Day 4-rounds 6 and 7: success followed by disappointment

I came into the 6th round tied for first. I found myself in the middle of the action going into the last day of play. I was to play GM Prusikin, rated about 2520, with white.

I approached the game as a must win. In one of the main decisions that I made before this year, I was going to go big or go home, so to speak. This actually becomes more obvious in the game. Here we go.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Prusikin”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “121”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.11”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Bd6 7. c5 Be7 8. b4 b6
9. Nf4 a5 10. Bb2 c6 11. Bd3 Ba6 12. O-O Bxd3 13. Nxd3 Nbd7 14. Rc1 Qb8 15. f3
axb4 16. axb4 Rd8 17. Kh1 bxc5 18. bxc5 e5 19. Qc2 exd4 20. exd4 Re8 21. Ra1
Qc7 22. Rxa8 Rxa8 23. Bc1 Nf8 24. Bf4 Qc8 25. g4 Ne6 26. Be3 g6 27. Rb1 h5 28.
Ne5 hxg4 29. fxg4 Nd7 30. Nxg6 fxg6 31. Qxg6+ Ng7 32. Bh6 Bf8 33. Rf1 Qe8 34.
Qxc6 Kh7 35. Bd2 Rd8 36. Bg5 Rc8 37. Qxd5 Qe6 38. Qe4+ Kg8 39. Re1 Qc4 40. Qd5+
Qxd5+ 41. Nxd5 Kf7 42. Ne7 Rc7 43. Rf1+ Ke8 44. Nd5 Rc8 45. Nf4 Kf7 46. h4 Ne6
47. Nxe6+ Kxe6 48. Rf5 Bxc5 49. dxc5 Nxc5 50. Kg2 Ne4 51. Bf4 Nf6 52. Re5+ Kf7
53. Kf3 Ra8 54. Bg5 Ne8 55. Re7+ Kg6 56. Rb7 Ra3+ 57. Be3 Nf6 58. h5+ Nxh5 59.
gxh5+ Kxh5 60. Rb6 Ra6 61. Rxa6 1-0

I was not playing the opening very accurately. I had not prepared this line as my opponent generally does not play the Nimzo Indian. But I felt confident, I had just played this line with black against Shulman last year, where I found out about a lot of the nuances in the position.

Yes, the first diagram on my blog! It took me some time to figure out how to do it better, but here we are. The position above arose after my opponent’s 13th move. I remember that after playing Shulman, he said that white shouldn’t be exchanging any pairs of rooks, since that makes black’s job easier. So I decided to play 14.Rc1. 14.f3 might have been more accurate, in an attempt to not allow e5 in the near future. In simpler terms: Rc1 is too slow.

My opponent offered me a draw after playing 18…e5. I know that I bashed my opponent offering me a draw in the 3rd round of the tournament. I can’t do the same with this offer, since it had a lot of merit. The position is about equal, and my opponent is a pretty good GM. Most of all, this is the first round of the day, so a quick draw would give us a good break before the last and critical round. Anyways, I am playing for a win. I didn’t think about the offer for too long. We are here to play!

This position arose after black’s 24th move. It’s unclear how to breakthrough black’s position with normal measures. With the knight coming into e6, the position looks about equal. So I thought about it, and made a conscious decision to play a dubious move, 25.g4. It shouldn’t be good, my opponent has no weaknesses. But the move puts a lot of pressure on black to do something more than just develop his pieces peacefully. 25.Rb1 Ne6 26.Be3 Nd7 will even make the Karpovs of the world yawn.

I was very happy as to what had happened in the moves after g4 until we got to this point. The balance is gone, and white has some sort of an initiative. I went into this line thinking about nothing but Nxg6. Of course, I had to spend a lot time calculating it. Instead of my opponent playing 29…Nd7 (from f6) he should have preferred Nf8, consolidating his position. This is where the fireworks started, with me playing 30.Nxg6!

This is exactly what I was aiming for. I have four pawns for the piece, and black’s pieces are all very passive at the moment. But if black plays Ne6, he will have no problems in life. So it is time to tie black even more. I played 42.Ne7! Rc7 43.Rf1+ Ke8 44.Nd5?!. 44.Ng6! should have been preferred and the game could have continued with 44…Ne6 45.Re1 Kf7 46.Nh8+ Kg7 47.Rxe6 Kxh8 48.c6, which is just winning for white. In the game, I had my own idea for tying up my opponent’s pieces, and it worked quite well.

In this position, it is important to notice that I am not moving the bishop because it is ideally placed. The idea never even came to my mind. The knight and rook are the pieces I maneuver to try to contain black as much as possible.

In this position, black can only move his g7 knight. I can keep advancing my h-pawn otherwise. My opponent played 46…Ne6 47.Nxe6 Kxe6 48.Rf5! and the position should be winning. I am threatening mate with 49.d5. On 48…Nb8 I can even play the very patient 49.h5! where black’s position is completely immobile. 47.c6 Nb8 48.d5 Nxg5 49.Ne6+ was winning even faster.

The endgame that ensued should be winning, and it was a matter of technique from here. It might take time, but black can’t do anything to stop my pawns. Patience is key, and the first order of business is getting the king into the game in a position like this. 50.Kg2. Most players would make that move without any thought. It is importance to notice that I can exchange rooks or the bishop for the knight, and my position would still be winning.

Then came time for the final punch. It looks like black’s king is trapped, but it is unclear how to go for the kill. The line 58.h5+ Nxh5 59.Rb6+ Nf6 60.g5 is not winning because of 60…Rxe3+ followed by Kxg5. I had something else in mind, as I played 58.h5+ Nxh5 59.gxh5 Kxh5 60.Rb6! With black being unable to stop mate. A pretty finish to a very long game.

Round 7

Going into the last round I was in clear first place. Much like the day before, I only had about an hour and the half between rounds. I went back to my room, refueled on chocolate in an attempt to re-energize myself, lied in bed for about 30min, showered and it was game time.

I was paired with GM Ftacnik, rated about 2560, with black. Out of all the players in the event, I had the most respect for Lubomir. I had played Ftacnik in 2001 or 2002, when he was still rated over 2600. He was in the top 100 in the world for about 10 years back in those days. He had been a world class player. In recent times, he has been on a bit of a decline. But I also knew that in the last round of an event, world class is world class. I knew that a draw would guarantee me a tie for first, and almost certainly give me first on tie break. Ftacnik drew his morning game quickly, so I knew he was better rested. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Ftacnik”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “107”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.11”]

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. e3 Bg4 5. Nc3 e6 6. h3 Bxf3 7. Qxf3 Nbd7 8. Bd3
Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Rd1 a6 11. a3 Qc7 12. Bd2 dxc4 13. Bxc4 c5 14. Ba2 cxd4 15.
exd4 Nb6 16. Bf4 Qd7 17. d5 Nfxd5 18. Nxd5 Nxd5 19. Bxd5 exd5 20. Rxd5 Qe6 21.
Rad1 b5 22. Bd6 Bxd6 23. Rxd6 Qe5 24. Qxa8 Rxa8 25. Rd8+ Qe8 26. Rxe8+ Rxe8 27.
Rd6 Kf8 28. f4 Re2 29. b4 Re6 30. Rxe6 fxe6 31. Kf2 Ke7 32. Ke3 Kd7 33. g4 Ke7
34. Ke4 Kd7 35. Kd4 Kc6 36. Ke5 Kd7 37. h4 Ke7 38. h5 Kf7 39. Kd6 Kf6 40. Kc5
e5 41. g5+ Kf5 42. fxe5 Kxe5 43. Kb6 Kf5 44. h6 g6 45. Kxa6 Kxg5 46. Kxb5 Kh5
47. Kc4 g5 48. Kd3 Kh4 49. b5 g4 50. b6 g3 51. b7 g2 52. b8=Q g1=Q 53. Qf4+ Kh5
54. Qe5+ 1-0

I decided to play the Slav, something very solid in the last round. I realized the day before that benoni positions are hard to play on the second round of the day. I misplayed the opening a bit. 8…Bd6 was probably preferable, simply putting the bishop on a better square and also allowing for a later Qe7. Chess can be that simple.

We got a very interesting and playable position. 14…b5! 15.Rac1 c4 would have been very interesting. It’s a more active plan of action, as opposed to my idea which let the dark squared bishop out of its cave. 14…cxd4 was an attempt to simplify the position a bit more.

This was a critical moment in the game. If white does not play d5, I put a knight on that square, and life should be at the very least, bearable with play. Lubomir played 17.d5! putting pressure on me. I saw the idea when I forced the isolated pawn, but I can’t say that I was too scared of it. I thought that I can gradually equalize by bringing my pieces into the game.

This was another critical position. My opponent played 24.Qxa8. I consider the move a mistake. I think 24.b4 would have put more pressure on me, and I was more worried about that during the game. The next few moves are forced.

The moment of truth. Rook endgame, 5 versus 5, should be drawn. But precision is needed. That’s what I lacked at this point. The very simple 28…Re3! 29.Rxa6 Rb3 forces a draw. I am pretty sure we would have signed the score sheets soon after, had I played this one precise move.

Instead I played 28…Re2 29.b4 Re6??. 29…a5 would have still saved a draw with 30.bxa5 Re4! 31.a6 Ra4 32.Rb6 Rxa3 33.Kf1 b4. White has absolutely no way to breakthrough in that position without exchanging the queen side pawns. A draw would have been agreed to there as well.

29…Re6 really looks like an attempt to lose the game. The endgame is tough. I didn’t realize how tough the endgame really is. Something in my mind was very blurry at this point, but I thought that the pawn endgame should be drawn.

33.g4 was a mistake, as it commits the pawn 2 squares too early. This gave me a chance to draw the game.

This was a critical point in the endgame. I can play Kc6 and Kd6. 35…Kc6 loses the game, but 35…Kd6 36.h4 Kc6 37.Ke5 Kd7 38.Ke4 Kd6 appears to draw the game. My opponent played very accurately to win the game from now on.

This was the final position in which I resigned. I can’t go anywhere with the king without white exchanging the queens, and then the black king cannot catch up to the a-pawn.

Tough way to finish the tournament. I led the event for 6 rounds, but not 7. This game was a tough lesson. It’s hard to draw too many lessons from the second round of the day however, during which I felt a lot worse than sub par. I would have drawn the game if I had been in a better state of mind. But my opponent might have played better himself.

It’s useless to live in “would haves” and “should haves”. I lost the game. But I got 2nd place on tiebreak. I can only assume that my tiebreak was the best in the tournament, after leading the event for 6 rounds and playing 5 out of the top 13 finishers in the event! It was a stiff competition for me.

If you would have told me before the tournament that I would finish second, I would have been happy, especially considering my result in Barcelona. If you would have told me the same thing before the last round, I’d be furious. I guess I am somewhere in the middle right now.

A consolation prize is my rating gain. Overall, I gained about 3 points of rating, after losing 4 in Barcelona and winning 7 in Nuremberg. I am not big on caring too much about my rating but in this world that is the only criteria to judge chess strength.

I hope you liked the diagrams. You have GM Michael Bezold to thank for them. Yep that’s right, that’s the organizer from Nuremberg. He let me know that the diagrams would be helpful and a good idea. After such a well run event, I would have trouble disappointing him!

To follow is a trip summary. This will just be a summary of both events, hopefully with a lot of pictures! The two tournaments will be compared… My play will be criticized, etc…

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5 Responses to Day 4-rounds 6 and 7: success followed by disappointment

  1. hylen says:

    Good game in round 6.

    I like the diagrams.

  2. gerando says:

    This is getting better and better. I followed the games live, and it was thrilling. The ending against Ftacnik was difficult to defend. Was b5 necessary?

  3. weng siow says:

    Dear Mark,

    Am enjoying your blog very much. In fact recommended it on my blog which is aimed at Australian chess juniors.

    Re Diagrams, http://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-diagram-generator.php, provides you with diagrams as well. After compisng the diagram and clicking generate, I ususally just copy “Just the image” from pure html and paste taht into the blog.

    For re-playable games, see http://chessflash.com/chessflash.html, it takes game score in pgn (which you already have if you entered your game for engine analysis) and annotations. Note: put variations in “( )” and annotations in “{ }”. { } can be placed between ( ) as well to generate annotations within variations.

  4. Very good game 6, nice mate! Good luck at the Olympiad.

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