It was a first round of a new tournament. My opponent was a man rated 1473, he played French Defense. After exchange on c6 I started to feel good about this game.

After his 11… f5 I thought right away that it created a weakness on e6. I laid siege to it, then played c4 and soon d5. He made a big mistake by playing 25… Rfe7 instead of g6. Then I missed 35. Bh5 and played much weaker Bc2. Anyway his reply 35… Qe7 was a decisive mistake.

The situation was somewhat complicated by the fact that I had a minute and a half  and he had a minute left. I managed to stay cool, all I had to see was a threat on the a8-h1 diagonal.

The most interesting in that game was a line behind the scenes, a really nice combination. It was a first round in a new season. I was afraid to get a 1-point bye and also didn’t feel quite in shape, so registered in the U1800 section. But they misplaced my registration, I wasn’t paired, so eventually I was paired manually with a guy from the top section. I played him before and had a positive score.

So I got White,  he played French defense. Right away I didn’t like his f6 and after his 8… f5 Houdini thinks that he is -3. I considered 9. Ng5, but thought that after h6 will have to go to h3. But instead of Nh3 computer suggests Nf7!. After 10… Kxf7 11. Ne5+ Kf8 12. Qh5 Qe8 13. Ng6+ Kf7 14. Nh8+ Kf8 15. Ng6+ Kf7 16. Bxf5 exf5 17. Nxe7+ Kf8 18. Qxe8+ Kxe8 19. Nxf8 White is up a rook.

But I went to Ng3 and just continued to increase the pressure. On move 11 he missed my strike on f5 and lost a pawn. After I won another two pawns it became a matter of technique. In the pawn ending I didn’t realize until the end of the game that I could penetrate with my king through h4 with a fast win, but the way I choose wasn’t too much longer anyway.



I came to the club last Thursday and got the master,  guy at the top, meaning playing on the first board. It was kind of weird to play at the separate table standing aside, but I got used to it. I had a loss against him, in French Tarrasch, Be7 line.

We got it again, here is the game. I decided to play 4.Bb5+, actually this move was played only once. The idea was to get his bishop on the bad square, like in Scandinavian. It kind of threw him out of book, I think.  After the opening I realized that my position is quite good.  He decided to exchange some pieces, probably seeing that there were no advantage in the heavy middlegame.

I liked a plan with f4, g4, f5 attack and executed it, though it didn’t give me much. Then he made a move Fritz doesn’t like  – 47… Ke7. I missed 48. Rb7 and then, after a few moves – 50. Rg7.  Funny that he can’t take on b2 because of the mate. He already didn’t have much time at that moment, so it was definitely worth to try. I get about +1 after this move anyway.

Then he got down to less than a minute with me having about twenty. I offered him a draw after we got into a rook endgame, but he refused. I didn’t want to give him any winning chances and didn’t let to take on b2. Then I decided to get rid of his pawns on the kingside, I didn’t like them all the time thinking he can get a passed pawn. The position became really simple after that and when he offered a draw I agreed. Fritz considers the position equal.

It was a strange French, with a twist and the game had a twist too. My opponent was a young guy,  I lost to him before once in the team blitz tournament.  I had White, here is the game.

I was a bit better after the opening, but his 15… Bc5 equalized the game. It was pretty quiet until I played 27. e4. His Qg3 was a mistake. I calculated Rxd5 and decided that if he plays Rf2 I have Re8 and I should get a least  perpetual. It was actually only if he would play 30… Kf7 and I will answer Qe8+. The thing is Qh5 was winning. So, he went for Rf2 and then Kh7.

I saw Qg6 and after some pause realized that I am winning here after Rh8. He resigned after that.

I just played in Labour Day Open, on the long weekend, in U1900 section.

Round 1.  I had White and he played French, here is the game. I didn’t feel fresh after a very busy day before, though I slept enough. I played 12. Be3 which is 11-th choice in DB and it showed. Then I missed his Ng4, forgetting that rook after that also attacks f4 and had to give him two bishops. It was still pretty equal play until I lost a pawn.

I tried to hold the position and missed 3-fold repetition, computer told me about it at home. It was still very much defensible position when I made a decisive mistake playing Rd5. He used it and just after 10 moves I resigned.

Round 2. I get some rest, food and most important coke. My opponent plays Ruy Lopez.  I decide not to look for adventures and just play Chigorin variation, here is the game.

I don’t like his 19. Rb1 and play d5. The play opens, my pieces are better placed and he gets in trouble. After 24.Rd8 he misses the chance to save his piece and the game is practically over. Later I also miss a few forced mates, but after queens exchange he resigns ( a few moves after what I show, I just messed up the recording).

Round 3. My opponent is a man I played before and have with him a positive balance – 2:0 I think. I remember I won in Rossolimo variation last time, here it is again. I don’t like his 8… Ng8. After 11…O-O I see that Nb3 creates problems for him, though I also see f6. But he plays it only on the next move. Computer prefers 12. Qe3. Then I decide to play e6, since exf6 gives too much to him. I think I made a blunder with Rb1 (Qa5), but computer likes the arising position and says I am good. My knight on c5 looks really strong and eventually he decides to exchange it.

After a several more moves in a position that is clearly better for me (~+2.3) he suddenly resigns.

Round 4. I play with the highest rated guy in our section.  I have Black, Italian game. When I play Bf5, I see  that he can take on e7, but think that after Bxd3 he gets nothing. After Rae1 I realize that I am wrong.

Then 16… Nd5 gets me in more trouble. I find 17… Nf4 and he doesn’t see g3, which I see. I start to feel some ground under my feet and now I am missing chances not playing 19… Nd3 or 23… Nf4. I feel it, but do not fully realize how strong are my knight and bishop. The position becomes equal, but he has not much time left for making 30 moves before  the first control. He passes it, but maybe because he is still keeping some tempo or fatigue strikes him he starts to make bad moves. Then finally he plays Kg1  and I notice that his back rank is not defended. I attack his knight on b6, his Ne5 can’t save it and he gives up an exchange. I still have to demonstrate some technique against his well interacting  two knights, but exchange is exchange…

Round 5. I have White and play my favorite Rossolimo, here is the game. He plays well in the opening and neutralizes all my attempts to get attack on the kingside.

We  move into endgame, which I consider equal. He tries to get an advantage and eventually I make a bad move – bxa4 instead of b4 with a draw. I feel that I am in trouble. Suddenly I see that I can play Nd5. After he takes the knight, I think that I have a chance to win thanks to the remote passed pawn. The funny thing is it’s not a winning, but rather losing move. The game gets crazy. He misses some chances and then I do the same, missing a win twice. The game ends up in a draw.


Two in one – so two games in one post. First I played on Monday last week, second – this Monday. Both my opponents were not very happy to get me since they know I am better than my current rating, which is basically the same as theirs, also I won against them lately.

Game 1. I have White, French. Nothing unusual, then I miss an opportunity to win a pawn after Nxd7. I think a lot on move 23, still don’t play superior 23. Bxb5 Qxb5 24. Qxg7 because of Bg5 – not seeing excellent reply 25. Rf3.
So, it’s going to be a boring endgame and here he plays sharp 24… Bg5.
I accept it as a challenge and after some thinking decide to take on e6.
His sudden 26… Qe2 looks really scary and at some moment I think: “Am I going to lose this game?”, but then decide “what the hell, I’ll just do my best to defend …”. Things eventually look not so bad and then I get a golden opportunity with 29. Qe4, which this time I don’t miss.
I play Nc5, Nd3, then I see e6 with following Qd6. I get a huge advantage, he is forced to give up a piece and soon he resigns.

Game 2. I play Black, Ruy Lopez. I manage to get more active position and then I see a tactical opportunity with 15… e4.
Fritz doesn’t think much of it and prefers another move, but I would still play this one.
It leaves me with a passed pawn and him with a bad pawn structure and a bad bishop.
After 16… Bxb2 17. Ra2 I see that I have to play Bc3 and hate his Bd2 with him capturing “d” line, but then find Qf6, Fritz’s move.
He offers queens exchange after which vertical “d” is mine and the game starts to go one way. He doesn’t help himself with his kingside play. After 36… Ke5 I think about moving my king to d4 and suddenly he blunders with f4.
He probably saw that I can’t take on e4 because of the pin, but forgot that I can take on f4 with a rook. He resigns right away.

Sounds strange, right? You will see. I played on Monday, my opponent was former Canadian women’s champion (twice), WIM.  I know her well,  she taught my kids.

I had White, here is the game. She played French, her favorite, I went for Tarrasch, that’s what I play against French. We went along main line and then on move 10 she played second choice move I wasn’t familiar with. The line ended up with a move 14. O-O (though Fritz says 17. Nf3 was the last book move) that lead to a draw between 2 experts, so I guess I was OK after the opening.

My troubles started I think after 15. Ng3, when I didn’t find Be3. I have to say that all the time I was worried about exchange sacrifice on f3 which never happened (maybe exactly for the same reason). Fritz didn’t like my next 2 moves, anyway I found myself on the defensive side, not being able to get any active play.

Now if we return to the title of the post – she was in a such time trouble all the time that I saw probably just once in my life when the guy didn’t make his 30th move in time. After 20-something moves I had 1 hour left, she – 30 minutes. She was thinking heavily on every move. Her attack was becoming more and more aggressive, and her time was shrinking, it was 15 vs 45, 10 vs 35, 5 vs 30,…. I was sure that she will lose on time and because of the following:

– in the beginning my clock probably stopped a few times (when I noticed it once I  restarted it, maybe in total it was 6-8 minutes)

–  I didn’t feel comfortable winning on time sitting under attack and being worse, it was like I didn’t deserve it

– there was a slight chance of getting mated

I thought about offering a draw. When the flag started to go up (I don’t know how much time it is, maybe 2 minutes, I hate these old clocks), it was around move 30, maybe earlier, just before queens exchange, not sure, I offered a draw. You know – she refused! I said – OK.

She started to play faster, still writing the moves in my time. The attack continued, with all her pieces targeting my king. My last chance was, I think, nice 35. Ba2 found by Fritz. Eventually I got under the pin and then she also created a threat of Rxg2 – the mill. She was still somehow finding good moves, I couldn’t understand how. I didn’t see how I could defend, seeing Rxc6, of course, but thinking that after that I will also lose a pinned knight. I played Kh2,  Fritz found a better line, losing an exchange, anyway it was bad.   After that I still had a little hope that I will escape on time, but not so. It was a matter of technique. My time also went down and I stopped writing the moves being under 5 minutes.

Her flag was in 9-o-clock position when I resigned being one move away from checkmate. That was highest level of play in very limited time I ever encountered playing OTB.

The tournament I just played in reminded me the one I had a year ago –
so that explains the title. Also Canada day, 2.5 after 3 games, then heartbreaking defeat in round 4 and relatively quiet tie in round 5. The difference is that then it was U1800 and now – U2100, so there is a progress. Also, the background is different, I had my kid with me playing in U1500 section after 2 years break.
Friday evening – we come early, she is nervous, I am not sure if she will play, finally we register.
Round 1 – I get lower rated opponent, 1500+, I am worried how it will go with her and feel unusually nervous. He has White, plays Ruy and I decide to go for Marshall attack again, here is the game. Funny that openings of the first 2 games exactly repeated the last 2 games in the club in the reverse order,  Marshall was last.
OK, I get again unusual move, this time I do not screw up, get an OK position and then his looking active move drops a pawn in the center. In a few moves – another mistake, allowing me to win  a piece, but I don’t see it. Then I start to lose the initiative and finally make a bad move – 29… Bf2.  I saw the  discovered attack, of course, and Bc7, if I go Qb6, but after Be2, Rd2, Qb6 I forgot that there is still Bc7.
I don’t see 31…Qc8 saving an exchange and lose it, feel terrible. At this point I am left for dead by Fritz with ~7.0 estimate, but I resist.  Soon the guy goes for complications and suddenly he doesn’t make an intermediate check and looks in disbelieve how I take his rook.
Now I have an extra piece and quickly start to move towards the end. Then I suddenly get into kind of trouble again, not playing exactly against his passer/s.
So, couple of times he has an opportunity to draw, but he doesn’t see it. I finally find the only move – 62…f5, and despite getting a queen too and also having a passer on the 7th, he gets mated.
Saturday, 10am, Round 2.
I have White, my opponent is 100+ rated, he plays French, here is the game.
I get the same Morozevich variation as in the club recently, but he doesn’t play g5.
I am OK until move 17, when I miss a strike and lose a pawn. Soon I miss a possibility to at least equalize, when I do not exchange queens – second game in the row.
Then on move 34 I sacrifice an exchange to break his pawns, expecting to get it back with a fork, but he pins my knight.  I play 31. Qe2, both his rooks are hanging and he doesn’t find Rff5, or is afraid of pawn fork g4, which doesn’t work because the pawn can be pinned. He gives the exchange back, I try to hold the position, finally the game transforms into R vs. R endgame with him having extra pawn. I have huge advantage in time, he starts to play faster. At some moment, when that advantage already decreases, I offer him a draw, do not remember before or after winning an “h” pawn  and getting 1 pawn each on different sides of the board. We advance our pawns supported by kings, when both our flags are in 9 o’clock position he suddenly agrees to a draw. The position is drawn,  since both of us have to give up rooks for the passed pawns.
Saturday, 4pm, Round 3.
I do not manage to eat anything, dealing with my kid after 5 hours of play.  3rd round starts as well as finishes a bit weirdly.  On my table I see a plastic board with deep blue squares ( the standard, that is everywhere has green squares). I ask my opponent, if we can change, he is not very happy, I go to get a normal board, when I return, the board with green is already there – with  the table number. So he covered it with his own. He ask, if his pieces will be OK, I say something if there are close to standard, luckily they are.  He plays 1.d4, here is the game. After some maneuvering ( I manage to eat a half of sandwich and piece of chocolate meanwhile 🙂 ) he loses a pawn on move 18. I slowly regroup and develop attack on the kingside, using my pawn majority. Then I play the wrong move, 36… f3, thinking the e3 is not possible and trying to destroy king’s pawn cover.
I do not find the best moves, though eventually win a pawn, but then kind of lose initiative. finally I stabilize the position and feeling tired after 5+3 hours of play offer him a draw. He refuses, then follows almost forced exchange of the rooks. Defending from the check, I put my queen for exchange, after which the endgame with opposite colored bishops sure will be a draw. Suddenly he moves his pawn h4-h5,  I take his queen. The game ends.  I say “You should have taken a draw”, trying to sound sorry. Then I put the result into the table and go. The story continues on the next day, when before the last round TD comes to me and asks, if I have my score sheet from the 3rd round. I say, that it’s at home and that he dropped his queen. TD says something like OK and goes away. Not sure, or my opponent decided to change the result next morning ( I was late for the round 4), or somebody was wondering how the drawish  game suddenly could be lost.
Sunday, 10am, Round 4.
I come having 2.5 out of 3 and high hopes for the prize. My opponent is a young guy, an expert. I learn the pairings at home, find that he plays Sicilian e6 and look up  a line in DB with very good stats, never played it before.
So, the game starts and we go along this line. It’s arguably the best game in tourney (first 25 moves) and definitely the worst (the rest), here it is.  I have an expert, winner of this tournament with 4.5/5 on the ropes, I feel it, but I can’t find the decisive move(s) and go too far trying to break his defense. Then I see, but do not play the line that keeps it at least equal, get worse and under attack, realize that I most likely lost, get upset, play fast  and blunder a pawn. Then all my exhaustion that for some reason didn’t fully showed yesterday gets me. I know I lost, so I play even faster and make the blunder, finishing the game. I don’t remember ever playing in such state, being so deeply disappointed and exhausted. The guy is nice and analyzes the game with me, showing me by the way that 28.  Ne5 Qxd6  worked because of  29.  Nxg6 .
Sunday, 4pm, Round 5.
I spend some time before looking how my kid feeds the squirrel 500 m from the place, it relaxes me. My opponent again is a young guy, rated +100.  He plays 1. e4 and I get Ruy again, this time exchange variation, here is the game. We exchange queens almost right away, it’s not against my plans and mood.
I played this OTB only once against ~200 lower rated guy, won. A few online games showed me, that it is not easy to find right places for the black pieces,  so I try to do that carefully.
In about equal position he suddenly makes move 23. Nd2, that allows 23… Nb4 forking a2 and c2 pawns. I notice, that after c3 my knight not only can be stuck  there but also can simply be lost. I decide  (finally) that this is a critical moment and calculate for about 20 minutes, trying to figure it how to extract my knight.  I see that support of the “‘c” pawn is crucial, calculate everything and then take on “a2”.  He expects it, nodding. Everything goes according to the plan, except that he uses the tempos that I spend on my “a” operation to organize an attack on the kingside, using his pawn majority.  I quickly realize the seriousness of the situation and start as at war to redeploy my pieces closer to the center of events.  I see that at the moment I can’t advance my pawns on the queenside.
My knight finally blocks the path of the pawn,  I do not see any winning perspectives due to the perfect positioning of his pieces,  “f” pawn looks dangerous and I go for 3-fold repetition. It seems like he doesn’t overestimate his position either as he starts to count the number of repetitions, then looks at me and understands my intentions. We agree to a draw. This guy is also nice,  he offers to do a post-mortem, we go through the game, he praises some of my moves, I get confirmation to my thoughts that he was aiming for a classical endgame with his pawn majority.
I ran several shootouts between Fritz and Rybka 22 starting from moves 24 and 29,   they all finish in a draw.
I think, this tournament really was a milestone. I got 7th place out of 21 and my rating went to 1900. I am satisfied with the result, but not with my play. It showed my weaknesses very well, the things that I must work on if  I want to progress. From the openings point of view it was very useful too – 2 Ruys, 1 Sicilian e6 and fashionable French variation.
My streak of four wins (3 in the current tournament) ended yesterday with a loss to an expert,  here is the game. All was wrong that day – I made a mistake defining my possible opponent as 2300+ master and was a bit nervous,  then I thought that I got too high in the table and somebody gonna stop me,  my preparation against the master (Sicilian, Rossolimo) went into garbage because I  got French from different guy (who didn’t play it before in the club,  so I wouldn’t guess right anyway) and in my usual French, Tarrasch I got Morozevich variation – 1.e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Be7,  a fashionable line among top GMs in recent years. To my shame I was completely unfamiliar with it.
I played this game like my recent opponents – losing a pawn in the opening, making moves worsening the position, giving up two bishops, etc.
He eventually got strong pawns in the center and his pieces attacked me on the kingside.  I couldn’t get any counterplay and my only hope was time,  I had twice more.  But he started to play faster and finished me off with ~10 minutes remaining on his clock.
The guy was very nice after the game and tried to find some counterplay for me (he pointed to slow moves Rb1 and b3, and stressed the necessity of playing Ne5 at the right moment, blocking the pawn e6 or forcing the exchange of the dark-colored bishop and weakening the kingside).
Anyway, we learn from our mistakes and move on.
It was a first round of the Swiss tournament. I played with the same master, as last time. Here is the game. He was much more attentive this time and in the opening I was on his territory, he played his favorite French ( I play it too, but our experiences probably are not comparable). I played Tarrasch variation and it was line I am less familiar with, just once played blitz. I know there is a sharp move 10. Nf4 here, but I thought White is better when the pawns are not exchanged, wasn’t sure about this case. After some thinking I decided not to go into complications, just play safe exf6. My knowing of this line ended right after that. His Qb6 was delaying my queenside development, so I decided to do something.
I thought about b3 (12. b3 O-O 13. Bf4 – 2nd DB choice), but then decided that a3/b4 (5th choice) is better. His e5 was unexpected, I forgot that I played it myself, it was quite some time ago, in short words – I was rusty in the opening.
Calculating exchange on e5 I thought about Bxh7 afterwards, but because h6 is under control I saw that there is nothing there. After Bxe5 I played Rb1 and sudden Ng4 was pretty shocking. I thought that Be3 was losing only pawn, but it was losing more …
The same Be3, just one move before – 16. Be3 was leading to an equal position.
Funny that it was all theory, all this losing line, it was played before. I was very upset for a couple of days, but life goes on …