Canadian Open-Part I

My last tournament in Canada was the Montreal International in 2009, almost two years ago. Most of my university year tournaments were played within Canada during the summer times. It was great to see a lot of familiar faces. A lot of players have certainly improved over this time period.

Playing in Toronto is very different. As a professional chess player, chess has always been separate from “normal life”. Two separate lives. This was always comforting in many ways, since I have always been exposed to more than just chess. While playing in Toronto, the two had to clash. Here’s an example. My girlfriend does not play chess, and she finally got the opportunity to see me at work for the first time. There are stories and then there is the real thing. There was also the element of playing in a familiar place. Toronto is a VERY familiar place.

The Canadian Open has a reputation in the world of chess. GMs who have visited talk and they all give good reviews. The tournament was very professionally organized. The organizing committee took care of all the minor things. I have played a lot of tournaments in the last year in a lot of different atmospheres. The Westin is gorgeous and is located right by the lake. Rounds started on time. There were side events every day. The arbiters were always keeping the playing hall quiet. Yes, they told me to be quiet a few times as well! Everything was very well done.

I came into the tournament as the only player FIDE rated over 2600. The tournament used CFC ratings, so I was formally not the top seed for the event. In the world of international chess, CFC ratings are irrelevant. I was not very happy about being the highest rated player in the tournament. I was asked if I felt extra pressure. Not really. Tournaments are not very exciting for the top seed. You expect to beat everybody with both colours and players could just try to dry the board up with you. The most exciting tournaments are those where everybody is hunting you down with both colours (like the Montreal International in past years). You are always on edge in those situations. Either way, I am always extremely motivated to do my best.

I started off the festivities with a simul the night before the first round, where I went +12, -1 and =1. I will try to get some photos of that by the time I write the final report.

On with the action!

Round 1

I was paired against Frederico Austria, 2105 CFC, in the first round.

I found myself in some trouble after the opening. The position is about equal right now, but the position is easier for Black to play. Qh4 with mating threats is always floating. Ideas with g5 can also look threatening. White is a bit slow on the queen-side.  13. Qe1? 13.Bd2, with ideas involving a4 and Be1 was more appropriate. The text doesn’t pose Black problems. 13… Ndf6 13…a5!? would have caused White some problems. The text is also logical. 14. a4 Qe8 15. Rf3?! The prophylactic 15.h3 would have been more normal. 15… Bd7 16. b5?! Aggressive but dangerous. 16… Ng4! 17. bxc6 bxc6? 17…Bxc6! would have given Black the advantage  18. h3 Nxe5 18…Bxe5? 19.fxe5 Nxc5 20.Bc2! would have left the Black Knight trapped on g4. At some point, White will just pick up that piece. 19. fxe5 g5 20. Rb1 Rb8 21. Rxb8 Qxb8 22. Rf1 Black no longer has the threats of an attack. If White can invade quickly on the b-file, life will be good. 22… Qb3 23. Qd1 Qb8 Without the queens, Black will have little potential. 24. Bd2 Qe8

White has consolidated his position. Now it’s time to break through somewhere. 25. Qe1 Taking on e4 first might have been recommended. The point of this move is simple though, exchange those Bishops and then take advantage of Black’s light-squared Bishop. Get rid of the bad Bishop! 25… Rg6? Retreating. It was important to take on d2 to guarantee that Black will always have a strong dark-squared Bishop. 26. Ba5! White is clearly better now. 26… Bd8 27. Bxd8 Qxd8 28. Bxe4 dxe4 This is what I was aiming for all along, the good Knight against a bad Bishop. 29. Qb4 Rg7 30. Ng3 Be8 31. Rb1 Played too quickly. White still has the advantage after the text, but 31.Qb3! Bf7 32.Rb1 would have won faster. 31… Re7 32. Qb8 Qxb8 33. Rxb8 Kg7 Time is on White’s side. The Knight needs to get to d6 somehow. Black just hopes to not lose any material. 34. Kf2 Bg6 35. Nf1 Bh5 36. Nd2 Bd1 37. a5 Bc2 38. Nc4 Bd3 39. Nd6 h5

When I made my 34th move I was going for this specific position. White is close to winning. Black can’t move. It’s time to finish the deal. 40. Rc8 40. d5 cxd5 41.c6 Ba6 42.c7 would have been faster. The text is also winning easily. 40…Ba6 40…Bb5 41.d5! wins on the spot. 41. Rxc6 Bb7 42. Nxb7 Rxb7 43. Rxe6 The arising endgame is easily winning, just takes a bit of calculation. 43… Rb2+ 44. Kf1 Rb1+ 45. Ke2 Rb2+ 46. Kd1 Rxg2 47. c6 Rg1+ 48. Kc2 Rg2+ 49. Kb3 Rg1 50. d5 Rc1 51. d6 Rxc6 52. d7 1-0

I did not play the opening well, but the later stages of the game were good. If you want to get into playing shape in the beginning of tournaments, it’s good to sweat a bit early on. This is not a recommendation to play the opening badly; just the glass is half full approach.

Round 2

I was paired against Vladimir Birarov, rated 2246, in this round.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.07.10”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Birarov”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “66”]
[EventDate “2011.07.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.07.10”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O e5 7. Nbd2 Nge7 8. a4
O-O 9. Nc4 h6 10. Nh4 d5 11. exd5 Nxd5 12. c3 Be6 13. a5 Qc7 14. f4 exf4 15.
gxf4 Nde7 16. Be3 Rad8 17. Qc2 Bf6 18. Nf3 Bxc4 19. dxc4 Nxa5 20. Ne5 Nf5 21.
Bc1 Bxe5 22. fxe5 Nxc4 23. Rxf5 gxf5 24. Qxf5 Qxe5 25. Qg4+ Kh7 26. Qxc4 Rd1+
27. Kf2 Qe1+ 28. Kf3 Rxc1 29. Rxa7 Qd1+ 30. Kf4 Qd2+ 31. Kf3 Re1 32. Bf1 Qe3+
33. Kg4 Rg8+ 0-1

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O e5 7. Nbd2 Nge7 8. a4 O-O 9. Nc4 h6 10. Nh4 d5 11. exd5 Nxd5 12. c3 Be6 13. a5 Qc7

The position is imbalanced but probably about equal after 14.Qb3. 14. f4? This makes life easier for Black. 14… exf4 15. gxf4 Nde7?! Black should first play 15…Rad8, as after 16.f5 there is 16…Nxc3 followed by 17…Bxc4. 16. Be3 A pawn sacrifice with 16.f5! was necessary, as White’s pieces then come into the game after Bf4 and White has good compensation for the pawn. 16… Rad8 17. Qc2

White’s position feels very loose. a5 is weak. The Bishop on e5 is bad. There is a Knight on h4. Just not much chemistry. I decided to force the issue in my favour. 17… Bf6 18. Nf3 Bxc4 19. dxc4 Nxa5 Black is up a pawn and White has nothing concrete. White needs to play 20.Nd2 or 20.Ra4 to consolidate. 20. Ne5?! Nf5 21. Bc1 Bxe5 22. fxe5 Nxc4 Black is up two pawns now. White needs to play 23.Qe2 Nxe5 24.Bf4 Rfe8 25.Rxa7, but White still has a big advantage after 25…c4!, with the idea of 26…Qc5+ 23. Rxf5 gxf5 24. Qxf5

Time for the final punch. This requires a good calculation. 24… Qxe5 25. Qg4+ Kh7 26. Qxc4 Rd1+ 27. Kf2 Qe1+ 28. Kf3 Rxc1 Black is now completely winning. The rest is easy.  29. Rxa7 Qd1+ 30. Kf4 Qd2+ 31. Kf3 Re1 32. Bf1 Qe3+ 33. Kg4 Rg8+ 0-1

This was a smooth win. It’s nice to have some of those as well.

Round 3

I was paired against IM Mulyar, rated 2410. We had played three times before over a span of about 9 years, with the score being even. Prepare yourself for a long one.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.07.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Mulyar”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “167”]
[EventDate “2011.07.10”]
[SourceDate “2011.07.11”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 dxc4 8.
Bxc4 O-O 9. O-O a6 10. Rd1 b5 11. Bd3 Qc7 12. Bd2 c5 13. Ne4 c4 14. Nxd6 Qxd6
15. Be2 Bb7 16. b3 Rfc8 17. bxc4 bxc4 18. Bc3 Ne4 19. Nd2 Nxc3 20. Qxc3 Nb6 21.
Rab1 Nd5 22. Qc2 Qc6 23. Bf3 a5 24. Qxc4 Qxc4 25. Nxc4 Rxc4 26. Rxb7 Nc3 27.
Ra1 Rac8 28. Kf1 g6 29. Rb2 Na4 30. Rd2 Rc1+ 31. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 32. Ke2 Nc3+ 33.
Kd3 a4 34. e4 a3 35. d5 exd5 36. exd5 Kf8 37. Kd4 Ke7 38. d6+ Kxd6 39. Kc4+ Ke7
40. Kb3 Nb5 41. Be4 Rc8 42. Bd3 Rb8 43. Kb4 Nd4+ 44. Kxa3 Ne6 45. Rb2 Ra8+ 46.
Kb4 Nf4 47. Be4 Rd8 48. Kc3 f5 49. Bb7 Rd3+ 50. Kc4 Ra3 51. g3 Nd3 52. Re2+ Kf6
53. Rc2 h5 54. Bd5 h4 55. gxh4 Ke5 56. Bf7 Kf6 57. Be8 Ne1 58. Re2 Nd3 59. Rd2
Nc1 60. h5 gxh5 61. Bxh5 Nxa2 62. Rc2 Ra4+ 63. Kb3 Rh4 64. Be2 Nb4 65. Rc5 Rxh2
66. Kxb4 Rxf2 67. Bd3 Kg5 68. Kc3 Kg4 69. Kd4 Ra2 70. Rxf5 Ra4+ 71. Ke3 Ra3 72.
Rc5 Rb3 73. Rc6 Ra3 74. Rg6+ Kh5 75. Rg8 Rb3 76. Kd4 Kh4 77. Be4 Rg3 78. Rh8+
Kg5 79. Ke5 Ra3 80. Rg8+ Kh6 81. Rg6+ Kh5 82. Kf4 Ra4 83. Rb6 Rc4 84. Rb7 1-0

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Nf3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 dxc4 8.
Bxc4 O-O 9. O-O a6 10. Rd1 b5 11. Bd3 Qc7 12. Bd2 c5 13. Ne4 c4 14. Nxd6 Qxd6
15. Be2 Bb7 16. b3 Rfc8 17. bxc4 bxc4 17…Be4 has led to a theoretical debate in recent times. This move is a novelty according to my database.

18. Bc3 Ne4 19. Nd2 White attempts to prove that c4 is a weakness, Black hopes it will be a strength. 19… Nxc3 20. Qxc3 Nb6 21. Rab1 Nd5? Black needed to play 21…Rab8 to try to hold onto the c4 pawn. 22. Qc2 Qc6 23. Bf3! Suddenly, Black’s battery is working against him. White has a strong idea of playing Ne4-c5 next. Black is in trouble 23… a5 Black parts with the pawn immediately in an attempt to gain activity. 24. Qxc4 Qxc4 25. Nxc4 Rxc4 26. Rxb7 Nc3

White is up a pawn but Black will have all active pieces soon. The Bishop is also not great on f3. White needs to bring the King to d3, and maybe also bring the rook back from b7. 27. Ra1 Rac8 28. Kf1 g6 29. Rb2 Na4 30. Rd2? This is exactly what Black wanted. 31.Rb5! Rc1+ 32.Rxc1 Rxc1 33.Ke2 Rc2+ 34.Ke1 Rxa2 35.Rxa5 Nc3 36.Rxa2 Nxa2 37.Kd2 Kf8 38.Bb7 leads to a winning position, since Black’s Knight can’t escape. 30… Rc1+! Black activates his pieces and ties up the enemy. 31. Rxc1 Rxc1+ 32. Ke2 Nc3+ 33. Kd3 a4 34. e4 I feared playing Rc2, exchanging the rooks and getting rid of the a-pawns with the belief that the endgame with Bishop and 5 against Knight and 4 would be drawn because the Knight works well in small spaces. I wanted something more straightforward and created a passed pawn. 34… a3 35. d5 exd5 36. exd5 Kf8 37. Kd4 Ke7 38. d6+ Kxd6 39. Kc4+ Ke7 40. Kb3 Nb5 41. Be4 Rc8 42. Bd3 Rb8 43. Kb4 Nd4+ 44. Kxa3 The position has really changed. I still have an extra pawn but my pieces are awkwardly placed. It will always be hard to push the a-pawn from a2. 44… Ne6 45. Rb2 Ra8+ 46. Kb4 Nf4 47. Be4 Rd8 48. Kc3 f5 49. Bb7 Rd3+ 50. Kc4 Ra3 51. g3? 51.Rd2, followed by g3 and Kb4 would have given White a winning advantage. 51… Nd3 52. Re2+ Kf6 53. Rc2 h5 54. Bd5 h4 55. gxh4? 55.Rd2! would have been much stronger, as 55…Nc1 Kd4 completely cuts the Knight out of the game. 55… Ke5

56. Bf7? Going in the wrong direction. 56.Re2+! would have been stronger, as 56…Kf4 57.Rd2 leaves the Knight without any good squares. 56… Kf6 57. Be8 Ne1 58. Re2 Nd3 59. Rd2 Nc1 Without much time left on the clock, I started making more obvious moves. 60. h5 gxh5 61. Bxh5 Nxa2 62. Rc2 Trapping the Knight. 62… Ra4+! Black willingly parts with the Knight in exchange for the active rook. 63. Kb3 Rh4 64. Be2 Nb4 65. Rc5 Conclusively trapping the Knight. 65… Rxh2 66. Kxb4 Rxf2 It’s time for a mode change. I had been better the whole game and “only” managed to get this endgame. This is disappointing but nothing to panic about. The Black pawn does not change anything and will be taken. The R+B VS R endgame is drawn, but not trivially. The strongest of GMs have lost it. I knew that after such a long game it’s very likely that my opponent will falter. I had also won this endgame back in a decisive round of the World Under 18, back in 2005, so I knew what I was doing. First thing is first, time to take that pawn. 67. Bd3 Kg5 68. Kc3 Kg4 69. Kd4 Ra2 70. Rxf5 I marked this move as the one Black needs to count 50 moves from. 70… Ra4+ 71. Ke3 Ra3 72. Rc5 Rb3 73. Rc6 Ra3 74. Rg6+ The King has been pushed back. 74… Kh5 75. Rg8 Rb3 76. Kd4 Kh4 77. Be4 Rg3 78. Rh8+ Kg5 79. Ke5 Ra3 80. Rg8+ Kh6?? The losing move. 80…Kh5 81.Kf4 Ra6 manages to draw (according to Houdini), but only with very precise defense. 81. Rg6+ Kh5 82. Kf4 Ra4 82…Ra5 prolongs the battle but loses in study-like fashion. That could be a problem for the readers to solve! 83. Rb6 Rc4 Loses on the spot. 83…Rd4 84.Rb1 Kh6 85.Rb7 does not save Black. 84. Rb7 1-0

It wasn’t pretty. Sometimes a win is a win and this one was that type of a grind. I didn’t finish the game when I had those chances, and there were several of those rich opportunities. A good and hard fight. Things would certainly get harder from here.

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