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    NH Chess Tournament 2010 Summary

    August 30, 2010 • General




    Greetings to everyone from 35,000 feet aboard this Continental flight from Amsterdam to Newark. Due to flying between 75,000-100,000 miles annually, I have achieved platinum status which allows me to grab empty rows of exit seats and stretch out while studying and writing blogs from miles up in the sky! Having finished two back-back events in Amsterdam and Bilbao, I felt it was time to update my blog.

    Last time I blogged, I was flying high after starting off with 2.5/3 in the NH Chess Tournament. However,  in the fourth round, I had to face GM Peter Svidler with black. For some reason, I seem to play like an absolute clown when I face him. As such, I promptly decided to return to form and get adventurous by playing the highly dubious 10…Qb4? instead of 10…Nd7 in the Caro Kann. This led to a very unpleasant middlegame in which I was significantly worse and could not recover. However, despite this incredibly awful game,  I was still in pretty decent spirits as the third member of my team, Tony Rich joined Kris and I on our quest!

    Round 5

    After this loss, the road did not get any easier as I had to face GM Boris Gelfand.  With Kris and Tony coming up with wild and insane suggestions, I eventually settled upon playing the Botvinnik Panov variation against the Caro Kann. The game was relatively balanced as I forced Boris to sacrifice an exchange in return for a bishop and two pawns. Neither of us was really able to do anything special and I should have just sacrificed the exchange right back leading to a drawn rook and pawn endgame. In a shocking manner, I just decided that giving up a free pawn with 31.h4??? was an even better idea and after this disaster, Boris did not give me any chances to swindle him as his technique was flawless as usual. This coupled with a win by Anish Giri over Nielsen put me a whole point behind at the half way point. Luckily, there was also a rest day after this game which allowed me to go out with Tony and Kris and enjoy all the nightlife in Amsterdam.

    Round 6

    After a wild night and the ensuing rest day which allowed me sleep and recover from chess and Amsterdam. I cleared my head as I faced GM Lubomir Ljubojevic with Black as colors reversed for the second half of the tournament. In this game, I decided to play the Semi-Slav which resulted in the Meran variation. My main plan going into this game was to try and create some play while avoiding any obvious lines involving a lot of trades. This strategy paid off, but at a price. I had to start moving my king in the opening. Fortunately, I was able to eventually get a better pawn structure and consolidate my position. This led to a long rook and pawn endgame which I duly converted. Had I not come back strong with this win, it is incredibly doubtful that I would have even contended for the Melody Amber ticket. For further analysis, anyone who is a member of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis can see the game in the September Newsletter.

    Round 7

    This game was without a doubt the most surprising of the whole tournament. I had white against GM Loek van Wely. Much like the game against “Ljubo,” I approached this as a must win situation. I suspect Loek will certainly have something to say or has said something about this game which I missed, but I was incredibly surprised by his choice of 6…Nbd7. In the upcoming issue of New In Chess, Loek wrote an article on the 2010 World Open held in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. One of the crucial games which got a lot of attention was the theoretical battle between IM Bryan Smith and Czech GM Viktor Laznicka. Despite Laznicka winning this game and the tournament, his position in this whole game was incredibly shaky and he was lost at one point. As such, it remains quite a mystery to me since Black is worse and is trying to draw. In the game itself, Loek forgot this bad variation and instead decided that he wanted to play a line which lost on the spot! With this victory and another draw by Giri, I suddenly had caught fire and was tied with Giri heading into the final 3 rounds.

    Round 8

    Being back in the driver’s seat was nice after the two catastrophes in rounds found and five, I knew there was still a lot of chess to be played and I had significantly tougher pairings than Giri. However, there is nothing you can do except play chess and see what happens! In this round, I had black against GM Peter Heine Nielsen. The main problem with playing against Nielsen is that he is incredibly solid and rarely tries to come out swinging against anyone. Seeing as Giri had black against Ljubojevic, I knew he would have reasonable chances of winning which meant that I had to keep on pressing. This time around, I decided to play the Queens Gambit Declined instead of the Slav and it worked fabulously as we reached a relatively even position with a lot of play. From this point, I proceeded to soundly outplay Nielsen and was on the verge of winning the game until I completely messed it up in mutual time pressure with 36…Qe5?? allowing 37.Bg6! which boxed in my rook on h6. After this, I still tried to press on towards victory but Nielsen, as usual, decided to flatten it out as a draw was a sufficient result for him. This was especially infuriating for me as Giri won a very nice game against GM Ljubojevic and jumped a half point ahead of me once again with only two rounds to go.

    Round 9

    Having faced the three weakest players, I returned to face my nemesis Svidler once again. Fortunately, I had white but trying to win against someone who you seem to have problems with is never a fun task. Once again though, I just tried to make the best of a bad situation and continue onwards. I decided to surprise Peter by playing 1.e4 for the first time against him. We played the Zaitsev variation of the Ruy Lopez and unknown to both of us, we ended up following a Karjakin-Eljanov game from the Fide Grand Prix in Nalchik last year. Our game, much like that one didn’t yield either of us anything special and this led to ANOTHER rook and pawn ending where I was down a pawn, but I drew it fairly comfortably.  Giri meanwhile had a completely dominating position and was crushing GM van Wely, but miraculously (for me) he managed to somehow save a draw which still left me only a half point behind going into the 10th and final round.

    Round 10

    As preparation for this round, I decided to go out with Kris and Tony to a local chess bar where we had a few drinks, played some blitz and then I won some money playing time odds against a local 2300! That being said, I wasn’t giving up completely, but I felt like it was better to go out and do something instead of brooding on the impending round and the various scenarios. Oh well, onto the game! Having black against GM Boris Gelfand is NEVER fun. However, since I had a phenomenal win against him with black in the World Team Championship last January, I knew there was some hope. Alas, I decided that what could go wrong if I decided to play the Kings Indian Defence again? I could definitely lose, but you do not have opportunities to qualify for tournaments such as Melody Amber every day! Unfortunately, Boris decided to play the 7.Be3 variation which avoided the sort of game I wanted as we ended up in a positional KID instead. The game itself was strange as I thought I was worse for the first half, but then was better afterwards only to make a slight inaccuracy in the time scramble. However, after I made my 40th move, I wandered over to check out Giri’s game only to see that Nielsen had a winning endgame. After noticing this, I immediately offered Boris a draw. Boris used a good 15 minutes, but then decided to accept my draw offer. In our postmortem we eventually concluded that white was a little bit better in the endgame.

    Blitz Playoff

    For the first time in NH history, there was a tie after 10 rounds. Having caught up with Giri at the end of the tournament, I felt that my chances were quite good as I like my chances against anyone at blitz. I also I knew that I certainly have had much more blitz experience and that Giri certainly would be in a bit of shock coming off a loss in the final round and blowing a clear one point lead after five rounds.

    In terms of the actual games it was pretty routine for me as Giri simply could not match me either in terms of speed on the board or calculating ability. This led to a very lopsided two games in Giri could not compete on the same level and I went on to win both. Having won the tiebreaker, I was absolutely ecstatic at having qualified for the 20th edition of the Melody Amber tournament next March.

    Summary

    Looking back now, I felt that objectively I played the best of the rising stars despite trailing from the halfway point onwards. In many ways, I feel that had I not lost my mind for two days, I would have won the tournament quite easily. Also, I felt that Giri missed his opportunities when he failed to beat Loek in round 9 and then played a wrong move order to lose in round 10. Despite all these circumstances, the fact remains that I qualified and I will take that regardless of how it happened. As this was the 5th and final edition of the NH Chess Tournament, I would also like to thank Mr. van Oosterom, Dirk Jan Ten Guezendam and everyone else who was involved with the organization of this fabulous event.

    Hikaru

    8.30.10

    4 Comments

    1. Congratulations! And best wishes at Melody Amber.

    2. Congratz!!!!!!!!! See you in Amber. When’s your next tourney?

    3. I really enjoyed the write-up. It’s always interesting to read your accounts of tournaments and life.

      Good luck for the future.

    4. You r the people’s champ , vishy anand and u are among the friendly guys in circuit , magnus is not bad either. Blitz is played by pattern recognition , intution n tactical awareness, there is no time to calculate moves in blitz.

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