Rounds 1-4: 0-1

I reached Moscow on February 6th, a couple of days before the start of the tournament. I was hoping that my week break in Brussels between the tournaments would give me some energy. I was excited about the strength of the tournament because it’s hard to find it anywhere else.

It was nice to see relatives that I haven’t seen since 2005 upon my arrival. A nice dinner with them was a good start to the trip. I also knew that some Canadians would take part in the tournament. Canada’s newest Grandmaster, Thomas Roussel-Roozmon, would also play in my section. Antoine Berube would play in the B-Group. Victor Plotkin of Toronto would play in the C-Group. Canadian Doug Sly also played in the C-Group.

The tournament took place in the Izmailovo Complex. Those who have never traveled to Moscow might be shocked by the atmosphere. People smoke anywhere. Restaurants, hallways, washrooms and other indoor places appear to be fair game. For the Canadians, this was not too pleasant.

One of the only bright spots of the tournament was the high level of players in the A-Group. I knew I would be paired up in the first round and there would be no easy games. Time for the action. Photos and other descriptions to come in a later post.

Round 1

I was paired against GM Andreikin, rated 2689. Andreikin is a 20 year old who is close to making it to the Elite. I haven’t played a player this high rated since Corsica.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.08”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Andreikin”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “66”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. Ng3 c5 8. dxc5
dxc4 9. Qc2 Qa5 10. Bxc4 Qxc5 11. Bd3 Nbd7 12. O-O Ne5 13. Be2 b6 14. f4 Ng6
15. b4 Qc7 16. Bb2 Bb7 17. Rac1 Rac8 18. Qb3 Qb8 19. f5 exf5 20. Nxf5 Bd6 21.
Nxd6 Qxd6 22. Rf2 Qe7 23. Bf3 Bxf3 24. Rxf3 Rfd8 25. Rcf1 Rd3 26. e4 Rxf3 27.
Rxf3 Ne5 28. Rg3 Qd6 29. Nb5 Qd2 30. h3 Nh5 31. Rc3 Rd8 32. Kh2 h6 33. Qc2 Nf3+
0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. Ng3 c5 8. dxc5 dxc4 9. Qc2 Qa5 10. Bxc4 Qxc5

This is where I started to go wrong. 11. Bd3? An innocent looking move, but a mistake nonetheless. 11.Be2 was more appropriate. The Bishop is better placed on e2 because it does not fall under attack after black eventually plays Ne5 and it has easier access to f3. Added to this, it closes the d-file from d3. All this being said, I expected my opponent to put his knight on e5 and I had my own intentions. 11… Nbd7 12. O-O Ne5 13. Be2 b6 14. f4?! This is the aggressive intention I had in mind with my 11th move. However, I should have preferred the more subtle 11.b4 Qc7 12.Bb2 with simple development and a position that is about equal. I decided to force the issue. 14… Ng6 15. b4 Qc7 16. Bb2 Bb7 17. Rac1 Rac8 18. Qb3 Qb8 19. f5 The break that I was aiming at all along. I felt that the activity of my pieces would compensate for the worse pawn structure. 19… exf5 20. Nxf5 Bd6

Black has been playing very logically and now attempts to create problems with his two sharp shooting Bishops. 21. Nxd6 21.g3 or 21.h3 are not too appealing when thinking about the long-term safety of my King. 21… Qxd6 This was a critical moment. I felt that the two Bishops should be giving me sufficient play, but my e3 pawn is a horrible weakness and I might have some future problems with the safety of my King. My Queen on b3 is poorly placed as well. The logical 22.Nb5 is punished by 22…Qd2. 22. Rf2 The correct solution was 22.Rcd1 Qe5 23.e4!? Nxe4 24.Nxe4 Qxe4 25.Rf2, where White gives away the pawn but his pieces are firing on all cylinders. Suddenly, the position is not easy to play for Black. 22… Qe7 23. Bf3 Bxf3 24. Rxf3 Rfd8 25. Rcf1 Rd3 26. e4 Rxf3

27. Rxf3 It’s always hard choosing the lesser of two evils. Chess is no exception. 24. gxf3 was an interesting alternative, where White does not have to worry about the e4 pawn but has to change his attention to the safety of his King.  27… Ne5 28. Rg3? After games like these, it’s hard to explain to myself as to why I chose the g3 square for my rook instead of the far more logical f1 square. I had underestimated my opponent’s reply. 28… Qd6! 29. Nb5 Qd2 30. h3 Nh5 31. Rc3 The losing move, 31.Bxe5 Qe1+ 32.Kh2 Rc1 33.Rxg7 Nxg7 34.Qd3 would have left white with some hope.

31… Rd8! White is left with no moves 32. Kh2 h6 With less than a minute remaining on the clock to find a move that did not exist, I lost on the spot. 33. Qc2 Nf3+ 0-1

Well played game by my opponent. For the first time in a while, I felt the strength of my opponent. I was punished for my mistakes with full force. A very well executed game by Black. I need to put up better resistance. My aggression in the opening backfired after some accurate moves by my opponent.

Round 2

I was paired against WGM Pogonina in this round, rated 2472 and ranked #27 on the Women’s rating list (far higher than Andreikin’s 47th seed for both genders). I wanted to put pressure on my opponent early on in the game and did just that in the opening.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.09”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Pogonina”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “124”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3 a6 5. a4 Bg7 6. h3 O-O 7. Nf3 b6 8. Bd3 Bb7
9. O-O Nbd7 10. Qd2 e5 11. Bh6 exd4 12. Nxd4 Nc5 13. Rfe1 Re8 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15.
Qf4 Nh5 16. Qg4 Qf6 17. Nf3 Nf4 18. Re3 Nfxd3 19. cxd3 Ne6 20. Rae1 c5 21. R3e2
Bc6 22. Nd5 Bxd5 23. exd5 h5 24. Qc4 Nc7 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Rxe8 Nxe8 27. Qb3
Qf4 28. Qc4 Qf6 29. Qb3 Qf4 30. Qxb6 Qxa4 31. d4 c4 32. Kh2 Qb5 33. Qd8 Kf8 34.
Qc8 a5 35. Nd2 Qxb2 36. Nxc4 Qxf2 37. Nxa5 Qxd4 38. Qa8 Qe5+ 39. Kh1 Qe4 40.
Nc6 Qxd5 41. Qc8 Qe6 42. Qd8 Kg7 43. Qh4 d5 44. Qd4+ Nf6 45. Ne5 Qf5 46. Nf3
Kh7 47. Ne5 Nd7 48. Nf3 Kg8 49. Kg1 Qe4 50. Qb2 Nf8 51. Qb8 g5 52. Qg3 Qe3+ 53.
Kh1 Ne6 54. Qd6 d4 55. Ne5 Qc1+ 56. Kh2 Qf4+ 57. Kg1 g4 58. hxg4 hxg4 59. Qb8+
Kg7 60. Qb5 g3 61. Nd3 Qe3+ 62. Kf1 Nc5 0-1

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3 a6 5. a4 Bg7 6. h3 O-O 7. Nf3 b6 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Qd2 e5

We reached a standard position out of the Pirc. White has not played ambitiously and does not have an advantage 11. Bh6?! White should not aim to exchange this Bishop. 11… exd4 12. Nxd4 Nc5 13. Rfe1 Re8 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. Qf4 Nh5 Trying to create white some problems and also forcing the Queen to choose a square.  16. Qg4 Qf6 Black has grabbed the initiative. 17.Nf5 Kh8 does not bring any good to White’s position. The Queen is awkwardly placed on g4. 17. Nf3

17… Nf4 The simple 17…Bc8 18.Qg5 Qxg5 19.Ng5 Bb7 would have given Black good prospects as White has to worry about her e-pawn in the near future. 18. Re3! I underestimated this move and reacted in a forcing manner. 18… Nfxd3 18…Bc6 would have kept White under pressure. 19.Nh4 Kh8 20.Rf3 g5! would not be good for white. 19. cxd3 Ne6 20. Rae1 c5 21. R3e2 Bc6 21…Rad8 was more accurate, where I would not have to trade both pairs of rooks after 22.Nd5. 22. Nd5 Bxd5 23. exd5 h5 24. Qc4 Nc7 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Rxe8 Nxe8 I went into this endgame thinking that Black is not risking anything. That is the correct evaluation. 27. Qb3 27.d4! Nc7 28.dxc5 bxc5 29.Qb3 would have equalized.  27… Qf4 28. Qc4 Qf6 29. Qb3 Qf4

Interesting little dance. It looks like we have been repeating moves and it’s not easy for either side to play for a win. As I found out with White’s next move, both players want more than just half a point. 30. Qxb6? 30.Qc4 would have been answered with 30…g5!, where Black is still the one objectively fighting for a win. 30… Qxa4 White’s double d-pawns guarantee some suffering. 31. d4 c4 32. Kh2? White is already on the ropes but something similar to 32.Qc6 Qb5 33.g3 was necessary to try to hold on. 32… Qb5! 33. Qd8 Kf8! Black is winning at least a pawn. 34.Ng5 is answered with the calm 34… Qxg5 35.Nh7+ Kg7. 34. Qc8 a5 35. Nd2 Qxb2 36. Nxc4 Qxf2 37. Nxa5 Qxd4 38. Qa8 Qe5+ 39. Kh1

White is down a pawn and all her pieces are awkwardly placed. 39… Qe4 One of the winning moves. White cannot untie without losing the d5 pawn. 40. Nc6 Qxd5 The rest is easy. 41. Qc8 Qe6 42. Qd8 Kg7 43. Qh4 d5 44. Qd4+ Nf6 45. Ne5 Qf5 46. Nf3 Kh7 47. Ne5 Nd7 48. Nf3 Kg8 49. Kg1 Qe4 50. Qb2 Nf8 51. Qb8 g5 52. Qg3 Qe3+ 53. Kh1 Ne6 54. Qd6 d4 55. Ne5 Qc1+ 56. Kh2 Qf4+ 57. Kg1 g4 58. hxg4 hxg4 59. Qb8+ Kg7 60. Qb5 g3 61. Nd3 Qe3+ 62. Kf1 Nc5 0-1

This was an important win. Going into this round I knew that I had lost my last 3 games with Black against 1.e4. I didn’t think too much of it and went back to the Pirc. After getting a good position out of the opening I played with some uncertainty in the middle game as I didn’t capitalize on my opponent’s mistakes. I played the endgame with a lot of precision.

Round 3

With 1/2 points I was paired against GM Vitiugov, rated 2709. I knew my opponent was as strong as they come. I was looking forward to the challenge. I also expected that my Nimzo would be tested once again by a top level player.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.10”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Vitiugov”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “72”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. Qb3 a5 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 Bb7 8. e3
Nc6 9. Bd3 a4 10. Qc2 a3 11. b3 Be7 12. O-O O-O 13. Qd2 Nb4 14. e4 d5 15. Bxf6
Bxf6 16. e5 Be7 17. Rfe1 dxc4 18. bxc4 Bxf3 19. gxf3 Bg5 20. Qd1 Bf4 21. Ne2
Nxd3 22. Qxd3 Bxe5 23. Rad1 Bd6 24. f4 Ra5 25. Kh1 Qf6 26. Rg1 Bxf4 27. Rg4 Bd6
28. f4 Rd8 29. Ng3 Bxf4 30. Qf1 Bg5 31. Qg2 Qe7 32. d5 f5 33. Rgd4 Rf8 34. d6
cxd6 35. Rxd6 Re5 36. Qf3 Re1+ 0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. Qb3 a5 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 Bb7 8. e3 Nc6

Everything has been pretty standard up to this point. White has more space and comfortable placement of his pieces. Black has a hidden idea. 9. Bd3? Missing the significance of my opponent’s idea. 9.a3 a4 10.Qc2 Bxc3 11.Qxc3 would have offered white good chances for an advantage. 9… a4 10. Qc2 a3! With the pawn on a3 Black will always have some play on the queen side. White can’t say the same. The idea looks harmless at first but is positionally strong. 11. b3?! Better was 11.0-0!, allowing Black to increase White’s number of pawn islands but still opening the position in a way that would make sense for White’s pieces. 11… Be7 12. O-O O-O 13. Qd2 Nb4

14. e4 Still trying to play for the advantage. It is hard to meet Black when he plays d5 and c5 with easy play for him. Now it becomes clear that the fixed a2 pawn and the possession of the b4 square for the Knight is unpleasant for White. I chose the active plan. 14… d5 Black creates concrete problems for White to solve. This is where I start collapsing. 15.exd5 exd5 16.Rfe1 dxc4 17.bxc4 maintains roughly a balanced position.  15. Bxf6 Bxf6

White needs to play precisely to hold on. 16. e5 Be7 17. Rfe1? White’s position is very difficult after this move. 17.Be2 was necessary to better connect the White pieces. 17…dxc4 would be answered with 18.bxc4 c5 19.Nb5. 17… dxc4 18. bxc4? The position is close to resignable after this move. 18.Bxc4 would offer better resistance but Black is clearly better after 18…c5. 18…  Bxf3 19. gxf3 Bg5! I did not realize how strong this idea is.  20. Qd1 20.f4 Nxd3 is just down a pawn. 20…Bf4! Black’s Queen is ready to get in on an attack.

21. Ne2 Nxd3 22. Qxd3 Bxe5! Black is up a pawn and has a far superior pawn structure. I try to complicate the matter with “hopes” of an attack but the outcome is never in doubt. 23. Rad1 Bd6 24. f4 Ra5 25. Kh1 Qf6 26. Rg1 Bxf4 27. Rg4 Bd6 28. f4 Rd8 29. Ng3 Bxf4 30. Qf1 Bg5 31. Qg2 Qe7 32. d5 f5 33. Rgd4 Rf8 34. d6 cxd6 35. Rxd6 Re5 36. Qf3 Re1+ 0-1

A disappointing loss. Losing to stronger opposition is a big part of learning. There are different ways to lose to good players though. In this game, much like in round 1, I just collapsed under pressure. There was not much of a battle. I know I can play better and this was the disappointing part. I made it easy for my opponent. The good thing is that I was to play Black next (I have never said that before).

Round 4

I was paired against another female player, in 19 year old up and coming WGM Wenjun Ju, rated 2514. My opponent surprised m as early as the first move with an uncommon (for her) 1.c4.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Ju, Wenjun”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “92”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bg2 Nb6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8.
a3 O-O 9. b4 Be6 10. d3 a5 11. b5 Nd4 12. Rb1 f6 13. Nd2 Qc8 14. e3 Nf5 15. Qc2
a4 16. Ne2 Rd8 17. e4 Nd4 18. Nxd4 Rxd4 19. Bb2 Rd6 20. f4 Qd7 21. Rf3 Qxb5 22.
Bxe5 Rc6 23. Qd1 Bb3 24. Nxb3 fxe5 25. Na1 Qc5+ 26. Kh1 Rd8 27. fxe5 Qxe5 28.
Rf5 Qd4 29. e5 Rc3 30. Be4 g6 31. Qg4 Rxd3 32. Rff1 Rd2 33. Rbe1 Rf8 34. Qe6+
Kh8 35. Bg2 Bxa3 36. h4 Rdf2 37. Rxf2 Qxf2 38. Rf1 Qc5 39. Rxf8+ Qxf8 40. Nc2
Bc5 41. Ne1 Qe7 42. Qxe7 Bxe7 43. Bxb7 a3 44. Nc2 Bc5 45. Kg2 a2 46. Kf3 Bd4
0-1

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bg2 Nb6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. a3 O-O 9. b4 Be6 10. d3 a5 11. b5 Nd4 12. Rb1 f6 13. Nd2 Qc8 Everything up to this point is standard and has been played before. 14. e3 Nf5 15. Qc2 a4 16. Ne2 Rd8 17. e4 Nd4 18. Nxd4 Rxd4 19. Bb2 Rd6 20. f4 Qd7 21. Rf3

Things are about to get much sharper. 21… Qxb5! This move gives Black a clear advantage. 22. Bxe5 Rc6! My opponent might have underestimated the strength of this resource. 23. Qd1 Bb3?! 23…Qa5 24.Bb2 Bg4 was stronger. The advantage is also clear in the game. I decided to go for the clear positional advantage instead of the material one. 24. Nxb3 fxe5 25. Na1! Resourceful. The only square where the Knight does not get in the way and prepares to come to c2 at a later time. 25… Qc5+ 26. Kh1 Rd8 27. fxe5 Qxe5 28. Rf5 Qd4 29. e5 Rc3 30. Be4 g6 31. Qg4

Everything has been pretty smooth up to this point but now it’s time to get my last piece into play. 31…Nd7!, threatening Nxe5 would have given Black a clear advantage after 32. Rf4 Qxe5. 31… Rxd3? 32. Rff1 The position would have been a mess after 32. Nc2! Rd1+ 33.Rf1, as White has strong hopes of an attack. 32… Rd2 33. Rbe1 Rf8? 33…Qc4 would have paralyzed White’s position, leaving her with no good resources. 

34. Qe6+? The mistakes continue to flow in. 34.Nc2! Rxf1+ 35.Rxf1 Qd7 36.e6 Qb5 would have been an unclear mess once again. 34… Kh8 35. Bg2 Bxa3! The Bishop is now safe from being attacked. The position is winning, with Black having two extra pawns and White not having any counter-play due to the Knight on a1. 36. h4 Rdf2 37. Rxf2 Qxf2 38. Rf1 Qc5 39. Rxf8+ Qxf8 40. Nc2 40.Bxb7 Bb2 41.Nc2 Kg7 would not improve White’s chances but would temporarily improve the pawn count. 40… Bc5 41. Ne1

41… Qe7 42. Qxe7 42.Qa2 would have prolonged the game but without changing the evaluation. 42… Bxe7 43. Bxb7 White grabs the pawn but will have to give away her Knight for the strong a-pawn. The rest was simple. 43… a3 44. Nc2 Bc5 45. Kg2 a2 46. Kf3 Bd4
0-1

It was good to get this win and continue the trend of Black winning my first four games (!) of the tournament. It’s something that has never happened to me before. The opening worked out very well but then I had my middle game struggles. I gave my opponent opportunities to get back into the game instead of finishing her off. That is something to work on.

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Tata Steel Chess Tournament Wrap-Up

I was not happy with my result in Wijk aan Zee. After starting the tournament with a strong 3/4 I broke down after losing a drawn endgame in the fifth round against the eventual winner, GM Vocaturo. It was a tough pill to swallow. Losing such an important game to the tournament leader, while hoping to fight for first place, was not easy. It stayed in the back of my mind for some time.

The tournament involved a lot of ups and downs. Opening weaknesses were clear. I had problems playing with Black against 1.e4. I lost three games in three different openings there. I did not have similar problems against 1.d4. I was not playing with urgency in my losses in the Sicilian and Pirc. That will definitely be something to work on and look into.

The tournament was one of the tougher ones of my career. I went in with high expectations. This tournament was different from others in two main ways. A very long time control is implemented for the event at 100min/40moves + 50min/20moves + 15min/rest of the game, as well as 30sec added from the first move. The same time control was used in my next tournament in Moscow. The time control made the game much longer but also increased the level of play in a lot of games. The tournament also lasted 13 rounds. I have not played 13 games in a tournament in a very long time (I cannot recall the last time). Three rest days made the tournament even longer, but allowed for the players to maintain a high level of energy, as it allowed the players to relax. It’s always nice to finish such long tournament well and I was fortunate to do just that here. Two wins to finish the event put me in a tie for fourth.

I’ve had some time to reflect on my experiences in Wijk aan Zee since the tournament has ended. I have even had the time to play in another tournament since then. My impressions remain the same. The Tata Steel Chess Tournament is the best organized chess tournament I have ever witnessed. The organizers took care of absolutely everything. It was an extraordinary event, with great treatment and a phenomenal atmosphere. The level of competition was also strong all around. It was a pleasure to have the best chess players in the world playing just meters away.

Now to the lighter side of the wrap-up. I previously wrote about the soccer match played during the first rest day. I thought it would be a good addition to have my chosen MVP write a short summary of the match. Magnus’ summary below shows he has more talents than just chess and soccer:

“On a cold and windy day, in Wijk aan Zee, nine bold chessplayers came to play. Soccer was the game, and Smeets was to blame, for the Dutch defeat, it was such a shame. He missed every shot, and lost the plot. And neither was Hammer the man to jot the ball in the net, and with great regret, he had to concede that Carlsen was great, his brilliance was such, that it must have been fate. And thus ends the tale of a beautiful game, and the four brave young men who could victory claim.”

Magnus did not attempt to show much modesty in his amusing summary. I would also recommend to check out GM Jon Ludvig Hammer’s Blog for another entertaining summary of the soccer match, as well as a lot of other entertaining material.

Now to some of the photos.

Roeland Pruijssers trying his luck at blow-karting.

Anish Giri finished with his own adventure but still wearing the helmet. Talking to Robin Van Kampen and Fred Lucas.

The Playing Hall.

Audience looking at the Invitational Groups. You can see the walls painted beautifully, specifically for the tournament.

C-Group fridge. Drinks provided. We were never thirsty.

Your own before the 12th round.

Last round Media. Have you seen anything like this before? I haven’t.

The winner of the A-Group, GM Hikaru Nakamura, at the Closing Ceremony.

The four top finishers in the A-Group brought on stage. From left to right: Anand, Carlsen, Aronian and Nakamura.

The North Americans at the Dinner Banquet after the Closing Ceremony.

Local Restaurant.

Chess clocks beside the wine in a local restaurant. Only in Wijk aan Zee.

I’d like to thank Peter Doggers of Chessvibes for sending me the photos below.

Anish Giri blow-karting.

I was dressed warmly for the same experience. It was a lot of fun!

Pruijssers-Bluvshtein.

With this post, my report of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament comes to an end. I would like to thank Peter Doggers for helping me get into the event. I would like to thank Jeroen van den Berg and the whole organizing committee for inviting me to play in the event and making it such a spectacular tournament. I would also like to thank my hosts at the Villa ‘t Haasduin Bed and Breakfast, Eduard de Haas and Willemien de Haas, for making my stay very enjoyable. I would recommend the home like accommodation to anybody who is planning to go to Wijk aan Zee (and do not pass on the Danish pancakes!).

There Is No Place Like Home

I got back to Toronto yesterday afternoon. Toronto is “warm” by comparison to Moscow. It’s great to be back after my five week trip. It will be important to rest up before leaving for my next tournament. I hope to have my upcoming tournament schedule fixed within the next week.

To come is a summarizing post about the Tata Steel Tournament which will include, among other things, photos not seen before. Then I will provide tournament coverage of the Aeroflot Open event which finished on Wednesday. I started the tournament ranked 52nd and was paired up the first round!

I will be giving a lecture at the Annex Chess Club on Monday, February 28th. I would recommend to check out the video on the front page of the site, entitled Chess Is Awesome. Details of my lecture can be found here. I look forward to seeing many of you come out and enjoy the good atmosphere of the ACC!

 

 

Moscow

I arrived to Moscow yesterday afternoon. I had the pleasure to have dinner with relatives that I have not seen in a few years. I was feeling tired after traveling from Brussels as I went to sleep. I feel very energized after a 12 hour hibernation.

You can follow the action of the 2011 Aeroflot Open here. The Opening Ceremony takes place tonight. The first round takes place tomorrow at 3pm, Moscow time. I am going to meet up with Thomas Roussel-Roozmon later today. I have not seen Canada’s newest Grandmaster since he had achieved the title at the Olympiad.

My coverage of Wijk aan Zee is not fully over just yet. To come are game analysis from Hikaru Nakamura, photos, and a summary of the event. All of these features will come after I am back home.

I would recommend people to check out Jon Ludvig Hammer’s Blog. Hammer always writes in an entertaining fashion, the same way he is in real life.

Time for an exciting tournament. It’s going to be 9 rounds of top level competition!

Third Free Day and Rounds 11-13

Third Rest Day

This would be the last free day in Wijk. It was time to mix up the rest day activities. Blow Carting (aka Land Sailing) was organized on the beach in the afternoon. The instructors were headed by Arlette Van Weersel, who did not let us fall (too many times). It was a nice addition to the side events. Where else would you go Blow Carting? I have never heard of the activity before. There was a good turnout among the young players from the invited GM Groups. Great photos of this event are to come at a later date.

Round 11

I was paired against Mark Van der Werf for this round with the White pieces. I was hoping to bounce back into the positive scores. I felt relatively confident about my play with the white pieces so far. Things looked good in the early going.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.28”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Van der Werf”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “173”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.27”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Nge2 b6 6. a3 Ba5 7. Rb1 Na6 8. g3
Bb7 9. d5 b5 10. Bg2 bxc4 11. O-O O-O 12. e4 d6 13. Bg5 exd5 14. Nxd5 Bxd5 15.
Bxf6 Qxf6 16. Qxd5 Rab8 17. Qxc4 Nc7 18. Nf4 Rfe8 19. Qc2 Qd8 20. Rfd1 Ne6 21.
Nd5 Qd7 22. Qd3 Qb5 23. Qxb5 Rxb5 24. b4 Bd8 25. Bf1 Rb8 26. f3 cxb4 27. Rxb4
Rxb4 28. axb4 Nc7 29. Nf4 Ne6 30. Bb5 Bb6+ 31. Kf1 Rd8 32. Nd5 Kf8 33. Bc4 Rb8
34. f4 Bd8 35. Ra1 Rb7 36. Ba6 Rb8 37. Bc4 Rb7 38. Ra6 Bb6 39. Nxb6 Rxb6 40.
Ra4 Rb7 41. Ke2 Ke7 42. Bd5 Rc7 43. Kd3 Nf8 44. Ra5 Nd7 45. Kd4 h6 46. h4 Nf6
47. Bb3 Rb7 48. b5 Rc7 49. Ra3 Rb7 50. Bc4 Rc7 51. Be2 Nd7 52. g4 Nf8 53. f5
Nd7 54. g5 hxg5 55. hxg5 Ne5 56. Ra6 Kd7 57. Ra3 Ke7 58. Ra1 Kd7 59. Rh1 Rc2
60. Ke3 Rc8 61. Rh7 Rg8 62. Kd4 Ke7 63. Rxg7 Rxg7 64. f6+ Kf8 65. fxg7+ Kxg7
66. Kd5 f6 67. gxf6+ Kxf6 68. Kxd6 Nf7+ 69. Kd5 Ne5 70. Bc4 Nf3 71. Kd6 Ne5 72.
Be2 Nf7+ 73. Kd5 Ne5 74. Bh5 Nd3 75. Kd6 Ne5 76. Kd5 Nd3 77. Kc6 Ke5 78. Bf3
Ne1 79. Bd1 Kxe4 80. Kb7 Kd5 81. Be2 Nc2 82. Kxa7 Nd4 83. b6 Nc6+ 84. Kb7 Kc5
85. Bf3 Nd8+ 86. Kc7 Ne6+ 87. Kb7 1/2-1/2

It was another Nimzo Indian with Nge2. I got a clear and risk free advantage early on. I felt very comfortable about the position but also knew that a lot of work needed to be done.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Nge2 b6 6. a3 Ba5 7. Rb1 Na6 8. g3
Bb7 9. d5 b5 10. Bg2 bxc4 11. O-O O-O 12. e4 d6 13. Bg5 exd5 14. Nxd5 Bxd5 15.
Bxf6 Qxf6 16. Qxd5 Rab8 17. Qxc4 Nc7 18. Nf4 Rfe8 19. Qc2 Qd8 20. Rfd1 Ne6

I had to make my first real decision at this point. Black wants to exchange knights or put his knight on d4. My advantage in the position lies in the awkward placement of the black bishop and the weakness of the d6 pawn. In this sense, it doesn’t matter what I do with the knights, my advantage should remain. But how to maximize it? 21. Nd5 21.Nxe6!? was interesting, with the idea of putting pressure on d5 after that. I wanted to keep the knights on to avoid any ideas of getting opposite coloured Bishop endgames. 21.Ne2 Qb6 does not offer white much. 21… Qd7 22. Qd3 Qb5 23. Qxb5 Rxb5 24. b4 Bd8 25. Bf1 Getting my bishop into the action. 25… Rb8 26. f3 cxb4 27. Rxb4
Rxb4 28. axb4 Nc7

This is one of the critical position in the game. 29. Nf4 29.Ne3 d5 30.Nxd5 Nxd5 31.exd5 was interesting. Once again, I was trying to avoid the exchange of the knights. Black will have decent drawing chances in the endgame, but it will be a long one. I thought I will keep my playable advantage alive with the text. 29… Ne6 30. Bb5 Bb6+ 31. Kf1 Rd8 32. Nd5 Kf8 33. Bc4 Rb8 34. f4 Bd8 35. Ra1 Rb7 36. Ba6 Rb8 37. Bc4 Rb7 38. Ra6 Bb6

Another time for a decision. It doesn’t look like I am making any progress and the black bishop is close to finding life. Nc7 is also a threat. I decided to transpose my advantage into an endgame where I have a bishop against the knight. 39. Nxb6 Rxb6 40. Ra4 The exchange of rooks would simplify Black’s task, since my bishop cannot operate on its own. 40… Rb7 It’s clear that white is better, but how to improve? The answer is: slowly. First it’s important to bring the king in. Then expand on the king side, with the pawns, in order to try to create another weakness or entrance. It’s easier said than done. A lot of it depends on what the opponent will do. 41. Ke2 Ke7 42. Bd5 Rc7 43. Kd3 Nf8 44. Ra5 Nd7 45. Kd4 h6 46. h4 Nf6
47. Bb3 Rb7 48. b5 Rc7 49. Ra3 Rb7 50. Bc4 Rc7 51. Be2 Nd7 52. g4 Nf8 53. f5 Nd7 54. g5 hxg5 55. hxg5 Ne5 56. Ra6 Kd7

There is another route to get in, but there is no hurry. I also don’t want to scare my opponent too much, in the sense that I don’t want to alarm him. Alarming opponents usually makes them play well. It’s clear that my rook needs to go to h7 one way or another. 57. Ra3 Ke7 58. Ra1 Kd7 59. Rh1 It was important to calculate that I can allow the opposing rook to invade because he can’t make any threats in my camp. 59… Rc2 60. Ke3 Rc8 61. Rh7 Rg8 62. Kd4 Ke7 Decision time. I got what I wanted, a chance to breakthrough. After calculating variations for a long time, I realized I had no choice. I can’t make progress unless I go for the kill right now. My opponent is preparing to play g6, after which my position becomes stale. 63. Rxg7! Rxg7 64. f6+ Kf8 65. fxg7+ Kxg7 66. Kd5 f6 I went into a deep think again. I had originally planned to play 67.Kxd6, but I could not find a win after the precise 67…Nf7+ 68.Kc7 fxg5 69.Kb8 Nd6! 70.e5 Nxb5! 71.Bxb5 Kf7 72.Bc4+ Ke7 73.Kc7 g4 74.Kc6 g3 75.Bd5 g2 76.Bxg2 Ke6 and I lose my last pawn. 67. gxf6+ Kxf6 68. Kxd6 Nf7+ 69. Kd5 Ne5 70. Bc4 Nf3 71. Kd6 Ne5

I felt like there should be something here. My opponent has been moving his knight back and forth in the attempt to show that I can’t breakthrough. Unfortunately, I could not find the win with only a few minutes of the clock after more than six hours of play. 72. Be2? 72.Bd5! Nf3 73.Bc6! Ne5 74.Kc7 wins for white. Very simple. I could have done the same later on by taking the same type of a route with the bishop (through b3).  Nf7+ 73. Kd5 Ne5 74. Bh5 Nd3 75. Kd6 Ne5 76. Kd5 Nd3 77. Kc6? Bd1 followed by Bb3 would still have won the game for me. After this, there is no going back.  Ke5 78. Bf3 Ne1 79. Bd1 Kxe4 80. Kb7 Kd5 81. Be2 Nc2 82. Kxa7 Nd4 83. b6 Nc6+ 84. Kb7 Kc5 85. Bf3 Nd8+ 86. Kc7 Ne6+ 87. Kb7 1/2-1/2 We had actually played some more moves that I did not record in here.

Sometimes after a game like this you say “Can’t win them all”. After this, it sort of felt like I can’t win any. Once again I let another half point slip. Our game was the last one of the round to finish. It’s disappointing to press for a win the whole game and come up short against a substantially lower later opponent.  Two games remain.

Round 12

I was to play GM Sebastian Siebrecht in this round with the Black pieces. Sebastian was the lowest rated GM in our group. I wasn’t planning on holding back. With two rounds remaining I was gonna keep trying to go after my opponent just as before.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.29”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Siebrecht, S.”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “68”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.29”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Qa4+ Nbd7 8. e4
Bg7 9. Bd3 O-O 10. O-O a6 11. Qc2 Nh5 12. a4 Ne5 13. Be2 f5 14. exf5 Bxf5 15.
Qd1 Nxf3+ 16. Bxf3 Nf6 17. Bf4 Qd7 18. a5 Rae8 19. Na4 Be4 20. Nb6 Qd8 21. Bg5
Bxf3 22. Qxf3 h6 23. Bxf6 Qxf6 24. Qg3 Re7 25. Rad1 Kh7 26. Nc4 Re4 27. Nxd6
Rf4 28. Nxb7 Qe7 29. b4 Rxb4 30. Nxc5 Qxc5 31. d6 Rd4 32. d7 Rd8 33. Rde1 R8xd7
34. Re6 Qf5 0-1

I played the Benoni once again. I wanted to get something complicated, but also something that I am comfortable with, early on. My opponent decided to surprise me early.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Qa4+

This is a very rare move which my opponent hasn’t played before. The idea is to awkwardly place Black’s pieces while he is trying to develop. 7… Nbd7 The right solution, 7… Bd7 is answered with Qb3. 8. e4? 8.Bf4 is the accurate way to try to stall Black’s development. 8… Bg7 9. Bd3 Now 9.Bf4 would have been answered by 9… O-O, where White can’t take on d6 because of Nb6. 9… O-O 10. O-O a6 11. Qc2 My opponent had been blitzing up to this point. I wanted to get into something which I was comfortable with and avoid preparation. Little did I know that we were already far away from his preparation. The blitzing was a bluff. 11… Nh5 11… b5! was better. If white decides to force the issue with 12.a4 c4 13.Be2 b4 14.Nd1 Re8! gives black the advantage. 12. a4 Ne5 13. Be2 f5 Trying to put more pressure on my opponent while also opening up my pieces. 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15.Bxh5 Qh4 is good for black. 14. exf5 Bxf5 15. Qd1 Nxf3+ 16. Bxf3 Nf6 17. Bf4 Qd7 18. a5 Rae8 19. Na4

White’s pieces look awkwardly placed but the knight is going to a strong outpost on b6 or c4. 19… Ne4 was interesting, where 20.g4 doesn’t work tactically due to 20…Qf7 21.gxf5 Qxf5 22.Bxe4 Qxf4 23.f3 Bd4+ 24.Kg2 Be5 25.Rh1 Qg5+ 26.Kf1 Bd4.  19… Be4 20. Nb6 Qd8 21. Bg5 Bxf3 22. Qxf3 h6 23. Bxf6 Qxf6 24. Qg3 Re7? This moves gives away my advantage. I needed to choose from 24…Qxb2, where 25.Qxg6 is bad because of Re2 or play 24… Qf5 25.Qxd6 Bxb2, where I feared 26.Qxc5. Black should still have the advantage after grabbing the exchange.  25. Rad1 Kh7 26. Nc4 Re4

Things have gotten sharper, with the position being very close to balanced. White needs to play 27.b3, to have a retreat for the knight from d6. Possible continuations there would be 27.b3 Rd4 28.h3 (28.Nxd6 Rd8, where the knight would still get stuck on b7 if it goes there) 28…h5 27. Nxd6? My opponent goes wrong right away because he missed my next move. 27… Rf4! The knight is not getting out 28. Nxb7 Qe7 28.d6 Qxb7 29.d7 Rd4 also wins for black. White has no choice but to go down a piece. 29. b4 White hopes for compensation after 29… Qxb7? 30.bxc5. 29… Rxb4

30.Nd6 is answered with  30…Rd8. The knight is still stranded in the enemy’s camp. The rest of the game is easy. 30. Nxc5 Qxc5 31. d6 Rd4 32. d7 Rd8 33. Rde1 R8xd7
34. Re6 Qf5 0-1

It was good to get this win. The Benoni proved to be a reliable opening for me once again. My opponent blundered when he got the chance. Fatigue might be getting the better part of the players at this point. I feel like the quality of the games has gone down in this long and energy consuming event.

Round 13

I was paired against Ivan Ivanisevic in the last round. Ivan was the second seed in the event and currently in third place, a full point ahead of me. I was looking forward to this game. I enjoy playing higher rated opponents, as those games present a bigger challenge than coming into rounds with the mindset of having to win games. I also thought of this last round as a warm up for Aeroflot. The tournament standings told me I needed to win this game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.30”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Ivanisevic”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “93”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.29”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nf3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. g3 Qc7 7. Qd3 Nc6 8.
Ndb5 Qb8 9. Bf4 e5 10. Bg5 a6 11. Bxf6 axb5 12. Bxg7 bxc4 13. Qb1 Rg8 14. Qxh7
Rxg7 15. Qxg7 d5 16. Bg2 d4 17. O-O dxc3 18. bxc3 Bxc3 19. Rac1 Nd4 20. Kh1 Bd2
21. Rxc4 Be6 22. Ra4 Ke7 23. Rxa8 Qxa8 24. Qxe5 Qa4 25. Qc7+ Bd7 26. Qc5+ Ke8
27. Bxb7 Ne6 28. Qd5 Ba5 29. Rc1 Qa3 30. Rd1 Qa4 31. f4 Bb6 32. Rd3 Nd4 33.
Qe5+ Kd8 34. Qd6 Qa5 35. Kg2 Qb5 36. a4 Qb2 37. Bf3 Kc8 38. a5 Bc6 39. Kh3 Bd7+
40. g4 Ba7 41. a6 Qa1 42. Kg2 Qb2 43. Qf8+ Kc7 44. Qxf7 Qb5 45. Rc3+ Kb6 46.
Qf6+ Ka5 47. Qd6 1-0

My opponent generally plays the Nimzo or King’s Indian setups, which is why his second move came as a surprise to me. I decided to avoid his preparation with my reply and we soon transposed into a Nimzo Indian where White plays g3.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nf3 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. g3 Qc7 The main theoretical lines are 6… O-O and 6… Ne4.

I remember looking at this move before, but I was mainly on my own from now on. I replied to this rare idea confidently. 7. Qd3 Nc6 8. Ndb5! Creating immediate problems for Black. 8… Qb8 9. Bf4 Forcing black to either weaken the d5 square forever or get into an annoying pin with 9… Ne5. 9… e5 10. Bg5 a6 11. Bxf6 axb5 White is also better after 11…gxf6 Na3, where Black’s pieces are awkwardly placed and the king’s safety will be challenged soon. 12. Bxg7 bxc4 I knew that my opponent preferred positions where there is chaos on the board and there is little to change about the nature of the position now. I am not one to avoid those positions either! 13. Qb1! The idea is simple. I am trying to avoid any unpleasant squares with my queen as I retreat to safety. Black is forced to move the rook. 13…Ra3 is answered with 14.Qc1. 13… Rg8 14. Qxh7 Rxg7 15. Qxg7 d5

What a wild position. White is up an exchange and a pawn up. I took the easy way out at this point. 16. Bg2?! Objectively better is 16.e3! Be6 17.Bg2, with Black not having enough play with his pieces. With the text I give back a full piece but safely castle my king. It is Black who will have to defend while White is playing risk free. 16… d4 17. O-O dxc3 18. bxc3 Bxc3 19. Rac1 Nd4 20. Kh1 20.Bd5 Qc7 21.Kg2 was stronger. 20… Bd2? Black needs to return the bishop to the defense of the king with 20…Bb4, followed by Bf8 at some point. 21. Rxc4 Black is in very serious trouble after this move. 21… Be6 Black allows a beautiful shot. Can you spot it?

22. Ra4! It felt nice to play this idea. Black can’t play 22…Rxa4 because of 23.Qg8+ and the taking of the queen. Black has no choice but to give away his e5 pawn. 22… Ke7 23. Rxa8 Qxa8 24. Qxe5 The position is very close to winning. White has a rook and three pawns for the two minor pieces while also maintaining hopes of an attack. 24… Qa4 25. Qc7+ Bd7 26. Qc5+ Ke827. Bxb7 Ne6 28. Qd5 Ba5 29. Rc1 Qa3 30. Rd1 Qa4 Black is running out of moves. There is no need to rush. I would prefer the safe 31.h4 or Kg2 to my next move. 31. f4?! This move does not spoil my winning advantage but gives Black an attempt at counter play by weakening my king. Sometimes it’s good to go for the slow squeeze than the immediate kill. 31… Bb6 32. Rd3 Nd4 33. Qe5+ Kd8 34. Qd6 Qa5 35. Kg2 Qb5 36. a4 Qb2 37. Bf3 Kc8 38. a5 Bc6 39. Kh3 The slower way to win. I did not want fireworks around my king on or around the 40th move, but a faster win was provided by 39.axb6 Qxe2+ 40.Kh3 Qf1+ 41.Kg4 Bxf3+ 42.Kg5.  39… Bd7+ 40. g4 Ba7 41. a6 Qa1 42. Kg2 Qb2

It’s nice to have the White pieces in this position. With four pawns and a rook for the two minor pieces, there is no reason not to increase the material advantage, making Black’s position even more hopeless. 43. Qf8+ Kc7 44. Qxf7 The greedy way is the most efficient one in this position. A rare picture where Black has no pawns, yet the board is full of pieces. White plans to advance the g-pawn next 44… Qb5 Allows for a quick finish. 45. Rc3+ Kb6 46. Qf6+ Ka5 47. Qd6! Threatening Ra3+. 47…Nb3 is answered with 48.Qa3+ and the capture of the knight 1-0

A good way to finish the tournament. This was a spectacular win and one of the most aesthetic ones in my career. Ra4 was a great move to play. I won the prize for the best game of the day in the C Group for this win, the only time I took the prize during the event. With this win, I finished the tied for 4th to 6th place with 7.5/13.

Second Rest Day and Rounds 9-10

Second Rest Day

Everything had changed in the last four rounds. I went from +2 back to 50%. I had been playing horribly. With five rounds left I knew that I needed a big change. I also knew that I needed a break from chess. There was a second soccer game. The Dutch wanted a rematch.

The Dutch recruited GM Wouter Spoelman for this match and he was clearly their best player. Our team recruited GM Laurent Fressinet as well as a younger Norwegian player who was playing in one of the Amateur Events. All the players from the previous match came back. So it became 6 on 6. We were leading comfortably. In fact, we were leading so comfortably that we stopped keeping score. There were a lot more spectators than at the first game, including Tania, photographers, and some school kids (we were playing on their field). Soon after we started, Jan Smeets left (not clear if due to injury or another commitment). Two younger kids (not chess players) were recruited from the playground to join the Dutch forces. This did not change the result much. Not as exciting as the first match but a fun and enjoyable game once again.

Rounds 9

I was paired against Tania Sachdev for this round. Tania was the lowest seed in the C group but she wasn’t playing like it. At this point, she had half a point more than me. She had been playing great chess. It became clear to everybody that she was underrated and on the rise.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.25”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Sachdev”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A40”]
[PlyCount “57”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.24”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Bd3 dxe4 4. Bxe4 Nf6 5. Bf3 c5 6. Ne2 Nc6 7. Be3 e5 8.
Bxc6+ bxc6 9. c3 cxd4 10. cxd4 Ng4 11. Nbc3 Nxe3 12. fxe3 Qg5 13. O-O Bd6 14.
Kh1 O-O 15. d5 Bb7 16. e4 cxd5 17. Nxd5 Rad8 18. Nec3 Bc8 19. Qa4 Bc5 20. Rad1
Rd6 21. Qc4 Bd4 22. Nb5 Rg6 23. Qc2 Rh6 24. Nxd4 exd4 25. Qc7 Be6 26. Ne7+ Kh8
27. Rxd4 Rf6 28. Rg1 Rh6 29. Rgd1 1-0

I had spent a lot of time with Tania and her coach during the tournament. Vishal cooks a mean Chicken Curry which I enjoyed many times during the event. Tania had been getting the upper hand our of preparation in most of her games. With the rest day in hand, I decided to surprise my opponent early on. Well, you can’t surprise your opponent earlier than the first move. But Tania surprised me on the first move as well by playing the French, for the second time in her life. I decided that there is no way she had prepared for me to play e4 and went for my pet Bd3 French. Without preparation it is not easy to play for black. Back when I was playing 1.e4, I had gained a lot of wins with it.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Bd3 dxe4 4. Bxe4 Nf6 5. Bf3 c5 6. Ne2 Nc6 7. Be3 e5 8. Bxc6+ bxc6

Tania has already spent a lot of time getting to this point. I was still blitzing moves. I had already played two games in this position. The first one in 2000 or 2001 against Yaacov Vaingorten at the Canadian Junior. The second time against an IM from Iceland. Those details are from memory. I had even remembered my analysis from back then 9. c3? After 9. dxe5 Qxd1 10.Kxd1 Ng4 11.Nd2 Nxe5 12.Re1, white is fighting for the advantage. The game promises no advantage for white but a very playable position. I remembered my analysis from 2001. But it was bad analysis. 9… cxd4 The immediate 9…Ng4 is also very interesting. 10. cxd4 Ng4 11. Nbc3 Nxe3 12. fxe3 Qg5 13. O-O Sacrificing the pawn. Tania rejects the offer several times. Bd6 14. Kh1 O-O 15. d5!? An interesting decision, trying to go for a more complicated position instead of simplifying for equality with 15.Ne4. It was a practical decision in the hope of eventually winning. 15… Bb7! The point of black’s play. 16.dxc6 Bxc6 is better for black due to the threat of mate on g2. 16. e4 cxd5 17. Nxd5 Rad8 18. Nec3 Bc8 19. Qa4 Bc5 20. Rad1


20… Rd6?! Tania wants to mate me and is not hiding it. 20…Be6 offers better play for Black, but the position is close to balanced. With the text, White has to solve immediate problems. 21. Qc4 I got a bit nervous when I saw that 21.Qa5 Bh3! 22.gxh3 Rg6 works for black, where white has to give the piece back with 23.Ne7+, giving black a clear advantage. 21… Bd4 22. Nb5 Rg6? Tania would not have been worse after 22…Ba6. Black needed to change gears into fixing the bishop on d4 and not mating White. 23. Qc2

White has everything defended and it is Black who has to solve problems. Black’s position is in a stable condition after 23… Bb6 23… Rh6? Black collapses in time pressure. 24. Nxd4 exd4 25. Qc7! The move Black missed. The queen is very active from c7, defending h2 while also threatening Ne7+. 25… Be6 26. Ne7+ Kh8 27. Rxd4

White threatens Rd8 followed by mate on the back rank. 27… Rf6? 27…Qb5 would have offered some more resistance. The rest of the game is forced. 28. Rg1! The only move, since black plans to make mate threats on g2 if the rook goes elsewhere. 28… Rh6 Hoping for 29.Rd8 Rxh2! 29. Rgd1 1-0 Black resigned because she cannot stop my mating threats or a big loss of material.

An important win but a close call. My opponent fell apart in time pressure. This game shows something about my preparation back in those years. It was good to pull 1.e4 back into play. I felt like it gave me some new energy in a tournament that has not been going well. Now I can seriously consider using it again at my convenience. Maybe it will also keep some opponents busy preparing…

Round 10

I was paired against Roeland Pruijssers in the 10th round. Roeland was having a horrible tournament so far and  I wanted to put pressure on him from early on in the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.26”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Pruijssers”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “105”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.25”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 Be7 8.
O-O-O a6 9. f3 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 b5 11. h4 Bb7 12. Kb1 O-O 13. g4 d5 14. e5 Nd7 15.
Bxe7 Qxe7 16. g5 Qc5 17. f4 Rac8 18. a3 Rc7 19. Rh2 Rfc8 20. Qxc5 Nxc5 21. Rd4
Bc6 22. h5 Rb8 23. h6 g6 24. b4 Nd7 25. Nd1 a5 26. Rh3 a4 27. Rc3 Kf8 28. Nf2
Ke7 29. Ng4 Kd8 30. Kb2 Ba8 31. Rdd3 Rc6 32. Rxc6 Bxc6 33. Rc3 Kc7 34. Nh2 Kb7
35. Nf3 Nb6 36. Rc5 Nd7 37. Rc3 Nb6 38. Nd4 Nc4+ 39. Kc1 Rd8 40. Rg3 Rc8 41.
Bxc4 dxc4 42. Kd2 Kb6 43. Ke3 Bd5 44. Rg1 c3 45. Rd1 Rc4 46. Rd3 Bb7 47. Ne2
Re4+ 48. Kf2 Bc6 49. Rd4 Rxd4 50. Nxd4 Bd5 51. Ke3 Bc4 52. Ne2 Bb3 53. cxb3 1-0

Once again, the surprise came as early as the first move. I threw the Sicilian back into the mix. Everything was going according to plan for a while before I started making some ill-advised moves.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 Be7 8. O-O-O a6 9. f3 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 b5 11. h4 Bb7 12. Kb1 O-O 13. g4

13… d5? A serious structural mistake. The position is playable after 13…Qc7. With the move in the game I run into a positional bind where I can’t generate enough play on the queen side. My light square bishop will be useless. This is easy to say in hindsight but an experienced Sicilian player should not be making this mistake. 14. e5 Nd7 15. Bxe7 Qxe7 16. g5 Qc5 17. f4 Rac8 18. a3 Rc7 19. Rh2 Rfc8 20. Qxc5 Nxc5 21. Rd4 Bc6 22. h5

Play has gone back and forth. White is pushing his pawns on the King side. 23.g6 is not a threat because I will take once and play h6. The real threat is 23. h6 , fixing all of black’s pawns on light squares and opening up the f6 square for the knight. I saw the idea but underestimated its power, even after thinking about it for a long time 22… Rb8? 22…h6 or 22…f6 were necessary in an attempt to generate some play. 23. h6! Fixing black’s pawns forever. 23… g6 24. b4 Nd7 25. Nd1 a5 26. Rh3 a4 This was a hard decision. I decided to lock up the position in the hope that I would be able to hold on to a draw. It’s a slow process, but white should be able to make progress. Worst of all, there is absolutely nothing I can do. I felt that I am worse on both sides on the board and I might as well close as much of it up as possible. 27. Rc3 Kf8 28. Nf2 Ke7 29. Ng4 Kd8 30. Kb2 Ba8 31. Rdd3 Rc6 32. Rxc6 Bxc6 33. Rc3 Kc7 34. Nh2! A scary maneuver for black, as White brings his Knight to d4. I am just in time to reorganize my forces without losing any material. Kb7 35. Nf3 Nb6 36. Rc5 Nd7 37. Rc3 Nb6 38. Nd4 Nc4+ I have no choice but to hope for the exchange of some pieces, making the job of defending my position easier. 39. Kc1 Rd8 40. Rg3 Rc8 41. Bxc4

Which pawn to take with? If I take with the d-pawn, my Bishop is finally out of its cage but the d-file is also open. If I take with the b-pawn I have no life in the near future. 41… dxc4? I went for the more active option but it just doesn’t cut it, because of some good maneuvering for White. 41…bxc4 offers much better drawing chances, where white might have to eventually breakthrough on the king side with f5. 42. Kd2 Kb6 43. Ke3 Bd5 I had originally intended to play 43… Rd8, followed by simply waiting. After a lot of calculating I saw White’s idea of playing Rg1, Ne2, Nc3 and Rd1. The idea is very strong because once White captures on d1 with the knight he proceeds to get his Knight to f6 through e4 or g4. The only idea I have with the bishop is to try to keep it away from those two scares. And so, I had to look elsewhere. In hindsight, forcing my opponent to find this plan would have still offered more resistance than the game. 44. Rg1

44… c3 Trying to create some play to stop the plan just outlined. Black’s position is lost because of the weakness of the h7 pawn. 45. Rd1 Rc4 46. Rd3 Bb7 47. Ne2 Re4+ The problem with 47…Be4 is 48. Rd6+ Kc7 49. Nd4, winning easily. The text does not change anything. 48. Kf2 Bc6 49. Rd4 Rxd4 50. Nxd4 Bd5 51. Ke3 Bc4 52. Ne2 Bb3 53. cxb3 1-0

I got outplayed in a positional battle. I made two serious strategic mistakes and paid for them dearly. First, I fixed the center by playing d5 and allowing my opponent to play e5. Then I allowed my opponent to play h6 and have the f6 square to aim for the rest of the night. While playing d5 I thought that I would at some point be able to play f6 and gain good activity. That time never came. Poor display of understanding on my part. Trying to calculate too much. This was a similar loss to my game against Bok, where I also allowed a positional bind. I gave my opponent a free hand and he crushed me.

Going into the last rest day things don’t look pretty. Back at 50% with three rounds remaining. Gotta pull it together. On a positive note, I could see the finish line. Maybe this will give a boost to finish the tournament well.

First Rest Day and Rounds 5-8

The organizers threw another charming event the night before the first rest day. The organizers held a dinner party with the sponsors, and players from the invited Grandmaster Groups. The highlight of the night was a simultaneous exhibition given by Tania after dinner. She took on high officials from Tata as well as some individuals from the organizing committee. It was also good to see Henrik Carlsen, father of world number 1, play in the simul. The simul was made harder by some of the players competing in the GM groups helping the participants, including some players from the A group!

Rest Day

I went into the rest day in high spirits. 3/4 is a good start. I knew that most of the work was still to come but it’s important to come out of the gate strong. Roeland Pruijssers decided to organize a soccer match on the rest day to keep the younger players entertained. It was a good addition to the event. Below are the players. From left to right: Bluvshtein, Giri, van Kampen, Giri, Hammer, Carlsen, Bok, Smeets, Pruijssers. Photo is taken from this Chessbase article.

The match was in the form of The Netherlands against The World. Team lineups included (in decreasing order by chess rating):

Netherlands: Anish Giri, Jan Smeets, Roeland Pruijssers, Benjamin Bok, Robin van Kampen.

World: Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Jon Ludvig Hammer, Mark Bluvshtein.

Yep, it was 5 on 4. The Dutch still didn’t have a chance. We played six mini-matches, each up to 5 goals. The Dutch won the first one. Upon some reorganization of the World Team, we won the next 5 without serious difficulties. I’m not sure that us having the higher average rating was the deciding factor. The Norwegian counter attack (Carlsen and Hammer) was certainly a part of the story. I played the role of goaley/last defender, but still managed to score a few goals when deserting the net seemed opportunistic. We were definitely out shot in this game, but our opponent’s defense was lacking. A very enjoyable game all around. You can find some photos from this game here. Lucas was nice enough to leave a copy of the photo above beside the boards of the players who took part in the game. Thanks Lucas!

Round 5

It was time to get back to work. I felt that the soccer game was good to relieve some stress caused by the tournament. I played Daniele Vocaturo with the black pieces next.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.20”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Vocaturo”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “145”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.19”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5
8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. h3 Ke8 10. Nc3 h5 11. Bg5 Be7 12. Rad1 Be6 13. b3 Rd8 14.
Rxd8+ Kxd8 15. Rd1+ Ke8 16. Bc1 f6 17. Ne2 Bd5 18. exf6 gxf6 19. Ne1 Bd6 20.
Bb2 Kf7 21. Nc3 Ne7 22. g3 Rg8 23. Nxd5 cxd5 24. Ng2 c6 25. c4 Ke6 26. Ne3 f5
27. cxd5+ cxd5 28. Kf1 f4 29. gxf4 Bxf4 30. Re1 Kd7 31. Bf6 Bxe3 32. Rxe3 Nc6
33. Bb2 Rg5 34. Ke2 Kd6 35. Rf3 d4 36. Rf7 Ra5 37. a4 b6 38. Rf6+ Kd7 39. Kd3
Rd5 40. Rf4 Nb4+ 41. Kd2 Nc6 42. Kd3 Nb4+ 43. Kc4 d3 44. Bc1 Rc5+ 45. Kxb4 a5+
46. Ka3 Rxc1 47. Rd4+ Kc6 48. Rxd3 Rc2 49. Rf3 Re2 50. Rf4 Kc5 51. Rf5+ Kc6 52.
h4 Re4 53. f4 Rb4 54. Kb2 Kc7 55. Kc2 Kc6 56. Kc3 Kc7 57. Rf8 Kd7 58. Rf6 Kc7
59. Rf5 Kc6 60. Kc2 Kc7 61. Kc3 Kc6 62. Kb2 Kc7 63. Rxh5 Rxf4 64. Rh8 Rf2+ 65.
Kc3 Rf3+ 66. Kc4 Rf4+ 67. Kb5 Rb4+ 68. Ka6 Rxb3 69. h5 b5 70. h6 bxa4 71. h7
Rh3 72. Ra8 Rxh7 73. Ra7+ 1-0

This game was another mainline Berlin. I was surprised to meet it again, since my opponent never went for the mainline before. He had some decent preparation, which I had little problems equalizing against.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5
8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. h3 Ke8 10. Nc3 h5 11. Bg5 Be7 12. Rad1 Be6 13. b3 Rd8 14.
Rxd8+ Kxd8 15. Rd1+ Ke8 16. Bc1 f6 17. Ne2 Bd5 18. exf6 gxf6 19. Ne1 Bd6 20.
Bb2 Kf7 21. Nc3

By the time I reached this position I knew my opening went fine. I have different ways to equalize. The main ones are the text as well as 21…Re8. 21…Ne7 Not 21… Be6? because of 22. Ne4, with the additional threat of 23.Ng5+  22. g3 Rg8 23. Nxd5 cxd5 24. Ng2 c6?! I didn’t want to play this move. I was calculating 24…c5! for a long time. I wasn’t convinced that I would be the one fighting for the advantage after 25.Ne3 d4. On a second look, I feel like black is the one pressing in that position. I was unhappy with how stale the position is with the text. It’s just about equal. 25. c4 Ke6 26. Ne3 f5 27. cxd5+ cxd5 28. Kf1 f4 29. gxf4 Bxf4 30. Re1

The position is still roughly balanced but it’s clear that if anybody is running into any danger, it’s black. 30… Kd7?! I should have played 30…Kf7 31.Ba3 Bxe3 32.Rxe3 Nc6, where the position is equal. White’s bishop is poorly placed. My king is better placed on f7. 31. Bf6 Bxe3 32. Rxe3 Nc6 The position is still roughly equal but I have to watch out. I always have to be calculating moves like Rg3, with the offer of exchanging rooks. My h-pawn can become a weakness. My d-pawn is not much of a threat with the white king so close. 33. Bb2 Rg5 34. Ke2 Kd6 35. Rf3 d4 36. Rf7 Ra5 37. a4 b6? It was time to draw the game with a firm series of moves. I was low on time and was calculating 37…b5 for a long time but I missed a crucial idea. After 38.Rf6+ Kd7 39.Rf5 there is the simple 39…bxa4 40.Rxa5 Nxa5 41.bxa4 Nb3! where White can’t play 42.Kd3 because of 42…Nc4+, with an easy draw.  In the game black runs into some difficulties.  38. Rf6+ Kd7 39. Kd3 Rd5 40. Rf4 Nb4+ 41. Kd2 Nc6 42. Kd3 Nb4+

White can’t achieve any progress by going back and has to go forward with the king. 43. Kc4 d3 44. Bc1! 44.Bc3 Rc5+ 45.Kxb4 a5+ does not give white any hopes of a win. 44…Rc5+ 45. Kxb4 a5+ 46. Ka3 Rxc1 47. Rd4+ Kc6 48. Rxd3 Rc2 The advocates of the idea that “All rook endgames are drawn” would be right when referring to this specific example. I played accurately until the next diagram. 49. Rf3 Re2 50. Rf4 Kc5 51. Rf5+ Kc6 52. h4 Re4 53. f4 Rb4 54. Kb2 Kc7 55. Kc2 Kc6 56. Kc3 Kc7 57. Rf8 Kd7 58. Rf6 Kc7 59. Rf5 Kc6 60. Kc2 Kc7 61. Kc3 Kc6 62. Kb2 Kc7 63. Rxh5 Rxf4 64. Rh8

I am so close.  Half a point is within arm’s reach. Black has a simple stance which white cannot breakthrough.64… Rf2+? This move complicates the matter. I started hallucinating at this point, miscalculating many variations. I thought I can let my opponent’s king go to a6 because I grab his pawns quickly. I can’t quite explaining my reasoning for that. The simple 64…Kb7! draws on the spot, since I then just start checking. Once the white king goes to a3 I put my rook on h2. 65.Kc3 Rf3+ 66. Kc4 Rf4+?? There is no going back after this. The simple 66…Kb7 Rd8 Rf4+ Rd4 Rf5 should still be a draw. The rest is easy for white. 67. Kb5 Rb4+ 68. Ka6 Rxb3 69. h5 b5 70. h6 bxa4 71. h7 Rh3 72. Ra8 Rxh7 73. Ra7+ 1-0

This was a tough one to take. I knew there was an easy draw but decided to go for the more forcing alternative which I hallucinated to also be a draw. Fatigue got the better of me. It was a soft loss. I gave away half a point. It’s hard to not call myself names when describing this game, but I will hold back. I would like to believe that “this stuff happens”, but instead I find it unacceptable. I need to figure out how to not let this happen again. That evening was a depressing one for me. I knew chances to win were slipping away. I also knew that it would be harder to play normal chess after this. It’s hard to eliminate a game like this from memory. I tried to look at the positive side. The second round showed me some good luck. This round showed me some back luck. This reasoning would not be enough.

Round 6

In hindsight, maybe I should have tried to play something very safe and force a dry and boring draw in this game with the white pieces. This is only in hindsight. I wanted to get back on the right track. I also knew that it wouldn’t be easy against the top seed, GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.21”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Kazhgaleyev”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A40”]
[PlyCount “118”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.20”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. Nf3 Bf5 6. Be2 e6 7. Nh4 Be4 8. f3 Bg6
9. O-O Nbd7 10. g3 Be7 11. Bd2 dxc4 12. Bxc4 b5 13. Be2 c5 14. dxc5 Bxc5 15.
Kg2 O-O 16. e4 Rc8 17. Nxg6 hxg6 18. Bg5 Qb6 19. a4 b4 20. a5 Qc7 21. Na4 Qxa5
22. Nxc5 Qxc5 23. Qd2 Nb8 24. Rfc1 Qb6 25. Qe3 Qb7 26. Bf4 Rfd8 27. Ra5 Nfd7
28. Bd6 Rxc1 29. Qxc1 Qb6 30. Qc7 Qxc7 31. Bxc7 Rc8 32. Bxb8 Nxb8 33. Bd3 Rd8
34. Bxa6 Rd2+ 35. Kh3 Nc6 36. Rc5 Nd4 37. Rc8+ Kh7 38. Rd8 Nxf3 39. Rxd2 Nxd2
40. e5 Nf3 41. Kg4 Nxe5+ 42. Kf4 Nd7 43. Bb5 Nb6 44. Ke5 g5 45. Bd3+ g6 46. Kd6
Kg7 47. b3 Kf6 48. Be4 g4 49. Bb7 g5 50. Kc5 Nd5 51. Bxd5 exd5 52. Kxd5 Kf5 53.
Kc5 Ke4 54. Kxb4 f5 55. Kc3 Ke3 56. Kc2 f4 57. Kd1 Kf2 58. b4 f3 59. b5 Kg2 0-1

I played my opponent at the 2010 Olympiad. It was my opponent who deviated first from our previous game on his 5th move. I didn’t get any advantage out of the opening but then my opponent gave me a chance to fight for it.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 a6 5. Nf3 Bf5 6. Be2 e6 7. Nh4 Be4 8. f3 Bg6
9. O-O Nbd7 10. g3 Be7 11. Bd2 dxc4 12. Bxc4 b5 13. Be2 c5 14. dxc5 Bxc5 15.
Kg2 O-O 16. e4 Rc8 17. Nxg6 hxg6 18. Bg5 Qb6

19. a4! Opening up the queen side for my pieces. 19… b4 20. a5 The point of my previous move 20… Qc7 21. Na4 Qxa5 22. Nxc5 Qxc5 23. Qd2 It was a hard decision. I wanted to continue playing with the initiative, but a pawn is a pawn. I can’t regain the pawn and fight for an advantage and decided to play this more energetic move. 33… Nb8 My opponent should have preferred 33…a5, where his queen side pawns stand better than in the game.

24. Rfc1 Continuing to bring all my pieces out. 24… Qb6 Now it’s time for me to figure out the best course of action. It’s a hard decision, and I chose a less than optimal one. 25.Be3 is answered with 25…Rcd8.  25. Qe3?! 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.Be3 Rd8 27.Qc1 Qb7 (27…Qd6!? 28.Qc2 gives white very good compensation) 28.Ra4, followed by a possible Qc4 would have given white an advantage.  25…Qb7 26. Bf4 26.Ra4! would have kept the advantage, since black is unable to keep his extra pawn for very long. 26… Rfd8 27. Ra5 Nfd7

It’s still not too late for white to get out of the mess. The rook is poorly placed on a5. 28.Ra4! would give white good play. 28. Bd6?? After this, the game is over. I offered resistance but there is no way to get away from the fact that any resulting endgame will be winning for black. 28… Rxc1 29. Qxc1 Qb6! I saw this move while playing my 28th move. What I missed is that after 30.Bc7 (after which I stopped calculating the variation) there is 30… Rc8.  30. Qc7 Qxc7 31. Bxc7 Rc8 32. Bxb8 Nxb8 33. Bd3 Rd8 34. Bxa6 Rd2+ 35. Kh3 Nc6 36. Rc5 Nd4 37. Rc8+ Kh7 38. Rd8 Nxf3 39. Rxd2 Nxd2 40. e5 An attempt to get some activity in this endgame instead of being ground down. 40… Nf3 41. Kg4 Nxe5+ 42. Kf4 Nd7 43. Bb5 Nb6 44. Ke5 g5 45. Bd3+ g6 46. Kd6 Kg7 47. b3 Kf6 48. Be4 g4 49. Bb7 g5 50. Kc5

It looks like white has some good activity. After 50…Nd7 51.Kxb4 white will have some chances. 50… Nd5! My opponent accurately calculated the pawn endgame to the end. 51. Bxd5 exd5 52. Kxd5 Kf5 53. Kc5 Ke4 54. Kxb4 f5 55. Kc3 Ke3 56. Kc2 f4 57. Kd1 Kf2 58. b4 f3 59. b5 Kg2 0-1

I blundered in a very tense position to lose the game. This loss was caused in part due to my 5th round game. Those ones are just hard to swallow. I lost it without a decent fight. When I started playing well, the damages were not repairable. Back to 50%. Seven rounds remain. Gotta pull myself together. To come are two games in a row with black…

Round 7

I was paired with against  Jan Willem de Jong for this round. I needed to bounce back this round. My opponent was currently in last place in the standings and I knew that I needed to put pressure from early on in the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.21”]
[Round “?”]
[White “De Jong”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “E32”]
[PlyCount “100”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.21”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Nf3 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bh4
b6 9. e3 Bb7 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Be2 Nbd7 12. O-O Ne4 13. Bxe7 Qxe7 14. Rac1 f5
15. Nxe4 fxe4 16. Ne5 Nxe5 17. Qxc7 Qxc7 18. Rxc7 Rf7 19. Rxb7 Rxb7 20. dxe5
Re8 21. f4 exf3 22. Bxf3 Rxe5 23. Rd1 Rd7 24. Kf2 Kf7 25. Rd4 Ke7 26. Ke2 h5
27. Kd2 Ke6 28. h3 g6 29. b3 Re7 30. Rd3 Rc7 31. Rd4 a5 32. Rd3 Rc5 33. Rd4 Kf6
34. Rd3 Re7 35. Bxd5 Rec7 36. Rd4 Rc2+ 37. Kd3 R7c3+ 38. Ke4 Rxg2 39. Bc4 Rg3
40. Rd6+ Kg7 41. Rxb6 Rcxe3+ 42. Kd4 Rxh3 43. a4 h4 44. b4 axb4 45. a5 Ra3 46.
a6 b3 47. Bd3 Rg3 48. Rb7+ Kh6 49. a7 Ra4+ 50. Kc3 b2 0-1

I decided to play a Nimzo Indian. Something relatively solid but a usual weapon of mine. I thought for a while about my 7th move, mainly because I didn’t want to play 6…Bxc3 and give my opponent easy play in the mainline.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Nf3 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bh4
b6 9. e3 Bb7 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Be2 Nbd7 12. O-O Ne4 13. Bxe7 Qxe7 14. Rac1

Both sides look solid enough. After some calculations I went for the aggressive 14… f5!? This is not the best move in the position, objectively speaking. However, it’s not a very pleasing move to see from your opponent when you are last in the standings. 15. Nxe4? Long lines that ensue after 15.Bb5 c6 16.Nxd5 cxd5 17.Qc7 Bc8 18.Bc6 Rb8 turn out to be very unclear. My opponent cracks under pressure with his response to my aggression. 15… fxe4 16. Ne5? 16.Nd2 is still close to equal. Nxe5 17. Qxc7 Qxc7 18. Rxc7 Rf7 I am not quite sure which part of the variation my opponent had missed. It could be that he missed that after 19.Rfc1 I have the strong 19…Nd3! and not 19…Nc4 20.R1xc4! dxc4 21.Bxc4, winning for white. 19. Rxb7 Rxb7 20. dxe5 Re8 21. f4 exf3 22. Bxf3 Rxe5 23. Rd1 Rd7 24. Kf2 Kf7 25. Rd4 Ke7 26. Ke2

We pretty much arrived at this position after the opening. Black is up a clear exchange, but the win is not easy. White is rock solid. It’s important to take baby steps in this position and play with a clear plan. White does not want to do anything. Black can fix his opponent’s pawns. I decided to place my pawns on h5 and g6, to limit the activity of the white pieces. I also decided to play a5 later on the queen side, potentially thinking about ideas with b5 and b4. I knew my opponent was content with not moving a finger. 26…h5 27. Kd2 Ke6 28. h3 g6 29. b3 Re7 30. Rd3 Rc7 31. Rd4 a5 32. Rd3 Rc5 33. Rd4 Kf6 34. Rd3?

I was happy to see my opponent just going back and forth with the rook. The rook is poorly placed on d3. This also allows for me to activate my rooks at a cheap price of my weak d5 pawn. 34… Re7! Creating immediate problems for white. White can’t stop my invasion without giving in somehow. 35.Rxd5 Rxd5 36.Bxd5 Rd7 37.e4 is lost because the bishop is stranded between a8 and d5. 35. Bxd5 Rec7 36. Rd4 Rc2+ 37. Kd3 My opponent offers no resistance with his last few moves and his position falls apart. 37… R7c3+ 38. Ke4 Rxg2 39. Bc4 Rg3 40. Rd6+ Kg7 41. Rxb6 Rcxe3+ 42. Kd4 Rxh3 43. a4 h4 44. b4 axb4 45. a5 Ra3 46. a6 b3 47. Bd3 Rg3 48. Rb7+ Kh6 49. a7

That time of the game where a few decent moves need to be made to finish the battle. There are a lot of ways to do that. Ra4+ 50. Kc3 b2 0-1 White resigned as he has no way to keep his only pawn.

I was satisfied with this game. It was rather uneventful. My opponent blundered very early on and for the rest of the game I was converting my extra material. It was good to forget about those two losses from before. A lot of work was still to be done.

Round 8

I was paired against Benjamin Bok for this round. Benjamin is one of the rising stars of Dutch chess at the young age of 15. I was to play black.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.23”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bok”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “67”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.22”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Nge2 e5 7. h3 c6 8. a4 a5
9. O-O Na6 10. Be3 Nb4 11. f4 Qc7 12. g4 b6 13. f5 Nd7 14. d5 Ba6 15. dxc6 Qxc6
16. g5 f6 17. h4 Nc5 18. Rf2 Rad8 19. Ng3 Qe8 20. h5 Bc8 21. hxg6 hxg6 22. gxf6
Bxf6 23. Qg4 Bg7 24. Raf1 Qf7 25. Qg5 Qf6 26. fxg6 Qxg5 27. Bxg5 Rd7 28. Nf5
Re8 29. Bh3 Ne6 30. Nh6+ Kh8 31. Bxe6 Rxe6 32. Rf8+ Bxf8 33. Rxf8+ Kg7 34. Rg8#
1-0

I decided to pull the Pirc out at last, in the hope of picking up a point. Benjamin played a solid line for white and we were each blitzing about 10 moves of preparation.

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Nge2 e5 7. h3 c6 8. a4 a5 9. O-O Na6 10. Be3 Nb4 11. f4 Qc7 12. g4 b6 13. f5

I am already in some trouble here. The trouble is long-term. I should have taken on f4 when I had the chance. I don’t have much play after 13…exd4 14.Bxd4. The game is not any better. 13… Nd7 14. d5! Plain and simple: lock the position in the center and then mate the opponent on the king side. My opponent has all the right tools in the position for just that. 14… Ba6 15. dxc6 Qxc6 16. g5 f6 17. h4

It looks like black has sufficient play, but in fact, nothing works. I thought I would be able to play d5 at some point but I have no such luck. White continues to improve his position and there is not much for black to do about it. Nc5 18. Rf2 Rad8 19. Ng3 Qe8 20. h5 Bc8 21. hxg6 hxg6 22. gxf6 Bxf6 23. Qg4 Bg7 24. Raf1 Qf7 25. Qg5 Qf6 26. fxg6 Qxg5 27. Bxg5 Rd7

Things have gotten worse. I am now down a pawn and that pawn has gone pretty far. I was hoping my opponent would start playing safely now but he correctly goes for the kill. 28. Nf5! Re8 29. Bh3 Ne6 30. Nh6+ Kh8 30…Bxh6 31.Bxh6 is also hopeless. The game allows for a pretty finish.

31. Bxe6 Rxe6 32. Rf8+ Bxf8 33. Rxf8+ Kg7 34. Rg8# 1-0 A pretty mate.

This wasn’t a good game on my part. My opponent punished me for sloppy play by delivering a strong attack. I was unable to put forward anything close to sufficient resistance. I was not playing with urgency in the opening. Urgency is very important in the Pirc. My opponent won the prize for game of the round for this win.

Benjamin’s father cooked dinner for some of the C group players at the “House of Nature”, where Benjamin and Roeland were staying. Another rest day was to come…