Part 2: Revival- Rounds 5-7

I understood quite well that with my play from the first four rounds, it’s very unlikely that I would be able to make it to the knock out stage of the event. That would be a big disappointment for me. I knew that I needed at least 2.5/3 to qualify into the top 14, maybe even 3/3.

Round 5

I was to play FM Nikolaidis Konstantinos, rated 2318, with the black pieces. These games are not to be taken lightly, and I was hoping to somehow change my poor form. To prepare psychologically, I was reading a book all the way up to the start of the game, to try to get myself in a more focused state of mind. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.27”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Nikolaidis, K.”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A40”]
[PlyCount “64”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.27”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 b5 6. Bg2 d6 7. e4 Nbd7 8. Ne2
g6 9. O-O Bg7 10. h3 O-O 11. g4 b4 12. a3 a5 13. axb4 cxb4 14. Be3 h5 15. Nd4
hxg4 16. hxg4 Ne5 17. f3 Ba6 18. Rf2 Nc4 19. Bc1 Qb6 20. Nc6 Bb5 21. Ne7+ Kh8
22. Bf1 Rfe8 23. Nc6 Nxe4 24. fxe4 Rxe4 25. Qf3 Re1 26. Qh3+ Kg8 27. Bg5 Rae8
28. Kg2 Ne3+ 29. Bxe3 R8xe3 30. Qh4 g5 31. Qxg5 Bxf1+ 32. Rxf1 R1e2+ 0-1

I decided to play this sharp early b5 version of the benoni for the first time in my life. It’s risky, but I needed a win. I thought it would also serve as a good surprise weapon.

In this position my opponent played 11.g4?, instead of rationally developing his bishop with Be3. The game continued 11…b4 12.a3 a5 13.axb4 cxb4, and I got a lot of piece activity soon after.

I really wanted to sacrifice a piece on g4 here. But I just couldn’t make it work. 17…Nfxg4 18.fxg4 Nxg4 forces white to give up the dark squared bishop. There is clear compensation for the piece, but nothing forced. I thought, quite correctly, that my position was clearly better as it is, so no sacrifice, at least not this time! I continued with 17…Ba6 18.Rf2 Nc4 19.Bc1, where white’s queen side looks very awkward.

White has one active piece, his knight. I am trying to get rid of it. All four of white’s queen side pieces are in their place of birth. After calculating a lot of variations I decided to play 23…Nxe4 and sacrifice the piece. Things seemed to work in calculations. It is also very hard to play this position for white after the sacrifice. The game continued 24.fxe4 Rxe4 25.Qf3 Re1 26.Qh3+, after which white’s position is close to lost. It was necessary for white to play 25.Bd3 to try to get rid of the annoying pressure caused by the rook on e4.

It’s time for the final blow. All of my pieces are in the game and it feels like I should be able to finish the deal. A cute combination does the trick. I continued 28…Ne3+ 29.Bxe3 R8xe3 30.Qh4 g5 31.Qxg5 Bxf1+ 32.Rxf1 R1e2+, after which my opponent resigned, not letting finish with the cute 33.Rf2 Rg3+, followed by a forced mate.

Pretty good game. It’s not always about the moves one makes, the way a player feels during the game is just as important. I felt good for the first time in the tournament. I did not miss any tactics and my sense for the position was good throughout.

I was to move to a hotel in downtown Bastia after the round. That was a serious adventure. My friend, Fiona Steil-Antoni, reserved a room for me at a hotel called Hotel Bonaparte. It is a nice family style hotel. Nothing too fancy. The room is warm (that was a selling point). It’s a 10min walk from the playing hall.

But getting there was horrible, since I had to go to the monastery and pick up my belongings. I came with the usual shuttle bus at 10.15pm. I found the reception to be closed. Nobody who works there was up. Great. So then I looked for a phone. I somehow assumed that the common room at least had a phone. But as usual with the monastery, I was surprised. I could not find a phone anywhere.

I tried to stay rational and not walk for about an hour and the half, mainly on a road without a normal sidewalk, with my luggage. So I waited for Fiona to come online to get her to call a taxi. I was able to catch her online soon after, and she ordered me the taxi. From there everything was smooth, and I didn’t have to see the monastery again.

A few chess players wanted to stay at the monastery for the tournament. After one night, they left to go live in a better place. It took me longer, but I got out. Some of the other GMs were placed in the monastery with me, and they handled it quite well. Nobody said a kind word about the place though. A part of the building still exists from the 18th century… A nice place to see, not a great place to live in.

I was happy to be out!

Round 6

After leaving the monastery, I had no excuse to play badly! I was paired with GM Mikhail Ivanov, rated 2438, with white. Once again, this felt like a must win. A loss would certainly take me out of the chase for the top 14.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.28”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Ivanov, M.”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “115”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.28”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be3 e5 7. d5 a5 8. h3 Na6
9. Nd2 Nd7 10. g4 f5 11. gxf5 gxf5 12. exf5 Ndc5 13. Nde4 Bxf5 14. Bg2 b6 15.
Qe2 Nb4 16. Bxc5 bxc5 17. a3 Na6 18. O-O-O Qh4 19. Rd3 Bh6+ 20. Kb1 Kh8 21. Bf3
Rg8 22. Rdd1 Raf8 23. Bg4 Bg6 24. Ka2 Rf4 25. f3 Ra8 26. Qe1 Qe7 27. Ka1 Nb8
28. Nb5 Be8 29. Ng3 Bg6 30. Qe2 Qd8 31. Bh5 Nd7 32. Bxg6 hxg6 33. Rdg1 Nf8 34.
Ne4 Qe7 35. h4 Rd8 36. Rg4 Rd7 37. Rxf4 exf4 38. Qd2 Qe5 39. Qxa5 Bg7 40. Rh2
Qh5 41. Ng5 Bf6 42. Qd2 Nh7 43. Ne6 Qxf3 44. Qxf4 Qd1+ 45. Ka2 Be5 46. Qd2 Qg4
47. Qe2 Qg3 48. Rf2 Qxh4 49. a4 Re7 50. a5 c6 51. dxc6 Rxe6 52. c7 Re8 53. Nxd6
Qxf2 54. Qxf2 Bxd6 55. Qf7 Ra8 56. Qd7 Rxa5+ 57. Kb3 Bxc7 58. Qc8+ 1-0

I was surprised that my opponent played the King’s Indian against me, I prepared for some other openings. So I decided to surprise right back with 6.Be3, a move that I had only played once before, against IM Raja Panjwani, last year. I just wanted to take him out of preparation with another rare sideline. It certainly got him thinking…

Black’s pieces are coming out fast. Black will take on f5 with the bishop and have threats on the light squares. It’s important for me to try to take control of the important e4 square. The game continued 13.Nde4 Bxf5 14.Bg2. Here my opponent made a mistake by playing 14…b6 instead of the natural Qe8-g6 maneuver, which puts pressure on e4 once again and brings the queen to an ideal square. I gladly consolidated by playing Qe2 and castling long.

Black got the two bishops and the open b-file. It might look promising but in reality black finds himself in a positional hole. The knight on a6 can’t get out. White’s knight is fixed on e4, and the other knight might eventually come to b5. In an endgame, the white king might go on a chase after the lonely a5 pawn. Added to this, I might have my own attack on the king side. It’s very hard to find a good plan here for black. My opponent played 18…Qh4! A strong move, since it stops me from playing h4 and freeing up my pieces even more.

I have improved the placement of my king and bishop, but black’s position is solid. It’s not easy to breakthrough. One thing needs to be clear about this position, it’s rock solid for white. Tempo here or a tempo there are not going to change much. I played the interesting 27.Ka1!?. For one thing, it confused my opponent. But my king does appear to stand better on a1, avoiding Nb4+. And my opponent did just play Ra8, so I am getting him to abandon his original plan of throwing Nb4+ in somewhere. This type of a move has an interesting psychological effect. My opponent immediately played 27…Nb8 28.Nb5 Be8 29.Ng3, where black still has trouble getting the knight out.

The black knight came back to life but I was able to exchange the light squared bishops. My bishop wasn’t very strong, but my opponent’s was very powerful annoying. It’s clear that my opponent is living on the edge in this position, and his pieces are badly coordinated. This looked like a perfect time to grab that a5 pawn. I played 37.Rxf4 exf4 38.Qd2 and just grabbed the pawn. In the endgame, my passed a-pawn should be the difference.

All of white’s pieces are still well placed, so it looks like a perfect time to start pushing my a-pawn, as it’s only five moves from queening. After I played 49.a4!, my position is easily winning. The game continued 49…Re7 50.a5 c6 51.dxc6 Rxe6 52.c7 Re8 53.Nxd6, winning a lot of material.

This was probably my best game of the tournament. It was a long battle, and it was good to come out on top. A lot of the moves were strategically sound, and that was good to see. I felt great before and during the game.

Round 7

The interesting thing about the tournament system is that it doesn’t matter whether you finish 1st or 14th after 7 rounds, the top 14 players qualify into the knock out and then a re-seeding occurs, based on rating. And so, I just needed to qualify. Nobody knew whether 5/7 would qualify, that would be based on players’ tiebreaks. 5.5 was in for sure. Both players are playing for the win, but appear to be satisfied with the draw in this last round situation.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.29”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bokros, A.”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “86”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.29”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Qe2 Qe7 6. d3 Nf6 7. Nc3 Qxe2+ 8.
Bxe2 Be7 9. O-O c6 10. Re1 Na6 11. a3 O-O 12. h3 Nc7 13. Nd4 Re8 14. Bf3 Bd7
15. Bf4 Ne6 16. Nxe6 Bxe6 17. Ne4 Rad8 18. Nxf6+ Bxf6 19. c3 d5 20. d4 Bd7 21.
Kf1 Kf8 22. Bd6+ Be7 23. Bf4 Bf6 24. Bc7 Rxe1+ 25. Rxe1 Re8 26. Bd6+ Be7 27.
Bxe7+ Rxe7 28. Rxe7 Kxe7 29. Ke2 h6 30. h4 g5 31. hxg5 hxg5 32. Ke3 f5 33. g3
Kd6 34. Be2 Be6 35. f4 g4 36. b4 b5 37. Bd1 a6 38. a4 Bd7 39. axb5 axb5 40. Bc2
Bc8 41. Bd3 Bd7 42. Bc2 Bc8 43. Bd3 Bd7 1/2-1/2

I played the solid Petroff and my opponent chose a safe line. My ideas of playing c6 and Na6 did not have the effect of spicing up the position, and soon pieces just kept coming off the board.

At this point it became quite clear that I should be driving the position towards equality. If I am not careful here then I might get into some trouble. Best way to equalize is exchange more pieces. I played 15…Ne6 16.Nxe6 Bxe6, and soon after, the other pair of knights was also exchanged.

I decided to go into a light squared bishop endgame here, by exchanging everything else on the e-file. Even though I have a lot of pawns on the light squares, the endgame will be too blocked by pawns in the center for white to try to make any progress. The game continued 22…Be7 23.Bf4 Bf6 24.Bc7 Rxe1+ 25.Rxe1 Re8 26.Bd6+ Be7 27.Bxe7+ Rxe7 28.Rxe7 Kxe7. After closing the position up, no progress could be made.

Dead draw.

The final standings after the first seven moves can be found here.

I qualified for the knock out, and that’s all that mattered at that point. More on that in part 3.



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