Today was a deja-vu, another resilient kid, another long, 5-hour grinding game, 71 moves this time, instead of the 70 in Round 2. The only difference was that I didn’t manage to win. I liked how I played, I made something out of nothing in the Catalan, got a winning position, but in spite of the several wins pointed out by the computer, they were not that obvious during the game. So a draw. Frustrating.
Tomorrow’s game is at 1pm, so less time for everything. Hence, just a short entry now. And guess who I’m playing tomorrow? Yep, another Norwegian!
The weather promised to be nice,
but as they say here, if you don’t like the weather, just be patient for 5 minutes, it will change. And so it did, before long we had the usual charming Icelandic weather:
The first stop was the Rift Valley, Thingvellir, which separates the American and European tectonic plates. It was here where the Vikings held their assemblies back in the 10th century. The following photo was shot from the American plate looking over the parliament fields:
We then walked downwards into the valley
into the tectonic no-man’s land and from there I took a photo of the American tectonic plate
Several kilometers separate the tectonic plates and because of the weather the European plate wasn’t visible. But what was visible were the coins that people throw for good luck in the springs and rivers that flow in this area (we were told this custom was started by a Danish king).
The next stop was the Gullfoss waterfall. The sight was spectacular:
And even the sun decided to come out:
But you haven’t been to Iceland if you haven’t seen a geysir erupt:
This happens every 5-7 minutes. A great thing to see, but the other, non-erupting geysirs were no less interesting.
Since this was a tour for chessplayers, the inevitable last stop was the Bobby Fischer Centre and his final resting place in Selfoss.
The centre was a bit of a letdown, at least for a Fischer-fanatic like myself. But I was told that this is a centre run by volunteers and is still in its early stages (it didn’t even exist last year). What I found interesting were a couple of rare photographs and a scrapbook of Icelandic newspapers from the famous match.
The surprise was the presence (he drove from Reykjavik for the occasion) and the short speech by the former president of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Gudmundur Thorarinson, the man who was head of the federation during the match in Reykjavik in 1972 and one of the members of the RJF group that managed to get Fischer out of Japanese custody. He gave a brief resume of the events around the match and Fischer’s life in Iceland.
The final stop was Bobby Fischer’s final resting place. After my visit of Alekhine’s grave in Paris in 2004, followed by Capablanca’s in Havana in 2005, this is the third world champion I paid tribute to.
After this we returned to Reykjavik, just in time for the round. It was a pleasant journey through a country that’s so unique in every possible aspect. But today the touristic part of the tournament finishes and from tomorrow it’s back to the old routine of preparation and play (ad infinitum). Six rounds to go and all to play for.
After approximately 1 minute, we were told we can go back in and continue. So we got back inside and played exactly 1 move, when we were told we should go out again.
This time the break was some 15-20 minutes. Eventually we returned to the hall and resumed play. Luckily these disturbances didn’t affect my play and I won a nice technical game, albeit a very long one, lasting 5 hours and 70 moves.
This was the first time in my career that a play had been interrupted because of a fire. Back in 2005 in Santiago de Cuba there were interruptions because of power cuts, but never because of fire! Later on I understood that there actually was some fire in the building (and it wasn’t a drill as I assumed), but I never saw any fire brigades or commotion or panic. I guess people are naturally cool in Iceland.
Due to all this, the afternoon game started at 5pm, instead of the scheduled 4.30pm. I was very tired from the morning game and due to the time constraint I couldn’t prepare properly. I was surprised that Jovana Vojinovic (WGM, 2323) entered the Benoni (something that she had almost never done before) and I couldn’t recall my analysis. I messed things up pretty badly and was lucky she accepted my draw offer on move 16. So 1.5/2 in one day isn’t bad at all.
The main upset in the third round was Naiditsch’s loss to Ezat (the guy who sacrificed a queen and tortured Kramnik in the last round of the World Teams).
These double-round days are the plague of modern open tournaments, they take away so much energy that now what’s important is to get rest and get back on track. Looking forward to some sleep!
After getting a good night sleep today I got a chance to take a stroll through the city. The first thing that struck me was the lack of traffic. Naturally, there are cars, but I had the sensation that it’s pretty empty on the streets, probably that’s why they cross them wherever they please. When in Rome, do as Romans do, so I followed suit.
One street I crossed was this one:
I wonder how many Jesus Streets there are in the world.
Following the street of their main God, I reached the Cathedral:
It’s pretty impressive on the outside and very simple on the inside:
And they use crystal to keep the Holy water. Unfortunately, it was empty:
It was time to go the playing hall to register, so I started in that direction. The first thing I saw when I exited the Cathedral was this:
I suppose they opened it for the lovers of the film Thor. But by now I realised they were very fond of their Gods, even the nastier ones.
Further downwards I encountered The Pond. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Tchaikovsky had been to Reykjavik:
One pair of swans was very much in love:
I had to leave them and continued to the playing hall called Harpa, the concert hall and conference centre of the city:
It is equally impressive on the inside:
Eventually I registered with the organiser and at 4pm was the opening ceremony, followed by Round 1. I won rather easily against a weaker opponent. Tomorrow is a double-round day, so it will be tough.
Time to rest now. More stuff from the north when I get more time in the following days.
Се чини дека турнирот со секоја година зема се поголем замав – денес учествуваа 130 шахисти од 6 федерации, од кои 8 велемајстори и 19 играчи со други меѓународни титули. Масовноста е секако за поздравување, тоа само говори дека на Скопје му фалат ваков вид шаховски збиднувања. Вакви настани се ретка прилика шахистите да се најдат на едно место, да разменат мислења, да се дружат и да продискутираат за последните шаховски и нешаховски новости. Но, масовноста од друга страна носи и одредени проблеми кои се огледаа во неефикасноста со парувањето, главно заради конфузијата што се создаваше на последните табли и пријавувањето на резултатите – инвентивните шахисти веќе по второто коло во кулоарите предлагаа алтернативи како играње во помали групи или дури квалификационен турнир за послабите категории.
Победник на турнирот беше гостинот од Бугарија, велемајсторот Кирил Георгиев со импресивни 12/13. Загуби една партија, од Трајко Недев во 5. коло, но потоа до крај ги доби сите партии, вклучувајќи ја и победата против мене во 9. коло (фина техничка партија во ретка варијанта на Нимцо-индијска одбрана). Кога му честитав на победата на турнирот Киро се пожали дека порано играл подобро, дека квалитетот на партиите му бил повисок. Веројатно самиот си знае најдобро, но кога му кажав дека веројатно сега резултатот му е подобар, само се насмеа и не можеше да не се согласи со тој факт!
На делбата на 2 и 3. место се најдоа гостинот од Србија, велемајсторот Миљковиќ и нашиот Недев со 10/13, цели 2 поени зад победникот. Трајко имаше одличен турнир и беше единствениот кој држеше чекор со Георгиев, но неочекувано во претпоследното коло загуби од Младеновиќ (со рејтинг 2188!) и со среќното реми во последното коло против Панчевски успеа да се задржи на врвот.
На 4. место заврши Панчевски, со 9.5/13. Почна несигурно, со 2/3 и 3/5, но потоа како да влезе во ритам и да ја добиеше последната партија против Недев (а беше добиен) резултатот ќе му беше уште подобар.
Јас го поделив 5-13. место, со 9/13 и бев 6. по Бухолц. Сосема солиден резултат, играв како што и треба да се игра цугер, со рака, пробав некои варијанти и главната цел ми беше да добијам малку рутина пред настапот во Рејкјавик. Колку успеав, ќе видиме наскоро!
Комплетната табела можете да ја погледнете тука: http://www.chess-results.com/tnr123762.aspx?lan=1&art=1&rd=13&turdet=YES&flag=30&wi=984
Турнирот несомнено може да се прогласи за успешен, Алкалоид ја продолжува традицијата на организација на турнири и на тој начин го одржува активен шаховскиот живот во Македонија. Љубителите на шахот сигурно би сакале вакви настани да има почесто, но важно е и тоа што кога ги има, тие се квалитетни и добро организирани.
Следен настан на македонската шаховска сцена е Опен Карпош. Турнирот ветува да биде најуспешен до сега, а настап планираат скоро сите македонски шахисти. Да се надеваме дека тој настап ќе биде успешен!
After the blitz it’s show time in Reykjavik. It will be my first visit to this Nordic country and the first time I play in one of the world’s most famous open tournaments. Apart from being famous, it is also one of the strongest open tournaments in the world, so far there are 263 registered participants with 27 GMs. You can see the complete list here http://www.reykjavikopen.com/info/participants/
After the apalling showing at the 4NCL I hope to do better, but I do not have any high hopes, my aim will be to show better play. It will be good to see that all the work I put in during the winter hasn’t gone in vain.
I will try to post from Reykjavik, but this will obviously depend on the internet access. The organisers say that Garry Kasparov will visit the tournament for 2 days, so that should be interesting, too. There are many side events during the tournament, one being the famous Golden Circle tour, but this time specially tailored for chess players, as it includes visit to the resting place of Bobby Fischer.
Looks like exciting times are ahead! Forward and upwards!
1. Aronian is the player on fire this year. He played in both Wijk and Zurich and was in great shape, winning Wijk and sharing second in Zurich. The curious thing in both tournaments was that in both he lost in the last round. Probably a coincidence, but last rounds do have their own peculiarities. Together with Kramnik and Anand, Aronian is the world’s best prepared player. His white repertoire is incredibly well studied and sharp – in 2014 his score with white in classical games is 6.5/8, the only loss being to Van Wely in the last round in Wijk, when he already secured 1st place. Like Kramnik he is a player who tries to win with white as his black repertoire, especially against 1 e4, is rather conservative, focusing on the various lines in the Spanish (but even here if white overpresses black can win – see for example his game with Dominguez from Wijk, but that is not very likely to happen in the Candidates). I expect everything to be OK with Aronian chess-wise, but it will be interesting to see if he finally managed to overcome the problem of his nerves. The collapse in the second half in London left a mark on his subsequent play throughout the year, something which he finally overcame when he played for his beloved Armenia in the European Team Championship and the World Team Championship. Will the pressure again turn out to be too much for him or has he matured and learned how to keep himself under control? This is the key question that will determine whether Aronian will win and earn the right to face Carlsen later this year.
2. Karjakin was the lucky loser in the World Cup and thanks to Kramnik’s fantastic performance got his ticket to Khanty. Players who get into tournaments thanks to luck are usually a safe bet for a good showing, but this is a different tournament than most. Karjakin is a classical all-round player, with excellent preparation and support team (working on a permament basis with Dokhoian, Kasparov’s former coach, and Motylev, a fantastic analyst, plus the usual logistical support from the Russian Federation specifically for this tournament). But this former child prodigy seems to have failed somewhat to live up to his alleged potential. True, in the last few years he is in Carlsen’s shadow (who isn’t?), but I think more was expected of Karjakin by this time. He is a solid Top 10 player, no doubt about it, but now it is high time he showed what he’s capable of and what his ambitions are. A good showing in the Candidates will solidify his status as a potential challenger and justify his luck of getting in the tournament. This tournament is his chance to make a leap from a Top 10 player to a Top 2 or 3 player and from there he can think of more. Karjakin already has a lot of experience playing the elite players and sooner rather than later he will have to step things up. But I still think he will play it safe in this tournament as he probably lacks the self-confidence necessary to play for 1st place in this company. He will be very solid with both white and black and will wait for his chance in case somebody overpushes against him or in case somebody turns out to be completely out of shape. I don’t expect anything spectacular from him, but I am looking forward to see his preparation.
3. Mamedyarov got his reward for the stability he showed in the last year by qualifying for the Candidates from the Grand Prix. He matured a lot and the groundwork set in the preparation for his match with Gelfand in Kazan 2011 (when he admitted that he changed a lot both in his preparation and style) finally bore the fruit last year. But in spite of this newly-acquired stability, Mamedyarov is a volatile player and prone to collapses which are difficult to explain (Mamedyarov-Nakamura, Zug 2013, loss in 22 moves, or the strange loss to Topalov at the European Team Championship). In an atmosphere full of tension and so much at stake I think we will see more of the old, erratic and explosive Mamedyarov, especially as things heat up and players fall back to what they feel most comfortable with. And Mamedyarov is most comfortable with playing sharp and exciting chess, throwing caution to the wind and going for the throat because that is his natural style. However, in such a company of experienced fighters this is more likely to backfire that not. It is unlikely that he will suffer a meltdown like Radjabov, but I also don’t see him fighting for the top honours either. What I’m looking forward to in the case of Mamedyarov is his exciting games and possibly a brilliance prize!
4. Andreikin fully deserved his place in the Candidates with his dogged performance in the World Cup. Winning only one classical game and eliminating everybody in the rapid playoffs he showed that everything is in order with his nervous system. After becoming a champion of Russia in 2012 he got more chances to play elite events and gain experience. Last year he shared 3rd in the Tal Memorial (thanks to a win against Kramnik with black!), but he was less successful in Dortmund (where he beat Kramnik again!). But in spite of this, he is the least experienced player in the field, which makes him something of a dark horse. His personal score with Kramnik is 3-1 with 3 draws so this shows he can fight with the big guys on equal terms, but whether he can sustain that in such a long event is a big question. He probably paid a lot of attention to his openings in his preparation (a rather weak point of his play so far) so I guess we won’t be seeing much of his Bg5 in various versions. But he has his own ideas (he dug out an interesting side line in the Berlin for his game against Kramnik in the Russian Superfinal) and coupled with serious preparation this can give him certain advantages. Just as Karjakin, I expect him to be solid and being an outsider he will try to use the burden of the favourites to beat him in order to strike from the counterattack. Being a natural counterattacking player this can work for him, but I don’t think he will get many chances to show his counterattacking skills. His presence adds spice to the tournament because being a relative newcomer on the elite stage (for example he has never played classical games against Topalov and Aronian and has played only one with Anand) he is more difficult to pinpoint, thus making him unpredictable and dangerous.
To sum things up from this long analysis, I’d say that any other player outside Kramnik and Aronian to win the tournament will be a major surprise. But every player will be prepared to the teeth and they will give their best, so I expect to see new trends in the openings (more concepts, less move-novelties) and hard-fought games. I hope there are no meltdowns like the ones of Radjabov and Ivanchuk so we see a tough, closely contested tournament. Probably a score of +3, like in London, should suffice for at least shared 1st, but unfortunately FIDE didn’t change the rules so again we might witness a tie-break agony (in case of a 1-1 score between the players sharing 1st place, it is the higher number of wins that decides the winner, just like in London) instead of a rapid playoff.
So may the best player win and for the rest of us let’s sit back and enjoy the show (preferably without engines running).
In this first part of the analysis I will focus on the older players in order of probability of winning the event. The second part will concentrate on the 21st century players.
1. Kramnik is obviously one of the main candidates to win and this is probably his last chance to do it. Kramnik has been one of the main innovators in the openings after he won the title in 2000, but what makes him special is that his innovations were not just some novelties here and there, but profound and new concepts that still drive the theory forward. I’ll mention just the main ones: the Berlin (practically winning him the title in 2000), whose effects are still affecting modern theory, the Petroff, starting from the late 90s well up until 2010 when he picked up the Berlin again (my guess is because of the vast amount of forced lines in the Petroff), the queenless endgames in the Grunfeld (just ask Kasparov and Svidler), the Catalan (starting with his match with Topalov in 2006), the Queen’s Gambit Declined in Kazan 2011 (which again started the talks about the death of chess), the Semi-Tarrasch in the London Candidates 2013 (curiously, an old favourite of mine!), the Reti and the fianchetto systems against the King’s Indian and the Grunfeld (again in London Candidates, especially the fantastic new concept 5 e3 in his game with Gelfand), the ideas in the Nimzo Indian (games with Radjabov and Gelfand in London Candidates) and the Pirc (in the footsteps of the Patriarch, when trying to win with black, famously backfired in the last round in London). So no wonder I can’t wait to see what new concepts Kramnik will think of for Khanty! This ability to come up with opening innovations coupled with his knowledge how to prepare for important tournaments makes Kramnik an irresistible force (and an immovable object at the same time)!
Kramnik has previously played in two tournaments of this kind – in Mexico 2007 and in London 2013. Both times he finished second, in Mexico Anand was unstoppable, while in London Caissa favoured the younger Carlsen in that unforgettable last round. Will Khanty be Kramnik’s third time’s a charm? Or will he remind us of the great Keres by finishing second a third time in a row? Everything will depend on his form, stamina and nerves, but if these are alright then with a little bit of luck (as compensation for 2013) Kramnik will once again play a match for the title. And what a fascinating match that will be!
2. Topalov emerged from his “wilderness years” after losing to Anand in 2010 by winning the Grand Prix series and establishing himself once again as a force to be reckoned with. His psychological preparation for the Candidates already began when his manager started to employ Jose Mourinho’s favourite strategy – the whole world is against us! A few days ago Danailov announced that Topalov’s French second (probably Edouard, but don’t take my word for it – I only made a reasonable guess after looking at the best French players) had been denied a visa for Russia and that when they asked the organisers to stay at another hotel (not the official one), they were ignored and forced to arrange everything by themselves. This strategy creates a siege mentality and has two benefits: it helps the player concentrate better and it deflects all the pressure off him and onto the manager. It has worked for Jose’s teams and it will probably work for Topalov, but he will anyway have to show how good he is on the board. Topalov’s openings have lost their edge in the last years, mainly because his novelties were mostly move-novelties (unlike Kramnik’s concept-novelties) and the computers evened out the field in this respect. I am sure his team will provide him with fresh ideas, but I am not sure he will be able to repeat the play from San Luis in 2005. He doesn’t seem to have the same hunger and energy as before and his class never seemed to be on par with the class of Kramnik and Anand. When he was winning everything in the mid 2000s, he was winning because of his excellent openings, tremendous energy and great willpower. Now all these are diminished to a various degree and even in his Grand Prix tournaments he was showing certain instability, something that will not go unpunished in Khanty. For Topalov to be a serious contender, he will need a qualitative leap in his play, but whether that’s possible it’s questionable.
3. Anand is a bit of an enigma to me. In my Preview I even said that he may be the Ivanchuk of Khanty. I didn’t really expect that he will accept to play in Khanty after the long negative trend in his play culminating with the match with Carlsen. But he won a game in Zurich, with black against Gelfand, a nice game actually, and I think this gave him confidence that he still has what it takes. I don’t think he sees himself as a favourite to win, but rather he sees this as a chance to prove that he can still play at the highest level and in doing so to get rid of the torment he must be feeling. His openings will be in good shape as he has accumulated so much in those World Championship preparations. Anand said recently that from January he is working on changing his style and that he still enjoys the game, so I really hope to see at least glimpses of the old Anand as this will definitely add excitement to the tournament. If he manages to get to a plus score early on, then he will be more confident and confidence is all that he needs to be back to his true self.
4. Svidler will play in his 4th tournament of this kind – in San Luis he was 3rd (shared 2nd with Anand), in Mexico 2007 he was 5th (obviously a disappointment) and in London 2013 he was 3rd again. Last year Svidler showed that he is capable of changing a lot when he is motivated – a change in his diet led to a massive weight loss, he assembled a team to help him prepare and he learned how to prepare better (in an interview he said that he was incredibly well prepared in his openings for Mexico 2007, but his play was awful). He will undoubtedly try to improve on London as he seems to have found what works for him. And in order to have a successful tournament he will have to improve as he will need new surprises like the ones from London where he introduced 1 d4 in his repertoire with fundamental choices like the Saemisch against the King’s Indian (and the Nimzo, but that was only for one game), a very interesting idea against the Grunfeld (7 f4 in the Bd2 line), his black game against Aronian (great preparation in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted). As black, apart from the Aronian game, he was predictable and I think this time a lot will depend on his stubborness with the Grunfeld as it is the most vulnerable point (something that Kramnik exploited in London). Even though the Grunfeld has an excellent reputation at the moment and is causing a lot of headaches to white 1 d4 players, due to its character it is susceptible to one-game novelties and it requires an enormous amount of memorisation. Together with Kasparov, Svidler is the best Grunfeld player of modern times and he knows it inside out, but it is a double-edged opening and a risky one in a tournament where everybody will be expecting it. More surprises like the ones from the game with Aronian will help Svidler minimise the risk of being caught in some deep preparation and this will seriously increase his chances of a successful outcome. Svidler on good form is a dangerous opponent for anyone (ask Carlsen) and let’s just hope that he arrives in that form when the first round starts in Khanty Mansiysk.
They say there’s always a first time for everything and this weekend was a first timer for me as well. Alas, it was not a pleasant first-time experience. I have played in many leagues and I had never lost two games over a weekend. This time it happened.
In round 5 my team Cheddleton played against Blackthorne Russia and we were the favourites to win. Win we did, but only yours truly spoiled it a bit as the only one to lose a game. I played black against the solid IM Richard Bates, who always plays the Catalan. I chose a modern and risky gambit line and obtained a good and complex position, only to start spoiling it with every subsequent move. My thoughts lacked clarity and I was feeling as if my head was full of fog. Possibly all because of the longer lay off from practical play?! My opponent played well and even though I resisted until move 55, I never had a chance.
The round 6 was the big derby against Guildford. We were equal on match points so the winner of the match would win the Pool A with a round to go. It’s worth mentioning here that last year we were trashed 8-0 against them so this year I even dared to publicly announce on Twitter that this time it won’t be the same! I was right, but that was a small consolation. We lost 6.5-1.5, the GingerGM (Simon Williams) scoring our only victory (over GM Marc Hebden) and IM Jonathan Hawkins drawing on board 1 against GM Matthew Sadler. Everybody else lost. I ran into some good preparation in an obscure line against GM Romain Edouard, but I thought I was reacting well for the time being. But then something strange happened, as white’s position very rapidly started to deteriorate at move 15 and by move 20 I was practically lost! This is a rare occurence in chess, but it can happen in these hypermodern openings – W seemingly plays sensibly and puts his pieces in the centre when all of a sudden the trend turns against him and he’s run over. I will analyse this game more deeply and will undoubtedly learn much from it!
Everybody reacts differently to set-backs. I have always tried to bounce right back, stronger and more motivated. Now is a time to analyse the mistakes, learn from them, forget them and come back winning. And that’s what I intend to do again.