Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sydney International ... the final days

I ran out of time while in Sydney to blog about the last few days of the Sydney International, so now that I'm back in Melbourne, I thought I would put up a post about the final 5 rounds of the Sydney International.
I finished the tournament with 4.5/9 & was surprised to find out that I had finished =1st in the under 2100 rating division. Overall I was fairly happy with my tournament, although as with everything in chess, there were a few games where I felt I could have played better & got an extra point or half point.

My round 5 game against Queensland FM Gene Nakauchi was another Modern Defence that turned into a Gurgenidze Caro Kann. Although I had to run my king out of the centre early in the game, I was reasonably happy with my position, as theoretically I had a good bishop v bad bishop position, however I totally overlooked Gene's 18. Nxd5 sacrifice, which turned the game completely & Gene played the tactical game that followed really well. In hindsight, 17... Rg6 might have been better to prevent the sacrifice, threatening the h6 bishop, as well as potentially defending on the third rank. Although I tried to hold my position together, Gene managed to pick up a few pawns along the way & finally I found myself in a hopeless rook ending, so resigned.

My round 6 game against American Pieter Bierkens was a bit of a topsy-turvy game. I played a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit & achieved a thematic attacking position that I was very happy to have. However all did not go to plan when I rushed things a little & played 12. d5, which is not in itself a bad move, but should have been preceded by the simple 12. Kh1 to avoid the tactical defences that black had in the game based on checks on the a7-g1 diagonal. As it happened, this rushing meant that I had to throw a bit more fuel on the fire & I decided to sacrifice my bishop to open up lines towards black's king. My superior development & active pieces game me some compensation for the sacrificed material (at one point a rook & pawn), although theoretically not quite enough to justify the material investment. However by keeping the initiative, I gave Pieter the opportunity to go astray & although I also did not always play the best moves, I managed to find my way into an advantageous endgame. After the stress of earlier in the game, I was happy to go into an opposite coloured bishop ending that I had no chance of losing, although it also significantly reduced my winning chances. At the end of it, I was happy to end the game with a draw, although a little disappointed that I wasn't able to find a way to win the position after it showed so much promise.

My round 7 game against Queensland WIM Alexandra Jule should have been a smooth thematic Dzindzi Indian - I reached a fantastic position out of the opening, with white having permanent structural weaknesses on the queenside, as well as the type of pawn structure that severely restricted the white bishop pair, leaving black with the dominant minor piece - a fantastic knight. As a bonus, I was even a pawn ahead! However unfortunately that all meant nothing when I overlooked a simple tactic & lost a rook - I became complacent in the position & made a fundamental mistake of not examining all captures & checks! Even then, I still had chances, although I always seemed to be one or two tempi behind what I needed to hold the position. My one game to forget for the tournament ...

My round 8 game against NSW junior Rowan Willathgamuwa turned out to be my easiest game of the tournament. I played an Alapin French & Rowan responded with 3... Nf6, which leads to a position more like an advanced French, however with white's bishop on e3 & black's knight slightly misplaced on d7, the position is much better for white than a normal advanced French. The usual counterplay that black has against the white centre is not as serious, so white can continue with his play on the kingside with very little to worry about on the other side of the board. When Rowan allowed me to play 14. e6 my advantage was significant & I maintained it throughout the rest of the game. The only thing I was a little disappointed about was that I did not spot the mating pattern with the bishop on f7 & a rook going to the h-file until around move 30, when the idea was there a number of moves earlier when I first got my bishop to f7.

My round 9 game against Taras Yermolenko was another Gurgenidze Caro Kann & I was happy with how the game went. Taras chose to capture the pawn on c5, which allowed me ot capture his pawn on e5, which I thought was an advantageous exchange for me. Although I was unable to castle, the c5 pawn was weak & I was able to win the pawn & after finding some nice defensive moves & exchanging pieces, I was able to exchange into a favourable knight v bishop ending where I was able to win a second pawn & soon after convert this advantage into a win.

All in all I was happy with most of my play during the two tournaments, although there was one game in each tournament that was a bit disappointing.
As usual, both tournaments were well run, although the Doeberl Cup does stand out from an organisational perspective.
In particular, congratulations to IM Moulthun Ly, who won the Sydney International outright (the first time a local player has won the Doeberl or SIO outright since the tournaments featured large numbers of foreign GMs. Also congratulations to FM Junta Ikeda, who not only scored his third & final IM norm in Canberra, but picked up enough points in Sydney to push his live rating past the magical 2400 mark, making him an IM-elect!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sydney International Open - Day 2

Day 2 of the Sydney International was a good one for me in many respects. Although I finished the day with 2/4, I managed to score my first win over an International Master in a FIDE rated game.

Round 3 saw me playing black against IM Andrew Brown from Canberra & I played a Dzindzi Indian. Andrew played an early g4, similar to Dmitry Gurevich in the first game with the variation against Roman Dindzichashvilli. I managed to grab two pawns in the opening, but it left my white squared bishop out of play on h5, however it was difficult for Andrew to exploit the poor placement of this piece. I returned some of this material to try to untangle my position & eventually found myself in a favourable major piece endgame. I kept things together & found a few tactics to finally finish the game off to record my first win over an IM in a long time control game.

The afternoon round didn't get any easier, as I had white against FM Greg Canfell. I tried to be aggressive & aimed for the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Greg chickened out & with the Paleface Attack move order I used (1. d4 Nf6 2.f3!?) we ended up in a strange Caro-Kann like position. My move 12. Nce2 gave me a cramped position (perhaps a move like 12.Kf2 immediately might have been better) which Greg exploited tactically to win a pawn. After swapping some more pieces off, we found ourself in a rook & knight ending where I had a cramped position with very few active moves to make. I eventually traded off to a pure knight & pawn ending & although I managed to get one of my pawns back, Greg's pawns proved too strong & they secured victory for him.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Sydney International Open - Day 1

After spending the last few days in Canberra, the Australian chess scene now turns its eyes to Sydney for the Sydney International Open. The events began with the City of Sydney Blitz, held on Tuesday night. I played & scored 5.5/9, which was a bit of a mixed bag - some good wins, some bad losses & a few lucky escapes too! Overall the tournament saw a tie for first between IM Stephen Solomon from Queensland & FM Luke Li from Victoria.
The tournament itself got started on Wednesday & I had a sense of de ja vu, as I found myself paired yet again with IM Gary Lane, although this time I was white (I was black against him in round 1 in Canberra). Although the opening turned out fairly well for me, I got a little tangled up in the middlegame & misplayed the endgame & allowed Gary to win some pawns & retain a dominant position. The second round saw me paired against George Carolin-Unkovich & I played a nice attacking game to win fairly quickly.

I decided to play a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit against Gary Lane, who wrote a book on the BGD almost 20 years ago & I managed to get a good position out of the opening after he played the Lemberger Counter Gambit with 3... e5. Gary took his time in the opening & after the game said that he had seen a number of 'refutations' of the gambit, but couldn't remember them at the time. I was happy with the position I got out of the opening, but gave Gary too many opportunities in the late middlegame when he played 23... Ne5 & I don't think I followed up correctly. However my big mistake was not recognising the danger in the endgame & playing 31.h5 rather than the more effective 31. Ke2, with the idea of following up with 32. f3! with a draw a likely result with best play.

My second game against young Western Australian George Carolin-Unkovich turned out to be a bit one sided once we got out of the opening. I played a Gurgenidze Caro Kann & achieved a comfortable position out of the opening. Although it seemed like a somewhat natural move, George's 12. 0-0-0 was really the beginning of the end & I grabbed the initiative & didn't let it go until the end of the game.

I hope to have a wrap up of the Doeberl Cup with a few photos up in the next few days!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Doeberl Cup Day 5

The final day of the Doeberl Cup saw me playing white against Tristan Stevens, who now calls Queensland home. I decided that I was willing to take some chances in the game & was prepared to play a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit if Tristan allowed it, however Tristan avoided it & the game turned into a Pirc Defence. Tristan blundered with 10... Nbd7 in the opening, which allowed me to win a piece for two pawns. Tristan then tried to launch an attack, which lasted for quite a while before I started to nullify his pressure. After the final blunder 41... Rf7 I found a tactical finish to the game to take the point & finish the tournament on 50% with 4.5/9

Monday, 21 April 2014

Doeberl Cup - Days 3 & 4

The middle days of the Doeberl Cup are when the tournament really sorts itself out ... and when it can become a bit of a grind also. Of the four games, I managed to score 1.5/4, beating a junior rated in the mid 1800s, drawing with a 2200 & losing to two high 2100s, so around what is expected of my rating. I thought I played well in my win, found a nice idea in the drawn game, but was a bit disappointed by my play in the two games I lost - although I was happy with the opening positions I managed to get, I followed up poorly (particularly in the Zulfic game) & really did not play as I would have liked. Anyway, onto the games ...

Round 5 saw me black against Yita Choong of Westerm Australia & I managed to get into a Dzindi Indian, which is a line of the Modern/Sniper that I particularly like. The game followed a David Norwood game from 2012 until move 12, when I decided to play the questionable 12... Ba4?! Although the move itself is not bad, the timing of the move was rather poor & it forced Yita's queen to a good square, e2. If you compare it to the Norwood game, playing 0-0-0 first followed by Ba4 saw the queen go to the less impressive c1 square & this allowed a variety of tactics for Norwood that saw him gain an advantage. As is a theme in the opening, white has permanent queenside weaknesses & the critical square for both sides is e4, with white trying to play it, while black tries to prevent it to keep white's pieces tied up. The critical point in the game came at move 26 after Yita played f5 & I needed a precise response to stay in the game, which unfortunately I didn't find. Although I tried to fight on for a while, ultimately my poorly placed king & bishop, combined with Yita's passed pawns on the kingside were enough to finish the game off.

In round 6 I was white against Victorian junior Jason Chew & once again I found myself in an Alapin French. This time the position took on a very different nature, with Jason castling queenside & the position in part being somewhat blocked. A key idea in the position is that of space & breakthroughs - in this case along the a-file. The point in this position (and somewhat analogous ones like the famous Karpov-Unzicker game of 1974 or Reti-Carls 1925) is that white can open the a-file at any time (black capturing b6xa5 simply helps white & makes the a7 pawn an easier target to attack), so I have time to double rooks, or possibly add a queen to triple on the file before opening it, while black's lack of space means that he can only put one rook on the a-file & must place his hopes on some sort of back rank defence, or try to generate play elsewhere in the position. In this case I tried to nullify any play on the kingside before the breakthrough on the a-file, with b6 being the weak pawn that was ultimately the target of my rooks & bishop. I found a few tactics to win some material & with a material deficit & an unsafe king, Jason resigned.

Round 7 saw me playing black against Victorian Eugene Schon & I played the Gurgenidze system & achieved a solid, but cramped position. Although I had notional control of the e-file early in the game, I had no entry points & Eugene had better control of the centre, so I decided to 'blunder' by playing 16... Re4, knowing that 17. Ne5 would cut off the protection for the rook & lose an exchange. However it would also change the nature of the position significantly, leaving me with an extra pawn for the exchange, as well as taking the initiative in the position. This is something that is important when playing strong players, as it is much more difficult to win or draw when they are the ones with the initiative & dictating terms. On the other hand if they are on the defensive, then there is a chance that they could go wrong & give you a point (or half a point) as a result. With this in mind, I made sure I protected my extra passed d-pawn, which would mean that any pawn ending would be advantageous for me. I saw that Eugene was going to try to challenge my control of the e-file, which was critical as it was the only open file on the board. In response to this, I came up with an idea to sacrifice my queen to maintain control of the file & try to set up a fortress-like position to hold the position together. Eugene saw this idea as well & decided to repeat the position & take a draw rather than risk playing against the fortress position he saw.
In the final position, the alternative for white is to play 35. Qxd3, which I intended to follow up with the following (forced) moves: 35... Bd4+ 36. Kh2 f4 with the immediate threat of Re1-h1#, but more importantly I retain control of the e-file & there is no obvious way for the white rook & queen to invade the position. If white tries to open the a-file with a4-a5xb6, I can simply leave my rook on e6 to defend the pawn & retain control of the e-file & if white tries putting their queen on e6 to prevent this plan, in some positions I can get my rook to c7 & my knight to b4 to trap the queen! Of course the white king is also stuck in the corner while the knight & bishop remain in place & it is difficult for the rook & queen to make progress easily. All-in-all I was happy to draw the game & particularly to find the exchange sacrifice & queen sacrifice ideas.

The final round of day 4, round 8, saw me playing white against Fedja Zulfic from South Australia. I decided to play something a bit different & go for a more positional approach in the opening & played the English rather than my usual 1.d4 with a gambit or unusual sideline follow-up. I was happy with the position I got out of the opening, with a sort of Benoni reversed after Fedja decided not to go down the path of a reversed Benko gambit. After 12... Nd7 I didn't come up with a good plan & drifted in the position without posing any problems to black. My attempts to retain the c5 pawn was a waste of time & I should have tried to develop more pressure on black's d4 pawn with moves like Na3-b5 & possibly a re-arranging of the back rank to put the queen on a1 to further target the d4 pawn. However as the game went, I played poorly, allowed Fedja to build up significant pressure on the queenside, before finally giving him two passed pawns on the queenside, which I could not stop promoting. A rather disappointing game.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Doeberl Cup - Day 2

The second day of the Doeberl Cup was somewhat more successful for me, with two wins from the two games today, leaving me with 2/4 & 50%. I was fairly happy with my play today - grabbed a pawn in the opening in the first game & held it after defending for a little while, before finding a few tactics in the endgame to finish it off. The second game was an Alapin French that went according to plan & I think I played a nice attacking game to win.

The first game was a Sniper against Western Australian Edik Gilmetdinov where Edik chose to play a London system against it. I snatched the b2 pawn which was a bit risky, but I seemed to get out of it OK. 15. Nab6 might have been a bit annoying to deal with, but after 15. Bf3 I seemed toget a reasonable position with good chances. I found a nice tactic with 23... Rxb6 to win more material & exchange pieces & then finish the ending off with what I thought was reasonable technique.

The second game of the day was another game against Victorian junior Gary Lin, who I have played a number of times in the last year or two (on the few occasions I do play chess!). This time I was white (the last few times I have been black against Gary) & I played the Alapin French after he decided not to go into a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. I managed to swing all of my pieces over to the kingside to target Gary's king & the tactics all worked out successfully for me.

Overall a much better day & I'm happy to be on the scoreboard & sitting on 50%.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Doeberl Cup - Day 1

Although I have a post on the recently completed FIDE Trainers Seminar in the works, I'll skip to more immediate matters & the Doeberl Cup, which I am playing in this year for a change (I have been an arbiter there for the previous two years).

Not quite the start I was hoping for today, finishing with 0/2 after two disappointing games. In round 1 I faced IM Gary Lane & decided to play the Archangel Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Once out of the opening I was unsure of move orders & plans (a problem when you don't play an opening very often) & began drifting after 11... Qe7 (11... h6 is the preferred move in the position, with Re8 to follow soon afterwards). I thought I may have had chances to hold the endgame, but Gary simply controlled all the critical squares & I could not make progress with my pieces. Finally a tactic with 34. f6+ gave Gary a passed h-pawn & this left my pieces away from the action trying to prevent it from promoting.

The second game against Canberra junior Willis Lo was another case of not knowing enough theory, although I was aware of many of the plans in the opening, having played the BDG for a number of years. The main hole in my theory was not knowing of the Nc3-e2-f4 plan in this particular variation of the BDG (the Alchemy Variation), although I knew about the plan to put a knight on f4, I chose to reposition the g5 knight to f4 via h3, however without a knight on g5, many of the tactical possibilities in the position (usually a potential sacrifice on e6 or f7) are missing. Having said that, the game was not without opportunities & although my instincts were right, my calculation & idea finding was off. After 21... Nh5 I felt that there had to be a good move for white involving the e6 pawn ... and I was right, however my choice of 22.Nxe6 was not the best move in the position! Better was 22. Bxg6 (removing the defender of the e6 pawn) & the tactics seem to work in white's favour, with a variety of checkmating threats posing significant problems for black. Unfortunately for me I played the not-so-good move & eventually tried to play on after having to give up an exchange, however 40... Rb2 was the move that finally finished me off as I had no good way to deal with the pin on the second rank.

Day 2 begins with a game against Edik Gilmetdinov from Western Australia ... and hopefully I will finally trouble the scorers!