It was a 5th round in the Thursdays club. My opponent was a 1478 rated guy with whom I had a 4:0 score, 3 wins with Black in Italian Game. It was again Italian Game. I did not play well in the opening and already after move 9 was in a serious trouble. He developed a strong attack and I tried to hold on.

Computer thinks he would be better after 26. Qc4, then d5. I thought I can’t play 26… Nxe5, but I could  and it was equal – 26… Nxe5 27. Nxe5 fxe5 28. Qxb6 Rd1+!. My 26… Rhe8 was also good. I missed 28… Ne5 possibility. All the time I had to watch for a possible sacrifice on a6. Then on move 32 I could lose if he would play Rd2, the idea is that rook goes to d6. He didn’t see it. After the knights exchange I started to feel good.

After his 36. Qc3 I didn’t like Rxb6 threat and played 36… Rd7. Computer suggests 36… Qd6 was better. Then after 37… Rd4 I felt that I intercepted the initiative, though it was still equal. Computer says that 39… c4 was very strong, with -3 evaluation. I decided that 41… Rd2 will be stronger than Rxa4, computer agrees.

Then a crucial moment of the game came when he played 43. g4. I saw Rxg4 right away, but then noticed that after 43… Rxg4 44. fxg4 Qxg4+ he has 45. Qg3 defense. So I decided it won’t work and played Qd4+. It was a big mistake. After 43… Rxg4 44. fxg4 Qd4+! there is a forced mate. There is a mate also he declines the sacrifice and plays 44… Kh1, Black follows with 44… Qf5 45. Qf1 Rxh2+ 46. Kxh2 Qf4+ 47. Kh1 Qh3+ 48. Qh3 Qxh3#.

Then after 45. Qg3 it became equal, but in 2 moves he blundered his rook on a1.  It would be over after 48… Rd1, computer says mate in 17, but  I played Qb2. In the next few moves he managed to advance his “e” pawn and force me to give up a rook for it.  I had less than 5 minutes and stopped writing the moves. Then I couldn’t avoid the queens exchange and we ended up in a rook endgame where I was better.

There was a moment when I could exchange the rooks with each of us having a pawn on the kingside  and me having an “a” pawn on the queenside. But I thought that his king would lock my king up there, so I avoided this exchange. After the game our TD told me that there was a win for me, that my king could escape, I am not sure. Anyway he managed to exchange the pawns on the kingside and win that “a” pawn, so we ended up with  a draw.

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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.

It was a case when I didn’t get upset with Giuoco Pianissimo as I usually do when  I get it on FICS. After previous misadventures I thought it’s OK to play something quiet. So my opponent had White, here is the game.

Fritz approved my 9… Qd7, he didn’t risk to take on b7. 17… b5 wasn’t good, I didn’t see his Nc4, I just didn’t know what to do and defending b7 was annoying. His 18. d5 was losing a pawn without any compensation and I started to look optimistically into the future. After 24… Ne3 I didn’t find the next move 25… Nfd5 which according to Fritz was just winning. Then I missed a really nice combination – 27. Qxh4, which was winning a piece and a game.

Nevertheless in the following complications I managed to get into knight ending with a spare pawn. Of course it would be better for him to keep queens. I didn’t play precisely that ending, but in the end my remote passed pawn served it’s purpose and I had N+2P vs. N. It was a matter of technique, I managed to stay calm with my time decreasing (in the end I had about 5 minutes left). After he gave up his knight, I stopped writing the moves. I remembered that knight should stand behind the pawn (so if he takes the knight the pawn queens). When my king approached  the pawn, he resigned.