Before today I had been interested in studying the Ruy and had looked at the closed and knew a little bit about it and I tried to play it when I got the chance. (It seems people at my level tend to prefer the Italian.) I knew I was interested in the Breyer or the Zaitsev, and it seemed I had a pretty good chance of going into either of those if I wanted to given the game where my opponent allowed that. So I decided to research the Zaitsev. I also knew that there's a trick to get a draw as white or at least to force black to adopt another variation but that didn't seem to be an issue as my opponent was significantly higher rated and very unlikely to want to draw against me.
So I busted out the book "Starting Out: The Ruy Lopez" by John Shaw. As I mentioned before I like this series quite a bit and tonight really confirmed it for me. Anyway, I just kind of brushed up on the main line and one alternative. But one of the things that he covers in the course of one of the games is that there is a standard maneuver in the Ruy for white where white takes their queens knight to d2 and then f1 and then often to g3. However, he makes clear that in the Zaitsev this isn't a good idea because black will be able to get strong pressure on the e4 pawn. I really like the back and forth over the e pawns in the Ruy and it's one of the reasons I play e5. So this appealed to me and it stuck in my mind.
So the game starts and sure enough he plays a Ruy and I am able to get into the Zaitsev. I wasn't really expecting him to play the Nf1 but then there it came. I slightly misremembered what the analysis in the book was, but seemed to be close enough and ended up winning a pawn in the opening against a significantly higher rated opponent. This was a big deal for me just because I have really struggled in these league games. So, I got a big boost of confidence, and even though he ended up winning back his pawn the confidence stuck with me and then he made a blunder and I seized on it.
In some ways I won't say that I am proud of this game just because it's not like I did anything amazing really. Just prepared rationally and then took advantage of a blunder. Still, I feel on the other hand that I did win through work that I put into the game. I think the situation with the opening created the space I needed to keep playing the game confidently even when he gained back the pawn and so I was ready to take advantage of his blunder.
Anyway, here's the game:
romanic666 (1502) - JabotScrob (1237)
[...] 1.e4 e5 2.♘f3 ♘c6 3.♗b5 a6 4.♗a4 ♘f6 5.O-O ♗e7 6.♖e1 b5 7.♗b3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 ♗b7 10.d4 ♖e8 11.♘bd2 ♗f8 12.♘f1 ♘a5
This was the specific situation that I had read about comes up. Basically Shaw explains that this move is standard in many a RL but in the Zaitsev it doesn't work because of the pressure against e4. Here Shaw gives: 12...exd4 13.cxd4 ♘a5 but I misremembered. Not sure why the pawn capture is better first. It seems that Na5 immediately has a double threat of winning the e4 pawn and on the other hand trading off the knight for the bishop so the game text reply seems forced.13.♗c2 exd4 14.♕xd4 c5 I knew this pawn push was thematic in the Zaitsev so it was at the top of my candidates for this situation. 15.♕d3Now the pawn is hanging.15...♘xe4 Here I felt I had scored a definite victory, not of the game, but in the sense that I had a won a significant advantage in the opening against a significantly higher rated player. 16.b4 ♘c4 17.♘g3 d5 Here I debated about pulling the knight back to f6 but didn't like the threats he had of mate on the h7 square. This seemed to work. 18.a4 g6 I didn't see any threat in the a4 move because the rook is defended so I can take back with the a pawn if he plays axb. I had been worried about the fact that the knight on e4 was basically pinned so this seemed like a perfect time to play g6 and get rid of the pin. 19.axb5 axb5 20.♖xa8 ♗xa8 Not sure but the motive for this sequence may have been to build up time through making quick moves and gaining the increment. He had been going very slowly and I had a real time advantage throughout the game, but these last few moves had come fairly quickly. 21.bxc5 ♗xc5 22.♘xe4 dxe4 23.♕xd8 ♖xd8 24.♗xe4 So he wins the pawn back, but the confidence boost my opening success had given me lingered on. 24...♗xe4 25.♖xe4 ♖d3
Here I looked at: 25...♖d1 26.♖e1 ♖xe1 27.♘xe1 the theme of which comes up later again. Here it seems to just be equal whereas with the text I am threatening to win a pawn.26.♖e8 ♔g7 27.♖c8 ♗b6 28.♖c6 My bishop is protected but the back rank tactic that didn't work before now works to win his bishop. 28...♖d1