Part 1: Rounds 1-4

I arrived to Bastia on October 23rd. The organizers had arranged for me to by picked up from the airport. Viktor Bologan and I got a ride to our accommodations, which were different, probably in every way possible.

I was put in a place called Maison Saint Hyacinthe. To say the least, it is a special place. A lot of photos are to come later. The place is a Polish Monastery. It was certainly different. After such a long trip, the quality of the place did not concern me too much. I soon realized that the place is in complete isolation.

The organizers were having a small dinner with some of the GMs. The dinner was at a very nice Bastian restaurant in the middle of the city. This is where I met the main organizer, Leo Battesti. The Wikipedia page does not do Leo justice, but everybody who knows him knows how professional he is about everything he does. Leo has made Corsica chess crazy. Leo got chess inside the curriculum of the Corsican school system. The dinner was a very nice one.

After the dinner it was time to get some rest before the first round, which came on the following day.

Round 1

I was to play Cyril Humeau, rated 2237, with black. It’s always important to start off strong. Below is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.24”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Humeau”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B08”]
[PlyCount “104”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.24”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. h3 O-O 6. Be3 a6 7. Bd3 b5 8. O-O
Bb7 9. e5 Nd5 10. Nxd5 Bxd5 11. a4 b4 12. c4 bxc3 13. bxc3 Nd7 14. exd6 cxd6
15. c4 Bxf3 16. Qxf3 e5 17. Qc6 exd4 18. Bf4 Be5 19. Bh6 Re8 20. f4 Rc8 21. Qf3
Bg7 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. Qd5 Qf6 24. f5 g5 25. Rad1 Nc5 26. Bb1 d3 27. Bxd3 Nxa4
28. Rd2 Nc5 29. Bc2 Rcd8 30. Rfd1 Re3 31. Qc6 Qe5 32. f6+ Qxf6 33. Rxd6 Rxd6
34. Qxd6 Re1+ 35. Kh2 Rxd1 36. Qxd1 Qf4+ 37. Kh1 Qxc4 38. Qd8 h6 39. Qd1 Qc3
40. Kh2 a5 41. Kh1 Ne6 42. Bb3 Nd4 43. Bd5 Nc2 44. Bxf7 Kxf7 45. Qd7+ Kf6 46.
Qd6+ Kf5 47. Qxh6 Nd4 48. Qh7+ Kf4 49. Qd7 Ke3 50. Qe7+ Kd3 51. Qxg5 Qe1+ 52.
Kh2 Nf3+ 0-1

I decided to play the Pirc in this early round. My guess is that it’s annoying to play against it without preparing for it. Everybody remembers what to do against the Sicilian and Ruy Lopez nowadays, but the Pirc is somewhat forgotten.

This is the first crucial point in the game. White finally expanded with 9.e5. The move might be a bit premature. I decided to play 9…Nd5 and keep all the pawns on the board for now. 9…dxe5 would have been very interesting. 10.Nxe5 does not look very natural. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to win the position after 10.dxe5 Nd5 11.Be4 Nxe3 12.Qxd8 Rxd8 13.Bxb7 Nxf1 14.Bxa8 Nd2 15.Nxd2 Rxd2 16.f4. Not too many pieces left on the board in the final position and the opposite coloured bishops will always give black realistic hopes for a draw.

It’s important to put a lot of pressure on the opponents. Only under pressure can opponents make mistakes. This is exactly why I was happy to be play 16…e5. Now white has a lot of options and needs to play precisely to stay in the game. My opponent continued with 17.Qc6? exd4 18.Bf4 Be5, where I had a pawn for close to nothing. It was important to play 17.Qd5 or 17.Be4 and the position is close to balanced due to some tactics.

The main line I had to calculate in this position is 32.f6+. 32.Rf1, threatening f6, was also a possibility. My opponent instantly played 32.f6+, after which followed 32…Qxf6 33.Rxd6? Rxd6 34.Qxd6 Re1+ 35.Kh2 Rxd1 36.Qxd1 Qf4+, and I picked up the second pawn. My opponent should have played 33.Rf1 Qe6 34.Rdf2, where he is able to maintain some pressure. On my part, 34…Qxd6 35.Rxd6 Rc3, where I pick up a second pawn and my opponent’s bishop is in serious trouble.

I am winning in many different ways here. I am simply up a piece. It’s never a bad idea to save time and play a pretty combination, as long as it works. My opponent resigned after 52…Nf3+! The idea behind the move is that I will manage to take the f3 pawn, exchange queens, and then queen on a1 before my opponent queens on h8. Here is a possible variation: 53.gxf3 Qf2+ 54.Kh1 Qxf3+55.Kh2 Qf2+ 56.Kh1 Qe1+ 57.Kh2 Qd2+ 58.Qxd2 Kxd2 59.h4 a4 60.h5 a3 61.h6 a2  62.h7 a1Q.

Decent game. Not really an indicator due to the large difference in strength. The Pirc got me a relatively easy win against a much lower rated player. Things are only to get tougher though…

Round 2

This would be the only day with two rounds. This game started in the morning. I was to play an IM rated 2371 with white. Most important thing on this day was to have enough energy for both games.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.25”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Braeuning”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “D07”]
[PlyCount “81”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.25”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. d5 Ne5 5. f4 Nd7 6. e4 Nb6 7. a4 a5 8. Be3 e6
9. Bxb6 cxb6 10. Bxc4 Bb4 11. Bb5+ Kf8 12. Nf3 Nf6 13. O-O Bxc3 14. bxc3 Nxe4
15. c4 exd5 16. cxd5 Bg4 17. Qd4 Bxf3 18. Rxf3 Qf6 19. Qxf6 gxf6 20. Rc1 Nd6
21. Rc7 Rd8 22. Bd7 Rg8 23. Rb3 b5 24. axb5 b6 25. Rbc3 Ne4 26. Re3 Nc5 27. Bc6
Kg7 28. Ree7 Rgf8 29. Kf2 f5 30. Kg3 Rd6 31. Kf3 Rh6 32. Be8 Rf6 33. d6 Rxd6
34. Bxf7 Kf6 35. Bc4 h6 36. Rh7 Kg6 37. Rcg7+ Kf6 38. Rg3 Rd4 39. Rxh6+ Ke7 40.
Rg7+ Ke8 41. Rxb6 1-0

This game was not exactly smooth. I chose a very sharp line and things got tactical fast.

Going into this position, I thought I would have a lot of good options. Things are not so easy though, even with the black king on f8. My b5 bishop is quite badly placed. I will always have weak dark squares. I decided to sacrifice a pawn with 13.0-0 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Nxe4 15.c4. I got strong pressure, probably enough compensation for a pawn but certainly not much more.

My opponent offers to trade queens. This trade will certainly make black’s defense easier. I happily accepted with 19.Qxf6 gxf6 (On Nxf6 20.d6 would have been strong) 20.Rc1, and here my opponent could have equalized with 20…Rd8 21.Rc7 Rxd5 22.Rxb7 Kg7. My opponent landed in trouble quickly.

Since the last diagram, I really had my way on the board. All of my pieces are active, while black’s king and rooks are stuck and can’t get out. But positions are not won just based on how active one’s pieces are, they are won on what you can do with those pieces. In my opponent’s time trouble I also wanted to force the issue and make him solve some hard problems. I played 32.Be8 Rf6 33.d6 Rxd6 34.Bxf7 Kf6 35.Bc4. My opponent’s pieces are all tied up. A few moves later we reached the position below.

I played the very natural 39.Rxh6+? Ke7 40.Rg7+ Ke8 41.Rxb6, threatening Rb8 mate. At this point, my opponent lost on time. He went to the washroom after the 40th move, believing we get 30min after the first time control. One problem, there is no time added on. The final position is completely winning for me. So why was 39.Rxh6+ a mistake? Well, I could have ended things right away by playing 39.Rhg7 or 39.Rh3, with mate or a massive loss of material being unavoidable for black. How does that stuff happen? Well, I was very focused on my winning idea… I forgot there were others. Happens, but not great.

I didn’t feel like I played this game well. I was missing some variations and my overall state was no great during this game. Added to this, I had another game to worry about later in the day.

I had a lot of time between rounds, and Igor Kurnosov and I asked Leo for a ride to our monastery and back, so that we can get some proper rest. Leo made it happen and we were able to get away from all the people and all the noise. Things would get harder later that day…

Round 3

Upon getting up from my rest, I found the pairings. I was to play black against GM Fressinet, the current French champion, and the top seed in the tournament at 2718. I wished I could have played him on one of the others days, but I would try to make the most of it! At least I have been getting used to playing 2 games a day;). Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.25”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Fressinet”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “101”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.25”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nbd2 O-O 5. a3 Be7 6. e3 d5 7. Bd3 b6 8. O-O
Bb7 9. b4 c5 10. bxc5 bxc5 11. Rb1 Qc8 12. cxd5 exd5 13. dxc5 Nbd7 14. Nb3 Nxc5
15. Nxc5 Bxc5 16. Bb2 Ne4 17. Rc1 Qd8 18. Nd4 Rc8 19. Qg4 Qf6 20. Rc2 Qg6 21.
Qd7 Qb6 22. Rfc1 Rfd8 23. Qg4 Bf8 24. h3 Rxc2 25. Rxc2 Rc8 26. Qe2 Rxc2 27.
Qxc2 Qa5 28. Qc1 h6 29. Nf3 Ba6 30. Bb1 Qc5 31. Qxc5 Nxc5 32. Bc2 Bd3 33. Nd4
a6 34. Bc3 Ne4 35. Bb4 Bxb4 36. axb4 Bxc2 37. Nxc2 Kf8 38. Nd4 Ke7 39. f3 Nc3
40. Nc6+ Kd6 41. Nb8 Nd1 42. Nxa6 Nxe3 43. Kf2 Nc2 44. Ke2 Kc6 45. Kd2 Nd4 46.
Nc5 Kb5 47. Nd3 f6 48. Kc3 Ne2+ 49. Kd2 Nd4 50. Kc3 Ne2+ 51. Kd2 1/2-1/2

I decided to play the 3…Bb4+ line for the first time since Oakham 2000, if I recall correctly. I got into some serious trouble early on. There was definitely the fear that the middle game would not last too long for me.

In this position, I’m in trouble. All of white’s pieces are well placed and there is the fear that there is too much aiming at my king. Fortunately for me, Laurent played 20.Rc2? Qg6 21.Qd7 Qb6, after which I was able to equalize as you will see below. White missed the very strong 20.Bxe4 dxe4 21.Ne6! Qxb2 22.Nxf8 Kxf8 23.Rb1!, where black is probably just lost. Black can complicate things a bit by not playing 22…Kxf8, but I would still be in great trouble.

We reached the position above. All of my pieces are tied down and there is always the threat of me getting mated. I played 23…Bf8!, after which white is not that happy. g7 is permanently defended, and I am thinking about throwing in Qxb2 and sacrificing the queen for some pieces with mate threats on the first rank. Of course, taking on c8 three times does not work because the bishop is hanging on b2.Bf8 saved the day and consolidated my whole position in one move.

We landed in this harmless looking endgame after trading all the heavy pieces. The position is very close to equal, but because white is playing against the isolated pawn he will claim that his position is more comfortable and he will never risk losing. I was hoping to exchange some pieces to simplify the game and help my king come into the center. I was feeling exhausted at this point. What is interesting to see is how white tries to get something out of nothing, a skill that becomes very evident with world class players. White played 32.Bc2 Bd3 33.Nd4 a6 34.Bc3 Ne4 35.Bb4 Bxb4 36.axb4 Bxc2 37.Nxc2. I was happy to get into a knight endgame where I knew that my king is coming into d6. I also knew that the d5 pawn is not weak because the white king has to worry about his own pawns on the king side.

White hunted down my a6 pawn, but I was very happy in this position. I assume that white missed my idea. 41…Nd1! (grabbing the e3 pawn) 42.Nxa6 Nxe3 43.Kf3 Nc2? If I would want to play for a win, I should have played 43…d4. I was completely exhausted though, and I could see the finish line with 43…Nc2, and I knew that I would make the draw there… After defending for the whole game and playing the second game of the day, I was very happy to know a draw is close.

I felt like I played this game very poorly. That’s chess, you can play very poorly and have a great result. Of course, my opponent did not have a good game either. Looking at his other games from the event shows his true colours. I was happy to be done with the two rounds that day.

Round 4

At around noon on the day of the round, Igor Kurnosov and I went down from the mountains of the Monastery to a place where we saw life. It was about a 30min walk downhill, and we knew we would find stores when we got down to the water front, since we saw it on the bus. We were not happy with what we found. Both grocery stores in that neighborhood were closed. All the restaurants were closed. We were able to find a bakery that was open and bought some things from there. We were hoping to buy water, which we were able to buy from the only open “bar” around. I am not judging the area here, but just saying that it’s a very unfriendly place for tourists who can’t get basic things in the middle of the day.

Already before the game I was leaning towards moving into the city… It seemed like the right thing to do for my chess. I felt that staying at the monastery was affecting my play. It was cold in the rooms. The heating did not work, and it was probably around 15 degrees in the room during the night. I had trouble sleeping under two think blankets. There was internet at the monastery. One internet cable for the whole monastery, which was permanent in the common room.

Another bad thing about the monastery was the commute. It is place 8km away from the playing hall, up in the mountains. Beautiful scenery, but that’s it. We had to leave on a bus an hour before the game started, to make a 15min trip. Most serious chess players, including myself, need to relax before the game with their own routine. This completely destroyed any routine for me. Being stuck in the city with 45min to kill wasted energy and did not help concentration.

It might sound like I am making excuses for what’s to come, but I was not playing well in rounds 2 and 3, but was very fortunate to score as many points as I did. In this game, my opponent punished me for my bad play.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.26”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Shchekachev”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “56”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.26”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Nf3 e5 8. d5 a5
9. Be2 Nc5 10. Nd2 Bd7 11. O-O h6 12. Be3 Nh7 13. Qc2 Qh4 14. Nf3 Qe7 15. Qc1
f5 16. exf5 gxf5 17. Nh2 Ng5 18. f4 exf4 19. Rxf4 Rae8 20. Bd4 Nxh3+ 21. gxh3
Bxd4+ 22. Rxd4 Qg7+ 23. Kh1 Qxd4 24. Qxh6 Re7 25. Bh5 Rg7 26. Nf3 Qf6 27. Qf4
Nd3 28. Qe3 Nxb2 0-1

In the position above, I made the most obvious move possible. I castled. That was a bad choice and I should know better. This system with h3 allows white to delay castling by keeping the possibility of playing g4 and a king side attack. Anyways, I played 11.0-0, but should have probably preferred something like 11.b3 c6 12.0-0, because once black has already committed himself to c6, I am no longer scared of a king-side attack. My opponent played 11…h6 12.Be3 Nh7!, where the attack which comes after f5 is not very pleasant. My position is probably still not worse, but it looks easier to play for black.

In this position I played 15.Qc1, hoping to force 15…h5 16.Ne1/Nd2, where black will not be able to recapture on f5 with the pawn because of the hanging h5 pawn. My opponent played the strong 15…f5! 16.exf5 gxf5, where 17.Bxh6 is very dangerous due to the attack that comes after 17…f4. I should have probably preferred 15.Nb5, creating some problems for my opponent on the queen side.

I had just played 20.Bd4?, the losing mistake. I saw the winning combination right when I played the move. 20…Nxh3+ 21.gxh3 Bxd4+ 22.Rxd4 Qg7+. After that, the game was simply over.

I played a bad game. Credit needs to be given to my opponent as well, as he played a great game. But my bad play had caught up with me. I was miscalculating a lot and for this reason I ended up in serious trouble in the middle game, after which I just missed an easy tactic.

I was thinking about moving that night, but it did not work out. I was making arrangements to move after the next round though… Accommodation was to change. But would my play?

A lot of people will say that the accommodation doesn’t matter. Sure, they are right. If you are doing something where you don’t need to be at 100%, then it really doesn’t matter. In that case sleep might not matter either. But when playing chess, serious players give it their all. To be able to give it our all, we need to not be at a competitive disadvantage. Staying so far away from the playing hall, having to live in bad conditions, and commuting a long time before the games makes play harder on people. People play worse under those conditions. This was not just the case in my own play. This was also the case in Igor Kurnosov’s play. Igor is rated over 2650, and he was struggling with his play throughout the tournament.

Physical and psychological state at a tournament has everything to do with how people perform. People often underestimate its importance.



2 Responses to Part 1: Rounds 1-4

  1. Denton Cockburn says:

    In round 1, the only move I can’t understand is 30…Re3. Was the point of the move to get the queen on e5 and force a rook trade on e1? Even that doesn’t make sense to me (probably too simplistic). What were you thinking around that move? While black was clearly better, it didn’t look winning at that point…

  2. In any position, the point is to improve one’s position. At that specific point, I was up a pawn. But I can’t force the issue, I can’t just push my a-pawn because I am having trouble with the d-pawn. It is clear that my knight is better than white’s bishop. But with so many pieces on the board, my knight is unable to show it’s superiority. If we trade all the heavy pieces off the board, white could just resign. That’s why, it makes sense to trade at least one pair of rooks on e1, which makes it easier for me to defend the d6 pawn and maybe even allows me to make progress with the a-pawn. With less pieces on the board, the knight’s domination is easier to prove. There was also the psychological aspect of creating some problems for my opponent. Another argument for the plan is the simpler, “what else could I have done?” There is no easy answer to that question.

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