Sunday, 12 February 2012

Queenstown 2012: my first IM norm

by Junta
Post on Rounds 1-4 is here.

In Round 5 I won a 7.5-hour marathon game, a RN vs. R endgame at the end.
As my opponent gave up her knight for my last pawn, I knew that the logical outcome was now a draw, but I really wanted to win this game - sensing my opponent was very tired, and knowing that even Judit Polgar had failed to defend this endgame once (against Kasparov), I very much felt that it was worth pushing all the way to the end of the 50 moves. Black's last saving chances were to swing the rook to the queenside on moves 108, 109 or 114.

In Round 6 I drew with IM Herman van Riemsdijk with a Sicilian Kan - last July I entered lines from an opening book into ChessBase for the first time, and this was on the Kan - interestingly, a couple of the lines in the book were based on my opponent's games from 30 years ago! When we repeated moves after move 30, it was a position where I just could not find a good plan or sequence of moves to follow, to push for a win - of course, the position was equal, but you feel a little annoyed at yourself for not being strong enough as a player when you're unable to find anything constructive to do in a position.

In Round 7 I managed to sidestep my opponent's preparation with 8...Nf6 which I found in the morning, and I knew that the subsequent pawn sacrifice  must be correct - but what was the follow-up?! 11...Ng4 was begging to be played, but what if 12.Qxd5? Intuitive players may have just banged the knight move out quickly, but I had to find why it worked, and as my clock ticked down from 90 minutes towards 30, I finally found 12...Bxf2+. After White missed the flashy resource 17.Re4! Nc2 18.Qd6!! which close to equalises, Black was winning.

In Round 8, I was up against Trevor Tao - a win would essentially guarantee an IM norm for the victor (for him, also the IM title). My opponent was very smart in his opening choice, swapping off his g7-bishop for my Nc3 in a Fianchetto English to steer the game into positional channels (which I am not very good in). Although I used too much time in the middlegame, I had just about reached complete equality when a nightmarish blunder occurred on the dreaded 40th move, losing a pawn and the game to a simple knight fork.

In Round 9, I needed to win as Black to achieve the norm. I was anxious after the opening - my mind was filled with doubt and hesitation as I realised I had to sacrifice my queen a few moves later in the seemingly best line (20...Rad8) - eventually I convinced myself that other lines were definitely worse, and if this line didn't work out, at least I wouldn't have any regrets. Black's RRBN co-operated well enough against White's Q+R (though I'd completely missed 42.Rc7+ !), and I won on move 46. Eugene was very nice and congratulated me on the winning combination after the game.

After several near-misses and disappointing failures over the last two years, I felt much more relief than happiness on achieving my first IM norm. After most tournaments I play in, I feel like a stronger player, and I look forward to the upcoming events of 2012. GM Dejan Bojkov congratulated me, saying that the first norm is the hardest - I hope he is right!

A mini trophy from my family - "Norm #1".

Thursday, 9 February 2012

FIGJAM in the first half of 2012

by Junta

Apologies for neglecting to post, I will be writing on the second half of Queenstown in the next few days. After this blog started up in July last year, the five of us have only written a little less than 60 posts, but there have been a lot of viewers, and we are about to hit 10,000 views. Thank you for reading, and I hope we can bring you many more posts this year.

I thought it might be good to write a post on what we, the FIGJAM team members, are up to this year. The summer holidays are traditionally the time for chess tournaments (personally, since January 2002 when I played in my first Australian Juniors as a 10-year old, it has been 11 years in a row, and counting), and the end of Queenstown marks the end of this summer (in the chess sense), so we are back into the real world where the outcome of each day does not depend on how we go over the 64 squares.

After 2011, when some of us took time off university to travel and play in overseas tournaments, this year we are all students, as Andrew, Sam and I are all studying in Canberra, while Moulthun is studying up in Brisbane. And lucky Fedja is studying in the Netherlands on exchange (you may have seen the post where he took photos at Tata Steel)!

In Canberra, of course, this Easter marks the 50th edition of the Doeberl Cup, the biggest tournament, and annual get-together of chess players, in Australia. Before that, though, the three of us here have the opportunity to play in two FIDE-rated events - the ANU Masters, and ACT Championships.

The former is a 10-player round robin with a game each Wednesday night until the Doeberl, with the field made up of invited players (such as Andrew, Arianne Caoili and myself) and tournament winners from last year's ANU Chess Club calendar. The draw can be seen here, and crosstable here.

The latter will be held over two weekends: February 17-19th, and 25-26th (9 rounds). I will be attempting to defend my title from last year.

After the Doeberl, many of the players will move to Parramatta for the Sydney International Open - it should be another great event.

When returning from Queenstown, I thought 4 events through Semester 1 was quite enough. However, a few days after catching up on rest and sleep, another tournament was put into my diary. Asked by Moulthun and Irene (from Indonesia, who we became friends with in Queenstown) if I was interested, I decided to play in the HD Bank Open in Vietnam, running March 1st-8th.

With a 1st prize of US $10,000, the event will see many strong players fly into Ho Chi Minh City from all around Asia, and three weeks before the tournament, the list of entries looks very exciting. Le Quang Liem (2714), Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (2662) and Ni Hua (2641) are the top three seeds so far, with 50 of the 80 players rated above 2200!

Later on, as the first semester concludes in June-July, some of us may set our sights on other shores in the holidays until Semester 2 - we shall see...