Day 4-rounds 6 and 7: success followed by disappointment

I came into the 6th round tied for first. I found myself in the middle of the action going into the last day of play. I was to play GM Prusikin, rated about 2520, with white.

I approached the game as a must win. In one of the main decisions that I made before this year, I was going to go big or go home, so to speak. This actually becomes more obvious in the game. Here we go.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Prusikin”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “121”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.11”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Bd6 7. c5 Be7 8. b4 b6
9. Nf4 a5 10. Bb2 c6 11. Bd3 Ba6 12. O-O Bxd3 13. Nxd3 Nbd7 14. Rc1 Qb8 15. f3
axb4 16. axb4 Rd8 17. Kh1 bxc5 18. bxc5 e5 19. Qc2 exd4 20. exd4 Re8 21. Ra1
Qc7 22. Rxa8 Rxa8 23. Bc1 Nf8 24. Bf4 Qc8 25. g4 Ne6 26. Be3 g6 27. Rb1 h5 28.
Ne5 hxg4 29. fxg4 Nd7 30. Nxg6 fxg6 31. Qxg6+ Ng7 32. Bh6 Bf8 33. Rf1 Qe8 34.
Qxc6 Kh7 35. Bd2 Rd8 36. Bg5 Rc8 37. Qxd5 Qe6 38. Qe4+ Kg8 39. Re1 Qc4 40. Qd5+
Qxd5+ 41. Nxd5 Kf7 42. Ne7 Rc7 43. Rf1+ Ke8 44. Nd5 Rc8 45. Nf4 Kf7 46. h4 Ne6
47. Nxe6+ Kxe6 48. Rf5 Bxc5 49. dxc5 Nxc5 50. Kg2 Ne4 51. Bf4 Nf6 52. Re5+ Kf7
53. Kf3 Ra8 54. Bg5 Ne8 55. Re7+ Kg6 56. Rb7 Ra3+ 57. Be3 Nf6 58. h5+ Nxh5 59.
gxh5+ Kxh5 60. Rb6 Ra6 61. Rxa6 1-0

I was not playing the opening very accurately. I had not prepared this line as my opponent generally does not play the Nimzo Indian. But I felt confident, I had just played this line with black against Shulman last year, where I found out about a lot of the nuances in the position.

Yes, the first diagram on my blog! It took me some time to figure out how to do it better, but here we are. The position above arose after my opponent’s 13th move. I remember that after playing Shulman, he said that white shouldn’t be exchanging any pairs of rooks, since that makes black’s job easier. So I decided to play 14.Rc1. 14.f3 might have been more accurate, in an attempt to not allow e5 in the near future. In simpler terms: Rc1 is too slow.

My opponent offered me a draw after playing 18…e5. I know that I bashed my opponent offering me a draw in the 3rd round of the tournament. I can’t do the same with this offer, since it had a lot of merit. The position is about equal, and my opponent is a pretty good GM. Most of all, this is the first round of the day, so a quick draw would give us a good break before the last and critical round. Anyways, I am playing for a win. I didn’t think about the offer for too long. We are here to play!

This position arose after black’s 24th move. It’s unclear how to breakthrough black’s position with normal measures. With the knight coming into e6, the position looks about equal. So I thought about it, and made a conscious decision to play a dubious move, 25.g4. It shouldn’t be good, my opponent has no weaknesses. But the move puts a lot of pressure on black to do something more than just develop his pieces peacefully. 25.Rb1 Ne6 26.Be3 Nd7 will even make the Karpovs of the world yawn.

I was very happy as to what had happened in the moves after g4 until we got to this point. The balance is gone, and white has some sort of an initiative. I went into this line thinking about nothing but Nxg6. Of course, I had to spend a lot time calculating it. Instead of my opponent playing 29…Nd7 (from f6) he should have preferred Nf8, consolidating his position. This is where the fireworks started, with me playing 30.Nxg6!

This is exactly what I was aiming for. I have four pawns for the piece, and black’s pieces are all very passive at the moment. But if black plays Ne6, he will have no problems in life. So it is time to tie black even more. I played 42.Ne7! Rc7 43.Rf1+ Ke8 44.Nd5?!. 44.Ng6! should have been preferred and the game could have continued with 44…Ne6 45.Re1 Kf7 46.Nh8+ Kg7 47.Rxe6 Kxh8 48.c6, which is just winning for white. In the game, I had my own idea for tying up my opponent’s pieces, and it worked quite well.

In this position, it is important to notice that I am not moving the bishop because it is ideally placed. The idea never even came to my mind. The knight and rook are the pieces I maneuver to try to contain black as much as possible.

In this position, black can only move his g7 knight. I can keep advancing my h-pawn otherwise. My opponent played 46…Ne6 47.Nxe6 Kxe6 48.Rf5! and the position should be winning. I am threatening mate with 49.d5. On 48…Nb8 I can even play the very patient 49.h5! where black’s position is completely immobile. 47.c6 Nb8 48.d5 Nxg5 49.Ne6+ was winning even faster.

The endgame that ensued should be winning, and it was a matter of technique from here. It might take time, but black can’t do anything to stop my pawns. Patience is key, and the first order of business is getting the king into the game in a position like this. 50.Kg2. Most players would make that move without any thought. It is importance to notice that I can exchange rooks or the bishop for the knight, and my position would still be winning.

Then came time for the final punch. It looks like black’s king is trapped, but it is unclear how to go for the kill. The line 58.h5+ Nxh5 59.Rb6+ Nf6 60.g5 is not winning because of 60…Rxe3+ followed by Kxg5. I had something else in mind, as I played 58.h5+ Nxh5 59.gxh5 Kxh5 60.Rb6! With black being unable to stop mate. A pretty finish to a very long game.

Round 7

Going into the last round I was in clear first place. Much like the day before, I only had about an hour and the half between rounds. I went back to my room, refueled on chocolate in an attempt to re-energize myself, lied in bed for about 30min, showered and it was game time.

I was paired with GM Ftacnik, rated about 2560, with black. Out of all the players in the event, I had the most respect for Lubomir. I had played Ftacnik in 2001 or 2002, when he was still rated over 2600. He was in the top 100 in the world for about 10 years back in those days. He had been a world class player. In recent times, he has been on a bit of a decline. But I also knew that in the last round of an event, world class is world class. I knew that a draw would guarantee me a tie for first, and almost certainly give me first on tie break. Ftacnik drew his morning game quickly, so I knew he was better rested. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.11”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Ftacnik”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “107”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.11”]

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. e3 Bg4 5. Nc3 e6 6. h3 Bxf3 7. Qxf3 Nbd7 8. Bd3
Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Rd1 a6 11. a3 Qc7 12. Bd2 dxc4 13. Bxc4 c5 14. Ba2 cxd4 15.
exd4 Nb6 16. Bf4 Qd7 17. d5 Nfxd5 18. Nxd5 Nxd5 19. Bxd5 exd5 20. Rxd5 Qe6 21.
Rad1 b5 22. Bd6 Bxd6 23. Rxd6 Qe5 24. Qxa8 Rxa8 25. Rd8+ Qe8 26. Rxe8+ Rxe8 27.
Rd6 Kf8 28. f4 Re2 29. b4 Re6 30. Rxe6 fxe6 31. Kf2 Ke7 32. Ke3 Kd7 33. g4 Ke7
34. Ke4 Kd7 35. Kd4 Kc6 36. Ke5 Kd7 37. h4 Ke7 38. h5 Kf7 39. Kd6 Kf6 40. Kc5
e5 41. g5+ Kf5 42. fxe5 Kxe5 43. Kb6 Kf5 44. h6 g6 45. Kxa6 Kxg5 46. Kxb5 Kh5
47. Kc4 g5 48. Kd3 Kh4 49. b5 g4 50. b6 g3 51. b7 g2 52. b8=Q g1=Q 53. Qf4+ Kh5
54. Qe5+ 1-0

I decided to play the Slav, something very solid in the last round. I realized the day before that benoni positions are hard to play on the second round of the day. I misplayed the opening a bit. 8…Bd6 was probably preferable, simply putting the bishop on a better square and also allowing for a later Qe7. Chess can be that simple.

We got a very interesting and playable position. 14…b5! 15.Rac1 c4 would have been very interesting. It’s a more active plan of action, as opposed to my idea which let the dark squared bishop out of its cave. 14…cxd4 was an attempt to simplify the position a bit more.

This was a critical moment in the game. If white does not play d5, I put a knight on that square, and life should be at the very least, bearable with play. Lubomir played 17.d5! putting pressure on me. I saw the idea when I forced the isolated pawn, but I can’t say that I was too scared of it. I thought that I can gradually equalize by bringing my pieces into the game.

This was another critical position. My opponent played 24.Qxa8. I consider the move a mistake. I think 24.b4 would have put more pressure on me, and I was more worried about that during the game. The next few moves are forced.

The moment of truth. Rook endgame, 5 versus 5, should be drawn. But precision is needed. That’s what I lacked at this point. The very simple 28…Re3! 29.Rxa6 Rb3 forces a draw. I am pretty sure we would have signed the score sheets soon after, had I played this one precise move.

Instead I played 28…Re2 29.b4 Re6??. 29…a5 would have still saved a draw with 30.bxa5 Re4! 31.a6 Ra4 32.Rb6 Rxa3 33.Kf1 b4. White has absolutely no way to breakthrough in that position without exchanging the queen side pawns. A draw would have been agreed to there as well.

29…Re6 really looks like an attempt to lose the game. The endgame is tough. I didn’t realize how tough the endgame really is. Something in my mind was very blurry at this point, but I thought that the pawn endgame should be drawn.

33.g4 was a mistake, as it commits the pawn 2 squares too early. This gave me a chance to draw the game.

This was a critical point in the endgame. I can play Kc6 and Kd6. 35…Kc6 loses the game, but 35…Kd6 36.h4 Kc6 37.Ke5 Kd7 38.Ke4 Kd6 appears to draw the game. My opponent played very accurately to win the game from now on.

This was the final position in which I resigned. I can’t go anywhere with the king without white exchanging the queens, and then the black king cannot catch up to the a-pawn.

Tough way to finish the tournament. I led the event for 6 rounds, but not 7. This game was a tough lesson. It’s hard to draw too many lessons from the second round of the day however, during which I felt a lot worse than sub par. I would have drawn the game if I had been in a better state of mind. But my opponent might have played better himself.

It’s useless to live in “would haves” and “should haves”. I lost the game. But I got 2nd place on tiebreak. I can only assume that my tiebreak was the best in the tournament, after leading the event for 6 rounds and playing 5 out of the top 13 finishers in the event! It was a stiff competition for me.

If you would have told me before the tournament that I would finish second, I would have been happy, especially considering my result in Barcelona. If you would have told me the same thing before the last round, I’d be furious. I guess I am somewhere in the middle right now.

A consolation prize is my rating gain. Overall, I gained about 3 points of rating, after losing 4 in Barcelona and winning 7 in Nuremberg. I am not big on caring too much about my rating but in this world that is the only criteria to judge chess strength.

I hope you liked the diagrams. You have GM Michael Bezold to thank for them. Yep that’s right, that’s the organizer from Nuremberg. He let me know that the diagrams would be helpful and a good idea. After such a well run event, I would have trouble disappointing him!

To follow is a trip summary. This will just be a summary of both events, hopefully with a lot of pictures! The two tournaments will be compared… My play will be criticized, etc…

Day 3- rounds 4 and 5

I felt good going into the 4th round. My first three games went pretty smooth, and I watched as some of the GMs were shedding points. For example, top rated GM Jonny Hector, rated 2592, lost in the 2nd round. This meant that I would actually spend rounds 3-7 on top board! It appears like a lot of tournaments have the “top rated player curse”, which GM Hector suffered from.

I knew that my 4th round game would be much tougher, as I was playing IM Zaragatski, rated about 2490. I looked at some of his games, and he looked like a good player on the rise. He plays the Benko pretty much exclusively. Some of you might remember what happened last time I played against the Benko. So did I at the time. I thought about getting away from anything mainline early on, but my brain told me to just go for it. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.04”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Zaragatski”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “127”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.04”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 5. bxa6 g6 6. Nc3 Bxa6 7. Nf3 d6 8. g3
Bg7 9. Bg2 Nbd7 10. Rb1 O-O 11. O-O Ne8 12. Re1 Bc4 13. a4 Nb6 14. e4 Bxc3 15.
bxc3 Nxa4 16. Ra1 Nxc3 17. Rxa8 Qxa8 18. Qc2 Ne2+ 19. Rxe2 Bxe2 20. Qxe2 Qa1
21. Qc2 Nf6 22. Nd2 Ra8 23. Bf1 Qa4 24. Qxa4 Rxa4 25. f3 Nd7 26. Nc4 f6 27. f4
Ra2 28. Be3 Kf7 29. h4 Rc2 30. Bf2 Rc1 31. Kg2 Rb1 32. g4 Nb6 33. Nxb6 Rxb6 34.
Kf3 h6 35. Be3 Rb1 36. Be2 Rh1 37. Bf2 Ra1 38. e5 Ra3+ 39. Be3 Kg7 40. e6 Ra4
41. Bb5 Ra3 42. g5 hxg5 43. hxg5 fxg5 44. fxg5 Kf8 45. Ke2 Ra2+ 46. Bd2 Ra3 47.
Bd3 Kg7 48. Be4 Kh7 49. Bc1 Ra2+ 50. Kd3 Kg7 51. Bd2 Kh7 52. Bc3 Ra3 53. Kc2
Ra4 54. Bd3 Rg4 55. Bf6 c4 56. Be2 Re4 57. Bxe7 Rxe2+ 58. Kc3 Re5 59. Kxc4 Kg8
60. Kd4 Rf5 61. Bxd6 Rxg5 62. Be7 Rg1 63. d6 Re1 64. d7 1-0

Everything up to my 16th move was preparation. I think I had actually prepared 16.Qc2. But when the position came on the board I started liking Ra1, and so after about 20min of contemplation, I played it. I really liked how it put immediate pressure on my opponent. In hindsight, 16.Qc2 Qa5 17.Ra1 may have been better, since it just maintains the pressure, and black’s pieces are quite disorganized.

My opponent immediately thought for about 30min, if not more, and came up with the long line where he gets a rook and a pawn for my two light pieces. I thought the position would just be better for me, and completely risk free. I was completely wrong in the evaluation of the position. Of course, I am not worst. But I might not be better either. My opponent has no weaknesses, and it is absolutely unclear as to how to break through.

I started playing very accurately for the next few moves. 23…Qa4 brought out a critical point in the game, do I exchange those queens? I really didn’t want to. But Qd3 runs into Qd4. Qb1 runs into Qd4 as well, where suddenly my pieces are very badly places. So I decided to exchange the queens and consolidate. After 26…f6, my opponent’s position is VERY solid. I don’t want to let him play Ne5, since my two bishops are useless in a closed position like this. They can’t work together.

After 31…Rb1 I had no choice but to let the knight into b6. But I had been making progress with my pawns, and thought it would be a decent time to exchange the knight and hope for a breakthrough. I was also playing against my opponent’s time pressure and was happy that I had threatening moves like e5 coming up.

I thought that 38.e5 was crucial, as I was trying to breakthrough my opponent’s position. I underestimated how solid black’s position is. 40.h5 was a better winning attempt, freeing up the f5 squares the the king and also making h6 a chronic weakness in black’s position. After the continuation in the game, the winning attempt could have been a very short one. 40.e6 is extremely committing. But I had my reasons, I thought that I would play g5 and create a weakness out of g6 and then get my dark squared bishop on the long diagonal. With ideas like Bf6 flowing in those positions, I thought I could find a crack in black’s fortress.

My 41st move was a conscious waste of time. It was intended to be a waste of time. I wanted to make it look like I was going to e8 with my bishop, when I really wasn’t. Black has nothing to do in this position. I wanted my opponent to think some more. I don’t think I ever mentioned the time control for the event yet. It is 90min for 40moves, and then 15min for the rest of the game, with 30sec increment added from the first move.

After the 40th move, my opponent had 15min. I wanted him to spend it as soon as possible. Time is on my side, I don’t need to think about anything except for a winning attempt. And so I made the “make him think” move, in 41.Bb5. A bit of psychology to confuse the opposition…

42.g5 was an attempt to fix g6 as a weakness. I was hoping that my opponent would take twice on g5, and he did just so. But if he would have played f5, potentially followed by h5, it looks like I have no way to breakthrough. If I could get my bishop to e8 and the other bishop to the long diagonal, I would be set. But that’s a far-fetched plan, which I probably would not achieve. The idea of black playing f5 and h5 also fixes my h4 and f4 pawns as weaknesses, which I was scared of during the game.

My opponent did not see what I was aiming for with g5. I was quite happy with the position after 44…Kf8. I thought that if I can execute the plan of getting my bishops on d3 and c3, black would be in serious trouble, since if the king goes to h7, I have ideas revolving around Bf6.

That’s exactly what happened. My opponent should have played 50…Rh2, attempting to harass my king and bishop from the h-file. After my 54th move, I had my eyes on the prize. Bf6 is coming.54…Rg4 is the losing move. My opponent should have preferred the passive defense offered by Ra7. I still get my bishop to e8 through b5 though, where my position should still be winning after all. A possible line is 54…Ra7 55.Bf6 Rb7 56.Ba6 Ra7 57.Bb5 Kg8 58.Be8. Note, with the black king on h7, Bd7 is threatened.

54…Rg4 required some precise calculations on my part. The idea is simply, I sacrifice the d3 bishop and capture the e7 and d6 pawns. If I can keep the black king out of the game, my d-pawn cannot be stopped. This is exactly what happened in the game.

So far, this might have been my best game on the trip. It was a long battle, with a good finish, against a good opponent. The game lasted about 4.5 hours. I had very little time before the next round, which started an hour an the half after my finish. After a quick lunch I had the opportunity to lie in bed for about 15min, after which it was time for a shower and straight to the game.

Round 5

I came to the 5th round exhausted. I felt very drained after the long game I had just finished. I had a few minutes to prepare, which was somewhat useless. More time in bed just relaxing may have served a better overall purpose. I just didn’t have the energy I would like to have in the opening, and some of the choices were made with a blurry mind. I was to play GM Kunin, rated about 2530, with black.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.04”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Kunin”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “73”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.04”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. h3 Qe7 8. Bg5
Bg7 9. e3 O-O 10. Nd2 b6 11. Bd3 Ba6 12. Bxa6 Nxa6 13. Nde4 Nc7 14. Qf3 Nce8
15. Nd2 h6 16. Bh4 Nc7 17. O-O b5 18. Nde4 g5 19. Bg3 Rad8 20. Nxf6+ Bxf6 21.
e4 Bxc3 22. bxc3 f5 23. exf5 Qf7 24. a4 b4 25. cxb4 cxb4 26. Rac1 Nxd5 27. Rcd1
Nc3 28. Rxd6 Rxd6 29. Bxd6 Qxf5 30. Qh5 g4 31. Qxf5 Rxf5 32. hxg4 Rg5 33. f4
Rxg4 34. Bxb4 Ne2+ 35. Kf2 Rxf4+ 36. Kxe2 Rxb4 37. Rf6 1/2-1/2

I offered a draw to my opponent after my 7th or 8th move, not sure which one. It was a practical decision, to help me in the remainder of the tournament. Of course, I had seen the position before. I was exhausted. I knew that it would be extremely hard to play well in this condition. I wanted the round off to regain energy for the next round. My opponent declined, which is a respectable decision. It was good to know he wanted to beat me.

I liked my 10…b6 idea, since in the crammed position of the benoni, I generally need to exchange one light piece to avoid my pieces running into one another.

My opponent decided to tie me down with 13.Nde4, which I did not mind. His pieces look just as awkward as mine, which is why he retreated.

16…b5 looked more energetic, where I put immediate pressure on white’s position, before he is even castled. The way I played also seemed logical however.

I didn’t play 20…Qxf6 because it seemed drawish after 21.Qxf6 Bxf6 22.Ne4 Be7 23.Nxc5 dxc5 24.Bxc7 Rxd5 25.Rfd1 Rxd1 26.Rxd1 Rc8, where my opponent can’t play Rd7 because I play Bf6 and continue by pushing my c-pawn. 27.Be5 looked equal to me. I thought that in the game I can push for an advantage.

I should have played 21…b4 22.Nd1 Rfe8 23.a3 Bd4, where it is not clear how white is to proceed, as his pieces are very scattered. 21…Bxc3? was a very bad move due to which I have a lot more clear weaknesses. It was hard to give away my bishop, which is often the ace in the benoni, but I thought I would break white’s position apart.

24.a4! was crucial to white’s play. I saw the move, but did not realize how powerful it is. I did not realize how much trouble I was getting myself into with the next few moves, and should have probably chosen 24…Qxf5 25.Qxf5 Rxf5 26.axb5 c4!, where I am close to saving the game.

I was playing for some tricks. Not great tricks, but they are still tricks. Of course, I had hoped for 30.Bxf8 Qxf3 31.gxf3 Kxf8, where white has to sacrifice the rook for the b-pawn. However, 30.Qb7 and 30.Qe3 give white a clear advantage, where I am only struggling for a draw.

I was very happy when my opponent played 30.Qh5, and I thought that I was close to forcing a draw with g4. I calculated 31.Qxh6 Rf6 32.Qd2 gxh6 for a long time, and it looks like black is the one fighting for a win at that point. My reply to 31.Qh4 would be 31…Qg5!

I would answer 32.Bxb4 with 32…Ne2+ 33.Kh2 g3+!, where it is only black fighting for a win, with white’s awfully placed king. So my opponent decided to force a draw, as he did in the game.

Overall, I was a bit unhappy with the game. The result is fine, but I could have found myself in a lot of trouble. My calculations at some stage of the game were not great. I was really tired after the 4th round. But I fought through it and was able to force the draw.

I was still tied for first, and I knew that the next round would bring forward another GM. But this time I would be running on some sleep, which sounded like a great idea. To that point, this was the most tiring “chess day” on the trip.

An interesting story away from the chess board now. The night of Day 2, I bought 3 big bottles of water at a gas station, confirming with the woman working there that it had “no gas”. When I came to the room, I found out that they all in fact were bottles of sparkling water. I went back there, to find that the gas station was closed at 10.30pm.

The next morning, about 10min into my fourth game, I was waterless at the game. I went to the tournament cafeteria, which is free to the players, at least the ones with food/drink vouchers, such as myself. I could not find any natural water. Jochen Galsterer, one of the organizers, saw that I was puzzled. He asked me what I was looking for, and helped me in the search for natural water. He could not find it either.

He then bluntly said that he would bring me a bottle of water to the board. About 5min later, I had a 2L bottle of natural water with a glass sitting on my side of the board. This is not a big deal, I agree. But these things add up. The organizers of the event were doing everything possible to accommodate the players. Throughout the tournament, all of the organizers worked tirelessly to help the players. Sure, they don’t make good moves on the board for you, but they make the environment much better. More about that later though, in the tournament summary.

4.5/5 now, tied for first. One day and two rounds left, I knew it would be a tough last day. I looked forward to it.

Day 2-Rounds 2 and 3

Day two started off early. I knew that I needed to create some sort of a daily plan that would work and keep me energized throughout the day. With the round starting at 9am, I woke up at 7.30. The plan was breakfast, then shower and play.

I was paired against a young FM rated just under 2300. Here is the round 2 game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.03”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Seyb”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “85”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.03”]

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. e4 d6 4. Nc3 e5 5. d5 f5 6. exf5 gxf5 7. Qh5+ Kf8 8. Be3
Na6 9. g3 Qe8 10. Qe2 Ne7 11. O-O-O Bd7 12. Nf3 Ng6 13. h4 Nc5 14. h5 e4 15.
Nd4 Ne5 16. Kb1 Rg8 17. Bh3 Qf7 18. Ncb5 Rc8 19. Nxa7 Ra8 20. Nab5 Bxb5 21.
Nxb5 Ncd3 22. Nd4 Nxc4 23. Rxd3 exd3 24. Qxd3 Qxd5 25. Bg2 Qxg2 26. Qxf5+ Ke8
27. Qe6+ Kf8 28. Bg5 Qxh1+ 29. Kc2 Qe1 30. Qxe1 Be5 31. f4 Rxg5 32. fxg5 Nxb2
33. Nf3 Nc4 34. Nxe5 Nxe5 35. Qe4 Kg8 36. Qxb7 Rxa2+ 37. Kb3 Rf2 38. Qxc7 Rf3+
39. Kc2 Rxg3 40. Qd8+ Kf7 41. Qf6+ Kg8 42. h6 Rg2+ 43. Kb3 1-0

My opponent surprised me in the opening, as I didn’t find any games of him in this opening. I got creative, having never really studied this line. 8.Bd3 is more normal than what I played. Putting the bishop on e3 is somewhat committing. I arranged my pieces in an interesting way, though I got an advantage in the opening.

18.f3 should have been played. That was my original intention. 18.f3 exf3 19.Nxf3 Nxf3 20.Qxf3 is better for white, since I shouldn’t be scared of the capture on c3 in a position where black’s king is so exposed. My 18th move was not crucially wrong however.

After my opponent’s 22nd move, I started calculating heavily. It’s hard to calculate very long lines and have faith in your own variations, but I was already calculating the sacrifice of the two rooks when I played my 22nd move. Those calculations were not all correct however.

23.Ne6+! Ke7 24.Rxd3 exd3 25.Qxd3 Nxb2 26.Bg5+  should have been played, where the lines all go in my favour. The knight on e6 is simply a monster. I am not sure where my calculations went wrong in that line, but I didn’t realize how simple and convincing it was.

25…Qf7 was very interesting, where I have to reply with 26.Bc1 with an unclear position. I have very serious compensation but I am down material. Something like 26…Nxb2 leads to even more complications. Simple moves like Qf7 in very sharp positions are easy to miss.

I recalculated everything agains after the 27th move. Of course, I have perpetual. But I did not go into the line to take a perpetual. I played Bg5 confidently. This was a true test of confidence.

EDIT BELOW

Fortunately, my opponent played 28…Qxh1 which is losing on the spot. All of my calculations revolved around 28…Nd2+ 29.Kc1 Nb3+! 30.axb3 Ra1+ 31.Kd2 Qxf2+ 32. Ne2 Bc3+! 32.Kc2 Rxg5 33.Rxa1 Ba5. However, my evaluation of the final position was wrong. I thought I am the one fighting for a win, but it is probably not the case after 33…Ba5 or Bf6. That line of calculation is still impressive nonetheless. In that long line, I can run away to a draw with 33.Kxc3, where my opponent is forced to give a perpetual. I saw that as a worst case scenario.

After I got the queen back everything went smoothly. My opponent’s position is very difficult due to the vulnerability of the king. I converted the advantage pretty well.

Good start to the day. I felt like I could also trust my calculations a bit more after this performance.

Not much time to rest. After grabbing lunch I took a nap. Once I woke up from that, it was time for a shower and another round, which started at 3pm.

I was paired with an IM rated just under 2400, with black. This would be a more serious test. It is never easy to beat players of this level, especially with black. But that was my mission. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.03”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Eisenberser”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “52”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.03”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. h3 O-O 6. Be2 c6 7. a4 a5 8. O-O Na6
9. Be3 Nb4 10. Qd2 Qc7 11. Rfd1 b6 12. Ne1 Bb7 13. g4 Rad8 14. g5 Nd7 15. Bf3
e5 16. d5 Nc5 17. Bg2 Rfe8 18. dxc6 Bxc6 19. Nd5 Bxd5 20. exd5 e4 21. Rab1 Re5
22. c3 Nxd5 23. Qxd5 Rxd5 24. Rxd5 Qc6 25. Rbd1 Qxa4 26. Rxd6 Qxd1 0-1

I decided to play the Pirc again. I was hoping that the third time would be a charm, and so it was! This was the first time that I got a good position with the opening, and the game followed my preparation until my 10th move. It was a deviation from what I played against Martinez in Barcelona with my a5 and knight maneuver to b4.

My opponent offered me a draw after his 11th move. I was bit surprised. It was not surprising that my opponent wanted a draw, but it was surprising he would think I want one. We were still in a normal theoretical position. In my opinion, it is disrespectful to offer a draw to somebody rated almost 200 points higher at that point. It is similar to me offering a draw to Kramnik if he would play the Pirc against me. A bit of a side story that I thought I would share. I felt extra motivated to win now;).

I looked at 11.Rad1 before, which makes more sense. I am sure my opponent was finding my knight on b4 annoying at this point, even though it doesn’t really do anything there.

My 11…b6 idea was prepared at home, and I just have an easy game after that. I was very surprised when my opponent decided to play 13.g4. The position is just not asking for this unnatural move. An attack against my king like that simply can’t work. I reacted well, and my breakthrough with 15…e5 was at the right time.

17…cxd5 was probably more accurate, but I did not worry much about my opponent taking on c5 and creating a weakness on e4. 19…Nxd5 20.exd5 Bd7, followed by Bf5 was probably also more accurate, but the game leaves me with an advantage as well. I like the way my knights were placed.

21…Re5! was crucial to my play, and won a pawn without complications. 22.c4 Nxa4 would have offered white the best chances possible.

23.Qxd5 was a shocking move to me. Just giving away extra material like that makes little sense. I played the next few moves precisely. I am guessing my opponent missed the last move of the game when he took on d6, due to which he can simply resign.

A very smooth looking game. This is exactly why I wanted to play the Pirc in the first place. The game was a pretty easy one. I didn’t do much and my opponent collapsed on his own when he didn’t understand what he needed to do. I felt good, especially since this was the second round of the day.

With 3/3, I knew that the going would get tougher. I looked forward to the challenge.

Day 1-Round 1

I had a few good days of rest. I did not look at chess, but I tried to think about my play more critically. In Barcelona, I generally tried to oversimplify matters. I also didn’t have a sense of urgency when the position demanded it. Of course, all goes back to that 8th round game.

The time off was very important. The most important thing was that I felt healthy again. I averaged about 5 cups of tea per day as well as some cold medicine while I was not playing. I felt close to 100% by the time it was time to compete again.

A new tournament means a fresh start. I had one concern about the event: two rounds per day. I have not done well in such a tournament in a long time. I did poorly at the 2008 Edmonton International, as well as the 2005 Zurich Open. I can’t quite remember any other tournaments which had two rounds a day in which I played recently. So I had mixed feelings about the potential for me in this format.

The first round pairing was a surprise. I got to play an FM. My opponent, rated about 2150, has lost some of his skills over the years. But a titled player is a titled player. I could not take my opponent easily. I also prefer to not play with black in the first round. It just makes things a bit more difficult, especially in odd number of round events, give one more black games. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.02”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Mihok”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “80”]
[EventDate “2010.09.02”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.02”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 d5 3. Bxf6 exf6 4. e3 Bd6 5. Bd3 f5 6. Qf3 g6 7. Nd2 c6 8. Ne2
Nd7 9. c4 dxc4 10. Nxc4 Bb4+ 11. Nc3 Nc5 12. Bc2 Be6 13. Nd2 Nd7 14. O-O O-O
15. Rfd1 Nf6 16. Bb3 Qe7 17. Rac1 Rad8 18. a3 Bd6 19. Bxe6 Qxe6 20. h3 Rfe8 21.
Na4 f4 22. exf4 Qf5 23. Nc5 Qxf4 24. g3 Qxf3 25. Nxf3 Re7 26. Kf1 Kg7 27. Re1
Rde8 28. Rxe7 Rxe7 29. Nd3 Ne4 30. Rc2 f6 31. b4 g5 32. a4 a6 33. g4 Kf7 34. h4
h6 35. h5 Ke6 36. Kg2 Kd5 37. Kf1 Bb8 38. Kg2 Ba7 39. Kf1 Bxd4 40. b5 c5 0-1

The pairings were posted right before the round. Common practice. The organizers were making sure everybody made it. There were some last minute cancellations. There was also a waiting list of about 10 players. All 10 players were entered into the event. It’s not  that there were only those people who wanted to enter, it is that the organizers limited their waiting list to a number they were sure they can enter.

Anyways, all this meant no preparation for my game. I started thinking on move 2. I decided to choose the solid line I played. I get 2 bishops and a solid position.

Everything went quite normally until my opponent saw 9.c4. My goal for the event was to complicate games and not just look for the simplest moves. This is why I was happy to play my idea with 11.Nc5.  My opponent wanted to stir the game into simpler waters, and I had no choice but to agree with 13…Nd7.

Everything seemed to be going fine in the early middle-game. I realized that my opponent knows where to put the pieces in such a position. I was happy to play 21…f4, which was a strong move. It creates problems for my opponent. It required some calculation.

24.Qxf4 Bxf4 25.Nxb7 was interesting. Where I have to choose between Rxd4 and Rb8. It feels like I am pressing a bit in both variations, but it is unclear how to convert anything.

I was happy to get the position after 25…Re7, since it is statically better for me. I can play against that isolated pawn all day. I also have the bishop. But it also became clear that this was not going to be easy.

27…Bxc5 28.dxc5 Ne4 would have been interesting. It looks like I have an advantage there. I didn’t want to commit to that exchange though. I wanted to keep playing against the isolated pawn.

29.Nd3 was a mistake. It made my play much easier. I immediately grabbed the initiative with 29…Ne4. It doesn’t look like anything too dangerous, but it is very unclear as to what white is to do. I played the next few moves pretty quickly. I saw that my opponent had no idea as to what to do with this position. 33…Kf7 was a sneaky move. h5 was a possible alternative. I wanted to make it look like my king is going to d5. It’s not too scary, but I thought it might look threatening in the future.

35.h5 was a serious strategical mistake. My opponent needed to exchange that pawn. In the game, any f5 breaks are quite strong. Without the h5 pawn, those breaks would be useless.

My opponent started playing back and forth with his king. He was quite low on the clock. After getting my king on d5, I decided to think for some time about how to win the position. 37…f5 would have been quite strong. I didn’t really see how my opponent would stop my bishop maneuver though.

My opponent should have played 39.Nc5, which would make my job harder. The way my opponent continued made my life easy. In the final position my opponent resigned because he has absolutely no good moves. Every one of my pieces is place better than every one of his.

The game looks like a smooth win. Very positional. First rounds are never too enjoyable with a rating difference of over 400 points. It’s a game I am supposed to win. It feels like just doing my job.

I saw the tournament venue the day before, but I only took pictures the day of the first round. The first thing that you should know about this event is that it’s about quality, not quantity. All of the playing halls are very spacious. The playing venue was the LGA office building. LGA was the main sponsor of the event.

The event had different playing halls, all with good names!

Tarrasch playing hall, where I spent all the rounds.

The organizers table.

Something that was a very nice addition to the event was Yochanan Afek’s studies. It enjoyed an audience of what I think was about 30 people at 7pm every night. I am going ahead here, because the first day did not have one of these studies. The last 3 days did . There were more people in the audience the last night. Yochanan’s studies were posted in the beginning of every day, and three prizes were given daily to those who got them right. It added to the tournament.

GM Michael Bezold giving one of the prizes to a winner. The winners were :lottery winners”, with the young girl you see drawing names from the colorful box.

First day was finished. Time to prepare psychologically for two rounds a day.

Tournament Plan

I got back to Toronto yesterday. The trip was very long. It feels good to be home after almost 3 weeks.

I am planning to write daily reports of “as things happened” in Nuremberg. I hope to have more than just the dry reports. I will also include my feelings and daily activities from those days, as far as I can remember.

After the daily reports, I will have a trip overview. This will analyze my general thoughts about Barcelona and Nuremberg and my conclusions about my own play.

Nuremberg- a few days as a tourist

I haven’t posted on my blog since I left Barcelona. I thought I would just relax for a few days before the event and post one summary of my time between the tournaments. Well here we go with it. Be ready for a long one!

I left Barcelona early on Monday. I walked to the main street to catch a taxi, since the reception of the residence is apparently not allowed to call taxis. Getting to the airport was simple. So was check in. I had a connecting flight to Frankfurt through Paris. Should run smooth. But my flight to Paris was about 40min late. I only had about an hour lay-off between the two flights. So I ran to my gate and saw that they were still boarding. NICE, I made it.

I get to Frankfurt and am at the luggage pick-up area to hear “Mr Mark Bluvshtein, please report to the lost and found.” So, I only nearly missed my flight, but my luggage never had a chance. They told me this might be the case as I was leaving Paris. I was told the luggage should arrive the next day. And so it did.

Sure, I am left with no luggage until the next day. But this also meant that it’ll be easier to travel! I take a shuttle bus to the train station. I buy a 1-way ticket to Nuremberg and following an express 2.5 hour train ride, I am there. Very smooth ride to say the least.

Then I hop on the subway from the main train station to a spot that takes me about 3min walk away from the hotel, very convenient. I check in at the hotel. Everything is smooth.

After reading my descriptions of Barcelona, the readers might think that I am spoiled. Well, maybe this will change your mind. The organizers put me in a nice hotel. This is one of the nicest hotels I have ever been to in Europe. The rooms are nice and spacious. There is everything you need. Yes there are even towels and soap! I am paying for the first few nights since I arrived 3 days before the event actually starts. That is to be expected I guess.

I was starving after arriving on Monday, and the receptionists recommended a nice Greek restaurant nearby. A good place indeed.

I designated Tuesday and Wednesday as my tourist days. I am not used to being a tourist on my own, but I would try to make the most of it. I expected to wake up early on Tuesday, as I went to sleep at 11.30pm on Monday. I woke up on my own will at 11.30am. The fatigue from the previous tournament and travel showed.

So I browsed the internet for good places to visit. I decided that I need to see the Old Town as well as the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds. The latter is not in the center of the city, so I thought I would start with that on the first day and leave the next day for the center.

I got there with a subway and a tram ride.

The place is a lot like a museum with a lot of interesting information. An audio device makes the trip more than just visual.

The location is famous because it was built to hold the Nazi rallies starting in 1933. The center also showed key events associated with Nuremberg at the time, which included the Nuremberg Laws, and the Nuremberg Trials. Some pictures follow from the center. If there is a comment above a photo, it is to describe what you are seeing.

Rallies

Those on trial in the Nuremberg Trials

The Congress Hall from the inside. I believe it can seat up to 50,000 people

On Wednesday I decided to go to the Old Town after breakfast. The complementary breakfast at the hotel was very good. It was a pleasant surprise after Barcelona.

I took a lot of pictures in the Old Town. I also went into the Nuremberg Castle and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (http://www.gnm.de/). Below are some photos. If there is a title, it will be above the photo.

Me standing below the Nuremberg Fountain

A part of the Nuremberg Castle

“Portrait of a Fashionably Dressed Young Man” (in 1518)

First German Bible

I was back in my room by the evening. Soon after, at around 7, I got a phone call from GM Michael Bezold, who is the organizer who I was in contact with before the tournament. Michael offered to show me the playing hall, which is a quick 3-5min walk from the hotel. I gladly accepted the offer.

Michael then told me that he was going to dinner with the famous, “all in one” chess figure, Yochanan Afek. His wikipedia page does not do him justice. But his four titles tell a part of the story. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yochanan_Afek . Yochanan is one of the most knowledgeable figures in the chess world.

I have known Yochanan for about fifteen years now, and was happy to come along. Michael’s friend, Martin, also joined. We went into town for dinner. It was great food and I was in a very good and enjoyable company.

This type of hospitality is nothing short of fantastic. I can only expect something like this in Canadian events. The tournament is focused on quality, not quantity, as its principle. Michael showed me two of the VERY spacious playing rooms. Everything is well taken care of. This is the 8th edition of the event, and it looks like the organizers are perfecting the art of organization.

Play starts later today, at 7pm. Friday-Sunday will have two rounds a day. I will not be able to do round-by-round reports as I did in Barcelona, but I will do some detailed reports once the event finishes.

You can follow the top 8 games live at the tournament website, at http://www.schach.lga.de/index.shtml

I’d like to thank all the readers for following my blog. On August 29th the site reached 538 hits for the day!