Monday, 28 December 2009

Missed Opportunities

I'd like to show you two interesting positions from my games in the London Chess Classic festival. In both cases I didn't find the best continuation and ended up losing both games.

The first position is from my game against the top seed of the tournament, IM Susan Lalic. After a long positional struggle earlier in the game I ended up in the worse endgame. However, after some inaccuracies from Susan I could have made a draw at this point. Can you find the right continuation?

Maria Yurenok (1968) - Susan Lalic (2310)
11 December 2009
London Classic - Women's Invitational

The solution is quite simple:

51. Nd4! + (51. f7 also draws but unfortunately I played 51. Nc7+? Sadly for me, I only had a few seconds left on the clock to finish the game and there was no increment. Otherwise I should have found the solution.)

Unfortunate position of the black's bishop and a5 pawn means white would capture one of them. Now black must take one of white's pawns or she would be the losing side. E.g. 51... Kd7 52 f7; 51... Kf7 52. d7 and one of white's pawns queens.

51... Kxd6 52. f7 Ke7 53. Nc6 Kf8 54. Nxa5 Kxf7 55. h3 =


51... Kxf6 52. d7 Ke7 53. Nc6+ Kxd7 54. Ne5+ (or simple 54. Nxa5=) Kd6 55. Nxd3 =

The next example is a lot more complicated and I'm not sure if I would have found the solution if I had more time. It is, however, easier to find the solution when you know there is one, so try to find it before looking below.

Maria Yurenok (1968) - Maria Ikonomopoulou (2065)
14 December 2009
London Classic- Women's Invitational

I was looking at 23. Nxf7 for a while but it only leads to equality. Here is an example variation, which I didn't see anyway 23... Rxf7 24. Rxf7 Kxf7 25. Qg4! Qc6 26. Bd4 Ne4 27. Bxe4 dxe4 28. e6+ Qxe6 29. Qxe6 Kxe6 30. Bxg7 =

During the game I couldn't come up with anything better than moving my knight back with 23. Nf3 and I lost later in the time-trouble.

I did consider the winning move for a few seconds, but quickly dimissed it:
23. e6!

There are many variations to consider, but my favourite is with the queen sacrifice:
23... hxg5 24. exf7+ Rxf7 25. Rxf7!! gxh4 (25... Kxf7 26. Qh7 +-) 26. Rxg7+ Kf8 27. Bxg6 Nd7 28. Rf1+ Nf6 29. Bxf6 Qc4 30. Rf7+ Kg8 31. Bd4  +-

Other responses for black:
23... f5 24. Nf7 Nxe6 (24... Bxc3 25. Qxh6 Bg7 26. Qxg6 Ne4 27. Rxf5  +-) 25. Nxh6+ Bxh6 26. Qh6 d4 27. Qxg6 Ng7 28. Bxf5 Rxf5 29. Rxf5 dxc3 30. Qf7+ Kh8 31. Rf4  +-

23... f6 24. Bxg6 fxg5 (24... Qc6 25. Bf7+ Kh8 26. Rxf6! exf6 27. Bxf6 with unavoidable checkmate) 25. Rxf8 Rxf8 26. Bf7+ Rxf7 27. exf7+ Kxf7 28. Qh5+ Kg8 29. Qe8+ Kh7 30. Qf7 Ne6 31. Qf5+ Kh8 32. Qe6 (threatening 33. Qxh6) 32... Qd6 33. Qxd6 exd6 34. Bxa5  +-

I guess strong chess players would make 23. e6 move intuitively even if they haven't seen through all variations.

I'm going to historical Hastings tomorrow to play in the traditional international tournament there. Unfortunately I had to miss the first game, so will play only 8 games this time. I haven't done a lot of preparation, but I've enjoyed watching the Russian Championship Super Final for men and women in the past few days. With one round to go GM Grischuk leads in the men's and IM Galliamova in the women's. But, I think it's not fair that women's tournament has shorter time limit compared to men's. I wonder if that was for the entertainment value as there seems to be an awful lot of chess in time trouble.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

It's been a bit of a strange week in a nice way. John Saunders from the British Chess Magazine has published a link to my blog in his Chessbase article. Because of that I've had so many hits on my blog, from many countries all over the world, that it felt like a nice Christmas present to me. Thank you very much for everyone's comments and well-wishing. I hope you'll continue to follow my blog in the months to come.

Western Christmas is a bit of an odd holiday for me. For starters, Russians celebrate Christmas on the 7th January. However, that's a fairly new holiday for modern Russians because Christmas was "cancelled" during communist times and only re-instated less than 20 years ago. So, the tradition of celebrating Christmas has been lost for most Russian people and most just enjoy another day off work. Of course, Russian Christian Orthodox church continued to celebrate Christmas even during the communist times, but there were very few religious people in those days as it wasn't a good thing to be religious.

So, bearing all that in mind, I get a bit overwhelmed with how in the Western world so many people start preparing for Christmas and buying presents as early as September. I don't like the commercialism of the whole thing and the same Christmas music in every shop. I think Christmas is a great thing for kids but it doesn't have the same magic appeal to me I'm afraid. However, I do like the food! I'm going to cook a fantastic roast beef tomorrow (even though turkey is traditional in England, but I find it boring) with roast potatoes and parsnips, but no horrible brussels sprouts. And I love desserts, so I will certainly have lots of Christmas pudding with brandy butter. Are you hungry yet? I bet my cat can't wait for all the Christmas meal leftovers.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

My Cute Checkmate

I'm finally ready to show you some of my creations. Here is my third round game from the women's section of the London Chess Classic. I played with white against Olivia Smith from Wales, rated 2026. Our opening was Queen's Gambit Declined, Exchange Variation (D36). You can replay the whole game via an applet below. But here is the commentary with some insights into my thinking approach:

M.Yurenok - O.Smith

M. Yurenok - O. Smith
10 December 2009

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nc3 c6 6. Bg5 Be7 7. Qc2 Nbd7 (7... g6 is a good alternative for black, with the idea of 8...Bf5)

8. e3 h6?! (8...O-O is the usual move here, while 8...h6 looks a bit early)

9. Bh4 (9. Bf4 is also a good alternative with the idea of h3 and Ne5)

9... b6  I haven't come across this plan in this opening yet as I haven't been playing this opening for long. Black normally develops the pieces like: 0-0, Re8, Nf8 aiming for ideas around playing Ne4 or c5. While white either creates pawn minority attack on the queen side or aims for e4 push

10. Bd3 Bb7 11. O-O O-O Previous two moves were straightforward development, but now I have the key decision point. A minority attack may not have the usual effect as black would probably push c5 before my pawns get very far. I decided just to develop my rooks where I thought they would be useful if black plays c5, which I was expecting very soon. It's better than having no plan at all.

12. Rfd1 (12. Rad1 would actually be more precise as the other rook could be quite useful either on e or f file)

12... Re8 13. Rac1 Ne4 14. Bg3 is not the best move, but I had a plan in mind to get the e4 square back under my control and to put my knight on e5 followed by f4 and perhaps a kingside attack. A good alternative would have been: 14. Bxe4 Bxh4 15. Bh7+ Kh8 16. Bf5 Bf6 17. e4 g6 18. Bh3 +/=

14... Nxg3 15. hxg3 Nf6 16. Ne5 Bd6 17. f4 Bxe5 18. dxe5 This is the position I was going for at move fourteen

18... Nd7 (18... Ng4!? may be an interesting alternative)

19. Qe2 I want to swap my queen and bishop around to attack the enemy king. A good alternative would have been: 19. Bh7+ Kh8 20. Bf5 with e4 as an idea. Rybka suggests that here black should give up a piece with 20...Ne5 giving a slight advantage for white, but I doubt many humans would seriously consider this move and agree with computer's calm assessment.

19... Nc5 20. Bb1 Qe7 21. Kf2?! Aiming to put my rook on h1, but this turns out to be a bit slow. A good
alternative would have been: 21. e4 dxe4 (21... Red8 22. exd5 cxd5 23. Nb5 Ba6 24. Qc2 g6 25. Nd6 with nice position for white) 22. Nxe4 Nxe4 23. Qxe4 g6 24. Qa4 and black would struggle to defend all her pawns

21... Rad8 22. Qc2 g6 23. b4 Ne4+? (23... Ne6 and 23... Nd7 were perfectly fine. My opponent saw that by giving up a pawn she'd get it back, but I saw further than that)

24. Nxe4 dxe4 25. Qxe4 c5 26. Qc4 cxb4 27. Bxg6! This is what she missed.

27... Rc8 28. Qb3 Rxc1 29. Rxc1 Rd8 Black is threatening 30...Bd5 followed by taking on g6. Here I saw a very cute checkmate several moves ahead and I wanted it! Unfortunately it stopped me from thinking straight. I quickly discounted 30. Bd3! as a "bad" move, while there was actually nothing wrong with it - I just keep a healthy pawn. I could have spent a bit more than a few seconds looking at it to realise my wrong assessment, but my wishful thinking meant I already decided that my move was the only good move. I wanted a simple decision and I was hoping that my opponent would cooperate with getting into the checkmate - not a good approach to choosing a move!! I did realise that if my opponent didn't make the move I was hoping then I would end up in a rather complicated pawn and rook endgame with chances for both sides. I was a bit concerned that in this scenario I might actually lose because of the approaching time-trouble. Nevertheless, I played:

30. Qxf7+!? Qxf7 31. Bxf7+ Kxf7 32. Rc7+ Ke6?? That's the black's move I was hoping for and now I could relax being sure that I'm winning. But if black played a better move my win would have been far from straightforward 32... Ke8! 33. Rxb7 Rd2+ 34. Kf3 Rxa2 35. f5 b3 36. Rb8+! Not an easy move to find and other moves lead to an immediate draw, e.g. (36. e6 Ra5 37. e4 Re5 38. Rb8+ Ke7 39. Rb7+ Ke8 =; 36. f6 Ra1 37. e6 Rf1+ 38. Ke4 Rxf6 39. Ke5 Rf1 40. Rb8+ Ke7 41. Rb7+ =) 36... Ke7 37. f6+ Ke6 38. Re8+ Kf7 39. Re7+ Kf8 40. e6 Ra5 41. Rh7 Rf5+ 42. Ke4 Rxf6 43. Ke5 Rg6 44. Rf7+ Ke8 45. Rxa7 b2 46. Kd6 Kf8 47. Rf7+ Kg8 48. Rf1 Rxg3 white has winning chances, but it would be hard to win

33. Rxb7 Rd2+ 34. Kf3 Rxa2 35. Ke4 b3 nothing could have saved from checkmate (35... Rf2 36. g4)

36. f5# But how cute is this! 1-0

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

London Chess Classic Part 2

The tournament finished yesterday and I didn't do as well as I hoped. I only got 3.5 out of 9 and gained 6 rating points. I haven't analysed my games yet but I felt I was playing quite well in the first 6 rounds, and then I lost two games on the row - one of them quite badly. I found the tournament quite intense and very hard work. I don't know if I just run out of energy towards the end... I managed to switch my brain back on for the final game and drew after 5 hours of play. I also learnt a new opening during the tournament - the Dutch Stonewall, although I would normally avoid doing something like that during a tournament as there's too little preparation time as it is. I decided to do that because in this case I thought it saved me preparation time compared to what I would have had to do otherwise. I applied it as white and as black in the last two games and got decent positions out of the opening, but only got half a point from those two games. My opponents used exactly the same set-up against me in both games which certainly made it easier for me to play the second game. The whole tournament was very hard fought by all women and there were no short draws at all which seemed to entertain many spectators. There were also a lot of photographers who were mainly interested in the grandmaster tournament, but managed to take a lot of pictures of the women's tournament as well. Here I am in the fatal 7th game! (Photo by Ray Morris-Hill)

Maria Yurenok

The tournament was won by WIM Arianne Caoili from Australia who got amazing 8 out of 9 points and finished 2 points clear of the rest of the field. I did lose my game to Arianne as she played a variation that no one has played against me before. I vaguely remembered what I was supposed to do and chose to sacrifice a pawn in the opening with a view of getting it back later on. That's a perfectly suitable plan if you know what you're doing, but I managed to go astray on move 9 and never got the pawn back, so in hindsight I should have just taken the pawn back straight away. We did play for the full 5 hours though! Here are the final standings of all players in the women's tournament.

Of course, the main event of the London Chess Classic festival was the grandmaster tournament which was won by GM Carlsen just ahead of GM Kramnik. On a couple of days I managed to finish my own games early enough to be able to watch grandmasters play and listen to their post-games analysis. I think the whole festival was organised very well and seemed to be very successful because of the number of visitors and the large variety of events (blitz, rapidplay, children's tournament, etc). The FIDE Open tournament was won by GM Hammer with 8 points, while England's IM Jovanka Houska got a shared second place with 7 points - a great result for women's chess! You can see results of all London Chess Classic festival events on their website.

After the tournament ended I went out with lots of chess players for a few well-deserved drinks and for a Chinese meal. It was nice getting up this morning and not worrying about having to prepare for another game! And tonight I have a Christmas meal with the team from work. Even though I'm on the sabbatical it would be nice to catch up with everyone. However, I have to get back to chess training from tomorrow as my next tournament is starting on 28th December in Hastings. So much to do but so little time!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

London Chess Classic Part 1

Today was the start of the London Chess Classic festival and I'm glad that my anticipation and training is over and all I have to do now is play chess ... but play it well! I drew my game against Elena Winkelmann today. I was a bit better throughout the game, but couldn't find a way to progress and keep my advantage so I forced a draw. However, it's nice to get a good start in a tournament. My friend Denise Frick did even better and managed to win the game that she was losing! Denise is staying with me and it's great to have some company to discuss chess and to support each other during the tournament.

I finished my game quite early, so had plenty of time to watch games in the grandmaster tournament. By that time Kramnik was already a pawn down against Carlsen. Apparently he had problems with getting a British visa (how is that possible??) and that may have affected his state of mind. He eventually lost the game. I really hope he does well in the rest of the tournament. Short lost to McShane but I didn't stick around long enough to find out how exactly that happened. I thought it would end up being a draw as their position didn't seem to change much for a long time. The other two games were draws, but everyone kept wondering how Nakamura managed not to win against Ni Hua in what looked like a winning rook and pawn endgame. Of course, that happened because all rook endings are drawn :)

I haven't stopped following the World Cup. With fewer people it's less exciting but there are still some very interesting games. In semi-finals, Karjakin against Gelfand was very entertaining apart from the fact that I wanted Karjakin to win. At least Ponomariev managed to overcome Malakhov in today's tie-break. I saw their first two exciting rapid games and then I had to force myself to switch off the computer and go to my own tournament! So, the final will be Gelfand-Ponomariev. Come on Pono!

Tomorrow I'm playing against Arianne Caoili. Everyone knows that her boyfriend is GM Aronian and it seems he's arriving today to support her. So, will this super-GM find any holes in my openings that Arianne can use? Can't wait to find out!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Home and Away

In the past week I've played two league games. I've won both times and I think I can get used to this :) My Surrey League opponent was significantly lower rated than me at 122 ECF, so the game wasn't particularly challenging. However, I decided to have a bit of fun with my black pieces and played an unusual variation I've never played against the Torre Attack. So that kept me entertained as I wasn't quite sure what I was doing. That line certainly surprised my opponent enough to give me a lasting advantage out of the opening. My Sandhurst team also won easily 4.5 : 0.5.

And in the London League I won against 206 ECF - nice achievement for me! I was playing QGD for white quite well and had a slight advantage throughout the game. However, I messed things up in the endgame when I started getting short of time (quick play finish has some downsides!) Nevertheless, my opponent was the last one to make a mistake as he missed a checkmate in one instead of winning rook and pawn endgame. Well, we both had about 1min left on the clock (without increment) and luck was on my side :) My Hackney team did very well and lost only 7:5 against much stronger opposition. Unfortunately our last board defaulted, otherwise maybe we could have drawn...

I've been watching the World Cup every day as I seem to be addicted to it, but I think it's probably good chess training for me anyway. There are very interesting interviews on the World Cup website as well, and only a fraction of them end up on the Chessbase website, so it's definitely worth checking out. They've just published an interesting interview with GM Tkachiev. Unfortunately, it's only in Russian at the moment, so watch out for it to be translated - probably in the next few hours, as the World Cup website seems quite efficient. Also a few days ago GM Ivanchuk got knocked out of the Word Cup and he gave a very interesting interview threatening to quit chess. Thankfully, he seems to be feeling better now as he said he'd be back. Chess can be just as dramatic as any other sport!

I was very impressed with Judit when she won her second slow play game on demand against GM Gelfand in a very nice attacking style. Unfortunately, she lost in the rapidplay but not without creating significant complications out of nothing in the last game, in what looked like a totally hopeless position for her. That woman has amazing fighting abilities and imagination! Anyway, it's very interesting to see how grandmasters realise their advantage or make mistakes and miss their opportunities. I try to guess their moves and on occasion I find better ones than the players, so they are human after all :)