Tuesday, 17 January 2012

January 4 NCL

I played at the 4NCL last weekend, for the first time this season. I had to miss the first weekend (two rounds) of the season due to the European Team Championship in November. I think I've already mentioned that my team has been re-named from Betsson.com to Blackthorne Russia because our new sponsor is the company called Blackthorne which specialises in exports to Russia. We even got our sponsor's t-shirts to wear, but I found out that my "small" size t-shirt was way too big for me, probably 4 sizes too big. In fact, it fitted my partner IM Simon Ansell rather perfectly, and he normally wears "medium" size t-shirts. I decided to stick with wearing my own clothes. Although it did cross my mind that I could possibly get away with wearing the t-shirt as a short dress, since it wasn't just big in the shoulders but also quite long!

So, what about the results? Simon and I did rather well, each gaining 1.5 out of 2. But our team narrowly lost both matches 3.5-4.5. This means that it would be near impossible for us to get into the championship pool after 7 rounds and instead we'd have to fight off relegation in the relegation pool. To get into the championship pool we'd probably have to win 3 remaining matches and in one of them we'd have to beat Wood Green who are currently top of our pool and very strong. In the 4th round they fielded GMs on all boards beating their main rival Guildford 1 in the process by 5.5-2.5. Here I am playing against John Sugden rated 2180 last Sunday.

Although I had a nice win on the Sunday, it was more of a technical win with a pawn up rather than something exciting to show. Instead, I'd like to show you how I managed to miss a clear win in my recent London League game when I was playing for Hackney 1 against Drunken Knights 2. I got into time trouble again! This was partly because I was trying to remember the theory in the gambit that my opponent played and partly because I was out of practice. In any case, it seems that this game served me well as I handled my clock rather well over the 4NCL weekend. White to move.

M. Yurenok (ECF 179) - G. Leyton (ECF 167)
London League, 9th January 2012

My opponent has just moved his queen from e7 to e8 which was a mistake. He should have played Bd6 instead. At this point I still had to make 9 moves to the time control while I had maybe 1 or 2 minutes left without increment. I was in desperate time trouble but managed to find the right move:

21. Rxc7! my idea was that if black plays 21...Kxc7 then I win some material with 22. Qc2+ Kb8 23. Bd6+ Ka8 24. Bxe5 +- and there are still more threats as f6 knight is pinned and hanging. It seems I didn't notice that I can actually deliver a typical checkmate in this variation with 24. Nb6+ axb6 25. Qa4# I guess this is not too important if I'm clearly winning anyway. And in any case, black didn't have to retreat with the king on the 22nd move, but could give up the same piece differently with 22...Nc6 avoiding the checkmate. So, my opponent played:

21...Bxb5 I expected this move as I mistakenly thought it was the best reply, so I pre-planned my answer worrying that my flag might fall before I can make it to 30 moves. I immediately replied with:

22. Rxb7? =/+ this gives up all of my advantage. When you're short of time, simple and obvious moves are missed. I didn't think of moving my rook the other way, now that the bishop has left d7. The correct move was 22. Re7 At this point my computer announces +8 winning advantage for white. Oh dear :( Black can respond with 22...Bxa4 attacking my queen in return, and here the simplest for white is just 23. Rxe8 Bxd1 24. Rxh8 Rxh8 25. Rxd1 emerging with a clear piece up. My game eventually ended in a draw and my team lost 5-7. Strange that we beat the stronger Drunken Knights 1 team with 9-3 score earlier in the season!

For the past couple of days I've been following some of the Tata Steel Chess live tournament games on their website and I discovered something. They have Houdini engine giving evaluation of every move made, and it seems that even grandmasters sometimes go passed +8 advantage! Ok, not super-grandmasters but still strong players. For example, look at the GM Brandenburg - IM Grover game from round 3 in group C, which ended in a draw and where each opponent had +8 advantage at some point according to Houdini! I don't feel so bad after all :) There are lots of serious mistakes in other games too which can be fun to watch, but then anyone is clever with the help of a computer. I actually prefer listening to commentary by strong players who don't use computers, like they had in the World Cup with GM Shipov for example.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! This year has started with a big change for me as I've left my job. No, I'm not going to become a full-time chess player, but I'd like to see what I can do outside of the corporate world. I would like my new activities to be connected to chess in some way or another, so I may explore chess teaching, chess publishing and anything else I might find interesting. If you have any ideas, suggestions or even chess-related business opportunities then please let me know! Apart from my chess and Russian skills which you already know, I have worked in small and large companies in a variety of industries, ending up in a fairly senior management position in my last job. With my wealth of experience I can safely say that I have a good understanding of all aspects of running a business.

As you can imagine, this big change in my life has kept me very busy in the past few weeks since the European Team Championship in November. Now I have some time to update you on what happened to me at that tournament. As you must already know, Germany surprisingly won the Open tournament while Russia won the Women's tournament. The Greek hotel and food were very nice, but I have to agree with comments from other chess players that the playing hall was too stuffy. It wasn't great for  keeping a clear head, especially if you have long games like me :) English women's team performed at their seeding by getting 23rd place, while our star performer was IM Dagne Ciuksyte on board 2, gaining 6 out of 8 points. It's especially amazing as she had both of her little children with her. English Open team unfortunately didn't perform as well as expected, but the Open tournament was very strong and full of surprises. However, our GM Michael Adams had a fantastic result and won gold on the top board! I got 3.5 out of 8 points on board 3 of the Women's team and performed a bit better than my rating, which I thought was fairly satisfactory for my first performance in the English team. Here is our team in the last round against Netherlands (from right to left): Jovanka, myself, Kanwal and Sarah.

The tournament was quite tiring for me as all of my games except one were over 40 moves long, with two games close to 80 moves. With this sort of pattern emerging, I think I should revise endgames! I really enjoyed my rest day in round 5, as I could observe all the top teams and grandmasters playing. I probably found that day even more tiring than playing, as I had a headache by the end of it, probably from trying to assess many positions while walking around! Of course, I support England first but continue to support Russia as a second choice, so I was delighted that Russian women won the tournament. And I was disappointed that Russian men didn't get the medals. But I found it very fascinating watching the Russia-Ukraine Open match in round 5 which Russians won. I still remember how positions unfolded in the match. Here is the match as it started, you can see the Russian men GM Svidler, GM Grischuk, GM Morozevich and GM Nepomniachtchi. On the Ukrainian side you can see GM Ivanchuk, GM Ponomariov and GM Moiseenko, while GM Efimenko is completely obscured.

Svidler-Ivanchuk was the first to finish but it was rather exciting with castling and attacks on the opposite sides ending in perpetual. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what was going on there! Then my attention switched to Ponomariov-Grischuk game as I struggled to clearly see the lower boards from behind the spectators' rope. It looked to me that Grischuk had nerves of steel because he grabbed a pawn with black while lagging in development and with uncastled king. Soon he was in his usual time trouble in what looked like a very complicated position. But what do I know? He managed to simplify into a worse endgame. And while I thought Ponomariov could have made it a bit harder for Grischuk in the endgame, I was glad it quickly ended in a draw. After the end of that game I could see the games on the lower boards much better, especially since it was easier to make out the few remaining pieces in their endgames. It looked like Morozevich had a winning endgame but I think I would have found it tricky to convert. Of course, no such problem for Morozevich. And Nepomniachtchi looked in a lot of trouble with an exchange down. I really thought he was gong to lose even though I wasn't quite sure how to win if I was his opponent. It just looked like there must be a way and Efimenko would figure it out. However, Nepomniachtchi kept very active with his pieces and pawns. This posed technical problems to Efimenko who eventually started running out of time and had to agree to a draw.

Unfortunately, my photos of the English Open and the Russian Women's teams didn't come out as well. I have just bought a new and much better camera, so I will hopefully be taking some great photos in the future. I had some interesting games which I'd like to share with you. It was the case of missed opportunities against three players over 2300. First of all, in round one I was close to winning but squandered my advantage in the time trouble. Here is the critical moment in the game, white to move:

M. Yurenok (2106) - E. Djingarova (2309)
The European Team Championship - Women, 3rd November 2011

Right here I had to make one more move before the time control. Of course, I saw 40. Rc6 and thought it looked like the right and active move to make. But with few seconds left on the clock I decided to go for the safe option and defended my pawn with:

40. Bf3? Rb3+ 41. Ke2 Rb2+ and here I couldn't see how to make progress so I agreed to a draw after two more repeated moves.

Instead, 40. Rc6! is winning, for example:

40...Nxd5+ 41. Kf3! (it's important not to play 41. Kf2 to avoid the pin, I think this is partly what I missed when looking at this line during the game) 41...Rxb4 42. Rxd6+ Nf6 43. Bd3 Kf7 44. Rxb6 Ne4 and here even simple 45. Bxe4 +-  wins. You can see why I was annoyed with myself!

In the next game I was defending for a long time and eventually got to this peculiar and complex endgame, white to move.

M. Yurenok (2106) - M. Ohme (2361)
European Team Championship - Women, 6th November 2011

Here I was going to play 54. Rg4 so as to start pushing my pawns forward. Ok, it looked a bit tricky with black's moves like 54...Nf4 or 54...Rg2. But I couldn't see much else I could do, until sadly I noticed 54. Rc4 and played it because I thought it was a better option. For some reason I decided that I'd win a pawn but it turned out that I wasn't able to calculate clearly. Of course, this move is just bad and possibly loses the game. My opponent played 54...Ne3 55. Re4 Ng2+ 56. Kf1 Nf4 57. Rc4 Ng2 and here I just blundered as I was getting short of time 58. Ne2?? Ne3+ 0:1 At least I could have repeated with 58. Re4 and let the opponent work on finding how to win this. Lets go back to how I should have played on the 54th move.

54. Rg4!= Nf4 another main option for black is to play 54...Rg2 55. h5+ Kh7 56. g6+ Kg8 57. h6 look at those white pawns! They look menacing.  57...Ne7 seems to be the only defence for black. 58. h7+ Kh8 59. Kf1 Rh2 60. Ne4 Rh6 61. Nxd6 Rxg6 62. Nf7+ Kxh7 63. Nxe5 =

55. h5+! the point being is that after 55...Nxh5 56. Nxh5 Kxh5 57.g6! +- the white pawn queens

55...Kg7 black threatens 56...Ng2+ followed by 57...Ne3+ winning the rook on g4, so white should play

56. Kf1! d5 57. g6 Ra1+ 58. Kf2 Ra2+ 59. Kf1 =

And finally, in the last game of the tournament I had a very unusual position because by move 50 we still only exchanged one pawn and one piece each! The position was pretty closed and eventually my opponent sacrificed a piece for three pawns. After that it was still pretty level for both sides but I managed to lose at the end. It seems I need to get better at keeping enough energy to the end of a long game so as to continue making quality moves at a decent pace. Earlier in the game, however, I went passed an easy way to an advantage. I simply didn't notice it. White to move.

M. Yurenok (2106) - T. Lanchava (2320)
European Team Championship - Women, 11th November 2011

Once you know there is tactics, it's fairly easy to find:

16. Nxf4! exf4 17. e5! the f6 knight cannot move as white threatens 18. Bxg6#

17...Ne7 18. exf6 Bxf6 and here white can continue with either 19. 0-0-0 +- gaining a nice positional advantage or go after the pawns with 19. Qxf4 +-

My next tournament is in Gibraltar in 2 weeks time. I'm looking forward to it as I've never been to Gibraltar and because there will be many strong players to watch if I manage to finish my own games earlier than usual. I have to speed up a bit! :)