This quote belongs to Johannes Zukertort, it suits well to describe the recent events. The big tournament was coming and I wanted to play, but wasn’t sure that I will be able to play, I had too much work. I didn’t even register, but on Friday it calmed down and I was able to leave my work earlier because the first round was at 6pm and I still had to register.

Friday. Round 1 – my opponent is a guy, with whom I played a year ago and drew, the thing is his rating was 1043 and mine – 1718, so it was like a loss for me and I was very upset. He plays Sicilian and I play Moscow variation. His 11… Ne5 surprises me, computer recommends g5 with ~-0.4 evaluation. After his 15… Nxg3 computer suggests a little trick, Qg4 and then taking with a queen on g3, but to me fxg3 looks fine.

After 20 moves he decides to play on both sides of the board. I defend on the queenside and think that I have advantage on the kingside. On move 28 I don’t like what is going on on the queenside and play restrictive c4. Computer recommends Nd2, I agree, the knight has nice squares to jump then. I do that a move later. Then something interesting happens.

He plays Qh5, releases the queen and then suddenly takes it back. I firmly say: “You made the move”. He puts it on h5, then I start to think why he wanted to take it back. So I see 30. Ne4 and 31. Ng3. I play Ne4, then see, that he has 30… Rxf3 and 31. Nxd6 doesn’t work because of Rf5.

He thinks for some time and plays 30… Bc7, a game losing move. By the way Rf5 wouldn’t work because of g4, but Rf4 would save him. So I fork him and he makes another mistake playing 31… e4. I take his queen and in two moves the game is over.

Saturday. Round 2 – my opponent is a girl, I get Black. She plays Ruy Lopez, Exchange. I play, of course, Bronstein variation.  My  13… g5 misses Bd4. I am in a bit of a shock, then realize that Rxd4 gives me a pretty playable position. She manages to force the exchange of one of the bishops, I feel that dark-colored is stronger, proves later to be a right decision. Then my attack on the kingside starts to develop quickly.

I see 29… Bxg3, but it doesn’t look decisive to me and I am down a rook. Computer says it would give me eventually a queen and 2 pawns for two rooks. So, I play Bc5+ and then 30… Qxg3. suddenly she plays Qd8+. Again after an initial shock I see that I have an excellent bishop and at least a draw.

So I have a simple plan – hold on the kingside and use my pawn majority on the queenside and execution goes pretty smoothly. Eventually I get two passed pawns on the queenside. Her 55. Rg2 is a decisive mistake, I play c2+. In a few moves she resigns.

Round 3 – my opponent is a man whom I played in the summer of 2010, in the equal position he blundered a queen. I get Black again, not too happy about it. We play Queen’s pawn, which transforms into Queen’s Indian. I think that I can meet his 12. Ng5 with Qe7, but his 13. d5 comes as a surprise. I think I am in trouble and look for an escape. But computer doesn’t like his 12. Ng5 as well as his 13. d5. For some reason I don’t see 13… exd5 14. Bxf5 Nc5 15. cxd5 Nxd5 with ~-0.8. His 14. dxe6 is another not a good move, but I had to play h6, that would give me an advantage.

It is not necessary to give up the f5 pawn, but I am still OK. 23… c5 is a big mistake, I had to play a5. I have that bad idea about my knight going to e5. His attack naturally develops and I am in a big trouble. After 30 moves I am basically lost, but the queens exchange gives me a chance to survive. A long battle ensues where the evaluation varies from 0.5 to 3.5.

There is a nice forced line that I do not see – 72… Nf6 (threatening mate in 2) 73. Rf8+ Kxf8 74. d7+ Kf7 75. d8Q Ne4+ 76. Kh5 Rh2+ 77. Qh4 Ng3+ 78. Kg5 Ne4+ 79. Kh5 with a draw. I play on increment and just try to survive, but in a few moves I miss a bishop fork and resign. Someone tells me after the game, that I still could save my pieces and shows how. My moves in my scoresheet after move 74 don’t add up, it was 83 moves in total.

I ask TD if I can get a half-point bye for the 4th round, he says no, only zero point bye. The reason I ask is that I need to work from 11pm into night, not even clear for how long. I can predict my state next day, but also I don’t want to get nothing. So I decide to play next morning. I do my work, it goes until 2:30am, then go to sleep. In the morning I am more or less OK after a coffee, also take coffee with me.

Sunday. Round 4 – I get an unrated guy, he has 1600+ performance rating. He plays Sicilian e6, it goes off the book soon.  I have to play 11. d4, but it seems not clear to me, so I avoid it, taking into account my state, more coffee keeps me on board. Starting from move 16 he tries to counterattack, but I feel that my position is quite defendable. His e5 goes too far, I feel it and play Bd5+. His 23. Kh8 is a big mistake. I see Bxh6, but I also see Bxf2+ and give up on it.

Computer says Bxh6 is winning, taking on f2 with a check doesn’t change it. I don’t know how much of my miss I can attribute to my state and how much to my negligence, but the win was right there. His 24… exd4 instead of cxd4 still leaves me with  some advantage. But I don’t find 27. Be6 and after 28. Qe2 it becomes equal. On move 35 he offers a draw and I accept.

The boy is friendly, he talks to me after the game. He is from Singapore, visiting his relatives. He says that he has a FIDE rating ~1450, which should go up after the local tournament and also after this one, counts how many points he would get for this draw too, this is funny. I think that I value half a point that I still got more than a loss of a few rating points, time shows I am right.

I get some sleep in the armchair and feel better.

Round 5 my opponent is a young man from another city. I recognize him, he played with our Mondays club TD in the 2nd round, they were playing near me. At one moment he complained to the current TD about our guy, at that moment our guy was not at the board and was down a rook. So, he has 2 wins and last 2 games were draws. For some reason I decide that he would be OK with a draw.

I have Black, he plays Italian Game. The play is positional and it goes around f5 square for his knight. I have to say that during the whole game he adjusts pieces almost after every move. It annoys me, but not to the degree going to TD and complaining, I know were my concentration will be after that. At one moment I try to counterattack in the center. Eventually we are left with Q+R each, it looks drawn to me.

We have 6-7 minutes each and play on increment. He tries to regroup his pieces to attack using 8th horizontal, I hold on. Suddenly he blunders a rook and resigns in a few moves. I tell him that earlier I would accept a draw. On Monday I come to the club and find out that our guy blundered a rook in that game and lost eventually. The complaint was about him having his cell in his hand, the cell was off of course. I tell him that he would be the last person that I would suspect. My opponent was adjusting pieces in his game too. So, I tell him how my game went, I know he will feel vindicated and yes, he smiles and thanks me for telling that. Also looking at the final results I see that 3 people shared 2nd place with 4/5. I realize that my opponent was fighting for the 2nd place meaning prize money, as he had 3/4.

It was a last round, I was leading by 0.5 point and convinced myself to go despite having a quite stressful day just because didn’t want to give up the first place. As in a few recent games I played again Moscow variation and my opponent again played Nd7 line. Computer says I had to exchange the rooks on move 11 and then play Na3. His 11. Ne5 was a mistake.

I gradually increased my advantage and won a pawn. Computer criticizes my c4, preferring Qc4 and says that after move 25 my advantage was only ~0.3. It is difficult for me to believe it having two passed pawns on the queenside. Anyway on move 26 I blundered, my mental state suddenly showed. Being in a state of shock I lost another pawn, Qc5 right away or after Qa7 was saving it.

I got mad at myself and tried to get some chances, though the position was equal. He offered a draw, I refused, he looked surprised. Soon he made a mistake and I got the pawn back. His next move 39… f6 was a big mistake. On move 41 I missed Qc7 just because I didn’t like Rb7, but I didn’t see a mate in 2 – Rh7+ and Qg3#. Still after 44… Qh8 I got a decisive advantage.

I found 47. Be6, then my bishop went to f5. He had 1 minute remaining, I had 4 when I saw that I have a forced mate.

It was a last round in the Mondays club, I played my opponent twice, won both times. I got White, Sicilian again, Moscow variation. My 6. e5 wasn’t a good idea, c3 was better. After 20 moves the play became more complicated. I found 24. Nxc5 and the position was equal, but then my  28. Qf3 was a mistake. I decided that 29. h4 could give me some chances and it did.

After 34… Kf7 I got an advantage, computer offers a crazy line 34… f4 35. Qxf4 e5 with an equal play. It was a crucial moment on move 37. I saw that Rc7+ will give me a pawn on g6 and a dangerous attack, but computer evaluates it as ~-2.3. Instead White had 37. Qc7+! Re7 38. Qd8 with a winning attack on the 8th horizontal. After 40 moves I realized that I should fight for a draw.

By playing 42… Ra2 he lost his winning chances. I checked 49. Bc1+ Kb1 50. Qe1 and saw that he has Qxf2. So in a few moves I got a perpetual.

It was penultimate round in the Monday’s club. My opponent was a young man, I had 2 draws with him in the past. We played again Sicilian, this time instead of Rossolimo it was Moscow variation. He chose 3… Nd7, the toughest for White from my point of view variation. 5. Bd3 was a book move that I remembered, 9. Ndb2 was not, computer recommends a4.

11. dxc5 was a mistake, I didn’t see that I can’t play 12. Nb3. Computer doesn’t like my 12. h3 and 13. Nd4 and evaluates the position as -1.4. His 14… d5 allowed me to equalize. I considered 18. Be4, but didn’t like f5. Interesting, that I played 20. Bf1 because of 20. Bxe4 f5, but Houdini offers  20… Nf6 21. Bf4 Qb6 22. Be3 Qc7 23. Bf4 with a draw. His 20… Nxc3 was unexpected, but I quickly saw that it was actually good for me to get two his active pieces for my rook and two pawns.

Then suddenly he played 23… Rd8 and I saw the skewer right away. After 25… f5 I missed 26. Rd1, winning on the spot. Still after I forced the exchanges it became a matter of technique.

 

 

 

It was first round of a new tournament and I got the same young guy I blundered to 3 weeks ago. This time I had White and played Moscow variation of Sicilian.

Soon it started to look like some variation of French defense. On move 14 I thought about playing Rfc1, but then decided that kingside attack was more promising and played Ng5. Still, I think I defended well and eventually we transferred into a rook endgame.

For some reason I decided to play aggressively, 36. g4 was a mistake. I didn’t like passive 41. Rh2, so decided to sacrifice the “h” pawn and activate my rook. I tried to organize some kind of perpetual , but didn’t see the idea of attacking e6 pawn from e7, which would really force a repetition or will give me that pawn. It would eventually lead to a position with him having a passed “f” pawn with pawns on “a”, “b” and “d” which was drawn.

Then suddenly he played 56… Kf7, blundering the “f” pawn. The position became completely equal, but I had to be careful after 63… Kc6, 64. Kc3 was losing.

These games were played last Thursday and Monday, in rounds 4 of the respective tournaments. In both cases I had White and my opponents played Sicilian Defense. I didn’t find the right plan and made some tactical mistakes in both games.

Thursday’s game – my opponent was an old former master, I had +1, -1 score with him before. We played Sicilian, Moscow variation, I chose a quiet line. Then it was a positional play until we reached move 23. After his Qc6 I saw that I can win a pawn on a5, but thought that after rooks exchange he will catch my knight – 24. Rxa5 Rxa5 25. Nxa5 Qa4, but didn’t see 26. Qa7. If you would look at the end of the game you would realize how crucial this pawn was. I played 24. Raa1 and after a4 he intercepted the initiative. Then instead of 27. Ra2 I played Qd4. The idea was close – to do something against the “a” pawn, but what was needed was blocking. Then on move 29 I missed it again and quickly got really worse. His attack developed and soon I lost.

Monday’s game – my opponent was a Russian speaking boy, who grew from a “B” class player to a master on my eyes, my score with him in the last 4 years  was 2.5:4.5 (with a positive score in a few years before that). He played Sicilian Defense, I chose Rossolimo variation.  It went wrong almost from the beginning, when I decided to develop my bishop to b2. Then it was a very bad idea to take on f4. As soon as I played it I realized that when I will move my knight after 17… exf4 he can play f3 with really serious consequences for me. But he probably didn’t see it and played Rxf4. It was difficult to find the right moves and I was getting worse and worse. On move 28 I decided to sacrifice a pawn, but it didn’t give me any relief. In the endgame his queen was very strong and it decided the game.

 

This game was played 2.5 weeks ago, on Thursday. my opponent was a teenager boy,  I had 2 draws with him with Black. This time I had White and he played Sicilian, d6. I chose my favorite Moscow variation, Maroczy bind.

Two things were unusual for this line – I put my knight on c3 only on move 22 and he counterattacked on the kingside without castle. I did not believe his attack was sound, but decided to be careful. After all the smoke disappeared, he found himself in a worse position.

I thought that his queens exchange was a mistake, but 22… exd4 was not better. He got a couple of weak pawns that was difficult to defend. He also had less time, like 7 minutes to my 15-20. His 26… Ke6 was a mistake and 27… Ke7 lost the game.