Slip slidin' awayIn the end, it was one missed win too many.
Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you keep slip slidin' away.
Horton v Cid Royo, Aragón Team Championship 2008, promotion/relegation play-off, Casino Jaque (Huesca) v Hermanos Cortes-Moog (Zaragoza): top board, position after Black's move 30...Ke7-f7.
It was the last day of the season, and everthing came down to this game and this position.
We had lost quickly on board four and we were losing on board two, but board three looked to be winning a bishop ending (which was, indeed, eventually won) so I needed to win this position to draw the match - and win it on tie-break.
All season I had created won positions and failed to win them: I had, I was sure, created another one. My opponent had played the weak 9...a6 in the opening and after that the story was all about an exposed Black king and an undeveloped kingside. I had played for the diagram position absolutely convinced that I would be winning, just looking for the final touch.
However, when I got there, despite having plenty of time (I'm not sure how much - I was sufficiently distracted, or distressed, at the end to pick up my opponent's scoresheet instead of mine, on which times are recorded) I couldn't see it.
I intended to play 31.Rd7+ - and did in fact do so - after which Black must play 31...Kg6 as if 31...Be7 32.Rxe7+. I then believed that the e-pawn, now abandoned by the king, would fall, and that would be the end of it. But in fact, on playing 31.Rd7+ Kg6 I couldn't find a way to get at the pawn, since if 32.Qc4 Kf6 and I couldn't see what to do next: whereas if I tried anything else, like 32.Rb7 or giving my king some air, Black would play 32...Qc5 exchanging queens, freeing his bishop, releasing his rook and saving his a-pawn.
I spent most of my remaining time trying to find something, failed, eventually played 32.Qc4 anyway and was surprised by 32...Qxb2! 33.Qxe6+ Qf6! which saves the game. I played on for almost thirty more futile moves but there was nothing doing and eventually I had to shake hands and accept relegation.
I looked at the game a little that evening and a little more the next morning: but it was only when I put it through the computer that I understood that much of the above is based on a disastrous misapprehension. Can you see the the simple tactical point which I had missed, and which, if I had seen it, would have meant I won the game, squared the match and kept Casino Jaque in the top division?
It is the most soul-destroying pattern there can be: always to be winning, and always not to see the win that is there. I am shattered.
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