The Decision

The decision was not last-minute. It was an easy one for me to make. The decision was made in April after winning the Pan-American Championships in Mexico. I knew it would only be a year of professional chess. The World Cup is a perfect final stop.
I have met a lot of professional chess players over the years and have always tried to absorb as much information as possible. This year did not throw any curve balls. It was just as advertised and the way I saw it before.
It would have been a shame to not have any results that stand out during this year. My results in Mexico and Cuba are certainly something to be proud of.
An important thing was the “last tournament”. Qualifying to the World Cup was big because it seems like the best way to end the year: with a big international event.
So why leave the world of chess? A much harder questions would be: “why stay in it?” Before this year, it was clear to me that I did not want to be a professional chess player. This year was, in part, about not having regrets and getting my chess fix. A big part of my early life was spent playing chess and it just made sense to do it full time for a year before starting a career elsewhere.
The world of chess is not a thriving one for the chess professionals. The situation in certainly not getting any better. The top 20 in the world make a good living, with the top five making a very good living. It pays to be a chess professional in India, China and Cuba due to government support. Eastern European countries also offer different opportunities. But this is Canada, where career opportunities are endless. It never made sense to be a professional chess player.
While young, the life style could be exciting. If there is a family to support, excitement turns into a desire to make ends meet and see the family more. There is no stability.
The more logical way to make a living in chess while living in North America is by giving lessons or starting a chess school. But that turns into a completely different ball game.
I will not be leaving chess completely. Not yet sure to what extent. The game has benefited me in many ways. At the age of 23, I have traveled the world and have been fortunate enough to experience things that only few get a chance to. Chess has taken me to 10 countries, outside of Canada, this last year alone. It is time to move on and think about the future.
I will change gears after the World Cup and pursue a career in investment banking. Until then, there is still work to be done…
Next is a post on the World Cup.

World Open: Part II

Round 4

I was paired with the Black pieces against GM Yudasin, rated 2522. We had played 12 moves of theory and then I offered a draw. It was clear that if we would be having a fighting game it would be a long battle. GM draw you say. We can call it that. But chess is about strategy. It’s not just about strategy in one game, but it is about strategy throughout the tournament. This was a morning game, and I felt like the short draw would give an energy boost for the evening game. At least that was the plan.

I found what happened around the board quite interesting. Everybody in the world of chess knows that Leonid Yudasin is one of the nicest people to meet. He is also an Orthodox Jew. Because of this, I did not know what to expect (if anything) from playing Leonid on a Saturday morning (Sabbath). As I arrived to the game, Leonid said that he cannot record the moves and use a digital clock during Sabbath games. Seems fair. So Leonid provided a manual clock for the game and also subtracted ten minutes from his clock for not writing the moves (as is apparently customary).

Round 5

I was paired against GM Zapata, rated 2472 for this round. I felt relatively well rested after the morning round. My play didn’t seem to agree…

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.07.02”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Zapata”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “108”]
[EventDate “2011.06.30”]
[SourceDate “2011.07.03”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. h3 Nbd7 7. Bg5 e5 8. d5 a5
9. Be2 Nc5 10. Nd2 Bd7 11. Rc1 c6 12. O-O a4 13. Qc2 Qb6 14. Kh1 Rfc8 15. f4
exf4 16. Bxf4 Ne8 17. a3 Qd8 18. Rce1 cxd5 19. Nxd5 Be6 20. Nc3 Nd7 21. Nxa4 b5
22. Nc3 bxc4 23. Nf3 Ne5 24. Qd2 Nxf3 25. Bxf3 Rab8 26. Rf2 Qa5 27. Rc1 Rb3 28.
Be3 Rcb8 29. Rc2 Be5 30. Bd4 Nf6 31. Bxe5 Qxe5 32. Qd1 Nd7 33. Bg4 Nc5 34. Bxe6
fxe6 35. Qf3 R3b7 36. Rf1 Nd3 37. Nd1 Qg5 38. Qe2 d5 39. exd5 exd5 40. Qe6+ Kg7
41. Re2 h5 42. Nc3 Rd8 43. Qc6 Rbd7 44. Nb5 Re7 45. Rxe7+ Qxe7 46. Qb6 h4 47.
Qd4+ Qe5 48. Qa7+ Kh6 49. Qa5 Re8 50. Nc7 Qe2 51. Kg1 Re5 52. Qc3 d4 53. Qxd4
Qxf1+ 54. Kxf1 Re1# 0-1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. h3 Nbd7 7. Bg5 e5 8. d5 a5 9. Be2 Nc5 10. Nd2 Bd7 11. Rc1 c6 12. O-O a4 13. Qc2 Qb6 14. Kh1 Rfc8 15. f4 exf4 16. Bxf4 Ne8 

We got an interesting position out of the King’s Indian. Each side has its pluses in this highly diverse position. Black intends to play a3 and fix the a2 pawn as a weakness. Neither side has any immediate threats. 17. a3!? White fixes the a4 pawn, but also fixes the b2 pawn as a weakness for as long as that g7 Bishop is breathing down the long diagonal. 17… Qd8! Black has no obvious plan except for simply capturing on d5, and so he prepares for it. 18. Rce1 cxd5 19. Nxd5 Be6 I suddenly realized that Black’s position is preferable. It’s hard for White to choose a plan. The White pieces are well placed optically, but are rather useless on a deeper look. 20. Nc3 Nd7 21. Nxa4 b5 22. Nc3 bxc4 I wanted to get some more imbalance in the position, but the process did more harm than good. White needs to be careful now. 23. Nf3 Ne5?! 24. Qd2? White lands himself in a slightly depressing position after the text. Necessary was 24.Nxe5!, after which White forces Black to have a pawn on e5, after which the b2 pawn is less vulnerable. White still cannot rely on an advantage, but equality is present on the board. I had more ambitious and unrealistic expectations and was still looking to complicate the issue in my favour. 24… Nxf3 25. Bxf3 Rab8 Now White needs to consolidate to stay alive. 26. Rf2 Qa5 27. Rc1 Rb3 28. Be3

28… Rcb8 29. Rc2 Be5 30. Bd4 White has been dreaming of exchanging these Bishops for quite some time now. 30… Nf6 31. Bxe5 Qxe5 32. Qd1 Nd7 33. Bg4 Nc5 34. Bxe6 fxe6 35. Qf3 I am suddenly creating my own threats. Even though they are not deadly, it’s better than passive defense. 35… R3b7 36. Rf1 Nd3 37. Nd1 Qg5 Black has been making mistakes in time pressure. 38. Qe2? 38.Ne3 would have led to an approximately even position. 38… d5 39. exd5 exd5 40. Qe6+ Kg7 I went for this position quite willingly and I assumed that I could take advantage of Black’s weak King. Black’s Knight is a monster on d3 and it stops a lot of White’s ideas. 41. Re2 h5 42. Nc3 Rd8 43. Qc6 Rbd7 44. Nb5 Re7

I had managed to activate my pieces, and most importantly my knight. But here, it was time to settle for equality and not push for more 45. Rxe7+? I saw that after 45.Re6 Rf8 46.Rxe7+ Qxe7 47.Rxf8 Black will have nothing more than just a perpetual, yet I rejected the idea. My decision making was not ideal during this game… I thought I could try to find more. 45… Qxe7 46. Qb6 h4 47.Qd4+ Qe5! 48.Qxh4 is bad because of 48…Rh8, as 49.Qg4 is answered by 49…Nf2+, and Black winning the exchange. 48. Qa7+ Kh6 49. Qa5? What kind of a move is this? Necessary was 49.Qf7, and if 49…Nxb2 50.Rf4, where White appears to maintain the balance with threats to Black’s King. The text leads the Queen off the board. Re8 50. Nc7 Qe2 51. Kg1 Re5! Black threatens the deadly 52…Rg5! 52. Qc3 d4 53. Qxd4 Qxf1+ 54. Kxf1 Re1# 0-1 A pretty way to finish the game. Some might ask why I didn’t resign. Why wouldn’t I let me opponent finish the game with a nice mate? Pretty mates would certainly add to the idea that chess is partially an art…

Overall, this was one of the worst games I can recall in a long time. I played poorly after the opening and I missed a lot of opportunities to get half a point in the end.

Round 6

I took a half point Bye in this round. The Bye was taken before the first round and the plan was to take a break before the last three rounds, as well as avoid having another double round day. Logic was good on paper. The current tournament situation did not agree with it though.

Round 7

I was paired against IM Kleiman, rated 2375 for this round. This was no doubt a must-win with the Black pieces.

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2011.07.04”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Kleiman”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A00”]
[PlyCount “104”]
[EventDate “2011.06.30”]
[SourceDate “2011.07.04”]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Be3 Nf6 5. h3 c6 6. f4 Qa5 7. Bd3 e5 8. fxe5
dxe5 9. dxe5 Qxe5 10. Nf3 Qg3+ 11. Bf2 Qc7 12. e5 Nd5 13. Ne4 O-O 14. Bc5 Re8
15. O-O Nd7 16. Bd6 Qb6+ 17. Kh1 Nxe5 18. Nxe5 Bxe5 19. Qd2 f5 20. Rae1 Bg7 21.
Ng5 Bd7 22. c4 Ne3 23. Rf3 h6 24. Rfxe3 hxg5 25. b3 Rxe3 26. Rxe3 Qd4 27. c5
Re8 28. Bc4+ Kh7 29. Qxd4 Bxd4 30. Rxe8 Bxe8 31. Be6 Kg7 32. g4 Kf6 33. Bc8 b6
34. cxb6 axb6 35. Bc7 Bf7 36. Bd8+ Ke5 37. gxf5 gxf5 38. Bxg5 f4 39. Kg2 Bd5+
40. Kf1 f3 41. Bh4 b5 42. Ba6 Be6 43. Bf2 Bxh3+ 44. Kg1 b4 45. Bb7 Bd7 46. Kf1
Ke4 47. Bh4 Kd3 48. Ba6+ Kd2 49. Bf2 c5 50. Bc4 Bf5 51. Bd5 Bd3+ 52. Kg1 Ke2

1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Be3 Nf6 5. h3 c6 6. f4 Qa5 7. Bd3 e5 8. fxe5 dxe5 9. dxe5 Qxe5 10. Nf3 Qg3+ 11. Bf2 Qc7 12. e5 

Nothing like a Pirc. I got the type of a position that I was hoping for, risky and double-edged. Now I just need to make sure I don’t get mated. 12… Nd5! Not playing the greedy 12…Nd7?, after which 13.e6 fxe6 14.0-0 would give White a better game. The text forces White to make a decision. 13. Ne4 13.Nxd5 cxd5 14.Bb5 Bd7 is just about equal. O-O 14. Bc5 Re8 15. O-O Nd7 16. Bd6 Qb6+ 17. Kh1 Nxe5 Decisions, decisions. The greedy 17…Ne3, winning an exchange, just doesn’t look right. The Knight on d5 is the only good piece I have, and I shouldn’t get rid of it while also activating White’s remaining pieces. Taking the pawn is more sensible. 18. Nxe5 Bxe5 19. Qd2 f5

White will not have much compensation if he exchanges Bishops and retreats with the Knight. 20. Rae1! Bg7! 20…fxe5 21.Rxe4 looks dangerous for Black, so I decided to keep my best defender close to what it needs to defend. 21. Ng5 Bd7 22. c4 Ne3 23. Rf3 h6 Taking advantage of White’s Knight, which is trapped on g5. 23…c5 was an interesting alternative. 24. Rfxe3 hxg5 25. b3 Rxe3 26. Rxe3 Qd4 27. c5 Re8 28. Bc4+ Kh7 29. Qxd4 Bxd4 30. Rxe8 Bxe8 I managed to get into a Bishop endgame up a pawn, partially because both players are in some sort of time trouble. Conversion is never easy due to White’s threats with the Bishop and Black’s doubled g-pawns. 31. Be6 Kg7 32. g4 Kf6 33. Bc8 b6 34. cxb6 axb6 35. Bc7 Bf7!? An interesting idea. I willingly gave back the pawn to activate all of my pieces. 36. Bd8+ Ke5 37. gxf5 gxf5 38. Bxg5

Each side only has three pawns and two Bishops. Not much material. But each of Black’s pieces is better than its counterpart. The f-pawn also has potential. It’s important to contain the opponent. 38… f4 39. Kg2 Bd5+ The King will remain passive on the back-rank forever. 40. Kf1 f3 41. Bh4 b5 42. Ba6? The losing move. White kills his Bishop, which appears to be lost behind my pawns. More importantly, there are now potential mating threats! 42… Be6 43. Bf2 White gives up a pawn, after which his position is lost. Not any better is 43.Bg3+ Ke4 44.h4 Bh3+ 45.Ke1 Kd3! 46.a4 f2+! 47.Bxf2 Bc3+ 48.Kd1 Bd2!, followed by 49… Bg4 mate. 46.Bf2 is answered by the same idea with Bc3-d2, followed by Bf1-e2 mate. This was a nice line to see during a game. 43… Bxh3+ 44. Kg1 b4! The most obvious win. Black will eventually trade off the dark squared Bishops, so it only makes sense to make a2 a permanent weakness. It did not get to that though… 45. Bb7 Bd7 46. Kf1 Ke4 Always important to activate the King. 47. Bh4 Kd3 48. Ba6+ Kd2 Going back to mating ideas. 49. Bf2 c5 50. Bc4 Bf5 51. Bd5 Bd3+ 52. Kg1 Ke2 0-1 White resigned.

A nice looking endgame, but the middle game has its highs and lows.

What Happened This Weekend

As previously advertised, there was a segment of about me on Global News on Friday night. It has received a lot of positive feedback. The audience for the show is supposed to be well over a million viewers! If you missed it, you can watch it here. Enjoy!

I was a Guest of Honour at the Second Annual Chess in the Library Festival, which took place yesterday afternoon. It was a very enjoyable event all around, with the highlight being a four round Swiss event. The organization is run by student volunteers and is expanding rapidly thanks to the commitment of the people involved. Everything about the festival was well done and the turnout was well over 100 people. I would recommend to check out CITL’s site, as well as Yuanling’s Blog. Yuanling is the Founder and President of the program. There should be material about the festival coming on those sites soon.

Chess in the Library is the most positive chess program I have seen in Canada. Everything that CITL does is free to the players, just as yesterday’s tournament was. They are popularizing chess and are also making it enjoyable. Please check out their Sponsors Page and think about donating and making a difference. All of their volunteers are passionate about the game of chess and they let their actions do the talking. I encourage you to check out their program in one of their many locations.

Trip to Israel

A few days after coming home from Cuba I left for Israel, to play in the Israeli League and have a session with GM Alex Huzman. The way that it worked out, I got to Israel before Alex did. Alex was on Team Gelfand for his Candidates Matches in Kazan, where Gelfand won three tough matches to earn the right to challenge Anand for the World Championship Title in 2012. Boris (Gelfand) played the best chess in Kazan, and showed to have the best nerves. I would recommend to watch his won games against Mamedyarov and Grischuk. His win on the Black side of the Najdorf was an incredibly eventful game, where White resigned while being completely dominated yet being up a rook! Congratulations to the whole Gelfand Team for a remarkable result.

Back to me now. I played a total of 4 games for Hapoel Kfar Saba. The team included GM Rozentalis, who often visits Canada. The only problem was that the two of us could not play together because only one foreign player was allowed in each team per match.

The League was different from anything else I have played this year, with games played on Friday and Saturday mornings at 10am. Each match is played at a different venue, which means that a commute before the game is very standard. I flew into Israel on May 26th, and was already playing games on the 27th and 28th in the early morning. I scored a total of 3 out of 4 in the games, winning against FM Pasman and GM Manor, while drawing games against GMs Khmelniker and Abergel.

The league is mainly an amateur one, with two professional teams. The Beer Sheva and Ashdod clubs acquired all of the professional players in Israel and compete for the title each year. This year, it was Beer Sheva’s year, as they won first place. Their lineup includes GMs Roiz, Rodshtein, Huzman, Postny, Nabaty, and Greenfeld. I was able to help Kfar Saba clinch third place.

The League was a nostalgic experience for me. I saw a lot of people that I have not seen in many years, like my former trainer, FM Mark Ruderfer, or people that I grew up with, like IM Kaplan and GM Rodshtein, who I competed with when I was still living in Israel. My team also included a lot of guys who I looked up to as I was growing up, like GM Gershon, and IMs Kundin and Gaby Livshits. I have always enjoyed my trips to Israel. I wouldn’t call it home, but I wouldn’t call it a foreign country either, having lived there for 6 years. I also got a rare opportunity to practice my Hebrew while I was over there.

The World Open is next for me. That starts in 10 days. Some exciting news are to come before that…

First Term Report

This post will be a reflection of the first third of my year of professional chess. There will be summaries and highlights. You will see high points but also points. This is an attempt to look back at what has happened so far.

The Tournaments

I started my year of professional chess in August, soon after finishing my university degree. My first tournament was in Barcelona. Beautiful weather and a beautiful city. I started the tournament off very well with 6/7. In that stretch the most appealing game was certainly the one against IM Gonzalez Perez. Sacrificing two pawns and then mating my opponent felt great. It felt good letting my intuition take over with 13.Bh3 and with what followed. Of course, a lot of calculations were also made, but the so called “sense” that we sometimes have during games was telling me it was all going to work out. You can find all of my tournament reports (games with analysis) stored under the “Tournaments” category, filed separately for each event. In this report, I will provide a copy-paste in PGN format (you can copy paste the game in chessbase for quick look with a board).

[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

Even though the game above was the most appealing game to the eyes, it was not my favourite from the event. My game against Martinez Duany was my first game against a GM since my return. The game was not perfect and it shows how human GMs can be. It was a test. A long battle with mutual mistakes and turnarounds. My nerves prevailed and I came out on top. I was in time trouble for a long time. The long and grueling battle was a good test of nerves. It was certainly a confidence boost. Amusingly, my opponent and I each offered (and declined) a draw at different stages of 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

At 6/7 I felt great. I was playing one of the two players half a point ahead of me with the white pieces. The opening went great and I got a completely winning position. Most opponents would resign at that point. I lost the game by falling for the last remaining trick in the game. This was probably the toughest loss in my career. It was especially difficult since it was my first loss in the year. I felt completely broken down after the game. I have taken my later losses much better (can’t say well, but better). It was also difficult because with the win I would be tied for first place. With the loss, I fell out of contention.

[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

After that loss came another loss in the 9th round but then a bounce back win in the 10th round to finish the tournament on a positive note. I considered (and still do) 7/10 in the event a bad result, but an understandable one in my first event back. It was a tough pill to swallow. My goal was to go up and this event made me feel like I regressed. Looking back, I lost the competitive edge during the year that I didn’t play chess, and with all things considered, the result was reasonable.

I didn’t have to wait very long for my next tournament. From Barcelona, I went straight to Nuremberg. Fortunately, I had a few days to just relax. I feel like that was essential to regain some much needed energy. I knew that the event would not be easy with a two rounds a day schedule. I chose the tournament mainly because its dates allowed me to combine it with Barcelona.

Nuremberg was a different story. I started off with a massive 5.5/6, conceding a draw only to GM Kunin with the black pieces. An important game was the second round against FM Seyb. Now, the result of it was not that crucial, but the way I played was. I needed to find a way to gain confidence. I needed to be sure I could trust me calculations.

[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

In round 6 came a crucial win against GM Prusikin with the white pieces, which put me in clear first place. The critical move in that game was the piece sacrifice with 30.Nxg6!

[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

Then came another heavy blow in a game against GM Ftacnik. After winning a very long game in style in the morning round (Prusikin), I managed to lose an easily drawn rook endgame in the final round. A draw would have given me clear first place. With the loss, I got second place on tiebreak.

[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

My first trip came to an end. Even though I lost the last round in Nuremberg, I would not have complained if you told me I would get second place before the tournament started. I even gained rating on the trip overall. I played better chess in Nuremberg. There was a clear decline in the second round of the day as was shown in my games against Kunin and Ftacnik. That might need some work.

After a two week break our Olympic teams were off to Khanty-Mansiysk. Team events are different from individual events because you sometimes need to play for the overall match result and not for individual points. Our team was the youngest ever. There was always a good atmosphere in the team which was nice to see.

I was excited to play on top board again. I play chess to play against elite players and I saw this event as a place where I can get a shot at some top guys. In the second round came a defeat to Former FIDE World Champion, GM Kasimdzhanov. To put it objectively, he played a novelty in the opening and then played extremely well to convert his advantage. A “normal” (I hate saying a loss can be normal) loss.

I bounced right back with a great win against GM Rodriguez with black. A game where I sacrificed my piece and followed it up with great energy to convert the attack, after 21…Bxf4!?

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.23”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Rodriguez”]
[Black “Bluvshtein”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A47”]
[PlyCount “70”]
[EventDate “2010.09.21”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.23”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 c5 4. b3 b6 5. Bd3 Bb7 6. O-O Be7 7. dxc5 bxc5 8. c4
O-O 9. Nc3 d5 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Bb2 Nbd7 12. Qe2 a6 13. e4 d4 14. Na4 Bd6 15.
Rac1 Re8 16. Nd2 Qe7 17. Rfe1 Ne5 18. Bb1 Bc6 19. f4 Ng6 20. g3 Nd5 21. Nc4
Bxf4 22. gxf4 Ndxf4 23. Qg4 f5 24. Qg3 fxe4 25. Ba3 Qf6 26. Nxc5 e3 27. Nd3 Nh5
28. Qg4 Bf3 29. Qh3 Qg5+ 30. Kf1 Rf8 31. Bxf8 Rxf8 32. Qe6+ Kh8 33. Rxe3 Bd5+
34. Ke1 Bxe6 35. Rxe6 Nhf4 0-1

After a few rather disappointing draws with white I lost to GM Stevic after getting a very bad position after the opening. But then came the real highlight to date: my game against Topalov. The critical move was 24.Nxd6!

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.09.28”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Topalov”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “E60”]
[PlyCount “85”]
[EventDate “2010.09.21”]
[SourceDate “2010.09.28”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. h3 Na6 7. Bg5 c6 8. Be2 e5
9. d5 h6 10. Be3 Nh5 11. dxc6 bxc6 12. Qd2 Nf4 13. O-O f5 14. Bxf4 exf4 15.
exf5 Bxf5 16. Rad1 Rb8 17. Nd4 Bd7 18. Bf3 Qb6 19. Nb3 Be5 20. Ne4 Rbd8 21. Qe2
c5 22. Rd2 Rfe8 23. Rfd1 Bf5 24. Nxd6 Bxd6 25. Rxd6 Rxe2 26. Rxd8+ Kf7 27. Bxe2
Ke7 28. Bg4 Bxg4 29. hxg4 Qxd8 30. Rxd8 Kxd8 31. Kf1 Ke7 32. Ke2 Kd6 33. a3 Nb8
34. Kf3 Ke5 35. Nxc5 g5 36. Nb3 Nd7 37. Ke2 Kd6 38. f3 Ne5 39. Na5 Kc5 40. b4+
Kd4 41. c5 Kd5 42. Kd2 Ng6 43. Kd3 1-0

Another interesting game was in the 9th round against GM Navara. I played well the whole game, but lost the game with my 40th move, 40…b5??

After 41.Kg2 (the move I missed with little time left on the clock) I could have resigned the game. The simple 40…Kd7 would have drawn the game within a few moves. I saw Kd7 but decided to play for more. More equals less in such disappointing one move blunders.

This game left a strange feeling in me. I very much enjoyed playing the game and matching an elite player stride for stride with the black pieces. It was a good feeling to compete at a very high level. But losing didn’t feel good. It was a dilemma.

In the last round of the Olympiad we played Montenegro. I played what is probably my most beautiful game ever in that round. It all started with the queen sacrifice with 18.Bxd3!

[Event “?”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2010.10.02”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Bluvshtein”]
[Black “Djukic”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “D80”]
[PlyCount “65”]
[EventDate “2010.09.21”]
[SourceDate “2010.10.02”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. h3 O-O 6. Bg5 c6 7. Nf3 e5 8. d5 a5
9. Be2 Na6 10. O-O Bd7 11. Nd2 Kh8 12. a3 Qb8 13. f4 exf4 14. Bxf4 Nc5 15. Qe1
Re8 16. e5 Ng8 17. exd6 Nd3 18. Bxd3 Rxe1 19. Raxe1 Qa7+ 20. Kh1 Qb6 21. Nde4
h6 22. Be3 Qd8 23. Rxf7 Qe8 24. Rxg7 Kxg7 25. Bd4+ Kh7 26. Ng5+ hxg5 27. Rxe8
Rxe8 28. Ne4 Kh6 29. Nc5 cxd5 30. Nxd7 dxc4 31. Bxc4 Re4 32. Bc3 Rxc4 33. Ne5

I finished the Olympiad with 6/11 on top board. The competition was stiff, as I played 8 GMs, 6 of which were rated higher than me. A great place to draw some conclusions. I had problems with black, where my three losses came. It was great to play all 11 games.

Then came my tournament in Corsica. A very interesting format, with 7 rounds and then the top 14 qualify into a knock-out rapid event with Mamedyarov and Radjabov. I started off with a strong 2.5/3, which included a draw with black against French Champion, GM Fressinet.

I was not playing well. I felt it. My second round win was dodgy. I made some inaccurate moves in the middle game. It was a win that did not look too convincing. Then my game against Laurent (Fressinet) showed how human chess players can be. I played the early middle poorly and landed in trouble only to be able to equalize with a lot of help from my 2700 rated opponent. Such is life on the second round of days. The quality of games drops significantly. The was the only double round day.

The result of the next round reflected on my poor play. I lost a very bad game to GM Shchekachev with the white pieces. Then I was able to regroup, knowing that I needed a minimum of 2.5/3 to hope to qualify to the knock-out. I won a pretty game against FM Nikolaidis on the black side of the Benoni and followed that up with a good win against GM Ivanov on the white side of the King’s Indian, in positional style. A draw in the last round was enough for me to qualify to the knock-out stage. In my game against Nikolaidis, my opponent could not solve the problems that arose after 23…Nxe4!?

[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

The knock-out stage was a disappointing one for me. It was nice to play on the stage of the Bastia Theater. The atmosphere was incredible. I lost in the first game with the white pieces against GM Gawain Jones and could not get more than a draw in the second active game. Disappointing, but Gawain played better than me in those active games. I was tired after the normal time control earlier that day. But that is no excuse, Gawain’s game lasted even longer that morning.

Then came the surprise. I didn’t know if I should play in the blitz tournament the following day. I haven’t played in a blitz tournament in years. But then I thought that I might as well try my luck and enjoy myself. After all, that’s what blitz is all about. It was definitely fun. I was able to make it more than that by getting clear second place with 8/9! A full point behind the untouchable GM Mamedyarov, who I lost to in our round 5 game. I beat GMs Van Wely and Kurnosov in the last two rounds to finish so high. Finished on a high note.

Upon finishing my tournament in Corsica, I went to Israel for a coaching session with GM Huzman. Two and the half weeks of daily hard work. It was tough. It was great.

Since then I have been in Toronto. I took a short break after the month away to get some of that hunger back. I was back into it soon after. I am hungry for my next tournament, which will be in Groningen later this month.

Some Comments

My first four tournaments were packed with action in a short period of time. In 71 days I played 35 standard time control, 2 active, and 9 tournament blitz games! That is one serious game every second day. I got back into the mix of things during this period, which has been my most chess intensive period ever. I felt like I was burning out at some point in Corsica, but I am glad that I was able to regroup and finish strong.

A lot has changed about my chess mentality during this time. I am trying to be a lot more analytical about my own play, instead of just drowning in emotions. Losses will come. Especially with the type of play I have been presenting in the tournaments so far.

There have been highs and lows. My 8th round loss in Barcelona has to be seen as the lowest of them all. My win against Topalov is the biggest achievement of my career so far. I may have down played it a bit so far, but when all is said and done, I know that’s the game I will remember most.

I feel like I have been downplaying my wins and emphasizing my losses at times. I am not sure what it looks like from the outside. But wins are great. Every win leaves a pleasant feeling in a chess player. At GM level, a lot of early round games are seen as “work”, because everybody expects those games to be easy wins (they aren’t always wins, and are often not easy). Wins are always, at the very least, pleasant. Of course, some wins are more memorable than others.

Games like those against Rodriguez and Djukic can hold a special meaning. It felt like I created a master piece in my game against Djukic with one heavy blow after another. Such a game is very rewarding and aesthetic.

My tough win against Martinez Duany also left a great after taste. The satisfaction of coming out on top of a game full of exciting moves and swings is pricess. Realistically, it could have gone either way. But it didn’t. Coming out on top after such an adrenaline rush is great. My competitive side won out.

The same thing applies to losses. Some are easier to swallow than others. I lost with black to Kasimdzhanov. So did a lot of 2700s. Don’t get me wrong, I hated the outcome of that game. But losses need to be taken more philosophically without any sleepless nights. Lessons need to be learned. Kasimdhanov certainly gave me a good lesson.

I hope you are not sleeping just yet, there is a non-chess related part now. I hope I have not been giving off the wrong impression of my time so far. There have been bad moments, as expected, but there have been great moments. In the end of the day it is the great ones I will remember. These four months (it’s four if you include the time period I have been studying and not playing) have been very different from anything I have ever done in my life.

I have played chess before, but it has never had this position in my life. I am enjoying the process, and feel very fortunate to get this opportunity to push myself to the limit. In this process, there is both success and failure. The most important thing is to deal well with failure. Another solution would be to only have success, but it doesn’t sound very plausible.

I hope you have enjoyed this summary of what has happened so far in a nutshell. I am planning to do one of these every four months, so your comments for improvement would be appreciated. Next to come will be an update on my most future plans for early 2011, for which I am still trying to get good tournaments. This will come before I leave for Groningen.

Home Sweet Home

I got back from Israel a few days ago after being out of the country for almost a month. After such a long absence, it’s comforting to get back home. I guess an important part of it is just being able to relax and regain some of the energy that has been lost over that time.

The last month has been intense. After Corsica, I headed straight to Israel for a coaching session with GM Huzman. The session was very productive. We worked almost every day from about 10am to 10pm with breaks. The breaks would be for food, short relaxation and sports. We played a lot of tennis while I was there, as well as a bit of soccer, basketball and table tennis. Each of the last 10 days we also went to the outdoor gym to work out for a bit. As I look out of my Toronto window, the snow falling on the city certainly makes the sun and the 30 degree weather I witnessed there seem long gone.

With so many hours of hard work every day it’s important to stay fresh (and sane) by staying fit. The sports always increase general endurance and help clear the mind for however short the period of time it is before the next part of the session. To say the least, I was exhausted in the end of every working day.

I will not get into any session details for obvious reasons. I took in a lot of information. There was always a lot of fresh analysis that needed to be done and in those cases my coach really showed as to why he is known to be a world-class coach. His positional understanding and general feel for typical positions is exceptional. It’s always interesting to work with him because his strengths are my weaknesses, so all the analysis helps strengthen those parts of my game.

While doing the work I was staying at my coach’s home. It is a great atmosphere and I felt like a part of the family. Of course, feeling comfortable during the session allows for better productivity throughout. It allows for the only focus to be chess. I’d like to thank the Huzman family for accepting me with open arms into their home.

On a completely different front, I did have a day to go and see my grandmother, aunt, uncle and baby cousins while I was there. It was a nice break and overall heartwarming to see family members that I haven’t seen in years.

It would be great if I could say that after this session I feel “so much stronger as a chess player”. But I can’t. Unfortunately, that’s not how chess works. Playing strength is playing strength. The only thing that matters is the practical playing strength. Due to this, whatever a chess player looks at in no way guarantees actual improvement. This is a huge difference from academics (which by this point feels like my past life).

Working on chess is done with the hope of improving, but with no guarantee of it. Everybody tries to find a the best possible formula, but there is nothing fixed and results are purely individualistic. It might sound like I am being pessimistic, which I don’t think I am. I am just stating the often non-linear relationship between studying and improving in chess. And the higher one goes in chess, the harder it is to improve. Overall, the last 3.5 months have been the most chess intense part of my life. I feel like I have a lot of reason to be optimistic.

Looking at so much chess can get tough. There is such a thing as chess fatigue. A fresh outlook on the game can go missing. This is why I decided to take it easy on chess for a week before going back to full strength training. All that means is that for a week (from the point at which I got back) I will be looking at less chess. It’s a good way to get that hunger back.

I will be in Toronto for a month and then play in Groningen at the end of December. You can see the list of players here.

My next article will be a summary report of the first third of my year of professional chess.

A Few Notes

Arrived to Israel safe and sound. The trip was a long one which included flying Bastia-Paris-Tel Aviv. That would be easier… If I wouldn’t have to change airports in Paris. Traveling is a huge part of the business.

I am very happy to announce that I will now also be sponsored by Front Street Capital. You can see their logo at the top of the page. More details about the firm on my Sponsors page.

I would like to congratulate Jason Cao, from Canada, for winning the World Under 10 Championships! Jason is a great young kid. Great job Jason!