Saturday, 26 June 2010

Benoni Smoothie

As promised, here is one of my nice games I played in Italy against Maya Porat from Israel. I was happy with this game because my preparation paid off and the whole game seemed to smoothly follow from the beginning to the end as I gradually outplayed my opponent. Simon even called this game thematic for Benoni which I feel is a nice compliment. You can replay the game via an applet below, but here is the game with my commentary.

Maria Yurenok (1984) - Maya Porat (2182)
5 June 2010, 1st Open Di Roseto

I chose to play this particular variation of Benoni (A79) because I found a game in that variation which GM Yaacov Zilberman played against Maya and I liked it for white. First 17 moves pretty much follow that game (with move order changes).

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nf3 g6 7. Nd2 Bg7 8. e4 O-O 9. Be2 Re8 10. O-O Na6 11. f3 Nc7 12. a4 b6 13. Nc4 Ba6 14. Bg5 h6 15. Be3 Rb8 16. Qd2 Kh7 17. Rab1 Bxc4 - in the above mentioned game Maya played 17...Qd7

18. Bxc4 a6 - clearly my opponent wants to play 19...b5 so I employ prophylactics:

19. Qd3!? Qc8?! - black can still play 19...b5 ending up with some compensation for a pawn: 20. axb5 axb5 21. Nxb5 Nxb5 22. Bxb5 Nxd5 23. Qxd5 Rxb5 24. Qxf7 +/= But I guess it's not everyone's cup of tea. However, after the move in the game the d6 pawn can be attacked, keeping initiative with white.

20. Bf4 Bf8 - I'm happy for black's bishop to come off the big diagonal! Although 20...Rd8 was probably not much better.

21. b4 - I continue with my obvious plan of advancing on the queenside

21...Nh5 +/-  it's probably better to put the knight on d7 giving black an option to put the knight on c5 or e5 in some cases. The way the game unfolds the knight never leaves its h5 square until the end of the game.

22. Be3 Bg7 23. bxc5 bxc5 24. Rxb8 Qxb8 25. Rb1 - clearly I can't take on a6 just yet as my c3 knight is hanging. However, capturing the b-file is a big bonus.

25...Qd8 - I was expecting something like 25...Qa7 followed by 26...Rb8 trying to contest the b-file. But it's not easy as a6 and d6 pawns are weak and both of black's knights are poorly placed.

26. Ne2 Qd7 27. Rb7 +/-  my rook is in heaven!

27...f5? - trying to create some counter-attack but it's just weakening black's position. It's hard to suggest a good plan of defence for black, perhaps 27...Re7 keeping everything defended for the time being. There was a possible clever trap: 27...Nf6 28. Bxa6? (28.Qb3 is good instead) Qxa4 29. Rxc7? Qa5 -+ threatening mate in one and the rook. Note, this wouldn't work with black's knight still on h5 as there is an intermediate move g4 attacking the knight and giving escape to the king, e.g: 27...Qxa4 28. g4 +- and one of the knights will fall.

28. exf5 gxf5 29. Bf2 - I missed that I could win pretty quickly if I played: 29. Bd2! Nf6 (otherwise the knight on h5 is hanging with a check in many variations, e.g.: 29...Qc8 30. Rxc7 Qxc7 31. Qxf5+ followed by 32.Qxh5) 30. Ba5 Rc8 31. Bxa6 and black is completely lost

29... Kh8 - again 29... Qxa4 doesn't work because of 30. g4 +-

30. Qb3 Qf7 31. Bxa6 - it was interesting to try something like 31. Bxc5 dxc5 32. d6 Qf6 33. dxc7 Nf4 34. Nxf4 Qd4+ 35. Kf1 Qxf4 36. g3 Qc1+ 37. Kg2 Qd2+ 38. Kh3 Qd7 39. Rb8 +- but why complicate things for yourself, especially close to time-trouble? After my move in the game black's position is very hard to defend anyway.

31... Qxd5 32. Qxd5 Nxd5 33. Bb5! - clearing the pathway for the a-pawn.

33... Rc8? - this loses quickly and I don't have to think very hard - just push the a-pawn forward! The best practical chance would have been 33... Ra8 as it gives white opportunities to go wrong. The best of white's responses would have been 34.Bc6! threatening 35.Rxg7 and winning quickly after favourable exchange of pieces. However, white's alternative options like 34. Be1 or 34. Rd7 would have taken more effort to finish the game.

34. a5 Ra8 35. a6 Nb4 36. a7 Kh7 37. Be1 Kg6 38. Bxb4 cxb4 39. Bc6 Be5 40. Re7 - my opponent resigned as she either loses the rook or the pawn queens 1-0

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Italian Chess Festival "City of Roseto"

Can you believe it, this chess adventure turned out to be even more successful for me than the one in Thailand. I played in the Masters section which was reserved for players above 2000 rating but they let myself and another girl in as an exception, even though we were just below 2000 rating. They probably think that they made the right decision as I got 5 points out of 9, gained my first WIM norm with a round to spare and drew with a GM for the first time! My rating performance was 2311 against the average opposition of 2268 which included two GMs, two IMs and an FM, gaining me 47 rating points. You can see the final rankings table here which shows that overall I came 14th despite being seeded second from the bottom (37th) at the beginning of the tournament. I didn't get a cash prize despite being the best performer in under 2200 rating section because rating prizes were reserved exclusively for Italians. However, I was given a big 2kg Italian cheese which tastes fantastic! I was also the best woman performer. Apart from all that I got to play against the legendary GM Evgeny Sveshnikov who originally came from Chelyabinsk in Russia (like myself) but now lives in Latvia. Long time ago back in Russia I even attended his 2-week chess school once, when it had a joint session with GM Panchenko's school. He's best known for his theoretical developments in the Sveshnikov Sicilian and in the c3 Sicilian. Here is a photo of me with the GM Evgeny Sveshnikov J

The tournament itself was very well organised. I thought it was great that in the Masters section most boards were electronic, transmitting games live on the internet. I also really enjoyed living very close to the sea, near a very nice and shallow sandy beach with beautifully clean water. Even though the weather was up to 30 degrees Celsius on some days the water was quite a bit colder than in Thailand, but once you got in - it was very enjoyable. You only had to walk a few minutes along the beach to reach an area with no one around. It was also quite easy to get to the resort as there were direct flights from London Stanstead to Pescara with Ryanair, and the resort had a complimentary pick up/drop off service for the airport. It was also great to have a kitchen in our small bungalow and a shop nearby, which meant that I could get up late and make my own breakfast and lunch whenever I wanted! Of course, there was a restaurant as well which we used for dinner. I think I would recommend this resort especially for chess playing families as there seemed to be a lot of things to do for children. Hiring a car would give a lot of additional options to explore beautiful countryside with mountains and national parks nearby.

Now, more detail about my performance at the tournament. The time control was 1.5 hours for 40 moves plus 30 minutes to finish, with 30 seconds added after each move. I was white in the first round against an Italian FM Carlo Barlocco rated 2156. I couldn't prepare for the first round as there wasn't enough time after the pairings came out. However, I was lucky to get a Nimzo-Indian position which I discussed with my coach GM Chris Ward only three days before. After playing quite well I got into a bit of time trouble at which point my opponent who had about half an hour more decided to trap his own queen. I didn't mind that at all as it netted me a knight and I won soon after!

In the second round I was again playing white against one of three girls in the tournament - Maya Porat from Israel rated 2182. My preparation paid off this time as I got the position I was looking for against the Benoni Defence. In fact this was probably my best game as I thought it flowed very nicely from the beginning to the end netting me a point. I will aim to publish an analysis of this game in my next post.

In the third game I was black against a young Italian IM Axel Rombaldoni rated 2436. We went down a long theoretical line in the Taimanov Sicilian. My opponent was clearly under pressure to win and sacked a pawn for not enough compensation. However, the position was far from straightforward and I got lost in complications losing a point. Later, GM Sveshnikov told me I should have won that game. Even though I never had a decisive advantage it was enough to pose serious problems for white.

In the fourth game I was white against a Phillipino IM Virgilio Vuelban rated 2369. This felt like it was my worst game as I didn't play that well in the opening and made positional mistakes in the middlegame. I eventually lost this game after giving up too many pawns for an attack.

After losing to two IMs in the previous rounds I was surprisingly paired with the Latvian GM Evgeny Sveshnikov in the fifth round, rated 2493. He didn't have a very good start to the tournament which gave me this chance of a lifetime to play against him. It was quite funny as he prepared to play with black while he didn't realise he had to play white. It wasn't important at the end as he won by playing e4, c3 variation against my Sicilian. He's made a lot of theoretical developments in this variation and probably knows it better than anyone in the world. I could have played something completely other than the Sicilian but I thought it was a great opportunity to learn something useful from this opening's expert himself. I got some very useful insights including his analysis of a certain position that could have occurred and which he analysed when he was GM Karpov's assistant for his second match against GM Kasparov. All this would make me better prepared next time I face c3 Sicilian.

In the sixth round I had black against an Italian player Amilcare Lauria rated 2116. After a complicated game in the Hedgehog I emerged better off after the first time control. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to convert my advantage after my opponent correctly sacrificed an exchange for a pawn and the game was drawn.

In the seventh round I had white against the tournament's organiser and an Italian player Nicola Pienabarca rated 2097. My opponent surprised me with the Albin Counter-Gambit but I managed to figure it out over the board even though previously it has only occurred in my blitz games. I got a better endgame and my two bishops advantage brought me a point in the end. It was a very important game to win to continue having a chance of a WIM norm. I still needed to be paired with another titled player to get the norm, while those titled players (GMs, IMs, FMs) tended to hang around the top of the tournament table!

In the eighth round I had black against a German player Claus Seyfried rated 2087. This was yet another Taimanov Sicilian for me which gave me a slightly better endgame. I was very happy with how I played the endgame preventing my opponent's plan. In the end my opponent got into time trouble, got himself into a cramped position and made a decisive mistake. Again, this was a very important game to win to have a chance of a WIM norm.

In the final round I was paired with the Russian GM Igor Naumkin rated 2480 (there's a photo of me above during the game). This meant that I achieved my WIM norm already and could just enjoy a rare opportunity to play a GM. I had white and my opponent played the Classical Dutch which I expected. I played very well in a prophylactic way preventing my opponent's plan and got a better position. I chose to force a draw but was told by my coach GM Chris Ward and by my boyfriend IM Simon Ansell that I should have tried to win. I'm looking forward to my training session with Chris next Tuesday to get a deeper understanding and analysis of the position.

Now I'm back to England taking it easy for a few days before getting back to chess training. Tournaments like this are quite tiring but this time I felt more relaxed during the tournament. That's probably because I feel that I'm making much better moves than before (Rybka and Chris agree J) and have much more confidence when playing strong titled players. Finally, you can have a look at my WIM norm certificate on the right. It has a couple of small errors (like place of birth and number of titled players) which will be corrected by the tournament Arbiter before he submits it to the FIDE.

When I originally published this post I completely forgot to mention that the tournament was won by the ex-Soviet chess legend GM Oleg Romanishin from Ukraine. He got 7 points, half a point ahead of the top seed GM Vladimir Epishin from Russia and IM Misa Pap from Serbia.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Italy's Calling

It's been a long time since I wrote the last post! I haven't actually played any chess since the 4NCL but that's about to change. Tomorrow I'm flying to Italy to play in the new Open tournament called 1° Festival Internazionale Di Scacchi ”Citta’ Di Roseto”.  Italy is probably my favourite country after the U.K. so I can't wait to go. I love the Italian food, the language, the weather and its wealth of history. In the past I've been on holidays to Milan and Sorrento (including Pompeii ruins nearby). But there are many more places I would like to see in Italy in the future. Since this time I'm playing chess it won't really be a holiday and I won't have much opportunity to explore places as a tourist, however there will be the sun and the sea - just the kind of location that I like for a chess tournament! I've even attempted to learn some words of Italian by downloading a couple of applications to my iPhone. Actually, I feel a bit shy when trying to speak a foreign language so I'm not sure if I would be brave enough to say something in Italian. You might wonder how I managed to learn English. Well, my parents sent me to an English school when I was 17 and there weren't any Russians there. I had no choice but to speak English!

There have been some very interesting chess news in the past month. The biggest news was, of course, GM Vishy Anand defending his World Champion's crown. What an exciting match that was! I imagine there would have been a lot of psychological mind games as the match was in GM Topalov's home country. Anand did very well to come through that successfully. Perhaps Anand gained some energy from what looked like overwhelming worldwide support in his favour. I wonder what your experience was but I felt as if everyone supported Anand.

The other piece of news that I want to mention was more directly relevant to myself. The English team was recently selected for the Olympiad in September. Even though I was considered in the selection I missed the team. It wasn't a great surprise for me as I was the lowest-rated player that was considered. I did, however, learn a bit about how selections are done and what I need to do to get selected next time. One obvious thing that I need to do is to bring my rating up. As far as I could tell this was the most important selection criteria. There was also one less obvious selection criteria and its strangely significant weight compared to some other criteria. The good news is it's all within my power to achieve the required standard. Even though I'm going back to work in August I'm not giving up chess any time soon and there will be many more chess tournaments to come in the future. The women's team that was selected includes: IM Jovanka Houska, WIM Ingrid Lauterbach, WFM Meri Grigoryan, Kanwal Bhatia and Sarah Hegarty. I wish the team all the very best in the Olympiad! I will be supporting the team by following their results and via Facebook. And I hope to see lots of interesting photos from Meri!