Candidates 2014 – Round 5

We had another treat today at the Candidates.  The game of the day was Kramnik-Aronian, but what I found most surprising was the only decisive game of the day.

It’s funny how quickly my prediction from yesterday came true when I said that usually a series of draws ends in a loss and that is exactly what happened to Topalov today. He managed to get his preparation in and he got a great position, but all of a sudden he started to play very badly. It has happened way to many times to me too, and I always found it difficult to explain why. Svidler was his usual dramatic self when he proclaimed he was very lucky, but his luck was more than deserved – he played very well! This game puts him firmly among the favourites of the tournament, not only because of the points he has, but more importantly because of the play he’s showing. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that Topalov lost an endgame, even though a favourable one – he generally prefers positions with queens on board. A disappointing turn of events for Topalov, whose tomorrow’s game is against Kramnik, but maybe this is a reward for Svidler, who showed courage yesterday and is now back on track only half a point behind the leader Anand. There’s another twist of Fate for you!
Anand didn’t have problems in the opening against Andreikin and even outplayed him on the black side in the fashionable 4 d3 line against the Berlin move order. Again his extensive preparation of these lines for the Carlsen match showed in his superior understanding and smooth play. What was perplexing though, as Sutovsky pointed out on Facebook, is why he didn’t continue the game in the final position. Yes, it should be a draw, but why not try to squeeze something out of it? I can also understand Anand, who probably thought more about preserving his energy in a long event, but still you need every chance in this kind of a tournament. Usually when you don’t take a chance like this, it comes back to you when somebody else takes it against you and you’re forced to suffer in an unpleasant position. It is bound to happen to Anand, sooner or later, as he cannot expect to go through the whole event without a difficult position. And then we will see if he still has what it made him one of the toughest defenders in the history of modern chess.
Karjakin continued to make uneventful draws. He tried, unsuccessfully, to emulate Carlsen and get a position with the most minimal of edges, but that seems to work only for Carlsen. As it was, he did get the most minimal of edges against Mamedyarov’s Sicilian (he even played Carlsen’s favourite 3 Bb5+), only to agree to a draw some 10 moves later. I don’t know if the loss to Kramnik in round 2 disturbed something in his psyche, but I suppose both players were happy with the draw today.
Kramnik introduced another one of his new concepts, this time in the Queen’s Indian structures when white plays 4 e3, even though the game started as a Queen’s Gambit. Those structures were considered harmless for black, but Aronian allowed white to play 12 Ne5 (he could have prevented it with 11…Bd6 – in this case check out the game Fressinet-Ivanchuk, from the Paris GP last year – Fressinet is well known to have worked with Kramnik before) and then develop dangerous initiative on the kingside. He was winning at some point, but it was never “elementary” (as Kramnik said in the press conference) and Aronian was resilient as always. Kramnik wasn’t too disappointed after the game as he said that it’s the quality of the game that matters to him most and this game was certainly of a very high quality (from human perspective!) as it can be expected of these two players. Tomorrow’s games could be defining for them: Aronian is white against tail ender Andreikin and will surely try to capitalise on that, while Kramnik has black against his old nemesis Topalov, who will need no further motivation, especially after today’s bad loss. I just wonder whether there will be a handshake…
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Candidates 2014 – Round 4

It’s been pretty hectic since I returned from Iceland, I cannot seem to find the time to enjoy the games properly as they deserve.

Today’s games were again very interesting. The least interesting, however, from a point of view of independent play, was the duel of the former World Champions. In a Vienna, it was all preparation, from beginning to end. The only difference was that Kramnik refreshed his memory before the game so he was more confident, while Anand had to dig into his memory a bit more in order to remember how the line went. But it was an important theoretical game, one of the many the pair has had in the past. Their press conference was much more interesting, especially when they got to the philosophical themes. I particularly liked Kramnik’s comment of not needing to understand chess too much! Understanding it a little bit better than the opponent is all you need, according to the Russian and he knows what he’s talking about. I can actually relate to that, because once you get in too deep (in any area, for that matter, not only chess) you start to become too philosophical, you start to think about the meaning of it all and that takes away the competitiveness, the sharpness and the aggression, all of which are needed for a successful outcome of the game.

Karjakin probably surprised Topalov with 1 c4, but that was all he achieved. Topalov has a lot of experience in the Reversed Dragon in the English so he didn’t have too many problems throughout the game. A solid draw, but that means different things for the players. Karjakin so far continues in line with my prediction that he will be solid and not push too hard, while Topalov might get nervous if he doesn’t win a game soon. He still hasn’t had a chance to win a game and usually a long drawing series ends with a loss. Tomorrow he’s black against the disappointed Svidler, so anything is possible…

Aronian beat Svidler and they changed places in the standings. Svidler was principled and went for the Grunfeld (compare this decision with the one from London when he surprised Aronian with a rare line in the QGA and drew without problems), but I warned about this in my Preview – the Grunfeld is a risky opening, no matter how well prepared you are. Here again we saw a very deep preparation from both players (just remember that “These People Cannot Be Trusted” when Aronian says he didn’t know the line) – it was preparation at least until move 27 (and almost certainly much deeper), the first critical moment when Svidler had a big thing whether to draw (by taking on d4 – I’m sure he knew this was a draw even before the game) or continue the game, which he did. This decision speaks volumes of Svidler’s psychological disposition: he showed great courage and self-confidence by continuing the game in a position which is easier to play for white against one of the favourites of the tournament, against whom a draw with black is a great result. Eventually he regretted this decision and Aronian won a good game, but this courage shows that Svidler has matured. But on the other hand, he repeated the same scenario from London when he was completely winning against Gelfand in round 5 (a win would have brought him to +2, just like the win against Kramnik would have two days ago) and after the disappointment with the draw in that game he lost to Carlsen the next day – this time he lost to Aronian (is Svidler losing to the eventual winners?). Svidler showed character, but Fate has her own ways and maybe this showing of characted was in fact a good omen for Aronian, who won a point from a brave Svidler while he may have only achieved a draw had Svidler been the old one. Such twists of Fate usually favour the chosen ones. Whether Aronian is the chosen one in this tournament we will see, but this game, for me at least, makes Aronian the main favourite to win the tournament (even though he’s still half a point behind Anand at this point). Until the next twist of Fate, of course.

Mamedyarov and Andreikin also switched places in the standings after the former’s victory. It was a topsy-turvy game, showing that both players aren’t in very good form. I found it interesting watching Mamedyarov in the press conference when he showed a line where he thought he couldn’t take the pawn on f6 with his queen from f3 because he thought he was losing the queen after Bg7, only to realise that he could go back to f3! The horror on his face made it obvious that in that moment he realised that this was not the usual way he calculates variations and that if it continues like this it will soon get much worse. Andreikin was more collected, but he too was disappointed as he was also trying to win. Neither of the players was happy with the quality of their moves, the only difference being that Mamedyarov got the point. I am curious to see how they try to get over these lapses in their thinking (a situation way too familiar from personal experience! I’ve always found it almost impossible to improve the quality of my brain work during a tournament).

Tomorrow’s big game is Kramnik-Aronian. Let’s see what they come up with this time!

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Candidates 2014 – Rounds 2&3

Since I flew over Round 2 (I was in a plane somewhere between London and Skopje while they played) and slept through Round 3 (after barely sleeping for two nights in a row, I had a really refreshing 17-hour sleep) I didn’t have much time to analyse the games deeply, but I did get certain impressions that I will write about here.

Anand is leading after 3 rounds, with two very nice wins. Honestly, I am not surprised by this, because, like I said in my Round 1 analysis, his preparation and training for the Carlsen match, which didn’t work against Carlsen, is working against the other players. In Round 2 against Topalov he got his preparation in and I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole game was preparation for him. In Round 3 he didn’t have any problems in the opening and took advantage of Mamedyarov’s over-ambitious play with precise play on his part.

Kramnik’s saved draw with Svidler is no less important for him than the win against Karjakin. He introduced a conceptual novelty (and a new direction in the whole line – something I said I was looking forward to in my Preview) against Karjakin’s QGA already on move 9 and went on to win a good game. In the press conference he even said he tried to play unpleasant moves, which shows that he tries to learn from Carlsen! He was lost against Svidler in Round 3, but he kept on fighting and took his chance when it was presented to him. Making difficult draws is usually a good sign for a successful tournament!

Svidler was undoubtedly surprised by Andreikin’s choice of the Labourdonnais Sicilian in Round 2 and didn’t achieve much in the opening, but his subsequent play was very powerful. He simply made moves of higher quality than his opponent and won the game because of that. This is a very encouraging sign for him, but he must be disappointed by his draw against Kramnik as he outplayed him and was winning. Luckily, he has a day off to recover from that disappointment.

Aronian recovered quickly after his loss in Round 2, but this was thanks to a horrible blunder on Mamedyarov’s part. He played a wild game against Topalov in Round 3, but some of his decisions weren’t up to his usual standards (19…Re8?!). However, when it came to calculation and saving his skin, he was his usual self and defended accurately. He still needs to produce a game of quality on par with his level.

Topalov is the king of draws so far. In Round 2 against Anand he didn’t really have a chance for anything more because of Anand’s superb preparation, while in Round 3 he got a nice attacking position against Aronian, but couldn’t break through because of the latter’s precise defence. He may be in good shape (I attribute his shaky play in Round 1 to the initial nervousness), but he also needs to win a game or two soon if he wants to fight for victory in the tournament.

Karjakin lost the only game he actually played, against Kramnik, even though in his own words he “played well.” In Round 3 both he and Andreikin wanted to make a draw after their losses in the previous rounds. It is yet to be seen in what form he is in.

The same more or less applies to Andreikin. He was outplayed by Svidler in Round 2, after surprising him in the opening and achieving a comfortable position. I’d say that game showed a difference in class. So, pragmatic as he is, he made a draw in the next round and has a day off to think things through.

Mamedyarov is in grave danger of being labeled the outsider in this tournament, repeating the role of his compatriot Radjabov from last year. Even he seems confused by his atrocious play (repeating Radjabov’s explanation in the press conference that possibly it’s his lack of practice the reason for his blunders). Practically a one-move blunder against Aronian in Round 2 and a typically open-tournament style of play against Anand show that he really must pull himself together. The free day comes just in time for him.

After 3 rounds 3 players have shown that they are in good form, Anand, Kramnik and Svidler, Topalov and Aronian still seem to need time to get into the tournament while the others will have to show their character and will to overcome the first setbacks.

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The Award Winning Game from Reykjavik Open

I’m smiling and he’s not, probably he didn’t see the game

Colovic,A – Christiansen,Jo [B51]

Reykjavik op (2), 2014

This game was played in the second round, at the somnambulistic (for me) time of 9.30am. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ even I decided to jump the Carlsen bandwagon! I had no wish for sharp Dragons at the ungodly hour. 3…Nd7 4.0-0 Ngf6 5.Re1 a6 6.Bd3 b5 7.c4 Rb8N [7…Ne5 8.Bf1 was played in Carlsen,M (2872)-Nakamura,H (2776)/Zurich rapid 2014] 8.Nc3 b4 9.Nd5 e6 



10.Nxf6+ choosing the simpler route [10.Bc2!? was very tempting 10…exd5 11.exd5+ Be7 12.Qe2 and it seemed that white had great compensation 12…Kf8 (12…Ng4 13.d4; 12…Ne5? 13.Nxe5 dxe5 14.Qxe5 Rb7 15.d6+-) 13.d4] 10…Nxf6 11.Bc2 e5 12.Ba4+ Nd7 [12…Bd7 13.a3] 13.a3 a5 14.axb4 axb4 



15.Bc6 transferring the Bishop to d5 15…Qc7 16.Bd5 Nb6 17.d3 and in this moment the loudspeaker in the Harpa went ballistic with the information about the fire that broke out somewhere in the building. All the players were forced to stop the clocks and exit the building. It didn’t last very long though, only after a few minutes we went back and he played Bg4 [17…Be7 18.Be3 with the idea of Nd2] 18.h3 only to have another attack on the ears with another loud warning! This time it was much longer, some 15-20 minutes in the cold Icelandic weather. Luckily it didn’t disturb me much. When we went back he played Bxf3 [18…Bh5 19.g4 Bg6 20.Be3 Be7 21.Nd2] 19.Qxf3 Nxd5 20.cxd5 Be7 



21.Be3! kingside play didn’t promise anything. With this I try to take control of the a-file [21.Qg4 0-0 22.Bh6 Bf6 23.Ra6 Ra8 24.Rea1 Qb7=; 21.Qg3 0-0 22.f4 Bf6] 21…0-0 22.Ra4 Ra8 23.Rea1 Qb7 [23…Rxa4 this gets rid of all the Rooks and was probably preferable 24.Rxa4 Qb7 25.Qd1 Ra8 26.Qa1 Rxa4 27.Qxa4] 24.Qd1 Rfc8 25.R1a2 h6 26.Qa1 Rxa4 27.Rxa4 now white has a stable advantage

 27…Qb5[27…Bg5 28.Bxg5 hxg5 29.Ra7 Qb5 30.Qa6 Qxa6 31.Rxa6+/-] 28.Ra7 Bf8 the Bishop does cover d6 safely, but is also extremely passive [28…Bg5 29.Bxg5 hxg5 30.Qa6] 29.Qa6 Qxa6 30.Rxa6+/- Be7 [30…c4? 31.Rc6] 31.Kf1 Kf8 32.Ke2 Ke8 33.Kd2 Kd7 34.Kc2 Rc7 35.Kb3 Bf8 



36.f4 white needs to open a second front on the kingside in order to break through 36…f6[36…exf4? 37.Bxf4+- f6 38.g4 and eventually d4 should decide] 37.f5 Be7 38.g4 Bd8 39.h4 Be7 40.Kc4 Bd8 41.Ra1 Be7 42.g5 hxg5 [42…h5 43.Rg1 with the idea of gf] 43.hxg5 Rc8 [43…fxg5 44.Rg1]44.Rh1 [44.g6 Rc7 should transpose to the game (44…Rh8? 45.Ra7+ Ke8 46.Bxc5! dxc5 47.d6+- Bd8 48.Rxg7) 44…Rg8 [44…fxg5 45.Rg1]



45.g6 already here I saw the final combination45…Ra8 46.Rh7 Rg8 47.Kb5 Kc7 48.Bh6 Bf8 49.Ka6 Kc8 



50.Bd2 first winning a tempo to play b3, avoiding …b3 ideas [50.Bxg7 Bxg7 51.Kb6+-] 50…Kc7 51.Be3 Be7 52.Bh6 Bf8 53.b3 Kc8 



54.Bxg7! Bxg7 55.Kb6+- now it like a pawn endgame when white wins because he has taken the sixth rank! 55…Kd7 [55…Bf8 56.Kc6 Kd8 57.Ra7 Ke8 58.Ra8+ Ke7 59.Rb8

this is the cute zugzwang position that probably caught the eye of the organisers 59…Rh8 60.Rb7+ Ke8 61.g7+-] 56.Kb7 Ke8 57.Kc6 Bf8 58.Ra7 



Rh8 [58…Kd8 59.Ra8+ Ke7 60.Rb8+-] 59.g7 the rest is simple59…Bxg7 60.Rxg7 Rh3 61.Kxd6 Rxd3 62.Ke6 Kf8 63.Rb7 Rxb3 64.d6 Ra3 65.Rb8+ Kg7 66.d7 Rd3 67.d8Q Rxd8 68.Rxd8 c4 69.Rb8 b3 70.Kd5 1-0

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Candidates 2014 – First Impressions (Round 1)

I barely slept in the last 24h and had a very early start this morning at 4am when I was picked up at my Icelandair Marina Hotel in Reykjavik for a transfer to the Keflavik airport. I then boarded a WOW Airlines flight to London which took 3 hours.

So when I arrived in London, the games of the first round of the Candidates had already finished. Honestly speaking, thinking of chess when seriously lacking sleep sends the brain in a completely different dimension. Let’s see what my brain came up with when I looked at the games and the statements of the players.

Andreikin-Kramnik was the first game to finish. The moves of this game weren’t particularly interesting, as they were following the Mamedyarov-Kramnik game from the last Tal Memorial for a long time and the line is practically a forced draw. Andreikin deviated just to draw in 32 moves instead of Mamedyarov’s 26. What I found interesting were the statements of the players after the game: Andreikin said that he expected “almost anything” against his 1 d4 (really? Kramnik is known for his consistency, especially with black, and even though he could have prepared “almost anything” during the 3 months or preparation, the Nimzo is one of the things that he’s been playing since the 90s). Then he said that he had a “special philosophy when preparing for Kramnik” but he didn’t want to go into details, to which Kramnik responded that he already knew what this “special philosophy” meant, but he also didn’t want to elaborate. But for the careful observer this is pretty obvious – Andreikin goes for drawing lines against Kramnik, and if the latter forgets his theory (like in the drawing line in the Berlin from the Russian Championship last year) then he gets an advantage. The same was applicable today, but I don’t think he expected he would get something – he said he had a “safe line” prepared for the Nimzo and that’s what happened. As it transpired, neither of them minded starting the event with a quiet draw, something Kramnik confirmed in the press conference.

Karjakin-Svidler showed that both players suffered from the usual nerves in Round 1. Svidler went for the Taimanov Sicilian, unusual for him, as he primarily opts for the Kan or the Najdorf. He did play the Taimanov against Caruana last year at the European Club Cup, but to say that it was the “very likely” choice (like Karjakin said) it’s just a plain lie. This just goes against the following statement of Karjakin when he said that he couldn’t remember his analysis after 9…Ng4 – if it was that likely, how come he couldn’t remember the first move after the branch he chose (9 f4)? So we are led to believe that Karjakin expected the Taimanov, so he was prepared, went for the English Attack, 6 Be2 a6 7 Qd2 Nf6, then chose 8 f4 (instead of 8 0-0-0) and after 8…b5 9 e5 Ng4, he couldn’t remember his analysis??? Oh please… Svidler’s statement that he “forgot to repeat” the lines after 9 f4 also shouldn’t be taken seriously as Svidler is famous for this kind of misleading comments. The game itself was interesting, but I have the impression both players were just looking for the first opportunity to start repeating moves – the tension was starting to tell.

To sum up statements of the Russian players, I’ll quote one political slogan that can be seen on the streets of Skopje: “These people cannot be trusted!”

Mamedyarov-Topalov was another case of nerves, but it’s interesting to observe how these fighting players, who don’t (or can’t) go for drawing lines resolved this issue. Mamedyarov went for the innocuous 4 Nbd2 in the Slav, something he played in one game at the European Team Championship last year (against Erdos) and in 4 rapid and blitz games at the Sportaccord rapid/blitz event, also last year. Topalov introduced a novelty as early as move 6 and equalised comfortably. And here the nerves started to show, these fighting players with dynamic styles started to allow innacuracies which are not typical of them. Topalov’s 19…a5 was a miscalculation (in his own words) and then Mamedyarov started missing his opponent’s moves. Eventually it all ended in a perpetual check, but the notable difference between the other two drawn games is that when uncompromising players (or, perhaps, characters) play, they almost never draw timidly or search for the first opportunity to repeat moves and their nervousness is shown not in the premature end of the game, but in the oversights that happen in their calculations.

The only player who seemed not to suffer from nerves was Anand. In spite of Aronian’s novelty in the Anti-Marshall on move 11, he continued to play sound chess and it was the latter that showed signs of nerves. This doesn’t bode well for the Armenian, as many (myself included) have pointed out that it is his nerves that prevent him from winning tournaments of this type, where the stakes are high. He even said it in the press conference, that his calculations “weren’t serious.” He even got into time-trouble, something that doesn’t happen with him. Maybe it’s understandable that Anand was so carefree, the burden of the world title is off his shoulders so he can just play chess and enjoy it. And he played a great technical game, probably the training he did for the Carlsen match finally starts to show (he did say that he trained with the idea of matching Carlsen in his endgame and technical skills). This win undoubtedly gives him confidence while it dents Aronian’s. It will be interesting to see how both adapt in their new situations.

Tomorrow is Round 2 and I will be up in the air flying from London to Skopje when they start at 10am EST. Another sleepless night awaits me…

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Reykjavik Open 2014 – Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony took place at the City Hall. If you remember the Tchaikovsky lake from one of my previous posts, this is how it looks from inside the Hall:

There were speeches from the one of the organisers, Bjorn Thorfinnsson (brother of Bragi, who is mainly responsible for me coming to Iceland!)

 and the President of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Gunnar Bjornsson

The speeches were witty and humorous and the crowd was having a good time. Then there was a performance of two traditional Icelandic songs

This was followed by a presentation of a portrait to Henrik Carlsen. The portrait was, understandably, of his son. Henrik said that Magnus played in Reykjavik in the past and won a few rating points, but this time he tried his best to return the favour (he lost 43.5 points)

And then something interesting happened. Three people were invited to the stage, participants of the first Reykjavik tournament in 1964 (this year was the 50th anniversary), which was won by Tal, ahead of Gligoric and Fridrik Olafsson. Unfortunately I didn’t get the names of the other two players, but one of the three was the legendary Fridrik Olafsson himself

From left to right: Gunnar Bjornsson, one of the participants, Fridrik Olafsson, the other participant.

This was a lovely gesture from the organisers. I was surprised to see how positive Olafsson looked, bearing in mind that he was born in 1935. Apart from being a Candidate in the Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade tournament in 1959, he was also a President of FIDE from 1978-1982.

After this the players who achieved norms were invited to the stage and then the prize giving began. Here are the winners on the stage with the winner Li Chao with the flowers:

That was the end of the official part and then the social part began. I was very surprised that actually nobody knew that there were two players in the tournament who had played Bobby Fischer! I found Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam (the editor of New in Chess) and asked him about this. He was surprised by the question at first but then quickly said Walter Browne, which is true, of course, as Walter played Fischer in Rovinj-Zagreb in 1970.

Browne (that’s him in the brown jumper) had a great tournament. He looks thin and worn out, but the intensity and the will to win are still there. I remember my father telling me stories about his demonic time-troubles at the Olympiad in Skopje in 1972 – this time his time-troubles weren’t that dramatic, but he was all focus and determination during play. He beat Grandelius and drew with Gajewski and was mostly playing on the top boards.

But Dirk didn’t know the other player. Then I showed him the older gentleman with white hair

and told him that his name was Vik Pupols. I already mentioned that I am a Fischer fanatic, so it was not a problem for me to recognise the name; Pupols played (and beat) Fischer in a junior event in 1955.

Before talking to Dirk I had a short chat with Pupols, who was happy I remembered this and seemed a very likeable person. Dirk was also very happy and grateful for the tip and thanked me several times. We chatted a bit more (he said he was not going to Khanty for the Candidates) and after a while I left the Hall and returned to my hotel, from where I am writing these words.

I am very happy to have come to Reykjavik. I have played a lot of open tournaments, but this is one of the rare ones where the player feels welcomed and taken care of. The organisation was perfect and the event ran smoothly. Congratulations to the organisers on a job well done!

My flight tomorrow is at 7am (but I am being picked up from the hotel at 4am!) so my Icelandic adventure slowly comes to an end. I really hope to be able to come back next year, it’s been a fantastic experience!

CONTINUE READING

Reykjavik Open 2014 – Finally an Icelander! (Round 10)

Today the final round started at noon. This shows that the organisers have respect for the players and their playing rhythm, instead of breaking it abruptly and scheduling the last round at 9am, as it is done almost everywhere in the world. I am grateful for this welcome change and I think the new starting time allowed me to play a more or less decent last round game.

I came to Iceland to play chess but it was only in the last round that I got paired with an Icelandic player! And just to reaffirm my fondness for the people from the north, I won again! So to sum up, I beat 3 Norwegians, 1 Swede and 1 Icelander.

My opponent was an IM, so I was surprised when in the opening he gave me a tempo by 7…Bf5 instead of the normal 7…Bd7. One move later he made another dubious move and I thought I was getting an advantage. In order to avoid a direct attack he sacrificed a piece on move 13. Things weren’t as simple as I thought and he had many tricks based on sacrifices on e3, but after his weak 17h move I managed to stabilise the position and from then on my extra piece made itself felt. Even though the game lasted 43 moves, I never gave him a chance.

I finished the tournament on 7/10 and a shared 11th place. It was a rather uneven tournament in terms of the quality of play. I think I played well in the first 5 rounds, but then my quality dropped in rounds 6-8 and then again I played well in the last 2 rounds. The only regret I have is that I didn’t manage to play stronger opposition as I never got out of the rut of playing players rated around 2300. But that is entirely my responsibility as I missed my both chances to enter the higher eschelons, in round 5 when I drew a winning position and in round 7 when I even lost after his dubious queen sacrifice. I will have to address this issue and draw some conclusions.

The closing ceremony will take place at the Reykjavik City Hall in about an hour. I missed the opening party of the tournament because of my late flight, so let’s see how the closing ceremony will be.

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Reykjavik Open 2014 – “Fin(n)ish Him!” (Round 9)

When I told him that I’m playing a Finnish player, the famous chess author Tibor Karolyi (Karpov’s Strategic Wins 1&2 and Kasparov: How His Predecessors Misled Him About Chess are his most famous titles) said “Just finish him!”

That I managed to do, but I was mistaken, I wasn’t playing a Finnish player, but a Swedish one! It seems I am growing fond of the Norsemen, after all in this tournament I managed to beat only them!

In the opening I went for a very risky line, but he didn’t dare to venture it, so I got an overwhelming strategical advantage already on move 9. From then on I was pretty precise and although he put up all the resistance he could I didn’t allow him a chance to escape. Incidentally, just like in my prize-winning game from Round 2, again I got a totally dominating position, this time in the middlegame – the position after white’s 25th move is a pleasure to have (and a rather sadistic pleasure if I may add).

Tomorrow’s final round starts at noon, so time is limited now, I need to both rest and prepare. But oh how the chess world would be so much a happier place if the other organisers follow suit and schedule the last rounds at noon, instead of the somnambulistic 9am! Yeah, I know, but one can always dream…

P.S. After the game, when I told Tibor I played a Swede instead of a Finn, he said, “Ah, so a Swede finish!”

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Reykjavik Open 2014 – The First Timers (Round 8)

Today it was rainy and windy and that was in no way an improvement over the heavy snowfall over the last few days. I have been to the windy city of Chicago, but the wind I encountered today on my way to the playing hall was definitely the strongest one ever – not only I couldn’t walk in a straight line, swaying left and right all the time, but very often I would walk in place, not being able to move forward at all! The whole situation wasn’t helped by the rain, which was falling (if you can say that) horizontally! No defence against that, I assure you.

By the time I made it to the Harpa, my jeans were soaking wet, from the horizontal rain. Not the most pleasant thing, to play chess in wet clothes. Before the round the organisers announced they would be giving prizes for the best games of each round and I was very surprised when they announced my name as a winner for the best game in the second round! While it is true that the final combination in that game on the themes of domination and zugzwang was pretty, I never expected a prize for it! It is the first time that I win a prize for a best game:

(By the way, I didn’t notice the guy on the side, I just smiled for the cameras. Had I noticed him I probably would have shaken his hand).

I received a certificate and a CD of good old traditional Icelandic music:

After the prize-giving it was that guy on the side in the above photo that gave a short speech before the start of the round. Another first timer for me, listening to Garry how he hated the guys who gave speeches before rounds because they were wasting his time.

But that was it with the first-time experiences, as the game was pretty much a deja vu. Another 5 hour game, another missed chance and another save. In an unorthodox opening a complicated struggle ensued, full of mutual inaccuracies and mistakes. I only had one clear winning chance, on move 25, when I should have played 25…Qc7. Instead I thought I was winning with 25…e4, but I miscalculated and even though I kept the advantage, it was not winning anymore. Then I took another risk in mutual time-trouble when I went for the exchange and allowed him two connected passed pawns on the queenside, refusing his draw offer in the process. But I didn’t manage to create enough counterplay and after the time control, on move 41 I made a mistake after which I was lost, but luckily he accepted my draw offer.

Two more rounds to go. Let’s hope for the best.

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Reykjavik Open 2014 – Blame It On Garry (or Silvio?) (Round 7)

Perhaps I should have stuck with the Norsemen. Probably I’ll get another one tomorrow.

It was a strange game today. I employed a rare idea in the 5 Bd2 Grunfeld, but already on move 10 I mixed up the move order (10 a5 instead of 10 h3?) and was already worse. In order to escape constant initiative by black I tempted him to sacrifice a queen, and it did seem very tempting, but I thought I should have enough counterplay. He did sacrifice the queen though and then I got my chance on move 19.

And then something happened. All of a sudden I felt a commotion in the playing hall, I raised my head and saw a lot of people with TV cameras, photo cameras and flashes blinded my eyes. The reason for this fuss was that Garry entered the building. And Silvio too (but to a lesser extent, obviously). I could sense energy radiating from the spot where they were standing and then… disaster struck. I came back to my game and for reasons I find difficult to explain I moved immediately and made the losing blunder, 19 Bc4?? instead of the intended 19 Qe6. That would have given me an advantage in a complicated position. After his simple reply, the game was over.

So what to say? I’ve always been skeptical when people explained their losses with weird occurences or aliens, so I won’t try to explain this by Garry’s (or Silvio’s) energy. But the fact remains that this was a bad day for me. Incidentally, it was Fischer’s birthday (and some of my most memorable games were played on this day. However, I’ll try to forget this one).

At least the weather is nice.

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