Monthly Archives: Nov 2015

European Team Championship 2015 – A Review

Reykjavik is one of my favourite places and I was disappointed when I discovered that my national team will not feature in this year’s European Team Championship. I was forced to follow the action from home and I had the feeling as if I was taken back in time – it seemed like the good old USSR was playing in Iceland.

Russia has received a lot of criticism for failure to deliver in team championships, especially in Olympiads. They are always the rating favourites and they never win gold. The last time they won the Olympiad was in 2002 when Garry Kasparov himself led the team. The last time they won the European Team Championship was in 2007, the year when I first played for the national team (and we had a fantastic success, sharing 11th place).

But in Iceland something clicked for the Russians and they easily dominated the matches from start to finish. The key difference this time was that they didn’t succumb in the crucial matches, either winning them (beating Ukraine 3-1 for example) or drawing them without problems (like Armenia and Hungary in the last round, securing victory). Armenia finished second, another success for their team and  Hungary finished third (Judit Polgar’s first outing as a team captain).

With so many interesting games I’ll give a selection of what caught my eye. For starters here’s a relatively unexplored yet convincing way to combat the Exchange Variation of the Spanish. A favourite of GM Solak (he managed to beat Adams in it, who didn’t go for the line we will see below), but in the line chosen by Svidler (and later Wojtaszek and even Carlsen) white had nothing at all.

Alexey Shirov had a crazy tournament on Board 1 for Latvia – he won 3 games, lost 4 and drew 2, but these two draws were actually non-games – very exciting but all seen before. Both games were in the Slav: one in the Botvinnik line and the other in the Meran. Enjoy the look of the modern elite preparation:

Anish Giri looked as solid as ever as he scored +3 on Board 1 without a loss. In the last round he introduced a rarely seen way to play against the Sicilian (that’s me being polite). If this had been played in an open tournament, white would have been classified as “a patzer with no knowledge and understanding of chess.” However, the fact that this kind of play is analysed by the elite guys amuses me and reminds me of Kasparov’s comment when he lost to Svidler in 1997 (Svidler played 3 c3 against Kasparov’s Sicilian) which went something along the lines of, if we spent time analysing c3 and d3 we would get no serious work done. How things have changed – now analysing c3 and d3 is serious work!

And of course, the talk of the tournament was Carlsen’s performance. Another abysmal showing for the World Champion, who started with 2 losses with white. Kasparov said that losses with white can only be attributed to one thing and that is bad play. Here’s an example:

To his credit, Carlsen clawed his way back to 50% by beating Leko with black (never easy) and Wojtaszek with white in the last round. In the meantime he couldn’t beat Hansen (2566), Papaioannou (2638) and Nisipeanu (2683). This lost him a lot of rating points and he’s now dangerously close to 2800, only 34 points above. How easy it is to lose rating and how difficult to gain it!

Ivanchuk is known for his breakdowns and he suffered one in the last round. Here’s a 1-move howler by him:

The next tournament I’m looking forward to is the London Chess Classic. I can’t wait to see Carlsen in action again – the nightmare that started with that loss to Topalov in Stavanger in June doesn’t seem to be over and it’s always an inspiration to see how the best cope with their demons.


4NCL 2015/2016 – Rounds 1&2

The new season of the 4NCL started on Saturday, the 14th of November. Cheddleton, fresh from the success at the European Club Cup, continued its winning ways, winning both opening matches.

The Paris attacks on the Friday meant that our female player couldn’t travel from Paris to London and we started both matches with a loss on board 8. Still, we were strong enough to compensate for that setback and win comfortably – on the Saturday we played The Spirut of Atticus and won 5-2 (with one draw, made by me) and on the Sunday we played Oxford, usually a tricky team, but we won by a large margin 4-1 with 3 draws.

My play was also in line with the perfomances at the ECC – I drew with white against an FM rated 2244 and won with black against an FM rated 2341. I was winning in the first game, but missed it and then had no more chances.

Counting my summer tournament in Crete, my Sunday win was a 5th one in a row with black! My opponent was a young FM who started the game in a quiet manner and then decided to go berserk.

A satisfying start of the new season and hopefully we will manage to mount a title challenge this year!


Меморијал Тодор Митров – Тиката 2015

После успешно организираниот Европски клупски куп шаховската активност во Македонија продолжува – под покровителство на семејството беше организиран првиот Меморијал Тодор Митров – Тиката, во чест на доајенот на македонскиот шах од Кавадарци. Под мотото „Шах без граници“ (доста добро мото!) турнирот ги оправда сите очекувања – 175 учесници од 7 земји со 14 велемајстори и 6 интернационални мајстори.

Турнирот се одигра во веќе добро познатата сала на хотелот „Александар Палас.“ Она што овој турнир го направи посебен беше луксузот кој се чувствуваше во секој детал од неговата организација – не се сеќавам да сум играл на рапид турнир било каде во светот кадешто за време на паузата играчите се почестени со толку богат коктел како што беше случајот вчера!

Пред доделувањето на наградите имав можност да поразговарам со ќерките на Тодор Митров. Нивниот ентузијазам, позитивна енергија и бројните прогресивни идеи за идни шаховски проекти се нешто што за прв пат се појавува на македонската шаховска сцена. Искрено се надевам дека ќе продолжат во таа насока и дека ќе добијат целосна поддршка за нивна реализација. Со организацијата на овој турнир постигнаа огромен успех, а плановите им вклучуваат шаховски активности во текот на целата година. Само напред!

Иако турнирот заврши со тријумф на гостите од Бугарија, кои ги освоија првите 3 места (победи Арнаудов пред Делчев и Георгиев ), мислам дека уште поголем успех постигнаа македонските шахисти. Филип Панчевски го подели 2. место (4. по Бухолц), со 7,5 поени од 9 партии, а со 7 од 9 фантастични резултати за нашите млади таленти Никола Николовски и Тони Лазов, на делба од 5. до 10. место (Николовски 7. по Бухолц, Лазов 9.) Со 6,5 поени од 9 партии бевме јас и Звонко Станојоски (12. и 11. по Бухолц) – вкупно 5 македонски играчи од наградените 14. Целата табела може да се погледне тука.

Неколку збора за мојот настап. Првиот дел на турнирот го одиграв добро, имав 4,5 поени од 5, но во втората половина успеав да освојам само 2 поени од 4 партии. Уморот беше главната причина за падот на нивото и слабите партии против Делчев и Чаталбашев. Победите со бели против Кутиров и Велески ме донесоа на делба на 11. место. Партијата од последното коло со Велески имаше забавен крај:

Секогаш е пријатно да се заврши турнирот со победа затоа што нема повеќе партии за реванш – во случај на пораз лошото чувство останува уште долго време во душата. Но посебно е важно кога таа победа во последно коло носи и награда!

Шаховскиот живот во Македонија ќе продолжи со уште неколку турнири до крајот на годината. Што би рекле англичаните (кои наскоро ќе ги посетам) – something to look forward to!


Bilbao Masters 2015

This year’s edition of the Bilbao Masters showed two things: 1. Inviting young and exciting players does not guarantee an exciting tournament, and 2. The scoring system of 3-1-0 does not guarantee an exciting tournament. I don’t know if the Sofia rules were in effect, but experience has shown that even they do not guarantee an exciting tournament.

The games were either well-fought or drawn from heavily analysed lines. There were only 2 wins from 12 games and if So’s win in the KID against Ding Liren was quite a good game, Anand’s loss to Giri was a game that happens to Anand from time to time – he probably didn’t expect the opening, messed it up quickly and then lost interest in putting up decent resistance. He even lost on time on move 37! It was the case of the sport’s most famous unwritten rule – if you don’t score, your opponent will: Anand had a great attacking position against Giri in the first round but failed to exploit it.

This set up the tone of the tournament for Anand. He seems particularly influenced by the start of the tournament – if it starts well then things go well, but if it doesn’t he switches to drawing mode, using his incredible preparation to get safe and drawish positions. But when he played Giri he was surprised in the opening and he erred quickly.

Another typical episode of a dispirited Anand is the following situation from the last round:

There were several examples of solid theoretical draws:

Giri-So, Round 2

Arising from the Berlin with 5 Re1, So had analysed this to a draw.

Both Anand and Giri used the same line in the Semi-Slav to draw against So without problems:

8…e5! the best way to equalise

An interesting endgame happened in the game Ding Liren-Giri:

this is move 67, the game ended in a draw on move 172.

Giri was winning on a few occasions, but playing in eternal time-trouble it’s impossible to calculate precisely.

The tournament was won by So who beat Giri in the tie-break. It’s worth noting that in order to avoid the position above So played the Exchange Slav in the first game of the tie-break. He was worse and probably losing but won the game thanks to a horrible 1-move blunder by Giri. That’s blitz tie-breaks.

The chess caravan now moves to Iceland for the European Team Championship. Unfortunately Macedonia will not play there, for the first time in history, lack of funds being the reason. So yours truly will play for Cheddleton in the first two rounds of the new season in the 4NCL, hoping to continue in the same vein as in the ECC. I’ll also be following the action in Reykjavik, so it should be good!