Arrival and Rounds 1-4

I flew into Amsterdam very early on January 13th. At most tournaments, it is customary for players to arrive a day before the first round. The organizers of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament do things differently. I was greeted warmly at the airport by the part of the organizing crew in charge of transportation. Without any delay and without any other passengers in the car, I was driven to Wijk aan Zee. In the car I found out that the organizers hire a professional taxi service for the event, to transport all people involved in the Grandmaster groups.

I was taken to a small Bed and Breakfast called Villa ‘t Haasduin. The photo is of the main building, where breakfast is served. The guests stay in a side building not seen in this photo.

Out of the invited players, only Tania Sachdev and I would be staying at this location. Tania’s coach, Vishal Sareen, would arrive a few days later. Upon seeing my room I was very pleased.

The photo does not do the room justice. Missing in the photo are a second bed, tv, fridge, kettle as well as other things. The hosts, Mr. and Mrs. de Haas, helped make our stay very enjoyable. The invited players from groups A and B would be staying at Hotel Zeeduin.

The players were asked to arrive early to Wijk aan Zee for two reasons. There was an Opening Ceremony for the C Group, as well as a Welcome Party for the A and B groups. The event took place at Hotel Zeeduin. It was a great atmosphere with all of the top players from the event. The C Group had to do more work on this day with the drawing of lots, which included each of the players pressing the Space Button on a laptop, thus drawing a random number. The numbers that were drawn are below (quality is not very high):

I got number 11 in the pairings, which meant more games with Black. As always, receiving more Whites is seen as a success on those occasions. You can find great photos from this night taken by Fred Lucas at this link. Fred is known as the most famous chess photographer out there.

The next day brought more excitement with the Official Opening Ceremony. This would include the drawing of lots for the top two groups. This event took place at The Pavilion. You can find some photos in this link.

The ceremony was spectacular. The house was packed. There were Tata Officials, Politicians, and even some good chess players. The Opening Ceremony was one of a great one.  Below are some of my own photos.

Before the beginning of the ceremony.

A-group participants on stage.

B-group participants.

It was good to catch up with some of the players I had not seen in a while. It was also good to see some a lot of faces that I saw just two weeks earlier in Groningen. I knew this was the beginning of a long event. The atmosphere was like nothing I ever witnessed before. The small town of Wijk aan Zee loves chess and chess has become a part a part of the community throughout the tournament’s 73 year tradition.

Round 1

It was time to get to work. I felt like I was well adjusted to the time and was looking forward to the first round. I was to play GM Katherina Lahno with the black pieces. We had played at the 2004 Montreal International with the same colours, when I came out victorious. Below is our most recent encounter.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.15”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Lahno”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “87”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.14”]

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. Nc3 Ke8 10. h3 h5 11. Bg5 Be6 12. Ne2 Be7 13. Nf4 Bd5 14. Bxe7
Kxe7 15. Ng5 h4 16. b3 Nd4 17. Rad1 Ne6 18. Nfxe6 Bxe6 19. Nxe6 Kxe6 20. f4
Rad8 21. Kf2 Rd5 22. c4 Ra5 23. a4 b5 24. axb5 Ra2+ 25. Kf3 cxb5 26. cxb5 Rb8
27. Ra1 Rb2 28. Rxa7 Rxb5 29. Rxc7 R5xb3+ 30. Ke4 Rb4+ 31. Kf3 R2b3+ 32. Ke2
Ra4 33. Rfc1 Re4+ 34. Kd2 Rb6 35. R1c4 Rb2+ 36. Kd3 Rxc4 37. Rxc4 Rxg2 38. Ke4
Re2+ 39. Kf3 Rh2 40. Kg4 Rg2+ 41. Kxh4 Kf5 42. Rc7 Kxf4 43. Rxf7+ Kxe5 44. Rf3
1/2-1/2

I came into this tournament with a simple strategy: put pressure on my opponents early in the game. I did just that in this round. My opponent started thinking after my second move. I have been saving the Berlin Wall for the right time and I thought this would be it. Surprising opponents like this isn’t always good. I felt like I had worked enough on this opening to test it out here. My opponent has never gone for the mainline before but decided to do just that against me.

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. Nc3 Ke8 10. h3 h5 11. Bg5 Be6 12. Ne2 Be7 13. Nf4 Bd5 14. Bxe7
Kxe7 15. Ng5 h4 16. b3

My opponent had already spent a lot of time and I decided to not play the more forcing 15…Nd4, even though it is more sound than my 15…h4. At this point I was left with no choice because 17.c4 is coming, with the threat of 18.Ngxe6 fxe6 19.Ng6+, winning the exchange. The game continued with 16…Nd4 17. Rad1 Ne6 18. Nfxe6 Bxe6 19. Nxe6 Kxe6 and we reached a completely equal and harmless position. I did not quite expect my opponent to be so willing to go for this. White has a better pawn structure but black has a very active king.

20. f4 Rad8 21. Kf2

I wanted to stir up some interesting play. With my h-pawn fixing my opponent’s h and g-pawns, my pawn structure does not appear to be worse. I should have pressed with 21…Kf5 22.Kf3 c5, with the idea of putting pressure along the c-file with moves like Rd4, or c6 followed by Rd5. Another possible idea is to prepare g5 by first playing Rg8. Black is playing risk free there. I just didn’t think there was much to work with. I went with the far more aggressive 21…Rd5 22. c4 Ra5?! White has to solve the issue of her queen side pawns. The problem is that those problems are not too hard to solve. 23. a4 b5 24. axb5 Ra2+ 25. Kf3 cxb5 26. cxb5 Rb8
27. Ra1 Rb2 28. Rxa7? my opponent should have played 28.Rf2 with dead equality, but instead gave me some chances with her continuation.

28…Rxb5 29. Rxc7 R5xb3+ 30. Ke4 Rb4+ 31. Kf3 R2b3+ 32. Ke2

I had sacrificed a pawn for the activity and was hoping to get my opponent’s king in some trouble in the middle of the board. I have the draw at my disposal with checks anytime I want. I played the inaccurate 32…Ra4? after which 33. Rfc1 threatens a perpetual check, not allowing me to take white’s f and e-pawns. I should have played 32…Rg3 33.Rf2 Ra3! 34.Rc2 Kf5 where white still has some problems to solve. The game continued with

33…Re4+ 34. Kd2 Rb6 35. R1c4 Rb2+ 36. Kd3 Rxc4 37. Rxc4 Rxg2 38. Ke4
Re2+ 39. Kf3 Rh2 40. Kg4 Rg2+ 41. Kxh4 Kf5 42. Rc7 Kxf4 43. Rxf7+ Kxe5 44. Rf3
1/2-1/2

We agreed to a draw. Hard to say it wasn’t a serious battle. It was a pretty boring one at that. I was unable to create enough problems for my opponent. On the flip side, I never stood worse in my first attempt with the Berlin Wall. It’s a decent start.

Round 2

I was paired against 16 year old GM Swiercz from Poland with the white pieces. I had to get used to the fact that my opponents in this tournament would be very young. You can see the future of chess in all sections of the Tata event.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.16”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Swiercz”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “89”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.15”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. cxd5 exd5 8. g3
Nbd7 9. Bg2 Nb6 10. O-O Re8 11. Qc2 Bd7 12. b4 a5 13. b5 c6 14. bxc6 bxc6 15.
Nf4 Bd6 16. e4 Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Bf5 18. Qxc6 Bxe4 19. Nxd5 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 Nxd5 21.
Qxd5 a4 22. Rb1 Be7 23. Qc4 Qd7 24. d5 Red8 25. Rd1 Rac8 26. Qd3 h5 27. Bf4 h4
28. d6 h3+ 29. Kf1 Bf6 30. Qd5 Qg4 31. d7 Rc2 32. f3 Qg6 33. Qe4 Rxh2 34. Qxg6
fxg6 35. Bc7 Rf8 36. Kg1 Rg2+ 37. Kh1 Bd8 38. Bd6 Rf7 39. Bc5 Kh7 40. Rb8 Bc7
41. d8=Q Bxd8 42. Rdxd8 g5 43. Rh8+ Kg6 44. Rb6+ Kf5 45. Rxh3 1-0

The battle started off with a playable position in my usual e3 and Nge2 Nimzo Indian. I didn’t have any advantage at the start but I was familiar with those positions. My opponent started making strange moves with 11…Bd7.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. cxd5 exd5 8. g3
Nbd7 9. Bg2 Nb6 10. O-O Re8 11. Qc2 Bd7 12. b4 a5 13. b5 c6 14. bxc6 bxc6 15.
Nf4 Bd6 16. e4 Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Bf5 18. Qxc6 Bxe4

We arrived at the position above. 19.Bxe4 dxe4 20.Rb1 Bxf4 21.Bxf4 Nd5 does not give white any hope of an advantage. I had other plans with 19. Nxd5! (Should be noted I made the same move in a similar trick against van Kampen in Groningen) Bxg2 20. Kxg2 Nxd5 21.Qxd5 a4 . For now, white is up a pawn. Black’s pieces are more active, but it is clear that white is the one playing for a win. I was close to playing 22.Bg5? in this position but noticed 22…Ra5 at last, where black is able to equalize. It’s good to see it, but bad to not see it instantly.

22. Rb1 Be7 23. Qc4 Qd7 24. d5 Red8 25. Rd1 Rac8 26. Qd3 h5 27. Bf4 h4

A lot has changed. My opponent has not been defending tenaciously and I have really gotten my way. Black is trying to get some counter-play by advancing his h-pawn. The game continued with  28. d6 h3+ 29. Kf1 Played to avoid putting my king on g1 and worrying about threats with Qg2 mate 29… Bf6 30. Qd5 Qg4 31. d7 Rc2 32. f3? I should have played the very strong 32.Qe4 Rc3 33.Rd6!, threatening Qe8+ and Rxf6. The game would have been over shortly. Added to that, black runs out of useful moves.33… Qg6 33. Qe4 Rxh2 34. Qxg6 fxg6

Leading to this point, I have been trying to simplify the position too much instead of winning the position with the pieces of the board. The 35th move is going to be hard to explain for both sides. I played 35. Bc7?? White would still have the advantage after the simple 35.Kg1. I had other plans. I thought I was winning. Bc7 looks natural. The game continued with 35…Rf8?? Why all the question marks you ask? Well, 35…Rc2, threatening to queen the pawn with 36…h2 as well as attacking the bishop would have won the game instantly. We both missed the idea. Amusingly (trying to throw humour on a not very amusing situation), I only found out about the blunder after reading an e-mail from IM Raja Panjwani as he was following the game and wondering what’s wrong with the idea and asking if he is just hallucinating. I had little trouble winning after 36. Kg1 Rg2+ 37. Kh1 Bd8? 37…Rc2 would have offered black better chances. 38. Bd6 Rf7 39. Bc5! This patient move threatens the unstoppable Rb8 and wins a piece for white. 39...Kh7 40. Rb8 Bc7 41. d8=Q Bxd8 42. Rdxd8


In the position above, white threatens 43.Rh8 mate and black has to worry about the safety of his own king first. The rest was simple.  42…g5 43. Rh8+ Kg6 44. Rb6+ Kf5 45. Rxh3 1-0

What a game. To miss something as simple as 35…Rc2 is a big concern. The idea of Rc2 followed by h2 was just not one that my opponent and I were looking for. It felt like a lucky break. It could have turned out a different way. I need to find a way to eliminate those misses because they can cost a lot of points. It’s good to be at +1 and not at -1.

Round 3

I was paired against the World’s Youngest Grandmaster, at 14, in Ilya Nyzhnyk in the third round. We had played less than three weeks earlier and I witnessed Ilya’s last norm. The kid can play. I was to play him with black again. I felt like our last battle left a good precedent for my confidence level against him.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.17”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Nyzhnyk”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A40”]
[PlyCount “50”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.16”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. a4 Bg4 7. Nc3 Bxf3 8.
gxf3 g6 9. Qb3 Na6 10. Bg5 Nb4 11. Na2 Bg7 12. Nxb4 cxb4 13. Qxb4 O-O 14. Rd1
h6 15. Bf4 Nh5 16. Bd2 a5 17. Qb3 Re8 18. Bg2 Qh4 19. e3 Nf4 20. Kf1 Nxg2 21.
Kxg2 Qg5+ 22. Kf1 Qh5 23. Kg2 Qg5+ 24. Kf1 Qh5 25. Kg2 Qg5+ 1/2-1/2

Somebody was going to deviate from our Groningen opening. I thought that my opponent might deviate before we reach move three but I guess he had good preparation for 3…Bb4+. I had prepared the Benoni. He does not have much experience in it and I thought this would be another good opportunity to create some dynamic problems for my opponent to solve in the opening.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. a4

White has just played 6.a4. I must admit, I have never seen this move before. It’s a very rare move. I went into a deep think. What does white want to do? In the Benoni, white generally plays a4 in response to a6, in an attempt to stop black’s expansion on the queen side with b5. But in this case, white weakens the b4 square unnecessarily. I was trying to find a way to render this move useless. I had also realized that my opponent planned 6…g6 7.Ra3 Bg7 8.Re3+ Kf8. I stopped looking at the line once I saw the check. However, that final position is completely playable for black with the general future idea of Kg8, h6 and Kh7, where the King finds safety. I found a way to confuse the matter some more. 6…Bg4!? I want to double white’s pawns and play against them. Generally, white tries to avoid this exchange with Nd2 in this opening. In this situation, the d5 pawn is not defended. My opponent continued in a natural way. 7. Nc3 Bxf3 8.gxf3 g6 9. Qb3 Na6! continuing to play dynamically. Qxb7 will always be answered with Nb4. Other replies would place Black’s pieces awkwardly. Then we reached the position below. 10. Bg5 Nb4 11.Na2 Bg7 12. Nxb4 cxb4 13. Qxb4 O-O 14. Rd1 h6 15. Bf4 Nh5

White has an extra pawn but all of black’s pieces are developed. I had just played 15…Nh5!, continuing to create problems for my opponent. White could have tried 16.Bxd6 a5 17.Qa3 Bxb2 18.Qxb2 Qxd6, where black has good compensation for the pawn deficit. 16. Bd2 a5 17. Qb3 Re8 18. Bg2 Qh4 19. e3 Nf4 My pieces are coming fast, but white’s position is quite solid after 20. Kf1 Nxg2 21.Kxg2 Qg5+ 22. Kf1 Qh5 23. Kg2 Qg5+ 24. Kf1

I was trying to find a way to play for more but found nothing better than a repitition. 24…Qh5 25. Kg2 White could have kept the fight going with 35.Ke2 Re5 36.Qxb7 Rf8 37.h4! but things would have been very complicated after 25…Rf5 26.Rh3 Rxd5, where white is up a pawn but black has the better piece coordination. 25…Qg5+ 25…Re5 would have been answered by the strong 26.h4, where black is having trouble creating sufficient counter-play. 1/2-1/2

Decent game overall. I was satisfied with the fact that I played so many energetic games in such a short battle. We did not make a lot of moves but we made the most of the ones we did make. I knew that Nyzhnyk is as dangerous as anybody in the event with the white pieces, with which he was on a tear throughout the tournament.

Round 4

This round brought a familiar face to my board once again, in IM Robin van Kampen. Robin is 16 years old and has also just made a norm in Groningen. I was to have the white pieces against Robin once again.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.01.18”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Van Kampen”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A40”]
[PlyCount “71”]
[EventDate “2011.01.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.01.18”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O a6 8. a4 a5
9. Qb3 e6 10. Ne5 Na6 11. Bd2 Ne4 12. Be1 Nec5 13. Qd1 Bxe5 14. dxe5 b6 15. f4
Nb4 16. Bg3 Ba6 17. cxd5 Nxd5 18. Bxa6 Rxa6 19. Nxd5 cxd5 20. Qg4 f5 21. exf6
Qxf6 22. Qe2 Ra7 23. Qb5 Qd8 24. Rac1 Qd7 25. Qxb6 Nxa4 26. Qd4 Rb7 27. Be1 e5
28. fxe5 Rxf1+ 29. Kxf1 Rxb2 30. e6 Qxe6 31. Rc7 Qf5+ 32. Kg1 Qf8 33. Qxd5+ Kh8
34. Qe5+ Kg8 35. Qe6+ Kh8 36. Rc8 1-0

There was a battle of who would deviate first. Robin deviated with his 4th move but I felt confident for some time. Black’s 9th move was more of a surprise. Then came the real surprise…

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O a6 8. a4 a5 9. Qb3 e6 10. Ne5 Na6 11. Bd2

I was relatively happy in this position. Robin has been blitzing all his moves so far. I stopped being happy after 11…Ne4! I beat the preparation off pretty well but could only do it for so long. 12. Be1 Nec5 13. Qd1 Bxe5 14. dxe5 b6 White’s position is not very comfortable at this point. A lot of weak pawns and the bishops are not doing much. I decided to follow an aggressive plan 15. f4 15.b3 followed by Na2 might have been preferable, where White does not let black into his camp. I did not have the mentality of equalizing at this point. 15… Nb4 16. Bg3 Ba6 17. cxd5 Nxd5 18. Bxa6 Rxa6

White only has one hope: take advantage of those dark squares. Black is very happy with his current pawn structure which keeps the d-file open and makes it difficult for me to activate my bishop. 19. Nxd5 There is nothing special about this move, but it really makes black think. All three captures are reasonable alternatives. 19…cxd5! My opponent chose the right capture. 19…exd5 is answered with f5 and 19…Qxd5 is answered with Qe2, where I have good activity in both cases, largely due to the stranded a6 rook. 20. Qg4 This was a semi-bluff. Of course, I want to mate my opponent. But the question is, will I succeed? I feel like Black’s chances are better after 20…Ne4 21.Bh4 Qb8, where mate on g7 will later be stopped by a maneuver involving a rook lift and Qf8. Nobody wants to calculate getting mated. It feels better to stop the attack before it started. 20…f5? This is not a fatal mistake but it was a relief for me to see this move. With the position opening up the worst should be behind me. Now the position is balanced  21.exf6 Qxf6 22. Qe2 Ra7 23. Qb5 Qd8 24. Rac1 Qd7 25. Qxb6 Nxa4 26. Qd4 Rb7

Robin went for a forced line with his 24th move which got him into some trouble because he missed my next move 27. Be1! Simple, I need to get my bishop on the long diagonal. 27…Rxb2 is answered with Ra1, winning material. My opponent is unable to offer any resistance and collapses within a few moves. 27…e5? Necessary was 27…Nxb2 28.Bc3 Nc4, followed by a run with the king. White would still be clearly better, but the game is less tenacious. 28. fxe5 Rxf1+ 29. Kxf1 Rxb2 30. e6 Qxe6 31. Rc7 Qf5+ 32. Kg1 Qf8


Black has stopped the mate but now it is time for the final blow. There are several ways to win and black has absolutely no threats. 33. Qxd5+ Kh8
34. Qe5+ Kg8 35. Qe6+ Kh8 36. Rc8 1-0

The opening was a scare. It’s never pleasant to have your opponent blitzing moves while you feel like your position is getting worse. I was able to fight back and complicate the position. It felt like Black was never quite able to pull himself together for a serious battle. That can happen when your opponent is spending a lot of time in the opening.

I was very happy with 3/4 before the first rest day. Vocaturo was the leader at 3.5/4. More on the rest day next…


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7 Responses to Arrival and Rounds 1-4

  1. Doug says:

    Марк, спасибо за глубокий анализ ващих игр!

    Дуг

  2. Howard Streit says:

    Greetings, Mark…although we have never met we share an odd co-incidence (besides chess). In Nov-Dec at a tournament at Rijeka, Croatia, my wife and I ended up on the sixth floor of the local hotel used for boarding visiting chess players. The next room was Tania Sachdev’s. She and I walked to and from the tournament site several times, with me acting as a sort of unofficial bodyguard. I remember she had an interest in old(e) English literature which she had studied at university. As a high school English teacher we had much to talk about. I also recall teasing her often about the gloves and hat she wore despite the otherwise mild (by Canadian standards) temperatures. – Howard

    I very much have enjoyed your blog, keep up the good work!

  3. Howard Streit says:

    Apologies for omitting the year of my tournament with Tania, it was 2008, immediately after the Dresden Olympiad.

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