I knew that a big tournament was coming and I had to decide to play or not.
There were a few factors, negative and positive influencing my decision:
– I had an party to attend on Friday night, when the 1st round would be played.
– My rating after Thursdays tournament would drop drastically and I didn’t want to meet a New Year with it.
– I had a feeling that I returning into a good shape.
– A 3 weeks break from chess was coming and I needed to somehow survive that.

So, because it was only one negative factor I just decided to take a bye in the first round and registered 5 minutes before the deadline.

Saturday. I came early to pay the entry fee, just after I did it I saw a familiar face from the Thursdays club. Suddenly he told me: “You know, we were paired on Friday and you didn’t come.” I ran straight to the registration table and had a discussion about it, how it could  happen when I took a bye and got an e-mail with a confirmation. So TD admitted that something went amiss and fixed the standings/pairings. I thanked god that I met that guy before the round started.

Round 2. I got a boy, had White and played Ruy Lopez, he chose Chigorin Defense. Computer doesn’t quite like my 17. f4 because of 17… exf4 18. Bxf4 Nc4, but after 18. fxe5 dxe5 it is equal. I maneuvered and got about 0.7 advantage after 25 moves, but then it slipped away. Then again he made a mistake by playing 28… Nxc4, I could play 30. a4 with advantage. The crucial moment came  when I managed to play 37. c4. Instead of playing 38… Qe7 he allowed me to advance the “c” pawn. My advantage then increased, but I missed a chance to win on the spot by 54. c7.

My move 60 needs a special explanation. So I wanted to queen my pawn, there were no queen at the table. I took a rook, flipped it, said like 3 times that it is a queen and put it on 8th. Then I went to find a real queen. When I am finally found one, I suddenly saw TD near my table and ran back dropping the queen. While I was running around looking for a queen my opponent meanwhile protested and TD came. So he looked apologetically at me and made the judgement:
“By the rules it is still a rook. You had to stop the clock and go to me to ask to allow you to find the queen.”
I saw that I am still winning and agreed with the decision. I also suddenly remembered the incident that made a lot of noise in chess Canada.

During the tiebreak for the Canadian Championship title one player wanted to promote his pawn with a few seconds left, but couldn’t find the queen. Only on video (which came out afterwards) it could be seen that his opponent was holding a queen plus two other pieces of the opposite color  in his hand for quite some time. So the guy flipped his rook, declared it a queen and made a move. The arbiter intervened right away and said that it is a rook.

Here is FIDE rule 6.12b: A player may stop the chessclock only in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, for example when promotion has taken place and the piece required is not available. Under US Chess Federation rules and in casual play, an upside-down rook may be used to designate a queen.

So a rook is not a queen and the guy lost the game, championship and the right to play in the World Cup. He appealed later the decision, but lost.
Sad. Luckily for me, I was in a much better situation. I just exchanged this rook and then put another queen, this time using the queen I found before. He soon resigned.

I had about 90 minutes break, 30 minutes before the 3rd round I saw the pairings.
I checked my opponent’s games in DB, saw that he played some kind of Scotch gambit and decided to avoid that altogether by playing Hungarian Defense.

Round 3. The game started with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 and I played Be7, Hungarian Defense. He had to castle on move 7. Then 10. Ne4 instead of castle was not a good idea. His play struck me as slow. After my bishop check on b4 he unexpectedly moved his king to f1. Later computer pointed that something else was losing, for example 11. Bd2 Re8 with a win. Then I tried to increase the pressure. 15. g6 was a bit slow, intended to prevent Qd3 or Nh5.  Then I saw a possibility to win a pawn threatening by skewer.

Interesting that computer recommends to play 19… Qxd4, but I didn’t want to exchange queens in this position. 20… Qd6 was defending g6 and also attacking the knight on g3, then the same thing happened with him as with me in the last round of the February’s tournament, he blundered the knight not seeing the pin. After he played 22. hxg6 I saw Bxf2+ and played it, after Re1+ he resigned. The best was 22. Rh3, but Bxf2+ and Re1+ still followed, gaining knight plus two pawns advantage.

Sunday. I had 2.5/3, so had high expectations that morning. I saw the pairings before leaving home, familiar opponent, =1,-1 score in rapid, no games in DB, surprisingly I got Black.

Round 4. He started 1. c4, I decided to transfer it into Semi-Slav. After his 13. Bd3 I didn’t feel comfortable, but computer evaluates the position as 0.00. It looked like queens exchange that he offered would solve my defense problems. Maybe this worried state continued, as my 16th move was bad. I think I didn’t like Nb5-d6, though I just could exchange my bad bishop to his good knight.

Then I really wanted to play Bb5, but thought that after bishops exchange as well as rooks exchange the pawn endgame would be not good for me. And, yes, after 21… Bb5 22. Bxb5 axb5 if rooks are exchanged and Black does nothing that pawn ending is lost. But keeping at least one rook would hold I think.

I was defending OK, but he increased the pressure by 35. e4. On move 37 I played passive Kc8, instead 37… Ra1 38. d5 Re1+ was keeping the balance. 40… Ra6 was a mistake, after double rooks exchange I didn’t take into account 43. f5 with resulting better queen endgame for White. But he didn’t see it and just played f5. My 43… Rg2 was a crucial mistake, Rg7 which I thought was passive and allowed Rh6, was better. From that moment it was impossible to save this game and I resigned on move 60.

Round 5. My opponent was a boy, he played French, familiar variation, I had it with a master. But his 8… Bc5 was a rare line and after 9… Qb6 I had to think for a while. The best move was 10. c3, if 10… Qxb2 then 11. Nb5 and White wins. His 11… Ng4 took me by surprise, but I saw that I got “f” vertical and tried to develop some attack there, but 15. Ng5 was premature.

Then I didn’t understand why he played Rc8 unless he took on d4. My answer was forced, computer doesn’t like f5, recommending g6.
I prepared to play Nxf5, again I didn’t feel like I have much choice and there was definitely some compensation. Computer evaluates the position after sacrifice as +0.5.

His Rc7 was a mistake and after 25. Qf7 I had +2.8 advantage. Then he made another, crucial mistake when played 25. Kh7. I saw that I have perpetual and started to look for more. I spent a lot of time, thought that Qf6 was a key defensive move. Then I saw that I have only 15 minutes left and went for a perpetual. At home computer told me that paradoxical 27. Rf1!! was winning. The thing is if Black takes on f1, it loses control of e8 square and it is mate in 9 – 26. Qg8+ Kg6 27. Rf1 Bxf1 28. Qf7+ Kg5 29. h4+ Kxh4 30. Qf4+ Kh5 31. Bd1+ Kg6 32. Bc2+ Kh5 33. Qf3+ Kg5 34. Qg3+ Kh5 35. Be2 Bxe2#.

Another, more “normal” winning move after 26. Qg8+ Kg6 was 27. Re1. After 27… Bf6 it was mate in 8, starting from Bc2+. Otherwise after 27… Bd3 28. Re6 White is winning.

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It was a last round in Monday’s club, my opponent was a man rated 1813, new in the club. I got White, played Ruy Lopez, he went along with Chigorin variation. He didn’t look quite sure about the order of the moves, I used it and played 14.d5.

After the opening he started attack on the queenside, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Computer thinks I had to be more careful and play 17. Bd2 and then b4 or b3. So he got some advantage and then I made a mistake by playing 22. Qe2. Only after I made the move I noticed that I can’t take on c4 because of Bb5 and my queen is trapped. He saw that too. By the way the idea to attack c4 pawn was good, but for that I had to play 22. Nf3 then 23. Nd2.

I saw that my chances don’t look very good and decided to sharpen the game by playing typical Nf5. Computer still recommends to play Be3 before that, saving the bishop. I was able to improve my position, but then missed 35.Qg4 with an equal game. So I was again worse after 37… Rb3. Then I didn’t see that I can’t defend my pawn by playing 38. Qf3.

I realized that my only chance was to use the weakness of his light squares. On move 44 I missed very strong d6, as I was occupied by the idea of the rook sacrifice. After I played 44. Re4 I noticed that he has 44… Rc1+ and 45… Qc5 and thought that he can threaten my king. But 45… Qc5 was losing after 46. Qf7, my king after checks was safe on h5.

The move that was saving him was 45… Qa7 and then if 46. Qf7 then 46… Qe7. After he played 44… Rb3 I realized that I won the game. The final position after Rxh6+ and Qg8#  looks similar to Max Lange’s mate.

 

I played two games this week, both in penultimate rounds, Ruy Lopez with Black, both featured the same line of Chigorin variation.

Game 1 – it was Mondays club, my opponent was a master rated 2233. I decided to try 15… Nc6 and 16… exd4. I forgot the next book move 17… Ne5 and played Re8. I knew that I need to play d5, but didn’t execute it well. After 19… d5 20. exd5 I needed to play intermediate Nb4 and only after that Nxd5. So he suddenly sacrificed his bishop on h7, I didn’t see it.

It was not that bad because I got two bishops, but my next move, 23… Bf6, was a big mistake. It went down after that and after 26… Be6 the game was basically over.

Game 2 – it was Thursdays club, my opponent was a boy rated 1509. We went along the same line of Chigorin variation as on Monday. I thought maybe I will outbook him, as I looked up that line. I played 17… Ne5 this time and we followed the book for 19 moves. Then he played 20. Ng3. I had to play d5 on moves 20, I think I considered it, but thought that he has Be4 after exd5. There was actually an intermediate move 21… Bb4 and then Qxd5 with an equal position.

So my weak d6 pawn got under pressure. I tried to defend it and on move 25 made a crucial mistake playing 25… g6. After 26. Qd5 he was winning a piece – 26… Qxd5 27. Nxe7+ and Nxd5 or if I would avoid Qxd5 he would follow with 27. Nh6+ with a forced mate. But he didn’t see it and eventually I equalized.

We transferred into a R+N vs. R+B  endgame, I think then he offered a draw, I refused. Then we got into a N vs. B endgame. I liked my position and thought that I have a chance. I probably had it, but played 42… Nc7 instead of 42… a5 43. Bh2 b4 44. axb4 axb4.

I tried to use his bad bishop, but to no avail. He again offered a draw, I said I will think about it. Somewhere around move 50 he started to look at the scoresheet looking for a 3-fold repetition, there actually was one. I didn’t say anything, but soon decided to agree to a draw.

It was a 4th round in the Thursday’s club. I found that my opponent is a girl to whom I lost in the 1st round of the big tournament in February. It was a painful loss because I had an advantage and thought I would win. She had White again and it was again Ruy Lopez. This time we played Chigorin variation and I decided to play 15. Nc4 to neutralize the “Spanish” knight, I played it once before and it was OK. I took on c4 with a pawn to prevent Bb3. Then she started to attack “c4” pawn, I could play 19… Bc6 to save that pawn by provoking d5.

So I didn’t find the defense and lost a pawn and then missed Bxf7+. I thought that at the candidates tournament players were sometimes like +2 and then it changed to equal or worse so I should resist. There were a lot of pieces still on the board and my king was safe. Suddenly she played Qc3. I felt that taking on e4 is risky, but had nothing to lose. Her 27. Qe3 looked like an attempt to prove me wrong, but it was a mistake. After her 28. f3 I saw Ng4 and played it. She still had a line 29. Nc5 Qa7 30. hxg4 Bxh4 31. Ne6 Qxf7 32. Nxd8 Rxd8 33. fxe4 Rxe1 34. Qxe1 dxe4 that would lead to an equal position.

My impression was that she got in a kind of a shock seeing me intercepting the initiative and didn’t play the best moves. Also she started to spend a lot of time and soon got a couple of minutes left. I thought that she can lose on time. It eventually happened when the game was already lost on the board.

I had serious doubts if I should play that Monday night after returning from the weekend tournament that didn’t go well at all. But during the day I calmed down, was feeling OK and decided to go.

My opponent was a new guy, he played before in the middle section and his rating was still provisional. I got Black, he played Ruy Lopez, we followed the book moves until his 16. Ng3 to which I played Rfe8, not Nc6. Computer thinks  that after 19. Ne3 I had 0.9 advantage.

Here comes the explanation of the post’s title. I calculated 21… Rxd3, saw that it didn’t work and played Nb7. But there was an interesting move that actually used my idea.  21… Bb4 attacked the rook on e1, defending e4. So, 22. Bd2 was losing due to Qd7 and if 22. Nd2 then Qd7 again. If 22. Rf1 then my Rxd3 worked.

The best reply for White was 22. Bxh6 and then if 22… Bxe1 then 23. Bxg7 and White is better. So, 22… gxh6 23. Qe3 Bf8 24. Nxh6+ Bxh6 25. Qxh6 Rxd3 26. Qg5+ Kf8 27. Qxf6 Qd6 28. Qh8+ Ke7 29. Qxe5 with Black having a bishop for 3 pawns and about 0.4 advantage.

Nothing of that happened, on move 24 I played Nd4 though I didn’t like it, just didn’t see anything else. On moves 36 and 37 he could get advantage after Qg3, but he didn’t see it and played 37… Nxd4, after that it became equal, we repeated the moves and agreed to a draw.

My opponent was a man, who plays as long as I am playing, first our game was in 2008. I think our score is +2, -1.  He had White, Ruy Lopez, Chigorin variation. My goal in it lately is to avoid by any means a quiet White’s buildup on the kingside, the knight placed on f5 is of course an important part of it.

19. Nd5 really changed a character of the game for me. After 19… Nxd5 20. exd5 f6 I got a good feeling. The pawn on d5 didn’t look dangerous and my position looked very solid. Then again I was not worried about his Nh4 because I had f5. Then a strange thing happened. I was watching his knight and saw that I can’t play g5 because he would take on f5. From another point of view I didn’t want to play e4 because of the Qd4 with the forced queens exchange. So I played Bg7 not seeing that after 25… e4 , 26… g5 he loses the knight on h4.

Then I made another mistake giving up all my advantage after exchange on h4. 29… Qc6 was intended not to let him to put his queen on d5, attacking pawn on e5. It was still his best option – to play Qd5 with an equal position. His 32. Re1 gave an advantage to me again. 33. Qe2 was another mistake and then he suddenly took on e5. He probably thought that I will play 36… Rxc6, but I saw a knight check winning a piece.

The arisen endgame was pretty simple, it was good because I really got down on time. I stopped writing the moves having less than 5 minutes and got under 1 minute at some point. Still, in the end I managed to block his passed “b” pawn and created my own on the kingside. Eventually he resigned when my pawn was about to queen with a mate.

 

I unexpectedly got Black again in that round, so my opponent was also unexpected – the girl I lost to twice. Once I underestimated her and another time I gave up the perpetual for a “winning” move. She can play well, recently drew with a master and a couple of experts and is a current U14 girls Canadian champion.

We played Ruy Lopez, Chigorin variation. After Nxc4 I decided to take with the pawn, didn’t like her bishop getting to b3. I thought that d5 instead of pressure on e5 was making my life easier. Then I got an opportunity to get my knight on f4 and started to think about an attack.

Her 27. Rh1 was a big mistake, which I didn’t use. After 27… Rxc3 28. Qxc3 Bxh3 29. g3 Qh6 30. gxf4 exf4 31. Qd2 f3 32. Nf1 Qh4 33. Kg1 Bxa1 Black is much better. I saw the idea of Rxc3 without the details after she played Bb4 and decided to keep it in mind. After 30. Rac1 I saw 30… Rxb4 31. Qxb4 Ne2 with Qf4+ coming and calculated that because of the mate threat and her pieces on e3 and c1 hanging it should be a sound sacrifice.

It was, she played Qe1 and my task since then was not to let her win back the knight on e2. We exchanged the bishops, then the rooks. I thought that I should keep my queen, because B+N vs. R could get tricky if her rook will become active. Then she underestimated my attack in the center and made two crucial mistakes – 47. Qb8+ and 48. Qxd6. At that moment I had about 3 minutes left, but managed to stay calm and found the winning moves.