Monthly Archives: May 2015

French Teams 2015 – Top 12

I am currently playing for my team of Grasse in the French Team Championship, the Top 12. We play in the touristic place called Le Grau-du-Roi, very close to Montpellier.

My team’s objective is to try and avoid relegation, but things are not going our way so far. In the first two rounds we lost both our matches, especially painful was the first round loss to Vandoeuvre, who also try to avoid relegation. Here’re a few examples showing our bad luck. The following is from that fateful match, Forestier-Steil Antoni, a win would have secured a draw in the match.

19 de5 wins a pawn and the game. White even lost the game later on

The second one is even more baffling, from the game Sokolov,A-Pile, our second round match. Black managed to lose this:

There are very strong players in the French League, this year Giri and So are leading the field. But Giri was busted today against Solodovnichenko, a good friend of mine. He went for the French (I wonder why, perhaps as a compliment to the organisers?) and Yuri deviated from his usual 4 a3. Giri was unfamiliar with the opening and was thoroughly destroyed. It’s a comforting thought that even those guys can suffer setbacks in unfamiliar territory.

Tomorrow we are paired to play Giri’s team of Bischwiller (who also have Naiditsch, Bacrot, Edouard and Ragger on board) so that will be tough!


Blitz Chess

We all know too well what can happen in blitz (everything!) but sometimes things happen that manage surprise even me (and I’ve seen things!)

From the recent Rabat blitz marathon, here’s the latest gem. White is a 2231-rated player and black is none other but the legendary Loek van Wely. You would expect van Wely to win a rook up in a simple position, right? You’d better take a look yourselves, as what happens next cannot be explained:

That’s blitz chess and why we love it!


Ronnie O’Sullivan

I don’t know much about snooker, I don’t even know the rules. But it’s a game played one-on-one, just like chess, and when two players come head-to-head a lot of the rules and principles are the same.

Some time ago I noticed that Ronnie O’Sullivan has a blog that is published on Yahoo Sports, a page which I frequently visit. I quite liked the way he wrote and the way he thought about his game and ways to improve it. From the writing I could sense a true professional who has delved deeply into the secrets of his trade. All elite sportsmen sense the secrets of their trade, but very few of them can really put them into words.

Ronnie O’Sullivan

I recently read a profile on O’Sullivan in the New Yorker (you can read it in full here, I fully recommend it) and it completed the picture I had of him. I never had a clue he was an errant genius, a rude (!) and problematic character prone to severe ups and downs – definitely not the impression I had from the tranquil and balanced flow of the words in his writings.

Here are some quotes of the profile which I found particularly applicable to chess:

My arsehole had gone. My fight. I had nothing in me. – on the period when he couldn’t win anything, when he was left without motivation. But then at 36 he started winning again…

Take his head off. Don’t get beat. Fuck ’em son. – his father’s words of support. His father adored him, and showed infinite support. This support from at least one parent is crucial to become a World Champion – Carlsen is only the last example, and quite a sane one, with Fischer’s and Kasparov’s mothers the more aggressive and extreme versions. As opposed to this, Kamsky’s example of an abusive father led him only to the match, but not the title.

O’Sullivan spends a lot of time thinking about the white ball. He has come to believe that the quality of the initial contact between his chalked […] cue tip and the phenolic-resin sphere – the momentary grip, the transfer of energy and intent (emphasis mine) – is what decides everything else. If the white responds, he will not lose. “You’re using force. You are using your hands. You’re creating. You’re making that white dance.” – I love this. This kind of metaphysically-philosophical thinking is the only way to talk about the deep secrets of any sport or art. And it resonates so deeply to how chess works deep down on that inexplicable level that can only be sensed.

When the connection isn’t there, O’Sullivan feels it right away. “It’s invisible, but it’s night and day to me.” – This is another great one. I know exactly what he means, he talks about those days when you know that something is wrong and you cannot pinpoint it. And I know I have tried everything I possibly can to try to change things on those days – different openings, states of mind, routines, meals, whatnot. The results? Almost always non-existent.

This game can fuck your head up like no other game. – Ronnie obviously doesn’t play chess. 

I have told my son he ain’t fucking playing snooker, because I love him too much. – I don’t know of a professional chess player who doesn’t have exactly the same feelings when it comes to his/her children and chess!

I won’t start following snooked after discovering O’Sullivan, but I will certainly follow him!


My Experience with Cheating – Part Two

Here I present a game I played in the penultimate round of the Balkan Grand Prix Tournament in Sonchev Breg, Bulgaria. I was playing white against a 72-year old IM Petar Popov of Bulgaria, rated 2240. Unbeknownst to me, he beat IM Mitkov the previous day (and as I learned from Mitkov after the game, he played some extraordinary computer moves in that game too – you can find that game in the database).

You will find the analysis of the game below, here I will describe his behaviour and my actions during and immediately after the game. Throughout the whole game he was sitting very still with his left hand in his pocket and never stood up from the chair. From the moment I sensed the strength of his moves I went to the arbiter, GM Inkiov, and expressed my concern that his moves are not what you usually would expect from an old IM. I also told him that he kept his left hand in his pocket all the time He heard me, but didn’t do anything. I was sent to the tournament as a representative of my country so I didn’t want a scandal (like in Sautron), but again, like in Sautron, I was feeling that the guy was robbing me. So I agreed with Inkiov that after the game, which I told him I was going to lose (and that was way before I was actually lost), in the presence of Popov’s friend GM Velikov, we would ask him to show what he had in his pocket. When I decided to resign, I stopped the clock and I asked him politely why he kept his hand in his pocket and to show me what he had there. As I was saying that Velikov approached and putting his hand over Popov’s shoulder asked him the same. And then suddenly Popov’s appearance changed, he got very nervous, started to get up from the chair, mumbled “Because it was comfortable”, signed the score sheet and put the result 1-0 (I was white!!! Guilty conscience?) and started to go towards the stairs that led to the lower floor and the exit from the playing hall. I moved in front of him and repeated my demand but he brushed me aside and started moving faster to the stairs. I ran in front of him again, right at the stairs and asked Inkiov (who started filming all this with his mobile from the moment I stopped the clocks) to do something about it, but he just laughed, said that he couldn’t do anything and continued filming. I was already very angry and asked Inkiov whether I should perhaps hit Popov to stop him, to which he replied, “Hit him.” By this time Popov was almost at the exit and I ran after him. I was already shouting and cursing him, calling him a cheat and a liar as I ran after him, while he was running for the hotel and his room. For the last time I managed to get in front of him before he entered the hotel, but again he pushed me aside and went inside. This was witnessed by my friend, IM Pancevski, who was running after me and a lot of other people.

Then I remembered the score-sheets. I returned to the playing hall and found his score-sheet with the result 1-0 and his signature and signed it. Then I put the same result on my score-sheet and signed it. Then I took them to the arbiter (Inkiov) and told him to note the result. He looked stunned, and said that was wrong and that I lost the game. I said that he had two signed score-sheets with the same result and that he should write down that result, just like he normally does with all the games in all the rounds. He said one of the score-sheets wasn’t signed by both players, to which I said that was his fault as he let one of the players escape the playing hall. He didn’t say anything.

Soon the tournament director Zhekov arrived and they started telling me that it was impossible that an old man should know anything about computers or cheating. I just told them that an innocent man never runs when accused, to which they had no counter argument. Later in the evening they still decided to award the point to Popov and in protest I didn’t play the last round.

The story ended there, even though I wrote an official email to my federation describing the whole incident – after all this was an official tournament within the Balkan Grand Prix tour. To my knowledge, there was no further inquiry into the incident.

Now take a look at the game: