I played yesterday, had White, my opponent was the guy I knew, beat him a couple of years ago. He plays in every tournament in 100km radius from Toronto  (not counting the club).

I expected Ruy, here it was and I went for Zaitsev variation, here is the game. I played it a month and a half ago, lost a won game. He moved fast, then after his 12. Nf1 I saw that I can win a pawn. OK, I exchanged on d4 and took his e4 pawn.  I was very pleased at that point, imagining how well I can proceed having this advantage. Suddenly he sacrificed the bishop on f7 and yep… everything is not that  easy. Interesting that the book doesn’t think that taking “e4” pawn is a good idea and prefers Na5. I soon realized why is that, I just want to say that it was like a bad carma. OK,  he got the pawn back, but also I saw some nasty threats like Nf7+ with a royal fork. I finally found 16. Qe7, then it all looked simpler after his Ng3 and following exchange, but funnily in all shootouts I ran from this point or it’s a draw or White wins.

I think somewhere from move 23-24 I also started to get behind on time. I thought a lot how to take on c5, seeing that Nxc5 allows his queen to get to c6, but dxc5 gives him open vertical for attacking my queen and square e5 for the knight. I finally decided on Nc5 and after the game regretted it, thinking that dxc5 was risky, but better. But Fritz doesn’t agree, giving him ~0.7 advantage even in this case. This position is  damned, with practically extra pawn I have disadvantage. Though I didn’t see Qa8+, Fritz thinks Nf6 was still the best move.

After 32. Ne8 my position started to deteriorate. After losing a second pawn I realized that I will probably lose. Fritz still gives some strange variation 34… Nf6 … with me being -1 only. I need to mention that I was already very low on time, it even reminded me the previous game. He had about 25 minutes more than me. After rook exchange I went into Q+N vs Q+B endgame with him having a passed pawn. It was hopeless, of course. I stopped writing the moves after I went under 5 minutes. He won my h6 pawn, and then advanced his “g” pawn, creating mate threats. In the end he won my knight and I resigned.

I can’t even say how upset I was, losing 4th time in the last 5 games (though 2 times I played against essentially higher rated). I thought even about not playing OTB at all.

I am more calm today. I just read that Zaitsev is a super-sharp variation. Jeremy Silman  in one of his book reviews says: “Zaitsev, a dynamic line that often leads to some of the most complicated and insane positions ever seen”. I think this is exactly what happened in this game and I definitely was not ready for that. Silman thinks that non-masters shouldn’t play Zaitsev because of complexity, too much memorization and possible tactical meltdown, comparing it with driving Formula 1 car by non-professional driver.

I don’t know, I like it, but … we all like racing cars :). I actually regretted I didn’t play Marshall, I would probably get a better result. I saw he played it once with Black and lost pretty quickly, maybe with White it would be similar.

I played in the old club yesterday, here is the game. No surprises with pairings, one of the opponents that I expected. I am Black,  also as expected – Ruy, closed.  I decided beforehand to play Flohr-Zaitsev, Black plays in this case 9… Bb7 instead of Na5. I prepared it some time ago as an alternative to Marshall attack and played one correspondence game, which ended in a draw. Zaitsev was Karpov’s trainer and Karpov popularized this variation and played it with success for many years.  OK, the guy is 1700 rated, never played with him before. I try to play actively, don’t get an advantage, but kind of like my position. Then I decide  to put pressure with 25… f4 with the idea of following f3. Suddenly he sacrifices a piece on f4. I see right away that he wants to put his queen on g6 creating a battery with the bishop. I think that I can defend with Rf6, so I accept it. Then I don’t like his possible check from b3  and see that I can counter with the sac on d4. Friz says, that simple Ne7 with the same idea of opening diagonal for my bishop, but also defending g6 did the trick.

I have to say that he plays very fast from the beginning and at some moment I have 30 minutes vs his hour. I don’t see his mistake  on move 32 and let his queen go to g3. By move  40 he is lost, but I have about 15 minutes left vs his 30-35. A few more moves, I have 10 minutes left and he makes provocative move Be8. I see that I can’t take the bishop because of the pin, but then for some reason decide to move it on b5, forgetting that after bishop exchange Rf1 can be played. I lose the piece, get completely disoriented and blunder the queen with next move. The game is lost anyway.

Being very, very upset I return home where my old, loyal Fritz calms me down, telling me that I basically played well, had an advantage and could win in one move with Bxg2+ instead of Bb5. The same move was also winning before in the line 32.  …  Kf8 33.  Kh1 Bxg2+. Funny that I was watching Bxg2+ all the time, but in different context – if his queen leaves the first line. I also saw Bxg2, Rxg2, Qf3 in some lines, but his queen was coming to help. But in the this, last variation it leaves his bishop on e8 hanging, so I take it after all heavy pieces are exchanged and I have an endgame K+5p vs K+2P, which I would win of course even blitzing.