"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
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:
(show chess board)(hide chess board)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
1. Landa 8/9
2-4. Postny, Naiditsch, Seirawan 7.5
5-9. Burg, Smeets, Chakkravathy, Van Haastert, Henrichs 7