This game was played on last Thursday. My opponent was a boy with whom I had a bad score: =1, -3.  I had White, we played Ruy Lopez, he chose Archangelsk variation. I was quite happy how the opening went, he was spending essentially more time than me.

Then the crucial moment came when he played 17… g5. So I got a dilemma: or play Bg3 and after Nh4 get the position that I didn’t like at all or sacrifice the knight on g5. Funny that I didn’t see that Nh4 is not possible because of Nxe5. So, I looked and looked at it and sacrificed the knight. He had to play 19… Qe6 and d5, it was the best defense, still I was better. But he played Kg7, then Nb8.  When I decided to play 22. Bxf6, I saw the check on f5 winning the queen. What I didn’t see was 22. Qf3 followed by Rh3+ and then Qf5,  it was a mate. What let me down is I knew that I have a dangerous attack and can win material, but I had to know that there should be a mate right there.

So, I got that big advantage and of course started to think how good I will feel when I will win this game. Computer has nothing against my plan of playing on the queenside, but prefers to attack g6 pawn and it was my feeling after the game too.

39.  Qg3 was a really bad move, I think my 6 hours of sleep and 9 hours of work eventually showed, I didn’t see Nh5. Then not liking the position of my queen, I made another bad move – 44. d4. I think soon after that he offered a draw, I initially refused, but after 50 moves I didn’t see how I can win and agreed to it. I also had less time than him at that moment. Computer gives me only 0.5 advantage.

These are the words from the song in one good Russian movie. I think I can relate that to what happened in my game on Monday.

I played with an expert to whom I lost 3 times before. But in the last game I missed a simple deflection that was winning the game. This game was somewhat similar, missing a chance due to a time pressure.

He had White, I played Slav again. I think it suits my style, but I definitely should study it more. I think I was OK after the opening, though was feeling some pressure. I spent quite some time thinking how to defend against his 21. Nd6 and computer confirms that f6 was a good idea. Maybe I got tired defending, on the move 31 I blundered a pawn. Then 37… Nh3 was another blunder because I was losing this knight after 38. Re5 Qh6 39. Kg2 and if 39… Ng5 then 40. Qd5. He didn’t see it. After 41. hxg3 I decided to play Nxf4. It was more of an intuitive sacrifice and I had very little, 20-30 seconds, time left. Computer suggests the same move. So after gxf4 I automatically play Rxf4 and it blinked a bit later in my mind that Qh4+ was possible. Of course I had to play Qh4+, winning a rook,  computer says it is still a draw. Though, I am sure how he would react on that strike, also having not much time.

After his 43. Qe3 I missed another strike  - 43… Rxe4 and if  44. Qxe4 then 44… Rf1+, so he has to reply with 44. Qh3+ and I am a pawn up. Looking at this now I am just shaking my head, but at least you can’t require somebody to see this having just seconds left. Instead I made that stupid check on f1, because it seemed to me that I can mate him or win his queen. Of course, nothing like that happened, he forced queens exchange and after some meaningless resistance in the endgame I resigned.

This is from the “Evgeny Onegin” by famous Russian poet Pushkin. Here is the story.

I arrived to the club the first, after 1.5 hours of driving, it was snowing. There were fewer people that evening than usually, so I suspected that I will get somebody from the top. I got it from the very top, number 2, Master (in Canada it’s for life) and rated pretty close – 2175. I thought why I spent so much time and efforts to get to the club, then decided “what the hell”.

He had White and started with Ruy Lopez, quiet Anderssen variation with d3. Then by playing Nc3 he allowed me to get a bishop pair. His 13. Nh2 of course was intended to play f4, so I decided to counterattack in the center. 16. Qe3 was an unpleasant surprise, as I realized that I can’t defend both f6 and d5 squares and either should lose c5 pawn or take on f6 with a pawn after Ng4. I didn’t want the last option and played the line where I kept two bishops. Then after  a few moves I started to like my position more and more and his less and less. I expected Re1 and played the planned Qd6 right away. Little did I know that I am missing the crushing Qg5. He was simply losing after 23… Qg5 24. Qa2 Rc4 25. Ne4 Bxf2+ 26. Kh1 Bxe4 27. dxe4 Bxe1.

The funny thing is that he allowed the same theme on the next move by playing Re2. This time it is Rxc3 that was deciding the game. What can I say? I had more power in my hands than thought. Anyway, the game continued and he equalized, but then again played a passive Nd1 allowing me to play e4. I didn’t see strong 35… Rf8 and he equalized again.

Then my time got really low. When I got less than 4 minutes I stopped writing the moves, because I heard that we are allowed to do that even having the increment. He suddenly said with a not happy face that I have to write the moves. I said OK, because I wasn’t sure, but one of the officials was nearby and confirmed that I don’t have to do that. I think I lost the thread of the game soon. It was clear that my attack disappeared, but I couldn’t switch into a draw mode. The draw was entirely possible. But for some reason I tried to avoid queens exchange and my piece got under some kind of a pin. I eventually found a way to unpin, but my flag fell at that moment.

Unlike my favorite Magnus Carlsen who gets a win by grinding his opponent, in the last two rounds of the tournament after grinding my opponents and having a winning position in the end I got nothing (a draw with a much lower rated opponent).

After I got only 1 point (2 draws and a loss) in the first three rounds, I decided just try to play a good game. I had a +3, =1 score with my opponent, but decided not to take him lightly. He had White and played Queen’s gambit. I wasn’t intimidated by his aggressive g4, but  decided to be careful.  The intention of 10… Nd5 was to close the diagonal, I also considered the knight sacrifice on f7 and thought that Bf6 should be enough to defend. After long thinking he played Nxe6. I am really proud of my 14… N7b6, as Fritz plays the same. Then I found that there are more threats than I thought and his bishops are very dangerous. My exchange sacrifice was planned right after 16… e5, but after my king got on g8 it actually wasn’t necessary, because after 18. Bh5 computer recommends Rh7  with ~-2 evaluation.

I still considered the position after move 21  dangerous and went for the queens exchange. Computer thinks it was a big mistake with my advantage dropping by almost 2 points. I still had some, but my Be7 made the position equal. Soon after rooks exchange he offered a draw, I refused. I was feeling the power of my bishop and knight playing together and decided to try to win. The funniest part started when he lost his pawns. I realized that if he gives up his rook for the pawn I don’t know how to mate with B+N. So I tried not to let him do that. He also had essentially less time, so I could just ignore this idea of rook sacrifice and even with B+N try to pretend that I want to mate him. I didn’t write down my last moves because of the time left being less than 5 minutes. What happened was that with him having a few seconds left I put my bishop, king and knight on one line and after taking the bishop he sacrificed the rook for the knight and declared a draw. He had 3 seconds remaining.

I just realized that he still had to take my pawn, though his king was nearby and probably was able to do it in time. I will add the next game to this post later.

It is exactly how I felt during this game of the first round of the big tournament. The guy got White and we played Queen’s gambit Slav, Exchange variation. I misplayed it and had to go back with my bishop. Still I was OK until I played these bad moves Nh5 and f6. Right after f6 I saw Bc7. He played it and I got into trouble.

Then after Nh4 I thought that I lost the game, that’s how bad it looked. Amazingly he played 20. Bg6 and I saw f5 right away. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Then I  probably played it too safe, computer doesn’t like at all my queens exchange. For the price of the pawn I eventually got all my pieces in play and after 45… Rc4 I felt that I am winning. But the guy was not in  a hurry to agree… My Na3 was the right move, but 49… fxe4 was of course a mistake, g6 was keeping the fort. The same g6 that I played one move later could cost me a game after f5, as it is losing by force due to a two passed pawns and remote knight. He didn’t see it.

The play continued and then he played 54. h4, to which computer puts ?? comment because of Nxe5. Would you believe me if I will say that I considered Nxe5 at least a few times? But it seemed to me that his king gets to the pawns in time. What I didn’t see was that my king after eliminating “b” pawn succeeds in taking “e” pawns too. And the last thing I didn’t see with 8 minutes remaining (no increment) is that I could play 56… h5 and get my king to c6. Still, natural Kxb6 allowed him to get a draw after f5 and my king is too far. So, only careful maneuvering with  a knight and a king wins here. After 58. Kb5 he said it was a 3-fold repetition. I didn’t see a win, so agreed to a draw without even checking the score sheet.

I can only add that the guy played really well later at the tournament and shared a second place with 4/5.

That was a question that I was asking myself on Thursday. I woke up at that day at four something am and after not being able to get back to sleep decided to watch the game 9. I saw the whole thing and then went to work. Physically I felt OK, just sleepy, so after some thought decided that after a little nap at home I could be OK. I expected higher rated opponent, but got this 1777 rated boy and already felt better.

I had White and played again my Moscow variation in Sicilian. It surprised me that he allowed exchange of the dark-colored bishops and I thought that I am getting advantage, Fritz agrees. Fritz also prefers f4 to my h4, I kind of didn’t feel ready to give up e5 after f5, but didn’t see that I can put my knight on e6. On move 21 I decided to sacrifice the pawn on h4, though was surprised again when he took it. I didn’t see a forced win after 25. fxg6 Qxg6 26. Qh3 Rd8  27. Nc7 Rb8 28. Re3 Nf8 29. Rg3 with Qh5 threat. Anyway my attack continued. Then I missed another forced win with 35. Rg3.

Finally I found another attacking resource – passed “d” pawn. He had to exchange queens, but didn’t do it and eventually lost an exchange still being under attack. I started to chase his king, but didn’t see the winning move 47. Qe7+ allowing my rook check or losing rook with a check. I am glad that at least I saw that his check on e3 could be fatal and it was! He was simply mating me. We both were under 5 minutes already. Eventually I prevented all the checks with Qg5 and Rd1 and he resigned.

Yesterday I wasn’t very happy when I learned who will be my opponent. It was an expert to whom I lost rather painfully two years ago, at Canadian Open. But then I decided what the hell… Our game quickly transpired into Semi-Slav Defense. I played a few games recently and had good results in it.

We got the Carlsbad pawn structure, which I studied more than 30 years ago, reading Russian book “How to become a class “A” player”, very systematic and good. The plan is a minority attack (with “f” pawn in this case), that’s why I played Ned6. Also you put a knight on e4. I didn’t like his 20. f3, computer’s evaluation also goes to ~-1 after that. Even less I liked his g4 and decided to use it right away. I got  h5 and f5 ideas from Aronian’s or Ivanchuk’s Marshall attack game.

26. Nf1 was a decisive mistake, computer says it’s ~-5.  I considered 27… Bh3, but saw f4 and played simple Nxf3+, computer agrees. Then I found Bg4! and after careful checking that he gets mated if he takes the bishop, played it. Basically, winning an exchange with his king being “barenaked” meant winning the game, but I tried to be careful, knowing that the guy is very experienced. I found another good move – c5, after which thought that that was it. But he got me worried with Kb4, when I had to move my queen out, still defending my pawn and at the same time preventing check. Computer criticizes my Qh3 giving it only ~-3 and prefers Qg5.  I can only say that I had a bit more than 5 minutes left at that moment.

In the end I saw that I can’t  take the knight right away because of the queen fork and approached my queen by giving checks. After he lost the rook his time ran out, I still had about 3 minutes left.

I was really happy after the game.  A few people watched it and congratulated me (after the guy left), knowing that he is a strong player. My rating went up sharply after the last tournament, maybe it inspired me.

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