Sochi Impressions

Several days ago I was invited to open the first Archibald Chess Professional tournament, organised by the Archibald Chess Company in Sochi, Russia.

While I didn’t get to see much of Sochi, there was plenty of action on the boards. It is so much different when you follow a tournament from a playing hall (even when not playing) as opposed to sitting at home and doing it online.

When I am in the playing hall, looking at the games in progress I have a much sharpened feeling for what is going on. The opening ideas are much more valuable than when I see a game in a database from home – with an engine running it is so much easier to discard many interesting ideas that you can only fully “humanely” understand if you look at with with your own eyes and process it with your own brain.

Below I present fragments from the games that left impressions of different kinds.

There are no more easy Rounds 1 in opens and many surprises are not surprises anymore. Here’s what happened to GM Bogdanovich against IM Yandarbiev (who has a surprisingly low rating).

I have noticed that players who win in the early rounds without apparently deserving to do so usually do very well later in the tournament. The rationale I have understood is that when points come even when the play isn’t on a high level, will continue to come when the play returns and the player starts to play on his usual level. After 6 Rounds Bogdanovich was leading with 5/6 (losing only to Kovalenko).

Some players like to take risks against lower-rated opponents. This may work, as it did for Timur Gareyev who played the Schara-Hennig Gambit against Margarita Potapova.

The opening of the following game was interesting to watch for 2 reasons: first, White was playing a-tempo until he got a winning position, and second, it appeared that Black made all the logical moves and yet ended up positionally lost after 16 moves.

The opening of the following game was very curious: I wasn’t sure whether Black was blundering or provoking White.

When the strongest players started playing each other some interesting opening ideas appeared. For example, I didn’t know of Black’s 6th move in the Exchange Variation in the Caro-Kann. This game was the duel between the sole leader Kovalenko on 3/3 and one of the other rating favourites Alekseev.

In the same round Russian talent and hope Esipenko lost again (the other game I had in mind was the crucial one from the European Individual in Round 10 against eventual winner Artemiev) in the same line of the Fianchetto Grunfeld to Stupak. Perhaps time to change the line?

There were quite a few more interesting examples, but you get the point. When you are in the hall everything is interesting, because on every board there is tension and struggle and you feel it, something that is easy to forget when sitting at home behind a screen.

The internet has allowed us to follow games from all over the world in real time, but watching the games in person is a different experience. Things are much more personal when you observe the position on the board together with the players who are playing it and this personal experience is probably the closest thing to playing yourself.

Now that I have returned home and I follow the games on the internet I try not to forget the feeling from Sochi and be more understanding of the players. It is more human like that.

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