It was a first round in the Mondays club. My opponent’s rating was 100 lower, I got White, he played Caro-Kann. Usually White plays 6. h4 and then by h5 and Bd3 forces bishops exchange. I decided to avoid that because I had a problem with h5 pawn in one of the games, it was weak.

I felt uncomfortable after his 12… e5, though computer feels fine and recommends to play 13. Bxg6 hxg6 14. b5 c5 16. dxe5 Nxe5 with equality. On move 15 I had to consider Bf5, I really did, but didn’t like 15. Bf5+ Bxf5 16. Nxf5 Nxf3+ 17. Qxf3 Bxh2+ 19. Kh1, though Black is -2.16 after 19… Rxe1+ 20. Rxe1 Bd6 21. Nxg7. So after 15 moves I regretted about not playing h4-h5 and exchanging my light-colored bishop, as I felt that my pieces were tangled.

I am not sure now what his 21… Qe5 move was, maybe just a blunder. I thought that it is dangerous to take f7 pawn, but after 22. Qxf7 Bxg5 23. Rb1 Bd2 24. b5 cxb5 25. Nxf1 Bxc3 26. Rxb5 Qe7 27. Qxg6 White is still a pawn up with ~0.4 advantage. After his 22. Qe6 I didn’t quite like my position and decided to exchange the queens thinking that the arising endgame should be equal. It was a mistake.

As soon as he played 24… Kc7 I got a bad feeling. I couldn’t avoid a loss of a pawn, the best I could get was to transfer into a rook endgame. 34. Ra5+ was not good as well as 35. Ra2, I had to approach my king. He missed a chance to play 35… b4, after which the “b” pawn would become very dangerous. His slow play allowed me to improve the position of my pieces. Computer confirmed, that my decision not to play 46. Rxb5 was right, he would win my “f” pawn and his “f” pawn would become unstoppable.

My 48. f4 was a mistake, I simply didn’t see where I could put my rook after my 48. Rf4+ or 48. Rf6 would be followed by Ke5. But simple 48. Rh5 was keeping the balance. Eventually I was able to take “b” pawn and approach my king to the kingside. I had in mind Philidor position, it became unavoidable. At some point he realized that and offered a draw.

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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.

 

My opponent was unexpected as well as that I will play Black. It was an old guy, never played him before. Here is the game. It was Reti opening, where I decided to give him hanging pawns. Finally he got them, but after a few moves decided to exchange knight on e5, that gave him an isolated pawn on c4. After queens exchange I thought that I am better.

His 34. Bc3 was a mistake, allowing me to exchange bishops and attack his c4 pawn. And then came a moment, when I evaluated the position wrong. I thought that after 38… Rxd3 I win a pawn, but then his king forces my king to stay on “a” line and it’s  a draw. I didn’t realize that he has no other moves and will have to move his king out of opposition losing the game. Really “seeing ghosts”. I also thought that in the rook endgame after winning “a” pawn I should win that endgame having two  connected passed pawns. He activated his rook and according to Fritz had good drawing chances, but 43. h5 ?? took his rook out of play with an easy win for me.

I recently had a blitz game which came to a rook + pawn vs. rook endgame. My opponent resigned in the following position:

Black can reach Lucena position here: 74. Kd1 Rc5 75. Rg8+ Kf3 76. Rf8+ Kg2 77. Rg8+ Kf1

and then it’s a known win: 78. Rg7 Rd5+ 79. Kc1 Ke2 80. Re7+ Kf3 81. Rf7+ Ke3 82. Re7+ Kf4 83. Rf7+ Rf5

By the way, Crafty found a neat and faster win – 74. … Rc8!

After I looked at all this stuff I thought that my opponent probably missed a draw earlier.  With a help of online Nalimov tablebases I found the moment where it went wrong for him:

Only rook moves – Rd2, Rd5, Rd6, Rd7, Rd8 lead to a draw. It is actually a second method of defense in Philidor position when white rook can’t get to the third line. It was found by M. Karshtedt, that you still can draw by checking from behind. White king should stay on the short side, to allow, if necessary, checks from the long side.
In my game White lost after 70. Kf2 Rc2+ 71. Ke1 Kg3 72. Rd3+ f3 73. Rd8 f2+.
It looks like I was looking for adventures in the game I played this Thursday.
It was an old gentleman I drew 2 times before. I was White and was expecting Alekhine defense from him (he played it in the club before), being sure he won’t repeat French. He played … Scandinavian, the opening I have a bad record with: =1, -3, though in the last game I was better after the first 13-15 moves. Anyway, he played the “classical” line 3…Qa5, here is the game.  I thought that I stumbled, moving 5. Qd3, completely forgetting that Bf5 is possible because the queen is on a5. But it was actually a book move, even with 53-54% score.
Anyway, I was OK, a few exchanges followed, and then he offered a queen exchange.
It confirmed my feeling that he wants a draw. I was kind of not in the mood to make another draw, but he threatened to take a pawn on a2,  if I would refuse. I looked and decided that after Qxa2, Ra1, Qb3, Rxa2 I get my pawn back, but after the move realized that queen can go back to d5 and defend the pawn. Fritz later also refused to exchange, but found a better way of implementing it and got the pawn back. I got nervous and tried to create complications on the kingside. I actually succeeded after he allowed me to take his knight on f6 and break his king’s cover. I found the pawn sac – f5, but played it a move later than needed, so instead of getting 0.8 better I got 0.8 worse and then we both missed a crucial combo – 34.  …  Rxg2+ 35.  Qxg2 Rg8 36.  Qxg8+ Kxg8, that was getting him Q+2P vs. 2R endgame with very active queen and passed pawns which is won for Black (2 shootouts confirm that).
Instead he eventually went for queen exchange that was good for me,  I activated my rook and it made the game almost equal. At one moment I got two connected passed pawns on “c” and “d”,  but I was afraid of his passed “a” pawn, so exchanged “c” for “a”.  I thought later, that it was a moment when I could win, but Fritz said that it was not possible to keep the pawns. Then finally we got in R vs. R endgame, with me having “d” and him doubled “f” pawns. I didn’t estimate the position right and went ahead with the king trying to support my pawn, instead of exchanging it for his “f” and getting into drawn ending with my king on the way of his remaining “f” pawn. Then I noticed that he is getting into time trouble,  spending more time than me on every move.  When he had 48 seconds (I had ~2 minutes 20 seconds) he offered a draw.  I didn’t feel like refusing it  (I am not sure I would feel the same way, if it would be somebody else),  he was better  (though 2 computer shootouts ended in a draw), so I accepted it. I don’t think I deserved a win in this game.

Actually the chances of playing it are lower than matching 4 out of 6 in 6/49 lottery – 1: 1,032.   I played about 4,000 blitz games, but only yesterday for the first time ever I got Philidor position  ( I never got it in OTB, online correspondence, standard FICS, etc. games).

56. … Kf7  The Black King is going to the queening square of the pawn. The rook is already on the sixth rank, not allowing the White King to advance. 

philidor1

57. Ra7+ Kg8 58. Kf5 Rb6 59. Re7 Rc6 60. g6 – this is what Black is waiting for,  now there is no defense from the checks from behind

philidor2

60. … Rc1 61. g7 Rf1+ 62. Kg6 Rg1+ 63. Kf6 Rf1+  

philidor3

1/2-1/2

On Sunday I played an OTB game in my club.  The guy was rated ~250 lower than me, said “wow” learning about my rating, but didn’t hesitate at the board at all. He pressed pretty well playing white Giuoco Piano (Italian game), I had to defend most of the time and finally it went into the drawn R+2p vs. R+2p endgame. Suddenly (he told me later that he thought he has an advantage and played for win) he made a mistake allowing me to activate my rook, so finally I got R+P vs. R.  After suffering a terrible loss in summer in the endgame R+Ps vs. R+Ps I learned Lucena and Philidor positions. I got Lucena only once ( out of ~3000 games online) before that and I drew it.

So, now I get an excellent chance to demonstrate my knowledge.  OK, I carefuly move the bishop pawn with the king,  all games were finished and a few people are watching.  Here I am, proud of myself, doing all by the book and reaching the position, where my nice bridge is almost built.  There is “still” about 5 minutes on the clock. Instead of checking my king and allowing me to finish my bridge ( Rf7+ Kg4  Rg7+ Rg5 ) he suddenly plays Kd2-d3. 

I think, how I should proceed and see Re4. There is something that I don’t like about it, but time goes, I have to move, so I do it. Suddenly he with a little “boom” takes my pawn …

I was humiliated, I came home and felt sick. The worst draw I ever had.  I spoiled my Lucena.

I think I was concentrated too much on the “bridge” part of the board and forgot about the pawn.  Maybe time was the factor too, having let’s say 20 minutes I would probably see it. Also, simple things like this I see OK in the middlegame having a little time (pattern recognition), but this is an endgame pattern (with the king), there are no such positions in the middlegame. 

So, somehow I should get that experience of playing endgames.  And of course, I should study them, this game was a pretty convincing argument.