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.

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