Thursday, 28 January 2010

Puzzle and News

Well, I'm now booked to play in two Open tournaments: Reykjavik in Iceland towards the end of February and Bangkok in Thailand in April! It's great as I've never been to Iceland. And even though I've been to Thailand 3 years ago, I am also really looking forward to it because it will be a lot hotter than wintry England! IM Simon Ansell is also going and we will stay for a few extra days in each country to look around and explore.

I played a game on Tuesday for the 2nd Hackney team in the London League. I was actually playing on the first board, which is quite unusual for a woman! But I lost... I thought I was doing quite well, I played as white against the Queen's Indian for the first time. I seemed to get a good position out of the opening despite not knowing almost any theory on this opening. However, I blundered a pawn in the time-trouble and it was the end of it, especially since my opponent was playing quite fast and had a lot more time. He didn't have ECF rating, but his FIDE converted to ECF was about 193, so quite strong for me. The match is still on-going as one game was adjourned (yes! adjournments still happen in England!!!) with an extra pawn in the rook ending on my team's side. If we win that game we would draw the match, so it's a very important game. However, rook endings are notoriously hard to win.

This weekend I'm playing in a local London tournament in Barnet, not FIDE-rated. I thought I might as well get some practice since Barnet is fairly close to where I live. I will play two games on each of two days, so it's quite intense but good practice for clock handling before more serious Uxbridge all-play-all tournament in mid-February. And on Monday I'll be playing in the London League again, this time for the 1st Hackney team.

Here is a fairly simple puzzle for you from one of my games in Hastings, black to move. Can you find the winning continuation? Let me know if you can and I will post the solution in a couple of weeks.

G. Moore (1902) - M. Yurenok (1968)
3 January 2010, Hastings

Finally, I've had a training session with my new GM coach Chris Ward on Tuesday and it went well. I will be an expert in 1.d4 openings in no time, so watch out!!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Thoughts about Openings

Since I came back from Hastings I haven't done much chess because of some health problems, but I'm now nearly back to normal. Over the weekend I played two games in the British team league 4NCL and got 1.5 points. I was happy with a quick draw against a stronger opponent on Saturday and managed to win against a weaker opponent on Sunday despite feeling very unwell, so it was a good result. My team lost one match and won one. The next 4NCL weekend is in a month's time and my team needs to try winning both matches because later in the year the two pools in our top division get re-arranged into different two pools according to teams' performance. Last year we were the winners of the bottom pool, so this year we need to do better and get into the top pool instead.

I've had some interesting e-mails from readers of my blog, thank you very much for those. I do enjoy reading your own stories about chess and happy to answer your questions. So please keep e-mailing me at and let me know if there are any particular chess topics you'd like me to cover in my blog.

I was recently asked how I develop my openings repertoire. Some of it evolved over the years and some of it was more intentional. For example, against 1.e4 my dad taught me the Taimanov Sicilian many years ago and I still play and love it as an opening. Against 1.d4 my dad taught me the Benko Gambit. Even though I still like that opening I decided to learn something more solid once I re-started playing chess after the university, so I chose to learn the Slav towards the end of the nineties. In hindsight, it was a very good decision as this opening suits me very well. Besides, my coach IM Simon Ansell plays it too and I can learn a lot from him! Another advantage of the Slav is that against 1.c4 I can play 1...c6 and after that white often chooses to transpose into the Slav anyway. I've also recently learned the Dutch Stonewall which is a handy alternative to the Slav not requiring a lot of theory knowledge. Besides, I can also apply it with reversed colours as white. At some point soon I'd also like to learn an alternative opening against 1.e4. I already decided what it should be but will keep it a secret for now.

Strangely enough I had a lot more problems with my white openings. I used to play 1.e4 as a junior, but after several years absence from chess my dad suggested that I play something that doesn't require a lot of theory knowledge - The Torre Attack. And that's what I played since I finished the university. I got really fed up playing it for so long (about 10 years!) since it's not as varied as main lines and I wasn't happy with my white results either. Now I have started playing main lines 1.d4 and very happy with the variety of interesting positions that I get out of it. Playing the Torre Attack earlier helped me with understanding some of the main line 1.d4 structures, so it's not all totally new to me. I've also found a new coach who can specifically help me with 1.d4 main lines for white and if all goes well the training will start next week.

Of course, I consider other things when choosing opening lines. For example, even main line 1.d4 has many options for white to choose from. I tend to choose those lines that are most suitable to my style, so that I feel comfortable with resulting positions. And if I'm preparing for a specific opponent I sometimes learn something totally new either to surprise or to avoid something. If my memory was a bit better I would happily play a large variety of openings because I would enjoy new types of positions and plans. I may do that sometime in the future anyway, just for fun. But for now I have a specific aim to get my rating up as soon as possible and for that I think I need to learn a limited number of openings very well. The basic idea behind a limited openings repertoire is to get a familiar position with a familiar plan to preserve the time early on, so that there is time available for complicated decisions and calculations in a critical moment later in the middlegame.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Hastings Tournament

Happy New Year everyone! It's been very quiet on my blog for a while because I've been playing in Hastings - the oldest chess tournament in the world. The current venue is a large sports centre, that's why you can see basketball rings on the photograph below.

Hastings Masters Tournament

I wasn't able to play the first game and had an average performance in the rest of the tournament gaining 2.5 points out of 8 rounds and losing 10 rating points. However, I had some interesting games and will present those to you in a few days time. The tournament was won by four GMs on 7 points: Howell, Hebden (both English), Edouard (French) and Istratescu (Romanian). Here are the two of the four winners playing each other in round five: Howell - Istratescu ended in a win for Istratescu.


Hastings is a pleasant sea side resort in the summer, but in the winter the weather is quite miserable. There was a lot of heavy rain in the first few days and it turned into snow towards the end of the tournament. When it snows in England you can be sure that public transport stops normal operations. I guess many foreign chess players had trouble travelling back home because several airports were closed and trains were operating reduced service. There is still snow in England which has turned into dangerous ice on many footpaths and roads. This is set to continue for the coming days, creating the longest freeze in England for almost 30 years and causing all sorts of chaos across the country. I did go out for a walk around Hastings on one of the rare sunny days, however it didn't help me with my chess! Here are the ruins of the ancient Hastings Castle.

Hastings Castle

I was late for my first game (which for me was in the second round) by 20 minutes because I got lost trying to get to the venue despite leaving the hotel 15 minutes before the game. I've been to the Hastings tournament before, I think in 2001, but back then I had a car and getting around was very straightforward. This time I had to use my feet and my very wet and quickly disintegrating map in the cold Hastings rain. The streets in the centre of Hastings are quite complicated and many of them don't have signs, making it difficult to figure out where you are at any point in time. Even some Hastings residents couldn't point me in the right direction! Needless to say that Hastings is not the kind of place where you can easily flag a passing taxi. I was getting very worried, because default time was 30 minutes. Eventually someone helped me with the right directions and I arrived to my game red-faced and out of breath from all that quick walking. I eventually lost my game. Here I am once I'd calmed down a bit, seemingly not having it as tough as the chess player next to me - Petr Marusenko.

Maria Yurenok

In the evening before the last round I participated in a themed blitz tournament, which was a part of The Killer Dutch DVD launch party. The DVD is presented by the very talented English GM Simon Williams who's been playing the Classical Dutch all his life. He has a very engaging presentation style and I thoroughly recommend for anyone to buy it. I've bought one! You can find more information about the DVD and how to buy it on Simon's website: The great thing about the blitz was that every game had to start with the moves 1.d4 f5 even if you've never played those moves before in your life! There were lots of fun Dutch-themed prizes like cheese and Advocaat liqueur. Even I got a prize for being the top woman in the blitz despite getting only 2.5 points. That reminds me that I should go and taste my prize, because I got some lovely Dutch peach schnapps! :) The winner of the blitz was GM Danny Gormally, but not before the play-off against my coach and good friend IM Simon Ansell. Here is a photo of their first play-off game.

Ansell-Gormally blitz play-off

Since my tournament chess isn't going as well as I was hoping, I've decided not to go to Moscow or Gibraltar in February and train instead. My next tournament will be in mid-February and local to London. It's a bit less serious than my recent Opens, but it's still an all-play-all and FIDE-rated Uxbridge International. I will be playing in the "Challengers" section against 9 players of roughly the same strength as myself. And if all goes well I may go to the Reykjavik Open at the end of February. I've never been to Iceland and fancy checking it out!