KEG: A poorly played game on both sides that Mortimer lost as a result of an unsound King-side attack/sacrifice he attempted on moves 19 through 25. Mortimer was dead lost after his 25th move, but Sterling had great difficulty closing out the game and nearly blew what should have been an easy win (a Rook ending up two passed pawns) until Mortimer's blunders on moves 53, 56, and 57.
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
Ponziani's Opening. While this is far inferior to 3. Bb5 (the Ruy Lopez) and 3. Bc4, there is some logic to the move (support for d4). The opening can provide surprises for the unwary.
Mentioned as a possibility in MCO-13, but the Tournament Book is correct that 3...d5 is much better.
"Weak. The correct move is 4. d4." (Rosenthal in the Tournament Book).
Another weak move by Mortimer. Though 4. d4 was best, now that the Queen has moved to a4, 5. Be2 is best. After the text, Black can obtain a clear advantage with 5...Nxe4
Sterling misses the chance to play 5...Nxe4. (If then 6. dxe5? Nc5 and if 7. Qb5? dxe5 since 8.Nxe5 loses to 8...Qe7).
Another weak move by Mortimer. Best was 6. Qc2
Misguided. 6...Nd4 would have given Sterling a good game. (If 7. Qd1 NxN+ 8. QxN c6).
7. Qc2 Ng6
8. Bd3 Be7
9. h3 0-0
Wild and unsound. White has not yet castled and his Queen-side is undeveloped. The text is--at best--grossly premature. Best was 10. 0-0
As Rosenthal points out in the Tournament Book, 11. dxc6 was best. With the text, White has a strategically lost game.
Very bad and missing his chance. 11...cxd5 was best.
12. Nc3 a6
13. Be3 or 13. a3 were much better.
A move that serves no purpose. 13...h6 was best.
14. Ne2 b5
Needlessly creating weaknesses. 15. Ng3 was best.
Locking the pawn chains on the Queen-side is a poor idea for Black. Rosenthal's 15...bxc4 would have been better, but best was 15...h5.
16. Ng3 h6
17. Nf5 a5
In this position, Mortimer decided he was poised for a King-side attack. This erroneous thought lands him in a hopelessly lost position in the course of his next eight moves.
The beginning of Mortimer's flawed plan. Best was 18. Qc1.
Missing his chance to play 18...a4
This pawn sacrifice is unsound. 19. Qc1 was best.
20. gxB Nxh4
Having sacrificed a pawn, Mortimer carries on with his bad plan. He might have held the game with 21. Ne1
22. KxN Bg4
23. Ke2 BxB
24. QxB Ng5
Still apparently thinking he has a viable King-side attack. 25. Rg3 or 25. Kd1 offered hope of saving the game. Now Mortimer is simply lost. He is down a pawn and will soon lose another.
Forced--but sufficient for victory.
26. Qxf4 Qf6
White's King-side attack is now at and end and Sterling is set to invade the White position with his Queen.
The game should have been an easy win for Sterling at this point. However, as I will show in my next post on this game, Sterling bungled the win and prevailed only after a later collapse by Mortimer.