Game 1

An important factor in playing at the World Cup is general fatigue from the travel, as well as jet lag. A good night’s sleep usually does the trick for me when it comes to fatigue. I’ve benefited from good sleep during my chess travels. Research says that one needs a day to adjust for every hour of time difference. KM represents a 10 hour time difference with Toronto. We do what we can to deal with the situation. The simple task of staying well hydrated and eating well helps. My own advice is to try to adjust on the first night by not listening to your body and instead listening to the clock. Then there is game day. I try to get into my pre-game rhythm with the usual 1.5-2 hour nap, followed by a shower. I’m not sure how jet lagged I was going into the first round.  Either way, jet lag is just another factor players need to deal with.

I was to play with Black in the first game. I had been preparing for my opponent for about three weeks before the match started. GM Alexander Riazantsev is known as one of the best theoreticians out there. As a second, he made a big contribution to Grischuk’s opening resurrection and his fine performance at the Candidates Matches earlier this year. A decision needed to be made in regards to openings.

I had become rather easy to prepare for, playing the Nimzo, Queen’s Indian and Benoni structures almost exclusively against 1.d4. The lazy way to play this match would be to just continue this streak and see how it goes. This would also be extremely dangerous, since it would be my opponent who chooses the specific line in the opening. Testing his preparation while not really knowing what he would go for was dangerous, especially considering my opponent’s reputation. On the other hand, this was to be my last tournament. Preparing and playing a new opening with Black seemed like a very time consuming activity.

A lot of my opponent’s games were studied in an attempt to find weaknesses. A weakness was found – the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (QGA). The hard-working route was chosen. The new opening also created a new interest in the game, as opposed to just playing some old systems that would generate a lot of repetition. The new opening generated freshness in ideas. It also created more risk and more potential for reward. Most of all, I wanted to play some interesting chess, which has been lacking the last few tournaments. New openings also create motivation.

I had been flirting with other openings, against both 1.e4 and 1.d4 at different times. By flirting I don’t mean thinking about it. I mean actually preparing those openings for a week or longer. The time never seemed right and the short-term risk seemed to be greater than the long-term reward with those new openings. Here, the case was different. With time to prepare, an opponent can really bust the usual opening.

A lot of preparation was done in the QGA. All lines needed to be analyzed, not just those recently played by my opponent. It was a lot of work. On with the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.08.28”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Riazantsev”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “D20”]
[PlyCount “75”]
[EventDate “2011.08.28”]
[SourceDate “2011.08.28”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. Bxc4 Nb6 6. Bb3 Nc6 7. Ne2 Bf5 8.
Nbc3 e6 9. O-O Qd7 10. Be3 O-O-O 11. a3 Kb8 12. Qc1 f6 13. exf6 gxf6 14. Rd1
Bd6 15. Ng3 Bxg3 16. hxg3 Ne7 17. Bh6 Rhg8 18. a4 Nbd5 19. a5 Nxc3 20. bxc3 Be4
21. Re1 Bd5 22. Rb1 Nf5 23. c4 Bc6 24. d5 exd5 25. cxd5 Bxd5 26. Rd1 Ne7 27.
Be3 Qe6 28. Qc5 b6 29. Bf4 Ka8 30. Qxc7 Rd7 31. Qc3 Rc8 32. Bxd5+ Rxd5 33. Qf3
Qc6 34. axb6 Rxd1+ 35. Qxd1 axb6 36. Qe2 Qd7 37. Ra1+ Kb7 38. Qa6+ 1-0

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. Bxc4 Nb6 6. Bb3 Nc6 7. Ne2 Bf5 8. Nbc3 e6 9. O-O Qd7 10. Be3 O-O-O 11. a3 Kb8 12. Qc1 One of several playable moves here. 12… f6!?  

All preparation so far. My last move is a novelty that attempts to improve on Illescas-Karjakin from 2005. I was aiming at a position like this, where the two sides castle in opposite directions. I was looking for a highly dynamic position with the Black pieces that can end in all three outcomes. 13. exf6 13.Rd1 was the main move analyzed. 13… gxf6 14. Rd1 Bd6 15. Ng3 This is the first move that made me think during the game. 15… Bxg3 15…Bg6!? was a very playable alternative, where the h-pawn will later advance. 16. hxg3 Ne7 Black aims to become very solid by placing a Knight on d5 and fully consolidating against White’s two Bishops.

17. Bh6!? A creative idea that stops the h-pawn from advancing, threatens Bg7, and prepares a4. 17…  Rhg8 18. a4 Nbd5 19. a5 Things have been quite natural up to this point.

The position is about equal. Black is very solid, controls some important squares and has no weaknesses. However, White has the two Bishops and some potential for an attack. Black needs to play 19… a6!  20. Na4 Qd6 21.Nc5 Rg4 where the position remains approximately equal. I decided to go in a different way. 19… Nxc3? The most gentle way I can describe this move is as “anti-positional”. In a more emotional state, I have to describe it as idiotic. Black changes White’s pawn structure in an attempt to place the Bishop on the long diagonal. But those pawns get rolling. This makes White’s life much easier. I just shot myself in the foot. 20. bxc3 Be4 21. Re1 Bd5 22. Rb1 Nf5 I had underestimated what was coming. 23. c4 Bc6

White’s pieces are well placed and he goes for the kill. 24. d5! After this move, White is close to winning. 24… exd5 25. cxd5 Bxd5 26. Rd1 Ne7 26…c6 27.a6 b6 28.Qf4+ Ka8 29.Rxd5! cxd5 30.Ba4 creates unstoppable threats. 26…Qe6 37.Bf4 Rg7 38.Qc5 is winning easily. 26…Qf7 27.Rxd5 Rxd5 28.Qc6! Rgd8 29.a6!! wins the house.

27. Be3 Qe6 28. Qc5 b6 29. Bf4! White leaves his Queen under attack 29…bxc5 30. Bxd5+ wins easily. 29… Ka8 Black’s position is lost and he plays some desperate moves in time trouble. 30. Qxc7 Rd7 30…Rc8 31.Qxe7! would have been another pretty finish. 31. Qc3 White’s attack is just too much. 31… Rc8 32. Bxd5+ Rxd5 33. Qf3 Qc6 34. axb6 Rxd1+ 35. Qxd1 axb6 36. Qe2 Qd7 37. Ra1+ Kb7 38. Qa6+ 1-0

I won the opening battle. My opponent then played extremely well to first create the initiative and then take home the point. My mistake on the 19th move cost me the game. This was a self-inflicted loss. Would this cost me the match? The next game would be all or nothing.

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