September 2011

My opponent yesterday was a master, I never played him before. I had White and he played Sicilian d6. It transformed into Rossolimo, here is the game. He played an early f5 and it put me on the defensive right away. I started to have problems with placing my pieces, though Houdini says I was alright even after exchange on f6. I think gxf6 was a bold move, since the attack is stronger on “g” vertical, than on “f” one.

14. Qe3 wasn’t  a very good move, still I could play. The move that lost the game was the next one, 15. Qg3. I told him that right after the game and computer confirmed that, except I do not believe that it is ~ -1. I don’t think you can save the arising position against a master. So, I got under strong attack and was down a pawn. I knew that I do not have any chance, just didn’t want to lose in 16 moves. So I resisted for a while. After he played e4, I thought for a while, than took my pawn, intending to capture and realized right away that I will lose the bishop. I didn’t make the move and resigned.

I played a similar game half a year ago with an expert. It was almost the same pawn structure, he also played f5 and attacked on the kingside.  I lost. I think that I have to find an antidote to this Black’s plan, if I want to continue playing Rossolimo against high rated opponents.

I predicted my opponent right, it was a young guy to whom I lost with Black 3.5 months ago. This time I had White, I knew it will be Sicilian 2… d6, and so it was, here is the game. I played Moscow variation and after Bxd7+ he replied 4… Nxd7. I don’t think it’s a good continuation, if Nd7 instead of 3… Bd7 – yes, it is very sharp and interesting, but now … it’s just that the knight is placed much better on c6, I think. Then when he played e5, I thought that I can take control of “d” line and threaten Nxe5. After Qb6 the natural move would be Be3, but I didn’t like Qb4, maybe because it attacked “e4” pawn, though simple a3 would force the queen to go away.  I ran engines shootouts from that point and the result was 3.5:0.5.

My plan with Nd5 suddenly was rebuffed by Qc4 and I realized that he equalizes easily. I remembered right away how in the past I would get upset and play worse after losing advantage, so I told myself: “I don’t care it’s a win or a draw or whatever, I just play for the best possible result in this situation”. It worked. His “f5” looked dangerous, but actually I think it’s just distracted him from the right plan with exchanging the rooks on “d” line and getting control of it afterwards.

He spent a lot of time starting from the opening, so I had at least twice more time. It was probably a factor, also the position looked pretty equal when he offered me a draw. I wanted to get revenge,  I had a loss in the first round and also I thought that his knight and bishop are not well placed, especially knight, so all together … I said: “I would play more”. He said: “I would probably do that too…”.

I had a strange case of blindness after 26. Kf2. I suddenly thought that he can take on e3 with a rook and then skewer me with the bishop on g5. I got chills for 15-20 seconds, then I realized that my knight on h3 controls g5.

I think he consciously started to play for a draw, exchanging the rooks and then trying to exchange the pawns on the queenside. After 29… a5 he probably thought he succeeded, because he offered a draw again. I almost said yes, saying: “Just a minute” and suddenly I saw that I win a pawn. I realized soon that he will get the pawn back, but I got a plan with the pawn distracting his king while my king penetrates into his territory. It started to look like a win and it was one.

Yesterday Nigel Short came to our club. He was number 3, played with Kasparov for the world championship and even now is in top 50 with a decent rating of 2698. First it was a lecture, I was a few minutes late because of the bad traffic and didn’t hear with whom was the game GM Short was commenting on. There were a few interesting moments in the middlegame, but it was the endgame –  B vs. N that was simply fascinating. His deep positional play plus sudden tactical decisions on the board and in the calculated lines were not on another level, they were from another world, I even shook my head a few times. He looked good,  English gentleman, very funny and entertaining.

Then the simul finally starts. He plays 1.e4, as on at least all the boards around me. I play 1… e5, as always and I am a bit surprised to get 3. Bc4, here is the game. OK, so I play 3… Bc5, Italian and look with a bit of jealousy on the board like 3 boards on the right where I see Ruy Lopez. This feeling gets stronger when he plays 4. b4 – Evans gambit. I studied it a lot when I was young and I know how dangerous it can be in a good hands. I know one “quiet” variation – 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Be7  – I played it once against 200+ higher rated about 3 years ago and managed to draw:

I think now, that 6… Nf6 that I played in that game would give me better chances, than first choice 6… Na5 that I played here. After 6… Na5 my opening knowledge ends and I start to play myself.  It is OK until I, being afraid of Qa4+ with following d5, play 10… Bd7. I think this move loses the game. Of course I had to play Nf6 instead, I wanted it, thought I couldn’t do it. I didn’t see that the knight and the queen together protect d5 square, so d4-d5 is not possible. After Re1 I realize that I can’t play Nf6 because of Ba3 and decide that I have to castle queenside, though I see that the lines there are open and I will definitely get under attack.

I didn’t mention that soon after simul started they began to set aside the tables  for casual chess (because all the regular ones were in the circle for the simul). It created some noise, that I didn’t like. Then some people started to play blitz. It really got me mad, hearing clocks noise when GM Short plays Evans gambit against me and I try to survive. I get up and say to one of the organizers my opinion about that, no reaction. Then, maybe in 6-7 minutes, I get up again and talk to the president of the club and his assistant, saying that it is not possible. I look angry at this time. No action follows anyway. Then Short makes a pause and looks in the direction of those tables. He continues, then makes another pause and looks again, he is not happy. The organizers finally come to the players and ask them to move to another room. The space clears soon, I calm down (I think), it is around move 9 or 10. I regret it now, that I got angry and showed it, and it didn’t do any good to me. Still I think it was very disrespectful to play blitz, I would throw these people on the street, not move to another room and I don’t understand why the organizers thought that a bunch of morons that paid 5 bucks is more important than members of the club (mostly) that paid 30 bucks and came especially to play super-elite GM Short, even from this point of view.

I don’t know how much what I described above affects my move 12… O-O-O instead of Nc6, which I considered too. He plays Re5, it’s a trivial fork. My first reaction is embarrassment, I think that  I will be the first to lose the game, though there are quite a few patzers here. Then I see Bb4 and think that I have some chances and will continue to play. The first person resigns, then the guy rated 2000+, so I feel better. Soon I see that he can get another piece for his rook after 16. Nb5 Bxb5 17. Bxb5 Kxa7 18. Qa4+, but he plays even stronger and after thinking about 5 seconds just sacrifices the rook on b2. I have to take, then another rook sacrifice on a5 follows, I can’t take because of the mate. I resist a few more moves, just to get more than 20 and see another few people resigning. When I am about to lose my queen, I resign. I ask for the autograph and he signs the scoresheet.

I walk around, practically everybody remaining stands worse, amazing. Today I learned about the final result – +29, -1, =2, impressive. By the way that guy with Ruy Lopez was the one who won.

I just confirmed with the engines, that Bd7 was the game-losing move. 2 draws after Nf6 and 2 losses after Bd7, both times Black forced to castle queenside and that’s it.

My guess about my possible opponent was right, so his 1. b3  (here is the game) wasn’t surprise to me. I had one Nimzo-Larsen before, at Canadian Open, when I drew with 2000+ WCM, so the experience was good. I came to this game having 6 losses in a row, it’s a record I think, and though four of them were against 2000+ rated players, still… There were 2 things that I mixed up about my opponent – first I thought he is rated  1600+ and second, that I played with him last season and painfully lost, blundering in a better position in time trouble. It seemed very strange to me, that he played very slowly, the  first time he played embarrassingly fast. It looked like another person, and I found out later it was. 🙂

Anyway, I got an advantage in the opening. Then his coming c4 kind of slowed me down, but I thought that e4 in this situation will be good and it was. It was an inertia, I think, that I continued to think about my hanging pieces and didn’t see that I can take on d4 with a bishop and win a pawn. I wasn’t afraid of his queenside pawns and started to prepare the attack on the kingside.

At some moment the position became “Marshall-like”, with this h2-g3-f2 pawn structure and no pieces defending the kingside. I didn’t get good results OTB with Marshall and stopped playing it, and now here I get something like another chance.

OK, so I started to play this position accordingly.  f4, f5 to open the “f” vertical was typical. Here the same inertia caused me to miss Bf3 after his Qc2. Of course I thought about mate on g2 before, but then when I realized that his queen can come to the rescue, I concentrated on opening “f” line and forgot about g2.  h5 was taken from Ivanchuk’s or Aronian’s Marshall game. I was thinking about typical (for Marshall attack) Bxg3 sacrifice and his 27. Ne2 gave me the necessary tempo for that.  I calculated until seeing Bd1+, winning the queen. I had to slow down first when I played Kh7  (thanks to h5) and after Bd1+, feeling that there is something and it was a mate on f4. Interesting, that after 29… Bxh2+ there was a mate in 8. I looked at Bxh2+, but it seemed that the king was escaping.

First I thought that it happened with me for the first time, but no, I remembered this post:

I resigned there, though later I found out I could win. I even said that it’s good it was online blitz, not OTB. This time it was OTB, I played with the guy I played the first round of Canadian Open and drew in 80 moves.  He remembered it and we talked a bit about CO. So, I had Black  again, this time it was Ruy Lopez, here is the game. He chose Exchange variation, I think I have a 1.5:0.5 score in it with Black, never played it with White. After we exchanged the queens, the game started to remind me the first game, the same pure positional play.

I wasn’t sure I archived a good positioning of my pieces in the opening, but after knights exchange and his rook going to f5 I had a feeling that I improved it. Then I got an idea of catching his rook, it was naive probably, but when his rook got stuck at f4 I thought that I can use it and I am essentially better. I was too optimistic, forgetting that my rook also can’t leave the 5th line because of e5 and also not seeing his Ng6, supporting e5 too. So, this overestimation lead to the pawn movement on the queenside, which I regretted later, since it just created weaknesses.

After e5 he successfully untangled his rook and I realized that my king is not in a good position because of the constant mate thread. It forced me to exchange the rooks, though I thought that I am going to have a tough endgame. The engines are OK with this exchange and look pretty optimistically at this endgame. Nevertheless soon I got a bad feeling that my bishop became not so good as it was. After his king went to the kingside I saw that I am losing the “a” pawn. With the addition of  “e5” passed pawn my position looked hopeless. I still had about 12 minutes (with 30 seconds increment), but I decided not to prolong my suffering and resigned. After the game my only thought was where I let him go.

When I came home and started to run the game through Houdini I couldn’t believe my eyes when it said 0.14. The thing is I didn’t see that his last move lets me to play Ke7, Bf7, Ke6 and then take his “e5” pawn. Without support of this pawn his knight can’t defend “h5” pawn anymore, and after following exchange of the “h” pawns his  remaining “a” and “c” pawns vs. my “c” pawns are not enough for a win. Unbelievable.

I also found out, that my advantage in the middlegame wasn’t worth much, just ~0.3. Of course I had good chances for a draw, even in the endgame his 2 last moves gave me this opportunity, which I didn’t use.

It was a strange opening of the season in the club. First I was paired with a master, with whom I have a 0:3 score. So, I prepared to “die with a music” , even started the clock, then he came and said that he can’t play tonight (he is TD by the way), but there is a guy who got a bye,  so he can. So, instead of the number 1 in the list I get number 24. I feel much better. It’s a boy, we finally start the game. I have White and it’s a Ruy Lopez, Keres variation, here is the game.  I played this variation twice before (2 wins), his 12… Bf6 gets me to the unfamiliar territory.

I realize that d5 will restrict  his knights and bishop and play it. Then I gradually prepare attack on the kingside. After 19. Nh5 Be7 I think about Nxg7, but feel that it is premature. I decide to get ready on the “g” file before that. Then, after f6, I feel that the moment has come and play Nxg7.  Houdini prefers quiet Ng3 with a good positional pressure. He plays Kf7, I feel that it’s a bad move, but don’t see g5!  and play it one move later, when the effect is not the same at all. Anyway, I think that I have a very strong attack. I defend h3, then double my rooks, thinking that it prevents Rg8 (?). I have 48 minutes left and for some reason get a bit nervous, like “it’s taking too much time”. Then he plays unthinkable Rg8. I think that he blundered, he looks a bit confused. I take on g8 and frankly expect that he will resign. Suddenly he quickly takes on h3 and right away shakes my hand (kids like to do it when they win). I see that I got mated.

This is a first time in 4 years playing OTB (after a very long break), that I blundered a mate in 1. It was once that I didn’t mate my opponent in one move, I won anyway. After coming home, I find that all the positions after Nxg7 evaluated by me as at least +3 the three different engines  – Crafty, Fritz and Houdini consider almost equal. I don’t remember the case when I was so wrong.

I don’t know what to make out of it. Of course, there was psychological moment: I thought that I was winning, the guy looked completely lost and his “blunder” was typical for these situations. I actually don’t remember ever getting into a trap, so it mattered too, no experience. I underestimated the guy too, he had 1900 performance rating at Canadian Open, drawing and beating quite a few 1700-1800 guys. Also, that nervousness about the time, I should never get it to affect my play, better lose on time.

Still, if I compare it with what I do – programming, it is not possible that having many years of experience you will write something stupid in your program, forgetting the basics and that’s what I did here. Unbelievable. I remember now that famous video with Kasparov after the game with Anand, how he shakes his head and makes faces, now I can understand it very well.