March 2011

I  had White in this game, played against 1666 rated player. He didn’t play well the last half year, had before 1800+ rating. It was Caro-Kann, Fantasy variation, here is the game.  After I played 6. Bd3 I noticed that I can lose a pawn after 6.  …  dxe4 7.  fxe4 Nxe4 8. Bxe4 Qh4+, though Fritz says that Black’s advantage is minimal here . He didn’t see it.

I didn’t play e5 after his c5 and it lead to exchanges. Then I had a plan with moving “f” pawn, but his Rd6 kind of prevented it because on my f5 he could play e5 and I couldn’t play f6.

After 29 moves I got annoyed with this boring, half-defensive play and decided to play f5. I planned to play Qe8+ and Re1 if exf5, and gxf5 just seemed risky for him. We both had about 25 minutes left. Nevertheless he played gxf5. His Qd5 took the square e5 from my queen and I noticed that Qe3 is answered by e5 and then rook goes to g6. I had to move my queen to avoid exchange after Qe1+and played Qa6. In a few moves the rooks were exchanged and he, probably seeing perpetual Qd8+, Qg5+,  played f4. After I took h7 pawn he decided to go for perpetual himself and offered a draw. We both had about 15 minutes left.

Not a very good play, but I think not as bad as I played before.

My opponent on Monday was an expert, couple of years ago he even shortly reached 2200. It was I think the first time when I was outplayed in the opening in my favorite Rossolimo variation of Sicilian.  He said after the game that he successfully played a few times against this variation (with e6), even saw DVD.  Anyway, I  am White, here is the game.

I missed his f5,  saw it when it was late to prevent and my troubles started from there. Then useless move Ne4, I didn’t see that I can’t take on c5 after d5 because of d4. I felt like my queen couldn’t move to d2 because of Rxf3 and to e2 because of Nf4. I tried to find some counterplay, but d4 was a very bad idea. I saw Rxf2 as soon as I played Kg1 and the game was effectively over after that.

He pointed after the game to Qe2 move, yes it’s move 6 in the main line for White. I used that idea successfully 9 months ago against Sicilian 2… e6, but completely forgot about it. I saw Caruana’s game, he after Be3 played Nd2,  with f4 being a possibility, though never played it ( f5 wasn’t played either).

I played yesterday, had White, my opponent was the guy I knew, beat him a couple of years ago. He plays in every tournament in 100km radius from Toronto  (not counting the club).

I expected Ruy, here it was and I went for Zaitsev variation, here is the game. I played it a month and a half ago, lost a won game. He moved fast, then after his 12. Nf1 I saw that I can win a pawn. OK, I exchanged on d4 and took his e4 pawn.  I was very pleased at that point, imagining how well I can proceed having this advantage. Suddenly he sacrificed the bishop on f7 and yep… everything is not that  easy. Interesting that the book doesn’t think that taking “e4” pawn is a good idea and prefers Na5. I soon realized why is that, I just want to say that it was like a bad carma. OK,  he got the pawn back, but also I saw some nasty threats like Nf7+ with a royal fork. I finally found 16. Qe7, then it all looked simpler after his Ng3 and following exchange, but funnily in all shootouts I ran from this point or it’s a draw or White wins.

I think somewhere from move 23-24 I also started to get behind on time. I thought a lot how to take on c5, seeing that Nxc5 allows his queen to get to c6, but dxc5 gives him open vertical for attacking my queen and square e5 for the knight. I finally decided on Nc5 and after the game regretted it, thinking that dxc5 was risky, but better. But Fritz doesn’t agree, giving him ~0.7 advantage even in this case. This position is  damned, with practically extra pawn I have disadvantage. Though I didn’t see Qa8+, Fritz thinks Nf6 was still the best move.

After 32. Ne8 my position started to deteriorate. After losing a second pawn I realized that I will probably lose. Fritz still gives some strange variation 34… Nf6 … with me being -1 only. I need to mention that I was already very low on time, it even reminded me the previous game. He had about 25 minutes more than me. After rook exchange I went into Q+N vs Q+B endgame with him having a passed pawn. It was hopeless, of course. I stopped writing the moves after I went under 5 minutes. He won my h6 pawn, and then advanced his “g” pawn, creating mate threats. In the end he won my knight and I resigned.

I can’t even say how upset I was, losing 4th time in the last 5 games (though 2 times I played against essentially higher rated). I thought even about not playing OTB at all.

I am more calm today. I just read that Zaitsev is a super-sharp variation. Jeremy Silman  in one of his book reviews says: “Zaitsev, a dynamic line that often leads to some of the most complicated and insane positions ever seen”. I think this is exactly what happened in this game and I definitely was not ready for that. Silman thinks that non-masters shouldn’t play Zaitsev because of complexity, too much memorization and possible tactical meltdown, comparing it with driving Formula 1 car by non-professional driver.

I don’t know, I like it, but … we all like racing cars :). I actually regretted I didn’t play Marshall, I would probably get a better result. I saw he played it once with Black and lost pretty quickly, maybe with White it would be similar.

Sounds strange, right? You will see. I played on Monday, my opponent was former Canadian women’s champion (twice), WIM.  I know her well,  she taught my kids.

I had White, here is the game. She played French, her favorite, I went for Tarrasch, that’s what I play against French. We went along main line and then on move 10 she played second choice move I wasn’t familiar with. The line ended up with a move 14. O-O (though Fritz says 17. Nf3 was the last book move) that lead to a draw between 2 experts, so I guess I was OK after the opening.

My troubles started I think after 15. Ng3, when I didn’t find Be3. I have to say that all the time I was worried about exchange sacrifice on f3 which never happened (maybe exactly for the same reason). Fritz didn’t like my next 2 moves, anyway I found myself on the defensive side, not being able to get any active play.

Now if we return to the title of the post – she was in a such time trouble all the time that I saw probably just once in my life when the guy didn’t make his 30th move in time. After 20-something moves I had 1 hour left, she – 30 minutes. She was thinking heavily on every move. Her attack was becoming more and more aggressive, and her time was shrinking, it was 15 vs 45, 10 vs 35, 5 vs 30,…. I was sure that she will lose on time and because of the following:

– in the beginning my clock probably stopped a few times (when I noticed it once I  restarted it, maybe in total it was 6-8 minutes)

–  I didn’t feel comfortable winning on time sitting under attack and being worse, it was like I didn’t deserve it

– there was a slight chance of getting mated

I thought about offering a draw. When the flag started to go up (I don’t know how much time it is, maybe 2 minutes, I hate these old clocks), it was around move 30, maybe earlier, just before queens exchange, not sure, I offered a draw. You know – she refused! I said – OK.

She started to play faster, still writing the moves in my time. The attack continued, with all her pieces targeting my king. My last chance was, I think, nice 35. Ba2 found by Fritz. Eventually I got under the pin and then she also created a threat of Rxg2 – the mill. She was still somehow finding good moves, I couldn’t understand how. I didn’t see how I could defend, seeing Rxc6, of course, but thinking that after that I will also lose a pinned knight. I played Kh2,  Fritz found a better line, losing an exchange, anyway it was bad.   After that I still had a little hope that I will escape on time, but not so. It was a matter of technique. My time also went down and I stopped writing the moves being under 5 minutes.

Her flag was in 9-o-clock position when I resigned being one move away from checkmate. That was highest level of play in very limited time I ever encountered playing OTB.

I am still upset after yesterday’s game, here it is. My opponent  was a friendly guy I knew, but never played before. He was one of the opponents I expected and I knew he plays  Modern defense, but I didn’t have time to prepare. By the way I recently lost a game against it. So I played a line, where Black after 7… e5  has ~92% score. My novelty 8.Na3 was criticized by Fritz too. But his 8… Ng4 wasn’t good and I got some advantage.

Then I saw that I can sacrifice a bishop for 2 pawns and after his forced knight’ retreat fork him and get an exchange. So it was material equality – R+2P for B+N, but I thought that my rook will be stronger, since his pieces weren’t well placed. It was right.  Also I got psychological advantage. I was attacking from that point, not defending as before.

By move 31 I got real positional advantage. I think the critical moment was when I didn’t play 33. R1d6 as I first intended. I thought that he can play 33. Nc8, but Fritz noticed that after 34…Bd1 he loses his queen. After that I saw that I can win his “a” pawn, but decided that I have to do something more drastic.

I have to say that most of the game he had 10-15 minutes more than me. After his Nd5 and following exchange I started to feel not comfortable, sensing that my advantage went away, though Fritz says I still had it after queens exchange. I also felt that my rook doesn’t have a stable position. 42… Rd6 was a bad move and then having 10 minutes vs. his 16, I made a blunder. I saw right away that he has Bc5 and he played it. I resigned.

Some lessons learned from this game:

– if you have advantage you have to finish off you opponent the sooner the better and you must look for tactics that will let you do that

– Qf2, Kg1 is not a good combination, it creates a pin motif. Just moving king to h1 at some point would allow to avoid that lethal blow in the time trouble. Play safe.

My opponent yesterday had about the same rating as me and had White. It was 5th time I played Anglo-Grunfeld ( -2,+1, =1), last game a draw against expert, but I don’t remember when I was last time so badly outplayed in any opening. Here is the game.

My 6… e5 was a novelty and not a good one. He prevented my castle after Ba3 and created a strong pressure. He missed a couple of opportunities, we both saw the best moves  – d4, f5, but played them later than it was necessary. Finally I gave up a pawn and released pressure. I saw that the rooks exchange was practically forced. He missed the last opportunity to keep the advantage when played 24. Qc4 instead of 24.Qb4. When we exchanged the bishops I saw that if he tries to win material I will have perpetual. That actually happened and I forced the draw.

Frankly, I was very happy with the draw after such a siege and I have to admit that the guy played very well, thinking a lot and finding good attacking moves. But he didn’t deliver the final blow and that allowed me to escape.

My opponent yesterday was exactly the person I expected, expert from the top of my section. But the opening wasn’t what I had prepared, he played King’s gambit instead of Trompovsky attack, here is the game. It was a first time I played OTB against King’s gambit, I realized that he wants to crush me and decided to play Nimzowitsch countergambit, I played it blitz lately with good results. I was feeling well after the opening, thought I was somewhat better. Fritz confirmed that and said that I missed a good move 17… Qb5, winning a pawn and getting ~1.8 advantage.

Suddenly he sacrificed an exchange on e4. It was actually unsound combination, in all lines I was getting that extra piece that he won back and was up an exchange. I didn’t fully use his mistake missing again 21… Qb5 and the position was rather equal with me having 0.5 advantage, but my weak pawns and solid placement of his pieces would probably lead to a draw.

Then I made two mistakes in a row, first missing his attack of g7 pawn and then giving it up in hope to create threats to his king. The last one proved to be fatal, I never recovered from it. His “f” pawn became very strong, it was supported by all the pieces including his king. My bishop was out of play. By the way Fritz’s  estimation of 41. Nf5 as 0.00 is probably a bug, because if  I run analysis from this point I get something like 9.00. I noticed that I have only 3.5 minutes remaining and stopped writing the moves. When we both had a bit more than 2 minutes each I resigned seeing mate in 1.

Of course I was disappointed, because when I was up an exchange I thought I was going to win. I overestimated my chances, as I said before it was probably a draw and then thought too much about h5, activating my bishop and defending my passed pawn. I forgot that my opponent also can have some plans and that he won’t go down easy.