Mainz Chess Classic Recap Part II
August 09, 2009 • General
Hello to everyone once again. Unfortunately, because I am a total idiot, I accidentally hit the back button after finishing up my annotations on the first game from the 960 final against GM Aronian. Thus, I ended up erasing 1 hour of hard work…c’est la vie. Therefore, I am simply going to be writing up a blog entry without annotations as it will be too excruciating to redo all of it at this time.
Day 5: “Showdown in Mainz”
Once again, keeping in tandem with my ‘normal’ schedule up to this point, I chose to stay up for most of the evening prior to the looming showdown on the following day. Thus, I enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast at 6:30 AM eventually turning in around 7:30 AM. To avoid any potential nightmare, I set an alarm for 4:30 PM just to be safe. After waking up, I decided to chill out for an hour before I meditated and got ready for the big match. Surprisingly, I was very loose before the actual start. In many ways, my goal was to simply make it to the final, so by making it there and also beating Levon along the way, I felt that even if I lost 4-0, it would have been successful. I cannot reiterate it enough that being relaxed rather than overly tense is always more enjoyable. Of course, more often than not, the pressure is on me to win and not the other way around! This time around though, it definitely helped to not have to prove anything.
In the first game itself, I played the first couple moves quickly and the position should have been relatively balanced. However, Levon after using more time was unable to come up with the right idea and I came out of the opening with a surprisingly big advantage. When coupled with the nice time advantage which I had, I was able to get a winning position. It was at this point that Levon tried to complicate matters by sacrificing a rook. I managed to maintain my cool and was able to convert with any real scare. All I can say is wow! Obviously, I felt that I would have chances in the match, but to start off like this really surprised me and definitely made me believe that I had a legitimate shot at winning.
After winning the first game, my goal was to simply play chess and not do anything overly stupid if possible. Surprisingly enough, I was able to trick Levon with a nifty little pawn manouver in the opening after which I really had no major problems. In the middle game, Levon used nearly all of his time trying to solve the complications which I created. Much like in the first game, he reacted badly and after two quick blunders, I netted a piece and the game. This game had a lot less drama than the first game as the result was very sudden. Right before I won the game, I really started thinking to myself if this was really happening or if it was all a dream. Running into ICC journalist Macauley Peterson outside the playing hall after the second game, I realized that this was actually reality!
The start of the third game brought a sense of tension and urgency on both Levon and my part since we both had something to prove. If I drew or won the game, the match was over while he was in a must win situation with Black. In this third game, Levon chose to play a Philidor type of setup which was, without a doubt, the wrong plan. I got a big advantage after 10 moves while Levon’s time simply kept on ticking away. As the game progressed, I am pretty sure I missed one or two ways to convert the win quicker, but I went for tactics since he was low on time. In the end, my simple attack on the queenside was just too strong and there was no obvious defence at the very least. When Levon resigned the third game, there was a lot of clapping in the Rheingold Halle. To put it simply, I was just elated with the result. However, in some ways I was definitely disappointed since I was expecting more of a challenge. I do think that if I can beat the number five player in the world that easily, then I definitely have a chance at becoming world champion in a few years. I know that Levon attributed it to having a bad day, however, I simply do not believe in this justification as his play the previous day was also very shaky with losses to Bologan and myself. Before I get ahead of myself we did, in fact, play a fourth game in which I completely winged it and somehow miraculously drew from a much worse and probably losing position. This meant that the final score was 3.5-.5.
What conclusions can be drawn from the 960 Fischer Random event? I think that what it showed me is that I am capable of competing with the best players when it becomes “chess” as opposed to simple systems and preparation. Therefore, I am very optimistic about my future chances if I am adequately prepared and maintain my current level in classical chess. As far as my overall view of Fischer Random, I think that what it shows more than anything is pawn structure and middlegame structures more than anything. However, I still do believe that it is not an adequate means of attempting to become a better tactician (I think blitz or bullet online is more productive in this regard).
Day 6: “Sleep”
I know that many people were expecting pictures, but I simply was too entrenched in my routine by this point so I simply was asleep pretty much the whole day as I needed to try to recharge my batteries prior to the Ordix Open which was starting on Saturday.
Day 7: “Ordix Open Day 1”
Having played in the Ordix Open last year, I knew that it would be brutally strong and tough. Overall, playing 11 games over 2 days is tough, but adding 7-8 games against GMs makes it simply an endurance test. Coming off of the 960, I simply was not ready for rapid, and I did not start off well as I blundered terrible and was losing in the first game to a 2100! From there, things really did not improve as I misplayed the English against GM Cvitan and was probably close to losing at a certain point before I swindled him. The one other game of note was in round five when I played GM Shomoev in the final round of the day. We played a hair raising Scandinavian in which it seesawed back and forth. I suspect that at more than 1 juncture, we both missed wins. After all the smoke cleared, we ended up in an endgame where I had R+N+pawn against R+B. However, Caissa must have decided that I had enough luck on the day since Shomoev played well and avoided cracking in the horribly time scramble. The end result was a draw with left me on 4.5/5. Overall, I could not complain with the result due to my horrible chess.
Day 8: “So Close and Yet So Far”
On the second and final day of the Ordix Open, the games started bright and early at 10 AM since we had 6 rounds to play! This definitely did not favor me as I had spent the last week (prior to day 1 of the Ordix Open) going to sleep in the early morning and waking up in the evening. However, I somehow I forced myself to get a few hours of sleep before play resumed in the open. In the sixth round, I had White against GM Andrei Sokolov of France. After playing a slightly offbeat variation in the English, I got an advantage only to play the variation in the wrong order. After this disaster, I was much worse if not outright losing ONCE AGAIN. My saving grace was that I had a big advantage on the clock. After tricking Sokolov in the midst of his bad time pressure, I got a small edge in a rook and pawn ending only for him to flag in a position where there was still a lot of work left. The seventh round worked out a lot better for me since I got Black against GM Gyimesi from Hungary and was able to execute a nice tactical combination in the Kings Indian. This left me on 6.5/7 and one of the clear leaders now. In the eight round, I was White against GM Sasikiran of India. This time around, there would be no repeat of 2.Qh5 like the one time we played in the Sigeman round robin in 2005! After blitzing out the first 15 moves in a Grunfeld, I simply forgot the theory and went astray instantly. At this point, I was clearly losing but I managed to just hang on while forcing my Indian opponent to use up valuable time trying to find a forced win. In the end, I somehow survived the dust but was still worse when he overstepped on time, thus giving me another miracle win. I really wish I could be more positive about the games, but my horrid play continued in the ninth round when I was Black against German GM Arkadij Naiditsch. After playing the opening like an idiot, I was simply losing YET AGAIN! Somehow though, I found a nifty little exchange sacrifice which gave me quite a bit of counterplay. My opponent was unable to find the right defensive plan and I was victorious.
At this point, having amassed a huge score of 8.5/9, I was really not sure what to make of anything. I was tied with GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov heading into the tenth round game. As we were the only two people on 8.5, this game more or less would decide the winner of the Ordix Open if it was decisive. Since I had White in this game, I figured that this was the one time when I really needed to find a way to play a good game of chess as it could give me a miracle victory. Overall, I felt that I played the game very well and always had a small advantage. It was only towards the end as we both headed for the time scramble, that I went horribly astray. The first mistake I made was not simplifying when I could have. The second and much more major mistake was getting cute and winning a piece. Although this was the best choice in the game, from a practical standpoint it made life horribly difficult as I always had to find the right moves in the scramble while Mamedyarov’s moves were all natural and easier to see. In the end, I simply got careless and blundered horribly. This blunder cost me both the game as well as any chance of winning the tournament. In the eleventh round game against GM Gashimov, I simply was unable to focus at all and lost without putting up any sort of fight. This left me on a final score of 8.5/11.
In conclusion, the Ordix Open was really a mixed bag. To play so badly in 9 of the 11 games and yet have a chance to win the tournament proved that even if I have a bad day or two, I will always be contending. Overall, I really could not have expected better than I did considering my lack of sleep and energy and all the ridiculously bad positions I achieved, so I am pleased. I would just like to point out that I had a great time in Mainz and although I doubt I will be back next year, I look forward to defending my Fischer Random 960 title in two years! Anyone who has a free week in the summer and wants to play chess should definitely consider taking a trip to Mainz if they want the real European chess experience. That is all for now since it is 2 AM and I have to pack for my trip to Japan!