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.