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…

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