Similar to what occurred in my game vs. GM Walter Browne, I was able to successfully prepare the opening prior to the game. I determined that Yermolinsky was likely to play 1. d4 and that we would therefore end up in a Slav Defense. The Geller Gambit (5. e4 in the main line Slav progression) seemed to suit Yermolinsky's style, especially in a simul, and he had played it before. This swashbuckling gambit line is White's primary choice for aggressive play, at least in the main lines of the Slav, and Black has to know it cold. However, if Black rides it out, he gets a middlegame position which is at least equal and contains no real dangers.
My primary source for opening preparation was Graham Burgess' entertaining and thorough book The Slav, published by Gambit in 2001. This has been an essential opening reference for me ever since, although it demands effort from the reader, since it focuses more on being a comprehensive theoretical treatment of the opening rather than on demonstrating basic concepts. However, its depth and the author's ability to convey in words his assessment of various lines and approaches make it accessible for my opening study methods.
When preparing the opening, although I certainly made the effort to memorize the moves themselves, what really helped my ability to then play them over-the-board was reviewing and memorizing the concepts behind them. The Geller Gambit for Black can be broken down into a series of mini-operations from move 8 onward:
- After 8 axb4, exchange off the White knight on c3 first in order to be able to recapture with the b-pawn
- Develop the light-squared bishop to b7 after Ng5, seizing the long diagonal
- g6 is the obvious (and only) defensive move after Qh5
- After the White queen retreats, hit the knight on g5 with Be7, then bring out Nd7
- When White opposes his bishop on the long diagonal, move Qc8 to protect b7 rather than exchanging
- Castle and then play f5 to exchange down material
With this game, I was pleased that the opening preparation had worked so well, although I was disappointed with the final result, which was due to my lack of endgame knowledge. That said, the valuable lesson about the effects of endgame simplification is something that will stay with me.