Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Uxbridge All-Play-All

Hello everyone! It's been a busy few days for me. I finished playing at Uxbridge on the 17th February, then played at the 4NCL over the weekend and now I'm in Reykjavik, Iceland - ready to start another tournament tomorrow! Here I am playing my second game at Uxbridge, photo taken by the organiser Sean Hewitt.

Maria Yurenok

I had a disastrous start to my tournament in Uxbridge - I lost 4 games in the row! I was feeling very down at that point. However I managed to follow that up with 3 wins, one of which was against the overall tournament winner Mark Josse. I outplayed him in the endgame and was the only one who beat him. Disappointingly, I lost the final game against the chess player who got the second place even though I was two pawns up at some point. You can see the final tournament table here. The strange thing is I felt as if I'm definitely playing better chess than a few months ago but I seemed to be smudging my finishes in most games that I lost. Another interesting thing is I seem to be playing more aggressive chess which is quite entertaining and complicated at the same time. Sadly I still keep losing rating points - another 10 this time. Of course, there's not much point worrying about rating right now - I just need to improve my chess.

I did much better at the 4NCL. I got 1.5 out of 2 including a win against 2115 FIDE in the nice style. Time limit at the 4NCL was much longer than at Uxbridge, so I guess I had enough time to find a way to covert my advantage. Here I am at the start of the game that I won at the 4NCL. I look quite mean - I was indeed playing for a win!

Maria Yurenok

Unfortunately, my team Betsson.com lost that match 3.5:4.5. It was a very important match for us. Even though we won the second match of the weekend it will now be very difficult for us to get into the top half of the draw. In the next round (held towards the end of March) we have to win 5.5:2.5 against the strong team Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher 2 in order to get into the top half. It may turn out to be a very interesting encounter because if we win then our opponents will not get into the top half, so everything will be at stake for both teams.

The weather in Reykjavik is not much colder than in London, but the wind makes it 10 times worse! Even though it was sunny today, I was freezing only after a few minutes outside and had to hop into several shops and coffee bars to keep myself warm while walking around. Here is an unusual church in the centre of Reykjavik.


But the birds don't seem to mind the wind and the mostly frozen lake. This is near the playing venue - City Hall.


I still haven't got the draw for the first round but you'll be able to find it here together with the tournament results. I'll give you my update in a few days.

Friday, 12 February 2010

How Do You Evaluate a Position?

First of all, I have some exciting news. My friends at http://www.gingergm.com/ have created and posted a video from the London Chess Classic tournament held back in December. There are several interviews with grandmasters including Vladimir Kramnik! You will also notice a few shots of me in action :) So please do check out the video and let me know what you thought of it: http://www.gingergm.com/2010/02/10/interviews-at-the-london-chess-classic/

Tomorrow is the start of my all-play-all Challengers tournament at Uxbridge (near London). You can see the list of my opponents in the table here: http://www.e2e4.org.uk/international/2010/Uxbridge/group_fischer.htm
The tournament is quite intense with one round tomorrow and two rounds for the following 4 days. Yes, I'll be working hard during the Saint Valentine's Day. But I wish you a very happy Valentine's Day filled with lots of love! I'll update you on my tournament result towards the end of next week.

In the last post I published a puzzle (Yurenok- Peat). It was very easy and I'm sure all of you found the solution. My opponent resigned after: 21.Nxg6 because after 21...hxg6 22.Qxg6+ he either loses his queen 22...Bg7 23.Qxd6 or gets checkmated 22...Kh8 23.Rh3+ He could have moved his rook with 21...Rf7 but I guess he didn't fancy playing with two pawns down in a totally lost position!

I was asked the other day to describe how I evaluate a position. I'm sure you'd agree it's quite a complicated topic to discuss. I would be very interested to hear from you - my blog readers - how you would answer this question. My guess is there are as many answers to this question as there are chess players in the world!

During a game I don't systematically evaluate every weakness vs. every strength to come to a final evaluation. I do it more subconsciously than that, but if I was to "break down" my subconsciousness it would include all the things I know about what's good (e.g. bishop pair, etc) and what's bad (e.g. lack of space, etc) and my overall level of experience of the position in question. Some books suggest very detailed approach for position evaluation but I've never heard any decent chess players going through a tick list in their head!

My evaluations probably tend to range from "winning", to "better", to "about equal", to "complicated", to "difficult" to "lost". On top of that I consider my time spending situation and try to assess my chances realistically from that perspective. I'm also an optimist by nature so have a tendency to overestimate my chances sometimes. It's not that easy to cure this problem, but I'm trying. One of my friends IM Adam Hunt has given a good advice which went along the lines of: don't assess a position as "winning" or "losing", but rather assess as "white has better chances" or "black has better chances". His view is that is how top players evaluate positions if you listen to their after-game analysis. I think this advice certainly has some psychological value as it's much harder to re-adjust during a game if you thought you were winning earlier but didn't at the end, however it's not such a big psychological loss if you thought you only had better chances! Another related point is also in the wording - it's important to notice opponent's "chances" - something that I don't always pay enough attention to. Well, enough for now! Maybe with your help we can start a bit of a discussion on this topic.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Barnet Congress

I enjoyed playing in Barnet Congress last weekend. I got 2 out of 4, but performed above my rating. The only game that I lost was to Jovica Radovanovic who is graded quite a lot above me at 218 ECF (his FIDE is 2337). The game was very entertaining. Playing Sicilian as black, I grabbed a pawn for white's compensation. Later on I had to give up an exchange but white opted to give it back straight away. Following that I decided to give up two pawns to transpose into what looked like a drawn endgame. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to draw 2 vs. 3 pawns on the kingside and rook each. I was ground down and actually lost on time at the end. As I found out it's not at all easy to defend this ending under the time pressure even though many people would think of that position as an easy draw! That's certainly a game that needs thorough analysis.

The tournament was won by three people, among them my Hackney team captain - Bob Eames, so congratulations to him. I also had a nice win in 21 moves. Have a look at the diagram, I'm a pawn up but still a fair bit away from winning. However, black helped me to secure an immediate win by moving Re8-f8. What's wrong with that move and how white should reply?

M. Yurenok (173) - M. Peat (179)
30th January 2010, Barnet

On Monday I played a game for the first Hackney team in the London League. I drew against my 4NCL team captain Steve Ledger who was playing for Streatham! But it wasn't a "grandmaster" draw, we were fighting until the end. I played with white against Benko Gambit for the first time and got a good position but didn't manage to make anything out of it. In time trouble I lost a pawn but Steve made an inaccurate move that allowed me to transpose into a drawn R+P endgame. My team, however, lost as we were outrated.

And here is the solution to the last post's puzzle (G. More - M. Yurenok). Thanks to those who sent the answers, now you can compare your thoughts with mine during the game. The game continued: 

23... Bxg3 24. hxg Bxe4! Now white can't take 25.Bxe4 because of deadly 25...Ne2+ check winning the queen, and taking 25. Bxd4 instead doesn't help either as after black's 25...exd4 attacks the queen leaving me a piece up as bishop on g3 will escape re-capture.

After 24...Bxe4 white is not just a pawn down, but her position is totally disintegrating due to too many threats. Rook on b1 is under attack but has nowhere to go. If it moves from b file - pawn on b3 falls to 25...Rxb3. If b1 rook stays on b file, e.g. 25.Rb2 then black wins a rook by 25...Nxf3+ and 26...Rxd1. On top of all of these there are still threats of black taking on f3 with the bishop and winning the queen by Ne2+. The game continued:

25. Rbc1 Rxb3 26.Qxb3 (26. Bxd4 Rxc3 27. Bxc3 was a bit better but still losing) Nxb3 27. Rxd8+ Qxd8 28. Rd1 Nd4 29. Kf2 Bxf3 30. gxf3 Qf6 31. f4 exf4 32. gxf4 e5 33. Rb1 h6 34. Rb8+ Kh7 35. Kg3 exf4+ 0:1