My European Championship 2019 – Part III

In Round 9 I was White against GM Santos Ruiz, rated 2560 and one of Spain’s brightest prospects. I noticed he had some problems in the Ruy Lopez and I expected him to switch to the Najdorf, his other main opening. I again managed to use a line I’ve never played before but I had prepared.

A crazy game where I played with utmost aggression. I must admit that I enjoyed it and the fact that I didn’t lose also felt good. Still, my sacrifices were speculative at best and objectively speaking I should have lost. But this game confirmed to me a very important thing – when you put pressure on your opponents, even if it’s only a psychological one (as in this case, when the moves weren’t good but I was “attacking”) they are rarely able to deal with it properly. This was definitely the most fun game I played in the whole tournament.

The game with Santos gave me positive vibes and I was optimistic for the next round when I was paired against another young and talented player, 17-year old Russian IM Lomasov, rated 2559. He had already beaten players like Gelfand and Short, but I didn’t need a warning to take him seriously.

I noticed that he played the sharpest 6 Bg5 against the Najdorf and I wanted to invite him to sharp play, especially as he probably wouldn’t be expecting it. But I also knew that he can easily deviate from that, in spite of not being his repertoire, so I checked the popular alternatives on move 6 as well. The opening showed that I was spot on.

I was better out of the opening, but then I misevaluated the position several times and lost. It was a pity, because the opening really gave me good chances, but I have to admit that he understood the position better at the critical moments. I was disappointed and even followed the modern trends of not resigning until almost mate.

With this loss I was back at 50% and in the last round I got the same rating range as in Rounds 6-8 – a 2283 FM from Spain, Ibanez Aullana. At least he was older than me, so I could count on less energy and (hopefully) less resistance.

But things went sour immediately. I prepared well but when he played a dubious line I relaxed and continued to make normal-looking moves when all of a sudden I was worse!

A strange game in sense how abruptly the evaluation changed: first White got worse from a perfectly normal position and then all of a sudden Black was facing huge problems after the transposition to the endgame. I played the first part of the game badly, I started to put up resistance when I realised I was worse and then I played the endgame well.

With this win I finished on +1, with 6 points out of 11. I tried to give my best and it seems that my best now looks like this. I would have liked to play better against the stronger players, but I lacked the consistency during the game in order to match their quality of moves. The positive aspect was my inner feeling of being at least equal to them and my resolve to go for a win in every game.

I think that this will be my last European Championship. As life evolves I have less and less time to devote resources to preparation and spending 2 weeks away to play a very expensive tournament. Since this one was played in my home city I thought I should give it one last try and for a last try it was a decent one, especially compared to the others.

I haven’t abandoned my desire to improve at chess. I only have to become more intelligent about it, as with less time I will need to work smarter. This tournament gave me excellent feedback and I hope to be able to use it in the future. Without any tournaments planned for now it is not clear when I could use this feedback, but the time will come. Then we will see if I learned my lessons.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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