Category : Personal

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 – 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.


Tromso, Finally!

After exactly 27 hours and 36 minutes after I left my home in Skopje, I entered my hotel room in the Saga Quality Hotel in Tromso. Soon afterwards I collapsed and slept for several hours, missing lunch in the process.

Still very tired, but hungry, I woke up and went to dinner, which started at 4.30pm. After “dinner” I took a walk around Tromso and here are a few impressions. I missed the opening ceremony at 7.30pm – it was held at the other end of the island and looking for the organised transport was too much of a bother in this wasted state of mind.

This is outside the hotel. My room is just above the entrance and the view is the same.

A street, but the skyline is really impressive

The Arctic Cathedral across the bay with patches of sunny parts on the mountains

Uploading takes ages, so I’ll leave you with these for now. Besides, it’s bedtime again.

And tomorrow the games start.


Going North

Tomorrow I start for the Arctic circle. The voyage is anything but short and pleasant, but I’m sure Roald Amundsen must have felt the same.

At 10am (couldn’t have been earlier!) I’m off for Thessaloniki airport (some 5h drive) where at 9pm local time I fly for Oslo. The organisers of the trip definitely have no sense of time and what it means to spend meaningless hours at airports. Once in Oslo, at 11.30pm, the Golgotha starts. Instead of going to a hotel for a sleep, the whole team will try to bond more closely at Oslo Rygge airport until 3am when a bus is scheduled to take us to the other Oslo airport, Gardermoen. We should arrive there at 4.40am. More bonding will follow until 8.55am when we board the flight for the Arctic circle and Tromso, our final destination, which, if all goes well, we should reach at 10.50am. A whopping 24h after the beginning of the journey and then some more until we get to the hotel, without a sleep all night. Our love for the game is limitless.

The (only) good news is that we arrive a day before the event starts, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot of sleep and recuperate in time for the first round on Saturday.

And then the games can start.


On Life, Universe and… Paris

It only took a few hundred meters and a view of the Arc de Triomphe in the night lights to remind me what a fascinating place Paris is.

A few days ago, on my way back from Spain, I stayed for two days in Paris, waiting for my connection further on. It wasn’t actually waiting, as I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to revisit the city that in the past years I frequently used to change trains and planes, but only decently saw whole 11 years ago.

Back in 2003 I had a whole week in Paris, thanks to the gap between the tournaments in Cappelle and Cannes. I remember I would go out in the morning and roam the city until late at night, spending time on activities like searching for the location of the famous Café de la Regence or visiting the Montparnasse cemetery for the graves of Alekhine and Polugaevsky. Needless to say I went to all the important places, from the Louvre to the Invalides and Eiffel to the Monmartre up north and everything in between. It was an inspirational stay as my list of world cities I came to know closely grew steadily.

This time I had only two days so I decided to go for “the basics.” The Louvre was the first one, for two reasons. The obvious one was Mona Lisa. I could still remember the hypnotising effect her eyes had on me. Nothing changed since the last time I saw her, the moment I set my eyes on her I was lost for the hordes of tourists around me and the deeper I looked the deeper I got lost in those eyes. I could just stay there for ever, looking in her eyes. It took a strong conscious effort to break free from her look and move on, but even then I had to fight the desire to go back and look again.

The second reason was my favourite sculpture. It’s Hercules fighting Achelous, by Francois-Joseph Bosio. 

I am no big connoiseur of art and I didn’t know this sculpture existed before I saw it in 2003. But when I saw it I was thoroughly captivated. It was the expression on Hercules’s face, that rooted, steely, inner conviction, he simply knowshe will kill the beast. 

There is no emotion on his face, as if he’s doing a task and not performing a heroic deed and yet he is focused and determined. I used to recall this image as a way of inspiration before games. But I write all this from memory, as this time I was unlucky – the sculpture wasn’t there! I only found an empty postament with the information that the sculpture is in Portland, USA. Tough luck.

The Louvre is a vast place and I spent the whole of day one there. The rest was left for day two.

My flight on day 2 was at 9pm, so I had time until 6pm when I had a bus to the airport. After breakfast I set afoot for the Notre Dame. The reason for this was that back in 2003 the church was under reconstruction so I couldn’t see it in all its magnificence. Now I could. I love going to churches. They have this effect on me as after a meditation. After the usual walk-around I usually sit in the middle of the church and then just sit there. The feeling of tranquility comes naturally and I sit for a very long time. It’s very difficult to leave, in fact, it’s very difficult to get up from the chair! But as I didn’t have much time, I forced myself to – I exited the church as I exit all the churches I have visited: peaceful and calm.

The third stop, for yet another hypnotising experience, was the Eiffel Tower. The architectural marvel, visible from pretty much everywhere in Paris (unless your view is blocked by a building), mesmerises me with the curved shape that starts from the four “legs” and goes upwards until the top. It’s difficult to explain why I find this curve so fascinating, but as with the Mona Lisa and Hercules, I can watch it for a very long time.

As I queued for the tickets I read that the top had been closed for visitors. Tough luck, I thought again, as I could go all the way up to the top in 2003, but by the time my turn came I was informed that the top had been reopened and I could go there. Finally some compensation for Hercules and I was happy to go all the way up and watch the city around and beneath me.

I like going to high places and observe the surrounding terrain. “I am a monarch of all I survey” is what comes to mind at those moments. It is the first verse of a poem I studied back in University (William Cowper’s The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk – Alexander Selkirk was the real life Robinson Crusoe and Defoe’s work was based on his life), but most probably I remember it from Thoreau, an author I very much liked (especially his Walden). So the Eiffel Tower is a wonderful high ground from where I could monarch all I surveyed, the whole Paris itself.

By the time I was down to earth it was high time to go flying and I had to rush back to the hotel to grab my suitcase and go to the airport. The trip was smooth and I arrived safe and sound.

Paris is still wonderful after 11 years. Even though this time it was just a short visit, it was one that reminded me of the spirit and the splendour of the city of light. 

The Universe stood still and Life moved on while I was in Paris. For me the most important thing when visiting a place is to feel its spirit. All places have different spirits and feeling them makes me feel vibrant and alive. Just like the Universe.

At a Secret Location

After the Llucmajor tournament I continued to a very nice place to get rest and do some training and preparation for the Olympiad. The only drawback is the rather irregular internet access, which makes it difficult to stay updated with what’s going on, but that’s more than enough compensated with the surrounding (as you can see below).

I won’t reveal the name of the nice place, but I invite you to take a look at these photographs and perhaps you can guess where it is (click on image to enlarge):
The Spaceship


The Boat Trip

There was an organised boat trip during the tournament. A good idea of the organisers to shake up the usual tournament routine. Usually I don’t go to these kind of things, as they are a distraction and are energy consuming, but this time I decided to go. For one, because I really like Mallorca, and two, because I really like the sea.

The first surprise was that I didn’t expect we were going to fly on water (remember you can click on the image for a bigger version):

The second surprise was our guide – silent, yet very expressive:

The trip was along the coast, southward from Arenal. The scenery was captivating, first rocky coastline with some vegetation:

Then we passed by a residential area with its own nooks and crannies:

Followed by private beaches:

Then the big rocks came:

We made our only stop at one beach which it seemed it could only be approached from the sea. I’ve always fancied having a yacht (let’s not be too modest here) and exploring such hidden treasures, like the people who were already there when we arrived:

I imagine that this kind of boat trip must be fantastic in mid-summer, as the idea of the stop is to allow the people on board to have a swim in a very nice place and clean water. Unfortunately it was too cold for me, but not so for the other passengers. Here you can see a mermaid swimming with the fish:

WGM Irina Sudakova

And here definitely not a mermaid:

GM Andrey Sumets (2600+ whale)

The stop lasted for 30 minutes and then we went back. I must add that we had a very experienced captain. He navigated with his feet:

In spite of my initial skepticism, it turned out to be a very pleasant experience. I think it gave me a lot of positive energy and I continued to have a very successful tournament.


The Award Winning Game from Reykjavik Open

I’m smiling and he’s not, probably he didn’t see the game

Colovic,A – Christiansen,Jo [B51]

Reykjavik op (2), 2014

This game was played in the second round, at the somnambulistic (for me) time of 9.30am. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ even I decided to jump the Carlsen bandwagon! I had no wish for sharp Dragons at the ungodly hour. 3…Nd7 4.0-0 Ngf6 5.Re1 a6 6.Bd3 b5 7.c4 Rb8N [7…Ne5 8.Bf1 was played in Carlsen,M (2872)-Nakamura,H (2776)/Zurich rapid 2014] 8.Nc3 b4 9.Nd5 e6 

10.Nxf6+ choosing the simpler route [10.Bc2!? was very tempting 10…exd5 11.exd5+ Be7 12.Qe2 and it seemed that white had great compensation 12…Kf8 (12…Ng4 13.d4; 12…Ne5? 13.Nxe5 dxe5 14.Qxe5 Rb7 15.d6+-) 13.d4] 10…Nxf6 11.Bc2 e5 12.Ba4+ Nd7 [12…Bd7 13.a3] 13.a3 a5 14.axb4 axb4 

15.Bc6 transferring the Bishop to d5 15…Qc7 16.Bd5 Nb6 17.d3 and in this moment the loudspeaker in the Harpa went ballistic with the information about the fire that broke out somewhere in the building. All the players were forced to stop the clocks and exit the building. It didn’t last very long though, only after a few minutes we went back and he played Bg4 [17…Be7 18.Be3 with the idea of Nd2] 18.h3 only to have another attack on the ears with another loud warning! This time it was much longer, some 15-20 minutes in the cold Icelandic weather. Luckily it didn’t disturb me much. When we went back he played Bxf3 [18…Bh5 19.g4 Bg6 20.Be3 Be7 21.Nd2] 19.Qxf3 Nxd5 20.cxd5 Be7 

21.Be3! kingside play didn’t promise anything. With this I try to take control of the a-file [21.Qg4 0-0 22.Bh6 Bf6 23.Ra6 Ra8 24.Rea1 Qb7=; 21.Qg3 0-0 22.f4 Bf6] 21…0-0 22.Ra4 Ra8 23.Rea1 Qb7 [23…Rxa4 this gets rid of all the Rooks and was probably preferable 24.Rxa4 Qb7 25.Qd1 Ra8 26.Qa1 Rxa4 27.Qxa4] 24.Qd1 Rfc8 25.R1a2 h6 26.Qa1 Rxa4 27.Rxa4 now white has a stable advantage

 27…Qb5[27…Bg5 28.Bxg5 hxg5 29.Ra7 Qb5 30.Qa6 Qxa6 31.Rxa6+/-] 28.Ra7 Bf8 the Bishop does cover d6 safely, but is also extremely passive [28…Bg5 29.Bxg5 hxg5 30.Qa6] 29.Qa6 Qxa6 30.Rxa6+/- Be7 [30…c4? 31.Rc6] 31.Kf1 Kf8 32.Ke2 Ke8 33.Kd2 Kd7 34.Kc2 Rc7 35.Kb3 Bf8 

36.f4 white needs to open a second front on the kingside in order to break through 36…f6[36…exf4? 37.Bxf4+- f6 38.g4 and eventually d4 should decide] 37.f5 Be7 38.g4 Bd8 39.h4 Be7 40.Kc4 Bd8 41.Ra1 Be7 42.g5 hxg5 [42…h5 43.Rg1 with the idea of gf] 43.hxg5 Rc8 [43…fxg5 44.Rg1]44.Rh1 [44.g6 Rc7 should transpose to the game (44…Rh8? 45.Ra7+ Ke8 46.Bxc5! dxc5 47.d6+- Bd8 48.Rxg7) 44…Rg8 [44…fxg5 45.Rg1]

45.g6 already here I saw the final combination45…Ra8 46.Rh7 Rg8 47.Kb5 Kc7 48.Bh6 Bf8 49.Ka6 Kc8 

50.Bd2 first winning a tempo to play b3, avoiding …b3 ideas [50.Bxg7 Bxg7 51.Kb6+-] 50…Kc7 51.Be3 Be7 52.Bh6 Bf8 53.b3 Kc8 

54.Bxg7! Bxg7 55.Kb6+- now it like a pawn endgame when white wins because he has taken the sixth rank! 55…Kd7 [55…Bf8 56.Kc6 Kd8 57.Ra7 Ke8 58.Ra8+ Ke7 59.Rb8

this is the cute zugzwang position that probably caught the eye of the organisers 59…Rh8 60.Rb7+ Ke8 61.g7+-] 56.Kb7 Ke8 57.Kc6 Bf8 58.Ra7 

Rh8 [58…Kd8 59.Ra8+ Ke7 60.Rb8+-] 59.g7 the rest is simple59…Bxg7 60.Rxg7 Rh3 61.Kxd6 Rxd3 62.Ke6 Kf8 63.Rb7 Rxb3 64.d6 Ra3 65.Rb8+ Kg7 66.d7 Rd3 67.d8Q Rxd8 68.Rxd8 c4 69.Rb8 b3 70.Kd5 1-0

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