Tuesday, 21 December 2010

London Chess Classic Tournaments

It's nearly Christmas time, so Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it! Even after years of living in England I'm still not that excited about Christmas, I don't even like all the fuss in the shops and on TV in the run-up to Christmas. However I like to have a few days off work and nice food and drink on the day! I'm also not against receiving nice presents :)

Back to chess then. London Chess Classic finished last week and, amazingly, Magnus Carlsen won the main tournament outright despite losing two games and gaining the same number of points (4.5) as Vishy Anand and Luke McShane under the usual points scoring system! Unfortunately for Vishy and Luke, London Classic used the football scoring system of 1 point for a draw and 3 points for a win. I think it's quite disappointing especially for Luke who had the best result of his chess career as in reality he shared the first place with Vishy - the World Champion and Magnus - the second rated guy in the world (whom he beat)! Nevertheless, I congratulate Luke on this fantastic achievement and wish him more of the same kind of success to come. I was lucky enough to see some of the post-game analysis presented by the players and, as usual, Nigel Short provided the most entertainment despite having a disappointing tournament. Anyway, I hope that the London Chess Classic organisers would change the scoring system back to traditional next year as it's hard to see any advantages of the football scoring system in a short tournament of 7 rounds like this.

Same as last year, Ray Morris-Hill took many nice photos of the participants in all tournaments of the London Classic. Here is the favourite one of me :) You can see more photos on his website.

The London Classic FIDE Open was won by two English grandmasters Simon Williams and Gawain Jones (7.5 points out of 9) while Women's IM norm round-robin tournament was won by WIM Arlette Van Weersel (8 points out of 9) and I congratulate all of them on their great success. English WFM Sarah Hegarty narrowly missed achieving WIM norm as she needed to win in the last round, but it was still a great result and experience for her.

I did quite well in the FIDE Open, gaining 4.5 points out of 9 and gaining about 12 rating points. I got to play against GM Aaron Summerscale and IM Gary Quillan and drew against Gary on a white side of a complicated Benoni game. I haven't analysed my games in detail yet, but will do a bit more next week to see if there is anything interesting worth publishing. It's nice to end the year on the high note, as by the end of this year I managed to gain 139 rating points from my lowest rating point of 1953 in March this year! I plan to continue working on improving my chess and now aim to get to 2150 rating as soon as I can.

Finally, there are two interesting chess tournaments currently in progress. Women's World Championship final is against two Chinese players Hou Yifan and Ruan Lufei. Hou Yifan is leading 1.5:0.5 after two games with two games to go. While I expected Hou Yifan to do well, Ruan Lufei was a surprise finalist even to herself as it seems from her interviews. The other interesting tournament is the Russian Men's Superfinal where Sergey Karjakin is leading with one round to go. I'm hoping that Hou Yifan and Sergey Karjakin win their respective tournaments and I will enjoy watching the last few games.

Monday, 6 December 2010

News and Solutions

Well, the Russian Women's Superfinal Championship was won by IM Alisa Galliamova for the second year running. She won on tie-break after finishing equal first with WGM Natalia Pogonina and GM Tatiana Kosintseva. That's a very impressive result as the championship was very strong, including GM Alexandra Kosteniuk and IM Nadezhda Kosintseva among the other top players. Now, of course, all eyes are focused on the Women's World Championship in Turkey where Alexandra Kosteniuk will be defending her title. The tournament is held as a knock-out format which sometimes produces unexpected results. England is represented by IM Jovanka Houska and I wish her all the best. Jovanka is already through to the second round (her first round opponent had problems with travel due to bad weather) where she'll meet the top seed GM Humpy Koneru.

I was asked who is my favourite to win the Women's World Championship. I think top seeds are fairly evenly matched and it's quite hard to pick the eventual winner especially in the knock-out format where just one mistake could mean that you're out. I think that GM Hou Yifan will do very well and may even win the title. However, I'm supporting Tatiana Kosinteva and hope she'd get through to the final. I think it will be very hard for Alexandra Kosteniuk to keep the title but she has an amazing fighting spirit, so never know what may happen! Of course, there is a number of other very strong players who have a very good chance of winning the title, probably anyone from GM Viktoria Cmilyte and higher. I'm sure that the abundance of very strong players will make the whole event very exciting.

Now, lets see how I should have played in the two positions I presented in the last post.

M. Tissir (226 ECF/2474 FIDE) - M. Yurenok (178 ECF/2071 FIDE)
Wood Green - Hackney 1
London League, 10th November 2010

The simple move that led to a draw was:
42...Qf6 43. Nxa7 (43. Kg1 Rxa6 -+) Rf1+ 44. Rxf1 Qxf1+ 45. Kh2 Qf4+ with the perpetual check.

However, I could have won with a lot more effort by:
42...Rxa6! leaving the Rook and the Queen an prise 43. Nxe7 is the best defense (43. Rxa6 Rf1+ 44. Kh2 Qg5 45. Rxg6 fxg6 46. Qd7+ Kh6 47. Qg4 Qf6 -+ and it's not possible to defend against the threat of 48...Qf2 and 49...Qg1# without serious material losses) 43...Rxa1+ 44. Kh2 Rff1 (threatening 45... Rh1#) 45. Qxe5+ f6 46. Qxa1 Rxa1 and it's a won endgame for black because white king is very passive, although admittedly black has to be a little careful and patient.

Example continuation could be 47. d4 Kf7 48. Nd5 Rd1 49. Nb6 Ke7 (not 49...Rxd4?? 50. c6 +-) 50. d5 Rc1 51. c6 Kd6 52. Nc8+ Kxd5 53. Ne7+ Kd6 54. Nxg6 Rc4 -+ and while there is still work to do, it's now more straightforward to finish the game so I won't go as far as the end here.

Lets have a look at the complicated double rook ending again:

S. Pham Guerrero (2199) - M. Yurenok (2071)
Cap d'Agde, 29th October 2010

As I mentioned before, I played 42... Re3! The idea was that white can't take on e3 as in order to stop g pawn from queening white would have to give up too many of his own pawns. White correctly replied 43. b6 and now I played:

43...Rc8?! which only leads to a draw 44. b7 (only move) Rb8 45. Rxc6 Rxb7?! (46...Rxe5 was more accurate but I miscalculated it) 46. Rcxe6+ Kf7 47. Rxe3 dxe3 48. Rxe3 Re7! (the pawn endgame is luckily drawn because of black's g pawn) 49. Rg3 Ke6 50. Re3+ there's nothing better for white to do as otherwise black's king becomes active and it will attack white's weak pawns 1/2:1/2

However, I could have won this game by continuing:
43...axb6! 44. cxb6 Rb7 (44...Rc8 also wins now) 45. a5 (45. Ra8 Rxb6 46. a5 Rb4 47. Rxe3 dxe3 48. a6 Ra4 49. a7 Kg7 50. Kb3 Ra1 51. Re8 Rxa7 52. Rxe6 Ra1 53. Rxe3 Kf6 54. Kc4 Rf1 55. Kc5 Rxf4 56. Kxc6 Rf3 -+) 45...g3 ( 43...Rb8 also wins) 46. Ra8 g2 47. Rg8 Rg7 48. Rxg7 Kxg7 49. b7 g1Q 50. b8Q Qf2+ 51. Kc1 Re1+ 52. Rxe1 Qxe1+ 53. Kc2 Qc3+ 54. Kd1 Qxd3+ 55. Ke1 Qc3+ 56. Kf2 Qxa5 -+ it's a winning endgame for black even though there's still some work to do. To keep this simple, I didn't show many sideline variations which kept me entertained for quite a while with their complexities! But you are welcome to ask questions if something is unclear.

My next tournament is the London Classic Open which starts on Wednesday, 8th December. Same as last year, there will also be a closed WIM tournament but I decided to try my luck in the Open this time. Of course, the main attraction of the London Classic will be the super-grandmasters tournament, which this year will include the World Champion Anand as well as Carlsen, Kramnik, Nakamura and the top four English players like last year. And in the New Year I am planning to go to Italy to play in an Open there in February. But more about it later.

Friday, 19 November 2010

More From My Games

I played a few games in the past couple of weeks. First of all, I played at the first weekend of the 4NCL 2010-11 season (British team league). My team Betsson.com did very well as we won both matches. If we continue like this we should end up in the top half of the 1st division after 7 rounds. For the past two years we were the winners of the bottom half and felt we could do better. I did ok by drawing both of my games against similarly rated opponents, but I could have posed more problems for both of my opponents. Unfortunately, getting into the time trouble didn't help - I need to sort that out!

I also played a game for Hackney 1 team in the top division of the London League. We were outrated by our opponents Wood Green on every board (apart from the bottom borad 12 which was unrated), but somehow we managed to draw the match! Unfortunately, I lost my game against strong IM Mohamed Tissir on board 5 but not without missing some winning chances on my side. The time limit is fairly fast in the London League - 1hr 15mins for 30 moves followed by 15mins to finish and that again proved to be the deciding factor for me. With maybe a minute left on the clock I managed to miss an easy draw and a less easy win in this position - how annoying! Think about how you would have played in this position, black to move. I will provide the solution in the next post.

M. Tissir (226 ECF/2474 FIDE) - M. Yurenok (178 ECF/2071 FIDE)
Wood Green - Hackney 1
London League, 10th November 2010

There' been a lot of exciting chess going on recently with the Tal Memorial and the blitz afterwards. I'm glad that Sergey Karjakin got a share of the first prize with Levon Aronian in the main tournament. Aronian did very well to win the blitz tournament as well. I wish I had more time to watch the games - but can't do that during working hours! Currently I'm following the Russian Women's Superfinal Championship. Nadezhda Kosintseva is leading with 3.5 out of 4.

Now it's time to reveal the solution for the position published in the last post. Some of you might have noticed that the correct solution was already suggested in the comments to the last post. So here is the position again:

N. Relea (2193) - M. Yurenok (2071)
Cap d'Agde, 27th October 2010

I should have played:

52...Kh5! - it's not easy to let go of conventions and see that attacking with the king wins here even with queens and rooks present! White has two options:

53. Rg5+ Qxg5! 54. hxg5+ Rh4 55. Qxh4 Kxh4 and this pawn endgame is winning for black because white can't do anything with his extra pawn on the queenside. For example: 56. Kg2 Kxg5 57. Kg3 Kh5 58. Kh3 g5 59. Kg3 g4 60. Kg2 Kh4 61. b4 g3 62. Kg1 Kh3 63. Kh1 g2+ 64. Kg1 Kg3 65. c3 dxc3 and black checkmates in two.


53. Rxf4 Qxf4+ 54. Kg2 (or 54. Kg1 Qg4+) Qxh4 55. Qf3+ Qg4+ and white can't avoid exchange of queens leading again to the won pawn ending for black.

I also promised to show you an interesting double rook endgame  from another one of my games in Cap d'Agde. I know a lot of people think that endgames are boring, but double rook endgames are notoriously complex. This example is no exception, besides I think it's quite entertaining as both sides are trying to queen their pawns. Have a look at this position, black to move:

S. Pham Guerrero (2199) - M. Yurenok (2071)
Cap d'Agde, 29th October 2010

Earlier on white's endgame was quite a bit better, but he was probably trying to win too hard and allowed me to have substantial counterplay on the kingside. Here I played 42...Re3! White thought for quite a while as I guess he realised that he was now in trouble and he responded with the only move 43. b6 But even after this move black is winning. Try to find black's next move and the supporting variations leading to a win. I suggest you analyse it with the board as there are several rather complicated variations, but if you can calculate it all in your head - well done! I wasn't able to find the correct continuation and only drew the game. I hope you'll enjoy analysing this and I'll tell you what should have happened in my game in my next post.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Cap D'Agde Tournament

I recently got back from Cap d'Agde in France where I played in the Open tournament (above 2000 ELO) and watched some famous grandmasters compete for the CCAS Rapid Trophy. Among them were several famous women players: sisters Kosintsevas, Judit Polgar, Kateryna Lahno as well as famous male grandmasters. I managed to meet GM Anatoly Karpov - 12th World Champion! He didn't do very well in his quest for the Trophy. However, famous Ukranian GM Vassily Ivanchuk won the Trophy by beating American GM Hikaru Nakamura 1.5 : 0.5 in the final. I had the pleasure to watch the first game of the final in the playing theatre. I was very impressed by how Ivanchuk slowly outplayed his opponent and reached a winning same colour bishop ending. When Nakamura realised he was losing he just sat there looking at the ceiling for about 3 minutes before resigning. The position still had equal material and it must have been a bit confusing for some people in the audience why Nakamura resigned, but his pawns were weak and on the same colour as his bishop, which meant that Nakamura couldn't defend all the pawns because Ivanchuk could reach zugzwang position. Their picture before the start of the first round is on the right.

My own tournament turned out to be quite tough. Most of my opponents were more than 100 points higher rated than me. I got 3.5 points out of 9 and because I faced strong opposition I still managed to gain 9 rating points with 2122 performance! The other amusing thing was that I didn't lose any of my black games - I drew them all! I certainly wasn't playing for draws but I had to defend for a long time in four out of those five games (two of them a pawn down!) The average number of moves in my games was 48 which left me quite exhausted. And my last game was second to last to finish with 70 moves. I didn't do very well with white for some reason - I lost three of my white games and won one. I guess I wasn't in my best form as, annoyingly, I managed to lose a winning position in round 4. However, playing at Cap d'Agde proved to be a very useful learning experience. Performing well against stronger opponents gives additional confidence and provides rich, interesting games for analysis.

Here is an example from one of my games. We both had a few minutes left. I had to defend a pawn down for half of the game, but at this moment I felt that the fortune has turned even though I was still a pawn down. I had the initiative and white's pieces were suspiciously positioned. So I spent 2-3 minutes frantically looking for winning continuations but at the end had to make a move - it only guaranteed me a draw.

N. Relea (2193) - M. Yurenok (2071)
Cap d'Agde, 27th October 2010

I played:
52...Rxg4 53. Qxg4 Qf2+ 54. Kh3 Qxc2 55. Qg5+ Kh7 56. Qe7+ Kh6 57. Qf8+ Kh7 58. Qf7+ Kh6 59. Qf8+ 1/2:1/2

Can you find how I should have played to win? It's fairly simple but not obvious. I'll provide an answer in the next post.

I also had a very interesting double rook endgame which I again had to defend until the tables had turned and I could have won. It also ended up being a draw but it was a lot more complicated to find the win than in the position above. I will show that endgame to you in the next post.

The tournament itself was very well organised. It was won by 6 players on 7 points out of 9, among them English GM Mark Hebden. There were also two lower rated sections as well as blitz/rapid tournaments. Food was included in the accommodation rate and there seemed to be unlimited wine included with the meals. I didn't have a drink until after the 7th round. Perhaps I should have started drinking wine sooner as I got 1.5 points in the last 2 rounds! Starters and desserts were buffet-style and I took my opportunity to eat at least two desserts at each - lunch and dinner! J Vegetarians had a bit of a tough time, but I'm not a vegetarian. I don't speak any French and not many people there spoke English, so at times there were some communication problems but everything was successfully solved at the end. Any seasoned chess tourist certainly wouldn't be put off by lack of language skills as there are many other ways to communicate. On the negative side, the playing hall was a bit too warm for my liking. However, the great thing - there was a very nice gala dinner with champagne for everyone who was still around on the night after the last round! That's what I call a nice send-off!

The last round was in the morning. The weather was warm and sunny on that day, so in the afternoon I had a long walk along the beach and all the way into the Cap d'Agde marina (photo above - on my walk along the coast). There I had a drink and watched boats, crowds of people and their dogs from my outdoor cafe table. It was Sunday and also the Halloween with random children dressed in supposedly scary clothes. What can I say - South of France! I could easily imagine myself on one of those luxury boats!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Olympiad and more

Hello everyone!

I've finally played my first serious game of chess since July. It was a nice win in the London League, albeit against a weaker opponent. It's good to get some practice in though! The game started off as a quiet variation of the Slav but after 24 moves I got this completely winning position. Can you find the moves to finish this game off before looking below for my answer? Black to move:

P. Stokes (163 ECF) - Maria Yurenok (178 ECF)
London League, 30th September 2010

There are more than one ways to finish this game, but I chose:

24...Rf6! With not much time left on the clock I decided on a simple plan - put the rook on g6 creating various threats. And there's not much white can do about that! Of course, b7 pawn is irrelevant and no point taking the rook on f2 as it's not going anywhere.

25. Qe1 Rg6 26. c5 - it's hard to suggest anything for white as he's stuck for moves and has no reasonable defense against my plan.

26...Bh4 - now I'm threatening to win the queen with 27...Rxg2 28. Rxg2 Qh1+ 29. Rg1 Qh3+ 30. Rg2 Bxe1 +- With the clock ticking down white made the final mistake:

27. fxe4?? Qxg2# Don't you think it's a pretty checkmate?

I have two more London League games in the coming week. And I can't wait to play in my next serious tournament in France (Cap D'Agde) at the end of October. I haven't been training much but I do find time to improve my tactics by solving tactical puzzles on my iPhone on the way to work. I have more than 1000 of them to solve, so it will keep me busy for a while J

The past couple of weeks have been very exciting as I've been following games and results of the Chess Olympiad. Ukrainian men won the Open section and Russian women won the Women's section with a round to spare! I'm glad that the Russian women outperformed their Chinese rivals this time. English men didn't do as well as their team ranking, but English women finished 21st despite being seeded 39th - so a good result! Here is a photo from Meri Grigoryan of the English women's team in action.

From left to right: WFM Sarah Hegarty, Kanwal Bhatia, WFM Meri Grigoryan, IM Jovanka Houska. The next international  team competition which will be represented by England is the European Team Championship in the Autumn of next year. Lets see if I can show some good results to get into the team next year.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Work, Work, Work!

The life has been very busy in the past month, mainly because I've gone back to work and have been working a lot!  Although I'm working in the same department as before my sabbatical, I have a new manager and a different job. I always find that first few weeks in a new job demand more effort than usual as I need to learn who my stakeholders are, establish relationships, learn new working practices and processes and convince people that I can make a positive difference. It's important to make a good first impression, especially with directors as they tend to have a very limited attention span! In my job I'm pretty much left to myself to decide what needs to be done and how to do it, so while I've been getting my head around complexities of work I didn't feel like playing any serious chess recently.

I did try to play a bit of chess in August in the Golders Green rapidplay. Unfortunately I had such a bad headache ever since I got up that morning that I had to withdraw from the tournament before the end. I can't remember ever withdrawing from a tournament before! I'm still hoping to play in France at Cap D'Agde at the end of October although I haven't booked it yet. It would be useful to play in some weekend tournament before that but at the moment I can't be sure when I'd feel energetic enough to spend a whole weekend playing chess.

September ratings have come out and I'm up again at 2071 due to my US performance. It would be a shame to lose momentum now as I've been going up in rating all the time since April. One interesting fact is that I haven't lost any slow-play games to anyone lower than IM or GM since the beginning of April (that's when I lost a completely winning game in the London League). Anyway, I'm pretty clear about my new job now so it would be interesting to see if I can dedicate some of my brain power to chess during September. There's one other thing that I haven't quite figured out yet - when is the best time of the day to spend on chess. Should I get up earlier and spend some time on chess before work or should I do some chess after work? I'm certainly not a morning person and it takes me a while to wake up, but doing serious mental activity like chess after a full day of work is quite difficult as concentration is nowhere near perfect.

One great thing which happened in August is that my partner IM Simon Ansell won Dun Laoughaire IM-norm round-robin tournament in Ireland. Although he was the second seed it was still  a nice achievement since he ended up 1.5 points ahead of the field with 7 points out of 9. And the other great thing which happened is that an article was published about my chess achievements in the Intranet-based BT Today news. Unfortunately, only BT employees can access it, but it's a reasonable-sized audience since there are over 100 000 employees in BT! And I got some nice e-mails of encouragement from strangers after the article was published.

I won't be able to publish on this blog as much as I did during my sabbatical as my free time is now very limited, but I will make sure to keep you updated about my performance after every chess tournament.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Pacific Coast Open

I'm back from the USA and suffering from jet-lag. However, there's a million things to do after being away for 3 weeks and on top of that I am going back to work on Friday, for the first time after 10 months of sabbatical! I'm so glad that BT gave me this opportunity to take the sabbatical as I think I had the best 10 months ever despite some low points at some chess tournaments.

My Pacific Coast Open tournament ended fairly well as I got 3.5 points out of 6 (including a half-point bye) drawing last two games against stronger opponents. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to win one of those games with an extra pawn! And I ended up half a point behind a large rating prize. I don't know why in the USA they have very large rating prizes - it was larger than a second place prize! Nevertheless, I'm happy to add another 9 rating points to my FIDE rating despite a slow start to the tournament. My partner IM Simon Ansell did very well by getting a share of the second prize. You can see the final standings here: http://www.chesstour.com/pco10r.htm I didn't have any exciting games to show although I haven't had a chance to analyse them in detail and may yet find something worth showing at a deeper level. I bought a new laptop in the USA so I hope my Rybka will now run even better and faster! 

New FIDE ratings have come out at the beginning of July and I'm back to over 2000 mark at 2062. ECF ratings have come out as well and I am now rated 178 - a bit higher than a year ago but lower than I believe my current strength is. Unfortunately, ECF ratings are published only once a year and can be a bit misleading for an improving player. British Championship has started on Monday and will keep me entertained for the next 2 weeks. The top seed GM Mickey Adams is the favourite to win the title. Unfortunately, there are only 3 women participating (I decided against playing because of going back to work) so I hope ECF would do something to encourage more women to play in the British.

I haven't got any firm plans for my next chess tournament but I am considering playing my next tournament at the Berks & Bucks congress during the August Bank Holiday weekend. It's a 6-round FIDE-rated tournament. I'll just have to see how tired I'll get being back at work and if I need my weekends to recover rather than play chess! I am also hoping to play in the 9-round FIDE open at Cap D'Agde in the South of France in October.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


My partner Simon didn't win millions at the main event of WSOP poker tournament and I didn't win millions at Las Vegas casinos. However, I managed to break even on roulette and won $200 in 10 minutes at craps! I think that was beginner's luck as I'd never played craps before. After that Simon wisely kept me away from craps tables so that I didn't lose my winnings!

One week in Las Vegas is more than enough unless you are a hard-core gambler. After you've seen several shows, looked inside many grand hotels and did a bit of shopping you kind of run out of things to do. At the end I decided not to be left out with all the poker around me and played in my first ever live poker tournament at the Venetian hotel. I was a bit scared as I'd only played a little poker with my friends and online. I mean, do you remember how scared you felt playing in your first ever chess tournament? I was worried I'd make some silly poker rules mistakes while everyone at the table was watching me. I did make mistakes but nothing serious, not as bad as a woman next to me who showed her cards prematurely and was penalised for a whole round! I lasted for a couple of hours before getting knocked out and now I'm not that scared of live tournament poker. J

On the last night in Vegas we went to a private party hosted by "Poker Stars" which was headlined by Snoop Dogg's performance. He's one of the most famous rappers and even though I don't follow that kind of music his performance was great. I was very amused by his diamond-encrusted microphone and hair bands. J It was also the night after Spain won the football World Cup and Snoop Dogg was wearing Spanish football shirt! Who said Americans didn't care about football?? Well done to Spain by the way!! Here is somewhat blurred Snoop Dogg in case you don't believe me. J

After Vegas we went to explore San Francisco for a few days. It was nice and cool but sunny after unbearably boiling Vegas. Walking up and down the hills of San Francisco was very tough, it reminded me just how unfit I am and that I should start going to the gym again! Looks like this San Francisco's sea lion is encouraging me to exercise by demonstrating some press-ups. J

Now we are playing chess in Agoura Hills near Los Angeles. The tournament is called the Pacific Coast Open and consists of only 6 rounds. So far I'm on 2 out of 3. I had a slow start drawing two games against lower-rated opponents while missing available chances. However, I bounced back with a win in the third round against a higher-rated opponent. I always find that if I haven't played for a while I need at least one game to get my brain into the "chess mode" and use my time appropriately. I think playing a bit of blitz or rapidplay games before a serious tournament helps to minimise the adjustment period. I've taken a bye in the 4th round as I decided to relax this evening rather than play two rounds today. I can't see any results posted on the internet so no results link this time I'm afraid. Tomorrow we have two more rounds at the end of which I will get to see my parents and my sister for the first time in 1.5 years. J I wonder if I'd be too excited for serious chess playing!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Endgame Example

I've had some kind of flu for the past few days - how annoying in this great weather! I just had to stay in bed watching mainly Wimbledon. I think I've had sports overload as I've also watched enough football to last me a lifetime. Since England is out of the football World Cup I'm now supporting Andy Murray (British) and Vera Zvonareva (Russian) in Wimbledon. Thankfully, I seem to be on the mend - about time as I'll be flying to the U.S.A. on Saturday and I'd better start packing! This trip will be more of a holiday as I'm going to have a look around World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and then visit my parents and my sister in California. Don't worry, I haven't suddenly decided to take up poker instead of chess! I hardly ever play poker and keep forgetting the rules :) But my partner IM Simon Ansell is playing in WSOP so it will be fun. Despite this intensive schedule we are still hoping to play in a small 4-day chess tournament in California. And when I get back from the States my sabbatical will come to the end and I'll have to go back to work. Even though I've been to Las Vegas and to California before, I'm really looking forward to the next 3 weeks!! I'm really not a gambler but maybe I can turn my $10 into a million on a roulette table?? What do you think? Never know! :)

I thought you might be interested to see one of the endgames that I won recently in Italy, including my thought process during the game. I really had to win this game with black to have the best odds of meeting a titled player in the last round which was necessary to acheive WIM norm. The opening was a double-edged variation of Timanov Sicilian where white castles queenside and black often doesn't castle for a long time. So when the queens came off I wasn't overly happy as I thought I might have better chances of winning in the middlegame. However, I assessed the following endgame as slightly better for black even if my advantage is very minimal. I had no choice but to make the best out of what I had.

Claus Seyfried (2087) - Maria Yurenok (1984)
Round 8, 11 June 2010 
1st Open Di Roseto

18.Bg2?! -  It maybe tempting to put the bishop on the big diagonal but it's not straightforward to push f4 to free it up. I was convinced that 18.Be2 was a better move as I can't really stop Rhf1 and f4, so I was happy to see that white chose the alternative.

18...Be7 19. Bd4?! - again, it's tempting to put the bishop on the big diagonal, but it's not necessarily better placed there. It would have been more consistent to continue with the f4 plan by playing something like: 19. Rd2 0-0 20. Rg1 Rfd8 21. f4 Bxg2 22. Rgxg2 and the position is pretty equal.

19...0-0 - the other alternative was 19...f6 which was probably a slightly better move as the king will go to f7 staying a bit closer to the centre for the endgame, followed by active play with h5. Even e5 or g5 may become a possibility at some point controlling f4 square and stopping white's f4 plan.

20. Be5 - the move looks good in the first instance as it's with a tempo and e5 seems like a nice place for the bishop, but on the second thought it can be pushed back with a tempo via f6 later and this move isn't helping white's main plan of f4 push.

20...Rbd8! - I was very pleased when I found this move. I think it's a good move because it's not obvious as it's more natural to want to put the f-rook on d8 square, so for that reason I considered 20...Rb7 first. My move is also good because it's prophylactic, stopping 21.Rd2 due to Bxa2+ 22. Kc1 winning a pawn.

21. b3 - white decides to stop my Bxa2+ trick but it's weakening the pawn structure around the king and it's a little concession that I can hook on to.

21...a5 22. Rd3 - I didn't quite understand this move as it appears that white has given up on the idea of pushing f4. I think it was still worth continuing with the original plan: 22. Rd2 a4 23. f4 axb3 24. axb3 Bxg2 25. Rxg2 Rd5 giving better chances for black but probably defendable

22...f6 23. Bd4 a4 24. Rg1 - it appears that white wants to push f4 again but that allows my black-squared bishop to become active giving me another little concession to accumulate on.

24...axb3 25. axb3 Bd6 26. h4 Rf7?! - probably not the best move from me while 26...g5 would have been better. I made my move because I wanted to give myself an option of moving d6 bishop to f4 without having a threat of white's Bc5. Besides, rook on f7 has a chance to double up with the rook on d8. However, clever Rybka suggests that white can untangle himself by sacrificing a pawn for initiative and compensation with: 27. g5 hxg5 28. hxg5 fxg5 29. Bh3 Bf4 30. Re1 =

27. Bh3?! - my opponent was close to time trouble. This move is a bit pointless after my response.

27...g5 28. h5 Bf4 - now my position is quite a bit better as white's white-squared bishop is rather bad, white has no counter-play on the king side while his king is a bit weak and my pieces are generally better placed. Apart from all that I had more time than my opponent who was in time-trouble. As I didn't have a great amount of time myself I decided to try improving position of my pieces without committing myself to changing the position significantly (e.g. not changing pawn structure), so that I don't lose my advantage by the time we've passed the 40th move time control. Since it's a closed position it's possible to make some non-committal manoeuvring moves waiting to see if the opponent takes any action. I thought that since my pieces are positioned quite well, I should have a good response to any attempt of activity by white.

29. Rgd1 Ra8 30. Bf1 Kg7 31. Be2 - finally, the bishop has arrived to where it was supposed to be initially!

31...Rb7 32. Bb2?! - this gives my rook a7 square - another concession from white as he seemed to be a bit stuck trying to find a useful move with little time left on the clock. 32. Kb2 is better with the idea of 33. Ra1.

32...Rba7 33. Rd4? - decisive mistake, white is trying to activate the pieces but missing tactics. It was necessary to stand still, for example, by moving the rook backwards and forwards along the 1st rank until the end of time trouble as I'm not exactly threatening anything immediate. Although even then he has to be careful with his rook placement since he would lose to my Be5 if he places his rook on h1 or g1.

33...Be5 34. Rxb4?? - this just misses checkmate in two

34...Ra1+ 0:1

This game was an interesting lesson for me as it seems that sometimes waiting is the best strategy. Over the years I've observed just how many games strong players win by making a few waiting moves, as weaker players crack and start making significant changes in their position (e.g. pawn structure, exchanges) without realising that they are making things worse for themselves and it was better to stand as still as possible. I've made that mistake many times myself! You may have noticed that this tends to happen even more in time trouble when, for example, selecting a variation of exchanging several pieces allows to make several moves without spending much time. And you realise too late that those exchanges were best avoided.

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!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Interesting Game in QGD

The 2009-10 4NCL season finished over the weekend. After 7 rounds all teams in the 1st division get re-shuffled into the "championship" pool and the "demotion" pool based on their performance up till then. My team Betsson.com did exactly the same as last year - we ended up in the "demotion" half but we won the "demotion" half again and stayed in the 1st division for the next season. Here I am in the final game of the weekend which I won. I was the last to finish in the match and my game decided our top position in the "demotion" half. The photo is courtesy of Steve Connor from the Atticus Chess Club.

I felt pretty ill at the start of the weekend but still got 2 out of 3. My performance throughout the season was 2202 earning me 31 rating points. I've also found out that this performance qualifies me for the British Championship in the summer so I'm quite happy about this achievement! I've never qualified before (at least I'm not aware if I did as rules seem to change from year to year). However, at the moment I don't plan to play in the British Championship as I will be back to work and would prefer to spend my holiday allowance on something that is not as long. Normally, British Championship results are considered by the England team selectors for either European Team Championship or the Olympiad later in that year. However, this isn't the case this year because the Olympiad is quite early in the Autumn, meaning that the England team selection has to happen before the British Championship. So this year there don't seem to be any special benefits for me playing in the British Championship as compared to any Open tournament.

As promised, here is my analysis of an interesting game I played in the Thailand Open. It was the 8th round and also my last game of the tournament since my 9th round opponent didn't turn up. You can replay the game via an applet below, but here is the game with my commentary.

Maria Yurenok (1953) - Jan E. Frantsen Montgomery (2158)
19 April 2010, Thailand Open

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Nbd7 6. e3 c6 7. Bd3 Bd6 - this is Queen's Gambit Declined Exchange Variation (D35) but 7...Be7 is a lot more common set-up.

8. Qc2 Nf8 9. Nf3 Ng6 10. h3 - maybe a bit timid from me. There is not a lot of theory on this particular variation, but looking through my Mega Database white's more common 10th moves include Nh4, 0-0-0 and h4.

10...O-O 11. O-O h6 - I thought for a long time here as I didn't fancy any of white's moves that much, so eventually I went for what I thought was the best option even if it meant giving up a piece

12. Bxh6! - I believe the resulting position is harder to play for black. My other alternative would have been 12. Bxf6 Qxf6 13. e4 dxe4 14. Nxe4 Qd8 15. Nxd6 Qxd6 =

12. Bxh6 gxh6 13. Bxg6 fxg6 14. Qxg6+ Kh8 15. Ne5! - exclamation mark because I had to see this Ne5 idea before 12.Bxh6, otherwise white is just worse. However, 15. Qxh6 first, followed by 16. Ne5 would have been more accurate as it doesn't allow 15...Qc7 and pushes the knight to an inferior square. E.g. 15. Qxh6+  Nh7 16. Ne5 Qf6 (16... Rf6 17. Qh5 Be6 18. f4 Qe7 19. g4 [19. Ng6+? Rxg6 20. Qxg6 Bxh3 -/+] Rg8 20. Kh2 - unclear) 17. Qxf6+ Rxf6 18. f4 +/=

15... Bxe5?! - it was better to play 15... Qc7 16. Qxh6+ Kg8 17. f4 Qg7 18. Qxg7+ Kxg7 19. g4 - unclear

16. Qxh6+ Nh7 17. dxe5 Qg5? - black should have kept the queens as otherwise my pawns are too strong. With the queens still on black's counterplay is around forcing white to play f4 and attacking b2 and e3 pawns with Qb6 which results in a very unclear position, e.g. 17... Qc7 18. f4 Qb6 19. Rae1 (19. Nd1 feels a bit passive though possible) Qxb2 20. Ne2 Rg8 (20...Qxa2 21. g4 - unclear) 21. g4 Bxg4 22. hxg4 Rxg4+ 23. Kf2 Rag8 24. Rh1 Rg2+ 25. Kf1 Qc2 - unclear

18. Qxg5 +/= Nxg5 19. f4 Ne4? - it's not a good idea for black to exchange knights because it cuts out any counterplay based on d4 push and instead black's e4 pawn would end up on the same colour as his bishop. Better move was 19... Nf7 20. g4 +/=

20. g4 - I failed to realise that the immediate knights exchange with 20. Nxe4 was a better move for me, e.g. 20...dxe4 21. g4 +/-

20...Nd2 21. Rf2 Nc4 22. Re1 Nxe3 - it was a bit better for black to keep the knight with 22... Re8  23. b3 Nb6 24. Rd1 +/-

23. Rxe3 d4 24. Rd3 dxc3 25. bxc3 +/- since exchanging the queens, black spent five moves with his knight instead of improving position of his pieces while I put most of my pieces into active positions.

25...Be6 26. f5 Bd5 27. e6 - it was more accurate for me to improve the position of the last piece - the king - as black has no counterplay, e.g. 27. Kh2 Rae8 28. Re3 b5 29. Kg3 a5 30. Kf4 +-

27...Rae8 28. Rd4 b5 29. g5 a5 30. h4 a4?! - at this point the best practical chance for black to make a draw would have been 30... Bxa2 31. Rxa2 Rxf5 32. Rxa5 Rxe6 33. Ra7 Re8 34. Kg2 +-

31. a3 Bxe6?! - black's cracked and given back the piece but it's hard to suggest much else as otherwise white's pawns go forward anyway. Here is an example variation: 31... Re7 32. h5 Kg8 33. h6 Ree8 34. Rff4 Kh7 35. Kf2 Rg8 36. Rg4 Ref8 37. Rdf4 Rxf5 (otherwise white's king comes forward decisively) 38. Rxf5 Bxe6 39. Rgf4 Bxf5 40. Rxf5 Kg6 41. Rc5 +-

32. fxe6 Rxf2 33. Kxf2 Rxe6 34. Kf3 Re1 35. Kf4 Rc1 36. Kf5 Kg7 37. h5? - a moment of madness from me as I started seeing ghosts. Of course, 37. Rd7 was winning straight away which for some bizarre reason I discarded. E.g. 37. Rd7+ Kf8 38. h5 Ke8 39. Rb7 and white's pawns can't be stopped. My move would have made winning a lot more difficult for me if black replied correctly. But it must have been my lucky day (you need luck sometimes even in chess!) as my opponent replied with his own mistake:

37... Rxc3? - instead black should have played 37... Rf1+ posing some technical problems for me as I was approaching time-trouble e.g. 38. Kg4 (38. Rf4? only leads to a draw after 38...Rxf4+ 39. Kxf4 c5 =) 38... Rg1+ 39. Kf4 Rf1+ 40. Ke3 Re1+ 41. Kf2 Rh1 42. Rd7+ Kh8 43. Rd8+ Kg7 44. h6+ Kg6 45. Rg8+ Kh7 46. Rg7+ Kh8 47. Re7 c5 48. Kg3 b4 49. cxb4 cxb4 50. axb4 a3 51. Ra7 Ra1 52. Kg2 threatening 53. g6 +-

38. h6+ Kf8 39. h7 Rh3 40. Kf6 Rf3+ 41. Kg6 Rh3 42. Rd8+ Ke7 43. h8=Q Rxh8 44. Rxh8 1:0 
It may not have been the perfect game but it was a bit entertaining and even GM Nigel Short liked watching it!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Thailand Open

What a chess adventure it turned out to be! I showed my best ever result with 5.5 points out of 9 against average opposition of 2217. My rating performance was 2261 and I gained 45 rating points. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a WIM norm because I didn’t play against enough titled opponents and my last round opponent didn’t turn up because he thought the game was in the afternoon like on most days. Some people are joking that he didn’t turn up because he was afraid to lose rating points! J The great thing is I won the first women’s place (25th including men in the field of 108 participants) and I beat an IM! You can see the final ranking table here: http://chess-results.com/tnr32758.aspx?art=4&lan=1&m=-1&wi=1000  You can clearly see that my final positioning in the table is among much higher rated players. And here you can see me receiving my certificate for the 1st women’s place (unfortunately there was no cash prize for that or for rating performance, unlike in many other Opens).

The tournament itself was exceptionally organized. The hotel (which was also the venue) was great and we were not affected by any protests currently going on in Bangkok. The Open was won by Danish GM Sune Berg Hansen while English GM Nigel Short was second. I got to play against both of them in the Bangkok club blitz!! Ok, I lost to both so I have to practice my blitz a bit more J

Perhaps you are interested in what happened day-by-day? The time control was 1.5 hours plus 30 seconds increment after each move for the whole game. In the first round I played against a Ukranian IM Bogdan Borsos rated 2346 but I had no time to prepare as the 1st round pairings came out too late. However, I had no problem equalizing with black as he played a variation of c3 Sicilian that I know well and love. After a couple of inaccurate moves in the middlegame I was standing a bit worse and nearing the time trouble. My opponent had quite a bit more time and he started to play quickly, I guess he was playing against my clock. Look what happened when I had less than 5 minutes left:

B. Borsos (2346) - M. Yurenok (1953)
14 April 2010, Thailand Open 

29. f5? – I was quite shocked by this move as my instinct was that it shouldn’t work, however it took me most of my remaining time to figure out that it’s good for me and  I played:

29…Qxe5 – however, in my shock I didn’t even notice that I can win an exchange with 29…Rxd6 30.fxg6+ fxg6 31.Qe4 (forced)

30. fxg6+ fxg6 31. Rxd8 Qxe2 – I’m threatening 32…Qe3+ and Qxc5 winning another pawn. So I thought that he had to play 32. Qb8 threatening checkmate with 33. Rh8 but allowing my Queen to do a perpetual check with 32…Qe1+ and Qe5+  However, I’m almost 400 rating points lower than him so he decided to play for a win with:

32. Qd4? Rf7 – Now I’m creating some mating threats but my opponent still wants to win and ignores my threats with:

33. c6?? – it was necessary to play 31.Kh2 or 31.Qd1 at worst

33…Rf1+ 34. Kh2 Qe1 – it slowly dawned on my opponent that he can’t defend against the checkmate and after a long thought he resigned. 0:1

First two days had double rounds which caused me to be very switched on in the morning rounds and very tired in the afternoons. My game in the afternoon (second round) was against Teemu Topi-Hulmi from Finland, rated 2289. I had no problem achieving a slightly better endgame against the Slav and my opponent begrudgingly agreed to my draw offer.

The next morning (round 3) I was playing with black against an Indian IM Dinesh Sharma rated 2361. We both seemed to know that line of the Taimanov Sicilian to move 15 and then I started to outplay my opponent in the middlegame. However, he found a good counterattacking plan, turned the position in his favour and I eventually lost. That was the only game I lost in the whole tournament. In the afternoon (round 4) I was white against Manuel Llopis de Aysa from Spain, rated 2128. I was quite tired and offered a draw in a better position but it was refused. He wasn’t able to make any significant progress in the blocked position and the draw was eventually agreed on move 57.

In round five I played with black against another Indian player Ashish Dwivedi, rated 2132. I couldn’t prepare for him as he didn’t seem to have any games on the database. I decided to avoid his potential preparation by playing something I haven’t played for many years and I got myself a slightly better position on move 6 at which point he offered me a draw! I refused as I thought I had a good chance to make something out of that position. Unfortunately I spent too much time on the next few moves while also making some suspect moves. I realized that I’m messing things up and offered a draw back which was surprisingly accepted. Still, not my day I thought.

In the sixth round I was white against an Australian player Matthew Drummond rated 2244. It seems we both expected something else in the opening but it ended up being my first ever serious game against the Nimzo-Indian defense. Strangely enough I prepared for Nimzo-Indian a couple of days earlier and got out of the opening very well. My opponent never equalized but I failed to turn my position into a win even after 51 moves with an extra pawn - draw again. In the seventh round I was well prepared with black against CM Damian Norris from Fiji rated 2083 who played Veresov Opening. However, I failed to make something out of my slight opening advantage and the draw was agreed in the endgame.

In the eighth round I was white against a Danish player rated 2158. I can’t quite figure out what’s his first and what’s his last name, perhaps you can work it out? - Montgomery Jan E. Frantsen. That was my nicest game in the whole tournament, even GM Nigel Short said he liked it! I gave up a piece for 3 pawns in the middlegame and my pawns eventually proved unstoppable in the endgame winning me a point. I will definitely annotate that game for you in the coming posts. My last round opponent would have been Thai FM Boonsueb Saeheng rated 2285 but instead I was left wondering around the hall for an hour gaining a point in the process. 

I’m still in Thailand relaxing on the island of Koh Chang. I hope you agree that chess is really hard work and I finally deserve to relax and have some cocktails by the sunny pool. J I also leave you to inspect a picture of my lovely certificate (right).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A bit about Grunfeld

Time flies when you're having fun! I've had some nice things happen in my life in the past few weeks but not anything to do with chess. That somewhat slack attitude might come back and bite me as I'm off to Bangkok tomorrow to play in Thailand Open and feeling like I could have done more to prepare. But I'm not sorry about it - it's important to be happy in life and not just in chess. Thailand might prove to be more "exciting" than I expected. There is currently some political unrest going on with demonstrations that could potentially bring down the current government. To be fair, I've already seen Bangkok and don't need to get out of the hotel if the troubles continue. My real holiday will be for a few days after the tournament on the Thai island of Koh Chang - away from any revolutions. It will be interesting to see if any chess players decide to pull out of the tournament because of unrest but for now the top seed promises to be England's own GM Nigel Short.

Ok, I haven't been ignoring chess completely. I've had a look at some games of the former world champion GM Vasily Smyslov who sadly passed away a few days ago. His games seem so smooth - almost effortless. He was well known for trying to search for the ultimate "truth" and harmony when playing chess. I've also continued my training sessions with GM Chris Ward and I've played a few serious games of chess in the London League and the 4NCL. The last game in the London League was completely disastrous for me as I managed to lose a completely winning position. Not only my position was better, I was also and exchange up!   Perhaps a large dinner before the game didn't help very much as I found it difficult to think and make any decisions when I was confronted with some options. I did much better at the 4NCL gaining 1.5 out of 2 against stronger opposition.

I'd like to show you the game I won from that 4NCL weekend. It was my first serious game against Grunfeld Defence and I was well prepared. Quite fittingly, I chose to play the Russian System against Grunfeld (D36), maybe because I quite liked GM Magnus Carlsen's recent wins in that opening against GM Svidler and GM Dominguez. You can replay the game via an applet below but here is the game with my commentary.

M. Yurenok (1953) - S. Hegarty (2067)
27 March 2010, 4NCL

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 c6 - I expected this. 7...c6 is described by GM Rowson in his Grunfeld book as the most passive option for black. After looking through some GM games on the database I can't say I disagree as I liked white every time. No wonder GMs Svidler and Dominguez choose to play 7...a6.

8. Qb3 Qb6 9. Bc4 Qxb3 10. Bxb3 - my preparation ended here. It's quite easy to find decent moves for white in this position while black has to do all the thinking to create counter-play. I was 40 minutes ahead on the clock at some point and finished 20 minutes ahead while my opponent got into time-trouble. It's not easy to develop black's pieces.

10... Bg4 11. Bg5 - it was worth considering 11.Ne5 because if the black bishop doesn't move I'd still get the bishop pair without doubling of my f pawns and if 11...Be6 12.Bxe6 I'd ruin black's pawn structure. However, the move that I made is also fine and threatens 11...e5 winning e7 pawn.

11... h6 12. Bf4 - Rybka doesn't quite understand that move and really wants to put the bishop on e3 but I believe the bishop on f4 is more active

12... Bxf3 - expected natural follow-up to 10... Bg4 but 10... Nbd7 was also possible

13. gxf3 Nh5?! - it's not clear what this achieves as 14... e5 isn't possible and d4 pawn is easily defended

14. Be3 Kh7 15. f4 - black pieces are still cramped and white has a nice centre

15... Nf6 16. h3 - not really necessary as losing e3 bishop for black's knight is not really a threat, so 16.e5 is a good alternative

16. h3 e6 17. O-O - another option is to castle queenside and play for an attack with f5 and Rhg1

17... Nbd7 18. e5 - I thought for a while about this move as it gives up d5 square but decided that my knight on d6 would be better than black's knight on d5. However, it was probably better to develop rooks first before fixing the pawns in the centre.

18... Nd5 19. Ne4 f6?! - this doesn't stop me from doing what I want. The better plan was to put pieces like that: Rab8, N7b6 via c8 to e7 and then to f5.

20. Nd6 fxe5 21. fxe5 Rab8 22. Bxd5 - I had to think a little here as it appears that I'm giving up my "good" bishop but I'm giving it up for the only black's active piece and neither of black's re-captures seems attractive

22... cxd5? - this was the worst of the two evils as now I can't see how black can avoid losing some material. After 22...exd5 I was planning 23. e6 Nf6 24. e7 Rg8 but I couldn't see what to do next and Rybka confirms that this doesn't achieve much for white. Instead, 23. f4 would have been a simple way to maintain an advantage. f5 may become a threat at some point, Rac1, b4 and b5 with minority attack is another threat.

23. Rac1 Rfd8 - it's hard to suggest anything better for black anyway, the rest is straightforward

24. Rc7 Nf8 25. Rfc1 a6 26. Rxb7 Rxb7 27. Nxb7 Rd7 28. Nc5 Ra7 29. Rc3 Kg8 30. Ra3 Kf7 31. Rxa6 Rc7 32. b4 Re7 33. Rd6 1:0