This is a game where White plants bad seeds early. And quite a collection of bad seeds it is! White is arrogant, thinking he knows the opening better than he actually does, despite not having played the opening in a very long time. This leads to quite an awkward situation, and a huge dose of humility when White harvests the crops from the seeds he has sown, leading to at least three "??" moves that I can find (probably more), as shown in the game below:
White starts the second round (Saturday morning) very confident from the Friday night first round. The Round 1 win wasn't won on the basis of better opening knowledge, although emotionally the first round game felt "comfortable" because similar games were placed recently. Rather the win was from being laser focused on squares, eliminating play and counterplay, and waiting for the opponent to crack, which he did.
In this game, White plays 1.e4 as per usual, right into the Caro-Kann. White hasn't played Caro in a very long time, however, based on faulty memory, and the over confidence from the Friday night win, White thinks he can sail through the opening, then dazzle in the middlegame like last time.
Sailing through the opening with a bad attitude sows many bad seeds. Not like the good seeds shown below:
Nope, no good, tasty, nutritious seeds for me. Rather I planted many "bad" seeds:
Over confident opening knowledge, with no basis for the confidence
Rushing through the opening, seeking to exchange my way to the middlegame
Look at pieces not squares
Thinking I can cut it close with obvious tactics
When calamity strikes, panic rather than calmly assess
Lackluster defense, not putting everything into it, missing opportunities
Replaying what a bad player I am in my head, rather than cheerfully defending
Not a surprise that I ended up with a "bumper crop" of "??" moves. Three that I could find with post mortem with my opponent, self analysis, and double check with the help of Stockfish. Maybe an astute reader can find more.
My opening knowledge stopped at 6...Nf6, but I thought I knew more. I play 7.Bd3. Not the worst move, but starting to drift from the plot of Caro where 7.h4 is more typical. But the worse point is not that I didn't know particular moves, but rather that I was not following any plot, right or wrong. I was simply making moves. No excuse.
During the game I was also self conscious because my opponent was a favorite in the section, so "I had to prove something." Wrong, the only thing I need to do is to play chess. By 10.Bxg6 even I knew I was not playing right but couldn't figure out what is was. Lots of folks passing by the game, not quite understanding what opening I was trying to play. I was also wondering, but didn't realize how far I was straying.
12...Ne4. The shocker, and yet it wasn't. The move before, I calmly noted that this was a possibility, and cooly noted that all I had to do was move my Queen. Yet, when the move is played for real, something in my amygdala went crazy, and then I wasn't thinking, I was in reaction mode, with rational thinking dialed down to zero. So I take the Knight with 13.Nxe4?? rather than simply move my Queen. This unleashes the hounds of hell and I end up "sac'ing" my Queen for two Knights.
Smooth move. Now more and more people are swirling around the game, some even taking pictures (see tournament summary blog link at the top). At this point I intellectually know I should be cheerfully defending, which I do try to do. But I am also deeply embarrassed. Is this really the level of my talent? Or is this a bad day? Is this something deeply ingrained in my chess personality? I end up having a psycho therapy session with myself instead of cheerfully defending. If I was paying attention, I would have seen 24.Neg5, putting the game back in draw territory. She only allowed this one opportunity to save the game. Instead I miss it and play 24.Ned2??
No more chances. The attack down the h file grows stronger. I throw what I can at Black to slow her down, but she smells blood in the water and picks up the pace, opening up a line of attack down the f file, and also with a Black Rook on White's second rank. I am quite done now. A permanent large crowd is now around our game.
I decide to completely play it out to checkmate to at least let her savor the moment with her friends. She deserves that for great unwavoring play. 35...Qh2#