Capablanca Memorial: Rounds 1-4

I arrived in Havana on May 9th, 2 days before the start of the first round. I was picked up at the airport by the organizers.

This was the first time that I did not change time zones for a tournament. A nice change! Havana is a beautiful city. I had a full day before the tournament to walk around and explore. I will post photos after I am done analyzing the games.

The opening ceremony took place the night before the first round. The organizers of this traditional event did a great job and provided the participants with some nice performances. There was also the drawing or lots. The organizers did a fantastic job throughout of the event.

There is nothing the organizers can do about internet though. Internet was provided in the hotel lobby for 8 CUC (approx. $8) per hour. Such is internet access in Cuba.

I came to Cuba for the competition. With a 2560 average rating, there are no easy games. Out of the 10 players in the Premier Group, 9 were GMs. This tournament is a strong round robin that would test me throughout the event.

Round 1

I was paired against Omar Almeida Quintana, rated 2558, in the first round.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.05.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Almeida, O.”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “104”]
[EventDate “2011.05.11”]
[SourceDate “2011.05.11”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Bg5 c5 5. d5 h6 6. Bh4 d6 7. e3 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3
Qe7 9. Nf3 e5 10. Nd2 g5 11. Bg3 Nbd7 12. h4 Rg8 13. hxg5 hxg5 14. Qc2 Kd8 15.
Bd3 Kc7 16. O-O-O b6 17. f3 Bb7 18. Bf5 Rh8 19. Bf2 Rag8 20. g4 Qe8 21. e4 Rxh1
22. Rxh1 Rh8 23. Qd1 Qg8 24. Be3 Rxh1 25. Qxh1 Qg7 26. Kb2 Ba6 27. Kb3 b5 28.
cxb5 Bxb5 29. c4 Ba6 30. Qc1 Nb8 31. Nb1 Nfd7 32. Bxg5 Nb6 33. Na3 Qh8 34. Nb5+
Bxb5 35. cxb5 Qh3 36. Qd1 Qg2 37. Bd2 Qf2 38. Bc3 c4+ 39. Ka3 Qc5+ 40. Kb2
Qxb5+ 41. Kc1 Na4 42. Qd2 Na6 43. f4 Nxc3 44. Qxc3 Nb4 45. Kd2 Nxa2 46. Qa3 c3+
47. Kc2 Nb4+ 48. Kxc3 Qc5+ 49. Kb3 a5 50. Qb2 exf4 51. e5 Qxd5+ 52. Ka4 dxe5
0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Bg5 A very rare move nowadays. c5 5. d5 h6 6. Bh4 d6 7. e3 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Qe7 9. Nf3 e5 10. Nd2 g5 11. Bg3

So far so good according to theory. 11…Bf5 is the main move, which attempts to stop White from playing e4 and develops the Bishop to a natural square. Black often reacts to f3 with e4 in these positions. 11… Nbd7 12. h4 Rg8 13. hxg5 White takes control of the h-file 13… hxg5 14. Qc2 Kd8 A standard and interesting idea. Black puts his King on c7 where it is safe without making any other commitments 15. Bd3 Kc7 16. O-O-O b6 16…Nb6!? with the idea of Bd7 and Ba4 is worth some attention. 17. f3 Bb7 18. Bf5 Rh8 19. Bf2! White is playing some strong moves and attempts to rearrange his pieces. His future plans include playing g4 and e4, followed by pressing on the weak g5 pawn. Black is unable to play f6 in a lot of lines. 19… Rag8 20. g4 Qe8 20…e4!? was interesting, in an attempt to complicate matters and bring the Black knight out to e5, to exploit the weakness of c4. 21. e4 Now White has a nagging advantage which Black attempts to neutralize. 21… Rxh1 22. Rxh1 Rh8 23. Qd1 Qg8 24. Be3 Rxh1 25. Qxh1 Qg7 26. Kb2

26… Ba6?! Black is going in the wrong direction. The next move makes Black’s position a difficult one. 26…Nf8! 27.Nf1 Ng8 28.Qh5 f6 29.Ng3 Kd8 is probably enough to hold. 27. Kb3 b5? 27…Nf8 was still preferable. After this move, trouble awaits Black. I intended to complicate the position and underestimated the consequences. 28. cxb5 Bxb5 29. c4 Ba6 30. Qc1! The queen aims at both g5 and a3. 30… Nb8 31. Nb1?! White should have preferred 31. Qa3! and continue focusing on the queen side. 31… Nfd7 32. Bxg5 Nb6 33. Na3 Qh8 34. Nb5+? An attempt to oversimplify the position fails. Black is eager to gain some activity through the entry of the queen. 34.Qe1 would have been preferable but White’s position is not as good as it used to be. 34… Bxb5 35. cxb5 Qh3 35…Qh2 was interesting, threatening both Qf2 and Qe2 next. 36. Qd1 Qg2 White’s life is suddenly not that easy. Black is very active. 37. Bd2? 37.a4 was a better option.

37… Qf2! The move that my opponent missed. Suddenly, Black is threatening Qd4 and has ideas involving c4+. White is the one in need of good moves now. 38. Bc3 c4+ 39. Ka3 Qc5+ 40. Kb2 Qxb5+ 41. Kc1 Na4 42. Qd2 Na6 All of Black’s pieces are getting in on the action. White’s bishop on f5 is starting to look a bit ridiculous. 43.Bxe5 fails to 43…dxe5 44.d6+ Kb7 45.d7 c3! 43. f4 Nxc3 44. Qxc3 Nb4 45. Kd2 Nxa2 46. Qa3 c3+ 47. Kc2 Nb4+ 48. Kxc3 Qc5+ 49. Kb3 a5! White is lacking good moves. 50. Qb2 exf4 51. e5 Qxd5+ 52. Ka4 dxe5 0-1 Black completely dominates the final position.

A good finish but a rough ride. I was fortunate to steer the game my way towards the end. Always nice to be on top in the first round.

Round 2

I was to play GM Emilio Cordova of Peru in the second round.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.05.12”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Cordova, E.”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “80”]
[EventDate “2011.05.11”]
[SourceDate “2011.05.12”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 g6 6. Nc3 Bxa6 7. Nf3 d6 8. e4
Bxf1 9. Kxf1 Bg7 10. g3 O-O 11. Kg2 Nbd7 12. h3 Ra6 13. Qc2 Qa8 14. Rd1 Ne8 15.
Bg5 f6 16. Be3 Nc7 17. Rab1 f5 18. Kg1 Bxc3 19. Qxc3 fxe4 20. Ng5 Rf5 21. b4
Nxd5 22. Qc4 e6 23. Qxe4 Nxe3 24. Qxe6+ Kh8 25. Qxe3 Ne5 26. Ne4 Rf3 27. Qe2
Rxa2 28. Rd2 Rxd2 29. Nxd2 Rd3 30. Qe4 Qxe4 31. Nxe4 Rd4 32. Ng5 Rxb4 33. Rd1
h6 34. f4 hxg5 35. fxe5 dxe5 36. Rd5 Re4 37. Rxc5 Kg7 38. Kf2 g4 39. hxg4 Kf6
40. Rc6+ Kg5 1/2-1/2

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 g6 6. Nc3 Bxa6 7. Nf3 d6 8. e4
Bxf1 9. Kxf1 Bg7 10. g3 O-O 11. Kg2 Nbd7 12. h3 Ra6 13. Qc2 Qa8 14. Rd1 Ne8 15.
Bg5 f6 16. Be3 Nc7 

It’s been a relatively standard line of the Benko so far. Black wants to play f5. White’s plan is less clear. 17. Rab1? Too slow! 17.Nh4!? f5 18.exf5 Bxc3 19.fxg6 Nxd5 20. gxh7+ Kh8 21. Kg2 leads to a completely chaotic and unclear position. After Black’s next move, which I underestimated, Black has an advantage as White’s center falls apart. 17… f5! 18. Kg1 Getting the King off of that poisonous diagonal. 18… Bxc3 19. Qxc3 fxe4 20. Ng5 20.Bh6 Rf6 21.Ng5 was another option, but Black would still have the edge. 20… Rf5! Black wants to take on d5 and have a clear advantage due to his strong center. 21. b4?! An attempt to complicate the position by creating some problems for Black. 21… Nxd5 22. Qc4 e6? 22…h6 23.Nxe4 Kh7!!, threatening to take on b4 as well as play Ne5 would leave White is very serious trouble. The text is still better for Black but is not clear. 23. Qxe4 Nxe3 24. Qxe6+ Kh8 25. Qxe3 Ne5

Black went for this position from a distance, believing that only he will be playing for a win here. In time pressure I started making “solid” moves. 26. Ne4? 26.bxc5! Rxg5 27.cxd6 Nf3+ 28.Kf1 leaves Black with nothing better than a draw by perpetual due to the strength of the d-pawn. 26… Rf3 27. Qe2 Rxa2 28. Rd2 Rxd2 29. Nxd2 Rd3 30. Qe4 Qxe4 31. Nxe4 Rd4 32. Ng5 Rxb4 33. Rd1

33… h6? We had both underestimated the strength of 33…c4! 34.Rxd6 c3 35.Rd8+ Kg7 36.Rc8 Rc4 37.Rxc4 Nxc4 where White is in trouble. 34.Ne4 Rb6 also leaves Black with good winning chances. 34. f4! My opponent missed this move. 34… hxg5 35. fxe5 dxe5 36. Rd5 The arising rook endgame is an easy draw due to the weakness of Black’s doubled pawns. 36… Re4 37. Rxc5 Kg7 38. Kf2 g4 39. hxg4 Kf6 40. Rc6+ Kg5 1/2-1/2

A good save but not exactly what I had hoped for with the White pieces. Overall, this tournament seemed to be disastrous for the White pieces in the Premier group.

Round 3

I was paired against GM Alvarez Pedraza in this round.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.05.13”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Alvarez, Aramis”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “104”]
[EventDate “2011.05.11”]
[SourceDate “2011.05.12”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nf3 g6 7. Bf4 Bg7 8. Qa4+
Bd7 9. Qb3 Qc7 10. e4 Nh5 11. Be3 O-O 12. Be2 a6 13. a4 Bg4 14. e5 dxe5 15. d6
Qxd6 16. Rd1 Be6 17. Bc4 Bxc4 18. Qxc4 Qc6 19. Nd5 Kh8 20. Ng5 h6 21. Ne4 Nd7
22. O-O Rae8 23. Ndc3 Re6 24. Rd2 f5 25. Rxd7 Qxd7 26. Nxc5 Rc6 27. Nxd7 Rxc4
28. Nxf8 Bxf8 29. Rd1 Nf6 30. Rd8 Kg7 31. Rb8 Rc7 32. f4 Bd6 33. Rd8 Rd7 34.
Rxd7+ Nxd7 35. g3 exf4 36. gxf4 Nc5 37. Kg2 Nd3 38. Ne2 Kf6 39. Bd4+ Ke6 40.
Kf3 Kd5 41. Bg7 h5 42. b3 Nc5 43. Nd4 Ne4 44. Ke3 Bc5 45. Kd3 Nf2+ 46. Kc3 Nh3
47. Ne2 Be3 48. Bh6 Ke4 49. Kc4 Bxf4 50. Nxf4 Nxf4 51. Kc5 Ne6+ 52. Kd6 f4 0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nf3 g6 7. Bf4 Bg7 8. Qa4+
Bd7 9. Qb3 Qc7 10. e4 Nh5 11. Be3 O-O 12. Be2 a6 13. a4 Bg4 

This position is still a theoretical one. 14.h3 is the main continuation. 14. e5?! A novelty. White sacrifices two pawns and tries to get all his pieces involved in the center of the board. 14… dxe5 15. d6 Qxd6 I felt like Black shouldn’t be in any trouble after taking the two pawns. 16. Rd1 Be6?! A safe approach. 16…Qc6 17.Nd5 Re8 18.0-0 Nd7 19. h3 Nf4 would have given Black a clear advantage. 17. Bc4 17.Qxb7 Qc6 18.Qxc6 Nxc6 19.Bxc5 Rfb8 is what I anticipated, with a slight advantage for Black. 17… Bxc4 18. Qxc4 Qc6 19. Nd5 Kh8 20. Ng5 h6 21. Ne4 Nd7 22. O-O Rae8 Black is up two whole pawns but White has strong pressure on the d-file and all of his pieces are well placed. I was very willing to give up one of my pawns to untie my pieces. 23. Ndc3 Re6 24. Rd2

It’s hard for Black to get his pieces out. After a long think I went for simplification. 24… f5! Black goes into a risk-free endgame. 25. Rxd7 Qxd7 26. Nxc5 Rc6 27. Nxd7 Rxc4 28. Nxf8 Bxf8 29. Rd1 Nf6? 29…Bg7 gives Black a bigger advantage as it protects the King and allows for Rb4 to come in next. A win is still far away though. 30. Rd8 Kg7 31. Rb8 Rc7

The moment of truth. Black is tied up but this is only temporary. Once I play Bd6 the White rook looks awkward on the 8th rank. 32. f4? 32.Bxh6! Kxh6 33.Rxf8 Ne4 34.Rh8+! Kg7 35.Rb8 gives White excellent drawing chances. The text leaves White down a pawn in a position that is close to lost. 32… Bd6 33. Rd8 Rd7 34.Rxd7+ Nxd7 35. g3 exf4 36. gxf4 Black is up a pawn. Time to activate my pieces as much as possible. The Knight would be ideally placed on d3 where it attacks b2 and f4. The King would ideally invade the White queen side through d5. The rest is relatively easy. 36… Nc5 37. Kg2 Nd3 38. Ne2 Kf6 39. Bd4+ Ke6 40. Kf3 Kd5 41. Bg7 h5 42. b3 Nc5 43. Nd4 Ne4 44. Ke3 Bc5 45. Kd3 Nf2+ 46. Kc3 Nh3 47. Ne2 Be3 48. Bh6 Ke4 49. Kc4 Bxf4 50. Nxf4 Nxf4 51. Kc5 Ne6+ 52. Kd6 f4 0-1

This was a good win. White got overly creative in the opening and then missed on his chances in the ending. Good technique towards the end.

Round 4

I was to play GM Ortiz Suarez with the Black pieces.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.05.14”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Ortiz”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “119”]
[EventDate “2011.05.11”]
[SourceDate “2011.05.13”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 a6 5. Ba4 b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. c3 O-O 8. d3
d6 9. Nbd2 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. h3 Nc6 12. Nf1 d5 13. Ng3 dxe4 14. dxe4 Be6 15.
Nf5 Bc4 16. Qe3 Nh5 17. Nd2 Nf4 18. Qg3 Bf6 19. Nxc4 bxc4 20. Ne3 Nd3+ 21. Ke2
Nf4+ 22. Kf1 Na5 23. Ng4 Rb8 24. Rb1 Qd6 25. Be3 Rfd8 26. Qf3 Nd3 27. b3 Be7
28. g3 Qe6 29. Ke2 cxb3 30. axb3 c4 31. b4 Nb7 32. Bd2 Nd6 33. Ne3 Nb5 34. Nd5
f5 35. Qxf5 Qd6 36. Bxd3 cxd3+ 37. Kf1 Rf8 38. Qg4 Na3 39. Rd1 Rb5 40. Ne3 Qf6
41. Rh2 a5 42. Bc1 axb4 43. cxb4 Nc2 44. Nd5 Qd6 45. Rxd3 Nxb4 46. Nxe7+ Qxe7
47. Rd7 Qf6 48. Bg5 Qa6 49. Kg2 Nc2 50. h4 Ne1+ 51. Kh3 Rb7 52. Rh1 Nd3 53. Be3
Rxd7 54. Qxd7 Nxf2+ 55. Bxf2 Rxf2 56. Rc1 h6 57. h5 Rf8 58. Qd5+ Kh7 59. Qxe5
Qe2 60. Rc7 1/2-1/2

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 a6 5. Ba4 b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. c3 O-O 8. d3
d6 9. Nbd2 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. h3 Nc6 12. Nf1 d5 13. Ng3 dxe4 14. dxe4 Be6 15.
Nf5 Bc4 16. Qe3

Everything has been pretty standard up until now. I wanted to create as many problems as possible for my opponent. 16… Nh5!? Going for the f4 square. 17. Nd2 17.g3 was also interesting.  17… Nf4 18. Qg3 Bf6 19. Nxc4 bxc4 White has the better pawn structure and the two Bishops but Black has the more active pieces. 20.Bxf4 exf4 21.Qxf4 Rb8 would have been interesting, with Black having clear compensation for the pawn. 20. Ne3 Nd3+ 21. Ke2 Nf4+ 22. Kf1 Na5 23. Ng4 Rb8 24. Rb1 Qd6 25. Be3 Rfd8 26. Qf3 Nd3 27. b3? 27.Nxf6 would have been preferable, giving White an advantage. My opponent did not see my plan. 27… Be7! The Knight is starting to look awkward on g4. 28. g3 Qe6 29. Ke2 The position has changed completely over the last few moves. 29…h5! 30.Nh2 cxb3 31.cxb3 c4! would have given Black a substantial advantage. The text promises Black a bit less. 29… cxb3 30. axb3 c4 31. b4 Nb7 32. Bd2 Nd6 33. Ne3 Nb5? 33…Bg5 was more promising. The Bishop does not have a big future and I should have exchanged it 34. Nd5

I should have played 34… Na3 35.Bxd3 cxd3 36.Qxd3 Nxb1 37.Rxb1, where the position is close to equal because of how solid White is. Instead, I played 34… f5? Simply blundered a pawn after calculating the above for a long time. 35. Qxf5 I missed 35…Qxf5 36.Nxe7 when I was calculating the variation before. Such blunders happen! Need to recover mentally. 35… Qd6 36. Bxd3 cxd3+ 37. Kf1 Rf8 38. Qg4 Na3? 38… Nc7 would have been much stronger since I need to get rid of the annoying Knight on d5. 39. Rd1 Rb5 40. Ne3 A safe 40th move, 40.Kg2 Rxd5 41.exd5 Qxd5+ 42.f3 would have given White a big advantage. 40… Qf6 41. Rh2 a5 Trying to stir up the position one more time. 42. Bc1 axb4 43. cxb4 Nc2 44. Nd5 Qd6 45. Rxd3 Nxb4 46. Nxe7+ Qxe7 47. Rd7 Qf6 48. Bg5 Qa6 49. Kg2 Nc2 50. h4?? White would still have the advantage after 50.Rh1!

I didn’t have much time on the clock and was more than satisfied with the text. 50… Ne1+? 50…Rb1!  wins for Black! 51.Rxg7+ loses to Kh8, still threatening Qf1 mate. 51.Kh3 loses to 51…Qf1+ 52.Rg2 Qh1+ 53.Rh2 Qxh2+ 54.Kxh2 Rxf2+ 55.Kh3 Rh1 mate. 51. Kh3 Rb7 52. Rh1 Nd3? 52…h5 53.Qxh5 Qe6+ 54.Qg4 Qxd7 55.Rxe1 Rxf2 will probably still end up in a draw but it is Black who will be pressing for the full point. 53. Be3 Rxd7 54. Qxd7 Nxf2+ 55. Bxf2 Rxf2 56. Rc1 h6 57. h5 Rf8 58. Qd5+ Kh7 59. Qxe5
Qe2 60. Rc7 1/2-1/2
Black has to settle for the perpetual.


A very exciting affair that kept going back and forth. I recovered well after my blunder to complicate matters but was unable to find the win when it was there. A fair outcome in the end.

I was leading the tournament after four rounds with 3/4. It could have been a lot less though. I knew that I would have to play better in the rest of the tournament.

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Off to Havana

I am currently waiting for boarding at Pearson Airport. I am flying to Havana to play in the Premier Group of the Capablanca Memorial. My section will have a 10 player round robin, with 9 GMs, and a 2560 average rating.

The games start on Wednesday. I thought it would be a good idea to arrive in Havana two days before the tournament starts. There will be no “settling in” with the first few rounds. No easy games and a lot of hard fought battles. Some of the players who played in Toluca will be taking part here as well.

Time to fly!

Overview

The tournament in Toluca was a big success for me. It was a “light” trip for me and my first tournament away from Europe in a long time. There was no real adjustment to time difference.

The organization of the event was not perfect but everybody did their best. The late start of the first, second and fourth rounds was irritating for the players. It was difficult to avoid considering 1300 players took part in the event and registration took place on the first two days. The Mexican Youth Championships and the Women’s Championships took place in the same playing hall, as well as other sections by rating. The players agreed that the time control for the event, at 120min/40moves + 30min for the rest of the game and 30sec added from move one, was too long when playing two games a day. Long morning games would take too much out of the players and potentially delay the start of the evening round.

Outside of that the organization of the event was pretty good. The hotel was five stars. I went swimming several times during the tournament. The organizers addressed the players’ concerns. They even ordered (and paid) for a taxi for me to the airport at the end of the tournament.

The atmosphere created by Mexican spectators was great. There is real love for chess in Mexico. In the last few days of the tournament the GMs were asked to sign many autographs for kids as well as adults. There was clear appreciation for the chess players. Many spectators came to watch the games throughout the event.

As for myself, I feel like I played energetic chess at the end of the event. My 6th, 7th and 9th round games showed good wins. I came out on top during those sharp struggles.

Time to get to some photos!

The playing hall

A garden just outside of the playing hall

Spectators climbing chairs to see GM Cori blitzing after the last round. The pile later got bigger

Left to right: GMs Corrales, Leon Hoyos and Kovalyov

The Americans (l-r): FM Betanelli, GM Lenderman and Erik Santarius

You can see the three logos of my sponsors on the shirt

Lineup of officials at the closing ceremony

GM Fidel Corrales receiving his prize

Myself doing the rounds

A chess fan and GM Bruzon

The view from my room, another garden

Big thanks to Janeth for the photos below

Pitterson-Bluvshtein. I guess that’s what I look like when I play

Bluvshtein-Quesada

Left to right: Janeth, myself and Estefania

A short break awaits me. I will be leaving for Havana on in just over a week. More to come on that later.