That’s what was in my mind when the first round of a new tournament was starting. Finally after 10 month break I am playing with the high rated opponents, in the top section. I got a boy rated 1813 and had White. After first 10 moves in Ruy Lopez I got a feeling that he is not very familiar with the theory. Computer prefers d5 to my 14. a4. His 14… Qb6 was a mistake, I played Be3 almost right away. I started to consider Nd5 around that time, but never played it, computer wants me to play it on move 16.

One of the critical moments of the game came after he played 20… b4. I couldn’t resist from playing 21. Bxf6 intending to take on h7 then. I soon realized that my attack is not as dangerous as I thought, computer considers the position equal. Then after his 26… d5 I had 27. Nc5 Bc6 28. Bd7 Bd4+ 29. Kh1 Bxd7 30. Nxd7+ Ke8 with advantage, but I didn’t see it.

Then on move 28 he made a crucial mistake by playing Nf6. 33. Rc1+ was winning on the spot, I didn’t notice that he doesn’t have Bc6 defense because the rook on a8 would lose the defender. He was very low on time, 10-15 seconds left, I had about a minute. When I took on f6 I saw that he probably has a perpetual, but I didn’t have time to find something else. Fortunately I found that I have Kf2 and Re2 defense.

When I hid my king on g3 I started to breath easier. Then he took his rook and trying to find a place for it, put it on c8. He exclaimed something, it is funny that people do that when they blunder, attracting attention.

 

It was my first rated game in the new club, it explains the title – “every beginning is difficult”.  My opponent was a quite old man, his rating as I learned after the game was 1426. I got White, played Ruy Lopez, he chose Berlin Defense. The move 5. Re1 was based on the positive experience from the game won in the big tournament in February 2018. I just learned that 6. Nxe5 is better  than exchange on c6.

After some maneuvering I was better, but then the crucial moment came. My 18. Ng5 was a right move, but then 19. Nge4 got me into a trouble, though the computer considers the position equal after it. Instead I had to play 19. h3!, which would never come in my mind seeing the fork 19… f6. But after 19. h3 f6 20. hxg4 fxe5 21. Ne6 White is +2. In the line 19. h3 Bd7 White follows with 20. d5 where again after 20… f6 21. dxc6 fxe5 22. cxd7 Qxd7 23. Qd5+ White gets its exchange back and is a pawn up.

Instead of these nice lines I found myself desperately trying to save my rook from being caught. 23. Nb1 was not a good move, 23. Ra4 was OK because if 23… b5 then Ne4 and then Rxa5. After he let me play 26. Re3 I started to feel better. 28… Bb5 was a mistake which allowed me to equalize, instead c6 was the right move. On move Kf2 I got scared that he will play g5, then will take on e4, but after 34… g5 35. Rf3 fxe4 36. Re3 it is not good for Black to play Bf5 because of g4 and if Bxg4, then Nxe4 with threats.

By move 40 we exchanged the rooks and seeing that the position is equal repeated the moves. Computer says it is 0.00 even after 44. a3 Bc2 45. Nxc7 Bxb3 46. Kd3.

It was a first round in Mondays club, my opponent was an old man, I had 4.5:0.5 score against him. He played Ruy Lopez, his move 7 was obvious, but not good, he had to play 7. dxe5 with equality. So after 8 moves I was up  a pawn. Computer criticizes his 10. c4, preferring simple a3.

Then he played 16. Nxe4, it was ~-4. The idea for Black was after 16… dxe4  17. Qg4 Qd5 18. Re1 to play  18… d3. I considered it, but thought that after 18…d3 19. Bh6 Qxe5 he will take on d3. But I could just play 19… g6 20. Bxf8 Bxf8 21. Bd1 Qxe5, it was ~-5 . So after 18… Qxe5 the game simplified. I was keeping some advantage, but then blundered playing 23… Rb6. It was a bad sign showing that I am not in a good shape.

We eventually transferred into a rook endgame, I was able to activate my rook for the price of pawn. Then he made a game losing mistake playing 33. Rb4?? , Re8 was winning. Of course I saw that motif with d2 and Re1+, but I think I started to see it later. Then I got that idea to sacrifice a rook on b2, then play c3 and get two connected passed pawns.

On move 37 I decided that I am ready, my king could go to d6 after rook check and cover c7 square. As soon as I played it I realized that he has a check on e2 after which the game is over. He thought for some time and played it. At home I found that he also had Rb7 + and then Ke1, stopping my pawns. In a few moves I resigned.

It was a second round in Thursdays club. My opponent was a boy I beat about  a year ago with Black. I had White this time and played Ruy Lopez.

After the opening there was some maneuvering. Then he made a mistake by playing 21… Rc8. White could play 22. a4 bxa4 23. Bxa6 Nb8 24. Bxc8 Rxc8, otherwise the knight on c6 is lost due to the pin, but I didn’t see it. His 22… Re7 missed my 23. d5, then another mistake was 23… Nb8.

On move 28 I saw that I have a decisive advantage, but didn’t like 28. Qh6 because of 28… Rxf5 29. exf5 Nxd5. Computer says there was a mate in 9 after that with 30. Re4 Ne7 31. Rg4 Ng6 32. fxg6 fxg6 33. Bxg6 Qe7 34. Bf5 Kf7 35. Qxh7+ Ke8 36. Rg8+ Qf8 37. Re1+ Kd8 38. Rxf8#.

After 29. Qf2 he played expected Kh8, the next moves came naturally, in the end I had 6.5 minutes left. He resigned after  32. Ne7.

It was a first round, I got Black and seeing my opponent playing Ruy Lopez decided to play again Schliemann Defense. On move 7 I forgot that I need to play Qe5 (played it in the blitz game in the last November) and played Nf6. It was actually a second choice and quite good too, but after 8. Nc3 I still had to play Qe5.

Unfortunately I decided to play 8… c5 to get back the pawn and completely missed Qb5+. After 9. Qb5+ Qd7 10. Ne6 I was in a kind of a shock thinking that am losing material and missed 10… Bd6. I saw it, but thought that I will lose g7 pawn after queens exchange not seeing Rg8 and Rxg2.

After 15 moves I saw that I can get one pawn back. Than I transferred into a rook endgame thinking that this way I have a bigger chance of survival. On move 40 computer prefers Rh1 with +1.3 estimate for White. Then I made a big blunder playing 42… Kd5.

It was a last round in the Thursdays tournament.
I played really bad in it, having 3/6 and a very low performance rating due to playing low rated opponents. So my goal was to win to at least  improve my standing. I got a boy rated 1438, he played Ruy Lopez. I decided that it was a right moment to try Schliemann Defense.
I played about a dozen of blitz games with a score ~75%, read some chapters from the book and looked up the best lines in DB. Despite of my preparation the line 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. Qe2 was not familiar to me. I remembered that Nf6 and Qe7 are often played, it helped.

Computer says he could play 8. Nh4 (+0.28), the best for White after 8… Be6 is not obvious 9. Nxe4 which would be followed by 9… Nxe4 10. Qxe4 Qf6 11. Nf3 Be7 with equality, but 9. d3 with a small 0.2 advantage. After queens exchange I felt pretty comfortable, knowing that two bishops in this, quite open position will compensate me the pawn minority on the kingside.

After 18 moves I had ~0.40 advantage and expected a long positional game. But suddenly he blundered a piece and the game was quickly over.

It was round 4 in Thursdays club, my opponent was an old gentleman, never played him before. I got White and played Ruy Lopez. His move 7 wasn’t the best choice, that was amplified by 9… Nf6 which was a mistake. He tried to complicate things by b5, I rightly played Bb3.

Then suddenly he played 12… Nxd4, computer says Nh6 was worse. Here was the first moment I basically could win the game just by playing Bg5, then taking on d4, computer evaluates it as +3. But I decided that getting bishop for two pawns is not good enough and thought that playing exd6 and opening “e” vertical would be better, it was worse just giving back most of my advantage. Playing Qb3 was another mistake, I missed that I can’t play Re1 after Be6 because of Bxf2+.

Anyway, after he played 17… Qxd6 and offered a draw, I refused. I thought my position is better, it was and his queenside castle made things worse for him. Computer prefers 19. Rc1 with the Bf4 (after Ne2) threat to my obvious 19. a4. Then he made a crucial mistake by playing c6. I expected his 22… Bd5 and prepared Nxd5, which I played right away. Instead of it 23. Nbxd5 would be KO, it is +15 after that.

Then I made another obvious move 24. Rxc6, thinking that after 24. Nxc6 Kb7 my pieces will be hanging, but Rb6 was solving that. My next moves were giving back my advantage, 26. Rb3 and 27. Qg3 were much stronger than moves in the game. Eventually after 30 moves I decided that my chances in the endgame are better and offered queens exchange. He had much less time at that moment and offered a draw again, I refused. I sincerely thought that I have material advantage.

I stopped writing moves soon after that, I remember that we exchanged pawns on the kingside, so he was left with 2 and I with one there. I had a funny thought then that I should avoid exchanging the “h” pawn because he could sacrifice his rook for the “b” pawn and I will have to mate him with bishop and knight and I didn’t remember how. His time was going down after every move and he flagged. He said that it was a draw, I answered that I am not sure. I was actually upset that I didn’t win earlier, realizing that I had a big advantage. At home the computer estimated the position as 0.00.