be able to capture on c4 and win a pawn because the Qe6 would protect it. Doing the maneuver right away looked incorrect to me: [15...Nxe4 16.Rxe4 d5 17.Ree1 dxc4 18.Qxc4 and black is under tremendous pressure.]
16.Ng5 But here's the problem! White can basically force a perpetual.
16...Qe7 17.Nf3 Qe6 18.Ng5 1/2-1/2