My opponent was an old guy, our score in the past was =1, -2. I got Black and played Semi-Slav. I didn’t quite like his 6. b3 though he would be OK after 6… Bb4 7. Bd2, but he played Bb2. I saw of course Qa5, but didn’t realize I could win a pawn after 8… Qa5 9. Rc1 Qxa2. Then I missed another opportunity by playing pre-move 10… Nxc3 instead of Ng4 winning “f” pawn. I saw Ng4 before playing Ndf6, but thought that he had Bg2 and O-O and after a3 forgot about it.

After 26. Bxd5 I spent quite some time, because I wanted of course to play exd5, but thought that he will occupy “e” line, so played cxd5 which I knew was worse. Actually I could play exd5, because he has to lose a tempo to play 27. f4, otherwise if 27. Rde1 I play 27.. f4 and if Re7 then Qh3 with advantage.

On move 32 I considered putting my rook on g3 with a purpose of sacrificing on g3, but didn’t see a forced win or even draw, so decided to play h5. Computer thinks that 36. Rg5 was better than Qg5 and was equal.

Then he suddenly blundered playing 39. Rg5. He had 45 minutes vs. my 25 and the only reason for the blunder, I think, was feeling under pressure. Though computer evaluates the position as equal after 39. Kf1, I would prefer to play Black here. Then after 40. Qxd4 he played Qc3.  I saw the check before that and certainly it looked very bad for him. After 42 … Rh3+ it was a mate in 2 and he resigned.

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It was a second round and I got paired with a 1951 rated boy, never played him before. I got Black and responded to his 1. c4 with Semi-Slav. As soon as he played 10. a3 I knew that I have play c5, otherwise my bishop will be “bad”, I had it before. Soon I realized that he didn’t have pretenses to get an opening advantage, it calmed me down.

After 20 moves I noticed that there was a possibility of sacrifice on e3, but to my disappointment he played Bf3 and that from my point of view prevented the sacrifice. The thing is the line I would play – let’s say 21. Bd3 Ndxe3 22. fxe3 Nxe3 wasn’t giving me much advantage, the right move was 22… Bg5 with about -2.5. The same sacrifice was still playable after Bf3, but with a lesser effect.

Then he made a mistake by playing 33. Qc8. He could still hold it, probably, but then 37. Qxb5 was a crucial mistake. Instead of 38. Bc5 he had to give up the bishop and play Qf1. But instead of playing 38… Qb1+ 39. Qf1 Bh2+ 40. Kf2 Qc2+ 41. Qe2 Bg3+ 42. Kf3 e4+ with a win, I let him go with 38… Qf5.

I expected him to play 39. Qe2, which by the way was losing the same way as in the line above, but suddenly he played Qf1. The saving move was 39. e4, it was leading to a draw.

After winning the queen the game was over, he resigned one move before getting mated.

It was a new opponent and I got Black. I chose Semi-Slav, the opening went well and I was comfortable with the placing of my pieces. I lost that feeling after 15. h3, seeing f4, f5 threat. I thought that I don’t want to think about it all the time and played Bf5. Computer suggests 15… Nc4, I considered it, but didn’t like spoiling my pawn structure. But after 16… Bd3 White is -1.22. Still I knew that I have good chances on the kingside.

On move 21 I missed d4! and then 22. exd4 Nf3+! winning exchange, because it’s mate after 23. Bxf3 Qxe1 24. Rxe1. Then I saw a rook sacrifice and after some checking went for it. Then I saw another strike – 27. d4.  I considered 28… Nh4+, computer prefers it, but played Nxg3.

Computer found another combination – 30. c2 with a win, I didn’t see it. Then I made a mistake playing 31… Ne4. Still I was better and his 34. Rdxf7 was a crucial mistake. He couldn’t take with the other rook, it was losing, but 34. Bc1 was keeping him alive, at least for some time. I saw 34… Bf6 right away. After move 36 I knew that the game was over, it became technical.

 

This time it was a FIDE Master as I found out when came home. I decided to play Semi-Slav again, though I lost quite a few games with it, just don’t have anything else that could be reliable. This time I think I finally started to feel it and didn’t get into a completely passive position, the price for that was an isolated pawn.

Of course the main line is not 7… h6, but O-O. I didn’t like possible e4, but there is nothing dangerous in it. Until the move 15. Qxb2 we repeated the game played in Russia 16 years ago between two women 2300-2400 rated that ended up in a draw. I equalized after Ne4 and Qf6. Strange that computer doesn’t want to take on e4 – 26. Bx4 dxe4 27. Nxe6 Rxe6 28. Rc8+ Kh7 29. Rc7 and White wins a pawn, leading to a position where White has 4P vs. 2P on the kingside and Black has 2P vs. P on the queenside, evaluating it as only ~0.6 for White.

I kept an equal position between the moves 30 and 50. All shootouts after 50. Ne2 end up in a draw. But then I made a game losing mistake – 50… g5. I tried to defend against Nf4, but it created a weakness on h5 and in some lines a possibility to put the knight on g3.

I forgot that the same defense that allowed me ignore his threat to take on d5 with the knight – 50. Nxd5 Bxd5  51. Kxd5 Kc5 worked also against his threat Nf4. Bishop goes to d5 and then f7 and if Kxe5 then Kc5.

I resisted 14 more moves and lost on time, the game was already over anyway.

Yesterday I wasn’t very happy when I learned who will be my opponent. It was an expert to whom I lost rather painfully two years ago, at Canadian Open. But then I decided what the hell… Our game quickly transpired into Semi-Slav Defense. I played a few games recently and had good results in it.

We got the Carlsbad pawn structure, which I studied more than 30 years ago, reading Russian book “How to become a class “A” player”, very systematic and good. The plan is a minority attack (with “f” pawn in this case), that’s why I played Ned6. Also you put a knight on e4. I didn’t like his 20. f3, computer’s evaluation also goes to ~-1 after that. Even less I liked his g4 and decided to use it right away. I got  h5 and f5 ideas from Aronian’s or Ivanchuk’s Marshall attack game.

26. Nf1 was a decisive mistake, computer says it’s ~-5.  I considered 27… Bh3, but saw f4 and played simple Nxf3+, computer agrees. Then I found Bg4! and after careful checking that he gets mated if he takes the bishop, played it. Basically, winning an exchange with his king being “barenaked” meant winning the game, but I tried to be careful, knowing that the guy is very experienced. I found another good move – c5, after which thought that that was it. But he got me worried with Kb4, when I had to move my queen out, still defending my pawn and at the same time preventing check. Computer criticizes my Qh3 giving it only ~-3 and prefers Qg5.  I can only say that I had a bit more than 5 minutes left at that moment.

In the end I saw that I can’t  take the knight right away because of the queen fork and approached my queen by giving checks. After he lost the rook his time ran out, I still had about 3 minutes left.

I was really happy after the game.  A few people watched it and congratulated me (after the guy left), knowing that he is a strong player. My rating went up sharply after the last tournament, maybe it inspired me.