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:  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