We could not have asked for more from the pairings – we got Kyrgyzstan, a team without reserves, one IM, one FM, 2200 and 2100-player. Just to give you an idea what a win in that match would have brought – a shared 12th (!!) place and a silver medal in our rating group! What would have followed from that success I leave to your imagination.
The match started normally, even though Pancevski on 3 blundered early on, but he was lucky that his opponent didn’t see it (10 Bf6 followed by e5). From then on it was one-way street and he was the first to win. Mitkov on 4 built an impressive attacking position and by move 20 we were expecting him to deliver checkmate (or simply win material on move 19). Nedev on 1 had a normal position while I on 2 had a slight advantage in a very safe position.
And then things started to happen. Mitkov misplayed his attack and was left a piece down for no compensation. Nedev came under attack created out of nowhere and was mated. I still had my slight plus but there was no progress. Seeing that we’re losing the match if I agree to a draw, eventually I decided to gamble and took one risk too many.
|60 a5? (insted of the draw after 60 Kh1)
It was a heroic if futile sacrifice on my part to try to save the match. So we lost 3-1 but we lost so much more than a single match.
There will certainly be further discussions about our result at the Olympiad, but while still fresh, here are my impressions.
Nedev on 1 was wobbly. He started with a win but then lost 4 games out of the next 5. What’s worrying is that he was losing games in theoretical battles, somewhere where he is supposed to excel (the game with Kramnik can be excused, but he also lost without a fight to Mareco and Saric). When he didn’t get anything from the opening (Haddouche, Ladva, Tologontegin) he just didn’t play to his usual standard and wasn’t creating any chances. The lack of serious tournament practice was evident when he was playing weaker opponents, like Ladva (2387 Estonia, where he was lost and miraculously saved the draw) and today against Tologontegin (2354). His total score was +1-5=3 with 5 whites and 4 blacks.
I was on 2 and generally I played well. I didn’t experience any problems in the openings and usually had good control of the game. With white I was always pressing and with black I was comfortable. In the middle of the tournament out of 6 games I had 5 blacks! The incident in Round 9 (for a more detailed explanation see here) led to my second loss due to fatigue and today I tried too hard to equalise the match and lost my third game in the tournament. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t have lost those games. My overall score was +3-3=3 with 4 whites and 5 blacks.
Pancevski on 3 was our only player who ended with a rating gain and played the most games, 10. He played well and apart from the mini-crisis in the middle of the tournament when he lost 3 games in a row he was the player we could count on. He finished with 3/3 and it was his physical condition that helped him finish on a high. Perhaps an idea for future team preparation? His score was +6-3=1 with 5 whites and 5 blacks.
Mitkov on 4 would have been the hero if he hadn’t lost to players rated 2157 and 2106. The last game was particularly painful as he was winning in a type of position he woud have won with eyes closed only a few years ago. It’s obvious that his interests now lie outside of chess and this affects his play. Perhaps he should decide for himself and be honest whether he wants to continue to be an active player and prepare accordingly for this type of events or let others take his place. His score was +3-2=3 with 5 whites and 3 blacks.
Bogdanovski on 5 was pretty unstable, but he fought well. He started with 2/3 and then hit a slump with 0.5/3 in the middle of the tournament when the draw was against Daly from Ireland (2323) from a dominating position when he couldn’t decide on a breakthrough. He was lucky to win a drawn pawn endgame against Jezov (2239, Estonia) and saved a lost position against Andersen (IM, 2477, Denmark). His overall score was +3-3=2 with 3 whites and 5 blacks.
I think that as a team we lacked team spirit in a sense of more closeness and moral support between the players. I suggested some things that can be done in this department at the beginning of the year (I refer you to this post in Macedonian) but nothing happened. If we really want to achieve something then things must be taken more seriously on all levels – from the selection of the players to the organisation of the preparation process (it simply must exist) to the nurturing of the team spirit during the event. The positive aspect this year was that all the travel and financial arrangements were taken care of in due time, but the players cannot be left alone in the preparation process. We prepare independently, but we play as a team. So we should also prepare as a team, not as individuals. Let’s just hope we can learn from these mistakes and we get another chance like this one in the future. And pray we’re ready then.