It was fifth round in the Thursday’s club. I got Black again and played a boy, never played him before. We played Italian Game. I had an advantage in the opening and missed 16… b4!

Then he got a “Ruy Lopez” style attack on the kingside. I was holding up until I played Bxf5, Be6 was better. Computer criticizes my 34… Qd3, saying that Bh6 was much better. I thought that it was the only way to save the pawn on c4, but after 35. Nxc4 Nxc4 36. Bxc4 Qd2 37. Qf3 Black can force queens exchange with a transition into an opposite-colored bishops endgame.

After he played 36. Bd5 I thought that my days are numbered and made a desperate attempt to survive by playing 38… Bxe3 and 39… f5. He made two mistakes in a row – 40. Kd2 and 41. Bxe4. After he played 41. Bxe4 I saw that I can play Nb2+ and if he takes the pawn then after Nc5 he loses the bishop. The only way to keep advantage after 40… fxe4 was to play 41. Ke1, then after 41… Kf6 42. Bxe4 Nc4 43. Bxd3 Nxe3 he was still up a pawn.

So after his last inaccuracy – 44. g4, we reached a completely drawn position. When he realized that, we agreed to a draw.

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I played in the tournament last weekend, it happened about 80 km from Toronto, in Guelph, at the local university. It was well organized and the traffic was good, less than an hour drive.

I played in the U2000 section, definitely could do much better than I did, but I hope I learned some important lessons. On my play definitely reflected the fact that I was waking up early both nights – at 4:30am, 5:30am with a little sleep before leaving.

Game 1 – I got Black, we played Giuoco Piano, he choose a 7. Nc3 variation I never played OTB before, maybe blitz a few times. Good that I remembered the main line, though not as deep as I thought. After 8… Bxc3 the main line is 9. d5 and Black should play Bf6, giving back one of the knights.

I played 11… f5, thinking that after Bf5 I can be overwhelmed with defending the knight on d4, but after 12. Re1 Re8 13. Nd2 Qf6 White can’t take on e4 – 14. Nxe4 dxe4 15. Bxe4 Qh5 and Black gets two pieces for the rook.

After 16… Nd6 it was equal despite me being pawn up, but then he played Bg5. After I took the bishop he resigned.

Game 2 – I got White with the girl that got a bye in the first round. Typical Rossolimo, but my attack on the kingside did not succeed, I didn’t play f4 not wanting to give her e5 square.

So, I switched to queenside. After 21. c4 I could win c5 pawn having a good, simple position without queens. I won it anyway, but had to spend time so my queen won’t get into trouble.  37. Qb3 was better than 37. Rb5, penetrating then into her backyard. Computer plays 39. f4 too, but I consider this move a mistake and beginning of the problems for White.

I had to play 42. cxb5, maybe I didn’t play it because I didn’t like c4, but it was completely won for White. I don’t remember  why I didn’t take on c5 on move 47, probably because of Qa4, but it was winning.

49. Qf3 was a big mistake, it gave up all the advantage, 49. Qb6 Qa4 50. Qf5 was the line to play. I already started to feel fatigue and my time also was shrinking. Then I made a game losing mistake playing 56. Kg1. After 56… Qc3 I realized that I am going to lose the game. After queens exchange the pawn endgame was lost.

Game 3 – I got Black with an aged guy, he played Queen’s Pawn. The first and only possibility advantage came for me on move 17, when I could play d4. Then I didn’t understand the meaning of his 23. Bd3, played a5 and missed a skewer. I managed to win his “b” pawn and thought that I could try to hold with my two bishops.

He tried to attack my king, but couldn’t find a win and went for a 3-fold repetition.

Game 4 – it was Sunday and I came with high expectations. I got White with a young guy and our Ruy Lopez quickly went off the book. He started a play in the center with 11… d5 and could get some advantage after 14… e4, but suddenly he played 14… Nxe3. I noticed almost right away that I have 15. Na4 and played it. Then instead of 19. Nd4 the best was Ng5.

After 19… Ng4 he managed to exchange queens and weaken my pawn structure on the kingside. I missed 28. Rxf7, still had a big advantage. But I didn’t think how I will use it, didn’t have any plan and was just moving the pieces. There a mistake in my score, so I can’t connect the moves in it before move 45 with the rest. But what happened is that  I eventually I had a pawn on b2, he on b3, his rook was on the 2nd horizontal and his king joined his pieces attacking my queenside. I got a very passive position, was in a serious time trouble, then lost pawns on the kingside and then blundered a piece and resigned.

I played this game on Monday, almost two weeks ago. I got an opponent to whom I lost some time ago. He had White and played Giuoco Piano.  His 5th move was not usual. I quickly considered  taking on e4, but it looked risky, so I decided to castle. It was still OK, though after 5… Nxe4 6. Bd5 Nf6 7. Nxc6 dxc6 8. Nxe5 it was equal and after 5… Nxe4 6. d4 d5 7. exd4 cxd4 I was better.

But then after 6. d4 I took on d4 and it was a mistake. 6… Bb6 was keeping the balance, after 7. dxe5 Ng4 9. Bf4 Qe8 9. Qd5 Ne7 10. Qd2 Ng6 Black was getting the pawn back. Even 6… Bd6 wasn’t bad at all.

After 8. e5 he got an advantage. 12. Ne7 was not a good move, d6 was better.  14. Nxd5 was a decisive mistake, only after it I saw the threat of f6 and Qg5. My position was indefensible and after his 24. Rxg7 the game was over.

I was disappointed that I forgot the lessons that I learned many years ago about not giving up the center in the Open games. It was also important lesson to calculate right from the opening. You should rely on your intuition when it is too difficult to calculate or you don’t have enough time, but here I had 90 minutes ahead of me, not even counting 30 seconds increment. After 5… Nxe4 he would never have that center.

 

My opponent was a guy I had a +1, -1 score in the last 3 years. I looked at our games before coming to the club. He played that night the same Giuoco Piano, but a different variation.

After 21… Qf5 I was feeling confident. Computer thinks that 23. b4 was a mistake. I thought for a some time how to play on move 24, Nd3 or Rg6, decided on Rg6, it was right. But then after g3 I did not see Qc2 eventually winning d4 pawn. I did not want to play 27… Nxb4, seeing that after 28. Rb2 he wins the pawn back with a better position. But computer suggests 27… c5 28. dxc5 Na6 with 0.6-0.7 advantage and a better play for Black.

So, I think it was after 25. g3 that he offered a draw. I refused first, but after a few moves saw that I have 12 minutes against his 18 and also didn’t see how I can win, so I agreed to a draw.

Computer evaluated the final position as +0.5 for me and suggested playing 28… Rg4. It was another idea I didn’t see, to attack his d4 pawn. Anyway I think it was a reasonable decision and it stopped a losing streak too.

The original post was devoted to the game where I had an isolated pawn, here I had the same opponent but we reversed the roles, here is the game. He had White, played Italian game and went for the variation with an isolani. I prepared for it, but not enough. He missed 14. Rxe6 with an advantage.  Then it was a critical moment when I could take on a2. I decided that it looks too risky with my kingside getting under attack and my rook and knight out of play. Houdini kind of confirmed that saying that with one pawn it was equal and if I would take another one, I would lose.

After exchanging queens I saw that all my difficulties are behind. I missed 3-fold repetition after 44… Rd6, I would claim it having less time at this moment. Then I decided to play on the kingside. When I had about 5.5 minutes and he 7.5-8 minutes he played Rf3. I quickly took the rook, thinking that exchange is OK. The thing is he blundered, after h3+ he loses the rook. I didn’t notice it and he too.

Then something interesting happened. I stopped writing the moves and started to play faster. He also reached 5 minutes and then it looked like he lost “the time initiative”. His time became equal to mine and then he got behind. On the board there was some meaningless maneuvering. I thought that I don’t want to win on time, being in this drawn position and not knowing how to win, it would be not legal by the way. Anyway when I had about 3 minutes 20 seconds and he about 2.5 minutes I offered a draw. He looked kind of surprised, so I said: “You have less time, but it’s up to you, of course”‘.  He thought for a moment and agreed.

When I came home, of course computer pointed to h3+. It kind of stuck in my head for a half of Friday, the only excuse I have is that I was playing blitz at that moment. From the positional point of view I think the game demonstrated all the advantages of isolani in the middlegame – playing on open verticals and strong knight on e5. It also showed that d5 was a nice square for my knight.

It was the same person I expected, the guy to whom I lost twice. I went over our last game, Italian. So, he gets White and we play the same variation, here is the game. The difference is that he plays Nf1 before the castle. It strikes me as slow and risky and I play d5 right away. I feel that I have some advantage with better placed pieces. His play looks heavier than in previous games and he spends more time than me.

I manage to play Nf5, forcing exchange soon. When he plays 25. c4 I think for a moment that I am in a big trouble, because it looks like I lose a bishop on b6 after c5. Then I find Bxg2. He gets worse and he realizes it. I do not play the best 28… Bd4, because I think that my bishop will be hanging there. Then he misses a chance to equalize with 33. Kg2.

His Qxf4 is a game losing mistake. We both have 20 minutes left at this time. I see 34… Bc7 and that I can get back my bishop, but it seems me that his passed pawn could be strong. I decide to choose a safer continuation, strongly believing that I can win the arising opposite-colored bishops endgame.
It goes smoothly, I almost blitz and after another 11 moves he resigns.
He looks disappointed, I almost want to say – “You expected to win 3rd time?”, of course I never say it.

Computer tells me that several times I let my advantage slip away and I that after 34…. Bc7 my passed pawn was much stronger than his,  so … we are not computers. At least during the game I had advantage most of the time and never was worse.

This expression came to my mind not right after yesterday’s game, but in 24 hours, after the game finally sank in my head. My opponent was the guy to whom  I lost 5 months ago having +3-+4 advantage. This time he had White and played Giuoco Piano, here is the game.  The first opportunity I missed was 12… Nxe4, giving me 2 bishops and very good play. Of course, why there should be  tactics in this quiet position? I didn’t have a specific plan. After his Nd4 I decided to play c5, realizing that I create a weakness, but hoping I can defend d6 pawn and will have counterplay on “f” vertical.

He started to press on “d”, I tried to keep the balance. After a good move 29… Ng5, which I made to create some threats on the kingside seeing that he wins my c5 or d6 pawn, I failed to see the combination after 30. Nxc5. I saw 30… Rdf8 31. Rxd6, but the only continuation I considered was Rxf2 and I didn’t like it.

I got worse and then I was given another opportunity to get back into the game after his 37. Ne3. I saw Ng5 and the following fork, but couldn’t think clearly, couldn’t calculate the line after queens exchange and thought that I lose material there – in reality I was winning a rook, so he would play instead something like the line that computer suggests, giving me pretty playable position. I only can say that I was probably nervous and had less than 10 minutes on the clock. After that it all went downhill, the rook endgame, into which I was kind of lulled, was completely lost for me. I was playing only on the increment, having 1-2 minutes on the clock. I probably could have resigned earlier, it was a last game, people were looking and it was nothing to show.

It is sad to see how I missed three tactics, first two giving me an advantage, though not decisive, but I wouldn’t lose the game at least as I did, and the third one was a good chance to draw.