Notes by D Scriven. Here is the first game of the semi-final.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 I was now contemplating the Exchange variation. I have never played the Exchange in a serious match, but with no team depending on me, I decided it was a chance to experiment. My hope was Don hadn't faced an Exchange before and therefore we would both be in new territory.
4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O Bg4 6. h3 h5! Oh dear. This move implies that not only does Don obviously know the opening, he is playing a sharp variation. All I know now is I can't accept the Bishop, and that I must develop normally, starting with d3.
7. d3 Qf6 I thought this was an unusual move. I can see the pressure on my Knight and the potential to shatter the K-side pawns, but I expected a pawn to go to f6. But what do I know about the Spanish Exchange? Playing Nbd2 looks necessary to re-enforce the f3 Knight, but that leaves my QB trapped. I decide to develop the QB first, accepting that Don can smash my K-side pawns, which I don't mind because the Queens will be off.
8. Be3 Bd6 This again looked unusual from Don, because his Bishop doesn't have much scope, but where else was it going?
9. Nbd2 Ne7 My Knight develops to support his friend and also target c4. Don develops his Knight which is obviously heading for g6 and then f4. The question is will he castle before the Knight charges?
10. c3 If he is going to attack on the flank then I will counter-attack in the centre. I prepare d4 and allow my Queen out to the Queenside if need be.
10... Ng6 Bit of a surprise. Don will now have trouble castling in the near future because of Bg5, but his forces are starting to mount up against my K-side. This is where I took a gamble. 11. d4 looks inviting, creating play in the centre, with some complicated calculations, which I couldn't calculate. 11. Qb3 also appears interesting. It removes my Queen from the pin and creates some threats of my own on the Q-side. I simply could not calculate all the alternatives after 11. Qb3 Nf4/Nh4. When it comes to calculation, my tree of analysis is a bonsai. I reasoned with myself that if Don did play an attacking move (e.g. Nf4) I could always play 12. Qxb6 Rd8 (K to second rank looks horrible, and I didn't consider it, but then perhaps BxPa might be good for me) 13. Qxc6+ and I have two pawns to compensate for my Queen being offside in the face of an attack against my King. If instead Don defended the b pawn with either ...b6/5 or ...Rb8 then I can force the Queens off with Bg5 Qe6, and with the ladies departed Don's attack stalls, his King will probably stay in the centre and I have a central pawn majority after the exchange and d4. I gambled.
11. Qb3 O-O-O? ....and Don blundered.
12. Bg5 Qe6 I can see that I am going to win material. I also see that I can deprive Don of the Bishop pair. Thus I play the following continuation and ignore the old adage about when you have found a good move, look for a better move. After the game Don suggested 13. PxB first could have netted a piece. And what about playing 13. BxR first? Was that better?
13. Qxe6+ Bxe6 14. Bxd8 Rxd8 15. Ng5 to remove the Bishop pair.
15... Nf4 I considered this might be to re-capture on e6.
16. Nxe6 fxe6 Surprising re-capture. Don accepts doubled isolated pawns. I'm sure everyone will agree I have the better position. In my traditional style against Halesowen, watch how I once more throw away the win with a series of flawed moves. Knowing that the d-pawn can't be saved I decide to take out the Bishop. Even though I knew it would repair Don's shattered pawns I reasoned it would remove material and deprive him of his long range piece. Then all I had to do was remove the rooks and my rook would beat his Knight. I was also trying from now on to open some files for my rooks.
17. Nc4 Nxd3 18. Nxd6+ cxd6 19. b3 d5 20. f3?! Was this really necessary?
20... c5 21. Rfd1 I can't let Don play ...c4 to support his dominating Knight.
21... Nf4 22. Rd2 d4 23. cxd4 I want to open the c and d files, even though I know it helps Don's pawns.
23... exd4 24. Rc1 b6 25. b4 Rd7 26. bxc5 At last, a file is opened.
26... Rc7 27. Kh2 Obviously not Rxd4 Ne2+. The idea behind Kh2 is to evict the Knight, even at the expense of the King going away from the centre. I looked at c6, but ruled it out for some reason that I have now forgotten, and instead allow Don connected passed pawns.
27... bxc5 28. g3 Ng6 29. f4 To prevent the horse using e5.
29... h4 30. Rc4 At last. I look to double the Rooks.
30... Kd7 31. e5? I look to prevent Don defending his pawn with ...Kd6. In reality what I have done is give his Knight and King the light squares. in the centre.
31... Ne7 32. gxh4 To allow my King back to the centre without worrying about Don playing ...PxP.
32... Nf5 33. Kg1 Kc6 And here comes the Black King Things are starting to look a bit dodgy.
34. Kf2 Kd5 35. Ra4 Rc6 This is where I sealed. Don offered a draw. I was short of time (29 minutes for another 18 moves, Don has 71 minutes.) and with the complicated position I accepted. Looking at the position now, the material advantage is the only plus in my favour. So from my dominating position after 16 moves I end up in this mess. Don is happy because in the next match he will have White, and will obviously fancy his chances.