Round 10- back to business

Last night, I decided it was time to focus on getting healthy. I am not saying that today’s game was of no importance, but the most important thing was to be in top shape by September 2nd, the beginning of my tournament in Nuremberg.

This made me take a hard decision. I had to make a “sacrifice”. I decided to sweat it out during the night and slept fully dressed under as much cover as I could find. Sleeping in that situation is pretty hard. I went to sleep at about midnight last night. At about 4am I was still rolling around trying to fall asleep. Sweating. You gotta do what you gotta do.

I woke up at 7am this morning with a few choppy hours of sleep. I still felt better physically than I did yesterday. I can’t say my mood was all that great chess wise after losing the last two rounds. I should play it safe right?

I was playing IM Lanzani from Italy with the white pieces, rated about 2360. The game was to start at 9.30am. Not the ideal start time after such a night. But I had breakfast and then went to the game.

I have been switching drinks left and right throughout the tournament. I started with coke, switched to orange slushy, then lemon slushy, then just water. Today, the focus was on getter better. So tea it was.

When doing well, a chess player can feel invincible, almost as if defeat is not an option. Can see all the variations, and they all lead to good outcomes. I was feeling a bit of the other extreme these last few days. One word to summarize it is “vulnerable”. All you can do is try to work through it. That’s what I was planning to do.

What I do is simple. I work hard. I can’t guarantee the results, but I can guarantee the effort. I have never lacked effort in chess. When ambition is present then effort is even easier to come by. The ambition is there. The fire is back. All I could do today is give all I got while I’m facing adversity. Here is the game.


[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.08.30”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Lanzani”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “90”]
[EventDate “2010.08.20”]
[SourceDate “2010.08.30”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 Nc6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. d5 Ne5 6. Bf4 Bxf3 7. gxf3 Ng6 8.
Be3 e5 9. Bxc4 a6 10. Qb3 b5 11. Be2 Bd6 12. a4 b4 13. Nd2 Nf6 14. Nc4 O-O 15.
Nxd6 cxd6 16. Qxb4 Nh5 17. Rc1 Nhf4 18. Rc6 Qg5 19. Rf1 Qg2 20. Bxf4 Nxf4 21.
Qxd6 Qxh2 22. Rxa6 Rad8 23. Qe7 h6 24. Bb5 Qg2 25. Qxe5 Qxf3 26. Rg1 f6 27. Qe7
Ng2+ 28. Rxg2 Qxg2 29. Qe6+ Kh8 30. d6 Qg1+ 31. Ke2 Qb1 32. d7 Qxb2+ 33. Kf3
Qc3+ 34. Kg2 Qd2 35. Qd5 Qf4 36. Re6 Qg4+ 37. Kf1 Qh3+ 38. Ke1 1-0 and my opponent resigned (probably prematurely).

I was surprised by my opponent’s second move. I found no games on my opponent playing the Queen’s Gambit declined before. I thought about it for a few minutes and concluded that my opponent must have prepared for 3.e3, which I played several times before. Cool. Time to start playing 3.e4 then. Risky decision, but what are you going to do?

We both seemed to land in unfamiliar territory pretty soon. 8.Qa4 check may have been slightly more preferable than the game. The game continued along pretty natural lines until my 24th move. 24.Rc6 is probably preferable to the game, attempting to get the rook back into the game.

26…f6 was a serious mistake which I failed to take advantage of. 27.Qf5! was a strong move. The idea is simply placing the queen on the best square possible. If my opponent would play 27…Ng2+ then simply sacrifice the exchange and put my pawn on d7 with some precision.

I was trying to force the issue a bit with Qe7. I was calculating 27.Ra7 but that failed due to 27…Rf7 28.Rxg7 Kh8! 29.Rh7+ Kg8! with white having nothing more than a perpetual. I guess my calculating is not that bad at times;).

I should have admitted my mistake and still played 30.Qf5 regardless, both stopping f5 ideas and placing my queen on the ideal square. 30…Rc8 could have gotten me into some trouble even though I can stop the rook from coming in with 31.Bc6.

32…f5 33.e5 Qd4 was a necessary resource for my opponent to try to save the game. 36.Qf5 was more preferable than the game for me. I was scared that 36…Qc7 37.Re6 Rxd7 38.Bxd7 Qxd7 39.Rxf6 Qxf5 40.Rxf5 Ra8 would lead to an endgame which is not very easy to convert. However, I knew the endgame should be winning.

My opponent resigned in a peculiar spot. 38…Qh1 39.Ke2 f5 40.Re8 Qh5+ 41.Kd2 Rfxe8 42.dxe8 Rxe8 43.Bxe8 Qxe8 44. a5 would have led to a position where I have an advantage, that much is not in doubt. But winning the final position is not easy since my king is not exactly untouchable in the end.

My only guess is that my opponent either did not see or under-estimated the f5 idea throughout the game. I do not mind the resignation. I needed the point.

I have to give it to my opponent, he played well for most of the game. His moves were quite strong and he handled the initiative very well and sacrificed two pawns in the process. His 26…f6 was a mistake, and then he did not play accurately when the game got very concrete. I guess that’s where his weakness lies.

Well, what do I think about my play? I have shown that I can play quite well through stretches. After such a long break it is very hard to play a whole game at the highest level. My understanding is clearly present, but my calculations are often not. That has to get better with some hard work.

Before the tournament, I thought my main weakness is the opening. The tournament really showed the situation to be different. My middle game play has not been very impressive at times, especially when concrete calculations are necessary on each move. I have been missing some moves and miscalculating some variations. That is certainly something to work on. This tournament has made this point clear.

Overall, I finished the event at 7/10. Yes, I could have done better with my 8th round game. It was a heart breaker, which partially led to my demise in the 9th round. 17th place. YES! 130 Euros. I certainly wouldn’t say no to another zero on the right. A lot of important lessons have been learned though. I am glad I played in this tournament. It was a warm up tournament.

I am not happy with the result. I appreciate the positive comments the readers have provided me. I appreciate all comments you provide for me. Feedback really helps to keep me in line and for me to know that I am not just going on long rambles in every post. More feedback is always good.

Why do I consider this result a failure? I judge tournaments by my own standards. I know I can do better. I know that the mistakes I have been making were avoidable. I have very high expectations for myself, higher than anybody else’s expectations for me. I have been like this for years when it comes to chess. Those expectations push me to the limit and keep me hungry instead of satisfied.

The next question is “why did the failure occur?” Well, an important reason is my rust. After not having played in a year a lot of the skills that have become second nature are suddenly less apparent. Evaluations can be shaky, moves can be missed, etc. An important factor that is missing is stamina. This might sound bad, but a 10 round tournament is a long event. Fatigue can certainly be felt. This fatigue is intensified with the cold I have been having for the last few days.

I was happy to see that Kevin Spraggett evaluated my play on his blog, at

Kevin is arguably the most successful Canadian chess player ever. The argument for his case would certainly be a strong one considering his appearances in Candidates Matches as well as many other successes. Even though our playing levels today can be seen as very comparable, our knowledge of chess cannot be. This is why Kevin’s evaluation can say a lot about my play.

Kevin described my play as “sluggish and imprecise”. I completely agree. Kevin attributed much of the bad player to jetlag. As I said above, I feel like those factors contributed to my “demise” towards the end of the event. I can’t say that my play earlier in the event was “spectacular” either when I was sitting at 6/7. Luck was on my side. For the record, I am planning to arrive to future events at least a few days before the event starts to adapt to the time change and to get used to the new setting.

Enough judging myself for now. After the round Vinay and I went to see the city. We went to Catalunya Plaza which is at the heart of Barcelona. Lots of tourists in that area. We walked all the way to the waterfront where we saw the Columbus Monument. Here are some pictures. The first few are from the Columbus Monument and the lions next to it, with some (hopefully) familiar faces.

The next picture is of the Plaza.

The next photo is of the famous Shakira water fountain. I apologize if it’s a disappointment that I am in the picture instead of her.

Then we went to the closing ceremony, which took place at 7.30pm, after playoffs were played for the first 8 places in case of a tie. Clear first place winner was 21 years old GM Maxim Rodshtein from Israel. I have known Maxim for about 14 years now, from my days back in Israel. A very classy guy. Maxim fully deserved to win the event and showed a class different from his opponents.

Next are IMs Ilya Khmelniker and Ilya Sidorenko from Israel.

Then there is IM Leonid Gerzhoy from Toronto.

This might be my longest post so far. I apologize if I have bored you to a sleepy state;)

I need to get some sleep now. I will be making my way to Nuremberg for my next tournament tomorrow.

Round 9- the bleeding continues

When it rains, it pours. That’s the case for me at least.

I decided to change my routine up for today and skip breakfast to have lunch a bit later. The new routine involved waking up later, which helped since I had trouble falling asleep last night. It was probably a combination of the game and my cold.

Here is my game from today.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.08.28”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Gerzhoy”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A33”]
[PlyCount “65”]
[EventDate “2010.08.20”]
[SourceDate “2010.08.28”]

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. g3 Qb6 7. Nb3 Ne5 8. e4
Bb4 9. Qe2 d6 10. f4 Nc6 11. Bg2 O-O 12. Be3 Bxc3+ 13. bxc3 Qc7 14. c5 d5 15.
e5 Nd7 16. c4 d4 17. Nxd4 Nxd4 18. Bxd4 Nxc5 19. Qe3 Na4 20. O-O Nb6 21. c5 Nc4
22. Qc3 Na5 23. f5 Nc6 24. f6 Rd8 25. Bxc6 Qxc6 26. Qe3 Kh8 27. fxg7+ Kg8 28.
Rxf7 Kxf7 29. Qg5 Qd5 30. Rf1+ Kg8 31. Qf6 Qxd4+ 32. Kg2 Qe4+ 33. Kh3 1-0

I didn’t prepare for this opening today, since Leonid plays e4 and d4 almost exclusively. I did however prepare the line before coming to the tournament. I was prepared up to 13…Qc7 and then I started playing less than ideally.

14…dxc5 15.Bxc5 Rd8 16.e5 Na5 is known to be fine for black instead of what I played. My idea was a bit too passive. I was hoping to get the better pawn structure and take advantage of it once my queen side is developed. We never reached that stage of the game.

Everything has actually been played before until my 20th move, which was an important mistake. 20…Bd7 promises me a position close to equality. I had miscalculated something in a line there with a later Bxa7.

After 20…Nb6 my position became very bad. Leonid was converting precisely. 26…Kh8 loses on the spot, due to exactly what my opponent did. 26…Qe8 offered me some more chances but the position is already bad enough at this point.

I’m not happy with today’s game, but it is a completely different story from yesterday. Yesterday gave me somewhat of a “chess hangover”. It was hard to get some of those positions out of my head as I was falling asleep, as well as this morning.

But today, my opponent played well. I gotta give it to him. I made some mistakes which I shouldn’t have made. That’s what I need to learn from. I didn’t appear to have any sense of urgency during the game.

I am having trouble assessing the initiative. I guess that’s what has been lost during the year. I am trying to play very positionally, as I did today, without looking at initiative as a possible factor in evaluations.

Hoping to stop the bleeding tomorrow. Time to get healthy as well.

Tomorrow’s round is at a nice and early 9.30am, Barcelona time.

Round 8- disaster strikes

I woke up today not feeling all that great, as I realized I had caught a cold. It could be due to my less than healthy life style. I have not consumed a hot beverage since I have arrived to Barcelona. I have been eating 2 meals a day. Breakfast at 9am, dinner at about 10pm. The stress level is pretty high too.

I am not saying that the cold is the reason for what happened next. There is only me to blame for that. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.08.27”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Perez Mitjans”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A58”]
[PlyCount “114”]
[EventDate “2010.08.20”]
[SourceDate “2010.08.27”]

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 Nb6 11. b3 O-O 12. O-O Bb7 13. Nh4 Qd7 14. Bb2 h6 15.
e4 Ba6 16. Re1 Ng4 17. Ne2 Ne5 18. Nc1 Qg4 19. Qc2 Bc8 20. h3 Qh5 21. f4 g5 22.
Bxe5 Bxe5 23. Bf3 g4 24. hxg4 Bxg4 25. Bxg4 Bd4+ 26. Kg2 Qxg4 27. Nf5 Bg7 28.
Nxe7+ Kh8 29. Nd3 c4 30. bxc4 Ra3 31. Rxb6 Rfa8 32. e5 dxe5 33. fxe5 Bf8 34. d6
Rxd3 35. Qxd3 Rxa2+ 36. Kg1 Qh5 37. Re2 Rxe2 38. Qxe2 Qxe2 39. Rb8 Qe3+ 40. Kh2
Qf2+ 41. Kh3 Kg7 42. c5 Qf1+ 43. Kg4 h5+ 44. Kxh5 Qh3+ 45. Kg5 Qxg3+ 46. Kf5
Qf3+ 47. Kg5 f6+ 48. Kh4 Qe4+ 49. Kh3 Qxe5 50. c6 Bxe7 51. c7 Bxd6 52. Rg8+
Kxg8 53. c8=Q+ Kg7 54. Kg2 Qe2+ 55. Kg1 Bg3 56. Qh3 Qf2+ 57. Kh1 Qf3+ 0-1

I am going to keep the game notes short, partially because of my own feeling after it. There is nothing I need to do more than forget about it. But I wasn’t just going to not post because I lost. Being selective about the games that I post and don’t post is not how I am planning to write this blog.

The opening went very smoothly. My opponent chose to benko, which I prepared for very shortly, since my opponent plays three others openings.

18…Qg4 was just brutally bad, since the queen has nothing to do there, especially followed by Bc8. After this I already had a clear advantage. 22…Bxe5 was probably a losing move. Well, it should have been the losing move. 22…dxe5 leaves black with more chances but still just down a pawn after 23.fxg5 hxg5 24.Nf5

I was playing very accurately up to my 31st move. That’s when all went wrong. I was actually up a piece and three pawns at that point! The only threat that my opponent has is Rxd3. I am not sure what I was calculating. 32.Re2 just wins on the spot, deflecting any play black might have in 32…Rc3 33.Qd2 Raa3 34.Rb3. Nf5 is winning just as easily but with the help of some calculations.

It’s just unbelivable. I saw Re2 and I was close to playing it. But then I started calculating variations with e5, I am really not sure why. There is absolutely no necessity for that stuff.

Anyways, its not like that was the losing move, that was still to follow. I should have played 34.Qe2 Qd4 35.Rxh6 Bxh6 Rh1, winning easily.

I actually saw my opponent’s 34…Rxd3 idea. But then I only looked at 36…Qh3, which would still be winning for me because of Re2. After 36…Qh5, I am lost since I have to give up my queen to avoid mate. I tried to keep the fight going but my opponent converted pretty accurately. At least it seemed accurate. I was in a state of shock after letting this game go. I tried to recover and try to keep up the fight, but there was no real fight left in the position.

This is probably the worst game I have played since I became a Grandmaster. Yep, that means a lot. I mean it. To give away the type of an advantage that I had today is inexcusable. I will keep this post rated G without trying to describe how I feel in a more precise way. It was a shameful loss. I just gave my opponent a point for nothing. I should have done better.

Instead of being tied for first with 7/8 I am now somewhere back in the pack with 6/8, a point behind the leaders. I am still missing the right words. It’s hard to explain what happened. I know I became relaxed, it’s hard not to in such a winning position. All I can do now is not let it happen again. Catastrophes happen in chess game.

After the game, Vinay and I went for dinner. I gotta say, Vinay really has a good effect on people. I don’t think I could have been any more cheery I was, largely due to him. The dish he recommended definitely helped my mood. It was very good shrimp ravioli.

What happens after a terrible game like today? Nothing. Life goes on. Tomorrow is another day. I hate losing more than the next guy. Trust me, I really hate losing. But this is the harsh reality. Time to regroup for the next game.

Round 7- close call

Today’s game was a real nail biter. Well, at least for the players it was. It had everything a chess game can have. Most of all, it showed how human Grandmasters can be. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.08.27”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Martinez Duany”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B08”]
[PlyCount “178”]
[EventDate “2010.08.20”]
[SourceDate “2010.08.27”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Be2 c6 6. a4 O-O 7. O-O Nbd7 8. a5
e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Bc4 Qe7 11. b3 Rb8 12. Ba3 c5 13. Qd3 b6 14. a6 Nh5 15.
Rfd1 Ndf6 16. Qd6 Qxd6 17. Rxd6 Ne8 18. Rdd1 Nc7 19. Nb5 Nxb5 20. Bxb5 Nf4 21.
Bb2 Bg4 22. Bxe5 Bxe5 23. Nxe5 Bxd1 24. Rxd1 Rbd8 25. Nd7 Kg7 26. Rd6 Ne6 27.
e5 Rh8 28. Kf1 Nc7 29. Bd3 Ne8 30. Rd5 Nc7 31. Rd6 Rhe8 32. Nf6 Rxd6 33. Nxe8+
Nxe8 34. exd6 Nxd6 35. f4 Kf6 36. Ke2 Ke6 37. g4 Kd5 38. Ke3 b5 39. c3 Kc6 40.
b4 Kb6 41. h4 h6 42. g5 hxg5 43. fxg5 c4 44. Bc2 Kxa6 45. Kd4 Kb6 46. Ke5 Kc7
47. Bd1 Kd7 48. Bf3 Ne8 49. Bd5 Ke7 50. Bc6 Nc7 51. Bf3 Kd7 52. Kf6 Ke8 53. Be4
a6 54. Bb7 Kf8 55. Bc6 Ne6 56. Bd5 Nd8 57. Be4 Ke8 58. Bf3 Kf8 59. Bd5 Ke8 60.
Bxf7+ Nxf7 61. Kxg6 Ne5+ 62. Kh7 Nd7 63. g6 Ke7 64. g7 Nf6+ 65. Kh8 a5 66. bxa5
b4 67. a6 bxc3 68. a7 c2 69. a8=Q c1=Q 70. Qb7+ Ke6 71. Qc6+ Kf5 72. Qc5+ Kg4
73. Qd4+ Qf4 74. Qg1+ Kh5 75. Qd1+ Kxh4 76. Qh1+ Kg5 77. Qg1+ Kh5 78. Qd1+ Kh6
79. Qh1+ Kg5 80. Qg1+ Qg4 81. Qc1+ Kh5 82. Qh1+ Kg6 83. Qb1+ Qf5 84. Qg1+ Qg5
85. Qb1+ Kh6 86. Qb7 Qg6 87. Qh1+ Qh5 88. g8=Q Nxg8 89. Qc6+ Kg5+ 0-1

The opening was the pirc. The title of the game could also be “The Experiment-continued (from round 5)”. The opening was going well until I decided to play 10…Qe7. I confused this position with another line I had looked at in the pirc. Such is life. Qc7 is the normal move. I might need to just think more in the opening. Once my opponent played 11.b3 though, I definitely used my time more wisely.

I was in trouble. I didn’t want to play Nc5 and get under the pin with Ba3. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it based on principle, I was trying to make it work, but it didn’t.

My alternative was playing the “not so pretty” (best way I can put it) 12…c5 idea. The move made my position a bit more solid. I realized I needed to follow it up with b6, hence Rb8. My knights would be doing some jumping. Best I could get out of the situation. My pieces are very scattered however.

My opponent played the next series of moves very fast, not doing much with his advantage. I felt very good about being able to neutralize his advantage. By 21…Bg4, the position is about equal. I assumed he would play 22.Rd6 Bxf3 23.gxf3 Rfd8 24.Rad8 Ne6, followed by a liquidation into a drawn endgame. On 25.Rd7 there is Nd4!

My opponent played the mind boggling 22.Bxe5? which came to me as a serious shock. I am not sure why he played it, but after this move, he is just worst.

The problem was that I landed myself in time trouble after trying to recover from the opening. I was not playing accurately at all and let him back into the game. 27…Rfe8 could be an improvement, as well as 32…Rh8. However, I confidently went into the knight versus bishop endgame, thinking I am better.

I probably was better, but not the way that I started playing it. My opponent offered me a draw after my 34th move. A strange act. You are supposed to offer a draw after you make a move. I can’t say it proudly, but I visibly laughed off the draw offer and said no. The not proud part is for the laughing, not the rejecting.

Converting the advantage is not easy. I was trying to do so way too leisurely. I should have played 38…c4 for better chances.

After my opponent played 41.h4 I realized life is not as great as it once was. His pawns are coming pretty fast at me.

Anyways, I’ll skip to the next crucial part. Then we went into the position where all the pawns are fixed. I am up a pawn, so I shouldn’t be losing. But my knight and king are very passive, so there is no way I can even attempt to win. After playing my 50th move, I offered my opponent a draw, which he did not react to. Could be in response to my earlier rejection.

After 52 moves, I only had 6 minutes left. I was left to play the rest of the game with a few minutes on the clock. Of course, the 30seconds added per move came in use.

I had about a minute and the half, and my opponent decided to sacrifice the bishop on f7. I thought to myself “this shouldn’t be good, but neither is my situation on the clock”. Here the human side of the players came out. My opponent needed to play 62.Kf6 where his pawns are rather strong.

In the game, 62…Kf7 63.h5 Nc6 64.g6+ Kf6 65.g7 Ne7 66.g8Q Nxg8 67.Kxg8 Kg5 is just winning for me. Would have been an easier win. Well, with no time I was pretty happy with what I found. It was not easy to calculate all of the complications, but I saw as far as both of us queening when I played 62…Nd7.

When we each got another queen on the board, my opponent did not play very well. He needed to queen his g-pawn somewhere. Move 73 was an option. It might still not be a draw, but the game left him with even less chances. I was just happy to be the one playing for a win again.

I did have a pretty finish with getting his king in a mating net. My opponent resigned because I am able to trade the queens off. Well fought game. When he resigned, my opponent was left with over 40minutes on the clock. I had about 1minute. This could have been the deciding factor in the game.

Overall, this was a tough game. I play chess to compete with Grandmasters. This was definitely a good experience and by far the longest game of the tournament for me so far. A lot of mistakes on both sides, which need to be analyzed more in depth. A lot of my own mistakes need to be attributed to the time trouble I was in for such a long time. This was the first time I was low on time the whole tournament. I didn’t work out too badly.

The confusion in the opening can’t be a good thing, but I was able to stir the game into some unclear waters. Some of it was certainly due to my opponent’s help.

Time to get some rest and get ready for the next one…

Round 6- risk leads to reward

Today’s game was an interesting affair. I got to play a Cuban FM, rated just over 2400, with the white pieces. I found very few games on him and my preparation was limited. I did find a few of his games on the King’s Indian however, so that’s what I prepared for. Here is the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.08.25”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Gonzalez Perez, Arian”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “E90”]
[PlyCount “51”]
[EventDate “2010.08.20”]
[SourceDate “2010.08.25”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. Bg5 Na6 7. Nf3 Qe8 8. g4 h5
9. Qd2 hxg4 10. hxg4 Nxg4 11. O-O-O f6 12. Be3 Qf7 13. Bh3 Qxc4 14. Nh4 Nb4 15.
Kb1 Kf7 16. Bf1 Qe6 17. a3 a5 18. d5 Qd7 19. Bh3 Rh8 20. f3 Rxh4 21. Bxg4 Rxg4
22. fxg4 Na6 23. Rh7 Kg8 24. Qh2 Qd8 25. Rh1 Qf8 26. Rh8+ 1-0

The good thing about playing against the King’s Indian is that there are so many setups against it. Recently, I have chosen rare setups. In this game, I chose 5.h3 followed by Bg5. I have also successfully tried 6.Be3 before. I have also played the main lines at times.

I knew up to 8.g4. I’ve never seen h5 before. Looking at my database, there are 2 games on h5. Reacting to h5 was a crucial point in the game. The first two moves that came to my mind were Bxf6 and gxh5. I didn’t find anything too convincing in that.

Next, I started looking at other moves. Nh2 just looked ugly. But then I started looking at simply sacrificing the pawn. Nice, he willingly opens the h-file. I will always have compensation. I get some more time to develop. I calculate some more. And we go for it… 9.Qd2 is a novelty as far as I know.

10…Bxg4 was a possible alternative for him. I have sufficient compensation and an attack regardless though. I have more space and my pieces are all developed soon enough, with open files for the rooks.

We reached a very interesting position after 12 moves. It looks like black is solid. The knight on g4 is hard to kick out. At this point, I decided to play Bh3 and sacrifice another pawn. Sure, pawns don’t grow on trees. But neither do strong attacks! The queen gets distracted on c4 and has to leave its defensive occupation to capture the c4 pawn. Anyways, I calculated a lot, and sacrificed pawn number two. Be2 would have been a more peaceful alternative.

14.Nh4 was important. Rdg1 would have been an interesting attacking resource as well. But now that the queen is away from defending… Something needs to be done… FAST.

15…Kf7 was a crucial moment. 15…Qf7 would have offered more resistance, even though my attack is still quite strong. But after Kf7, with precise play, it should all be over soon enough.

First thing first. The queen got pretty annoying on c4. So I decided to push it back with Bf1 and d5. 20.f3 Simply leads to a position where I have a lot of extra material and/or a winning attack. The rest was simple from there, simply throwing all my pieces in a deadly way on the poor black king. It’s important to note that black’s light squares bishop and queen’s rook did not move the whole game. 26.Rh8 was the finishing touch, since after 26…Bxh8 there is Qh7 mate.

Overall, I am pretty happy with the game. I didn’t make any clear mistakes and used my initiative well. Also, I was proud that I sacrificed two pawns. In the last few years, my play has become rather stale. I remember how between the years of 2002 and 2005 I really enjoyed throwing my pieces around in sacrifices. Since then I have been known more to be a positional player. This game was a nice change. There was risk involved, but without risk, how can you expect a reward?

I really enjoyed playing this game. It might sound strange coming out of me, but I had a lot of fun during this game. This is generally the case when creative ideas are played. Success must play a role in it as well though…

Vinay and I played some table tennis against the Israeli guys later. The amazing thing is that all four Israeli guys are sitting at 5/6. Well, it might be shocking for everybody, except the Israelis.

4 rounds to go. Things are about to get more interesting…

Round 5- The Experiment

The title is a bit confusing. To make it clearer I will go straight to the game.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.08.24”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Leniart”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “B09”]
[PlyCount “43”]
[EventDate “2010.08.20”]
[SourceDate “2010.08.24”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 c5 7. dxc5 Qa5 8. Nd2
Qxc5 9. Nb3 Qb6 10. Qd3 Nc6 11. Be3 Nb4 12. Bxb6 Nxd3+ 13. cxd3 axb6 14. d4 e5
15. fxe5 dxe5 16. d5 Ne8 17. Nd2 Bd7 18. Nc4 Ra6 19. Na3 Ra8 20. Nc4 Ra6 21.
Nd2 Ra8 22. Nc4 1/2-1/2

So… I have never in my life played d6 on move one. I prepared the Pirc as a possible surprise weapon. Since 2004, I have only really been playing the Sicilian and the Petroff.

The experiment was trying this new opening. The intention was clear: throw my opponent of preparation (on move 1!) and get into a position he is not familiar with. The Pirc has other advantages. Everybody plays the Sicilian. So players have experience in the opening. Who the hell plays the Pirc? It is rare to have any playing experience in the opening. It’s a very tricky opening which has many nuances black needs to be familiar with. But if Kramnik started playing it, how bad can it be?

My opponent played 4.f4 which threw me off a bit, but all prep. He played other lines in the past.  The move might be the most ambitious in the position. However, 6.Be2 is clearly not. I thought for a long time about c5. I was virtually banging my head on an imaginary wall trying to figure out what I prepared for this rare move. I came up with c5 and moves for both sides made sense.

The Nc6-b4 maneuver looked quite strong, forcing the elimination of white’s dark squared bishop. After 13 moves, the position was very unclear. White has a strong center, but black has the two bishops.

14…Be6 was interesting, followed by Rfc8 and play on the c-file. This slightly more passive waiting approach might make it hard for white to do anything with the position, by me not forcing anything. With 14…e5, I was really trying to create some problems for my opponent.

My 16th move was a mistake. 16…Bh6 or Ng4 would have led for a very unclear game where I have a lot of activity. 16…Ne8 lands me a in a passive position where I had to repeat moves as seen later. A bit too positional of an approach in a position where I need to play in a more dynamic fashion.

We repeated moves. I had to repeat moves or lose a pawn. My opponent could have continued to play for a win with 20.Bb5. I have the dark squared bishop, which can potentially be strong, but I also have those weak b-pawns. White’s passed d-pawn can also represent a future danger. My opponent took the draw.

This was an experiment. I wanted to see what it’s like to play the Pirc. A third opening to play against e4 might also be an interesting addition to my deck of openings. Now the question is whether it will become a part of my usual repertoire.

I can’t say that I was happy with my play. My 16th move could have landed me in some trouble. I feel like I need to play more for the initiative when the position permits. This generally forces opponents to make hard decisions along the way.

Nothing tragic has happened so far. I can’t say that I am happy with the last two draws, but they are a part of life. It’s hard to win games sometimes. For some reason, opponents don’t just roll over…

Before the round, a photo of me was taken for the Polish version of Wikipedia. Interesting… I asked the guy to also take a picture with my camera while he was at it…

On another note, I have had the pleasure to play every game but one so far beside GM Friso Nijboer, from the Netherlands, since we are seeded 6 and 7 in the tournament. Here is a photo of him during his analysis session.

At this point, we are half-way through the tournament. The result is respectable. Unfortunately, I have had relatively short games so far. I am used to longer games for the most time. It is those long games that can shine the true colors on my return. I’m sure those games are coming…

Round 4

Vinay showed me his novelty right before the round today. No, not a chess novelty. It was a new way to get to the playing hall. The bus route proved to be faster and more convenient than our usual subway route. A much shorter walk, followed by a bus ride, which included AC.

My opponent today was stronger than before, in IM Khmelniker, rated approximately 2480. As I wrote yesterday, I have known Ilya since my days back in Israel. The game is below.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.08.23”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Khmelniker”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “D85”]
[PlyCount “46”]
[EventDate “2010.08.20”]
[SourceDate “2010.08.23”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bd2 Bg7 6. e4 Nb6 7. Be3 Nc6 8.
Bb5 O-O 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. Nge2 Ba6 11. O-O e5 12. dxe5 Bxe5 13. Re1 Nc4 14. Qc1
Bg7 15. Bc5 Re8 16. f4 Nb6 17. e5 Qd7 18. Ne4 f6 19. Bf2 Bxe2 20. Rxe2 fxe5 21.
fxe5 Rxe5 22. Qc2 Rae8 23. Rae1 Kh8 1/2-1/2

To somebody who might not look at the game carefully, or not understand enough about it, it might look like the so called “GM Draw” which everybody hates. Just because the game lasted 23 moves means absolutely nothing about fighting spirit.

I played this rare 5.Bd2 line in the Gruenfeld for the first time in my life. You might recall that I played a different line in my second round game against the same opening. One can study openings in two different ways, either focusing on depth or breadth. This is an example of me focusing on breadth. This makes it harder to prepare for me. Of course, I can potentially get confused in the opening myself, without adequate depth in my preparation.

My opponent played a rare line himself, with 7…Nc6. I took on c6 a bit too early instead of developing my knight first. I wanted to fix those doubled pawns and prepare them for my future work on them. This might be oversimplifying my task, and I never go to working those pawns.

The next moves appeared quite logical for the two sides. 14.Qa4 would have led to some serious complications after 14…Nxe3 15.Qxa6 Nc2 16.Red1. At the end of that line, black can sacrifice the queen for two rooks by taking on a1. Upon looking at that position a second time, the queen appears to be more valuable in that final position. However, black can also continue with 16…Qf6 with a complicated game to follow.

14.Qc1 was an attempt at consolidation. I have the better pawn structure, but black has two bishops and the initiative. If the initiative dies down, I should be better. That’s exactly what I was trying to do with the next moves.

All was going well until my 18th move. By placing my pawns on f4 and e5, the initiative black temporarily had was now forgotten. I should have played 18.Nd4 with an advantage for white. It is not clear how black should continue to play the position, since his play is very limited.

I played 18.Ne4? to not allow f6. And he just played 18…f6. I was in disbelief. Now I am losing my e5 pawn. To be honest, I sat there in a complete state of shock for a few minutes. It’s hard to let the advantage go (psychologically that is, physically its easier than some might think). But it’s necessary. I knew I gave it up. I immediately understood what a stupid move I made.

Why did I make the move? Well that’s what I need to figure out. It’s hard to explain it with anything except for rust. How do I miss the simple f6? I just need to focus on more thorough calculations. In the past, I excelled in those cases. I’m sure I will in the future. But today, I missed the simple f6.

I was very upset at myself. But what’s done is done, any good player will tell you that much. It’s time to forget. My mentality had to change. It took a few minutes, but then that’s exactly what I did. From playing for a win in a position with an advantage, I started to play for a draw in a position which I felt was worse.

My moves 19-23 were first order moves. I am proud of that. When I ran into problems, I dealt with them well. Following his 23rd move, my opponent offered me a draw. I thought about it for a few minutes. I was still upset at myself. I was sure my position cannot be better. Taking these factors into consideration, I simply took the draw.

I am still upset at myself. This is a learning experience. I need to find a way to keep up the pressure for the long stretches. How can I miss something like f6? Black had one idea in the position. Of course I looked at it. But I just assumed that since I have two pieces hitting f6, he can’t play it. The only other move I seriously considered was Nd4 for myself.

After the game, Ilya told me that he was not feeling well because of the heat. A lot of people are complaining at the heat level in the playing hall. No AC and lots of people in one room will do that to you in Barcelona at this time of the year…

The final position is probably close to equal, but it is only black who might be able to pursue realistic chances of playing for a win. It’s not easy to say the least though.

A lot of surprises in the tournament. There is currently a five way to for first place. None of the top 18 rated players are in that pack! This shows how even this field really is. A lot of upsets occurred today and yesterday. Top seed, GM Markowski, lost yesterday with the white pieces. He was actually up a pawn in what should have been a winning bishop vs knight endgame, but the tables turned.

I know I wrote about physical activity earlier on, and how good it is during tournaments. Well, I finished my game pretty fast today. Unfortunately, Vinay lost today. We took our revenge on GM Cabrera and others in table-tennis in intense doubles matches at the residence. We only lost one set out of approximately 10 which we played… I also got a chance to work out a bit during a break in which a new ball needed to be found as the old one was stepped on. The table-tennis is in the gym, and the gym is only open until 10.30pm daily, making it hard to make it there in time after the longer lasting games.

Need to have a short memory at chess tournaments. Tomorrow is a new day. What happened today should not affect it. It’s the chess player’s code (unofficially and only recognized by me so far;)).