Sunday 21 October 2012

Life Since... February

Hello everyone!

Well, it maybe the time I close my blog as I'm sure you've noticed I haven't updated it since February! I've been doing some exciting things and played a bit of chess as well, so you might be interested to know what I've been up to before I say the final good bye.

I spent a few months teaching chess to kids in a primary school, as a part of the Chess in Schools and Communities charity scheme. It was a new experience for me and I'm glad that most of those 70 or so kids now know how to play chess and more importantly - enjoy it! A few of them even went to a local competition between schools and did very well. I also received some wonderful chess poems from one of the groups, so full of imagination and humour! I found it so hard to judge between them to award the best.

A few weeks back I also did reporting for the Russian website from the recent Grand Prix held in London. I took lots of photos and did interviews with many of the participants, mainly in Russian. I found it particularly amusing that I managed to get an exclusive interview from the winner, Veselin Topalov, at the end of the tournament. He shared the first place with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Boris Gelfand, but had a better tie-break. I don't think Veselin did an interview for the official site at the end of the tournament, but I managed to get one!

What can I say, I had such a great time there - I met some new interesting people; that includes the organisers, the super-GMs who were playing and many others who were there either to support the players, provide media coverage or just visit. Of course, I also saw many people who I already know from chess and it was nice to catch up with old friends. I can report that most of of the super-GMs present were quite easy to talk to, seemed like nice people and have a good sense of humour :) But, one thing I realised was that despite playing chess for so many years, I still had no idea what super-GM's life is like. It's incredibly intense and believe me, despite an appearance of so many draws, they ALL want to win each and every game! I honestly promise you that! I absolutely didn't notice the attitude of, "I'll just take it easy today". I was also glad that Boris Gelfand got a share of the first place, as he got some really unfair criticism during his match against Vishy Anand. He actually has a very exciting playing style and it shows when he gets his kind of positions.

So, back to me then! I played in an Open tournament in Crete in July. The place was wonderful - sea, hot sun and great food - but I didn't play very well. I did, however, get selected to the England women's team to play in the chess Olympiad that was held in Istanbul in September. I was even put on the second board, which was a bit tough, as you can imagine! Well, it was a great experience anyway. Here, on the photo, I'm actually on the top board, as our board one, Anya Corke, was resting on that day. We won against Quatar 4:0 anyway. Apart from me on that day we had Sarah Hegarty, Sabrina Chevannes and Kanwal Bhatia playing, as you can see. At the end of the tournament we ended up at around our initial seeding, while Sarah performed particularly well. I must also say big thanks to our coach GM Stephen Gordon, who was wonderful.

I didn't get to see much of Istanbul because we lived near the airport, about an hour from the city centre. But I did go to a couple of historical sites on my free days and was especially impressed by the bazaar. It was so colourful! And the Turkish delight was delicious! All that remains to say about the Olympiad is congratulations to the winners - the Armenian men's team and the Russian women's team! And I hope that English and Russian men can do a bit better next time!

I'll leave you with some chess tactics from my game in the women's Wales - England match, used as a preparation for the Olympiad. I was trying to figure out how to win for a while, probing here and there. And finally I was rewarded when my opponent fell into a rather simple trap. Her last move was

L. Roberts (1933) - M. Yurenok (2084)
Wales - England Match, 19 May 2012

50...Rxb2 suddenly, the rook on c2 is overloaded. It's no good taking my queen 51.Qxd4 as it's checkmate with Rb1# So, she played:
51.Rxb2 Qxc3 it's winning for me now, of course, but she made it even worse for herself with:
52.Na2? Rxb2 53.Qxb2 Qxd3 and I won a few moves later.
Incidentally, England won that match 4:0, although we were a little lucky in some cases.

And that's all from me! My life goes on, although perhaps not with as much chess playing as before. I will continue to play at the 4NCL and, if things work out in my favour, will play at the London Chess Classic Open in December.

Till we meet again! До новых встреч!

This blog is now closed.

Monday 13 February 2012

Aeroflot Open Interviews

Hi all,

Aeroflot Open is currently in progress in Moscow and I've seen some amusing interviews in Russian published on the Russian Chess Federation website. Here is my translation of selected material. You can see the photos in the original version.

First of all, an interview with GM Anton Korobov (rating 2660) who is currently leading Aeroflot Open Group A with 5 out of 6. The interviewer mentions that Anton doesn't give any serious answers but rather jokes all the time and gives rather original answers.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in the Soviet Union in 1985. I started playing chess spontaneously. My friend in the kindergarten said that his dad knows many "mates". I asked my parents what he was on about and they said that his dad is probably a strong chess player. I was very interested in this and it started from there. Now I work on chess myself and analyse some slowly progressing challenges with others.

Have you been invited into the national team [Ukraine]?

No, it looks like I'll never play in it.

Why are you so pessimistic?

I'm too old. They only take young, early developing and politically proficient people - quoting Ostap Bender [famous fictional figure in the Soviet satirical literature].

What are your most serious chess achievements?

I don't have any serious achievements, only unimportant ones. The biggest one is 3467 rating on the ICC. Second place in the Aeroflot Open 2010 was a fluke.

How about your win against GM Maxim Rodshtein today?

It was a usual situation. I didn't know the opening, couldn't figure out the middlegame and was waiting for an unpleasant endgame, but my opponent lost on time.

Do you have any chess idols?

They change from time to time. I had Fritz 8, then Rybka 1.2, Rybka 2.2, Rybka 3. Deep Rybka 4 and then Houdini 1.5. Now it's Houdini 2.0. Perhaps, I'll have a new idol this year.

The next interview is with GM Francisco Vallejo.

Francisco, how is it going?

The tournament is very strong. I like it very much because playing in such a tournament helps to improve my game. But I'm playing terribly. It started in the game with GM Gupta. I had a familiar position but got confused right at the start, so the game ended in a draw. In the next game with GM Sokolov I had several winning continuations but I managed to lose. And the same thing happened yesterday. Today I drew in an almost winning position. I want to go home!

Do you prefer playing in opens like this or in super tournaments like Linares?

It's better in super tournaments because if I'm playing badly then I have an excuse because the opponents are very strong. Here it looks like the opponents are not stronger than me but I'm playing badly anyway. I'm not disappointed about the result as much as about the quality of my games. It's as if I was a journalist and made mistakes in basic words.

Ok, in this case enough about chess! How is life in Spain in the current economical crisis?

Crisis is very serious in Spain. It affects the tournaments as well. Linares has big problems with finding a sponsor. I'm lucky as I work in other countries. I play in Germany, for example.

So you don't feel vulnerable in this situation?

I do in some sense. For example, by brother lost his job. There are more than 5 million unemployed in Spain. It's more than 20% of the population. It affects my friends and my family. But I'm an optimist. I always try to think how lucky I am in life. I'm healthy, can play chess and work. Recently I saw a documentary about the life of penguins. I wouldn't have liked to be one of them! They live in temperatures of -50 Celsius and for some time without food. They have to protect each other by standing in a circle keeping the warmth. When I remember this I can say that really I'm a happy man!

And finally, an interview with GM Fabiano Caruana who showed some amazing results recently and progressed into the chess elite. It has already been translated into English by Chessbase so please follow the link.

Friday 10 February 2012

Gibraltar Tournament

Unless you've been living on the Moon for the past couple of weeks, you know that GM Hou Yifan had a fantastic tournament in Gibraltar, gaining shared 1st place with the British GM Nigel Short and beating several GMs over 2700! This was one of the best ever women's performances even compared to the legendary GM Judit Polgar. Yifan is still only 17 years old and I will continue to follow her chess career with great interest. This is what I call girl power!

The tournament turned out quite disappointing for me with 4 out of 10 as I lost a lot of rating. For some reason my brain deserted me in the first three rounds as I was struggling to achieve my usual level of concentration. I knew I wasn't playing well without even looking at the results. There were a lot of blunders and I kept thinking for even longer than I normally do during the games. I just didn't know how to get myself into the necessary chess mood. I think this happens to a lot of chess players - you know something is not quite right with you but you're not quite sure what's causing it so as to address it quickly. I did better after round 3 and performed at around my rating but still was far from happy about the quality of my games. I guess the only happy moment happened when I managed to save a long and lost endgame against 2300-level player. My games continued to be quite long, averaging at about 57 moves - probably not good for my energy levels! Simon suggested that I change my openings so I win quicker! I actually don't mind playing endgames, I even enjoy them. But what's become very clear now is that to improve there are two key areas I need to address as a priority. I need to learn to play endgames much better (even though for my rating level I'm quite good at it) and I must improve my calculation skills. It was especially interesting to hear from GM Judit Polgar in her recent interview that she spent a lot of time on endgames and tactics in her early years while she didn't think that studying openings was that important for players up to 2500. And look at GM Magnus Carlsen - he's probably the best endgame player in the world. So I think endgames are really "in" at the moment. Anyhow, here is a nice photo of me from the now famous chess photographer Ray Morris-Hill.

On a positive note, ECF has released half-year ratings for the first time and I have the highest ever rating of 189. At least something is moving in the right direction! Also, I must mention that I found Gibraltar Masters tournament and Gibraltar itself very interesting. The tournament was great for me as a spectator since there were many famous chess players, even though I had very little time to spectate due to my own long games. The hotel was great - everything a chessplayer may need, even free Wi-Fi. My room had a view straight into the sea - it was amazing! And I did have a chance to explore Gibraltar a bit. I visited the caves, the war tunnels and, of course, the famous monkeys. I took so many photos as I was enjoying my new camera while trying to learn the settings a bit better. Here is my favourite monkey photo - isn't he just such a cool dude?

There's not much to show from my games in Gibraltar. I do have one interesting/sharp endgame in mind but I'll leave it till next week. This weekend I'm off to the 4NCL, so I hope I'll have something interesting to show from it. There are no more tournaments planned for me for the time being, but I do fancy going somewhere nice towards the summer.

A couple of people contacted me with interesting chess material. If you're interested in chess representation in paintings, I recommend this interesting YouTube link, created by Miroslav in Paris:
If I understood it correctly, the art seems to progress from very old to modern day, so if you have an interest in a particular art period then I suggest scrolling the video to that point.

I was also contacted by Pablo - developer of the free "Social Chess Clock" application for Android phones. This gives you an ability to use your phone as a chess clock, even with increment. This could be handy on long and boring train journeys if you want to entertain yourself and a friend with some blitz! Unfortunately, I have an iPhone so I can't test this application. But please do let me know your feedback if you decide to use it.

With my Russian language skills I find that a lot of interesting interviews with top chess players never get translated from Russian into English. So I decided to do something about it! Look out for some interesting interviews and other chess news items translated from Russian on my website in the near future. And I leave you with the photo of GM Nigel Short - the winner of Gibraltar Masters on play-off with GM Hou Yifan. This was a great result for Nigel even though he always seems to do very well in Gibraltar.