Round 10- back to business

Last night, I decided it was time to focus on getting healthy. I am not saying that today’s game was of no importance, but the most important thing was to be in top shape by September 2nd, the beginning of my tournament in Nuremberg.

This made me take a hard decision. I had to make a “sacrifice”. I decided to sweat it out during the night and slept fully dressed under as much cover as I could find. Sleeping in that situation is pretty hard. I went to sleep at about midnight last night. At about 4am I was still rolling around trying to fall asleep. Sweating. You gotta do what you gotta do.

I woke up at 7am this morning with a few choppy hours of sleep. I still felt better physically than I did yesterday. I can’t say my mood was all that great chess wise after losing the last two rounds. I should play it safe right?

I was playing IM Lanzani from Italy with the white pieces, rated about 2360. The game was to start at 9.30am. Not the ideal start time after such a night. But I had breakfast and then went to the game.

I have been switching drinks left and right throughout the tournament. I started with coke, switched to orange slushy, then lemon slushy, then just water. Today, the focus was on getter better. So tea it was.

When doing well, a chess player can feel invincible, almost as if defeat is not an option. Can see all the variations, and they all lead to good outcomes. I was feeling a bit of the other extreme these last few days. One word to summarize it is “vulnerable”. All you can do is try to work through it. That’s what I was planning to do.

What I do is simple. I work hard. I can’t guarantee the results, but I can guarantee the effort. I have never lacked effort in chess. When ambition is present then effort is even easier to come by. The ambition is there. The fire is back. All I could do today is give all I got while I’m facing adversity. Here is the game.


[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.08.30”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Lanzani”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “90”]
[EventDate “2010.08.20”]
[SourceDate “2010.08.30”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 Nc6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. d5 Ne5 6. Bf4 Bxf3 7. gxf3 Ng6 8.
Be3 e5 9. Bxc4 a6 10. Qb3 b5 11. Be2 Bd6 12. a4 b4 13. Nd2 Nf6 14. Nc4 O-O 15.
Nxd6 cxd6 16. Qxb4 Nh5 17. Rc1 Nhf4 18. Rc6 Qg5 19. Rf1 Qg2 20. Bxf4 Nxf4 21.
Qxd6 Qxh2 22. Rxa6 Rad8 23. Qe7 h6 24. Bb5 Qg2 25. Qxe5 Qxf3 26. Rg1 f6 27. Qe7
Ng2+ 28. Rxg2 Qxg2 29. Qe6+ Kh8 30. d6 Qg1+ 31. Ke2 Qb1 32. d7 Qxb2+ 33. Kf3
Qc3+ 34. Kg2 Qd2 35. Qd5 Qf4 36. Re6 Qg4+ 37. Kf1 Qh3+ 38. Ke1 1-0 and my opponent resigned (probably prematurely).

I was surprised by my opponent’s second move. I found no games on my opponent playing the Queen’s Gambit declined before. I thought about it for a few minutes and concluded that my opponent must have prepared for 3.e3, which I played several times before. Cool. Time to start playing 3.e4 then. Risky decision, but what are you going to do?

We both seemed to land in unfamiliar territory pretty soon. 8.Qa4 check may have been slightly more preferable than the game. The game continued along pretty natural lines until my 24th move. 24.Rc6 is probably preferable to the game, attempting to get the rook back into the game.

26…f6 was a serious mistake which I failed to take advantage of. 27.Qf5! was a strong move. The idea is simply placing the queen on the best square possible. If my opponent would play 27…Ng2+ then simply sacrifice the exchange and put my pawn on d7 with some precision.

I was trying to force the issue a bit with Qe7. I was calculating 27.Ra7 but that failed due to 27…Rf7 28.Rxg7 Kh8! 29.Rh7+ Kg8! with white having nothing more than a perpetual. I guess my calculating is not that bad at times;).

I should have admitted my mistake and still played 30.Qf5 regardless, both stopping f5 ideas and placing my queen on the ideal square. 30…Rc8 could have gotten me into some trouble even though I can stop the rook from coming in with 31.Bc6.

32…f5 33.e5 Qd4 was a necessary resource for my opponent to try to save the game. 36.Qf5 was more preferable than the game for me. I was scared that 36…Qc7 37.Re6 Rxd7 38.Bxd7 Qxd7 39.Rxf6 Qxf5 40.Rxf5 Ra8 would lead to an endgame which is not very easy to convert. However, I knew the endgame should be winning.

My opponent resigned in a peculiar spot. 38…Qh1 39.Ke2 f5 40.Re8 Qh5+ 41.Kd2 Rfxe8 42.dxe8 Rxe8 43.Bxe8 Qxe8 44. a5 would have led to a position where I have an advantage, that much is not in doubt. But winning the final position is not easy since my king is not exactly untouchable in the end.

My only guess is that my opponent either did not see or under-estimated the f5 idea throughout the game. I do not mind the resignation. I needed the point.

I have to give it to my opponent, he played well for most of the game. His moves were quite strong and he handled the initiative very well and sacrificed two pawns in the process. His 26…f6 was a mistake, and then he did not play accurately when the game got very concrete. I guess that’s where his weakness lies.

Well, what do I think about my play? I have shown that I can play quite well through stretches. After such a long break it is very hard to play a whole game at the highest level. My understanding is clearly present, but my calculations are often not. That has to get better with some hard work.

Before the tournament, I thought my main weakness is the opening. The tournament really showed the situation to be different. My middle game play has not been very impressive at times, especially when concrete calculations are necessary on each move. I have been missing some moves and miscalculating some variations. That is certainly something to work on. This tournament has made this point clear.

Overall, I finished the event at 7/10. Yes, I could have done better with my 8th round game. It was a heart breaker, which partially led to my demise in the 9th round. 17th place. YES! 130 Euros. I certainly wouldn’t say no to another zero on the right. A lot of important lessons have been learned though. I am glad I played in this tournament. It was a warm up tournament.

I am not happy with the result. I appreciate the positive comments the readers have provided me. I appreciate all comments you provide for me. Feedback really helps to keep me in line and for me to know that I am not just going on long rambles in every post. More feedback is always good.

Why do I consider this result a failure? I judge tournaments by my own standards. I know I can do better. I know that the mistakes I have been making were avoidable. I have very high expectations for myself, higher than anybody else’s expectations for me. I have been like this for years when it comes to chess. Those expectations push me to the limit and keep me hungry instead of satisfied.

The next question is “why did the failure occur?” Well, an important reason is my rust. After not having played in a year a lot of the skills that have become second nature are suddenly less apparent. Evaluations can be shaky, moves can be missed, etc. An important factor that is missing is stamina. This might sound bad, but a 10 round tournament is a long event. Fatigue can certainly be felt. This fatigue is intensified with the cold I have been having for the last few days.

I was happy to see that Kevin Spraggett evaluated my play on his blog, at

Kevin is arguably the most successful Canadian chess player ever. The argument for his case would certainly be a strong one considering his appearances in Candidates Matches as well as many other successes. Even though our playing levels today can be seen as very comparable, our knowledge of chess cannot be. This is why Kevin’s evaluation can say a lot about my play.

Kevin described my play as “sluggish and imprecise”. I completely agree. Kevin attributed much of the bad player to jetlag. As I said above, I feel like those factors contributed to my “demise” towards the end of the event. I can’t say that my play earlier in the event was “spectacular” either when I was sitting at 6/7. Luck was on my side. For the record, I am planning to arrive to future events at least a few days before the event starts to adapt to the time change and to get used to the new setting.

Enough judging myself for now. After the round Vinay and I went to see the city. We went to Catalunya Plaza which is at the heart of Barcelona. Lots of tourists in that area. We walked all the way to the waterfront where we saw the Columbus Monument. Here are some pictures. The first few are from the Columbus Monument and the lions next to it, with some (hopefully) familiar faces.

The next picture is of the Plaza.

The next photo is of the famous Shakira water fountain. I apologize if it’s a disappointment that I am in the picture instead of her.

Then we went to the closing ceremony, which took place at 7.30pm, after playoffs were played for the first 8 places in case of a tie. Clear first place winner was 21 years old GM Maxim Rodshtein from Israel. I have known Maxim for about 14 years now, from my days back in Israel. A very classy guy. Maxim fully deserved to win the event and showed a class different from his opponents.

Next are IMs Ilya Khmelniker and Ilya Sidorenko from Israel.

Then there is IM Leonid Gerzhoy from Toronto.

This might be my longest post so far. I apologize if I have bored you to a sleepy state;)

I need to get some sleep now. I will be making my way to Nuremberg for my next tournament tomorrow.


6 Responses to Round 10- back to business

  1. FM Seth H says:

    On the contrary, Mark! Your post was not long enough! We need the moves to the game. 🙂

    Hope you feel better soon and start playing the kind of chess you want to.

  2. I copy pasted the wrong version of the game. My opponent resigned after my 38th move, as shown in the most recent edit.

  3. Sam says:

    Great blog Mark. We are all pulling for you in Canada and hope you cross that 2700 mark soon!

  4. Denton Cockburn says:

    I know your standards are much higher, but I think you did well at 7/10. Yes, there’s mistakes, but dude, you haven’t played seriously in a long time! I like the advice GM Spraggett was giving, that you keep studying while playing. What does someone at your level even study anyway? (other than say, theory). Regardless, I think once you are playing a lot again, the sharpness will return.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: