Friday, 30 September 2011

Back to Blogging!

I think you may be wondering what happened to me as my blog hasn't been updated in a long time. I have some excuses like too much work and other important things, but that's probably not good enough! So I'm back to writing and the important thing is that I have played quite a lot of chess this year and I have a lot to write about.

First of all, I have to share some very good news with you - I have been selected to play for the England women's team in the European Team Championship in Greece in November! I'll be on board 3 with the full team as follows:

IM Jovanka Houska - 2427
IM Dagne Ciuksyte - 2327
WFM Maria Yurenok - 2106
WFM Kanwal Bhatia - 2087
WFM Sarah Hegarty - 2051

It will be my first tournament playing for the England team and it will be tough, so I have started preparing.

Now back to what I've been doing over the past months. I have to take you back as far as February when I played in Italy in the Cento Open. I did fairly well, gained a bit of rating and even got a small rating prize. I was also close to getting WIM norm - I just had to win in the last round for that. Unfortunately I lost, mainly because of my bad clock handling. The last round was quite early in the morning unlike all other rounds, so I think I wasn't awake enough! I don't like early mornings!! The other interesting thing was that in the first round I was paired against the legend of the Soviet Chess School - GM Oleg Romanishin. I lost but we were one of the last games to finish. It's a bit unfortunate that because the game was so long, there was no time or energy to analyse the game with Oleg - we had to rush to dinner which had already started!

Now lets have a look at some interesting moments from my games in that tournament. Can you find the winning move that I played (white to move)? The solution is below the diagram.

M. Yurenok (2092) - S. Lagrotteria (2183)
Cento Open, 12th February 2011

I didn't have much time left but I noticed the right move, I played:

28.Rxb4! using the weakness of the black's king. E.g. 28...Rxb4 29.Qxb4 Rxb4 30.Ra8+ and checkmate two moves later.

This surprised my opponent and he started thinking, so I started thinking too, to double-check if I missed anything. To my horror I realised that things were not as simple as they seemed. I noticed that instead of 29...Rxb4 black can play 29...Qc7! and now the problem is that it's my own king who's in trouble. So if I move my queen to defend the back rank 30.Qe1, then black can just take my rook 30...Qxa5 31.Qxa5 Rb1+ and checkmate the next move. Oh dear! While I was contemplating that I might have to give up my queen for the black rook via something like 30.Qxb8 my opponent played a different 29th move and I won with an extra piece. But I shouldn't have worried anyway, because white still wins after 29...Qc7 with a clever 30. Nd7!! (30.Nb7 is also good) and black loses again because of back rank problems.

Did you see the whole variation all the way to the end? Sometimes it's easy to see the first move but it must be checked thoroughly to the end if you don't want to end up in trouble. Correct calculation to the end is hard, and that's often where stronger players outplay their opponents. Here is my photo at the beginning of that game.

The next one is an endgame which I saw coming in advance and thought was winning. What do you think? It's white's move.

M. Yurenok (2092) - E. Burani (1874)
Cento Open, 6th February 2011

After the game I asked my IM partner Simon Ansell about his assessment of this endgame. He thought it should be winning for white. During my game, more I thought - more I realised that this endgame is drawn! It's hard to believe, but white king cannot easily get around black's king to get the h pawn. As long as black king stays in the centre covering squares f4 and e3 depending on the position of white's king (because that's one of the squares white king wants to get to), then black is doing well. The game continued:

52.Kf2 Kf4 53.Bg5+ Ke4 54.Ke2 Kd4 55.Bf4 Ke4 56.Be3 Kf5 this is the position I was aiming for, but having reached it I realised that it's drawn anyway. My idea was to play 57.Kd3 here, but after some calculation I realised that black will force a draw by: 57...g3 58.Ke2 Kg4 59.Bg5 Kh3 60.Kf1 g2+ 61.Kg1 Kg3 =  There's nothing white can do to improve the position! My opponent didn't have much time left, so I decided to play some other moves before committing myself into the forced drawing variation. The game continued:

57. Bh6 Ke4 58.Kf2 Kd3 59.Kg3 Ke4 60.Bc1 Kd3?? (My lucky day! My opponent must have seen a ghost.) 61.Kf4 Ke2 62.Ba3 1:0  So it's worth playing on in drawn positions if you are putting your opponent under pressure to defend correctly.

On the last day of the tournament there was a carnival in Cento, but I missed that and instead went to Bologna where I got stuck in a taxi on the way to the hotel because there was anti-Berlusconi demonstration in the centre! Apart from that Bolgona turned out to be a very nice city with wonderful food. I even went to a great cooking class there.