After I missed one match (we managed a lucky draw with the Arlington Argyles), and the season took a month off, I came back and lost to a lower rated player again in one of my worst games in a long time. Somehow, my team has overcome my incompetence and won both of the matches that I lost. That meant that going into last Friday's season final we were at 2.5/3 and in need of a win to qualify for a playoff match against the Argyles. First we needed to get through Ashburn, meaning that I was playing Anton Paolo Del Mundo, a strong FM and former Co-Champion of the US Open.
A month before this tournament I had prepared the Catalan for black, as an alternative to my Tarrasch defense, and decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, I completely forgot my preparation and just didn't remember to play Be4 on tenth move. Instead, my 10... Qc8 was bad and almost a novelty (had only been played once 800 previous opportunities in my database). Fortunately, once I realized my mistake, I was able to use the urgency of my position to help focus, rather than to panic. Bit by bit the position improved and it kept improving past the point of equality until gained a large advantage and won the game. Despite the opening error, it's the best game I've played in a few months. Even better, our team won the match 3-1 to qualify for a championship playoff next week. Stay tuned and enjoy the game.