And then there were four, and it is now Judgment Day! Going into the final round, Mark Biernacki lead the pack with a perfect score of 4, and he was assigned Black on board 1 against Tianqi Wang, who along with Daniel Cremisi and myself, the game shown below from board two, were the only others in contention for the title with 3.5 each. From our perspective at board 2, we both needed to win, and we needed either a win from White or a draw on board 1.
Let's see what happened on board 2!
NC Closed CHampionship, Round 5
W: Patrick McCartney (2090)
B: Daniel Cremisi (2367)
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c6 4.c4
A direct transposition to the Slow Slav, which normally arises from 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3. Note that continuing in Colle style here with a move like 4.Bd3 or 4.c3 is ineffective. The success of the Colle System is reliant on Black blocking in his light-squared Bishop, and so after a move like 3...e6, then 4.Bd3 comes into play, but with 3...c6 played, White needs to strike at the Black center, and if Black does indeed bring the Bishop out, go for the Queenside weaknesses created by Black as a result of his Bishop abandoning the Queenside.
The "main line" is 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6, but the move played also has its venom, especially if Black doesn't know what he's doing. Even if he does, this move is no worse.
5...cxd5 6.Qb3 Qb6
Black's strongest response is thought to be 6...Qc7 7.Bd2 e6 8.Bb5+ and then he can block the check with either Knight move. White's advantage is minimal.
7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Nc3
Quoting GM Aaron Summerscale from his book A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire, "6...Qb6 7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Nc3 is a bit better for White due to Black's weak doubled b-pawns."
8...e6 9.Nh4 Bg6 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.Bb5+ Nbd7 12.Bd2 Bd6 13.h3 O-O 14.O-O Rfd8 15.Rfc1 Ne4 16.Be1
The alternative would be for White to take on e4, saddling Black with doubled pawns, advance the a-pawn, and then double-up on the c-file with an advantage. For example, 16.Nxe4 dxe4 17.a3 Nf6 18.Rc2 g5 19.Rac1 +/=. The game move is also good.
16...Nxc3 17.bxc3 Nf6
Or 17...Ra3 18.c4 Nf6 19.cxd5 exd5 20.Rab1 Rda8 21.Bf1 Rxa2 22.Rxb6 Ra1 23.Rbb1 Rxb1 24.Rxb1 g5 25.Be2 Ra3 26.Bf3 Ra2 27.Kf1 Ne4 28.Rxb7 Ra1 with an advantage to White.
This is not a good move for White. Instead the immediate 18.a4 should have been preferred. For example, after 18...Ra7 19.f3 Ne8 20.Rcb1 Rda8 21.e4 Nc7 22.Bd3 b5 23.e5 Be7 24.Bxb5 Nxb5 25.Rxb5 Bg5 26.Rab1 Be3+ 27.Kf1 Rxa4, White has a clear advantage. Black's weakness on b7 is easier to access and attack than White's weakness on c3.
Black returns the favor by not playing 18...Ra3! first, and then pretty much proceeding with what he did in the game.
19.a4 Ne4 20.c4
White is anticipating Black's next few moves, and is going for pawn structure weaknesses in the Black camp. This is ok, but 20.Bd3 is stronger, holding on to the Bishop pair. The cost of saddling Black with weak pawns is White will lose the Bishop pair.
20...Nd6 21.cxd5 Nxb5 22.Rxb5 Rxd5 23.Rxd5 exd5
The fact that the position has been reduced to pieces that are not in White's best interest, such as the dark-squared Bishops, offsets the fact that Black's pawn structure is worse. White's advantage is minimal, and we see why now that 20.Bd3 would have been preferred.
24.Bb4 f6 25.Be7
With the idea of 26.Rc1 in response to a move like 25...Kf7.
Black wants nothing to do with that!
26.Bb4 Re6 27.Rc1 Rc6 28.Rxc6?
This move does White in as his advantage is gone. White is still better after 28.Bd2 or 28.Rc3. Now the game is drawn.
28...bxc6 29.Kf1 Kf7 30.Ke2 Ke6 31.Kd3 Bd6 32.a5
This was White's whole idea, but it's nothing more than a trick shot. Black of course can't take the Bishop. The rest of the game is nothing more than a feeble attempt by both sides to look for a few trick plays, but outside of a couple of feeble traps, such as Black making the wrong capture on move 33 or White playing the wrong move at move 57, there is nothing here for either side.
32...Bxb4?? 33.a6 +-
33.dxc5 bxa5 24.Bxa5 Bxc5 35.Bc3 Bd6 36.Bd4 Be5 37.Kc3 Kf5 38.Kb4 Bb8 39.Kc5 Ke6 40.Kc6 Bh2 41.f4 Bg3 42.Kc5 Be1 43.g4 Ba5 44.Kc6 Bd8 45.Bc3 Be7 46.Bd4 Bb4 47.Bc5 Ba5 48.Bd4 Be1 49.Bc5 Bg3 50.Bd4 Bh2 51.Kc5 Bg3 52.Kc6 Be1 53.Kc5 Bd2 54.Kc6 Bb4 55.Bc5 Bxc5 56.Kxc5 g5 57.fxg5
This move followed by immediately forcing off the central pawns seals the draw.
57...fxg5 58.Kd4 Kd6 59.e4 dxe4 60.Kxe4 Ke6 61.Kd4 Kd6 62.Ke4 g6 63.Kd4 Ke6 64.Ke4 Kd6 65.Kd4 Ke6 66.Ke4 Kd6 67.Kd4 1/2-1/2
So the game ended in a draw a board 2, but as it turns out, Biernacki had won at board 1 anyway, giving him the state title at a perfect 5 points. With board 3 being decisive, Daniel, myself, and one other tied for second with a final score of 4.