Day 3- rounds 4 and 5

I felt good going into the 4th round. My first three games went pretty smooth, and I watched as some of the GMs were shedding points. For example, top rated GM Jonny Hector, rated 2592, lost in the 2nd round. This meant that I would actually spend rounds 3-7 on top board! It appears like a lot of tournaments have the “top rated player curse”, which GM Hector suffered from.

I knew that my 4th round game would be much tougher, as I was playing IM Zaragatski, rated about 2490. I looked at some of his games, and he looked like a good player on the rise. He plays the Benko pretty much exclusively. Some of you might remember what happened last time I played against the Benko. So did I at the time. I thought about getting away from anything mainline early on, but my brain told me to just go for it. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.04”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Zaragatski”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “127”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.04”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 g6 6. Nc3 Bxa6 7. Nf3 d6 8. g3
Bg7 9. Bg2 Nbd7 10. Rb1 O-O 11. O-O Ne8 12. Re1 Bc4 13. a4 Nb6 14. e4 Bxc3 15.
bxc3 Nxa4 16. Ra1 Nxc3 17. Rxa8 Qxa8 18. Qc2 Ne2+ 19. Rxe2 Bxe2 20. Qxe2 Qa1
21. Qc2 Nf6 22. Nd2 Ra8 23. Bf1 Qa4 24. Qxa4 Rxa4 25. f3 Nd7 26. Nc4 f6 27. f4
Ra2 28. Be3 Kf7 29. h4 Rc2 30. Bf2 Rc1 31. Kg2 Rb1 32. g4 Nb6 33. Nxb6 Rxb6 34.
Kf3 h6 35. Be3 Rb1 36. Be2 Rh1 37. Bf2 Ra1 38. e5 Ra3+ 39. Be3 Kg7 40. e6 Ra4
41. Bb5 Ra3 42. g5 hxg5 43. hxg5 fxg5 44. fxg5 Kf8 45. Ke2 Ra2+ 46. Bd2 Ra3 47.
Bd3 Kg7 48. Be4 Kh7 49. Bc1 Ra2+ 50. Kd3 Kg7 51. Bd2 Kh7 52. Bc3 Ra3 53. Kc2
Ra4 54. Bd3 Rg4 55. Bf6 c4 56. Be2 Re4 57. Bxe7 Rxe2+ 58. Kc3 Re5 59. Kxc4 Kg8
60. Kd4 Rf5 61. Bxd6 Rxg5 62. Be7 Rg1 63. d6 Re1 64. d7 1-0

Everything up to my 16th move was preparation. I think I had actually prepared 16.Qc2. But when the position came on the board I started liking Ra1, and so after about 20min of contemplation, I played it. I really liked how it put immediate pressure on my opponent. In hindsight, 16.Qc2 Qa5 17.Ra1 may have been better, since it just maintains the pressure, and black’s pieces are quite disorganized.

My opponent immediately thought for about 30min, if not more, and came up with the long line where he gets a rook and a pawn for my two light pieces. I thought the position would just be better for me, and completely risk free. I was completely wrong in the evaluation of the position. Of course, I am not worst. But I might not be better either. My opponent has no weaknesses, and it is absolutely unclear as to how to break through.

I started playing very accurately for the next few moves. 23…Qa4 brought out a critical point in the game, do I exchange those queens? I really didn’t want to. But Qd3 runs into Qd4. Qb1 runs into Qd4 as well, where suddenly my pieces are very badly places. So I decided to exchange the queens and consolidate. After 26…f6, my opponent’s position is VERY solid. I don’t want to let him play Ne5, since my two bishops are useless in a closed position like this. They can’t work together.

After 31…Rb1 I had no choice but to let the knight into b6. But I had been making progress with my pawns, and thought it would be a decent time to exchange the knight and hope for a breakthrough. I was also playing against my opponent’s time pressure and was happy that I had threatening moves like e5 coming up.

I thought that 38.e5 was crucial, as I was trying to breakthrough my opponent’s position. I underestimated how solid black’s position is. 40.h5 was a better winning attempt, freeing up the f5 squares the the king and also making h6 a chronic weakness in black’s position. After the continuation in the game, the winning attempt could have been a very short one. 40.e6 is extremely committing. But I had my reasons, I thought that I would play g5 and create a weakness out of g6 and then get my dark squared bishop on the long diagonal. With ideas like Bf6 flowing in those positions, I thought I could find a crack in black’s fortress.

My 41st move was a conscious waste of time. It was intended to be a waste of time. I wanted to make it look like I was going to e8 with my bishop, when I really wasn’t. Black has nothing to do in this position. I wanted my opponent to think some more. I don’t think I ever mentioned the time control for the event yet. It is 90min for 40moves, and then 15min for the rest of the game, with 30sec increment added from the first move.

After the 40th move, my opponent had 15min. I wanted him to spend it as soon as possible. Time is on my side, I don’t need to think about anything except for a winning attempt. And so I made the “make him think” move, in 41.Bb5. A bit of psychology to confuse the opposition…

42.g5 was an attempt to fix g6 as a weakness. I was hoping that my opponent would take twice on g5, and he did just so. But if he would have played f5, potentially followed by h5, it looks like I have no way to breakthrough. If I could get my bishop to e8 and the other bishop to the long diagonal, I would be set. But that’s a far-fetched plan, which I probably would not achieve. The idea of black playing f5 and h5 also fixes my h4 and f4 pawns as weaknesses, which I was scared of during the game.

My opponent did not see what I was aiming for with g5. I was quite happy with the position after 44…Kf8. I thought that if I can execute the plan of getting my bishops on d3 and c3, black would be in serious trouble, since if the king goes to h7, I have ideas revolving around Bf6.

That’s exactly what happened. My opponent should have played 50…Rh2, attempting to harass my king and bishop from the h-file. After my 54th move, I had my eyes on the prize. Bf6 is coming.54…Rg4 is the losing move. My opponent should have preferred the passive defense offered by Ra7. I still get my bishop to e8 through b5 though, where my position should still be winning after all. A possible line is 54…Ra7 55.Bf6 Rb7 56.Ba6 Ra7 57.Bb5 Kg8 58.Be8. Note, with the black king on h7, Bd7 is threatened.

54…Rg4 required some precise calculations on my part. The idea is simply, I sacrifice the d3 bishop and capture the e7 and d6 pawns. If I can keep the black king out of the game, my d-pawn cannot be stopped. This is exactly what happened in the game.

So far, this might have been my best game on the trip. It was a long battle, with a good finish, against a good opponent. The game lasted about 4.5 hours. I had very little time before the next round, which started an hour an the half after my finish. After a quick lunch I had the opportunity to lie in bed for about 15min, after which it was time for a shower and straight to the game.

Round 5

I came to the 5th round exhausted. I felt very drained after the long game I had just finished. I had a few minutes to prepare, which was somewhat useless. More time in bed just relaxing may have served a better overall purpose. I just didn’t have the energy I would like to have in the opening, and some of the choices were made with a blurry mind. I was to play GM Kunin, rated about 2530, with black.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.04”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Kunin”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “73”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.04”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. h3 Qe7 8. Bg5
Bg7 9. e3 O-O 10. Nd2 b6 11. Bd3 Ba6 12. Bxa6 Nxa6 13. Nde4 Nc7 14. Qf3 Nce8
15. Nd2 h6 16. Bh4 Nc7 17. O-O b5 18. Nde4 g5 19. Bg3 Rad8 20. Nxf6+ Bxf6 21.
e4 Bxc3 22. bxc3 f5 23. exf5 Qf7 24. a4 b4 25. cxb4 cxb4 26. Rac1 Nxd5 27. Rcd1
Nc3 28. Rxd6 Rxd6 29. Bxd6 Qxf5 30. Qh5 g4 31. Qxf5 Rxf5 32. hxg4 Rg5 33. f4
Rxg4 34. Bxb4 Ne2+ 35. Kf2 Rxf4+ 36. Kxe2 Rxb4 37. Rf6 1/2-1/2

I offered a draw to my opponent after my 7th or 8th move, not sure which one. It was a practical decision, to help me in the remainder of the tournament. Of course, I had seen the position before. I was exhausted. I knew that it would be extremely hard to play well in this condition. I wanted the round off to regain energy for the next round. My opponent declined, which is a respectable decision. It was good to know he wanted to beat me.

I liked my 10…b6 idea, since in the crammed position of the benoni, I generally need to exchange one light piece to avoid my pieces running into one another.

My opponent decided to tie me down with 13.Nde4, which I did not mind. His pieces look just as awkward as mine, which is why he retreated.

16…b5 looked more energetic, where I put immediate pressure on white’s position, before he is even castled. The way I played also seemed logical however.

I didn’t play 20…Qxf6 because it seemed drawish after 21.Qxf6 Bxf6 22.Ne4 Be7 23.Nxc5 dxc5 24.Bxc7 Rxd5 25.Rfd1 Rxd1 26.Rxd1 Rc8, where my opponent can’t play Rd7 because I play Bf6 and continue by pushing my c-pawn. 27.Be5 looked equal to me. I thought that in the game I can push for an advantage.

I should have played 21…b4 22.Nd1 Rfe8 23.a3 Bd4, where it is not clear how white is to proceed, as his pieces are very scattered. 21…Bxc3? was a very bad move due to which I have a lot more clear weaknesses. It was hard to give away my bishop, which is often the ace in the benoni, but I thought I would break white’s position apart.

24.a4! was crucial to white’s play. I saw the move, but did not realize how powerful it is. I did not realize how much trouble I was getting myself into with the next few moves, and should have probably chosen 24…Qxf5 25.Qxf5 Rxf5 26.axb5 c4!, where I am close to saving the game.

I was playing for some tricks. Not great tricks, but they are still tricks. Of course, I had hoped for 30.Bxf8 Qxf3 31.gxf3 Kxf8, where white has to sacrifice the rook for the b-pawn. However, 30.Qb7 and 30.Qe3 give white a clear advantage, where I am only struggling for a draw.

I was very happy when my opponent played 30.Qh5, and I thought that I was close to forcing a draw with g4. I calculated 31.Qxh6 Rf6 32.Qd2 gxh6 for a long time, and it looks like black is the one fighting for a win at that point. My reply to 31.Qh4 would be 31…Qg5!

I would answer 32.Bxb4 with 32…Ne2+ 33.Kh2 g3+!, where it is only black fighting for a win, with white’s awfully placed king. So my opponent decided to force a draw, as he did in the game.

Overall, I was a bit unhappy with the game. The result is fine, but I could have found myself in a lot of trouble. My calculations at some stage of the game were not great. I was really tired after the 4th round. But I fought through it and was able to force the draw.

I was still tied for first, and I knew that the next round would bring forward another GM. But this time I would be running on some sleep, which sounded like a great idea. To that point, this was the most tiring “chess day” on the trip.

An interesting story away from the chess board now. The night of Day 2, I bought 3 big bottles of water at a gas station, confirming with the woman working there that it had “no gas”. When I came to the room, I found out that they all in fact were bottles of sparkling water. I went back there, to find that the gas station was closed at 10.30pm.

The next morning, about 10min into my fourth game, I was waterless at the game. I went to the tournament cafeteria, which is free to the players, at least the ones with food/drink vouchers, such as myself. I could not find any natural water. Jochen Galsterer, one of the organizers, saw that I was puzzled. He asked me what I was looking for, and helped me in the search for natural water. He could not find it either.

He then bluntly said that he would bring me a bottle of water to the board. About 5min later, I had a 2L bottle of natural water with a glass sitting on my side of the board. This is not a big deal, I agree. But these things add up. The organizers of the event were doing everything possible to accommodate the players. Throughout the tournament, all of the organizers worked tirelessly to help the players. Sure, they don’t make good moves on the board for you, but they make the environment much better. More about that later though, in the tournament summary.

4.5/5 now, tied for first. One day and two rounds left, I knew it would be a tough last day. I looked forward to it.


7 Responses to Day 3- rounds 4 and 5

  1. Denton Cockburn says:

    I’m surprised at how many of your wins come down to outplaying opponents in the endgame. It makes me think that maybe I really should sit down and read through Dvoretsky’s endgame manual. What tournament are you playing in next?

  2. Vinay Bhat says:

    The organizers don’t give water away that freely in Spain. And if they did, they’d remind you to put it on the ground instead of on the table. =)

  3. Paul Leblanc says:

    Hi Mark. Just a quick note to thank you for keeping us up to date on your progress. I really appreciate the games and the thought you put into your comments.

  4. Just discovered your blog this week. Thank you for your excellent commentary on these games. I will have to go through your archives at some point. And I will be following along.
    Best wishes,

  5. SchuBi says:

    Hi, Michael!
    The website of the LGA Premium Cup contains the games of Round 6 and 7

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