September 2010

After suffering a very painful defeat 8 months ago in the club from a 270 lower rated player in French, Steinitz variation:
I didn’t play French OTB at all.
A few days ago I played Steinitz variation in a blitz game:
In this game I didn’t play on the queenside.  I played f6 early and then executed a typical positional exchange sacrifice on f3.  It was Fritz’s first choice, by the way, though Fritz only gave it 0.25.  But after winning the second pawn I was better and then my opponent allowed a combination leading to a royal fork and it was over. That win kind of reminded me about the French. The thing is, I can’t be sure that in response to 1… e5 I would get my Ruy, it can be anything, for example Scotch, in which I lost recently.
So maybe I should resume my French play, alternating it with 1… e5. Maybe I should try different variations or just try to learn on my experience.
Preparing for the yesterday’s game in the club with White  I had a list of 6 possible opponents. Two of them played Keres variation (11. … Nd7)  in closed Ruy  and four – Sicilian, 3 out of 4 – 2… d6. I refreshed a bit my Moscow lines before dealing seriously with Keres variation. I played it with one of them before, guy rated 250 lower at the time and he didn’t play very well. But the second one was 1729 and played it in a few games in the club. So, I looked at DB lines and also at his games. Sure enough, the pairings come and I am playing him. We go along with Ruy, here is the game.  I find myself a bit nervous, making a few mistakes in the scoresheet. I have no ground for that, all goes along the book, then it comes to the point where if I play the natural move 21. Rf1 then there is a perpetual after 21… Bxh3, he got it with 100 higher rated player in the club. I am glad that I know it and I bypass it, making moves that I remember from DB and Fritz analysis of one of his games. We actually follow the book until move 24 where, as I learn it at home, we get into the game of some 2400-2500 played 3 years ago in Sweden. Here he makes a different move – 25… Qd8, by the way after the game I recommended him to take on a7, which happened in that Swedish game.
I saved quite a lot of time, now I start to spend it. I did not get any decisive advantage following the theory (by the way he told me after the game that he has a book “Play 1. e4 e5!” by Nigel Davies, where the author devoted 36 pages to Keres variation), but I kind of like my position. I decide that it’s time to exchange my bishop and consider 27. f6. I don’t find any big advantages of doing it (Fritz confirmed that I have only 0.5 after 27. f6), and play 27. Rf3, considering Ra3 or just being on the 3rd line for kingside attack.  After I triple my major pieces on “a”, I feel that I am essentially better and think that the only way to increase pressure is to play d6, Rc7. He goes for the rooks exchange, I think some time what is better –  Rxb7 or Qxb7.  According to Fritz my choice Rxb7 is wrong and I lose part of my advantage.  Still, I have it, and here he makes the decisive mistake playing g5. I smell that it’s a bad move, and almost instantly play Bd1. Then Bh5 follows, my “Spanish” bishop, which didn’t get any work before, now works full-time. I notice that I can exploit the pin, think about Qc6 or Qe6, and for some reason (I thought the queen on e6 can be attacked ?) having 22 minutes each left, play Qc6. It’s still good enough to force his resignation. I feel like I played a good game.
Interesting that looking at the “Swedish” game at home ( here it is ), I see that it has a very similar ending with major pieces penetrating into the Black’s territory and “Spanish” bishop making a decisive strike from h5, winning Black’s pinned bishop.

Yesterday was a first round of a regular Swiss tournament.
I couldn’t decide until the last moment in which section – 2000+ or U2000 I should play (you can play 100 points up), finally went to U2000. Didn’t feel ready to play every time with masters/experts. I got the guy with whom I played a year ago and won with White in the endgame rather easily. This time I had Black and he played Scotch game, here it is. After queen exchange I thought that I am somewhat worse due to his pawn majority on the kingside (on the queenside I had doubled pawns). It looked like Ruy Lopez exchange, but without me having two bishops. But Fritz thinks that I was OK until move 14, when I moved my bishop to a5 allowing him to get bishop pair.
I didn’t play Bd6 being afraid of f4, but f4 wouldn’t work because of his bishop hanging on e3. I understand now that Black has here some dynamical counterplay.

Then I completely underestimated the strength of his queenside pawn attack thinking that without queen it’s not dangerous. It was, and 19… c5 was a game losing mistake, because after “a” vertical opened and pawn c7 dissappeared, dark-colored bishop became deadly. I lost an exchange and a pawn and could resign right there.
I played another 10 moves and then blundered in already very bad position. I spent about 50 minutes, he about 30. I have to admit that my opponent played well, much better than a year ago. I was extremely upset, today I calmed down a little bit.
A few things can be learned from this game, I’ll finish on that note.