December 2019

This quote belongs to Johannes Zukertort, it suits well to describe the recent events. The big tournament was coming and I wanted to play, but wasn’t sure that I will be able to play, I had too much work. I didn’t even register, but on Friday it calmed down and I was able to leave my work earlier because the first round was at 6pm and I still had to register.

Friday. Round 1 – my opponent is a guy, with whom I played a year ago and drew, the thing is his rating was 1043 and mine – 1718, so it was like a loss for me and I was very upset. He plays Sicilian and I play Moscow variation. His 11… Ne5 surprises me, computer recommends g5 with ~-0.4 evaluation. After his 15… Nxg3 computer suggests a little trick, Qg4 and then taking with a queen on g3, but to me fxg3 looks fine.

After 20 moves he decides to play on both sides of the board. I defend on the queenside and think that I have advantage on the kingside. On move 28 I don’t like what is going on on the queenside and play restrictive c4. Computer recommends Nd2, I agree, the knight has nice squares to jump then. I do that a move later. Then something interesting happens.

He plays Qh5, releases the queen and then suddenly takes it back. I firmly say: “You made the move”. He puts it on h5, then I start to think why he wanted to take it back. So I see 30. Ne4 and 31. Ng3. I play Ne4, then see, that he has 30… Rxf3 and 31. Nxd6 doesn’t work because of Rf5.

He thinks for some time and plays 30… Bc7, a game losing move. By the way Rf5 wouldn’t work because of g4, but Rf4 would save him. So I fork him and he makes another mistake playing 31… e4. I take his queen and in two moves the game is over.

Saturday. Round 2 – my opponent is a girl, I get Black. She plays Ruy Lopez, Exchange. I play, of course, Bronstein variation.  My  13… g5 misses Bd4. I am in a bit of a shock, then realize that Rxd4 gives me a pretty playable position. She manages to force the exchange of one of the bishops, I feel that dark-colored is stronger, proves later to be a right decision. Then my attack on the kingside starts to develop quickly.

I see 29… Bxg3, but it doesn’t look decisive to me and I am down a rook. Computer says it would give me eventually a queen and 2 pawns for two rooks. So, I play Bc5+ and then 30… Qxg3. suddenly she plays Qd8+. Again after an initial shock I see that I have an excellent bishop and at least a draw.

So I have a simple plan – hold on the kingside and use my pawn majority on the queenside and execution goes pretty smoothly. Eventually I get two passed pawns on the queenside. Her 55. Rg2 is a decisive mistake, I play c2+. In a few moves she resigns.

Round 3 – my opponent is a man whom I played in the summer of 2010, in the equal position he blundered a queen. I get Black again, not too happy about it. We play Queen’s pawn, which transforms into Queen’s Indian. I think that I can meet his 12. Ng5 with Qe7, but his 13. d5 comes as a surprise. I think I am in trouble and look for an escape. But computer doesn’t like his 12. Ng5 as well as his 13. d5. For some reason I don’t see 13… exd5 14. Bxf5 Nc5 15. cxd5 Nxd5 with ~-0.8. His 14. dxe6 is another not a good move, but I had to play h6, that would give me an advantage.

It is not necessary to give up the f5 pawn, but I am still OK. 23… c5 is a big mistake, I had to play a5. I have that bad idea about my knight going to e5. His attack naturally develops and I am in a big trouble. After 30 moves I am basically lost, but the queens exchange gives me a chance to survive. A long battle ensues where the evaluation varies from 0.5 to 3.5.

There is a nice forced line that I do not see – 72… Nf6 (threatening mate in 2) 73. Rf8+ Kxf8 74. d7+ Kf7 75. d8Q Ne4+ 76. Kh5 Rh2+ 77. Qh4 Ng3+ 78. Kg5 Ne4+ 79. Kh5 with a draw. I play on increment and just try to survive, but in a few moves I miss a bishop fork and resign. Someone tells me after the game, that I still could save my pieces and shows how. My moves in my scoresheet after move 74 don’t add up, it was 83 moves in total.

I ask TD if I can get a half-point bye for the 4th round, he says no, only zero point bye. The reason I ask is that I need to work from 11pm into night, not even clear for how long. I can predict my state next day, but also I don’t want to get nothing. So I decide to play next morning. I do my work, it goes until 2:30am, then go to sleep. In the morning I am more or less OK after a coffee, also take coffee with me.

Sunday. Round 4 – I get an unrated guy, he has 1600+ performance rating. He plays Sicilian e6, it goes off the book soon.  I have to play 11. d4, but it seems not clear to me, so I avoid it, taking into account my state, more coffee keeps me on board. Starting from move 16 he tries to counterattack, but I feel that my position is quite defendable. His e5 goes too far, I feel it and play Bd5+. His 23. Kh8 is a big mistake. I see Bxh6, but I also see Bxf2+ and give up on it.

Computer says Bxh6 is winning, taking on f2 with a check doesn’t change it. I don’t know how much of my miss I can attribute to my state and how much to my negligence, but the win was right there. His 24… exd4 instead of cxd4 still leaves me with  some advantage. But I don’t find 27. Be6 and after 28. Qe2 it becomes equal. On move 35 he offers a draw and I accept.

The boy is friendly, he talks to me after the game. He is from Singapore, visiting his relatives. He says that he has a FIDE rating ~1450, which should go up after the local tournament and also after this one, counts how many points he would get for this draw too, this is funny. I think that I value half a point that I still got more than a loss of a few rating points, time shows I am right.

I get some sleep in the armchair and feel better.

Round 5 my opponent is a young man from another city. I recognize him, he played with our Mondays club TD in the 2nd round, they were playing near me. At one moment he complained to the current TD about our guy, at that moment our guy was not at the board and was down a rook. So, he has 2 wins and last 2 games were draws. For some reason I decide that he would be OK with a draw.

I have Black, he plays Italian Game. The play is positional and it goes around f5 square for his knight. I have to say that during the whole game he adjusts pieces almost after every move. It annoys me, but not to the degree going to TD and complaining, I know were my concentration will be after that. At one moment I try to counterattack in the center. Eventually we are left with Q+R each, it looks drawn to me.

We have 6-7 minutes each and play on increment. He tries to regroup his pieces to attack using 8th horizontal, I hold on. Suddenly he blunders a rook and resigns in a few moves. I tell him that earlier I would accept a draw. On Monday I come to the club and find out that our guy blundered a rook in that game and lost eventually. The complaint was about him having his cell in his hand, the cell was off of course. I tell him that he would be the last person that I would suspect. My opponent was adjusting pieces in his game too. So, I tell him how my game went, I know he will feel vindicated and yes, he smiles and thanks me for telling that. Also looking at the final results I see that 3 people shared 2nd place with 4/5. I realize that my opponent was fighting for the 2nd place meaning prize money, as he had 3/4.

It was a last round in the Mondays club.  My opponent was a TD, I played him before, our score was 3.5:1.5. I had White, it started as Sicilian, but quickly became Old Benoni. I tried to create pressure on his d6 pawn, computer doesn’t like his Qb6 offering 7… a6 8. Bd3 Ngf6 9. Bxd6 Nxd5 as being equal. The goal of 17. Ng5 was to attack f7, Houdini says 17… Ne5 was better than Bf8.

I thought that I missed 27… f5 28. Nc3 g5 winning a piece for Black, but told him after the game that I would have advantage and yes, I would have ~+3. Then 29. f5 weakened his king’s cover. 32… Nf6 and 33… Kxg6 were crucial mistakes. On move 34 I saw Re6 sacrifice. I considered 36. Nxf5 at that moment, but after his 36… Qc6 decided on Qxf5. By the way 36. Nxf5 was a mate in 6 and 36. Qxf5 mate in 13. In a few moves he resigned.

It was penultimate round, my opponent was a guy rated 1550. I played him 3 months ago, he blundered in a position where I was worse. He had White again and played Ruy Lopez. I started to feel comfortable after his 20. b4.  I spent quite some time calculating 25… exf4 with an idea to play 26… Nxb4 and 27… Qc5+ and played it. Then I noticed 28. Rd4 defense and changed my plans playing 26… Ne5.

After some exchanges the position remained equal, but then he made a big mistake playing 33. h4. I decided to play 33… Nf6 also setting a little trap and he got into it. He had to play 36. Rf1, his Qg5 was another mistake, computer evaluates the position as ~ -10.  The intention of 37… Qc6 was to get to c8-h3 diagonal. After 38. d4 it looked bad for him as he couldn’t avoid the double check.

So, I played that double check and it looked like there is a mate on h3. He still continued to play, moved his king to h2. So, I played Qh3, wrote it down putting a mate sign after the move and waited for him to resign. Strangely he was not in a hurry, then he suddenly took my queen with a pawn. Only at this moment I realized that there was a pawn on g2. I didn’t see it at all because it was behind of the knight on g3. I reevaluated the situation and resigned.

I can’t even describe how bad I felt afterwards, even on the next day. Later I checked it on the board, you can actually see some kind of halo around the knight. I was stressed that day and definitely didn’t see that.

It was a last round in the top section at the new club. I was sharing a first place with 3.5/4 with a boy rated 1767 that played quite a few years in the USA and then it looks like he moved to Canada this summer. I thought if I need to play at all, as I had a lot to lose from the ratings point of view, even a draw would give me about 30 points less, due to a decrease of the performance rating and getting accordingly less bonus rating points.

But I wanted the first place and also a clean tournament, so I came to play. He got Black and played Pirc Defense, I hate to play against it, because it often gets murky. That’s what happened this time too. After he delayed fianchettoing of his bishop, I played Bh6 and left him without a kingside castle when his rook took on f8. As he advanced his queenside pawns, the queenside castle didn’t look well either.

The thing is, I got a similar problem, on the queenside I would get under attack and on the kingside he also played h5 and his rook was ready. My move Kf7 is criticized by the computer and I ended up with an artificial castle. On the queenside I lost a pawn, missing a couple of counter-strikes. First of them was 21. Qd4 Qc5 22. Nxb5, second – 24. Nxb5. Then I regrouped my pieces and started an attack on his king. My big mistake was advancing “f” pawn instead of “e” one, i.e. f5 instead of e5.

Computer doesn’t like 31. Nxf5 evaluating it as -1.65 and says that exf5 is equal. On move 33 I considered Rxf5, but then saw his knight’s strike on e4. I didn’t see how I could continue my attack after sacrificing an exchange. But 33… Nxe4 after 33. Rxf5 is a mistake because of 34. Nxe4 Rxf5 35. Qh6+ Ke8 36. Nf6+! Rxf6 27. Qxh6. Then my position started to deteriorate, I also got into a time trouble. My exhaustion after previous day, when I slept 5.5 hours and worked 10 kicked in, I started to lose pawns.

We ended up in a queen endgame that was lost for me, I was playing it on increment having less than a minute. After he managed to force the queens exchange I resigned. I was really upset after that game, but eventually calmed down. I still got a second place thanks to the best performance rating which was 2009 – my best in the last 4 years. The second place was also the highest result in the top section ever. My rating went up to 1760, so I will be able to play in the top section in another club too.