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.