Rounds 8 and 9

Round 8

I was paired against GM Alsina, rated 2531, with two rounds to go. I decided to test out the Berlin one more time.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.15”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Alsina, D.”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “C67”]
[PlyCount “175”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. dxe5 Nxb5 7. a4 Nbd4 8.
Nxd4 Nxd4 9. Qxd4 d5 10. exd6 Qxd6 11. Qe3+ Be7 12. Nc3 c6 13. Re1 Be6 14. Ne4
Qc7 15. Nc5 Bxc5 16. Qxc5 b6 17. Qa3 c5 18. a5 O-O 19. axb6 Qxb6 20. Be3 Rfc8
21. Qc3 Qb4 22. Qe5 Qc4 23. c3 Rc6 24. Ra5 f6 25. Qg3 Qb3 26. Rxc5 Rxc5 27.
Bxc5 Qxb2 28. h3 Bf7 29. Bd4 Qb8 30. Qxb8+ Rxb8 31. Bxa7 Rb7 32. Bd4 Bd5 33. g4
Kf7 34. Kh2 Kg6 35. Ra1 Kf7 36. Kg3 Be6 37. h4 h6 38. Kf4 Rc7 39. g5 fxg5+ 40.
hxg5 hxg5+ 41. Kxg5 Bc4 42. f4 g6 43. Rh1 Rc6 44. Rh7+ Ke6 45. Rh3 Kf7 46. Re3
Be6 47. Re2 Bf5 48. Rb2 Ke6 49. Rb5 Bd3 50. Re5+ Kf7 51. Bc5 Rc7 52. Bd4 Rc6
53. Rd5 Be4 54. Rd7+ Ke6 55. Rg7 Kd5 56. Bf6 Bf5 57. Rg8 Bc2 58. Rd8+ Ke6 59.
Re8+ Kd5 60. Re5+ Kd6 61. Be7+ Kd7 62. Bb4 Rc4 63. Re7+ Kd8 64. Rg7 Ke8 65.
Re7+ Kd8 66. Re2 Bf5 67. Be7+ Kd7 68. Bf6 Rc6 69. Re7+ Kd6 70. Ra7 Ke6 71. Ra4
Kd5 72. Rd4+ Ke6 73. Rb4 Bd3 74. Be5 Bf5 75. Bd4 Bd3 76. Rb8 Kf7 77. Rb7+ Ke6
78. Rg7 Kd5 79. Re7 Re6 80. Ra7 Rc6 81. Be5 Bf5 82. Re7 Bc2 83. Bf6 Kd6 84. Re2
Bf5 85. Be7+ Kd7 86. Bb4 Rc4 87. Re5 Bc2 88. Re2 1/2-1/2

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. dxe5 Nxb5 7. a4 Nbd4 8.
Nxd4 Nxd4 9. Qxd4 d5 10. exd6 Qxd6 11. Qe3+ Be7 12. Nc3 c6 13. Re1 Be6 14. Ne4

Everything is standard up until now. 14…Qe5!  15.f4 Qf5 16.Qf2 0-0 17.Ng3 Bh4! equalizes for Black. I did not sense the pressure that might be coming from my opponent’s preparation and played the more passive move. 14… Qc7 15. Nc5 Bxc5 16. Qxc5 b6 17. Qa3 c5 I want to castle and equalize. 18. a5! White continues to put pressure on the queen side. If 18… Rc8 19. axb6 axb6 20. Qa4+ Qd7 21. Qb3! and Black is unable to equalize. 18… O-O I was not happy to make this move. With my queen side pawns broken up I failed to get full equality. 19. axb6 Qxb6 20. Be3 Rfc8 21. Qc3 Qb4 22. Qe5 Qc4 23. c3 Rc6? I’m on the ropes after this move. 23…a5 was necessary to try to maintain the balance. 24. Ra5 f6 25. Qg3 Qb3 26. Rxc5 Rxc5 27. Bxc5 Qxb2 28. h3 Bf7 29. Bd4

When trying to hold onto a draw, chess is about making hard decisions. 29… Bg6 30. Re7 only makes my life more difficult. 29… Qb8! A move that promises Black the best practical chances of holding on and forces the exchange of queens. 30. Qxb8+ Rxb8 31. Bxa7 Rb7 32. Bd4 We have arrived at a crucial position for the development of the endgame. What should Black do? I decided to answer that question with “nothing”. It is often the hardest thing to do. None of my pawn advances seem to help me and I decided to stay put. 32… Bd5 33. g4 Kf7 34. Kh2 Kg6 35. Ra1 Kf7 36. Kg3 Be6 37. h4 h6 38. Kf4 Rc7 It’s hard for White to make progress. One of the possible ideas is to put pawns on h5 and f3 but that would kill the hope of future pawn breaks. 39. g5 fxg5+ 40. hxg5 hxg5+ 41. Kxg5 I was happy to exchange two pairs of pawns. Black’s job should now be easier. 41… Bc4 42. f4

I did not want to let White’s pawn into f5. I might have some more problems with the g7 pawn then. 42… g6! This move fixes the f4 pawn and restricts White’s king. I knew that now all I need to do is disallow any advances of the c-pawn as well as look for exchange sacrifices on g6. 43. Rh1 Rc6 44. Rh7+ Ke6 45. Kxg6 Bd3+ does not work for White, since he would actually lose the whole rook! 45. Rh3 Kf7 46. Re3 Be6 47. Re2 Bf5 48. Rb2 Ke6 49. Rb5 Bd3 50. Re5+ Kf7 51. Bc5 Rc7 52. Bd4 Rc6 53. Rd5 Be4 54. Rd7+ Ke6 55. Rg7 Kd5 56. Bf6 Bf5

57. Rxg6 Bxg6 58. Kxg6 Ke4 draws easily. White continues to try and maneuver. 57. Rg8 Bc2 58. Rd8+ Ke6 59. Re8+ Kd5 60. Re5+ Kd6 61. Be7+ Kd7 62. Bb4 Rc4 63. Re7+ Kd8 64. Rg7 Ke8 65. Re7+ Kd8 66. Re2 Bf5 67. Be7+ Kd7 68. Bf6 Rc6 69. Re7+ Kd6 70. Ra7 Ke6 71. Ra4 Kd5 72. Rd4+ Ke6 73. Rb4 Bd3 74. Be5 Bf5 75. Bd4 Bd3 76. Rb8 Kf7 77. Rb7+ Ke6 78. Rg7 Kd5 79. Re7 Re6 80. Ra7 Rc6 81. Be5 Bf5 82. Re7 Bc2 83. Bf6 Kd6 84. Re2 Bf5 85. Be7+ Kd7 86. Bb4 Rc4 The rook is well placed on c4 as long as the White bishop is on b4. 87. Re5 Bc2 88. Re2 1/2-1/2 We agreed to a draw. I would have claimed a draw three moves later since there has been no pawn advances or piece captures in 47 moves!

It was comforting to survive this game. This was the longest game of the round. My recent results in very long games have not been stellar (to say the least) and it was good to get to draw that I fought so long for. Need to play more carefully in the opening.

Round 9

I was paired against GM Sethuraman, rated 2545, for this round. There is always motivation going into the last round because it’s always important to finish strong. That was the plan.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.16”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Sethuraman”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “71”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O
dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5 10. Bd3 Bb7 11. Ng5 h6 12. Nge4 Nxe4 13. Nxe4 Be7 14. a3 a5 15.
Rb1 c5 16. dxc5 f5 17. Ng3 b4 18. axb4 axb4 19. c6 Rc8 20. Nxf5 Rxf5 21. Bc4
Rxc6 22. Qxf5 Qb6 23. Qb5 Qc7 24. b3 Ne5 25. Bb2 Nxc4 26. bxc4 Ba6 27. Qe5 Qxe5
28. Bxe5 Bxc4 29. Rfc1 Kf7 30. Rb2 Ra6 31. Rbc2 Bd5 32. f3 b3 33. Rc7 Ke8 34.
e4 Bd6 35. exd5 Bxe5 36. Rb7 1-0

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. O-O
dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5 10. Bd3 Bb7

11. e4 and 11. a3 are the main moves in this position. I went for a much more rare continuation. 11. Ng5 11… Bxh2 12. Kxh2 Ng4+ 13. Kg1 Qxg5 14.f3 Ngf6 15. e4 gives White strong compensation for the sacrificed pawn.  11… h6 12. Nge4 Nxe4 13. Nxe4 Be7 Simplest way for Black to equalize.  14. a3 a5 15. Rb1?! It’s hard to suggest a way for White to still fight for the advantage. This is certainly not it though. 15… c5 16. dxc5 16… Nxc5 17. Nxc5 Bxc5 equalizes. 16… f5

Black is playing very energetically. 17.c6 Rc8 18. Nc5!? would have been interesting. I had something else in mind. 17. Ng3 b4 18. axb4 axb4 19. c6 Rc8 20. Nxf5 Rxf5? 20… Rxc6! 21. Nxe7+ Qxe7 22. Qb3 would have left White up a pawn but with no clear way to continue his development. The arising position would have been rather unclear.

21. Bc4! The move that my opponent missed. An easy move to overlook. White suddenly threatens Qxf5 in addition to the obvious moves. 21… Rxc6 21…Rc5 22. cxb7 R8c6 23. b3 would have been hopeless for Black. White’s only remaining problem is to get his pieces out. 22. Qxf5 Qb6 23. Qb5 Qc7 24. b3 Ne5 25. Bb2 Nxc4 26. bxc4 Ba6 27. Qe5 Qxe5 28. Bxe5 Bxc4 29. Rfc1 Once we reached this position I knew the win is near. White playing f3 and e4 will later make Black’s life very uncomfortable. An important point from now on is to contain Black’s pieces and threats. 29… Kf7 30. Rb2 Ra6 31. Rbc2 Bd5 32. f3 b3 33. Rc7 Ke8 34. e4 Bd6

The last trick. It’s important to not get nervous when the win is so close. 35. exd5 Bxe5 36. Rb7! Threatening Rc8 mate, among other things. 1-0

This was an important win to get. I was able to trick my opponent soon after a shaky opening. My mind was working well when tactics arose and that was a positive sign. Always nice to win the last round. Bc4 was a “feel good” kind of a move. Finishing the strong tournament at 50% is somewhat encouraging. However, this was not achieved thanks to my games against the big guys.

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Round 5-7

Round 5

I was paired against GM Mareco with White in this round. I knew that my opponent plays the Nimzo Indian and so I had to make a choice. I decided to go for something solid and different very early on. I was hoping to stop the bleeding of the White pieces.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.12”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Mareco, S.”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “40”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. Bd3 Nc6 8.
Ne2 b6 9. e4 Ne8 10. O-O Ba6 11. f4 f5 12. Ng3 g6 13. Be3 cxd4 14. cxd4 d5 15.
cxd5 Bxd3 16. Qxd3 fxe4 17. Qxe4 Qxd5 18. Qxd5 exd5 19. Rac1 Ne7 20. Bd2 Rf7
1/2-1/2
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. Bd3 Nc6 8.
Ne2 b6 9. e4

I decided to experiment with this line. My opponent came prepared and played the most critical line of the variation, deviating from his previous game. 9… Ne8 Black meets the attack with a retreat. The most important thing to note is that Black intends to play f5 later, after which White’s two bishops will not be such a hot commodity. 10. O-O Ba6 11. f4 White intends to expand with e5 or f5 next, after which life for Black will not be so easy. 11… f5! The greedy 11… Na5 is met with 12. f5 with a dangerous attack. Black’s move fixes the pawn structure and shows the vulnerability of bishops in a closed position. White’s dark squared bishop lacks potential squares. The bishops will have trouble finding air. 12. Ng3 g6 13. Be3 cxd4!? an interesting move that opens up the position and gives it some clarity. 14. cxd4 d5 Black wants to isolate the White dark squared bishop and then take advantage of its lack of activity.

White needs to find some breathing room for his soon to be only remaining bishop. 15. cxd5 Bxd3 16. Qxd3 fxe4 17. Qxe4 17. Nxe4 Qxd5 does not solve the problem of the bishop but gives White some play in the center and a potential break with d5 and play against the e6 pawn. At this point, I decided to exchange queens and follow it up with a future f5 break, which will give my bishop breathing room 17… Qxd5 18. Qxd5 exd5  19. Rac1

19… Ne7?! 19…Rc8 20.f5 Nd6 would keep White on his toes but the position is still about equal. 20. Bd2 Rf7 Black offered a draw in this position, which I accepted after some thought. There is a dynamic balance. Neither side can push for a win too hard.
1/2-1/2

I was satisfied with stopping the bleeding with the White pieces. Not much action in this game. I was hoping that a semi rest day in the middle of the tournament would help me finish the trip on a positive note.

Round 6

Only in Aeroflot will one be paired against GM Motylev, rated 2687, while sitting at 50%. I knew that this game would be a tough one. My Berlin would take a real test.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.13”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Motylev, A.”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “61”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 O-O 6. Bxc6 bxc6 7. Nxe5 d5 8.
d4 Bb6 9. O-O dxe4 10. Bg5 Qd5 11. Nd2 Nd7 12. Nxd7 Bxd7 13. Be3 f5 14. g3 f4
15. Bxf4 Bh3 16. Qb3 Bxf1 17. Rxf1 Kh8 18. Be3 Rab8 19. Qc4 a5 20. Qa4 c5 21.
dxc5 Bxc5 22. Qxa5 Rf5 23. Qxc7 Rxb2 24. Qc8+ Bf8 25. c4 Qf7 26. Nxe4 Re5 27.
Nd6 Qe7 28. Bd4 Ree2 29. Nf5 Qb4 30. Bxg7+ Kg8 31. Qd7 1-0

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 O-O 6. Bxc6 bxc6 7. Nxe5 d5 8.
d4 Bb6 9. O-O

9… dxe4 9…Nxe4!? was played in Kurnosov-Volokitin last year and offered Black good play. 10. Bg5 Qd5 11. Nd2 Nd7 11…Ng4!? was interesting as 12.c4 Nxf2 produces a position with complete chaos and 12.Nxg4 Qxg5 results in something close to equality. 12. Nxd7 Bxd7 13. Be3 f5 14. g3

I spend some time in this position. The only problem in my position is the bishop on b6. 14… c5 is answered with 15. dxc5 Bxc5 16. Nxe4, where Black will fight long and hard for the draw while being down a pawn. 14… f4!? I decided to sacrifice the pawn and force my opponent to make some hard decisions.  15. Bxf4 Bh3 White is forced to give up the exchange as 16.Re1 is punished with a strong attack that follows after 16…e3. 16. Qb3 Bxf1 17. Rxf1 Kh8 18. Be3 We have arrived at a critical position. It’s clear that my bishop is still not getting out in the near future. I have a rook for a knight and a pawn. I also have some problems with my pawn structure. White is not risking much in this position but might not be better. 18… Rab8 19. Qc4 a5 20. Qa4 c5! The crucial test. My bishop comes alive but I have to part with my a-pawn. 21. dxc5 Bxc5 22. Qxa5

Black has two choices: Rfd8 or Rf5. I chose the wrong one with some faulty calculations. 22… Rf5? After this move, my position become very difficult. 22… Rfd8! equalizes after 23.Bxc5 e3! (24.Nb3 loses to 24…e2) 24. fxe4 Qxd2 25.b4 Ra8 26.Qxc7 Rxa2 27.Qxd8 Qxd8 28.Rf8 Qxf8 29.Bxf8 Rc2, leading to an endgame that should be drawn. 23. Qxc7 Rxb2 24. Qc8+ Bf8 25. c4 Qf7 26. Nxe4 Re5 White is converting his big advantage with precision.

27. Nd6! Also threatening to play Bd4. Black’s position is lost. 27… Qe7 28. Bd4 Ree2 29. Nf5 Qb4 30. Bxg7+ Kg8 31. Qd7 1-0

An interesting game. It was a tough battle which I lost with one bad move. I am pleased with my energetic play by first sacrificing the pawn on f4 and then playing c5 at the right time. The only problem was my 22nd move. I feel like I was not able to compete in my first two losses. I had put up better resistance in this game. It is not a good tendency to lose to all players rated substantially higher rated than me though.

Round 7

I was paired against GM Mekhitarian, rated 2528, with White in this round. I was hoping to get back to 50%. We went into a line which is experiencing a theoretical debate at this time.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.14”]
[Round “7”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Mekhitarian, K.”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “D80”]
[PlyCount “48”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 a6 8. Be2
b5 9. Qb3 c5 10. dxc5 Be6 11. Qc2 Nbd7 12. Be3 Rc8 13. Rd1 b4 14. Nd5 Bxd5 15.
exd5 Nxc5 16. O-O a5 17. Bb5 Nce4 18. Bc6 Nd6 19. Qe2 Nf5 20. Rfe1 Qc7 21. Rc1
Ng4 22. Bc5 Nd4 23. Bxd4 Bxd4 24. Rf1 Bf6 1/2-1/2

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 a6 8. Be2
b5 9. Qb3 c5 10. dxc5 Be6 11. Qc2 Nbd7 12. Be3 Rc8 13. Rd1 b4 14. Nd5 Bxd5 15.
exd5 Nxc5 16. O-O

Kasimdzhanov-Rodshtein occurred at the same tournament with the same position on the board. Black’s two attempts at equality include the text move as well as 16… Nce4. 16… a5 17. Bb5!? An interesting idea. White attempts to put his bishop on c4 in order to contain Black’s pieces. 17… Nce4 18. Bc6 Nd6

19. Qe2 19.Bf4 is an interesting alternative. 19… Nf5 20. Rfe1? Too slow. 20.Ne5 Qc7 21.f4 would have attempted to get Black’s pieces in a positional bind. 20… Qc7 Suddenly, Black’s pieces come out. e6 and Ng4 are possible threats. 21. Rc1

21… Ng4! I had underestimated the strength of this move. Black want to take on e3 while also looking at h2 with Nh4 following as an interesting try at an attack. 22. Bc5 Nd4 We had both underestimated how unclear the position would be after 22… Nh4 23.Bxe7 Nxf3 24.Qxf3 Qxh2 25.Kf1 Bxb2 26.Rcd1. It can only be said that both sides will be playing the resulting position for a win. 23. Bxd4 Bxd4 24. Rf1 Bf6

1/2-1/2 We agreed to a draw with an equal position on the board. White does not have an advantage because Black’s knight manages to come back into the game through e5. 25.Rfe1 would be answered with 25…Bd4!.

Another short game with White. My moves appeared to lack energy. A lot of “slow” moves on my part. The last two rounds would be crucial ones. I was not very pleased to be sitting at -1.

Rounds 1-4: 0-1

I reached Moscow on February 6th, a couple of days before the start of the tournament. I was hoping that my week break in Brussels between the tournaments would give me some energy. I was excited about the strength of the tournament because it’s hard to find it anywhere else.

It was nice to see relatives that I haven’t seen since 2005 upon my arrival. A nice dinner with them was a good start to the trip. I also knew that some Canadians would take part in the tournament. Canada’s newest Grandmaster, Thomas Roussel-Roozmon, would also play in my section. Antoine Berube would play in the B-Group. Victor Plotkin of Toronto would play in the C-Group. Canadian Doug Sly also played in the C-Group.

The tournament took place in the Izmailovo Complex. Those who have never traveled to Moscow might be shocked by the atmosphere. People smoke anywhere. Restaurants, hallways, washrooms and other indoor places appear to be fair game. For the Canadians, this was not too pleasant.

One of the only bright spots of the tournament was the high level of players in the A-Group. I knew I would be paired up in the first round and there would be no easy games. Time for the action. Photos and other descriptions to come in a later post.

Round 1

I was paired against GM Andreikin, rated 2689. Andreikin is a 20 year old who is close to making it to the Elite. I haven’t played a player this high rated since Corsica.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.08”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Andreikin”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “66”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. Ng3 c5 8. dxc5
dxc4 9. Qc2 Qa5 10. Bxc4 Qxc5 11. Bd3 Nbd7 12. O-O Ne5 13. Be2 b6 14. f4 Ng6
15. b4 Qc7 16. Bb2 Bb7 17. Rac1 Rac8 18. Qb3 Qb8 19. f5 exf5 20. Nxf5 Bd6 21.
Nxd6 Qxd6 22. Rf2 Qe7 23. Bf3 Bxf3 24. Rxf3 Rfd8 25. Rcf1 Rd3 26. e4 Rxf3 27.
Rxf3 Ne5 28. Rg3 Qd6 29. Nb5 Qd2 30. h3 Nh5 31. Rc3 Rd8 32. Kh2 h6 33. Qc2 Nf3+
0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Be7 7. Ng3 c5 8. dxc5 dxc4 9. Qc2 Qa5 10. Bxc4 Qxc5

This is where I started to go wrong. 11. Bd3? An innocent looking move, but a mistake nonetheless. 11.Be2 was more appropriate. The Bishop is better placed on e2 because it does not fall under attack after black eventually plays Ne5 and it has easier access to f3. Added to this, it closes the d-file from d3. All this being said, I expected my opponent to put his knight on e5 and I had my own intentions. 11… Nbd7 12. O-O Ne5 13. Be2 b6 14. f4?! This is the aggressive intention I had in mind with my 11th move. However, I should have preferred the more subtle 11.b4 Qc7 12.Bb2 with simple development and a position that is about equal. I decided to force the issue. 14… Ng6 15. b4 Qc7 16. Bb2 Bb7 17. Rac1 Rac8 18. Qb3 Qb8 19. f5 The break that I was aiming at all along. I felt that the activity of my pieces would compensate for the worse pawn structure. 19… exf5 20. Nxf5 Bd6

Black has been playing very logically and now attempts to create problems with his two sharp shooting Bishops. 21. Nxd6 21.g3 or 21.h3 are not too appealing when thinking about the long-term safety of my King. 21… Qxd6 This was a critical moment. I felt that the two Bishops should be giving me sufficient play, but my e3 pawn is a horrible weakness and I might have some future problems with the safety of my King. My Queen on b3 is poorly placed as well. The logical 22.Nb5 is punished by 22…Qd2. 22. Rf2 The correct solution was 22.Rcd1 Qe5 23.e4!? Nxe4 24.Nxe4 Qxe4 25.Rf2, where White gives away the pawn but his pieces are firing on all cylinders. Suddenly, the position is not easy to play for Black. 22… Qe7 23. Bf3 Bxf3 24. Rxf3 Rfd8 25. Rcf1 Rd3 26. e4 Rxf3

27. Rxf3 It’s always hard choosing the lesser of two evils. Chess is no exception. 24. gxf3 was an interesting alternative, where White does not have to worry about the e4 pawn but has to change his attention to the safety of his King.  27… Ne5 28. Rg3? After games like these, it’s hard to explain to myself as to why I chose the g3 square for my rook instead of the far more logical f1 square. I had underestimated my opponent’s reply. 28… Qd6! 29. Nb5 Qd2 30. h3 Nh5 31. Rc3 The losing move, 31.Bxe5 Qe1+ 32.Kh2 Rc1 33.Rxg7 Nxg7 34.Qd3 would have left white with some hope.

31… Rd8! White is left with no moves 32. Kh2 h6 With less than a minute remaining on the clock to find a move that did not exist, I lost on the spot. 33. Qc2 Nf3+ 0-1

Well played game by my opponent. For the first time in a while, I felt the strength of my opponent. I was punished for my mistakes with full force. A very well executed game by Black. I need to put up better resistance. My aggression in the opening backfired after some accurate moves by my opponent.

Round 2

I was paired against WGM Pogonina in this round, rated 2472 and ranked #27 on the Women’s rating list (far higher than Andreikin’s 47th seed for both genders). I wanted to put pressure on my opponent early on in the game and did just that in the opening.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.09”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Pogonina”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “124”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3 a6 5. a4 Bg7 6. h3 O-O 7. Nf3 b6 8. Bd3 Bb7
9. O-O Nbd7 10. Qd2 e5 11. Bh6 exd4 12. Nxd4 Nc5 13. Rfe1 Re8 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15.
Qf4 Nh5 16. Qg4 Qf6 17. Nf3 Nf4 18. Re3 Nfxd3 19. cxd3 Ne6 20. Rae1 c5 21. R3e2
Bc6 22. Nd5 Bxd5 23. exd5 h5 24. Qc4 Nc7 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Rxe8 Nxe8 27. Qb3
Qf4 28. Qc4 Qf6 29. Qb3 Qf4 30. Qxb6 Qxa4 31. d4 c4 32. Kh2 Qb5 33. Qd8 Kf8 34.
Qc8 a5 35. Nd2 Qxb2 36. Nxc4 Qxf2 37. Nxa5 Qxd4 38. Qa8 Qe5+ 39. Kh1 Qe4 40.
Nc6 Qxd5 41. Qc8 Qe6 42. Qd8 Kg7 43. Qh4 d5 44. Qd4+ Nf6 45. Ne5 Qf5 46. Nf3
Kh7 47. Ne5 Nd7 48. Nf3 Kg8 49. Kg1 Qe4 50. Qb2 Nf8 51. Qb8 g5 52. Qg3 Qe3+ 53.
Kh1 Ne6 54. Qd6 d4 55. Ne5 Qc1+ 56. Kh2 Qf4+ 57. Kg1 g4 58. hxg4 hxg4 59. Qb8+
Kg7 60. Qb5 g3 61. Nd3 Qe3+ 62. Kf1 Nc5 0-1

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3 a6 5. a4 Bg7 6. h3 O-O 7. Nf3 b6 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Qd2 e5

We reached a standard position out of the Pirc. White has not played ambitiously and does not have an advantage 11. Bh6?! White should not aim to exchange this Bishop. 11… exd4 12. Nxd4 Nc5 13. Rfe1 Re8 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. Qf4 Nh5 Trying to create white some problems and also forcing the Queen to choose a square.  16. Qg4 Qf6 Black has grabbed the initiative. 17.Nf5 Kh8 does not bring any good to White’s position. The Queen is awkwardly placed on g4. 17. Nf3

17… Nf4 The simple 17…Bc8 18.Qg5 Qxg5 19.Ng5 Bb7 would have given Black good prospects as White has to worry about her e-pawn in the near future. 18. Re3! I underestimated this move and reacted in a forcing manner. 18… Nfxd3 18…Bc6 would have kept White under pressure. 19.Nh4 Kh8 20.Rf3 g5! would not be good for white. 19. cxd3 Ne6 20. Rae1 c5 21. R3e2 Bc6 21…Rad8 was more accurate, where I would not have to trade both pairs of rooks after 22.Nd5. 22. Nd5 Bxd5 23. exd5 h5 24. Qc4 Nc7 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Rxe8 Nxe8 I went into this endgame thinking that Black is not risking anything. That is the correct evaluation. 27. Qb3 27.d4! Nc7 28.dxc5 bxc5 29.Qb3 would have equalized.  27… Qf4 28. Qc4 Qf6 29. Qb3 Qf4

Interesting little dance. It looks like we have been repeating moves and it’s not easy for either side to play for a win. As I found out with White’s next move, both players want more than just half a point. 30. Qxb6? 30.Qc4 would have been answered with 30…g5!, where Black is still the one objectively fighting for a win. 30… Qxa4 White’s double d-pawns guarantee some suffering. 31. d4 c4 32. Kh2? White is already on the ropes but something similar to 32.Qc6 Qb5 33.g3 was necessary to try to hold on. 32… Qb5! 33. Qd8 Kf8! Black is winning at least a pawn. 34.Ng5 is answered with the calm 34… Qxg5 35.Nh7+ Kg7. 34. Qc8 a5 35. Nd2 Qxb2 36. Nxc4 Qxf2 37. Nxa5 Qxd4 38. Qa8 Qe5+ 39. Kh1

White is down a pawn and all her pieces are awkwardly placed. 39… Qe4 One of the winning moves. White cannot untie without losing the d5 pawn. 40. Nc6 Qxd5 The rest is easy. 41. Qc8 Qe6 42. Qd8 Kg7 43. Qh4 d5 44. Qd4+ Nf6 45. Ne5 Qf5 46. Nf3 Kh7 47. Ne5 Nd7 48. Nf3 Kg8 49. Kg1 Qe4 50. Qb2 Nf8 51. Qb8 g5 52. Qg3 Qe3+ 53. Kh1 Ne6 54. Qd6 d4 55. Ne5 Qc1+ 56. Kh2 Qf4+ 57. Kg1 g4 58. hxg4 hxg4 59. Qb8+ Kg7 60. Qb5 g3 61. Nd3 Qe3+ 62. Kf1 Nc5 0-1

This was an important win. Going into this round I knew that I had lost my last 3 games with Black against 1.e4. I didn’t think too much of it and went back to the Pirc. After getting a good position out of the opening I played with some uncertainty in the middle game as I didn’t capitalize on my opponent’s mistakes. I played the endgame with a lot of precision.

Round 3

With 1/2 points I was paired against GM Vitiugov, rated 2709. I knew my opponent was as strong as they come. I was looking forward to the challenge. I also expected that my Nimzo would be tested once again by a top level player.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.10”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Vitiugov”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “72”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. Qb3 a5 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 Bb7 8. e3
Nc6 9. Bd3 a4 10. Qc2 a3 11. b3 Be7 12. O-O O-O 13. Qd2 Nb4 14. e4 d5 15. Bxf6
Bxf6 16. e5 Be7 17. Rfe1 dxc4 18. bxc4 Bxf3 19. gxf3 Bg5 20. Qd1 Bf4 21. Ne2
Nxd3 22. Qxd3 Bxe5 23. Rad1 Bd6 24. f4 Ra5 25. Kh1 Qf6 26. Rg1 Bxf4 27. Rg4 Bd6
28. f4 Rd8 29. Ng3 Bxf4 30. Qf1 Bg5 31. Qg2 Qe7 32. d5 f5 33. Rgd4 Rf8 34. d6
cxd6 35. Rxd6 Re5 36. Qf3 Re1+ 0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. Qb3 a5 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 Bb7 8. e3 Nc6

Everything has been pretty standard up to this point. White has more space and comfortable placement of his pieces. Black has a hidden idea. 9. Bd3? Missing the significance of my opponent’s idea. 9.a3 a4 10.Qc2 Bxc3 11.Qxc3 would have offered white good chances for an advantage. 9… a4 10. Qc2 a3! With the pawn on a3 Black will always have some play on the queen side. White can’t say the same. The idea looks harmless at first but is positionally strong. 11. b3?! Better was 11.0-0!, allowing Black to increase White’s number of pawn islands but still opening the position in a way that would make sense for White’s pieces. 11… Be7 12. O-O O-O 13. Qd2 Nb4

14. e4 Still trying to play for the advantage. It is hard to meet Black when he plays d5 and c5 with easy play for him. Now it becomes clear that the fixed a2 pawn and the possession of the b4 square for the Knight is unpleasant for White. I chose the active plan. 14… d5 Black creates concrete problems for White to solve. This is where I start collapsing. 15.exd5 exd5 16.Rfe1 dxc4 17.bxc4 maintains roughly a balanced position.  15. Bxf6 Bxf6

White needs to play precisely to hold on. 16. e5 Be7 17. Rfe1? White’s position is very difficult after this move. 17.Be2 was necessary to better connect the White pieces. 17…dxc4 would be answered with 18.bxc4 c5 19.Nb5. 17… dxc4 18. bxc4? The position is close to resignable after this move. 18.Bxc4 would offer better resistance but Black is clearly better after 18…c5. 18…  Bxf3 19. gxf3 Bg5! I did not realize how strong this idea is.  20. Qd1 20.f4 Nxd3 is just down a pawn. 20…Bf4! Black’s Queen is ready to get in on an attack.

21. Ne2 Nxd3 22. Qxd3 Bxe5! Black is up a pawn and has a far superior pawn structure. I try to complicate the matter with “hopes” of an attack but the outcome is never in doubt. 23. Rad1 Bd6 24. f4 Ra5 25. Kh1 Qf6 26. Rg1 Bxf4 27. Rg4 Bd6 28. f4 Rd8 29. Ng3 Bxf4 30. Qf1 Bg5 31. Qg2 Qe7 32. d5 f5 33. Rgd4 Rf8 34. d6 cxd6 35. Rxd6 Re5 36. Qf3 Re1+ 0-1

A disappointing loss. Losing to stronger opposition is a big part of learning. There are different ways to lose to good players though. In this game, much like in round 1, I just collapsed under pressure. There was not much of a battle. I know I can play better and this was the disappointing part. I made it easy for my opponent. The good thing is that I was to play Black next (I have never said that before).

Round 4

I was paired against another female player, in 19 year old up and coming WGM Wenjun Ju, rated 2514. My opponent surprised m as early as the first move with an uncommon (for her) 1.c4.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.02.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Ju, Wenjun”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “92”]
[EventDate “2011.02.08”]
[SourceDate “2011.02.08”]

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bg2 Nb6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8.
a3 O-O 9. b4 Be6 10. d3 a5 11. b5 Nd4 12. Rb1 f6 13. Nd2 Qc8 14. e3 Nf5 15. Qc2
a4 16. Ne2 Rd8 17. e4 Nd4 18. Nxd4 Rxd4 19. Bb2 Rd6 20. f4 Qd7 21. Rf3 Qxb5 22.
Bxe5 Rc6 23. Qd1 Bb3 24. Nxb3 fxe5 25. Na1 Qc5+ 26. Kh1 Rd8 27. fxe5 Qxe5 28.
Rf5 Qd4 29. e5 Rc3 30. Be4 g6 31. Qg4 Rxd3 32. Rff1 Rd2 33. Rbe1 Rf8 34. Qe6+
Kh8 35. Bg2 Bxa3 36. h4 Rdf2 37. Rxf2 Qxf2 38. Rf1 Qc5 39. Rxf8+ Qxf8 40. Nc2
Bc5 41. Ne1 Qe7 42. Qxe7 Bxe7 43. Bxb7 a3 44. Nc2 Bc5 45. Kg2 a2 46. Kf3 Bd4
0-1

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bg2 Nb6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. O-O Be7 8. a3 O-O 9. b4 Be6 10. d3 a5 11. b5 Nd4 12. Rb1 f6 13. Nd2 Qc8 Everything up to this point is standard and has been played before. 14. e3 Nf5 15. Qc2 a4 16. Ne2 Rd8 17. e4 Nd4 18. Nxd4 Rxd4 19. Bb2 Rd6 20. f4 Qd7 21. Rf3

Things are about to get much sharper. 21… Qxb5! This move gives Black a clear advantage. 22. Bxe5 Rc6! My opponent might have underestimated the strength of this resource. 23. Qd1 Bb3?! 23…Qa5 24.Bb2 Bg4 was stronger. The advantage is also clear in the game. I decided to go for the clear positional advantage instead of the material one. 24. Nxb3 fxe5 25. Na1! Resourceful. The only square where the Knight does not get in the way and prepares to come to c2 at a later time. 25… Qc5+ 26. Kh1 Rd8 27. fxe5 Qxe5 28. Rf5 Qd4 29. e5 Rc3 30. Be4 g6 31. Qg4

Everything has been pretty smooth up to this point but now it’s time to get my last piece into play. 31…Nd7!, threatening Nxe5 would have given Black a clear advantage after 32. Rf4 Qxe5. 31… Rxd3? 32. Rff1 The position would have been a mess after 32. Nc2! Rd1+ 33.Rf1, as White has strong hopes of an attack. 32… Rd2 33. Rbe1 Rf8? 33…Qc4 would have paralyzed White’s position, leaving her with no good resources. 

34. Qe6+? The mistakes continue to flow in. 34.Nc2! Rxf1+ 35.Rxf1 Qd7 36.e6 Qb5 would have been an unclear mess once again. 34… Kh8 35. Bg2 Bxa3! The Bishop is now safe from being attacked. The position is winning, with Black having two extra pawns and White not having any counter-play due to the Knight on a1. 36. h4 Rdf2 37. Rxf2 Qxf2 38. Rf1 Qc5 39. Rxf8+ Qxf8 40. Nc2 40.Bxb7 Bb2 41.Nc2 Kg7 would not improve White’s chances but would temporarily improve the pawn count. 40… Bc5 41. Ne1

41… Qe7 42. Qxe7 42.Qa2 would have prolonged the game but without changing the evaluation. 42… Bxe7 43. Bxb7 White grabs the pawn but will have to give away her Knight for the strong a-pawn. The rest was simple. 43… a3 44. Nc2 Bc5 45. Kg2 a2 46. Kf3 Bd4
0-1

It was good to get this win and continue the trend of Black winning my first four games (!) of the tournament. It’s something that has never happened to me before. The opening worked out very well but then I had my middle game struggles. I gave my opponent opportunities to get back into the game instead of finishing her off. That is something to work on.