I knew that a big tournament was coming and I had to decide to play or not.
There were a few factors, negative and positive influencing my decision:
– I had an party to attend on Friday night, when the 1st round would be played.
– My rating after Thursdays tournament would drop drastically and I didn’t want to meet a New Year with it.
– I had a feeling that I returning into a good shape.
– A 3 weeks break from chess was coming and I needed to somehow survive that.

So, because it was only one negative factor I just decided to take a bye in the first round and registered 5 minutes before the deadline.

Saturday. I came early to pay the entry fee, just after I did it I saw a familiar face from the Thursdays club. Suddenly he told me: “You know, we were paired on Friday and you didn’t come.” I ran straight to the registration table and had a discussion about it, how it could  happen when I took a bye and got an e-mail with a confirmation. So TD admitted that something went amiss and fixed the standings/pairings. I thanked god that I met that guy before the round started.

Round 2. I got a boy, had White and played Ruy Lopez, he chose Chigorin Defense. Computer doesn’t quite like my 17. f4 because of 17… exf4 18. Bxf4 Nc4, but after 18. fxe5 dxe5 it is equal. I maneuvered and got about 0.7 advantage after 25 moves, but then it slipped away. Then again he made a mistake by playing 28… Nxc4, I could play 30. a4 with advantage. The crucial moment came  when I managed to play 37. c4. Instead of playing 38… Qe7 he allowed me to advance the “c” pawn. My advantage then increased, but I missed a chance to win on the spot by 54. c7.

My move 60 needs a special explanation. So I wanted to queen my pawn, there were no queen at the table. I took a rook, flipped it, said like 3 times that it is a queen and put it on 8th. Then I went to find a real queen. When I am finally found one, I suddenly saw TD near my table and ran back dropping the queen. While I was running around looking for a queen my opponent meanwhile protested and TD came. So he looked apologetically at me and made the judgement:
“By the rules it is still a rook. You had to stop the clock and go to me to ask to allow you to find the queen.”
I saw that I am still winning and agreed with the decision. I also suddenly remembered the incident that made a lot of noise in chess Canada.

During the tiebreak for the Canadian Championship title one player wanted to promote his pawn with a few seconds left, but couldn’t find the queen. Only on video (which came out afterwards) it could be seen that his opponent was holding a queen plus two other pieces of the opposite color  in his hand for quite some time. So the guy flipped his rook, declared it a queen and made a move. The arbiter intervened right away and said that it is a rook.

Here is FIDE rule 6.12b: A player may stop the chessclock only in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, for example when promotion has taken place and the piece required is not available. Under US Chess Federation rules and in casual play, an upside-down rook may be used to designate a queen.

So a rook is not a queen and the guy lost the game, championship and the right to play in the World Cup. He appealed later the decision, but lost.
Sad. Luckily for me, I was in a much better situation. I just exchanged this rook and then put another queen, this time using the queen I found before. He soon resigned.

I had about 90 minutes break, 30 minutes before the 3rd round I saw the pairings.
I checked my opponent’s games in DB, saw that he played some kind of Scotch gambit and decided to avoid that altogether by playing Hungarian Defense.

Round 3. The game started with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 and I played Be7, Hungarian Defense. He had to castle on move 7. Then 10. Ne4 instead of castle was not a good idea. His play struck me as slow. After my bishop check on b4 he unexpectedly moved his king to f1. Later computer pointed that something else was losing, for example 11. Bd2 Re8 with a win. Then I tried to increase the pressure. 15. g6 was a bit slow, intended to prevent Qd3 or Nh5.  Then I saw a possibility to win a pawn threatening by skewer.

Interesting that computer recommends to play 19… Qxd4, but I didn’t want to exchange queens in this position. 20… Qd6 was defending g6 and also attacking the knight on g3, then the same thing happened with him as with me in the last round of the February’s tournament, he blundered the knight not seeing the pin. After he played 22. hxg6 I saw Bxf2+ and played it, after Re1+ he resigned. The best was 22. Rh3, but Bxf2+ and Re1+ still followed, gaining knight plus two pawns advantage.

Sunday. I had 2.5/3, so had high expectations that morning. I saw the pairings before leaving home, familiar opponent, =1,-1 score in rapid, no games in DB, surprisingly I got Black.

Round 4. He started 1. c4, I decided to transfer it into Semi-Slav. After his 13. Bd3 I didn’t feel comfortable, but computer evaluates the position as 0.00. It looked like queens exchange that he offered would solve my defense problems. Maybe this worried state continued, as my 16th move was bad. I think I didn’t like Nb5-d6, though I just could exchange my bad bishop to his good knight.

Then I really wanted to play Bb5, but thought that after bishops exchange as well as rooks exchange the pawn endgame would be not good for me. And, yes, after 21… Bb5 22. Bxb5 axb5 if rooks are exchanged and Black does nothing that pawn ending is lost. But keeping at least one rook would hold I think.

I was defending OK, but he increased the pressure by 35. e4. On move 37 I played passive Kc8, instead 37… Ra1 38. d5 Re1+ was keeping the balance. 40… Ra6 was a mistake, after double rooks exchange I didn’t take into account 43. f5 with resulting better queen endgame for White. But he didn’t see it and just played f5. My 43… Rg2 was a crucial mistake, Rg7 which I thought was passive and allowed Rh6, was better. From that moment it was impossible to save this game and I resigned on move 60.

Round 5. My opponent was a boy, he played French, familiar variation, I had it with a master. But his 8… Bc5 was a rare line and after 9… Qb6 I had to think for a while. The best move was 10. c3, if 10… Qxb2 then 11. Nb5 and White wins. His 11… Ng4 took me by surprise, but I saw that I got “f” vertical and tried to develop some attack there, but 15. Ng5 was premature.

Then I didn’t understand why he played Rc8 unless he took on d4. My answer was forced, computer doesn’t like f5, recommending g6.
I prepared to play Nxf5, again I didn’t feel like I have much choice and there was definitely some compensation. Computer evaluates the position after sacrifice as +0.5.

His Rc7 was a mistake and after 25. Qf7 I had +2.8 advantage. Then he made another, crucial mistake when played 25. Kh7. I saw that I have perpetual and started to look for more. I spent a lot of time, thought that Qf6 was a key defensive move. Then I saw that I have only 15 minutes left and went for a perpetual. At home computer told me that paradoxical 27. Rf1!! was winning. The thing is if Black takes on f1, it loses control of e8 square and it is mate in 9 – 26. Qg8+ Kg6 27. Rf1 Bxf1 28. Qf7+ Kg5 29. h4+ Kxh4 30. Qf4+ Kh5 31. Bd1+ Kg6 32. Bc2+ Kh5 33. Qf3+ Kg5 34. Qg3+ Kh5 35. Be2 Bxe2#.

Another, more “normal” winning move after 26. Qg8+ Kg6 was 27. Re1. After 27… Bf6 it was mate in 8, starting from Bc2+. Otherwise after 27… Bd3 28. Re6 White is winning.

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