It is not about the money, it’s about one move in a second round game in the Thursday’s club.  My opponent was a boy, I drew him with White 7 months ago in the same opening, Sicilian, Moscow variation.

I had some pressure after the opening and after exchanges on e5 thought I can get an attack on the kingside. A crucial moment came after his 28… Re8.  I played an obvious 29. Rg5+ and after Kh8 suddenly realized that it is me who is now under pressure. Instead of 29. Rg5 I had to play 29. Ref1, then to 29… Re6 I could reply Rf7 and have about +1 advantage.

So, I had to make a few balancing moves and after he forced queens exchange I accepted his draw offer.

 

These words of Akiba Rubinstein should have been my motto last week, on Monday. I played with the guy that having ~1400 rating managed to get 3.5/4 and beat 3 guys in the 1500+ – 1700+ range. So he looked like a “dark horse” and it got me nervous.

I got White and we played Sicilian, Moscow variation. After he played 15… f5, he started an attack on the kingside. I immediately started a counter-play on the queenside. The first crucial moment came when he played 23… Qh5, it was a mistake. I saw Qc8 of course, but didn’t quite like his bishop jumping to h4 with a tempo and also probably didn’t want to leave my kingside without my queen’s protection. Computer says that after Bh4 I could take on b7 and then advance my “b” pawn to b5, then b6, with rooks protecting at the same time my king.

Then I had an advantage after playing 28. Rc7 and again didn’t use his 28… Rf7 and moved back to c2. After 29. Rxf7+   Kxf7 30. Qc2 my queen was terrorizing his queenside. So I missed it and then mistakenly took on g3. From that point he intercepted the initiative and my position started to deteriorate. It didn’t help that I had less than 10 minutes left. The game losing move was 43. Rc1.

I was very disappointed, even more when I came home and saw that I could win.

 

It is not about book or movie, it is about my game last Monday. My opponent was a guy to whom I lost a few times with Black, this time I had White. I played Moscow variation against his Sicilian and he decided to close the center. He was moving his pawns on the both parts of the board and I thought that I need to do something.

So I played 20. a4 with the idea of getting c4 square for my knight. It is the move that computer suggests, with an equal play. He accepted the sacrifice, then started to move his knight in order to exchange it on c4. I thought that if I will exchange queens it would delay that. It was a mistake, computer evaluates it as -1.

I had to switch to defense. I made a big mistake when I played 34. Ke2, the best was Ra1 and if 34… Rb4 then 35. Ke1. Then 35. Kd2 lost the game because he played 35… a3 and forced the transition into an endgame that was lost for me.

I got White in this second round and my opponent was the one of the two I most expected. I had +1, =1, -3 score with him. I looked at our last game played half a year ago, so was prepared to play against Sicilian d6.  We got Moscow variation, this time he took on d7 with the knight.

It was a positional struggle where he had a minimal advantage. The crucial moment of the game came when he played 37… Bf8. Of course I could play Nc2, but I didn’t like Rb2. Also I saw that the bishop exchange will weaken his kingside. So, knowing that I will lose b4 pawn I played Re5. After Rxb4 I could play f5 right away, but I decided to solidify my position playing Qe3. I have to say that he played faster than me, but after f5 he started to slow down. I had about 10-12 minutes at that time, he had about 30. I didn’t expect gxf5, so got a really good feeling after that. Computer shootouts show that it was already losing, though he tried to prove me in a postmortem that he could hold it.

His 43… Rb3 was a blunder, he said he didn’t see Qe8+. I had 7 minutes at that moments, he had 20. He resigned after it. The best move was 43. Rb6 or Kf8, still it is a very difficult position to defend.

 

I think I needed it after four losses in a row. On Thursday because of the freezing rain about 1/3 of the players took byes, so both my opponent and the color I got were unexpected. I got a guy with whom I played recently and who missed the zwischenzug. I got White and we played Sicilian, Moscow variation. This is a second game when I allowed a6, b5, c5 and as a result my knight ended up on d1. After the first game computer recommended a6, but here I didn’t see how it could stop b4. The thing is after 12. a3 b4 13. axb4 cxb4 14. Na2 Black doesn’t have a5 because of Nxb4. If he plays Bb7 and then b4, my knight should go to a4, not d1 disrupting rooks.

Then I made another bad knight move playing Nh2 and forgetting about d5. Computer thinks that 18… d4 19. Bf2 Bh6 was strong for Black with about 1.5 advantage. After his 21… Ne5 I was so happy to exchange my knight on h2 that missed his f5 after exchange, saw it as soon as I put my knight on f3. I even thought to take on f3 with a pawn, but it was just losing a pawn on h3. For some reason he decided to play f4 instead of taking on e4, maybe he thought the same as me that his bishop will be hanging.  But after 24… fxe4 25. dxe4 Bxe4 26. Bg5 he could play Bf3 keeping the pawn.

I was just hanging until move 32, when I started to breath easier. I had a feeling that his 34… e6 wasn’t that good, but hurried to play Bc5 not seeing Rf5. After we exchanged rooks the game started to look drawn. I thought that maybe playing h4 was a mistake, but computer does the same. I thought at some moment that he can win my h4 pawn, but it is possible only with bishops exchange and the pawn endgame is won for me because of the remote passed pawn which I would create on the queenside.

We both had about 3 minutes left, when he played Kf4. I played Bg5+ and he resigned.

 

This game was played in the beginning of December. My opponent was a boy with whom my score was 1.5:3.5 with my only win 2 years ago, when his rating was 500 points lower than current 2247.

I had White and we played Sicilian, Moscow variation. His Nd7 is the most serious answer to Bb5+. We defined our strategies pretty early with him attacking on the queenside and me – on the kingside. Computer thinks that 16. Nd5  was better than Ne2, but I still don’t like 16… Bxd5 17. exd5 Qd8 18. a3 Nxd5.  I was somewhat worse after exchange on d3, but decided to proceed with my plan no matter what. It paid off when he made a mistake and played 23…Rxb2. Instead computer suggests a crazy line – 23… Rxd3 24. Qxd3 Rxg2+ 25. Kxg2 Bxe4+ 26. Qxe4 Nxe4 with equal position.

I saw Nh6+ threat when I played 22. Nf5, so replied right away. Then I found 25. Bb3. Computer considers 25… Rd7 a big mistake, suggesting 25… Bxe4 26. dxe4 Rdd2, but White still has a huge advantage. 26. Rxf6 was winning on the spot, I didn’t play it. Of course I saw it, but it seemed to me that his king will escape. But after 26. Rxf6 gxf6 27. Qg3 Ke7 28. Nf5+ Kd8 29. the same Rc1 is decisive. Anyway, my attack continued and I sacrificed my knight again.

His position became indefensible soon and he resigned.

 

 

The two games that I played on consecutive Thursdays look reversed, it explains the title.

In the first game I had an opponent, to whom I lost recently having White in Sicilian. This time it was the same variation, but I played my regular Maroszy bind. He made a mistake on move 22 and I won a pawn.

Then I made two not very good moves – 26. Na4 ( 26. Nfe2 – +2.19) and 30. R2d5 ( 30. Nc3 – +1.43) and lost all my advantage. He had much more time than me and I started to get nervous, because the queens remained on the board. Then when I had 8 minutes left (he had 30) I touched my bishop wanting to cover from checks on the 1st horizontal and suddenly realized that I left unprotected the diagonal c5-g1. I resigned on the spot, was very upset.

In a week I got an opponent, with whom I have =2, -3 score. He had White and we played Queen’s Pawn defense. I thought that I intercepted the initiative after the opening, but instead of 20… fxg2 I had to play 20… Qh4. Soon he started to develop a counter-attack.

I made a big mistake playing 27… Bg6, I just thought that it will take off the pressure. After that in all the lines f5 was the decisive move. If exf5, then e6 attacking the rook and releasing the bishop at the same time. Interesting that we both did not see it. It got easier for me by the move 35, he also had 1 minute vs. my 10. I offered him a draw, but he refused. Objectively he still had a +2 advantage at this point.

Then he missed 43… Rxf4. 45. Rxf4 was a blunder, very similar to my blunder in the previous game. It would be a draw after 45. Rxg7+. The position became technical for me and in a few moves I won.