May 2016

I played these games on two consecutive Thursdays, one game was a last round, another – first.

The first game was with a 1800 rated guy, I have a positive score with him, last time I had a draw with him with Black in Giuoco Piano 4 months ago.

This time I had Black again, he played Vienna Game which transposed into Giuoco Pianissimo. It was quiet and equal until I played 26… e3.  His move 28. Kf1 was a big mistake. I could play 28… c5! and was winning in both lines – 29. Rd3 e2+ or 29. bxc6 Bxc4+ 30. Ke1 Rxc6. Unfortunately I didn’t see it. He also missed some possibilities, one of them was 33. d6.

We then went into a rook endgame, where I relied on my rook being active. It worked, not without his help with 51. b5, though the position after 51. Rf7 Ra2 52. Kb3 Rd2 53. Rxf3 Rxd6 was a draw anyway.

The second game was also with Black, it was an old enemy to whom I lost a few times with one draw. It was Giuoco Pianissimo, after first 12 moves I started to feel that I have an advantage. He was carefully defending. I considered 22… Nf4+, but didn’t see a clear win and played Qf6. Computer says that Nf4+ was sound, but it was only a draw after 22… Nf4+ 23. gxf4 exf4 24. Qf2 Rg6+ 25 Kh1 Re3 (an important move, which I didn’t see), 26. Qh2 Rxe1 27. Rxe1 Rg3 28. Qf2 Qh3+ 29. Qh2 Qf5 30. Qf2.

He offered queens exchange by playing 23. Qg5. I didn’t quite like the arising endgame and played 23… Qf7. There were two traps hidden behind this move – one obvious if he would take on h5 and another, less obvious, counting on him not moving his queen and playing for example Nb3.

Then 24… Nf4+ was winning his queen after 25. gxf4 Rg6 or trapping it after 25. Kh2 Rg6. It looks very similar to the trap, into which Karjakin fell recently in the game with Giri at the Vugar Gashimov Memorial.  He was in the time trouble of course, my opponent wasn’t, so it seems me he saw it and played 24. Qe3.

At that moment I had about 12 minutes left, he had 14. I looked at the position and didn’t see what else I could do, so decided to repeat the moves. He followed and we agreed to a draw.

I played this game two weeks ago, my opponent was a guy with whom I played quite a few games, winning them all except losing one while being in a very bad shape. I had Black, Ruy Lopez, I don’t remember anybody playing Nc3 against me, but I played the right moves.

After his 8. 0-0 I decided to get two bishops. Computer gives me only half a pawn advantage after 16… b4, I was feeling that it is more. I started the counter-attack with 20… f5, 21… gxf5 was better than Rxf5. I had to play g5 already on move 39 or every next one until 43 when I finally played it, but I thought it was not possible until I saw that I can support it with the bishop on c8.

45… hxg4 was a mistake, I had to play 45… Rf2. I saw it, but as I remember wondered what would I do after 46. Rxf7 Rxf7 47. Qd1 , not seeing that the bishop can return to b7  making White’s position indefensible. In a few moves I made another mistake, not playing Rxf1+.

Anyway, we went into an endgame with me being two pawns up. I think at that moment the best would be to exchange my bishop for his knight on move 55, but I wanted to keep two bishops. The thing is, I had 3 times less time than him and B vs B endgame was still won, but it was much more simple than 2B vs. B+N.

61… b3 was winning, I didn’t see it. Then after 65. Bb6 I saw of course Bd4, but thought that he could draw with the opposite-squared bishops after 65… Nxd4 66. cxd4. Of course it was a win for Black. It became close to a draw, still he made a few mistakes giving me a chance to win, I didn’t use them. The last one was 71. Ke4, after that a pawn sacrifice b3 was winning, because then after 72. Nxb3 Bc4 73. Nc1 Bd2 the knight got caught.

I only can say that I was playing on the increment, having at one moment 9 seconds left on the clock. So the game finished with a draw, that was very disappointing.

I got an expected opponent on Thursday – girl rated ~1750 and she played the expected Four Knights, Scotch variation. I prepared for the game and learned the first 10 moves of the mainline. I played before 3 OTB games with this variation, =2, -1.

I played my 10 moves, then was on my own. Now I would probably put the bishop on b7, not on e6, but during the game I thought that I can get a play on “b” vertical, though never did. After 14. Re1 I realized that her goal was probably not to take on e6, but to play Nh5. I planned to reply f5 and that’s what happened. On move 18 I suddenly got worried that she could play 18. Rxe6 and then 19. Bxf5, but a calm answer 18… g6 leaves Black with  a queen for a rook and a bishop.

After 22 moves I started to think that I can intercept the initiative. Computer recommends d4 without c4, but still it is only a few tenths of a pawn for Black maximum in any line. 29… Rd6 could end up with advantage for White after 30. Qa8+, instead tricky 29… Qc7 was giving Black an equality.

Around move 35 she offered a draw, I refused. We eventually exchanged the rooks and the queens. I don’t know what I was counting on in that two bishops endgame, it was absolutely equal. she just had a few minutes less and we both got under 5 minutes. I continued to play, probably waiting for a blunder, but actually did it myself, getting under a skewer and losing my “a” pawn. Then she won my lone “h” pawn with her king and bishop. The only thing that could save me was the fact that her “a” pawn’s queening square was a light one and remaining bishops were dark-colored. Here is the critical position as I remember it. To my delight she played f6 and I took her pawn right away. Then I just moved my king to the corner. She didn’t know that ending and tried to win somehow, but eventually realized that there is no win and agreed to a draw.

One guy told me after the game that it is a draw already in the position on the diagram, but Nalimov database says it is a win for White in 20+ moves. Fritz finds a win with a deep enough ply depth. The idea is to push out the black bishop from the a1-h8 diagonal, then after pawn advances to f7 take control with the king over the short f8-h6 diagonal.

So, I definitely overpressed and tried too hard, the reasonable thing to do was to offer a draw somewhere around move 40.

In the last round I expected to have Black against the expert, instead I got White against one of the leaders. The guy who I thought was rated ~1870 managed to beat two experts, only at home I found out that he is rated 200 lower. He chose French and soon I noticed that he is spending time on the opening moves while I moved right away, having played this variation quite a few times. After his 10… Nb4 I got a good feeling about the game, which became stronger after his 11… Na6. I spent some time thinking about 13. Nf4, but then decided that he can just castle and played usual exf6.

After he played 18.. Ne8 I knew that I have to act on that,  computer recommends Nf4 here. When I saw 21. Qh5 I realized that this is a critical moment of the game. I considered two replies – g6 and h6.

On g6 I planned 22. Nxg6 Nxe3 23. Nxe7 and there is a mate coming, but I didn’t consider 22. Rf7. White is still winning after 23. Ne5 Rg7 24. Bxc4 dxc4 25. f5 . I also saw 22. Bxg6 and wanted to make a final decision after his move. 22. Bxg6 wins on the spot after 22… Rf7 23. Bxf7, as well as after 22… hxg6 23. Qxg6+ Kh8 24. Nh5 . My reply to h6 was of course Qg6 and that’s what happened.

After 23… Rf5 I felt that I can’t afford another big thinking due to my time left and exchanged queens. Computer criticizes me for that, saying that 24. Nh5 was crushing, with 24… Kf8 25. Bxf5 Bh4 26. Bxe6+ Ke7 27. Rf7+ Kd8 28. Rf8+ Kc7 29. Rc1+ Qc6 Bxd7. In the line 24… Bf8  he loses after 25. Nf6+.

I played 26. Rc1 to not give him any chances and captured f5 pawn later anyway. It became technical, there was a funny moment when after I played 41. a4 I realized that I blundered a pawn, but immediately saw that I get Rc8+ , computer doesn’t like 41… Rxa4. After 45. Rcc7 he resigned.