Below are some photos that were taken during the event… I might add more later.

Sign for the monastery

Beautiful view all around it

The monastery

Right above my bed in the monastery…

The new place

GM Gawain Jones

My blitz game against Shakh (Mamedyarov). David-Fressinet in the background.

Igor Kurnosov

The stage on which the knock out matches were played. I forgot to mention that the event was played in the Bastia Theatre. A great location. There was always a great atmosphere in the playing hall. Corsica is chess crazy. I have never heard such applause for the players before. It was great to see!

I will probably not be posting until I come back home later this month. I hope I gave you enough to keep you busy until then!

Part 4: The Blitz Tournament

The blitz tournament was played yesterday. I only played in 1 strong blitz tournament before, the one after the Montreal International in 2007, where Ivanchuk won. This event was going to have a similar strength field. With guys like Mamedyarov, Fressinet, Bologan, Van Wely, etc. It was hard to have high expectations. Losing the mini-match didn’t help my hopes. I started the event ranked 9th. Time time control would be 3min and 2sec increment. I had never played with the time control before.

The first rounds were very smooth. I scored 4/4 by beating up on some lower rated players, including at least 1 IM. Then there were four of us at 4/4, and I was paired against Mamedyarov with black. To put it lightly, he’s a pretty good blitz player. I lost the game in a one-way fashion.

But then I managed to win the next two rounds when I was paired down and I found myself sitting at 6/7, in a tie for second place, behind the Mamedyarov train (he was at 7). I was paired against Loek Van Wely, rated 2679, with white. I managed to win the game in very interesting fashion in the Nimzo Indian, to climb to 7/8, tied for second place with only Fressinet.

I was to play Igor Kurnosov, rated 2659, in the last round, with the black pieces. Igor was a half point behind and would surely do everything in his power to crush me and climb to 2nd place. I played the modern and got into some trouble in the opening. I was able to wiggle my way out of it and got into an endgame which was approximately equal. I had a bishop against the knight, and the knight managed to get very close to being trapped. I managed to win a pawn and then get 4 pawns against a bare knight. I was able to win at last.

And so, I finished at 8/9, in clear second place. Mamedyarov finished with a perfect 9/9. I was completely amazed that I was able to come out 2nd in such a strong field. The pairings were definitely not too hard on me, but I managed to win the last two crucial games under a lot of pressure. I didn’t realize blitz tournaments can be so much fun…

Part 3: Round of 16

I was paired against GM Gawain Jones in the first round of the knock out. The time control was 15min for the game and 3sec added per move. I was resting after my 7th round draw and found out who I was playing about 40min before the first game. That was the same time I found out that I qualified.

Not much time to prepare, and I just tried to stay fresh. I haven’t played serious active games in several years, so I had no idea as to what to expect from myself.

Unfortunately, the games were not recorded and I will not be able to post them here. Saves me some time. I will give you a summary instead. I was to play white in the first game. Gawain played the benko gambit. Gawain is very familiar with the opening as black and played quite a rare sideline. I was spending a lot of time in the opening while my opponent was just blitzing away. But I was able to get a pretty good position.

In the middle game Gawain completely outplayed me and took over the initiative. He kept creating problems and at first I had to give up the extra pawn, and then he overtook the initiative, and then I lost a lot of material. Losing the first game with white was brutal.

This meant that I had to win the second game with black, and I chose the ever risky modern defense. I believe that that’s what 1.e4 d6 is called, even though it transposes into the pirc. I was trying to push the position into unclear waters the whole game but Gawain stayed solid throughout and never got into any trouble. We played until we had bare kings.

I lost the mini-match, which was quite disappointing. I was quite happy to see Gawain draw against Mamedyarov twice in the quarter finals, showing that maybe I didn’t play that badly, and that rapid chess really suits him.

The chess didn’t end here… There was a blitz tournament (part 4) to come the next day.

Part 2: Revival- Rounds 5-7

I understood quite well that with my play from the first four rounds, it’s very unlikely that I would be able to make it to the knock out stage of the event. That would be a big disappointment for me. I knew that I needed at least 2.5/3 to qualify into the top 14, maybe even 3/3.

Round 5

I was to play FM Nikolaidis Konstantinos, rated 2318, with the black pieces. These games are not to be taken lightly, and I was hoping to somehow change my poor form. To prepare psychologically, I was reading a book all the way up to the start of the game, to try to get myself in a more focused state of mind. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.27”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Nikolaidis, K.”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A40”]
[PlyCount “64”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.27”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 b5 6. Bg2 d6 7. e4 Nbd7 8. Ne2
g6 9. O-O Bg7 10. h3 O-O 11. g4 b4 12. a3 a5 13. axb4 cxb4 14. Be3 h5 15. Nd4
hxg4 16. hxg4 Ne5 17. f3 Ba6 18. Rf2 Nc4 19. Bc1 Qb6 20. Nc6 Bb5 21. Ne7+ Kh8
22. Bf1 Rfe8 23. Nc6 Nxe4 24. fxe4 Rxe4 25. Qf3 Re1 26. Qh3+ Kg8 27. Bg5 Rae8
28. Kg2 Ne3+ 29. Bxe3 R8xe3 30. Qh4 g5 31. Qxg5 Bxf1+ 32. Rxf1 R1e2+ 0-1

I decided to play this sharp early b5 version of the benoni for the first time in my life. It’s risky, but I needed a win. I thought it would also serve as a good surprise weapon.

In this position my opponent played 11.g4?, instead of rationally developing his bishop with Be3. The game continued 11…b4 12.a3 a5 13.axb4 cxb4, and I got a lot of piece activity soon after.

I really wanted to sacrifice a piece on g4 here. But I just couldn’t make it work. 17…Nfxg4 18.fxg4 Nxg4 forces white to give up the dark squared bishop. There is clear compensation for the piece, but nothing forced. I thought, quite correctly, that my position was clearly better as it is, so no sacrifice, at least not this time! I continued with 17…Ba6 18.Rf2 Nc4 19.Bc1, where white’s queen side looks very awkward.

White has one active piece, his knight. I am trying to get rid of it. All four of white’s queen side pieces are in their place of birth. After calculating a lot of variations I decided to play 23…Nxe4 and sacrifice the piece. Things seemed to work in calculations. It is also very hard to play this position for white after the sacrifice. The game continued 24.fxe4 Rxe4 25.Qf3 Re1 26.Qh3+, after which white’s position is close to lost. It was necessary for white to play 25.Bd3 to try to get rid of the annoying pressure caused by the rook on e4.

It’s time for the final blow. All of my pieces are in the game and it feels like I should be able to finish the deal. A cute combination does the trick. I continued 28…Ne3+ 29.Bxe3 R8xe3 30.Qh4 g5 31.Qxg5 Bxf1+ 32.Rxf1 R1e2+, after which my opponent resigned, not letting finish with the cute 33.Rf2 Rg3+, followed by a forced mate.

Pretty good game. It’s not always about the moves one makes, the way a player feels during the game is just as important. I felt good for the first time in the tournament. I did not miss any tactics and my sense for the position was good throughout.

I was to move to a hotel in downtown Bastia after the round. That was a serious adventure. My friend, Fiona Steil-Antoni, reserved a room for me at a hotel called Hotel Bonaparte. It is a nice family style hotel. Nothing too fancy. The room is warm (that was a selling point). It’s a 10min walk from the playing hall.

But getting there was horrible, since I had to go to the monastery and pick up my belongings. I came with the usual shuttle bus at 10.15pm. I found the reception to be closed. Nobody who works there was up. Great. So then I looked for a phone. I somehow assumed that the common room at least had a phone. But as usual with the monastery, I was surprised. I could not find a phone anywhere.

I tried to stay rational and not walk for about an hour and the half, mainly on a road without a normal sidewalk, with my luggage. So I waited for Fiona to come online to get her to call a taxi. I was able to catch her online soon after, and she ordered me the taxi. From there everything was smooth, and I didn’t have to see the monastery again.

A few chess players wanted to stay at the monastery for the tournament. After one night, they left to go live in a better place. It took me longer, but I got out. Some of the other GMs were placed in the monastery with me, and they handled it quite well. Nobody said a kind word about the place though. A part of the building still exists from the 18th century… A nice place to see, not a great place to live in.

I was happy to be out!

Round 6

After leaving the monastery, I had no excuse to play badly! I was paired with GM Mikhail Ivanov, rated 2438, with white. Once again, this felt like a must win. A loss would certainly take me out of the chase for the top 14.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.28”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Ivanov, M.”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “115”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.28”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be3 e5 7. d5 a5 8. h3 Na6
9. Nd2 Nd7 10. g4 f5 11. gxf5 gxf5 12. exf5 Ndc5 13. Nde4 Bxf5 14. Bg2 b6 15.
Qe2 Nb4 16. Bxc5 bxc5 17. a3 Na6 18. O-O-O Qh4 19. Rd3 Bh6+ 20. Kb1 Kh8 21. Bf3
Rg8 22. Rdd1 Raf8 23. Bg4 Bg6 24. Ka2 Rf4 25. f3 Ra8 26. Qe1 Qe7 27. Ka1 Nb8
28. Nb5 Be8 29. Ng3 Bg6 30. Qe2 Qd8 31. Bh5 Nd7 32. Bxg6 hxg6 33. Rdg1 Nf8 34.
Ne4 Qe7 35. h4 Rd8 36. Rg4 Rd7 37. Rxf4 exf4 38. Qd2 Qe5 39. Qxa5 Bg7 40. Rh2
Qh5 41. Ng5 Bf6 42. Qd2 Nh7 43. Ne6 Qxf3 44. Qxf4 Qd1+ 45. Ka2 Be5 46. Qd2 Qg4
47. Qe2 Qg3 48. Rf2 Qxh4 49. a4 Re7 50. a5 c6 51. dxc6 Rxe6 52. c7 Re8 53. Nxd6
Qxf2 54. Qxf2 Bxd6 55. Qf7 Ra8 56. Qd7 Rxa5+ 57. Kb3 Bxc7 58. Qc8+ 1-0

I was surprised that my opponent played the King’s Indian against me, I prepared for some other openings. So I decided to surprise right back with 6.Be3, a move that I had only played once before, against IM Raja Panjwani, last year. I just wanted to take him out of preparation with another rare sideline. It certainly got him thinking…

Black’s pieces are coming out fast. Black will take on f5 with the bishop and have threats on the light squares. It’s important for me to try to take control of the important e4 square. The game continued 13.Nde4 Bxf5 14.Bg2. Here my opponent made a mistake by playing 14…b6 instead of the natural Qe8-g6 maneuver, which puts pressure on e4 once again and brings the queen to an ideal square. I gladly consolidated by playing Qe2 and castling long.

Black got the two bishops and the open b-file. It might look promising but in reality black finds himself in a positional hole. The knight on a6 can’t get out. White’s knight is fixed on e4, and the other knight might eventually come to b5. In an endgame, the white king might go on a chase after the lonely a5 pawn. Added to this, I might have my own attack on the king side. It’s very hard to find a good plan here for black. My opponent played 18…Qh4! A strong move, since it stops me from playing h4 and freeing up my pieces even more.

I have improved the placement of my king and bishop, but black’s position is solid. It’s not easy to breakthrough. One thing needs to be clear about this position, it’s rock solid for white. Tempo here or a tempo there are not going to change much. I played the interesting 27.Ka1!?. For one thing, it confused my opponent. But my king does appear to stand better on a1, avoiding Nb4+. And my opponent did just play Ra8, so I am getting him to abandon his original plan of throwing Nb4+ in somewhere. This type of a move has an interesting psychological effect. My opponent immediately played 27…Nb8 28.Nb5 Be8 29.Ng3, where black still has trouble getting the knight out.

The black knight came back to life but I was able to exchange the light squared bishops. My bishop wasn’t very strong, but my opponent’s was very powerful annoying. It’s clear that my opponent is living on the edge in this position, and his pieces are badly coordinated. This looked like a perfect time to grab that a5 pawn. I played 37.Rxf4 exf4 38.Qd2 and just grabbed the pawn. In the endgame, my passed a-pawn should be the difference.

All of white’s pieces are still well placed, so it looks like a perfect time to start pushing my a-pawn, as it’s only five moves from queening. After I played 49.a4!, my position is easily winning. The game continued 49…Re7 50.a5 c6 51.dxc6 Rxe6 52.c7 Re8 53.Nxd6, winning a lot of material.

This was probably my best game of the tournament. It was a long battle, and it was good to come out on top. A lot of the moves were strategically sound, and that was good to see. I felt great before and during the game.

Round 7

The interesting thing about the tournament system is that it doesn’t matter whether you finish 1st or 14th after 7 rounds, the top 14 players qualify into the knock out and then a re-seeding occurs, based on rating. And so, I just needed to qualify. Nobody knew whether 5/7 would qualify, that would be based on players’ tiebreaks. 5.5 was in for sure. Both players are playing for the win, but appear to be satisfied with the draw in this last round situation.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.29”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bokros, A.”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “86”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.29”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Qe2 Qe7 6. d3 Nf6 7. Nc3 Qxe2+ 8.
Bxe2 Be7 9. O-O c6 10. Re1 Na6 11. a3 O-O 12. h3 Nc7 13. Nd4 Re8 14. Bf3 Bd7
15. Bf4 Ne6 16. Nxe6 Bxe6 17. Ne4 Rad8 18. Nxf6+ Bxf6 19. c3 d5 20. d4 Bd7 21.
Kf1 Kf8 22. Bd6+ Be7 23. Bf4 Bf6 24. Bc7 Rxe1+ 25. Rxe1 Re8 26. Bd6+ Be7 27.
Bxe7+ Rxe7 28. Rxe7 Kxe7 29. Ke2 h6 30. h4 g5 31. hxg5 hxg5 32. Ke3 f5 33. g3
Kd6 34. Be2 Be6 35. f4 g4 36. b4 b5 37. Bd1 a6 38. a4 Bd7 39. axb5 axb5 40. Bc2
Bc8 41. Bd3 Bd7 42. Bc2 Bc8 43. Bd3 Bd7 1/2-1/2

I played the solid Petroff and my opponent chose a safe line. My ideas of playing c6 and Na6 did not have the effect of spicing up the position, and soon pieces just kept coming off the board.

At this point it became quite clear that I should be driving the position towards equality. If I am not careful here then I might get into some trouble. Best way to equalize is exchange more pieces. I played 15…Ne6 16.Nxe6 Bxe6, and soon after, the other pair of knights was also exchanged.

I decided to go into a light squared bishop endgame here, by exchanging everything else on the e-file. Even though I have a lot of pawns on the light squares, the endgame will be too blocked by pawns in the center for white to try to make any progress. The game continued 22…Be7 23.Bf4 Bf6 24.Bc7 Rxe1+ 25.Rxe1 Re8 26.Bd6+ Be7 27.Bxe7+ Rxe7 28.Rxe7 Kxe7. After closing the position up, no progress could be made.

Dead draw.

The final standings after the first seven moves can be found here.

I qualified for the knock out, and that’s all that mattered at that point. More on that in part 3.


Part 1: Rounds 1-4

I arrived to Bastia on October 23rd. The organizers had arranged for me to by picked up from the airport. Viktor Bologan and I got a ride to our accommodations, which were different, probably in every way possible.

I was put in a place called Maison Saint Hyacinthe. To say the least, it is a special place. A lot of photos are to come later. The place is a Polish Monastery. It was certainly different. After such a long trip, the quality of the place did not concern me too much. I soon realized that the place is in complete isolation.

The organizers were having a small dinner with some of the GMs. The dinner was at a very nice Bastian restaurant in the middle of the city. This is where I met the main organizer, Leo Battesti. The Wikipedia page does not do Leo justice, but everybody who knows him knows how professional he is about everything he does. Leo has made Corsica chess crazy. Leo got chess inside the curriculum of the Corsican school system. The dinner was a very nice one.

After the dinner it was time to get some rest before the first round, which came on the following day.

Round 1

I was to play Cyril Humeau, rated 2237, with black. It’s always important to start off strong. Below is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.24”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Humeau”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B08”]
[PlyCount “104”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.24”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. h3 O-O 6. Be3 a6 7. Bd3 b5 8. O-O
Bb7 9. e5 Nd5 10. Nxd5 Bxd5 11. a4 b4 12. c4 bxc3 13. bxc3 Nd7 14. exd6 cxd6
15. c4 Bxf3 16. Qxf3 e5 17. Qc6 exd4 18. Bf4 Be5 19. Bh6 Re8 20. f4 Rc8 21. Qf3
Bg7 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. Qd5 Qf6 24. f5 g5 25. Rad1 Nc5 26. Bb1 d3 27. Bxd3 Nxa4
28. Rd2 Nc5 29. Bc2 Rcd8 30. Rfd1 Re3 31. Qc6 Qe5 32. f6+ Qxf6 33. Rxd6 Rxd6
34. Qxd6 Re1+ 35. Kh2 Rxd1 36. Qxd1 Qf4+ 37. Kh1 Qxc4 38. Qd8 h6 39. Qd1 Qc3
40. Kh2 a5 41. Kh1 Ne6 42. Bb3 Nd4 43. Bd5 Nc2 44. Bxf7 Kxf7 45. Qd7+ Kf6 46.
Qd6+ Kf5 47. Qxh6 Nd4 48. Qh7+ Kf4 49. Qd7 Ke3 50. Qe7+ Kd3 51. Qxg5 Qe1+ 52.
Kh2 Nf3+ 0-1

I decided to play the Pirc in this early round. My guess is that it’s annoying to play against it without preparing for it. Everybody remembers what to do against the Sicilian and Ruy Lopez nowadays, but the Pirc is somewhat forgotten.

This is the first crucial point in the game. White finally expanded with 9.e5. The move might be a bit premature. I decided to play 9…Nd5 and keep all the pawns on the board for now. 9…dxe5 would have been very interesting. 10.Nxe5 does not look very natural. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to win the position after 10.dxe5 Nd5 11.Be4 Nxe3 12.Qxd8 Rxd8 13.Bxb7 Nxf1 14.Bxa8 Nd2 15.Nxd2 Rxd2 16.f4. Not too many pieces left on the board in the final position and the opposite coloured bishops will always give black realistic hopes for a draw.

It’s important to put a lot of pressure on the opponents. Only under pressure can opponents make mistakes. This is exactly why I was happy to be play 16…e5. Now white has a lot of options and needs to play precisely to stay in the game. My opponent continued with 17.Qc6? exd4 18.Bf4 Be5, where I had a pawn for close to nothing. It was important to play 17.Qd5 or 17.Be4 and the position is close to balanced due to some tactics.

The main line I had to calculate in this position is 32.f6+. 32.Rf1, threatening f6, was also a possibility. My opponent instantly played 32.f6+, after which followed 32…Qxf6 33.Rxd6? Rxd6 34.Qxd6 Re1+ 35.Kh2 Rxd1 36.Qxd1 Qf4+, and I picked up the second pawn. My opponent should have played 33.Rf1 Qe6 34.Rdf2, where he is able to maintain some pressure. On my part, 34…Qxd6 35.Rxd6 Rc3, where I pick up a second pawn and my opponent’s bishop is in serious trouble.

I am winning in many different ways here. I am simply up a piece. It’s never a bad idea to save time and play a pretty combination, as long as it works. My opponent resigned after 52…Nf3+! The idea behind the move is that I will manage to take the f3 pawn, exchange queens, and then queen on a1 before my opponent queens on h8. Here is a possible variation: 53.gxf3 Qf2+ 54.Kh1 Qxf3+55.Kh2 Qf2+ 56.Kh1 Qe1+ 57.Kh2 Qd2+ 58.Qxd2 Kxd2 59.h4 a4 60.h5 a3 61.h6 a2  62.h7 a1Q.

Decent game. Not really an indicator due to the large difference in strength. The Pirc got me a relatively easy win against a much lower rated player. Things are only to get tougher though…

Round 2

This would be the only day with two rounds. This game started in the morning. I was to play an IM rated 2371 with white. Most important thing on this day was to have enough energy for both games.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.25”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Braeuning”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “D07”]
[PlyCount “81”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.25”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. d5 Ne5 5. f4 Nd7 6. e4 Nb6 7. a4 a5 8. Be3 e6
9. Bxb6 cxb6 10. Bxc4 Bb4 11. Bb5+ Kf8 12. Nf3 Nf6 13. O-O Bxc3 14. bxc3 Nxe4
15. c4 exd5 16. cxd5 Bg4 17. Qd4 Bxf3 18. Rxf3 Qf6 19. Qxf6 gxf6 20. Rc1 Nd6
21. Rc7 Rd8 22. Bd7 Rg8 23. Rb3 b5 24. axb5 b6 25. Rbc3 Ne4 26. Re3 Nc5 27. Bc6
Kg7 28. Ree7 Rgf8 29. Kf2 f5 30. Kg3 Rd6 31. Kf3 Rh6 32. Be8 Rf6 33. d6 Rxd6
34. Bxf7 Kf6 35. Bc4 h6 36. Rh7 Kg6 37. Rcg7+ Kf6 38. Rg3 Rd4 39. Rxh6+ Ke7 40.
Rg7+ Ke8 41. Rxb6 1-0

This game was not exactly smooth. I chose a very sharp line and things got tactical fast.

Going into this position, I thought I would have a lot of good options. Things are not so easy though, even with the black king on f8. My b5 bishop is quite badly placed. I will always have weak dark squares. I decided to sacrifice a pawn with 13.0-0 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Nxe4 15.c4. I got strong pressure, probably enough compensation for a pawn but certainly not much more.

My opponent offers to trade queens. This trade will certainly make black’s defense easier. I happily accepted with 19.Qxf6 gxf6 (On Nxf6 20.d6 would have been strong) 20.Rc1, and here my opponent could have equalized with 20…Rd8 21.Rc7 Rxd5 22.Rxb7 Kg7. My opponent landed in trouble quickly.

Since the last diagram, I really had my way on the board. All of my pieces are active, while black’s king and rooks are stuck and can’t get out. But positions are not won just based on how active one’s pieces are, they are won on what you can do with those pieces. In my opponent’s time trouble I also wanted to force the issue and make him solve some hard problems. I played 32.Be8 Rf6 33.d6 Rxd6 34.Bxf7 Kf6 35.Bc4. My opponent’s pieces are all tied up. A few moves later we reached the position below.

I played the very natural 39.Rxh6+? Ke7 40.Rg7+ Ke8 41.Rxb6, threatening Rb8 mate. At this point, my opponent lost on time. He went to the washroom after the 40th move, believing we get 30min after the first time control. One problem, there is no time added on. The final position is completely winning for me. So why was 39.Rxh6+ a mistake? Well, I could have ended things right away by playing 39.Rhg7 or 39.Rh3, with mate or a massive loss of material being unavoidable for black. How does that stuff happen? Well, I was very focused on my winning idea… I forgot there were others. Happens, but not great.

I didn’t feel like I played this game well. I was missing some variations and my overall state was no great during this game. Added to this, I had another game to worry about later in the day.

I had a lot of time between rounds, and Igor Kurnosov and I asked Leo for a ride to our monastery and back, so that we can get some proper rest. Leo made it happen and we were able to get away from all the people and all the noise. Things would get harder later that day…

Round 3

Upon getting up from my rest, I found the pairings. I was to play black against GM Fressinet, the current French champion, and the top seed in the tournament at 2718. I wished I could have played him on one of the others days, but I would try to make the most of it! At least I have been getting used to playing 2 games a day;). Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.25”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Fressinet”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “101”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.25”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nbd2 O-O 5. a3 Be7 6. e3 d5 7. Bd3 b6 8. O-O
Bb7 9. b4 c5 10. bxc5 bxc5 11. Rb1 Qc8 12. cxd5 exd5 13. dxc5 Nbd7 14. Nb3 Nxc5
15. Nxc5 Bxc5 16. Bb2 Ne4 17. Rc1 Qd8 18. Nd4 Rc8 19. Qg4 Qf6 20. Rc2 Qg6 21.
Qd7 Qb6 22. Rfc1 Rfd8 23. Qg4 Bf8 24. h3 Rxc2 25. Rxc2 Rc8 26. Qe2 Rxc2 27.
Qxc2 Qa5 28. Qc1 h6 29. Nf3 Ba6 30. Bb1 Qc5 31. Qxc5 Nxc5 32. Bc2 Bd3 33. Nd4
a6 34. Bc3 Ne4 35. Bb4 Bxb4 36. axb4 Bxc2 37. Nxc2 Kf8 38. Nd4 Ke7 39. f3 Nc3
40. Nc6+ Kd6 41. Nb8 Nd1 42. Nxa6 Nxe3 43. Kf2 Nc2 44. Ke2 Kc6 45. Kd2 Nd4 46.
Nc5 Kb5 47. Nd3 f6 48. Kc3 Ne2+ 49. Kd2 Nd4 50. Kc3 Ne2+ 51. Kd2 1/2-1/2

I decided to play the 3…Bb4+ line for the first time since Oakham 2000, if I recall correctly. I got into some serious trouble early on. There was definitely the fear that the middle game would not last too long for me.

In this position, I’m in trouble. All of white’s pieces are well placed and there is the fear that there is too much aiming at my king. Fortunately for me, Laurent played 20.Rc2? Qg6 21.Qd7 Qb6, after which I was able to equalize as you will see below. White missed the very strong 20.Bxe4 dxe4 21.Ne6! Qxb2 22.Nxf8 Kxf8 23.Rb1!, where black is probably just lost. Black can complicate things a bit by not playing 22…Kxf8, but I would still be in great trouble.

We reached the position above. All of my pieces are tied down and there is always the threat of me getting mated. I played 23…Bf8!, after which white is not that happy. g7 is permanently defended, and I am thinking about throwing in Qxb2 and sacrificing the queen for some pieces with mate threats on the first rank. Of course, taking on c8 three times does not work because the bishop is hanging on b2.Bf8 saved the day and consolidated my whole position in one move.

We landed in this harmless looking endgame after trading all the heavy pieces. The position is very close to equal, but because white is playing against the isolated pawn he will claim that his position is more comfortable and he will never risk losing. I was hoping to exchange some pieces to simplify the game and help my king come into the center. I was feeling exhausted at this point. What is interesting to see is how white tries to get something out of nothing, a skill that becomes very evident with world class players. White played 32.Bc2 Bd3 33.Nd4 a6 34.Bc3 Ne4 35.Bb4 Bxb4 36.axb4 Bxc2 37.Nxc2. I was happy to get into a knight endgame where I knew that my king is coming into d6. I also knew that the d5 pawn is not weak because the white king has to worry about his own pawns on the king side.

White hunted down my a6 pawn, but I was very happy in this position. I assume that white missed my idea. 41…Nd1! (grabbing the e3 pawn) 42.Nxa6 Nxe3 43.Kf3 Nc2? If I would want to play for a win, I should have played 43…d4. I was completely exhausted though, and I could see the finish line with 43…Nc2, and I knew that I would make the draw there… After defending for the whole game and playing the second game of the day, I was very happy to know a draw is close.

I felt like I played this game very poorly. That’s chess, you can play very poorly and have a great result. Of course, my opponent did not have a good game either. Looking at his other games from the event shows his true colours. I was happy to be done with the two rounds that day.

Round 4

At around noon on the day of the round, Igor Kurnosov and I went down from the mountains of the Monastery to a place where we saw life. It was about a 30min walk downhill, and we knew we would find stores when we got down to the water front, since we saw it on the bus. We were not happy with what we found. Both grocery stores in that neighborhood were closed. All the restaurants were closed. We were able to find a bakery that was open and bought some things from there. We were hoping to buy water, which we were able to buy from the only open “bar” around. I am not judging the area here, but just saying that it’s a very unfriendly place for tourists who can’t get basic things in the middle of the day.

Already before the game I was leaning towards moving into the city… It seemed like the right thing to do for my chess. I felt that staying at the monastery was affecting my play. It was cold in the rooms. The heating did not work, and it was probably around 15 degrees in the room during the night. I had trouble sleeping under two think blankets. There was internet at the monastery. One internet cable for the whole monastery, which was permanent in the common room.

Another bad thing about the monastery was the commute. It is place 8km away from the playing hall, up in the mountains. Beautiful scenery, but that’s it. We had to leave on a bus an hour before the game started, to make a 15min trip. Most serious chess players, including myself, need to relax before the game with their own routine. This completely destroyed any routine for me. Being stuck in the city with 45min to kill wasted energy and did not help concentration.

It might sound like I am making excuses for what’s to come, but I was not playing well in rounds 2 and 3, but was very fortunate to score as many points as I did. In this game, my opponent punished me for my bad play.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.26”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Shchekachev”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “56”]
[EventDate “2010.10.24”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.26”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Nf3 e5 8. d5 a5
9. Be2 Nc5 10. Nd2 Bd7 11. O-O h6 12. Be3 Nh7 13. Qc2 Qh4 14. Nf3 Qe7 15. Qc1
f5 16. exf5 gxf5 17. Nh2 Ng5 18. f4 exf4 19. Rxf4 Rae8 20. Bd4 Nxh3+ 21. gxh3
Bxd4+ 22. Rxd4 Qg7+ 23. Kh1 Qxd4 24. Qxh6 Re7 25. Bh5 Rg7 26. Nf3 Qf6 27. Qf4
Nd3 28. Qe3 Nxb2 0-1

In the position above, I made the most obvious move possible. I castled. That was a bad choice and I should know better. This system with h3 allows white to delay castling by keeping the possibility of playing g4 and a king side attack. Anyways, I played 11.0-0, but should have probably preferred something like 11.b3 c6 12.0-0, because once black has already committed himself to c6, I am no longer scared of a king-side attack. My opponent played 11…h6 12.Be3 Nh7!, where the attack which comes after f5 is not very pleasant. My position is probably still not worse, but it looks easier to play for black.

In this position I played 15.Qc1, hoping to force 15…h5 16.Ne1/Nd2, where black will not be able to recapture on f5 with the pawn because of the hanging h5 pawn. My opponent played the strong 15…f5! 16.exf5 gxf5, where 17.Bxh6 is very dangerous due to the attack that comes after 17…f4. I should have probably preferred 15.Nb5, creating some problems for my opponent on the queen side.

I had just played 20.Bd4?, the losing mistake. I saw the winning combination right when I played the move. 20…Nxh3+ 21.gxh3 Bxd4+ 22.Rxd4 Qg7+. After that, the game was simply over.

I played a bad game. Credit needs to be given to my opponent as well, as he played a great game. But my bad play had caught up with me. I was miscalculating a lot and for this reason I ended up in serious trouble in the middle game, after which I just missed an easy tactic.

I was thinking about moving that night, but it did not work out. I was making arrangements to move after the next round though… Accommodation was to change. But would my play?

A lot of people will say that the accommodation doesn’t matter. Sure, they are right. If you are doing something where you don’t need to be at 100%, then it really doesn’t matter. In that case sleep might not matter either. But when playing chess, serious players give it their all. To be able to give it our all, we need to not be at a competitive disadvantage. Staying so far away from the playing hall, having to live in bad conditions, and commuting a long time before the games makes play harder on people. People play worse under those conditions. This was not just the case in my own play. This was also the case in Igor Kurnosov’s play. Igor is rated over 2650, and he was struggling with his play throughout the tournament.

Physical and psychological state at a tournament has everything to do with how people perform. People often underestimate its importance.


Corsican Update

My tournaments in Bastia finished yesterday. I will not give anything away in this post, except that outside of the main event, I also played in the blitz tournament which included almost all of the top guns from the main event.

I will be leaving to Israel tomorrow for my coaching session. My stay in Bastia had some adventures, which included a change in accommodation half-way through the tournament.

I will be playing catch up with the tournament once again. I hope to get most of the blogging about the tournament done today.