Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hungary - Part 2

"There can be no finer example of the inspiring powers of competition to shatter the status quo than Hungary's Judit Polgar."
Garry Kasparov

"Only those with inferior taste prefer the unnecessarily complicated to the simple. Sound human understanding chooses from two equally appropriate moves the one which is more straightforward and less complex."
Emanuel Lasker

"If it's stupid but works, it isn't stupid."
Murphy's Laws of Combat
by Andrew

After a dismal start, I was paired against GM Gyula Sax (2491) in the fourth round, who apparently is an ex-candidate for the World Championship, and is still remarkably strong at the age of 60. Luckily I got the Queen's Indian I was hoping to get, and I gained quite a bit of time by being able to bash out theory and leave my opponent either trying to remember or trying to work out the best moves - perhaps a bit of both.

I got exactly the position I'd looked at up until move 19, and all I had to do was play a simple knight retreat and continue with a straightforward plan that is hard for Black to do anything against. Instead, as you can imagine, I played a rather dubious but very exciting move that adequately bamboozled my opponent for him to think for half an hour and miss the simple win. However, after the first few moves of the combination I decided, yet again, against the straightforward option which would have given me very decent compensation and this time had to suffer with a clearly worse position. Fortunately though, due to my opponent's time trouble, I was able to swindle a draw out of the resulting ending.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

Okay, so I didn't win the next four. Actually from the fourth round on I continued as "expected", more or less. My next game against IM Julian Estrada (2285) was very interesting, and although I made another of my typically unnecessarily complicated moves (as in, the reasoning behind the move, not the manner in which the move is carried out - for example using one's elbows to move the piece and pressing the clock with one's head) I felt it could have gone either way until just a few moves before the end.

After 40.g5

Resorting, once again, to my bamboozling tactics I played 40...Rf2?! (according to Houdini 1.5a w32 Black can achieve a draw with 40...Ra8 41.Ra1 Kh8 42.Bd3 Rd2 43.g6 Rxd3 44.Rxd3 b2 45.Rdd1 bxa1=Q 46.Rxa1 Ra3) which allowed for a study-like finish after 41.Kxf2 Rf8+ 42.Rf3 Rxf3+ 43.Kxf3 b2 44.Kg4! a1=Q 45.h7+ Kg7 46.Rf7+! Kxg6 47.h8=N#! (D)

The (almost) Paradox Knight-mate

The final position deserves its own diagram. It looks almost paradoxical at first, as the knight can't have got there from any other square; then you realise that it was just promoted. I think this must be the most beautiful final position I've ever had.

Another loss, but I guess I don't mind losing like that. My Round 6 game was against yet another GM - this time against Serbian Zlatko Ilincic (2467) - again with the Black pieces. It started off as a Fianchetto King's Indian with his normal deviation of the mainline with 9.b3. I played an early queen move that, although not altogether bad, was probably not the best option. My pieces got a bit cramped up in the middlegame and I made an interesting sacrifice which was probably the best move this time, but eventually my opponent proved that it wasn't enough for me to be able to hold the game.

Hmm... 0.5/6. Could be worse, I guess.

Who knows, perhaps the man in the foreground was on 0/6.

And at least I'd got all the GMs out of the way.

Round 7 I was White against American FM Erik Kislik (2320). It was a Grunfeld with Bb5+ on move 7. I got what I felt was quite a reasonable position and in the middle game I would have had quite a bit of an advantage had I not carelessly swapped off into an endgame. The game ended in a draw. I got to know Erik pretty well over the course of the tournament and it was nice not to have to eat lunch on my own every day. I often had dinner with him too, as well as Julian Estrada and Carla Heredia Serrano (who played in the IM group).

On top of the mall, looking out over the city.

In Round 8 I had my best game of the tournament, or at least the most entertaining. I played the Chinese player Qiang Hou (2320) as Black. It started in a very long line of the Sveshnikov where I'd sacrificed two queenside pawns to get a kingside attack. He missed a tricky move in the middlegame that would have given him a definite advantage and made a "safe" move when it was unsafe to do so. Then a final time-trouble-assisted blunder from him allowed me a nice way to finish.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

So after a late tournament comeback I was on par with my expected score, but unfortunately I was defeated swiftly by FM Tamas Fodor (2458) in the last round when I ran out of theory quite literally on move 4 and then proceeded to self-destruct, probably more due to apathy or exhaustion than anything else.

As was the case in Sunningdale, there was no presentation or closing ceremony after the tournament. And all the people I'd met and friends I'd made were no longer there the next day, such is the case in many a chess tournament. Before my trip I tended to be more reserved during tournaments for a mixture of reasons, and I've learnt a great deal now about independence and taking care of myself with out the support of friends or family. But I've also come to realise the importance of making the most of those opportunities, as it really enriches the whole experience when there are like-minded people to share it with. This realisation helped to make Hungary one of the best parts of my trip.

And although I would have felt quite disappointed with such a tournament earlier, it doesn't worry me too much now. As Zong-Yuan Zhao said to me just before I left Australia, "Remember, it's just chess; it's not life". I did my best, and while I didn't perform as well as I wanted to, what I've learned from these tournaments and experiences is simply invaluable. A physical, mental and emotional journey I'll never forget.

P.S: Max Illingworth has written a great article on deciding between the straightforward and the complex on the Sydney Academy of Chess site, which can be reached here. The article happens to contain my most flattering example of the latter over the former.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Hungary - Part 1

"You'd better make a GM norm. Just pretend you're in NZ."
Correspondence from Fedja before the tournament.

A wise man once said, 'Hungarians are strange creatures'.
by Andrew

I arrived in Budapest on the afternoon of the 16th of September, and stayed at the Medosz Hotel on the street Jokai Ter in the centre of the city. I woke up quite late the next morning - getting to breakfast just before they were about to close the restaurant - and then headed out to Oktogon Square. While my brain pondered the validity of the concept of a square being octagonal, I walked around there and found an ATM and the Ferenc Liszt (Franz Liszt) music store to browse through some very cheap selections of sheet music.

Opposite Jokai Ter in Budapest

After checking out at 11am with my 21kg suitcase and 10kg backpack, I asked the lady at reception for directions to the nearest train station. She told me that if I walk to the end of this street, turn left, and continue walking for 5-10 mins, the Nyugati Train Station (which would take me directly to Kecskemet) will be on my right. Easy enough, I thought and said, 'I'll be okay', when she offered me a map. So, naturally, I arrived at Nyugati Station two and a half hours later, after taking a route that looked something like this:

Blue = Walking
Red = Train
Green = Correct Route
Yellow Highlight = Origin (Jokai Ter - with the red balloon) and Destination (Nyugati Station)

Distance Covered: 13.3km - 6.2km by foot, 7.1km by train
Necessary Distance to Cover: 750m (5 - 10 minute walk or 2 minute bus ride from Oktogon Square)

Okay, maybe next time I'll take the map. Although I was quite sure I followed the lady's directions ... strange ... I wonder if your thoughts turn now as mine did to the quote from the wise man at the beginning of this post. I reflected on this observation many times over the course of my Hungarian journey.

One of the many train stations I went to

Anyway, I arrived at the Nyugati Station at around 1:30pm and after struggling for a little while to find where to buy tickets, finally made it onto the train to Kecskemet.


Aside from my week in England for the Sunningdale tournament, I had spent all my time in Europe in the Netherlands, where although English isn't the native language, just about everyone speaks it quite well and most of the signs are in English too. It was only after I got to Hungary that I realised I really should have looked up some common Hungarian words and phrases before I got there.

But I did manage to make it to the tournament venue/hotel - Caissa Panzio, near the centre of the city - by taxi (not taking any chances this time), and was greeted by the tournament organiser Tamas Erdelyi, who kindly showed me my room and then gave me a 30 minute tour of the surrounding areas.

Outside the Caissa Panzio

Park in the centre of Kecskemet, with chess players in background

When I got back it was just about time for the first round. None of us had any idea who we were playing until the player numbers were drawn immediately before the first round. Unfortunately I got paired with the GM Attila Groszpeter (2521) as Black in the first round. The game was a closed Sveshnikov in which a couple of my dubious moves in the opening lead to him being able to secure a slight advantage. I felt like I was defending the whole game and as if I never really made any big mistakes, but he ended up winning quite comfortably.

My second round was a bit of a disaster. I played the underrated 13-year-old Tibor Antal (2286) as White. I should have prepared better before the game, as it was quite clear what opening I was going to get, but it had somehow turned out reasonably well until I made a serious mistake that gave him all the initiative, and suddenly I was fighting to equalise. Before long I made another mistake and I had to sac a piece to have any hope of staying in the game (by perpetual check) but he refuted all my attempts and before long I had to call it a day.

The nice and cosy tournament venue, with organiser Tamas Erdelyi to the right.
The venue also had a lot of interesting chess memorabilia and artwork.

In the 3rd round I got paired with another GM as Black: top seed Levente Vajda (2557). Vajda is quite easy to prepare for as he basically only plays the Alapin (c3-Sicilian) after 1.e4 c5, but he is one of the world's leading experts in it and can easily turn an objectively equal, normal looking position into a dynamic, attacking position that is not easy to defend against. I got quite a decent position after about 20 moves but missed an attacking idea that he had, and before long I made a serious blunder that gave him a mate in 5. Interestingly, although I wasn't too fond of the position I got into after 24 moves, I looked at the game later with a chess engine and  found another way to defend that probably would have resulted in a draw with best play from both sides.

(show chess board)(hide chess board)

So by losing the first 3 games, I had not only lost all chances of securing a GM norm, but continued with the very pattern of results I had hoped to stop in this tournament - that of 4 losses, 4 wins, 4 losses from my last 12 games. But on the upside, I thought, at least I could look forward to 4 wins now...

Part 2 will be up in a few days.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

My first steps in chess

 by Junta

The other day, we had guests over for dinner, and one of them was a 6-year old boy. There was some time until the meal, and I would usually push the responsibility of playing with young children on to my sister, but as she was busy, I had to face up to the giant task myself.

He wanted to learn how to play chess. Slightly reluctant at first, having never taught the absolutely basic rules to anyone as long as I can remember, it was an enjoyable 15 minutes or so, playing a game with him while teaching how the pieces move, capturing, checking, getting out of check, and checkmate.

Answering each of his careful, oblivious moves with a lightning-fast bang, I crushed the child's ego with 4.Qxf7#.

Just kidding.

After several moves, his dark-squared bishop gave a check on b4, and with some hints and encouragement, in the grasp of the little fingers, the wooden piece zoomed diagonally backwards and forwards, munching a large part of my army. As he finally got a rook out on the open e-file behind his queen, I moved my queen's rook to the undefended e1-square, next to my king on f1.

...Qxe1#, the first ever checkmate in the boy's life.
Jumping up and down on the sofa, he shouted in excitement and joy: "I won I won I won!!" He wanted another game, but it was time for dinner.

Later, I became curious about what my forgotten, first steps in chess were like.
My father explained: at first, he was teaching my sister when I was 4 or 5 - asking me if I wanted to learn also, my answer would be a no. A year or two later, the curiosity got the better of me this time, and I took up the game.

From that day on, chess became a big part of my life. Each night, after dinner, I would challenge my father to another game. For weeks and weeks, I would lose every game, but as 6 weeks or so had passed, the losses were alternating with wins. Some time later, I would win all the games.

It was time to look for more opponents. In 1999, I joined my first junior chess club (incidentally, I have been coaching at the club with the same name for some years now), and gained my first ACF rating of 315. 12 years later, and here I am.

I'm sure many have wondered: what would my life have been like without chess?

I must finish this post with the words of a world champion, from
The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal (2009 Reprint, Everyman Chess).

"... But about my first game. When one of us first plays chess, he is like a man who has caught a dose of microbes of, say, Hong Kong 'flu. Such a man walks along the street, and he does not yet know that he is ill. He is healthy, he feels fine, but the microbes are doing their work. Something similar, though less harmful, occurs in chess. ... You lose the first game. But at some time, if your father or elder brother or simply an old friend wants to be kind to you, then you win, and as a result feel very proud of yourself. A few days pass, and suddenly you involuntarily begin to sense that, without chess, there is something missing in your life. Then you may rejoice: you belong to that group of people without a natural immunity to the chess disease..."

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Marvelling at Super GMs' play

by Junta

A simplified banner - tempting to incorporate into FIGJAM
A great website I visit daily when elite tournaments are being held is .

Conducted since May 1st, the website has:
1. a live, informative FIDE rating list of players rated over 2700; and
2. a game viewer with all of their recent games you can play through.

Personally, I find the quality of the top players' games quite inspiring, and although I usually just play over all of the games from the previous day, it can be a good training method to pick a game, choose a side (2700+) and after the opening stage, compare the moves you come up with to the one played.

Some memorable recent games (which made me smile while replaying them) are:
Caruana-Berg, European Club Cup (2) - great endgame technique.
Gelfand-Jobava, European Club Cup (3) - a queen sac in the style of Ivanchuk.*
Moiseenko-Morozevich, Saratov Governor's Cup (3) - a mobile queen.
Ni Hua-Morozevich, Saratov Governor's Cup (4) - R's+P's overpowering RBN.

* - Examples (I'm sure there are more of them in the database):
1. the famous 'Final Fantasy' game against Jobava in last year's Olympiad

After 11.Qd2xRe1
2. an interesting battle from this year's Greek Team's Championships
38...Be5-f6 0-1
3. the classic from the 1996 Wijk aan Zee with 21.Qg4-g7

4. the win over Karjakin in the 2008 Amber (Rapid) named 'Speed Racer'