This is a story of two sacrifices actually, not one. The first was the one I didn’t play and was right, the second one my opponent played and it was wrong. My opponent was an old guy rated 1960. I had White and played Ruy Lopez. No one ever played 5… Na5 against me. I considered 6. Bxf7+ with the following Nxe5, but it looked suspicious to me. I was right, it has only 44% success.

So I played 6. Nxe5, it was a 4th book choice and 2nd good one, as d4 and Bxf7 were not good. I expected 7… Qe7 or 7… Qg5 and was surprised by his Nf6. On move 11 he suddenly sacrificed a bishop. I saw right away that it was a mistake. I overprotected a bit playing Rf1 and giving up b2 pawn, I just didn’t want to give him any chances.

His 23… c5 was a game losing mistake, computer says I had to play 24. Qa7+ and then 25. Qxg7. Then I decided to force the queens exchange and in 8 moves after that the game was over. He told me after the game that he didn’t play for 20 years and had 2000 rating then. I checked, it was right, he played recently only 4 games with =2, -2 result.

 

It was penultimate round, my opponent was a guy rated 1550. I played him 3 months ago, he blundered in a position where I was worse. He had White again and played Ruy Lopez. I started to feel comfortable after his 20. b4.  I spent quite some time calculating 25… exf4 with an idea to play 26… Nxb4 and 27… Qc5+ and played it. Then I noticed 28. Rd4 defense and changed my plans playing 26… Ne5.

After some exchanges the position remained equal, but then he made a big mistake playing 33. h4. I decided to play 33… Nf6 also setting a little trap and he got into it. He had to play 36. Rf1, his Qg5 was another mistake, computer evaluates the position as ~ -10.  The intention of 37… Qc6 was to get to c8-h3 diagonal. After 38. d4 it looked bad for him as he couldn’t avoid the double check.

So, I played that double check and it looked like there is a mate on h3. He still continued to play, moved his king to h2. So, I played Qh3, wrote it down putting a mate sign after the move and waited for him to resign. Strangely he was not in a hurry, then he suddenly took my queen with a pawn. Only at this moment I realized that there was a pawn on g2. I didn’t see it at all because it was behind of the knight on g3. I reevaluated the situation and resigned.

I can’t even describe how bad I felt afterwards, even on the next day. Later I checked it on the board, you can actually see some kind of halo around the knight. I was stressed that day and definitely didn’t see that.

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.