Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Vikings Weekender 2011 - Day 2

"...I have always been of the opinion that, of the two evils - under-estimation and over-estimation of one's own strength - the former is much the more harmful." - Mikhail Tal
by Junta

On 3½/4 after the first day, it was clear that I would have to score at least 2½/3 on the second day to have hopes of winning the tournament. After the pairings were released in the evening and I looked up my opponent's games in the database, I revised a particular line in the Sicilian Kan as I was quite certain it would occur on the board.

More important, though, was to get a sufficient amount of sleep - it's impossible to play these 60 10 time control games at an optimum condition with insufficient rest overnight. Doubly so for me on this night, as the fast food lunch after Round 2 had given me some non-chess annoyance afterwards - since returning from overseas, having fast food which I'd had no problems with before have given me stomach pains so I might be avoiding them for a while.

On another note, I was planning to take some photos of the playing venue but once the tournament had started, such extraneous tasks all faded out of my mind. Perhaps Shaun Press will be uploading some later, when I'll link to it here.

Round 5

Feeling much better in the morning, the opening as Black went perfectly, and my opponent (who last year killed my chances of 1st by leaving me on 2½/4 after Day 1), pursuing action, decided on an unsound Nd5 sacrifice. I was moving all the right pieces in keeping my advantage until a couple of dubious moves crept in, and suddenly White won back my estranged knight on a2. He was close to equalising, but went astray from the pressures of Black's passed c-pawn and heavy pieces.
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On Board 1, Andrew was playing George as White, in an interesting line of the Queen's Indian which I believe went 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Bg2 c5 7.d5 exd5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.0–0 Nc6 10.Rd1 Nc7!? (10...Be7 is usual)

A provocative novelty from Black.
Andrew subsequently went all out for the attack on Black's slightly suspect king, but George calmly repulsed the onslaught after taking the exchange and converted convincingly. With two rounds to go, the leaderboard read:
4½ - Xie, Ikeda
4 - V.Smirnov, Brown, Melrose, E.Guo, Ng

Round 6

The crucial game. I believe George is the player who has given me the most losses in tournament play, and apart from one win thanks to an opening blunder in 2008, through 2005-start of 2011 I had lost 7 games to him - over the last summer especially, losing to him in each of the three big tournaments (Surfer's Paradise - penultimate round, Australian Open - final round, Oceania Zonal - final round!). Many players have one or two opponents they score poorly against, and it takes time to overcome what is undoubtedly a psychological obstacle against these players.

In this game, I had a slight advantage as Black after the opening (Torre Attack), but lost the thread in the early middlegame, and White's queen, light-squared bishop and two knights became poised to attack my king on the queenside . Although the knockout blow was missed, White's immovable bishop on c6 and potential exploitation of the a, b and e-files had each of my king, queen, rook and bishop confined to passivity. However, the vertical path for the rook to my royal couple was chosen wrongly, letting me escape into an equal ending - it is difficult to play 'normally' after a large advantage is given up.
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Vlad grinded down Melrose's hedgehog, while Andrew was lucky to survive with a draw against Emma Guo as Black, after a similar opening (trap) catastrophe to his loss against Moulthun at the Zonal in January occurred in the Grand Prix Attack (involving e4, Nc3, Nf3, Bb5-c4, Nf3xNd4, Qf3, Nc3-b5, Qa3 etc.).
With one round to go, the scores were:

5½ - Ikeda
5 - V.Smirnov
4½ - Xie, Brown, Mandla, A.Smirnov, E.Guo

Round 7

Needing at least a draw against Vlad to clinch the tournament, I decided to play the Exchange Slav with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.cxd5 etc, and offered a draw in the fairly equal middlegame, which was accepted after some thought.

19.Kc1-b1 ½-½
On Boards 2 and 3, George and Andrew beat Blair and Anton respectively, and the final scores of the leaders were:
6 - Ikeda
5½ - Xie, V.Smirnov, Brown
5 - Melrose, Ng, Ali, Grcic, Lo

The final crosstable can be seen here.

The overriding feeling when drawing Round 7 was of relief, that my nerves had held out over the 7 rounds. The overseas experience from June-September has definitely helped in my confidence, as I was playing strong opponents every game in those five tournaments, but there is still an awful lot to be done in my game.

The Vikings Weekender is the tournament I've had the most success in over the years, winning in 2004 (my first adult weekender win, in Year 7 - I still remember how happy that made me), 2005 (shared), 2008 and 2009 - although I fall into time trouble quickly with this time control, I usually handle it well as I'm able to play on intuition, on feeling - my intuition isn't too bad, but the biggest deficiency in my chess is that I find it difficult to trust my intuition and play quickly - hence I think too much, when I should also be tuning into my 'feel' of the position.

Many thanks to the organisers, Glenn Ingham, Jim Flood and Matt Radisich, as well as the Tuggeranong Vikings League Club, and DOP Shaun Press. The number of entrants have been unusually consistent over the last few years at 58 in 2008, 57 in 2009, 55 in 2010 and 56 this year - it's a great tournament to play in, so I hope there'll be more people joining to play this event in Canberra next year.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Vikings Weekender 2011 - Day 1

by Junta

The Vikings Weekender, the third biggest tournament on the nation's capital's calendar, was held over the weekend (Nov 19-20).

This 7-round Swiss with the familiar Australian weekender time control of 60 minutes + 10 seconds / move was promoted to a Class 2 (ACF rated) event on the Grand Prix for the first time this year, attracting some strong players at the top - three IMs (Xie [NSW], V.Smirnov [NSW], Brown), one FM (Ikeda) and three others rated over 2100 (Mandla [NSW], Melrose, A. Smirnov [NSW]).

Round 1

The lower rated players are outrated by up to 1000 points or so at the start of these Swiss events, but several upsets usually occur, and this event was no exception - one of these was scored by an ex-junior who was Board 1 on my primary school team when we represented the ACT at the nationals 11 or 12 years ago.

Like the large part of once active Canberra juniors, he had drifted off the scene as college and university studies had got in the way of chess, but having completed his studies and a friend taking up playing, he had made a return. Another player who had come out of hibernation was an Australian Junior champion from the early 70's - it's great to see people like these come back and play again.

The top seeds won comfortably, with the exception of myself - as a dedicated time trouble connoisseur from my pre-teen years, I often exhaust most of my hour in the first 20 moves in this time control, and blitz from the middlegame - I hadn't been able to convert my slight advantage until my opponent blundered when down to his last 10 seconds also, in the last game to finish.

Round 2

Things went better for me this time, as the two bishops had their say;
I was satisfied to find a strong move here, 15.Bd4-b2 (Idea Qd1-d4), Houdini's first choice also. 1-0 (27)
It seemed like the top seeds would cruise through the round again, but as the games finished one by one, the Board 1 game between Xie (2460) and local player Sengstock (1723) had reached an intriguing endgame: Xie had sacrificed the exchange in the middlegame to reach an endgame with White having the two bishops, active king and an one or two-pawn advantage against Sengstock's rook, bishop and weaker pawns.

As more than a third of the 56 tournament entrants crowded around the table, Black defended brilliantly in serious time trouble to slowly whittle away the material, and a big upset draw was scored - White couldn't make any more progress.

Round 3

Following the top seed's draw above, the 2nd and 3rd seeds also dropped half points this round - Vlad Smirnov was held to a draw by his ever improving 10-year old son, Anton, while I was in big trouble on the next board against local veteran Grcic. A lapse of concentration in the opening resulted in making one pawn push too many, and White's 9.Qe2+ forcing ...Nge7 guaranteed my king would not be on time to board his scheduled flight to g8. White soon had a big advantage - down to my 10-second increment very quickly, I made a desperate draw offer, and to my relief he accepted after some thought - in the analysis we quickly established that White was probably just winning at the end.

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As the 4th-6th seeds survived to win, the leading scores after Round 3 were:
3  - Brown, Mandla, Melrose
2½ - Xie, V.Smirnov, Ikeda, A.Smirnov, Grcic

Round 4

A couple in the leading group, Mandla and V.Smirnov, took half-point byes - playing four games in one day can be quite demanding, so the players were allowed to take a half-point bye (or two perhaps, for good reasons) on the first day. There was some controversy after last year's event when one of the tournament winners had taken two half point byes in Rounds 4 and 5, so the rules were modified this year.

Board 1: In the clash of the leaders, Brown beat Melrose in a typically strong 1.d4 game from him, against a Nimzo/QID hybrid setup.
Board 2: Xie outplayed Grcic.
Board 3: Although getting in time trouble in the middlegame after trying my hand at the "beginner's" Giuoco Piano as White, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Na4 etc., I managed to win against Anton.

The game ended: 36...Qd5? (...Qc5 += or ...Qb6 were better) 37.Ng6 Rf6 38.Rxf5 1-0

The leading scores at the end of the first day were:
4  - Brown
3½ - Xie, Ikeda, Mandla
3  - V.Smirnov, Melrose, E.Guo, Ng, Ali, Zulkifli, Press, Litchfield

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tal Memorial 2011 tipping!

Superior knowledge of the rules will lead 'Charlsen' to victory

The highest rated 10-player round robin (Category 22 with average 2776) to ever grace the chess world begins tonight (Games at 10pm AEST).
The participants are below.

# = World ranking on the November FIDE rating list
#1 Magnus Carlsen, Norway, 2826
#2 Viswanathan Anand, India, 2811
#3 Levon Aronian, Armenia, 2802
#4 Vladimir Kramnik, Russia, 2800
#6 Vassily Ivanchuk, Ukraine, 2775
#8 Sergey Karjakin, Russia, 2763
#10 Hikaru Nakamura, USA, 2758
#12 Peter Svidler, Russia, 2755
#14 Boris Gelfand, Israel, 2744
#20 Ian Nepomniachtchi, Russia, 2730

Here are the predictions for 1st-5th from the FIGJAM contributors. As our World Cup tipping didn't go so well (though Fedja 'mysteriously' predicted all of the top 8), let's hope someone will hit the jackpot this time. With Nepom as bottom seed and each player capable of winning the big events, every game will be tough.

Andrew's predictions:
1st-2nd: Carlsen, Aronian 6/9, 3rd: Kramnik 5.5/9, 4th-5th: Anand, Svidler 5/9

Fedja's predictions:
1st: Charlsen 6/9, 2nd-3rd: Anand, Kramnik 5.5/9, 4th-5th: Nakamura, Aronian 5/9

Junta's predictions:
1st: Kramnik 6/9, 2nd-3rd: Carlsen, Nakamura 5.5/9, 4th-5th: Aronian, Gelfand 5/9

Moulthun's predictions:
Such a tough tip, and mind you I've never picked any winner right before.
1st-2nd: Karjakin, Ivanchuk, 3rd: Kramnik, 4th-6th: Carlsen, Aronian, Hikaru

Sam's predictions:
1st-2nd: Anand, Carlsen 6/9, 3rd-4th: Kramnik, Ivanchuk 5.5/9, 5th: Aronian 5/9

Final reports on last year's edition, won by Karjakin, Aronian and Mamedyarov with just 5.5/9, can be read here and here

Sunday, 13 November 2011

European Teams 2011 R7-9: Germany win!

by Junta
Round 7

In the battle between two of the leaders, Azerbaijan crushed Bulgaria 3½-½, and with the other leader Romania beaten by Germany 2½-1½, the leaderboard showed:

12MP - Azerbaijan
11MP - Armenia, Germany
10MP - Hungary, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Romania

Topalov (2768, Bulgaria) - Radjabov (2781, Azerbaijan), Round 7.1.1, 09.11.11

After 43.Qc2 ½-½ - the finale of a King's Indian symphony with each side dominating their own colour
On Boards 2 and 3, Gashimov and Mamedyarov scored nice wins - you can see those games here and here.

Morozevich (2762, Russia) - Illescas (2609, Spain), Round 7.6.4, 09.11.11

A position with appealing geometry all over.
Morozevich won in style with 30.Rxe2 Rxe2 31.Qxe2! Qxe2 32.bxc7 1-0

Round 8

Sensation as the German team defeat the Azeris 2½-1½ to overtake them in the lead (Naiditsch scoring the crucial win against Radjabov on top board), with Armenia also keeping pace by defeating the Dutch 3-1. The Romanian team surprised yet again by holding Hungary to a draw, and Bulgaria were back to their winning ways, beating Italy 3-1.

Radjabov as White began with 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 d4 3.b4, a line I am fond of playing also, although objectively, with Black playing the best lines I don't think White can hope for much of an advantage. I held a faint hope that he had found some new lines to disprove this, but it wasn't to be as Naiditsch comfortably gained the upper hand.

With only the final round to go, the standings (with the first tiebreak factor, game points in brackets) were:

13MP - Armenia (21), Germany (20), paired in Round 9
12MP - Azerbaijan (20), Bulgaria (18½)
11MP - Hungary (19), Romania (19), Russia (18½)

Round 9

Table 4 - Russia beat Slovenia 3-1, but the losses in Rounds 4 and 6 were too costly, so they did not have enough to reach the podium. As Ian Rogers commented on today's The Canberra Times chess column, a team of champions isn't necessarily a champion team - after the failures at gold over the years, it must be difficult to change the flow of things, but they will have to try and meet the expectations as the top seeded team again at next year's Olympiad in Turkey.

Table 3 - A demolition of Bulgaria by Hungary - 4-0!? Leko's win over Topalov was quite exciting, and his teammates also played strongly to win - but such a scoreline between two battle-hardened teams is difficult to explain with just the play. While Hungary had been bubbling a couple of MP's below the leaders for several rounds, eyeing chances of bronze, the Bulgarians had been leading the event at one stage, and perhaps they found it hard to play with both intensity and objectivity when their chances of gold were now very, very slim.

Table 2 - Gashimov and Mamedyarov won again, and the Azeris were victorious against the Romanians 3-1. So, at this point, the Azeris were on 14MP (23GP), and following on 13MP were Hungary (23) and Russia (21½).

As the leaders on 13MP had 21 and 20 GP, Azerbaijan could potentially take gold!
And thanks to their 4-0 win, the Hungarians now were real candidates for bronze.

Armenia beating Germany would lead to...Gold - ARM, Silver - AZE, Bronze - HUN
A 2-2 draw would lead to...Gold - AZE, Silver - ARM, Bronze - GER
Germany beating Armenia would lead to...Gold - GER, Silver - AZE, Bronze - HUN

Table 1 - Naiditsch and Aronian had a quick draw on Board 1, and Fridman-Akopian on Board 3 was also drawn. Germany's 2nd board Meier played a brilliant French game beating Movsesian, so everyone's eyes were on the Board 4 game which lasted over 5 hours - could German Board 4 Gustafsson hold on for a draw to give the team gold, or would Sargissian win to tie the match 2-2, giving Azerbaijan gold?

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So the medals went to:
Germany - 15MP (22.5), Gold
Azerbaijan - 14MP (23), Silver
Hungary - 13MP (23), Bronze;
Armenia (22½) and Russia (21½) missed out on tiebreaks.

No-one saw the 10th seeds as victors before the event - their first team gold since the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939! As has been mentioned in several places, the German team's success was a genuine team effort. Their only two losses were in Round 5 to Bulgaria, and from there - a 3-1 win, followed by tight 2½-1½ wins in the final three rounds - with a different member scoring the much needed point each time.

The final standings on is here.

The best performance ratings in the event were achieved by:
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Azerbaijan Board 3 (!), 7/9, Rp 2866
Michael Adams, England Board 1, 6.5/9, Rp 2841
Alexander Grischuk, Russia Board 2, 5.5/8, Rp 2838
Levon Aronian, Armenia Board 1, 5.5/8, Rp 2833
Zoltan Almasi, Hungary Board 2, 6/8, Rp 2809

The Womens' event was won convincingly by top seeded team Russia (17MP, 25½GP), with Poland taking silver (14MP, 23GP) and Georgia bronze (14MP, 22½GP).

Final round reports with lots of pictures and games on some major chess news sites are below, which are highly recommended viewing.
ChessBase, ChessBase (pictorial)ChessVibes, WhyChess

Saturday, 12 November 2011

European Teams 2011 - Rounds 1-6

by Junta

The European Team Championships was held in Greece from November 3rd-11th, at Halkidiki which hosted the World Youth U/12's back in 2003, my first overseas event.

The Open section had 38 teams, of which the top four teams had an average rating above 2700, 20 teams were above 2600, and 28 teams were above 2500 - a very strong event. If Australia could have sent in a team with the highest rated lineup possible (average 2480), we would have been seeded 33rd.

I was sure that the battle for gold would be between the highest seeded teams:
#1 Russia (average 2758, determined to win their first team gold in years),
#2 Ukraine (2010 Olympiad winners),
#3 Azerbaijan (2009 European Teams winners) and
#4 Armenia (always formidable in teams events, winning the '06 and '08 Olympiads, and this year's World Teams).

However, with so many strong GMs playing, there were many big upsets and surprises throughout the 9 rounds, and the race to the finish was unusually dramatic, with the leaders changing round by round. Last night, I was up until 3:30am watching the live games, as the allocation of the medals hung on the result of the nervy last game...

From the start of the tournament, though. After the first four rounds, things had already took an unexpected turn, with Azerbaijan, France (6th seeds), Bulgaria (7), Germany (10) and Spain (13) leading on 7 match points after 3 wins and 1 draw each - while Russia, Ukraine and Armenia had only scored +2 =1 -1 (losses to Bulgaria, Germany and Azerbaijan, respectively).

And after Round 5: Bulgaria were sole leaders on 9MP, with Azerbaijan, France, Romania (17) and Greece (19) following on 8MP. Though around the middle of the field in seeding, even these latter two teams had an all-GM team, capable of fighting against any of the stronger teams on a good day.

Round 6 was hard fought at the top, with a single win deciding the winner on Tables 2-4. Bulgaria drew with France at the top, so the standings were now
10MP - Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Romania, and
9MP - Armenia, France and Germany.

By now, the prospects looked grim for Russia and Ukraine, behind on 7 and 6 (!) MP respectively. Although Russia recovered to score =3rd, Ukraine had a shocker, finishing with 4 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses (including one to Switzerland [26]!) at 15th.

Here are some crisp game climaxes from the first two thirds of the event:

Morozevich (2762, Russia) - Svetushkin (2621, Moldova), Round 1.1.3, 03.11.11
An obvious draw. Unfortunately, the worst blunder of the tournament occurred:
76...Rg2?? 77.Rxg2 1-0

Grischuk (2752, Russia) - Laznicka (2703, Czech Republic), Round 2.1.2, 04.11.11

Another drawn position with a Russian player as White.
But the game continued: 39.f4 h5?? 40.Kf5 Ke7 41.Kg6 Kf8 42.Kxh5 1-0

Outspoken Russian team manager Evgeny Bareev commented (from WhyChess):
"In order to complete the rout Alexander Grischuk used a cunning trick: when his opponent had managed to defend a difficult position Grischuk looked from side to side to where his opponents had won, sighed and offered a draw. The pawn ending really was drawn, but could the proud Czech guy agree to that so easily? Of course not, and having used up all his remaining time thinking Viktor boldly advanced one of his pawns. When time trouble ended you could observe the scene, as Laznicka, who was sitting up straight on his chair, found out that he was lost. He slowly started to slide from his chair and found that his feet were far ahead of the table in the aisle, while his head was almost under the table. A painful loss, but a deserved victory for the Russian team."

Mastrovasilis (2621, Greece) - Short (2698, England), Round 2.5.2, 04.11.11

White has a decisive advantage, so Black decided to lose in style:
24.Rhd1 Qc7?? 25.Bf8 Qxc4 26.Bg7# 1-0

Miezis (2547, Latvia) - Navara (2724, Czech Republic), Round 3.9.1, 05.11.11
An attractive finale: 86.Ka6 Bb8 87.Nd7 Bxa7 88.Nc7# 1-0

Gustafsson (2633, Germany)-Efimenko (2702, Ukraine), Round 4.3.4, 06.11.11
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A nice attack!

Hansen (2566, Denmark)-Aronian (2802, Armenia), Round 5.6.1, 07.11.11

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A memorable swindle.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

November in chess

November 1st
- The November FIDE rating lists were published. For the first time, there are four players with a published rating of 2800 or above, with Carlsen near his PB (of 2828) at 2826, Anand at 2811, Aronian at 2802 and Kramnik at 2800 (his first published rating of 2800 or over since January 2003).
There are 47 players rated 2700 or over, and about 175 players rated between 2600 and 2700.

  The top end of the (active) Australian list sees just a little bit of change, most notably the juniors Max Illingworth rising from 2358 to 2401 and James Morris from 2327 to 2364. Assuming they will also play in the Australian Championships at Geelong (Dec 27-Jan 8), the field looks to be quite strong, with Li Chao (!), Zhao, Xie, Johansen, Solomon, Ly, Ikeda, Cheng and Steadman (NZ) being the titled players already registered.

- The Category 4 Melbourne Club Cup Weekender concluded, with George Xie scoring an impressive 8.5/9, followed by Bobby Cheng 2nd on 7.5, and Morris, Solomon, Brown, Rujevic, Garner, Tan on 6.

November 3rd-11th
- The 18th European Team Championships kicks off in Greece. Although the biennial Olympiad is of course the most colourful competition on the chess calendar, this year has seen a wealth of strong team events, with the World Team Championships in July and the European Club Cup which concluded a month ago; not to mention the strong national leagues in Europe and Asia, especially the Bundesliga. David Smerdon had a taste of the Dutch League very recently when he played Yasser Seirawan on top board for his team.

Russia hopes to stop its drought of gold in recent years with an elite team of Svidler, Karjakin, Grischuk, Morozevich and Nepomniachtchi (Kramnik is conserving energy towards another tournament later in the month) - but the other top seeds, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia will not make it easy for them.

The Open Section results are here, and Womens' here.

November 13th-30th
The Women's World Championship match between Hou Yifan (China) and Koneru Humpy (India) will be held in Albania, consisting of 10 games followed by a tie-break if necessary. The official site is here.

November 16th-25th
An absolutely mouthwatering field is assembled for the 10-player round robin, Tal Memorial in Moscow. The four players in the 2800 club are all playing, followed by world #6 Ivanchuk, #8 Karjakin, #10 Nakamura, #12 Svidler (2011 Russian Champion and World Cup winner), #14 Gelfand (his game against Anand should be interesting to watch) and #20 Nepomniachtchi (2010 Russian champion)!!
The average rating: 2776, surely a record for a 10-player round robin. Throw in Radjabov, Topalov, Morozevich and Grischuk for a dream Wijk aan Zee.

November 19th-20th
The Category 2 Vikings Weekender will be held in Canberra.
At the moment George Xie, Vlad Smirnov, Andrew and Junta are the top players entered.

November 26th-27th
The Category 1 Caloundra Open will be held on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.