I played on Monday, my opponent was a young  guy rated ~100 higher than me. I had White,  played Ruy Lopez and he after some thinking chose Marshall attack, here is the game. I played a few Marshall attack OTB games with Black – without much success, but  I never played it with White, though I had some knowledge and online blitz experience, preferring  modern variation Re4. I liked more the line with d3, where Black can’t play g5 after Re4.

After 18… c5 I think I found a way to neutralize his initiative. The position started to look better and better to me. He had less time, so I decided to stir up things a little bit and played b3. It worked and he missed 35. Rd7. Another mistake and he resigned before getting mated.

I was really happy after the game.  My efforts related to Marshall attack eventually paid off.

My guess about my possible opponent was right, so his 1. b3  (here is the game) wasn’t surprise to me. I had one Nimzo-Larsen before, at Canadian Open, when I drew with 2000+ WCM, so the experience was good. I came to this game having 6 losses in a row, it’s a record I think, and though four of them were against 2000+ rated players, still… There were 2 things that I mixed up about my opponent – first I thought he is rated  1600+ and second, that I played with him last season and painfully lost, blundering in a better position in time trouble. It seemed very strange to me, that he played very slowly, the  first time he played embarrassingly fast. It looked like another person, and I found out later it was. 🙂

Anyway, I got an advantage in the opening. Then his coming c4 kind of slowed me down, but I thought that e4 in this situation will be good and it was. It was an inertia, I think, that I continued to think about my hanging pieces and didn’t see that I can take on d4 with a bishop and win a pawn. I wasn’t afraid of his queenside pawns and started to prepare the attack on the kingside.

At some moment the position became “Marshall-like”, with this h2-g3-f2 pawn structure and no pieces defending the kingside. I didn’t get good results OTB with Marshall and stopped playing it, and now here I get something like another chance.

OK, so I started to play this position accordingly.  f4, f5 to open the “f” vertical was typical. Here the same inertia caused me to miss Bf3 after his Qc2. Of course I thought about mate on g2 before, but then when I realized that his queen can come to the rescue, I concentrated on opening “f” line and forgot about g2.  h5 was taken from Ivanchuk’s or Aronian’s Marshall game. I was thinking about typical (for Marshall attack) Bxg3 sacrifice and his 27. Ne2 gave me the necessary tempo for that.  I calculated until seeing Bd1+, winning the queen. I had to slow down first when I played Kh7  (thanks to h5) and after Bd1+, feeling that there is something and it was a mate on f4. Interesting, that after 29… Bxh2+ there was a mate in 8. I looked at Bxh2+, but it seemed that the king was escaping.

After a 4 weeks break I played on Thursday in the club, here is the game. Unfortunately,  it became a sequel to one of my games played 4 months before:


My opponent was one of the people I expected, I knew what he will play with White – Ruy Lopez. I played with him 8 months ago, had a lousy draw when I missed the win soon after the opening and again in the endgame. Then he was ~1520, now ~1750. I had to win in order to get 2/3  (all my opponents being lower rated) and keep my rating. Right after we started I remembered his games and thought that I can beat him in tactics, so decided to play Marshall attack.  The first sign of trouble was 18… f5, for some reason some time ago I decided that this is more simple and straightforward than the first choice Re6.  It is not, Re6 would be very useful later. I think the critical moment of the game was after 22… gxf4. I thought of course about Rxf4, but after 23. Rxe8 Qxe8 24. Qxd5+ saw that he wins “d” pawn, so didn’t like it.  Nevertheless Fritz says that Black has a strong attack after that, which can be completely explained by bad position of White’s king and non-developed rook. In the end of Fritz’s line I get advantage which would be enough for me to win. After spending a lot of time, I played differently – Bh3, where he could get advantage, but he didn’t, then 25… Bd3 was really bad, instead Re6 provided equality. I got behind in time and material, was upset and nervous and having 36 minutes vs. his 55 made a horrible blunder trying to get back one of the pawns. The whole game reminds me of something like playing at the concert some nice, but difficult piece on piano. You think you know very well the first part, but you actually don’t. Then you want to play that musical phrase one way, but decide it’s not good and play the other way – bad. After the concert you learn that the 1st time you were right and this important phrase would make your piece beautiful and success. Then your fingers, rough after some physical work can’t extract the fine sounds that you need in this piece. And finally, knowing that you are playing bad and being upset, you also feel some pressure (can’t find analog to time pressure) and go off pitch – ruining your play.

The tournament I just played in reminded me the one I had a year ago – https://rollingpawns.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/another-milestone/
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.
It was a last game of the tourney, I was +2 and got paired with 1900 rated young guy.
He had White and played Ruy Lopez,  here is the game.  I went for Marshall attack, he accepted. First surprise – he played 12. d3, and then 15. Re4, not much familiar to me  (I found one blitz game I played against it), except that I know I have to play 15…Qf5.  He then played 16. Bc2, actually not the best move,  and I think it was the critical moment.  Would I play 16…Qg6 with excellent stats and any engine suggesting it, I would never have problems I got in the game. My light-colored bishop would be “strong and free” (like “The True North” in our anthem) on f5, and dark-colored one would never get exchanged. I wanted to use a non-stable position of his rook,  21…g5 was a good idea, but being implemented one move earlier than needed became the bad one.  I didn’t have any attack and my attempts to get one only made the position worse. His pressure intensified, the position was bad, also I started to get behind on time, having ~13 minuts vs. his 18 when I blundered on move 42.  The rest was clear and I resigned on move 47, with  the perspective of losing queen for knight.
Of course, I was upset, losing in my favorite opening, which I played more than 100 times blitz  (but only once OTB, by the way).
The total result was some consolation – +1 and ~1950 performance rating.

I didn’t play last Thursday (had to take a bye), so I decided to post a correspondence chess game that I won recently. It’s a thematic Ruy Lopez tournament, I was Black and played Marshall attack, here is the game. I would define Marshall attack as “fast and furious” and I think I was able to follow that definition in this game. White’s move 16. Nd2 was too slow, allowing 16… f5 and 17… f4, and then a mistake let Black to make a typical sacrifice. White’s 25. Bf4 was the best, still losing an exchange and getting into the lost endgame.

This is a sequel to my old post “Are you afraid of the Marshall attack”.   I am looking at the pretty rare ( according to 365chess.com usual 9. … Nd5 was played in  94% of the games) old variation, named after Herman Steiner, US chess player, 1948 US champion, who belonged to Romantic School of chess, succeeding Morphy, Pillsbury and Marshall.  Though he first used it in the tournament in 1930, it was played in friendly game Walter Frere vs Frank Marshall in 1917 and before that in the game K. Walbrodt vs. consultants in 1893.

The guy played it on FICS against me,  I barely survived, so as always it got me interested. Right after I learned it a bit the 2nd round of the thematic Ruy Lopez correspondence tournament on chess.com finally started. So I decided to play it against the guy with 2400+ rating (mine was ~2000). There is nothing to lose I thought. If I’ll try it with this high rated guy, at least I will go down fighting.  The guy soon went along the wrong path, following (not knowing that) the game, played in Argentina some time ago. I took it right from the point where the Argentinian guy resigned and as one guy at work said – “you just finished him off”.

So, here is the game, I am Black:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 e4!? – this is a Steiner variation 


10.dxc6 exf3 11.d4 fxg2 12.Qe2 – start of the troubles, Fritz – -0.93, the book move is 12. Qf3 (Fritz – 0.42).


12…. Bd6 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bxf6 Qxf6 15.Nd2?? – Fritz, -4.34, suggests Qe4 – -0.78


15…. Qf4 16.Nf3 Bg4 17.Kxg2 – another bad move – Fritz – -7.68


17…. Rae8 18.Qd3 Bf5- here Argentinian guy resigned, you will see why (the rest is mine):


19.Qd1 – forced mate after that, anyway Fritz suggests giving up the queen for the rook- 21. Qe3.  19….Rxe1 20.Qxe1 Bh3+! 


 White resigned – 21. Kxh3 Qxf3+ 22. Kh4 g5#


Here is Frere vs. Marshall game, pure classic:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 e4 10. dxc6 exf3 11. d4 fxg2 12. Bf4 Bg4 13. Qd3 Nh5


14. Bxc7 ?? – trying to win a pawn. Fritz 11  – -3.44 (14. Be5 – -0.19 ) 14. … Qxc7 15. Qe4 Nf4 16. Qxe7 ?


16. … Qxe7! 17. Rxe7  Bf3!


White resigned – 18. h3 Nxh3+ 19. Kh2 g1Q+


20. Kxh3 Qg4+ 21. Kh2 Qg2#