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 second round of the Mondays tournament, my opponent was young man rated 1487. He had White and played Ruy Lopez, Exchange variation. His 5. h3 was 5th choice and not very good, as well as 6. d4. Computer suggests I could play 6… Qg6 with some advantage. I missed his 17. Rxd6, but it did not give him any advantage.

I think 23… g5 wasn’t a good idea, even computer says it is equal after it. I am convinced I made it hard on myself with this and some moves after it. 26… Re7 was a mistake, I somehow missed 26… Be6 which was leading to an equal endgame. On move 29 Nxh3 was better, Ne6 would get me into unpleasant position after 30. Kg4 Nf4 31. Kxg5 Nxh3 with ~1.4 estimate.

But suddenly he took the pawn on d6, then after hanging it in the air he put it back and said something to me. I saw right away that he played a wrong combination counting on 30. Nxd6 Rxd6 31. Rxf7+ and forgetting about 30… Kxd6. I said: “you took the pawn” with a calm, but firm voice and he took it with the knight. I didn’t find the best placement of my pieces right away, but as soon as I did he resigned.

We analyzed the game afterwards, he admitted that Nxd6 was a combination that went wrong. I criticized my g5.

 

It was a last round. I had only 2/4 and bad performance rating, so didn’t want to leave it as is and went to play despite of being tired. My opponent was a guy I drew with some time ago in Italian game. This time he chose Ruy Lopez, Exchange variation and I played my favorite Bronstein variation.  We castled opposite sides, his 9. Rb1 was a novelty. I thought that my attack was developing faster and decided to ignore his demonstrations on the queenside.

After his king escaped to the center I decided to open it. I expected him to play 29. d4, not Kd1. Computer prefers to play 33… c5, I played it 2 moves later. I saw 37… Re8, but the time already started to affect me and I played Bd4 even feeling that it was not the best move. I missed an opportunity to win the game on the spot by playing 42… Bc2+. After 43. Ka2 Qb3 44. Ka1 Bxd3 45. Nd6+ Black is +6.

42… Qf6 was a mistake, letting him to play 43. Qe6+ with an equal position after queens exchange. But he didn’t play it and gave a check. He was getting into a serious time trouble having 10-15 seconds left before each move (increment was 30 seconds). My next moves were not the best, but then I found the winning 49. Qf2. He tried to make a move and his flag fell, I think it was a blunder Qb2 anyway.

After I waited for my opponent for about 15 minutes I asked TD if he is going to come. He said: “Yeah, he always comes, but he comes late, maybe to intimidate a bit”. I said: “But he is not Fisher” and calmed down. He came soon and we started to play. Last time we played he moved really fast and it kind of affected me. This time in the opening I played faster. He played e4 and I decided to rely again on my favorite Ruy Lopez. He exchanged on c6 and I played my pet Bronstein variation – 5… Qd6, I won a couple of games in it in the past. I saw that his development was slow and tried to get ahead. Computer thinks that after 14… g4 I had +1 advantage.

Then I got an idea to win his pawn by taking his knight on c4. Fritz thinks that it was better to play gxh2+ and h3. Suddenly I saw that after 19… Qxc4 he can play Rb4 with attack on “b” file and I didn’t like it. So I changed my mind and played c5. But I could hold the position – 19… Qxc4 20. Rb4 Qc5 21. Rab1 b6.

I lost the initiative at that moment and his attack started to develop. I overestimated the strength of it and thought that the only way to change the flow of events is to sacrifice exchange on f3. Interesting that Fritz considers it completely sound and giving +1 advantage to Black. I had to do it on move 30, but didn’t, luckily he didn’t take on h4. Fritz considers his Kg2 a big mistake, which I didn’t use playing Nf6 instead of Nf8 with idea of Ne6 and Nf4+. Nf8 doesn’t allow his queen to get on g5. Anyway, after he played f4 I saw that he planned to play e5 after exf4, but missed my check on c6. 35. Qf1 and 36. Rab2 were bad moves, he couldn’t decide what to do – defend or attack.

After winning a rook I was a piece up and the only problem was the time, it went down to two minutes and I played on 30 seconds increment. Fortunately it was simple enough position to win.