The curious case of Dan Liu

Dan Liu was an expert-rated chessplayer in North Carolina when I was an expert in North Carolina. We played seven times. In five of the games we tried to decapitate each other, with material imbalances and some kooky tactics.

All seven games were drawn.

Here’s one: 

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 dxe5 6.fxe5 Bf5 7.Nc3 e6 8.Be3 Nc6 9.Nf3 Bg4 10.Be2 Bxf3 11.Bxf3 Nxc4
12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Qa4 Nxe3 14.Qxc6+ Ke7  15.d5 [See diagram]

i) Yes, I was out of book on move 9.
ii) Yes, when I chose 11.Bxf3 I saw what I was committing to.
iii) Yes, this is how I played in college.
iv) No, this line isn’t objectively sound for white.

As Robin Cunningham later enlightened me, Dan and a friend had previously examined this sac in some depth  and even queried Larry Evans, who answered their theoretical question in Chess Life.

Alas, in my ignorance – I was making this whole thing up OTB, in typical fashion – I played a move (d5) that seemed forced to me but was apparently a TN (er, well, at least not addressed in the Evans column or their analysis).

Dan essentially refuted the idea but then got spooked and gave the piece back to get to a queenless pawn-up endgame, which I held with a little luck.

Those are the kinds of draws Dan and I played.