Monthly Archives: Aug 2014

In The Meantime

I’m having a tough time in Struga so I don’t feel like writing about it right now, but there was one instructive moment in my game from round 3. I was white against Nikolovski:

34 Qd5! Rd5 35 Rc1

This position arose as a sequence of some forced play and I already had this exchange planned (besides, taking on a6 gives black counterplay) because I remembered a game by Smyslov where he won a similar rook endgame. After the game I went through his Letopis shakhmatnogo tvorchestva (his best games collection in Russian) and found it:


White won convincingly in both games.

On the other side of the globe, in Saint Louis things heated up right from the start. No time to go through the games, but Caruana continues to impress! After several hiccups when approaching 2800 earlier in his career, now he’s confidently marching up towards Carlsen’s stratospheric rating, who continues with his irrational style and weird openings.

And one more thing I noticed: after not qualifying, but still playing the Candidates, thanks to Kramnik’s win in the World Cup, Karjakin seems to like it when things come to him without him moving a finger. Some people really quickly get used to things coming to them as gifts. He said he won’t decline his chance to play the world championship match if Carlsen refuses to play in Sochi and will prepare hard for Anand! He even went that far to compare his situation to Karpov’s in 1975 when Fischer refused to play. He probably has some gaps in knowledge of history because Karpov actually qualified to play Fischer by beating everybody else in matches. And of course, the inevitable mention of his sponsor and his goal of bringing the crown back to Russia, blablabla… Can please somebody tell this guy to shut up?


Struga and Saint Louis

I have never been to Saint Louis, while I have been in Struga countless times, but I don’t think these two places have much in common. However, at the end of August both these places will host a chess tournament, albeit of quite a different kind.

Starting on Monday the Macedonia Open will start in Struga. Generally a local tournament with a modest prize fund (although with an increase from last year) this tournament rarely has more than 30-40 participants. Usually I play elsewhere in this period, Bratto in Italy being my preference in the last couple of years, but this year due to the Olympiad and the failure to agree conditions with other tournaments abroad (like Trieste, Cesenatico and Imperia) I decided to take part.

Saint Louis hosts a tournament of a different kind. It starts on Wednesday with only 6 participants, but their names are pretty familiar – Carlsen, Aronian, Caruana, Nakamura, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave. A double round-robin with a serious prize fund of $315 000. It’s one of those tournament that we all look forward to. It will be tricky to blog about it while playing myself, but I will definitely be paying attention to the games played.

The World Champion is a hot favourite in every event he participates and this time even more so, after his shaky play in the second half of the Olympiad. Aronian and especially Caruana will try to cause an upset, while I expect Topalov and Vachier to be the tail enders. The local player Nakamura should be somewhere in between – the expectations of his nation are high but his dolce vita in Italy is yet to produce good chess results.

You can follow the Struga tournament on the chess results page currently with an updated list of players, while the Saint Louis tournament’s home page is


Tromso Impressions

Back home and with decent internet for upload, here’re some impressions from the northernest place on earth I’ve ever been to (click to enlarge).

The church across our hotel

A view from my room some minutes before midnight

Not an unusual summer day

Terraced houses the Norwegian way

English grass

The bridge to heaven


Rays of light

Sun and clouds

Sun through the clouds

Bright, sun-shining day


Tromso Olympiad 2014 – Round 11 – Disaster

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.


Tromso Olympiad 2014 – Round 10 – Vikings Defeated!

I didn’t play today and my merit was to convince Pancevski to move the d-pawn for two squares for the first time in his life! I briefly showed him some lines in the QGA and it worked like a charm!

We won a great match today, 2.5-1.5 against Denmark! It could have been even more convincing had Bogdanovski used his accidental chance before the time-control on move 39.

39…Rb1 wins! (instead of the played 39…Qe6)

Mitkov had a good position after the opening but the trend turned against him and he was under pressure. It was a very surprising (and very pleasant) decision for us that Aagaard decided to take the draw with a perpetual in a moment when the match was swinging in our favour.

Nedev on 1 had a pleasant edge throughout the game against Palo and was never in any danger.

We won the match thanks to Pancevski’s quick win against Rasmussen.

White’s last move 17. Qc2? allowed the beautiful 17…Nf3!

Tomorrow is a rest day and we now need one more effort to round up a good showing at this Olympiad!


Tromso Olympiad 2014 – Round 9 – Refusing to Play

I shoudn’t even have played today. I was tired and it would have been my 5th game in a row, 4th with black and a third black in a row, so I was expecting to rest (as the captain said). However…

Something is rotten in the state of the Macedonian chess organisation (federation, players, captain…) when the captain doesn’t select the team (others tell him whom to select) and players come to the greatest chess event of the year with their own selfish agenda which doesn’t include playing chess at all. They can even refuse to play, because they have “other things to do”! What other more important things can a player have than to play for his country with honour and dignity? Or perhaps personal gain is more important? And the capain is powerless to do anything to alter that, simply going by the road of lesser resistance and hoping for the best. But the best never happens when you have no principles, when others tell you what to do, when your word means nothing.

All those things, principles, your own word, are something I deem in high regard. And of course it had to be me who had to pay the price for the rotten behaviour of the others. I lost because somebody refused to play and nobody could prevent him. If representing your own country means nothing to these people, it’s quite obvious they should not even think of coming anywhere near the national team. And yet here they are.

The game itself was interesting, the critical moment came on move 28.

28…Qa4? I underestimated his combined attack after Bh3, Rc7 and Qg2

There were many mistakes in mutual time trouble and I even could have saved myself, but alas, I didn’t. It’s a pity that such a good tournament gets spoiled by external factors that I had no control of.

At least we won the match. But the honourable feeling of representing my country has effectively been killed.


Tromso Olympiad 2014 – Round 8

Today I was black again, but this time on board 1. I played GM Baburin and I went for the line in the QGA made popular by Svidler: he used it to draw easily with Aronian in the London Candidates 2013 and also here in Tromso, against Cheparinov. But I went for a different set-up, with a rook on a7 instead of Svidler’s Rb8.

11…Rb8 (Svidler), 11…Ra7 (Colovic)

He introduced a new plan (almost certainly an over-the-board improvisation as he was spending a lot of time) by playing a5 and Nb3. I got a good position when I castled and played c5, but the awkward rook on a7 and the various tricks meant that I hadn’t completely equalised. I was also spending a lot of time calculating various tactical sequences and this led me to serious time-trouble which soon enough became mutual. We committed a lot of errors before reaching a drawn endgame. A nervy game, but I was happy to escape from an uncomfortable position.

We had advantage in all the other games, but somehow nobody won. The closest to win was Mitkov on board 3 with 2 pawns up, while Bogdanovski also had a big advantage. But they drew and at the time of writing Pancevski is still playing (most probably a draw).

From the other games that I managed to take a look at, Kramnik lost (this has become a repetitive event) to Vallejo, even his big box of blueberries didn’t help him much. There was also a bottle of water, a mug and something else on the table. It used to be considered bad manners when people would eat at the board, but starting with Carlsen this idea of being “comfortable” at the board and having the energy (hence the food, drinks etc.) to fight for 5 or more hours has taken on quite a new dimension. Like I said in a previous post, it looks more like a picnic to me (and bad manners as well), instead of a dignifed game of chess. But perhaps it is just me who considers chess still to be dignified?


Tromso Olympiad 2014 – Round 7

Just a quick one before bedtime. We won today 3-1 against Algeria, convincingly, but not easily! On board 1 we lost while we won on all the other boards.

I won with black on 2 in a Closed Sicilian. I obtained a good position after the opening and then chose to transpose to an endgame with a slight plus (18…Qd2) instead of allowing him free play (even though the comp likes the latter).

18…Qd2 is safer but probably weaker than 18…Rb1 followed by Ne3 and Nd8 (which is what I didn’t like)

I played the endgame rather well and slowly outplayed him by posing constant problems. The end was a typical theme of a bishop dominating a knight.

with 45…Kb4-c3 and a2 to follow

After the game I went to a party organised by Team Kasparov. The magician Sac Vasanth, who performed there (and also on the boat trip) was simply unbelievable, I’ll probably have to re-think my beliefs about voodoo!

Tomorrow we’re paired against Ireland, with black on 1. It’s an opponent we have every chance to beat, so hoping for the positive trend to continue!


Tromso Olympiad 2014 – Round 6

Not a good day for our team. We lost 3.5-0.5 against Argentina, but the worst thing was that we didn’t really stand a chance. We had two opening disasters on boards 1 and 3 and I don’t want to bring my team-mates down even further, so I’ll only speak only my game.

I was white against GM Felgaer and the opening was the Exchange Slav. He repeated a game of his from 2010, but I prepared an improvement.

14 Na4! (instead of 14 Ne2)

I had slight pressure throughout the game, but he defended well, never allowing my advantage to grow. I got a chance to implement a curious positional idea of doubling my a-pawns.

18 Qa3!?

The finale of the game was interesting as I tried to play on domination and trap his knight on a2.

The knight is trapped, but impossible to take

He found the best plan of Rd8-d6-b6 while I brought my king to d2. It was only enough for a move repetition

37…Na2 38 Kb2 Nb4 39 Kc3 draw.

All in all a well-played game by both sides. And as they say, tomorrow’s another day.


Tromso Olympiad 2014 – The Free Day

The free day actually started yesterday at the (in)famous Bermuda Party. It’s the single most-awaited event for the vast majority of the participants and it never fails to deliver. The party was held in a large discotheque and inside it was dark, hot and noisy. The darkness prevented any possible incriminating pictures, so you’ll have to believe my word that it was good fun. Pretty much everybody attended, Magnus Carlsen included, with the notable exception of the Russian players, of course. The party is a rare opportunity to meet and chat with friends you only get to see at Olympiads and I at least had a great time.

This morning I decided to visit the Arctic Cathedral. I took the local bus across the bridge (more on the bridge later on) and this is what I saw:

I got inside and just like in Reykjavik I noticed that the Norsemen take religion and religious decorations more symbolically than anywhere else I have been. The interior is simple yet solemn and I get the same sense of inner peace like in the big cathedrals in Europe.

And they don’t seem to be particularly superstitious:

The skyline of this part of the planet continues to amaze me. Once I got out of the cathedral it was again very special.

While waiting for the bus to take me back I took another photo of the cathedral.

The afternoon was no less exicting. I got a chance to join the boat trip organised by Team Kasparov. It was in fact a fishing trip with the boat stopping at several locations and giving a chance to the guests to try their fishing abilities.

The fish were cooked on board and then served to the guests. Not that there was any lack of quality food and drinks, it was a cockatail-type of cruise with people chatting and basically having a good time. There was even a magician who performed some amazing tricks for us!

I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Africa Msimang, the President of the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa, descendant of Nelson Mandela and one of the organisers of the potential Olympiad in South Africa in 2018. A very intelligent woman and inspiring collocutor whose enthusiasm was contagious. I wish them the best of luck in getting the Olympiad in 2018  – judging by Ms. Msimang, it will be an unforgettable experience.

The man himself, Garry Kasparov was also on board and we had an interesting discussion on the current world affairs. He’s still radiant with energy even though here he was more relaxed in a less formal atmosphere.

The heavy rain that started before our departure stopped and the sky cleared up. Again there was something very special in the air, something I cannot define.

Under the bridge leading to the Cathedral

The whole trip took more than two and a half hours and it was a time well-spent in a company of very exciting people.

It was a good day, but tomorrow it’s business again. We’re paired against Argentina, a very strong team captained by the legendary Ulf Andersson. Another stern test awaits us – we will need all our strength (and good fortune) to emerge victorious.

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