Sunday, 28 August 2011

World Cup 2011 tipping!

 by Junta

The biennial, epic knockout event in the world of chess - the time for the World Cup has arrived. Just like in 2009, when 2012 World Championship challenger Boris Gelfand won through the 7 rounds as top seed, the drama will unfold in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The pairings tree (PDF) can be downloaded from here.

Moulthun's predictions

Top 8: Karjakin, Kamsky, Le Quang Liem, Andreikin,
            Vachier-Lagrave, Wojtaszek, Malakhov, Wang Yue
Top 4: Kamsky, Le Quang Liem, Vachier-Lagrave, Wang Yue
Final: Vachier-Lagrave beats Kamsky

Junta's predictions

Top 8: Karjakin, Kamsky, Ponomariov, Adams,
            Ivanchuk, Radjabov, Navara, Morozevich
Top 4: Kamsky, Adams, Radjabov, Morozevich
Final: Morozevich beats Adams

Fedja's predictions

Top 8: Polgar, Ivanchuk, Ponomariov, Svidler,
            Navara, Radjabov, Grischuk, Gashimov
Top 4: Svidler, Grischuk, Ivanchuk, Ponomariov
Final: Svidler beats Grischuk

Andrew's predictions

Top 8: Karjakin, Kamsky, Le Quang Liem, Adams,
            Vachier-Lagrave, Mamedyarov, Navara, Morozevich
Top 4: Kamsky, Adams, Vachier-Lagrave, Morozevich
Final: Kamsky beats Morozevich

The Oceania region is represented by our very own GM Zong-Yuan Zhao [seeded 101 out of 128], who is up against Russian Super-GM Evgeny Tomashevsky [28] in Round 1.

from Wikipedia:
"Partly for being a mostly positional player, partly for wearing glasses and being well-educated, Tomashevsky, in spite of his young age, earned himself the nickname "Professor" among the chessplayers."

To try and prepare against such a strong opponent, we can only wonder how difficult it must be to think about anything else in the 2 months between when the pairings are released, and actually sitting opposite the player in a distant venue.

The official tournament website is at .
Games are at 7pm AEST.

The whole event (August 28-September 21) should be full of exciting chess!

Round 1 Game 1 results are here. Games can be replayed on the official website, or for those games involving players rated over 2700, here (on a game viewer).

Malaysian Open 2011 - Day 6 & Blitz

"Lovely chess moves and lovely melodies and lovely theorems in mathematics have this in common; every one has idiosyncratic nuances that seem logical a posteriori but that are not easy to anticipate a priori" - D. R. Hofstadter

by Junta

From the 2nd rest day

The 8th Dato' Arthur Tan Malaysian Open came to a close with Round 9 on Thursday morning. It was a Chinese 1-2-3 finish, as GM Li Shilong drew to finish 1st on an impressive 7.5/9 (perf. 2681), and IM Lu Shanglei and GM Wen Yang were =2nd on 7/9, both winning their last game. Final ranking crosstable is here.

Gary Lane and Bobby Cheng were the top Aussies on 5.5/9. I finished my 5th and last tournament on this trip with a loss, resulting in the the same +5 -4 (not too solid) as at the World Open and Dutch Open. Fedja won to finish on 4.5.
I plan to do a post looking over stats of all of my games since June, next week, though it might bore some people to death.

Soon after the last games had finished, though, the Blitz tournament (G-5) got under way with a pretty strong field including 5 GMs and 11 IMs. Losing in Round 3 to the eventual winner in under 3 minutes (can't help going red in the face when beaten so easily) and via a tragic illegal move in Round 6, I still had hopes of making the top 8 who progress to the knock-out finals, but I was simply outplayed in the final, Round 9, finishing =10th.

[I failed to reproduce my sizzling form from the World Open Blitz , where I honestly played the best chess of my life (beating a 2700 2-0 in the last round mini-match) - I wish my games from that event could have been recorded, but I probably wouldn't be able to believe I really played them.]

The knock-out stage saw IM Lu Shanglei and Yu Ruiyuan reach the finals.
The former, ranked in the top 3 U/16 players in the world, with a GM norm achieved in the main tournament, was too strong, winning 2-0.

Ruiyuan (Black) - Shanglei (White)

The prizegiving for the blitz and main events had a pleasant atmosphere. Although the Merdeka Team Rapid has still to finish, the organisation for the tournaments have been superb, and I hope I can come back again next year.

The winners of the three main tournaments, with their trophies

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Malaysian Open 2011 - Days 4-5 & 2nd Rest day

"No. They come to be woken up. The dream has become their reality.
 Who are you to say otherwise?"
Elderly man

"Hey, Justin Bieber! This is for you!"
A young Malaysian man as he tries to hand a flyer to IM James Morris in a shopping mall

There is only one more round to be played in the Malaysian Open after three double-round days, two single-round days and two rest days - it feels especially quick for us after the World Juniors went for two weeks.

After Round 8, Chinese GM Li Shilong has kept his lead with an impressive 7/8, followed by compatriot GM Wang Rui on 6.5/8, with three Chinese players and one Vietnamese player a further half point behind - a Chinese 1-2-3 finish is very likely. Final Round 9 pairings are here.

Leading Aussies are James Morris, Gary Lane and Junta on 5 points. James has performed especially well - after starting with a win in Round 1, he has scored +2 -1 =4 against average 2481-rated opposition for a rating performance of 2491!

A milestone game for Fedja came about in Round 7 when he managed to scrape to a draw in Round 7 against Filipino GM Darwin Laylo (2531) - his first ever half point from a GM! 

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For the rest day today, we went sightseeing around the KL city with the Japanese contingent.

Australian players (in front of the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world)
Japanese players
"Why are they all looking at me?"
"Because my subconscious feels that someone else is creating this world."
Shinya making his move on an iguana
Baby, baby, baby oh..

These mice would probably rather be stuck in limbo.

And lastly,

If only we had that much energy...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sunningdale International 2011

"Life is rather like opening a tin of sardines, where we are all looking for the key."

Alan Bennett
By Andrew

After Vlissingen, I had a few days break in Amsterdam before going to England to play in the Sunningdale International  from 10th-14th of August. This event was split into several 9-round round robins. In the top four tournaments (A-D) which were all of roughly equal strength, people could play for an IM norm. I stayed in the Sunningdale Park Hotel, which was also the tournament venue.

Playing hall
My first round game against Adrian Jackson (2159) was quite crazy and both sides missed many opportunities to take an advantage, but eventually I came out on top. In my second round against Alexander Longson (2237), I got into a slightly better position and eventually managed to win two pawns after everything but the queens were swapped off. However, my opponent had a strong passed d-pawn that was very hard to stop, so I should have accepted that I couldn't win and made a draw by perpetual check. I ended up playing a few dubious moves and he decided to march his king up the centre of the board, after which he was simply winning.

My third game was against GM Igor Rausis (2510). I played some silly moves in the opening which lead to him being a clear two pawns up, and he managed to convert his advantage. In round 4, I had my best result of the tournament, which was with the black pieces against GM Keith Arkell (2432). After missing an in-between move I had that halted his development, he let me get away with a pawn sacrifice and allowed me to consolidate my advantage. My lead in development and bishop pair proved very hard to deal with and it was soon over.

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After this game my tournament went downhill. I lost my next 3 games which were against Gilles Suez-Panama (2078), Alan Merry (2039) and Ameet Ghasi (2367). In all these games I got into decent-looking positions but made tactical oversights or miscalculations that cost me the game. After going from 2/4 to 2/7, I was White against T.S. Venkataramanan (2277) in round 8, and we got into a Grunfeld that looked quite good for me, but in spending half an hour trying to decide which of the three good moves on the board I should play, I ended up forgetting why they were the only good moves and played something else. Soon my advantage had completely slipped away and I had only a few minutes left to his 30 or 40 minutes with which I had to defend my exposed king.

Position after 32...Bxd5

My opponent had used up most of his remaining time trying to find a way to breakthrough, and at first sight it looked like I was in serious trouble, but I managed to find the only move - 33.Nd4! - which lead to an advantage for me after 33...Bc6 34.Nf5+ Kg6 35.e5 Nd5 36.Qd4 Qb6 37.Qxb6 Nxb6 38.Ne7+ Kg7 39. Nxc6 and my opponent lost on time shortly after.

My last round game was against Peter Vas (2295) and we got into a wild Sveshnikov (I really wouldn't have minded a quick draw) in which after bashing out the first 17 moves of theory my opponent deviated very slightly by playing 17.Bc2 Rd8 18.Qe2 instead of 17.Be2 Rd8 18.Qc2, and I carelessly continued with the same strategy as usual, which soon lead to a clearly worse position for me. If I'd simply defended my b-pawn I would have been fine. I lost reasonably quickly to finish off quite a disastrous tournament on 3/9,  checked out the following morning and (after missing several trains due to absent-mindedness) managed to catch my flight back to Amsterdam.

Conversational signs

Englishman Ameet Ghasi ended up winning the tournament with a very impressive 8/9, after losing his first game and winning the rest, and picked up 23 rating points and his second IM norm in the process.
Unfortunately because of the very tight schedule of the Sunningdale International, I didn't have time to do much else in England but hopefully I can come back to see more of it in the future.

Walking around Sunningdale Park

I wonder whose house that is...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Malaysian Open 2011 - 1st Rest day

by Junta

After Round 5, today was the first of two rest days during the Malaysian Open. Although the plan was to check out some of the tourist hotspots around Kuala Lumpur, our fatigue from the World Juniors was too great, and we confined ourselves to the megamall and another big shopping centre next door to it.
Typical breakfast consumption (I only finished two thirds)
Although the conditions here (food, location, hotel quality etc.) are all better than at the World Juniors in Chennai, things aren't as fun without our friends from overseas we met there...

So, it was a relaxed rest day, with a bit of shopping, some gymming and more eating - we hope to go sightseeing on the second rest day in 3 day's time, scheduled before the final, Round 9.

Dinner today: sirloin steak (though fairly small), 19 ringgit = A$6
After my World Juniors began with five White wins, my Malaysian Open has begun with five Black wins. I hope the trend won't continue when I am White in Round 6 tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Malaysian Open 2011 - Days 1-3

"...Eating fish!"
One of the blog contributors sleeptalking in Chennai

"...Are you sure its 50!?"
Another blog contributor sleeptalking in Kuala Lumpur

by Junta

Another city, another tournament...Fedja and I are now in Kuala Lumpur.  

View from our room window

Thoroughly exhausted after the World Juniors, we somehow got ourselves from Chennai to KL Airport where we bid Moulthun goodbye.

"So much uni work to catch up on..."
We arrived to check-in at the Cititel Hotel in Midvalley, the venue, early in the morning of the 17th. Although the need to sleep was great (not getting enough on the flight), we could not resist checking out the hotel breakfast buffet after the last two weeks of not-so-great food. The breakfast surpassed my high expectations, and I ate so much (days' worth of World Juniors consumption) that I only stopped when I started feeling sick. Thanks to the good meals since arriving here, my stomach pains are finally gone.

Another positive is that a corridor from the hotel lobby leads to the Midvalley Mega Mall - lots of stores, lots of food. We signed up at the gym on the first day (a good deal of $25 for 2 weeks), getting back a bit of exercise we've missed overseas.
A shot of the playing hall before the game
The Malaysian Open is already past the halfway mark, as there have been two double-round days (a rest day tomorrow on the 21st). The field consists of 98 players, with 10 GMs and 14 IMs. Chinese GM Li Shilong leads on 5/5, with IM Oliver Dimakiling from the Phillipines on 4.5 and 9 players (all rated over 2400) on 4. Gary Lane on 3.5 leads out of the 10 Australian players.

The four overseas tournaments over the last two months has been taking its toll on me, but at the same time it is strange to think that before this trip, I had never played on such an intense schedule. Waking up in the hotel room, eating at a buffet with other players, going over the preparation on ChessBase, putting the room key and a pen in my pocket, getting on a lift to the floor of the playing hall - I have grown so accustomed to the routine.

Tomorrow we will go sightseeing around Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, 19 August 2011

World Juniors 2011 - Wrap-up

"We'll see you guys at another tournament - in this life"

Goodbye, Chennai
 by Junta

The 50th World Junior Championships has come to an end, leaving us reflecting over a rollercoaster of a fortnight. I wish I could play again in 2012 when it will be held in Athens, but will be a few weeks too old (sucks to be born in December). Having played in World Youth events (U/12, 14 and 16) in 2003, 2005 and 2007, I'm glad to have been able to experience the two weeks in Chennai as my last ever overseas junior event, though of course it did have its negatives (the food provided for the players wasn't great, stomach pains were a daily annoyance, and the Internet connection was horrible).

From the tour on the rest day (though we went shopping instead)
Strong Australian juniors should definitely consider playing in the World Juniors at least once before they are 20, as the event is so unique, having the opportunity to play alongside some of the best teenage players in the world, see how tough a 13-round tournament can be in a foreign environment (unlike anything in Australia), and most of all make new friends with people from all around the world who share the same passion. Next year you might be lucky enough to have Moulthun as the team coach.

"There were people who beat you before the game began by the way they arranged their pieces, the authority with which they made a move, almost by the way they looked out the window" - Sir John Simon
Overall, the Australian players did not perform too well (scores ranging between 4/13 and 7/13), but hopefully there'll be a bigger contingent waving the Australian flag in Athens next August.

Round 6: Australians vs. 2500's (0-2)
There are lots and lots of videos you can check out on the tournament website, from round reports to player interviews and prizegiving. There was a very nice 3-minute video unveiled at the closing ceremony with shots of many of the players at the board, in sync with dramatic music, but I haven't been able to find it on the public domain yet. Edit: You can watch it at the end of this ChessBase article.

Celebrating the birthday of our friend from Bahrain at a restaurant - subsequently each of us had to eat our slices without using our hands, which a Bulgarian FM won in under 10 seconds leaving us amazed
Final ranking crosstable for the Juniors is here, and Girls is here. ChessBase final report is here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

HZ Tournament in Vlissingen, 2011

"Ulitimately chess is just chess - not the best thing in the world and not the worst thing in the world, but there is nothing quite like it."

W. C. Fields
By Andrew

From the 30th of July to the 6th of August, I played in the 15th Hogeschool Zeeland Tournament in Vlissingen, a town on the coast about two and a half hours south-west of Amsterdam. The tournament attracted about 250 partipants, ranging from GMs (and even a super-GM!) to beginners (rated around 1000). I was ranked 51st in this diverse field, which happened to have some famous names at the top, including super-GM Arkadij Naiditsch (2706); the iconic chess commentator, player and author Yasser Seirawan (2635); and Evgeny Sveshnikov (2514), author of the newly released "The Complete c3-Sicilian" and founder of one of my favourite openings (surprise surprise, the Sveshnikov!). (Part of this opening had been thought up earlier, and was called the Lasker-Pelikan variation which had been widely considered quite a dubious opening. It was mainly the work of Sveshnikov that transformed this into a completely playable opening which is played by many top-class players today, and so it became known as the Sveshnikov.)

Yasser Seirawan being interviewed before the tournament

The tournament was a 9-round Swiss, with the games being held at 6:30pm each day. The time control in this event was something I was quite unfamiliar with: 40 moves in two hours, with an extra half hour added on after move 40, meaning games could only go for a maximum of 5 hours. It's been many years since I've played a tournament without increment, and I noticed almost immediately what a difference it made. People would need to play a lot faster towards the end of their games, and often people would realise too late that they had to make six or seven moves in 15 seconds to reach the time control. This turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword for me as I found out later. But back to the tournament...

After a quick first round against an 1800, I had a reasonably tough game in my second round in which I just managed to convert a slightly better rook-and-pawn endgame (with a bit of luck), after my opponent made some decisive errors and allowed me to queen my passed-pawn. In my third game I was going quite well out of the opening, but then carelessly gave up my good bishop, which lead to a positionally lost middle-game and endgame. After the game my opponent told me he thought he was lost before that. Here it is:

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Over the course of this tournament I stayed in an apartment with two Indian chessplayers, GM Deepan Chakkravathy and IM Vishnu Prasanna, who I got to know quite well. At this stage of the tournament I was on 2/3, while Deepan and Vishnu had both managed to get to 3/3. Round four went according to plan for me, beating a 1900 after they allowed their rook to get trapped towards the end of the middle game. Deepan won his game, while Vishnu made a dubious move in the opening which lead to him losing.

The following day was a very eventful one. We went to the beach in the morning and I enjoyed swimming there, while Deepan and Vishnu just walked around. Later that day something quite unexpected happened. In the evening, just before the round, I'd decided to cook dinner for myself. Previously I hadn't payed much attention to a glass cover over the stove, but after 25 minutes of cooking, it exploded into thousands of pieces all over the kitchen.

After this distressing incident, and without much food in my stomach, I had to rush off to my round 5 game against Rene Tiggelman (2233). Luckily for me, Mr. Tiggelman seemed to be having an off day as well.

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Black only decided to resign with three seconds left on his clock (to his opponent's 35 minutes) to make 8 moves, and realising that after being down two bishops and a rook without compensation, he will soon be losing his queen as well.

Leading scores after 5 rounds:
1-2. Landa, Postny 5/5
3-9. Seirawan, L'Ami, Naiditsch, Van Haastert, E. Sveshnikov, Hoffmann, Smeets 4.5

Outside the tournament venue.

Inside: quiet reading spot and analysis room/canteen area.

A not-so-appropriate day at the Vlissingen beach.

In round 6 I was up against IM Tal Haimovich (2419) with the black pieces. We got into the following position after a Sveshnikov:

After 18...b4
Here I was quite happy with my position, and during my opponent's move I got up from my board, having the plan in mind of bxc3, Kb8, and Rc8 with very real and decent compensation for the pawn. I couldn't help but smile when I saw Evgeny Sveshnikov himself looking over my game and my scoresheet for the move order.
My opponent played the move 19.f3 which I'd been expecting, and after barely a minute's thought I carelessly played 19...bxc3?, and immediately realised I'd made a mistake. My opponent replied 20.bxc3 and after 20...Kb8 he plays 21.Qb2. And now Black's attacking chances have diminished considerably, and White is already better (and he converted it quite easily). After the game we looked over this and found that after 19...Kb8, Black's queenside attack can be carried out much more effectively.

After this disappointment in round 6, it was time for my round 7 game against IM Koen Leenhouts (2397), again with the Black pieces. In this game I got into quite a good looking position again out of the opening, but made a serious blunder in the middlegame, after which both of us must have thought I was almost certainly lost. I played on anyway (inspired by Tiggelman), and somehow managed to conjure up some attack with my remaining pieces, and due to his time trouble before move 40, it resulted in me having one of my luckiest games ever.

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My round 8 game was against FM Stefan Kuipers (2365) with the white pieces. He sidetracked from the variation I'd prepared before the game, and it resulted in me making a dubious move in the opening, which lead to an undesirable position. After this I made another mistake, which apparently lost a piece, but it turned out to be an interesting sacrifice. After seemingly best play by him, we got into an ending where I had two rooks and an extra pawn against his queen, but it was always going to be very hard to coordinate my rooks and defend, so eventually he managed to win one of them and take the full point.

In round 9 I was up against IM Vladimir Sveshnikov. We got into a c3-Sicilian where I deviated from the main line early, and initially it didn't look great for me, but after some interesting moves played to gain space, we ended up with a strange position where I had quite a weak-looking pawn structure but also had what looked like sufficient play for it.

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After round 7, Christopher Brookes (2056) of the Netherlands had performed at around 2500, and just needed half a point ot of his remaining two games to secure an IM norm, but unfortunately he lost his last two games and just missed out.

GM Konstantin Landa of Russia completed a dominating performance by defeating GM Erwin L'Ami in the final round, to finish outright first with 8/9 and a performance rating of 2795.

Final scores:
1. Landa 8/9
2-4. Postny, Naiditsch, Seirawan 7.5
5-9. Burg, Smeets, Chakkravathy, Van Haastert, Henrichs 7

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

World Juniors 2011 - Posts?

"Chess is not for the faint-hearted; it absorbs a person entirely. To get to the bottom of this game, he has to give himself up into slavery. Chess is difficult, it demands work, serious reflection and zealous research."
Wilhelm Steinitz

"If you don't win, it's not a great tragedy - the worst that happens is you lose a game."
Bobby Fischer

We're sorry we haven't posted for a week now - this post is just to let you know that we are alive here in Chennai. As you may know, past the halfway mark (Round 7 was played earlier today), the Australians are not doing well, with all of us below 50%. We can only try and turn things around for the last 6 rounds.

Though the chess hasn't been going well, the time here has certainly brought many memorable experiences. Fedja jumping out of the way of a rickshaw, skating on a synthetic ice link in a shopping mall and playing Mafia (party game) with a dozen Europeans are just three of the many highlights.

Unfortunately the Internet speed has been painful, barely allowing us to connect except for in the morning or late at night.
Hope to bring you some of the photos in the posts to come, too.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

World Juniors 2011 - Days 1 & 2

Round 1

Moulthun and Junta comfortably beat their 2050-rated opposition. Fedja went down in a tough game against IM Priyadharshan where he had a queen for several pieces from the early middlegame, while Emma scored an upset draw with the 6th seed Kulkani from India.

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Round 2

Moulthun and Junta were paired with GMs Ter-Sahakyan (Armenia) and Grandelius (Sweden) respectively. Moulthun is too lazy to enter his game which was a long draw where both players thought they were pushing for a win. Junta went down after playing a Nimzo, retreating his bishop to f8 and later playing e5, effectively playing a King's Indian down 5 tempi. Fedja drew with Deepak Aaron (2288, USA) in  an Exchange Slav where he missed a chance for an endgame advantage with 25.Qd6 and Emma lost to her roommate WIM Nakhbayeva (KAZ).

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The tournament website seems to be down since yesterday: results are on here.