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.

It was a third round in Mondays club and I got an old foe, +1,=2 with Black and -2 with White, funny. So luckily I had Black. We played the same line of Queen’s Indian Accelerated as 3 years ago. We had an equal position after the first 15 moves, then he made a mistake playing 16. a3.  I considered 16… Ne5 seeing that his knight is under double attack, but thought that he can jump like Nxe6 leaving my knight under attack too. I didn’t see that his Nd2 was hanging too. So the only choice for him would be to play 17. N4f3 with 17… Nxf3 18. Nxf3 Nxe4 following.

So I played 16… Qe7 planning to exchange my bishop to his knight and untangle my pieces. Then he went for exchanges, that gave me an idea that he wants a draw. I was OK with that I as didn’t think that I am in a great shape and believed that the arisen position was a draw. But he looked determined and continued to play. I was holding on and then he played 40. f5 that looked suspicious to me. Then he made a mistake playing 41. Bxd6. I missed an intermediate check 41… f4+! which after 42. gxf4 Kxd6 43. fxe5+ fxe5 would give me -3 advantage as his bishop would be simply bad.

We got an equal position, but he still wanted to win and played 46. g5, probably counting on something like 46… hxg5 47. hxg5 fxg5 48. Kg5 which would still be a draw by the way. But he missed an intermediate check 46… Bd5+, after which he is lost. I rightly took his pawn with my “f” pawn, not with the “h” one, that would be a draw, I just didn’t want to give him the “h” passed pawn.

On move 49 my Bf7 gave him a chance for a draw, he had to play Ke4 and then Kf5, but he didn’t see that. I was scared of 50. Bg6, but didn’t realize that after 49… Kd6 50. Bg6 Ke6 51. f7 my king gets to e7. After I took on f6 he played two more moves and resigned.

 

It was a first round in Wednesdays club. I got a #1 rated guy, my Russian-speaking acquaintance expert, he had White. He played London system, which soon became Queen’s Indian Accelerated. After 13 moves I got a position with hanging pawns.

After the game at the post-mortem there were a few people and one of them suggested 14… Nc6 instead of Nd7. His slow 17. Nf1 returned the favor and it was equal after the bishops exchange. You are supposed to play d4, but I don’t know if there was a moment to do that. On move 21 he forced c4 and here I think my inexperience with such positions showed.  I decided that since I moved the pawn I am worse. But computer doesn’t think so and Nimzowitsch in his “My System” gave an example when c4 can be alright, unfortunately I read it only after the game.

In fact 4 shootouts ran from that point ended up +1, =3 for Black.  I also read that you can create pressure on b2 pawn and I didn’t realize that, otherwise I would play 24… Rxc8  25. Rd4 Rb8. I didn’t find 26… Rd7 and after b3 was left with an isolated pawn. My 29… Qe6 was a mistake, maybe I already started to feel the time pressure. I knew that I would lose the “d” pawn and instead of calmly defending I went va banque and played g5, that was not reasonable of course.

He exchanged the queens and here I got my hopes up thinking maybe I can save 2 rooks ending. Computer says I had to play Rxa3, not Rf6, but shootouts say Rf6 was the move. At that moment I had maybe 15-20 seconds left, that’s why my next move 42… Rff4 was a decisive mistake, I had to play Re6. After his check I saw e6 coming after Kg7 or f6, but 43… Kf5 got me into a mating net after 44. Re7. Not finding defense I simply flagged.

 

It was a round four in the Thursday’s club, I had Black and played Queen’s Indian Accelerated again. My opponent was a boy, never played him before.

The first interest moment came when he suddenly played 19. Ne6. I looked at it and realized that accepting it would be bad after 19… fxe6 20. Qe7 Rf7, so decided to decline it, but spend some time thinking about the right reply. I considered 19… Ne4, but didn’t see any advantage in 20. Nxd8 Nxd3 21. Qd2 missing that after 21… Rxd8 22. Qxc3 Qc6 White has to play 23. e4 because 23. Qb2 or 23. Qc2 is met with b5. Another line 19… Ne4 20. Rd3 Rxd3 21. Qxd3 Qe7 22. Bd5 Nf6 23. Bxb7 Qxb7 24. Ng5 is -0.80.

Instead I played 19… Rd6 and in a few moves got some pressure on “d” vertical. But after 24… f6 Black’s position also became vulnerable due to the weakness of a2-g8 diagonal. My 32… d3 sacrifice was not necessary, instead Qd8 was keeping the pressure and defending the kingside at the same time.

After 35 moves I had about 3 minutes left. I saw that Rxh6 was possible and wanted to defend, but didn’t have enough time to calculate properly and played Rd7. It was a mistake, 37. Rxh6 gxh6 38. Qg6+ Kh8 39. Qe8+ Kg7 40. Qxd7+ Kf8 41. Qd8+ Kg7 42. Bc4 was winning.

Luckily for me he didn’t see it. I stopped writing the moves at that moment, remember playing Qf8 on the next move, so Rxh6 was not possible anymore. Then I created again a pressure on e4, he made a mistake and was forced to give up his “b” pawn.

In the end we had the following position, where I repeated the moves.

This position is equal after Bg2.

It was a first round of a new tournament in Monday’s club. My opponent was an old guy, he told me he didn’t play in 25 years. Yes, he looked rusty sometimes, nevertheless played pretty well.

So, I had Black and played Queen’s Indian Accelerated.  His 31. Qg2 was not the best move and then 32. bxc5 increased my advantage. So, I won a pawn and tried to get a breakthrough in the center. 36. Re4 was better than Red7.

In the end I got under 10 minutes and he was under 20. I started to feel exhausted and not seeing a way to win, decided to offer a draw. He accepted.

 

It was a first round of the Monday’s tournament and I got the second guy from that ~1400 rated pair of guys that won the middle section last time. His rating is now 1627.

I got Black and played Queen’s Indian Accelerated. His Bg5 surprised  me a bit and that bishop was quite annoying for a good part of the game. After the opening I was feeling under pressure and thought that I am in trouble, but it wasn’t that bad. He could play 18. Bb5 and after 18… Qxb5 19. Bxe7 Bxf3 20. gxf3 dxc5 21. Bxf8 Bxf8 22. dxc5 bxc5 23. bxc5 Rxc5 24. Rxc5 Rxc5 he would be 0.5.

But he played 18. Bg5 and I found a good defensive resource with Nd5. Again he could get a bit better with 25. Ne5, but he played Bd6 which was equal. When I decided to play 25… e5 it seemed risky, because it was leaving less protection for the knight, but it was the only way to free my pieces. It was also letting me to start a counterattack, computer sees it and recommends Bf1 right away. His Rc4 was a mistake, only preventing Qg4, but not Qf5. He still didn’t see the danger, even after I played Nf4. I realized that his Bb5 was bad, so I needed to decide, Nh3+ or Ne2+. I saw that gxh3 is bad as well as Kh1.

Computer suggests a nice queen sacrifice after 29. Kh1 – Qxf3!! . But what about 29. Kf1? It looked less forced, so I decided to play Ne2+.  Still the best was 28… Nh3+, winning after 29. Kf1 Bxf3 30. gxf3 Qxf3 31. Qe1 Nf4 32. Rxf4 Qh1+ 33. Ke2 exf4+ with a forced mate.

Anyway his position was difficult enough and then he played 31. Rh4??, probably trying to prevent Bh6. After 31… Nd4 not only his 32. Ke1, but also Rhxd4 was losing on the spot. I saw that his rook is hanging and played g5. After his 33. Rhxd4 it was a mate in 16, but even better 33. Rh3 wouldn’t save him.  34. Bxe8 made that mate shorter.

 

 

It was a second round in the Monday’s club and I got my nemesis – the guy I lost to quite a few times. Is it psychological or his style of play or openings that I didn’t master yet – probably all of it. Unexpectedly I got Black again, so Queen’s Indian.

What I am still missing playing this opening is a clear understanding of the ideas for Black. 5… d5 was not a good move, instead 5… Bb4 6. Nf3 Ne4 7. Qc2 O-O 8. Bd3 f5 9. O-O Bxc3 10. bxc3 d6 was a way to go. Another positional misstep was 8… exd5 instead of 8… Nxd5 9. Nxd5 Bxd5. You should not close the diagonal for the bishop. Then 10… cxd4 gave him ~0.8 advantage,  I had to play 10… Nc6.

Then I missed an opportunity with 12… Nxd4. Of course, I saw 13. Bxh7+ and decided that it was not worth to take the pawn, that it would weaken my kingside. But the position was equal. 12… Rc8 was just bad because of Bf5. He pressured and won the “d” pawn.

Eventually we exchanged most of the pieces and went into  a rook endgame. Suddenly he started to play not that well as before, maybe rook endgame is his weakness. It happened once in the past when I missed a chance to win a rook endgame with one strike. He played 33. a4, I saw the answer before and played Rd4. If he instead of that would play 33. b3 then my idea wouldn’t work.

I put my rook behind his pawn according to Tarrasch and everything was fine until move 45, when his king’s movement towards the “b” pawn got me worried and I made that horrible move Kd7 losing the game. The rest is self-explanatory, he just demonstrated some technique.

When I was driving home, I thought what could I do differently and suddenly realized that I did not have to move the king. If his king would approach the “b” pawn, the rook would give checks and the king had nowhere to hide. This all is because the pawn was advanced to b7. The funny thing is he did not realize that either.

The right way was to advance the pawn only to b6 and then move the king, still it’s a draw in this case.