My opponent was a boy, I drew with him 2.5 years ago. I had Black, we played the same variation of Italian game. I knew that White has some activity as a compensation for an isolated pawn, so I need to be careful.

The most interesting moment of the game occurred after his 29. f3, which was a mistake. He could play b4 with an equal position. I immediately saw c5 and played it. After his Qe4 I considered Qb3, but after some thinking decided that he can play  31. Rd3 Qxb2 32. d5 which I thought was giving him some chances. Actually it was a chance for me to win. In another line that Fritz gives – 30… Qb3 31. Rd2 cxd4 32. Qd3 Qd5 Black is also better, as well as after 30… Qb3 31. Qd3 Qb6 32. Kf1 Rxd4.

So, we went into a rook ending and I soon realized that I don’t have a chance to win. I also had about 8 minutes left vs. his 15 and offered a draw, which he accepted.

My opponent in the second round was a guy I lost to a year ago after missed tactics, this time it was the other way around. I got White and he played the same French defense variation that I had with a master recently.

In this game I played 6. Bc4 and we soon deviated from the theory. The first sign for me that the game can go my way was when he allowed exchange on c5. I spend some time on 14. Nd4 and played it, thinking that I will keep my advantage in the simplified position. I saw that 19. Nf5 should give me advantage. 19… Bc8 was a bad move, Nf6 was definitely better. After 20… Na5 computer suggests “crazy” Bd5.

22… Nf6 was a crucial mistake. I quickly played Nb6, went around a bit and when I was back, I was really surprised to see Bd7. I thought that it was some kind of a sacrifice to get out of positional pressure and without much thinking took the rook. I was shocked to see at  home that he actually blundered a piece, unless I found an explanation – 23… Rb8 24. Bf4 – crushing. Probably he saw it.

Anyway I would never think that he will blunder a piece, so missed it and got an exchange instead. Now I think that the easiest way to win would be just exchange the rooks and then having pawn majority on the queenside I could just sacrifice exchange back and win. But I thought that with two rooks I would win faster.

Long story short, he managed to activate his pieces and somewhere around move 50 I started to think that I am actually worse and it would be very sad to lose this game. So, I played 53. b5 believing that I should manage to equalize. By the way two shootouts were won by White, exchange is exchange.

53… Kxf4 was a mistake, “a” pawn is much more important than “f”. Then he played 54… Ke3 and I saw 55. Rxf3+ right away. I checked and played it. He resigned after a couple of moves.

This time it was a FIDE Master as I found out when came home. I decided to play Semi-Slav again, though I lost quite a few games with it, just don’t have anything else that could be reliable. This time I think I finally started to feel it and didn’t get into a completely passive position, the price for that was an isolated pawn.

Of course the main line is not 7… h6, but O-O. I didn’t like possible e4, but there is nothing dangerous in it. Until the move 15. Qxb2 we repeated the game played in Russia 16 years ago between two women 2300-2400 rated that ended up in a draw. I equalized after Ne4 and Qf6. Strange that computer doesn’t want to take on e4 – 26. Bx4 dxe4 27. Nxe6 Rxe6 28. Rc8+ Kh7 29. Rc7 and White wins a pawn, leading to a position where White has 4P vs. 2P on the kingside and Black has 2P vs. P on the queenside, evaluating it as only ~0.6 for White.

I kept an equal position between the moves 30 and 50. All shootouts after 50. Ne2 end up in a draw. But then I made a game losing mistake – 50… g5. I tried to defend against Nf4, but it created a weakness on h5 and in some lines a possibility to put the knight on g3.

I forgot that the same defense that allowed me ignore his threat to take on d5 with the knight – 50. Nxd5 Bxd5  51. Kxd5 Kc5 worked also against his threat Nf4. Bishop goes to d5 and then f7 and if Kxe5 then Kc5.

I resisted 14 more moves and lost on time, the game was already over anyway.

It was a first round and I got a master with whom I had =2, -2, all with White. This time again White and French. I knew that on move 6 I had to play Bc4, but didn’t remember how to proceed, so chose 6. Nb3 which is worse.  6… e5 was better than his Nc6, I planned to reply c3 to that, but after 6… e5 7. c3 Nc6 8. cxd4 e4 Black is better.

After exchanges the position became equal, though I thought I was better. He had left 30 minutes vs. my hour when he suddenly offered a draw. I quickly evaluated the position, but after he defended c6 didn’t see anything decisive and agreed.

At home Fritz evaluated it as 0.2, so it was an honest offer and right decision for me.

I knew my opponent a bit, but never played him before. I got White, Ruy Lopez, Deferred Steinitz variation. I remembered about Noah’s Ark Trap and didn’t take on d4 with my queen right away, first playing Bd5. I accumulated some positional by move 30. I criticized after the game his 23… b4, but it is not that bad.

What is a bad is 27… c4, then also 30… Na3 instead of Rc2. Then the crucial mistake is 34… Rcc2 allowing me to me the pawn with two rooks on the board. I ignored his Rxg2 threat seeing that he has nothing there. On move 37 I had a thought to play e7, but then quickly realized that I need to give a check first.

“We all make mistakes, but everyone makes different mistakes” — Ludwig van Beethoven.

It was the same guy I drew with in the last round of the previous tournament. This time I got Black and we played Ruy Lopez. After his 8. h3 instead of usual c3 (I guess he mixed up the order of the moves) I decided to get two bishops. Fritz thinks that after 18… Qc7 I still a bit better, I agree as I kind of felt I have nothing after Nxc1.

I had to take on g3 after his g4, but I didn’t like Qxg3, thinking that he will start to threaten me too. But after Qh6 and Rg6 I was winning his “h” pawn and keeping the attack.  Then I missed 37… Qxh6. I was still better, but I decided that I have to sacrifice a pawn to keep the attack. It was a wrong move.

I was already worse, when I made a mistake that could cost me a game – 45… Rc7. The idea for Black is to play Qf8+, then Qe8, Nf3 and Ng5. The same after 46… Qg6 – Qf8 and Nf3, winning. Luckily he didn’t see it.

Not liking how the game was going I decided to create complications and played 48… a4. It allowed me to intercept the initiative. We both got very little time, eventually under one minute each and played on 30 seconds increment. I think I handled it better and had I thought a winning position. When I played 68… Rb2+ I saw that it is a mate if he plays Ke3 and it was exactly what he did.

It was a first round of a new tournament. I had a long, tiring trip on weekend before, but got some rest at home before the game. My opponent was the same guy I played in the first round of the  previous tournament.

I had White this time and he played Alekhine defense, he did that 4 months ago, I lost then. I went along the standard line this time, though my knowledge didn’t extend beyond the first few moves. Fritz thinks that 12. d5 was better than exd5, for some reason this move didn’t come to my mind. Then I saw the idea of c5, Nxd5, Bc4. He had to play 16… Rd7, after Ng5  I got an advantage. But then his 23. Be6 made probably too strong of an impression on me that his problems are over. Instead of Bxe6 much stronger was fxe5 and eventually I was winning h6 pawn.

But worse than that was my 31. Bxa7 instead of Rf6, which would give me a pawn. In shootouts in half of the games White wins and half is a draw. I could say that at that moment two people who already finished their game were discussing it and distracted me, so I told them about it, but the thing is I didn’t see it at all. It was a crucial moment in the game, as then the quality of my play deteriorated when I got about 15 minutes left and exhaustion finally showed up. I played a “positional” 39. Kf1 move and saw right away that I lose after Rc1+ and Rxc4.


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