January 28, 2008 • General
Yay! Today was, without a doubt, the best game I’ve played all tournament. After my fairly shaky last couple of rounds, today I was paired against WGM Harika. I’ve actually known her for quite some time, so I was fairly familiar with her style. For this reason, I chose to play into the Meran yet again. However, I chose to play the order with d5,c6,e6 in order to avoid the Moscow variations with Bg5. Harika slightly surprised me by playing the Shabalov variation with 7.g4. Ironically I have also had this position with white against Shabalov (Nakamura-Shabalov, Foxwoods 2006). As such, I’m fairly well versed in many of these lines; I chose the fairly quiet 7…h6 variation in order to avoid a huge theoretical discussion. Most of the moves were fairly standard until I deviated from Dreev-Petrosyan, Aeroflot 2006 by playing 17…0-0. Although 17…Qb4 was perfectly fine, I felt that in that game after 18.Qd2 Qb5 19.0-0-0 c5 20.Bxb7 Rxb7 21.dxc5 0-0 22.Qd3! was too drawish. I am not sure whether Harika had anything better in the game, but it all started turning very ugly for white after I found the move 24…Qf6! I have not had the chance to look at the game with Fritz or Rybka yet, so I’m not sure where the improvements are for white. I am still remaining focused on my goal of winning my last five games, so I have not really paid attention to the leaders of the tournament. 2 Down, 3 to go!
January 27, 2008 • General
Greetings! So today I will blog because I am not actually on the verge of committing suicide. Yesterday I played a perfectly solid Alekhine and simply got careless trying too hard to win. Alas, this seems to happen too often to me here in Gibraltar (Efimenko 2005). Anyway onto today where things were slightly better, I guess? I actually did not really study any chess today before my round as I wanted to clear my mind after the disaster yesterday. The opening today against Caspi was a Center Counter/Scandinavian with 3…Qd6 and 4…c6. I had a solid advantage out of the opening, but somewhere around move 20 I started to misplay it and achieved a slightly worse position! Fortunately, I had a significant time advantage and my opponent started erring around move 28. 1 win down, 4 to go!
January 25, 2008 • General
Sorry, but I’m going to keep this short. I just got done with a tough game with Al-Madiahki. Basically what happened was I got tired and overlooked 54 … c3. I saw the Kb5 h5 Ka4 h6 Rxa3 Kb1 Rb3 Kc2 Rb8 Kc3 +- variation but at that point when you get tired things happen.
I’ll write more later, but it seems like I should rest up for my tough match tomorrow. There are no rest days here, so I need all the rest I can get.
January 24, 2008 • General
Rather unfortunately, I did not have time to blog yesterday due to being extremely busy. One of the many reasons why I come to Gibraltar is for the fun atmosphere which abounds in the evenings. Usually, the schedule I have here is as follows: 8 AM: Wakeup, go for a run, shower 9:30 Go to breakfast 10-12:30 Study chess 12:30-1:30 Lunch/Australian Open 2-2:50 Study some more, get prepared for the game. This has been my morning schedule so far and its worked rather well. After this half of the day, most of the players play their games, go eat dinner and then hang out/drink/etc afterwards. Last night was very long for me as I ended up playing one of the side events “4 Player Team Blitz.” This event consisted of teams of 4 playing each other. My team with me, Indian GM Gopal (drew Ni Hua), IM Harika, and WGM Ramaswamy. Sadly, it was not the easiest event to win as I had to go up against two other ICC legends (Verdenotte) Gawain Jones and (Tigrano) Tigran Petrosyan. However, despite my lackluster play which probably had to do something with the alcohol, we managed to win all except for 1 of our matches by big enough scores to win the event.
As per request, I will attempt to mention more about my games from this tournament. Yesterday, I got paired against Hungarian IM Krisztian Szabo who I had never heard of before. I played my personal favorite variation in the Moscow Variation with 9.e5 and 10.Nd2. I first prepared this variation during the round robin tournament I played in Barcelona, Spain last October and have since had some good results beating Van Wely and Kleiman with this variation. Yesterdays game was very complicated and somewhere in the middlegame my young opponent missed an opportunity to castle queenside either with 17…0-0-0 18.Qh5 with complications or 18…0-0-0 19.Nb3 with a small advantage for me. After this, my opponent proceeded to make a few slightly inaccurate moves and eventually I was able to take advantage of his weak pawns and badly placed king. All in all, it was an interesting game with many possibilities.
Today I got paired with famous English GM Jonathan Speelman. Although this pairing was reasonable for me, I would have preferred to play someone who is more tactical as opposed to positional. Nevertheless, the show must go on. In the opening, Speelman being a slightly more classical player chose to avoid the Moscow and went into the quieter Meran with 6.Qc2 followed by 7.Bd3 out of the opening the position was roughly equal until about move 16 when things started heating up. 16.e4 was probably slightly inaccurate as it allowed me the opportunity to play 16…Qc7! after which I would have had a solid advantage. The more precise way of playing would have been 16.Bd3 Bb7 17.e4 transposing into the game. After this, I played the slightly inaccurate 20…Bd6 provoking 21.e5! If I had chosen to play simply 20…Qc7 21.Rc2 Qb8 the position would have remained equal. Instead, I completely underestimated the very strong 23.Ra3! after which it seems that I am in some trouble. Unfortunately, I decided to exacerbate the situation by playing 23…Rc6 allowing the very strong tactical shot 24.Bxh6! After the game, Speelman asked me if I had seen this tactical shot. I had in fact seen it, but I missed the very simple line of 24…gxh6 25. Be4 Qc8 26.Rg3 Kh8 27.Qb2 e5 28.Qd2 and I overlooked that Rxd6 was not possible here. This was quite a rude awakening for me as I had evaluated the position as being equal. After this blunder though, I tried my hardest to hold the position and draw. We both made a couple of dubious moves as time control neared, but then I completely blundered with 35…Qg7?? I had intended to play Rf4 and simply forgot! Luckily for me, Speelman then returned the favor with 39.Qc3 allowing Nxa4. If he had simply played 39.Qa7 it should be a routine win for white. At the end, 41.Qc2 is possible and yields white some good winning chances still. However, despite my idiotic play in the middle game a draw is a draw so all is well. 3 Rounds down, 7 to go!
January 22, 2008 • General
Greetings everyone! Today was the beginning of the tournament and, as usual, there was plenty of drama in the round. There were many intriguing games and matchups.
I was paired against the Dutch IM Edwin Van Haastest whom I beat in the Dominican Republic several years ago. I prepared a rather quiet subline within the English Attack of the Najdorf and was about equal until my opponent misunderstood the position and played the move 15.Nce2?! after the game we analyzed the highly interesting 15.g4 which would have led to a much more complicated game. However, after this slight blunder I was able to take control of the game and win without too many worries.
On the other top boards there was a lot more drama. On board one Wang-Dzagnidze saw a complicated middle game arise, but despite obtaining a solid positional edge, Wang was unable to convert and the game ended in a repitition. On board two in the game Paehtz-Bu, led to a horribly messy middlegame with Bu garnering a small advantage. However, Paehtz was probably drawing the game until she started moving her minor pieces to the wrong squares deep in the second time control. The game which really caught my attention though was the game Ni Hua-Joe Bradford. Joe Bradford is one of the few other players besides myself and Varuzhan who hails from the United States. The opening was a standard French Tarrasch in which Ni Hua had a very minute positional advantage. Joe managed to hang tough for most of the game and actually reached a drawn endgame before he overlooked a complex king manouver and proceeded to lose.
All in all, a very eventful first day here in Gibraltar! Surprisingly, I have not been able to obtain internet access from my room yet, so I have not been able to log on and post any pictures yet. Hopefully I will be able to post some pictures in the near future…stay posted.