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.

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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.

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.