I started with 2/2, with two pretty straight-forward wins against lower rated opponents. Usually these early games serve as an illustration of one’s form: if you beat the lower-rated opponents effortlessly and confidently, that normally means that you’re in good form. I did beat them in a confident manner and that gave me a boost for the following games.
In Round 3 I had the first more serious challenge. I played GM Pogorelov, who in spite of his ridiculously low rating of 2362, always motivates himself when playing strong players. It was the same in this game – after a risky opening I managed to get a winning endgame, plus a big time advantage – by move 23 he was already playing on increment time, while I had more than 30 minutes left. And yet he played very tenaciously and I made one slip after another and eventually he held the draw. But I had only myself to blame for this as it shouldn’t really matter how your opponent is playing when you have a winning position.
The draw meant that I’d get another lower-rated opponent in Round 4 and it was WIM Matras-Clement, rated 2254. Quite surprisingly she went for the Tarrasch Defence, something she had never played before. I managed to remember what I had analysed ages ago and I got an advantage out of the opening, resulting in a symmetrical position of white having the pair of bishops against a bishop and a knight for black, with two pairs of rooks. I exchanged all the rooks and proceeded to win a very nice technical endgame, which I was quite pleased with.
The battles with the big guns started in Round 5. I was white again against GM Narciso Dublan. It seems that he wasn’t too well prepared in the opening and I got an advantage, but then I was tempted with a very interesting sacrificial idea on move 19. I went for it, but he defended well and when I should have settled for equality I chose to be ambitious and fight for more, only to face a worse position a few moves later. After mutual imprecisions, the game went to a queen endgame where active play on my part saved me the game.
Round 6 was an exciting struggle with the current European vice-champion, GM Anton Guijarro. I forgot my preparation and was worse in the opening, but the position was very complex and required a lot of calculation. So he made some mistakes and allowed me back in the game, when I had ample compensation for the exchange I sacrificed early in the game. By move 30 we were already down to 2-3 minutes to finish the game (the time control was 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move to finish the game) and as my position was easier to play I got a chance to get an advantage. I missed it and then it was unclear and then with only seconds remaining I went for yet another exchange sacrifice, which I saw it wasn’t entirely correct, but with so little time I didn’t see much else. But he also erred and we started repeating moves, as the position objectively was a draw. Nobody wanted a draw, but I didn’t have a choice and had to repeat, while secretly hoping he’d continue since the only way to do so looked very risky for him. The problem was that I only sensed this, and when he did actually deviate from the repetition (which was a big mistake), I had very little time to see the winning move – which I didn’t. But I had another chance for a big advantage on my next move, only to blunder instead and lose. His gamble paid off, much to my regret, but it was a good fighting game and I wasn’t feeling particularly bad after the game. It gave me more insight into the tension that exists in these high-level games and another proof that the strong players also blunder when put under pressure.
In Rounds 7 and 8 I got FM Garcia del Rey and GM Abergel. While I won against Garcia with white rather easily, after he sacrificed a pawn in the opening and got nothing in return, against Abergel, with black, I was under pressure when he opened the centre. I calculated hard and deep and found a good way to continue, only to be surprised by his nonchalant manner of playing in a position that required a lot of calculation. This led to him blundering in a still unclear position and I won after transposing to a winning rook endgame with my rook behind my passed pawn, which later transposed to a winning pawn endgame.
In Round 9 I had to win in order to win a prize. I was paired white against GM Sumets. Here I must whine a bit – I quite liked the late starting time of the games, every day at 8.30pm, as it gave me a lot of time to think about my strategy and preparation. The games ended at around 1am and then the pairings would come out, not a big problem as there would be plenty of time the next day. However, the organisers scheduled the last round for 9.30am (!!) and when I tried to argue that after the 8th round there is no time at all to rest, see the pairings, prepare and sleep, they came up with some laughable explanation of players having to catch their flights after the round. As it was, the pairings for the last round came out at around 1am, I prepared until 3am, then couldn’t fall asleep and woke up at 8.30am. Quite an abrupt break of the regime and no wonder my state was far from ideal. That was my only objection to the otherwise great event. In the game I pressed for a long time, but the early hour took its toll and I lost control over the position on move 31 when it was me who had to defend to secure the draw. I managed to do that and draw the game.
Eventually I shared 7-17th place, and with only 10 prizes I needed two more Bucholz points to get into the top 10. Nevertheless I had a great tournament, winning more than 10 rating points and showing play of a very good overall quality. Together with my successful play during the last 4NCL weekend, this result again brought my rating in the region of 2500.
In my post How to Win Opens (https://www.alexcolovic.com/2014/04/how-to-win-opens.html) I analysed four players who are very successful in open tournaments. It was no surprise for me that two of those players who played here won the tournament – GMs Fedorchuk and Delchev – congratulations to both, as it was a very demanding and incredibly strong tournament with 30 GMs and 22 IMs participating. Their way to the top was quite different – Fedorchuk started with 6/6 and finished with 3 draws, while Delchev had a great finish with 2.5/3, beating GM Agdestein in the last round.
I will now use the next several weeks first to rest and then to prepare for the biggest chess event of the year, the Olympiad in Tromso, Norway. The work of the chess players is never done, there are always variations to analyse, things to think about, psychological nuances and approaches to develop.
I am also very much looking forward to the Stavanger tournament, the first round starting on 3rd of June. It should be another great tournament and another chance for “the rest of the world” to try to give the World Champion a run for his money. Should be fun!
The first surprise was that I didn’t expect we were going to fly on water (remember you can click on the image for a bigger version):
The second surprise was our guide – silent, yet very expressive:
The trip was along the coast, southward from Arenal. The scenery was captivating, first rocky coastline with some vegetation:
Then we passed by a residential area with its own nooks and crannies:
Followed by private beaches:
Then the big rocks came:
We made our only stop at one beach which it seemed it could only be approached from the sea. I’ve always fancied having a yacht (let’s not be too modest here) and exploring such hidden treasures, like the people who were already there when we arrived:
I imagine that this kind of boat trip must be fantastic in mid-summer, as the idea of the stop is to allow the people on board to have a swim in a very nice place and clean water. Unfortunately it was too cold for me, but not so for the other passengers. Here you can see a mermaid swimming with the fish:
|WGM Irina Sudakova|
And here definitely not a mermaid:
|GM Andrey Sumets (2600+ whale)|
The stop lasted for 30 minutes and then we went back. I must add that we had a very experienced captain. He navigated with his feet:
In spite of my initial skepticism, it turned out to be a very pleasant experience. I think it gave me a lot of positive energy and I continued to have a very successful tournament.
So to keep my readers busy, here are a few photos of the beautiful beach in Arenal (the name Llucmajor is the name of the municipality, I’m actually in Arenal. If you go from Palma eastwards, following the coast, adjacent to Palma is Playa de Palma and adjacent to Playa de Palma is Arenal).
1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.0-0 0-0 6.b3 d6 7.Bb2 Ne4
8.c4 [8.Nfd2 was an alternative, but eventually I decided to go for the more central approach. The reason was that I already saw the line leading to the endgame from the game] 8…Nc6 9.Nc3 Nxc3 10.Bxc3 Kh8 not really necessary, as black has no choice but to push …e5 [I was expecting 10…e5 11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Qd5+ Kh8 13.Qxd8 Rxd8 14.Ng5
which is very similar to the game, here white’s rook is still on a1. This was the endgame I was aiming for. I reached this position when analysing my game against Rendle, from the previous 4NCL weekend and I considered it quite favourable for white as after taking on c6 white will have a very easy game against black’s weaknesses] 11.Rc1 e5 12.dxe5 dxe5 13.Qxd8 Rxd8 14.Ng5! Rf8 15.Bxc6 bxc6 16.Ba5
From this moment the game is a good illustration of the concept of positional calculation. All that was necessary was to calculate lines a few moves ahead and to be aware of black’s ideas. [16.Rfd1 a5 was what I wanted to avoid] 16…Bf6 I thought this was the only move. [16…Bh6 17.h4+/- with the idea of Bc3,f4; 16…h6 17.Nf3 e4 18.Nh4 with a tempo 18…Kh7 19.Bxc7] 17.Nf3 [I wasn’t sure whether to insert 17.h4 h6 as in some lines it was useful for me, and in others it was useful for him. Eventually I decided against it, as it gave him the opportunity to reduce the material on the kingside and gain space there with …g5]
17…Rf7? after this it’s really difficult to pinpoint where black could have played better as the remaining of the game seems to be a smooth ride for white [I was expecting 17…e4 18.Ne1 Rf7 19.Nc2 with Nb4 or Rfd1 and Nd4 to come and I thought I was doing quite alright, but after 19…f4!
black seems to be able to activate his bishops. I saw the move, but underestimated its strength. What follows is the computer analysis of the position 20.gxf4 (20.Nb4 fxg3 21.hxg3 Bb7; 20.e3 Bh3 21.Rfd1 Bg4 22.Rd2 fxg3 23.hxg3 c5 24.Rd5 Raf8 25.Rxc5 Bb2 26.Rf1 Bh3 with counterplay; 20.Kg2 g5 21.Rfd1 Kg7 22.Nd4 fxg3 23.hxg3 Bg4 with counterplay) 20…g5! 21.fxg5 Bxg5 22.Bc3+ Kg8 23.Ra1 (23.Rcd1? Bh3 24.Rfe1 Bh4-/+)23…Bh3 24.Rfd1 Bh4 with counterplay] 18.Rfd1 [18.Bc3 forces 18…Re7 19.Rfd1 Bb7 20.Bb4 Rf7 but I couldn’t see why this was better than the game continuation] 18…Bb7 [18…e4?! 19.Nd4] 19.Ne1 with ideas like Nd3-c5 or Nc2-b4
19…Re8 [19…e4 again this was what I expected 20.Nc2 (20.c5 Ba6 21.e3 with the idea of Bc3 was my alternative, leaving him only with a white-squared bishop and the knight is coming to d4)20…c5 21.Ne3+/-] 20.Nd3 Bc8
21.Bc3! preventing possible …Be6 and preparing to play f4, which is the ideal for white here – the dark-squared bishops will be exchanged and black will be stuck with horrible pawn weaknesses and a bad bishop on c8 [21.Nc5 threatens nothing 21…Kg8; 21.Nb4 Bb7 and the bishop is stuck on a5] 21…Kg7 22.e3 with f4 to come and black cannot prevent it [the immediate 22.f4 wasn’t very good 22…exf4 23.Nxf4 Rfe7 here I realised that I’d prefer to take on f4 with a pawn, hence the game move] 22…g5
23.f4+- this is already strategically winning for white 23…exf4 24.Bxf6+ Rxf6 25.exf4 Re2?! after so much suffering, he finally decides to go active, but as usual, it only hastens the end [25…gxf4 26.Nxf4 was pretty grim too 26…Rd6 27.Kf2] 26.fxg5 Rf8
27.Nf4 after some thought I continued to play for domination [27.a4 was my alternative, and I couldn’t decide between this and the game move 27…c5 28.Re1+- (28.Nxc5?! f4!
and things start to get messy – this was the reason I went for the game move, even though I saw the better moves 28 Re1 and 28 Nf4; 28.Nf4+-) ] 27…Rxa2 28.Ra1 Rxa1 29.Rxa1 black is completely paralysed 29…a6 30.Rd1 Kf7 31.Kf2 Be6
32.Re1 forcing him back to go back immediately 32…Bc8 [32…Bd7? 33.Nd3; 32…Re8? 33.Rxe6 Rxe6 34.Nxe6 Kxe6 35.Ke3+-] 33.Nd3 Rd8 34.Ne5+ Kf8 [34…Kg7 35.Nxc6 Rd2+ 36.Re2 Rd3 37.Re7+]
35.Ke3 again not allowing him any counterplay [35.Nxc6 Rd2+ 36.Re2 Rd3 was what I was trying to prevent, even though I saw it’s winning after 37.Re7+-] 35…Rd6 36.h4 h6
37.gxh6! [37.g6 was very tempting, but after 37…Kg7 38.h5 Kf6 39.Nf7 Re6+ 40.Kf2 Rxe1 41.Kxe1 f4! 42.gxf4 Bg4 all of a sudden B draws!
After seeing all this it was easy to decide to take on h6] 37…Rxh6 38.Rd1! Ke7 39.Kf4 Re6 40.h5 a move on general basis, but in fact I saw that I transpose to a winning rook endgame 40…Kf6 [40…Rd6 41.Rxd6 Kxd6 42.h6]
41.Rd8! the point 41…Rxe5 42.Rf8+ Kg7 43.Rxc8 Rc5 44.Rxc7+ Kh6 45.Rf7 Ra5 46.Rxf5 [46.Rxf5 Ra3 47.Rf6+! Kg7 (47…Kxh5 48.g4+ Kh4 49.Rh6# was the point behind the check on move 47) 48.Rxc6 Rxb3 49.Rxa6 was the final calculation I had to do in this game] 1-0
As you can see I didn’t calculate a lot in this game and what I calculated wasn’t very complex. The required state of mind in these types of position is the harmony of intuition and calculation. The intuition “suggests” a move and then, provided the calculation is precise (and when it is, it is a sign of good form), it is justified by the calculation. Additionally, the precise calculation leads to clarity of the evaluation, as seeing clearly what lies in every position allows you to evaluate it correctly – the typical example was the line after 37 g6 and the position when white is two pawns up but black draws. In my opinion this is the thought algorithm used by the great intuitive technical players such as Capablanca, Karpov and Carlsen: their intuition would “tell” them the correct move and then they would proceed to verify it with precise calculation. As long as their calculations stay precise they never make mistakes and stay on top of their game. But I don’t see a reason why a player of any strength shouldn’t try to play in the same manner. In my experience following your own intuition brings you much more inner comfort and satisfaction during the game so even if only for that it is a path worth following.
Our first match was against Guildford 2 and the match didn’t run as smoothly as we hoped. In fact, we were lucky not to lose – my win against GM Flear with white was just enough to draw the match. The game started as a rather tame Queen’s Gambit, but curiously enough it got complicated once the queens got exchanged! The moves 15, 16 and 17 took me more than one hour and as the complications began I didn’t have much time, less than 15 minutes to reach move 40. I was lucky that he started to play moves that avoided the most complex lines and this led to his pieces becoming loose. He was also spending masses of time and on move 22 he was already in trouble, his blunder on the same move only quickened the end. An important win as it gave me more self-confidence ahead of the match with the superteam of Wood Green.
I was black against GM Laznicka in the match with Wood Green. He chose an unambitious line in the Queen’s Gambit Exchange and I had no problems in the opening. In the early middlegame he started to put his pieces on the kingside in order to advance there, but I had enough counterplay in the centre, I really liked the centralised position of my pieces on move 19: Bg6, Nf6 and Ne6, Bd6, Re8 and Rd8 and Qa6. Quite unexpectedly he blundered on the next move, allowing me to penetrate with my rook to e2. But he kept his cool and avoided immediate loss. We both entered time-trouble at that time and the lines were complex as I was trying to limit his counterplay based on g5, f5 and f6 when the outside knight on h4 would prove useful. At this moment he offered a draw and as time was running out I accepted. A very good result for the team, a draw with black, but unfortunately we lost several games after that point.
In the last round we needed to win to secure the 4th spot and we won comfortably. I was white against FM Sowray and he went for his usual Leningrad Dutch. I was well prepared and went into the endgame with an exchange operation that I had analysed in my preparations. The endgame was difficult for black as he had a lot of pawn weaknesses. He didn’t manage to create counterplay and I won a scholarly game.
A very good result for me, 2.5/3 and a repeat of the team’s 4th place. It was a very pleasant time spent at the Hinckley Island Hotel, the team atmosphere was at the highest level and I’m already looking forward to next season! After all, after two years finishing 4th, it’s time we moved upwards!
In the decisive match for the title, Guildford demolished Wood Green 6-2 and defended their title. Well done for the Guildford team, whose success started with the win of the French GM Edouard against GM Hammer and was sealed with GM Vachier Lagrave’s win over GM Adams, both wins with the black pieces. It is a rare thing to see the French helping the English win something.
As always, everything was organised at the highest level. The Hinckley Island Hotel is confirmed as the venue for the next season, so it’s more good times ahead!