It means through difficulty to heights, thought it suits. I just participated in a big tournament and for a first time in my life shared a first place, it happened before only in the club tournaments. It was a traditional tournament that was organized during the reading week at the university. After disappointing start of the year I decided to start from scratch.  It was 6 rounds, 90 minutes, 30 seconds increment, I registered in U1900 section.

Saturday. I come early, meet several people that I know and have a nice talk.

Round 1. Interestingly, my opponent is the same girl I played in the 2nd round of the big tournament before New Year. She gets White again and plays the same Exchange Variation of Ruy Lopez. I choose my favorite Bronstein variation. It is OK until move 12, then I castle queenside and it is not a good move. Computer suggests c5 with queens exchange and then castling queenside. Then after my 14… Qe7, Houdini says there is a knight sacrifice on a5. Black has to take, in a few moves White gets the bishop on d7, wins a pawn and is ~2.5.

I frankly don’t see it at all, she too. She has the same opportunity on move 16, misses it again, so I win the “e4” pawn. I find a nice spot for my light-colored bishop on b5, another one goes to d6 and I feel good finally. Then suddenly she makes a wrong sacrifice, I realize it right away. I try to play accurately, put my pieces on the right places and do not give any chances. Eventually my passed “a” pawn queens, she still plays until there is a mate on the board. I have 3.5 hours until the next round, get some rest and even have a nap.

Round 2.  I have White and play Ruy Lopez, he chooses Chigorin Variation.  I close the center and try to organize an attack on the kingside, he defends. Computer says I could play a4 on move 18, 3 moves earlier with +0.7 evaluation. Then we shift to the queenside. After playing 29. b4 I see that I missed his 30… b4, but then calm down seeing 33. Ba2. When we get there I see that I also have 33. Bc2.

After 33… Rb2 he offers a draw. I feel somewhat tired, also remember that getting 2 out of 2 in the last 2 big tournaments didn’t do me any good, as I lost in the 3rd round both times. I make a pause, then agree. Driving home I think that maybe I could use his d6 weakness, but also realize that my bishop is not too good. When I come home, Houdini’s evaluation is 0.00. I run 4 shootouts and they all end up in a draw.

Later in the evening I see the pairings, I got White, my opponent is the brother of that girl I lost to in the Mondays club. He played less tournaments and his rating is lower, still it is 1770 FIDE. I can’t find any of his games and it makes me a bit nervous.

Sunday. I come early again and enjoy conversation with the guys I know.

Round 3. The boy starts with 1. d4 and I play Queen’s Indian Accelerated. I want to release pressure caused by his bishop on g5 and play 6… Ne4. Then after his 9. Bd3 I see that I have nothing on the kingside, find 9… Qb4+ and decide to try my chances in the endgame. We both play accurately and it looks equal. I put a last trap playing 26… Nc5, hoping that he might take the knight. I see that it loses after 27. Nxc5 Kxc5 28. Kd3 Kb4 29. Kc2 Ka3 30. a4. But he doesn’t bite and plays 27. Kd2. After my 28… Kc6 he offers a draw, I accept.

The future sequence of events proves that I made a right decision. Also the position was just 0.12 in my favor. I can some rest, some time before the start I learn the name of my opponent. It is a familiar player, a man I have 1.5:0.5 score with, with Black he plays French.

Round 4. French it is, I play my Tarrasch, we get closed variation. I decide to play 4. f4, it recently brought me success. After I play 12. Bh3 I think maybe he could take on e5, but decide to wait for his reply. He doesn’t see 12… fxe5 13. Bxe6+ Kh8 14. 0-0 exd4 15. Kh1 d3 with -1.5. Then his 15… Bd7 misses a strike on d5. I press, but it looks like he is able to block e5 pawn and hold on.

Then I get an idea of playing g4 and putting my queen on f5. It is a good idea, but instead of the actual 34. Qf5 there is Qf3 winning d5 pawn. He defends, he is also in a time trouble. His 36… Qd6 is a decisive mistake, I see Rxf8+ and play it, he resigns.

Monday. I come to the hall and realize that I forgot my coffee at home. I see my acquaintance, who has coffee cup in his hand and he tells me where I can get it, 5-6 minutes walk. I go there and get a large cup, it helps tremendously later.

Round 5. My opponent is a student. He has White and plays English, I decide to answer e5, we end up in Carls’ Bremen system. On move 8 I miscalculate and play Qe7, thinking that I have to defend my e4 pawn, though after Nbd7 he can’t take on e4. So, he takes on f6 and later continues to press on e4, then unexpectedly plays Rf2. He still has ~0.5 advantage, but I feel better.

On move 22 I decide to counter-attack and play d5. It isn’t a sound move, since he has 23. exd5 cxd5 24. Re1, but he plays 23. Re1.  Then my 23… Rde8 is a big mistake because of 24. Bd7 Qf8 25. Qxf8 Rexf8 26. Nxf6 with +4 advantage, but he doesn’t see it. I continue to advance the “e” pawn, letting him to take the knight on g6. Then he makes a decisive mistake with 30. Kh1 instead of Kg2. I put my queen on the crucial square f2.

His 31. Nd3 misses the fork and I start to think that I am going to win this game. His position gets worse and worse, on move 40 I see a possibility of a sacrifice on f3, but don’t have to calculate, computer says it is mate in 8 if he takes the rook. Then on the next move he makes a blunder and resigns.

I have a rest and about 40 minutes before the game see the pairings on the chess-results site. I don’t like the fact I have Black again, 4 times out of 6. Then I check opponents games and see that he plays Italian Game, the variation with an isolated pawn. I played quite a few games against it, so it calms me down.

Round 6. It starts as I expected, the boy plays Italian game. We go pretty fast along the main line, then I chose my favorite line placing bishop on d5. After his 16. Nfg5 I see the danger, of course, and play Ng6. Then something interesting happens, he plays 17. Rad1. I notice that his knights are hanging and play f5. After some thinking he plays 18. Qe2. It seems me that he can get his knight back after Qh5, so I find Nf4, which is best move anyway. But fxe4 would still work because instead of the knight on g6 I would get the knight on g5.

After winning the knight I try to increase the pressure on the kingside. Computer criticizes his 24. Nxb7, confirming my decision to give up that pawn for the sake  of the attack. Then he makes a bigger mistake playing 25. Qh4, but I don’t see g5, missing it on the next move as well. His exchange on c4 is a bad idea, my advantage is decisive. After his 29. Nd6 I miss the game winning Qg6.

He takes the pawn on a7 and this is a final mistake. I see Qd2 and after playing it, see Nf4 with a mate. He tries to prevent it by playing Rf4, but the mate is here anyway. I am very happy, I already saw that two boys with 4.5 agreed to a draw. So we have 3 people sharing the 1st place with 5/6 and the game between two teenagers, boy and girl, having 4/5, is still going.

The boy is my opponent in round 3, with whom I drew in Queen’s Indian. I am watching that game, they play the endgame R+2N vs. R+2N, roughly equal. They eventually start to play on increment, having 1-2 minutes each and after a lot of moves the boy overplays the girl and wins. So, four of us share the first place.

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 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.

It was 6th round in the Thursdays tournament, my opponent was a boy rated about 1300. He had White and played Italian game, the line that I know pretty well. We followed the book until move 14.

I played 16… g6 because of possible Re5, to keep my knight on f5. 19… Nxc3 was forced by Nxd5 with following Re5. I expected 24. d5, intended to play Qf6 and was surprised by his Rd3. I was also surprised by his 30. gxh5. By his move 32 I got annoyed by his two draw offers and lack of progress, though I thought that I am better.

It forced me to play 32… c5, computer estimates it as equal and prefers 32… f5 33. Rf4 g5 with a -0.5 estimate in a few moves afterwards. I thought that I will get an attack and by the way he had 11-12 minutes left and I had about 7. His 36. Qe3 was a horrible mistake. I made a mistake too, deciding for some reason that there is a mate after 36… Qh1+, suddenly he played Kg3. 36… Rh1+ was winning on the spot.

I quickly realized that my attack will disappear after 38. Kh4. But he played Kf4 and after g5 I saw Qe4+ coming. He saw it too, gave up the rook and after 40… Re1 had to resign.

My opponent was a boy, I drew with him 2.5 years ago. I had Black, we played the same variation of Italian game. I knew that White has some activity as a compensation for an isolated pawn, so I need to be careful.

The most interesting moment of the game occurred after his 29. f3, which was a mistake. He could play b4 with an equal position. I immediately saw c5 and played it. After his Qe4 I considered Qb3, but after some thinking decided that he can play  31. Rd3 Qxb2 32. d5 which I thought was giving him some chances. Actually it was a chance for me to win. In another line that Fritz gives – 30… Qb3 31. Rd2 cxd4 32. Qd3 Qd5 Black is also better, as well as after 30… Qb3 31. Qd3 Qb6 32. Kf1 Rxd4.

So, we went into a rook ending and I soon realized that I don’t have a chance to win. I also had about 8 minutes left vs. his 15 and offered a draw, which he accepted.

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.

 

I never played with this guy before, it was a 30+ aged man. He played Italian game, here it is. His “novelty” 9. e5 didn’t look good to me and yes, his d4 pawn got under attack.

I saw 14… Nxd4 and decided that it’s better than boring Ne7 and that I probably will be able to defend that spare “d” pawn. He didn’t go for a principal 17. Qxb2, I saw 17. … Rb8 19. Qxa7 Rxb2, he saw that too and probably didn’t like it. I considered Nb4 when played Ba6 and thought that I can answer Be2, d3. Then after d3 I started to see a5, but played Rd4 because I miscalculated and thought that f3 gave him an additional strike on d3 with a king. Anyway he gave me a chance to win the piece, not seeing Rd7 and Bf5 I think, otherwise he would play 24. a3. The game was basically over after that and rooks exchange made a win technical.