Tuesday 27 October 2009

Chigorin Memorial Tournament Part 3

The tournament has finished a few days ago and I'm now relaxing at my gran's in Chelyabinsk. It was -7 °C when I arrived here and snowing - colder than I expected at this time of the year! I got 2.5 out of 9 at the end and lost about 15 rating points. Of course, it's not nice to lose so many games, but I'm concentraiting on the positive. Now I have a lot of my games to analyse, to draw conclusions and to learn from. Some learning points are already apparent. It seems my priority in learning should be around positional understanding, followed by tactics and then everything else. I haven't got any serious tournaments in November so intense training starts now!

Chigorin Memorial was won by five grandmasters who gained 7 points. Unfortunately, most of my new grandmaster friends got 6 points and very little prize money. At least I don't have to rely on earning money from chess! GM Igor Kurnosov got a serious cold and drew his last 5 games; while GM Farrukh Amonatov had the most disappointing finish since he was winning his last game and could have won a lot of money, but blundered a checkmate while playing on the increment. On that night several of us went out for a drink until about 3am and then played a bit of poker back at the hotel. I really enjoyed this tournament and it's a shame it finished... There was also a blitz tournament on the day after the main tournament finished, but I didn't stay to play. I'm seriously considering playing in this tournament again next year. I'm also thinking whether to go to the Aeroflot Open in Moscow which normally happens in February. I don't know the exact dates yet, but if I decide to go I'll need to buy a serious hat - fit for Russian winter!

I'll be back to England on 31st October - Halloween :) I hope nothing scary happens on the way! I can't wait to see my cat Koozya and all my friends back home. Since my gran doesn't have internet, I'll have to update my blog when I get home in a few days time.

Friday 23 October 2009

Chigorin Memorial Tournament Part 2

It's nearly the end of the tournament. I've got 2 out of 7 so far with 2 games to go. GM Volkov is the sole leader in the tournament with 6 points. I'm not looking forward to Saturday because the game will start at noon as compared to 5pm on all other days. That will be a bit of a shock to the system since I'd have to get up early to prepare. Most chess players seem to be night owls. Even a lot of very strong players like grandmasters stay up until late and get up in the afternoon! Here is the promised photo of me playing in the 4th round.

Maria Yurenok
I've been out in the centre of St. Petersburg twice and really enjoyed it. It's nice to get out of the hotel into the fresh air. I've walked along Nevsky Prospekt to the Winter Palace and then around Kazansky Sobor and Isaakievsky Sobor (Cathedrals). Isaakievsky Sobor is especially beautiful inside and definitely worth the visit for anyone coming to St. Petersburg. And from outside it looks like this:
Isaakievsky Sobor
The European Team Championship has started yesterday. I wish good luck to all the men and women representing England! The women's team is represented by: IM Jovanka Houska, WIM Ingrid Lauterbach, WIM Natasha Regan, WFM Meri Grigoryan and WFM Sabrina Chevannes. I'd just missed out on the selection into the team, which is just as well since I need to get better at chess first! The British team league 4NCL is starting tomorrow and I wish best of luck to my team Betsson.com! I won't be participating in the first two rounds since I'll be still in St. Petersburg.

Finally, I'd like to bring your attention to GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's chess blog. In case you don't know - she's the current Women's World Champion and a great role model for women's chess. I check her blog every time I go on internet as it's updated frequently and provides a lot of interesting material to read. It ranges from chess analysis and puzzles, to chess news and discussion of important issues in chess. I especially recommend that you read her post from 17th October called "Abolish Women's Titles? Ridiculous!" I totally agree with her on this issue.

Monday 19 October 2009

Chigorin Memorial Tournament Part 1

After a couple of days at home I went to St. Petersburg for my next tournament. You can see the current tournament table here. For some reason I can’t connect to the free wireless at all and had problems connecting to the chargeable cable access in my room, but it’s ok now except that it’s quite expensive! The hotel is a very nice 4 star and I have a lovely room on 14th floor with a great view :) It’s discounted to 30 pounds per night for the chess players, so I definitely recommend coming here next year if it’s held in the same hotel.

I have 0.5 out of 4 so far, which is not as bad as it sounds. The tournament is very strong for me, so for the first two rounds I had much stronger opponents. I was quite happy with my play in the first game against 2399 until I encountered a mental block and just gave up a pawn in one move. I didn’t manage my time very well either – this always seems to happen in the first round with shorter time control. In this tournament I have to play with 1:30hr + 30sec after each move for the first 40 moves, as opposed to 1:40hr +30sec in Winterthur. In the second round I played against an unrated player and lost with a horrible blunder. It’s hard to know what his real strength was as there are a lot of good unrated players in Russia. Today I played against someone with a similar rating as myself and accepted a draw in an equal position. It was a little hard to refuse as I still had to make 7 moves in 2.5 minutes and didn’t want to blunder.

There are several players at the top on 3.5 points. Of course, I’m supporting grandmaster from Chelyabinsk – Igor Kurnosov, who is one of the leaders at the moment. You might remember I said in an earlier post that we went to the same school, although at different times. Now we figured out that he lives in the neighboring block of flats to my gran. I think that’s what GM Plaskett would call a coincidence! I am visiting my gran after this tournament, so shouldn’t be surprised if I see Igor in a local supermarket. I’ve made several new friends here. Just like back home many chess players seem to be obsessed with poker. Even I played a little for the first time in many years although I could hardly remember the rules! I should have asked Simon to teach me back in Winterthur.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t got round to exploring St. Petersburg as a tourist, but fully intend to do that tomorrow. I’ll have to wrap up warm as the current weather here is like winter in England. I just hope it doesn’t rain!! One of the organisers was taking photos today, so in the next post I hope to show you some photos of myself and of St. Petersburg.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Winterthur Tournament Part 2

The tournament has come to an end and I'm flying home tomorrow. GM Ulybin won it as expected. Simon got 5.5 out of 9 and ended up just outside the prizes. I expected to get a better result than I did, but at the end only got 2.5 out of 9 and lost 11 rating points. It's not a major disaster and all part of the learning experience. I do feel that I'm playing better than 2 months ago, so just have to keep learning and practicing. This was an interesting tournament for me from the openings perspective because several times I was made to play variations that I haven't played in years. I had one particularly interesting game where I lost a piece for 2 pawns but had a big compensation. Apparently, my opponent prepared that far before the game and failed to correctly assess his position. I was close to winning that game but it ended up as a draw. I will publish it on my blog once I had a chance to annotate it.

On Thursday I woke up feeling very unwell, so much so that I wasn't sure I'd be able to play a game that day. I felt so dizzy as if I was on a boat with 10 foot waves. And no, it wasn't alcohol-related! I get this dizziness sometimes and have no idea what causes it. Thankfully, I was feeling a bit better by the afternoon and Simon did a very good job of preparing me against 5.e4 gambit in the Slav. After 14 moves by the book I could see that my opponent wasn't sure what he was doing, so being a pawn up I offered a draw which was accepted. If I was feeling better I would have definitely played for a win there.

The next day it was Simon's turn to be ill. He might have got some food poisoning, though we were not sure where from. This meant that I had to go to the chocolate shop on my own without Simon as the translator. I was a bit worried, as not many people speak English here and my German is non-existent. But it all worked out fine and I ended up with lots of chocolate that tasted totally out of this world!

On that day I played a game against a very annoying player. He often wasn't writing his moves and I was getting really fed up with telling him to do that before he pressed his clock. Once he didn't write about 5 moves on the row! The arbiter got involved at some point and one of the FIDE rules was brought to my attention. Apparently, if I make a move, my opponent doesn't have to write it down until he made his move and pressed the clock. Can anyone explain to me the reasoning behind having this rule? All chess players are taught to write moves as soon as they are made, doing it any other way gives an option to unsportsmanlike chess players to play stupid psychological games, especially in their opponent's time trouble. Of course, tricks like that shouldn't affect me, but I'm human after all. I lost the game after something like 107 moves - I bet he was exhausted from all that writing by then!
On the final note, I'd like to say big thank you to the organisers. The tournament was organised very well and all the hotel staff where we lived and played were very friendly. The organisers gave me a very nice present - big book about Switzerland with lots of photos. It will remind me of all the lovely cheese and chocolate that I've had here and many beautiful places that I'll have to see some other time. Simon and I are going to see Zurich tomorrow before the flight home and we hope it won't rain like today. I'm off to St. Petersburg on Wednesday and will update you on my chess from there.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Winterthur Tournament Part 1

Finally, I’ve found some time to update you about my progress in Switzerland. I couldn’t connect to the wireless from my laptop, but IM Simon Ansell managed to fix it for me, so I’m back to the world of internet! I’m not doing great - I have 0.5 out of 3 with two black losses. In the lost games I managed to get myself into slightly unfamiliar positions out of the opening and didn’t come up with suitable plans. Now I know better! Anyway, I’ll have plenty of opportunity to fight back with 6 rounds to go. Simon is doing very well, he has 2.5 out of 3 and playing on the top boards on the stage. Here is a photo of me taken by the tournament’s photographer while I didn’t even see him.

I have spoken to the two Russians in the tournament. FM Alexander Bakin from Chelyabinsk remembers me when I was small. He remembers my dad too, but that’s not a surprise – my dad has a striking personality which cannot be forgotten! Unfortunately, I can’t remember Alexander at all. However, I do remember GM Ulybin from Ekaterinburg who is the top seed in this tournament, because he was at GM Panchenko school and came to the Isle of Man tournament a few years ago.

Simon and I have explored Winterthur a bit but there isn’t much going on here. The trouble is that the games start at 1-1:30pm on most days (far too early compared to most tournaments), so it’s almost impossible to find time to go to Zurich or the mountains. I've found a chocolate shop on Sunday, but it was closed and I have to come back another day. I’m also spending more money than I hoped because food is rather expensive here. In a strange way, Winterthur reminds me of Chelyabinsk because it has trolleybuses. I don’t think I’ve seen trolleybuses outside of Russia before. We also found a big chess set in the town centre, so here I am playing even more chess!

My hotel looks like something from a 70s film and about 20 mins walk from the centre, but I suppose it has everything I need. The small flat-screen TV in my room looks rather odd in the surrounding 70s d├ęcor! One other slightly annoying thing is the clocks. There seem to be at least three near the hotel which I can hear ringing every quarter of an hour. And this morning some church bells were ringing for about 15 mins at 6am! I hope that won’t happen tomorrow as we’ll have two games, with the first one starting at 9am. I’ll need a good sleep!

Thursday 1 October 2009

Sabbatical Has Started!

It was my last day of work today for 10 months! So exciting and strange at the same time, as I haven't been out of work for so long since I graduated. To celebrate, I treated myself to a small bottle of wine while doing some preparations for Switzerland and experimenting with my new GHD hair straighteners. Straightening my hair is a bit of a nightmare even with the best straighteners on the market - it took me about 50 minutes. I'm either not used to it or maybe I should stick with my curly hairstyle. Hair straightening has its advantages though - I think I look even younger than usual!

I have some other exciting news. I decided to play in the Chigorin Memorial tournament in St. Petersburg almost straight after Switzerland. It's being held in a 4 star hotel (heavily discounted for chess players) and close to the centre, so I'm really looking forward to it!! I've been to St. Petersburg before and it's so beautiful. I've always wanted to go back as I felt I haven't explored enough of it. Luckily, I should have plenty of opportunity to look at the local sights as games will start at 5pm each day. It's not too late to enter the tournament, you can find all the information here: http://www.totalchess.spb.ru/ The other great thing is I'll pay a surprise visit to my grandparents in Chelyabinsk after the tournament. I haven't seen them for 2 years! So it will be a very busy October, but I will be back in time for the Green Day gig and for cute Jenson Button winning Formula 1 on TV on the 1st November :)

My game on Monday was very scrappy and I was quite disappointed with myself. I won an exchange for nothing and then proceeded to make some bad moves and was probably losing, but managed to scrape a draw at the end. I have to focus much better than that! The good thing is that I haven't lost a game in the last 11 slow play games. The odd thing is that I drew 10 of them. I need to become more competitive, or put it bluntly - get some killer instinct! Perhaps my cat can teach me that.

I'm flying to Switzerland on Friday and I have no idea if my hotel has internet. So I'm not sure when I'll be able to update my blog next time, but I really hope to post some news while I'm there. Wish me luck in Switzerland!