Cap D'Agde 2008
November 02, 2008 • General
Hello to everyone! Although I had many opportunities to blog throughout the event here in Cap D’Agde, for the most part I was focused on playing my best chess which is why I did not blog. So without further ado, I will try and recap all the great moments throughout the tournament for me this year.
In the qualifiers, I was put in the group with Carlsen, Radjabov, Karpov, Kosteniuk, Hou, Feller and Skripchenko. Originally I thought that being in this group was rather unfavourable as I had to face both Carlsen and Radjabov as opposed to simply Ivanchuk had I been in the other group. In the first round I was paired against GM Radjabov. In the past he has made some rather disparaging remarks about Armenians, as well as other grandmasters. It is rather interesting to note that when I acted in this manner on ICC in years past, people would get really upset whereas it seems when Radjabov just does it publicly, it is ok? Is there a double standard here…anyone? In our game which seems to have gotten garbled in the transmission, we played a very sharp Kings Indian (I was white) and in the tactical melee that ensued, I simply panicked and let my nerves get the best of me. According to analysis I did afterwards I was at least equal if not better. Having not played in two months, it probably was the wrong idea to go for the sharpest type of position that is possible, but I made the choice and it didn’t quite work out. After this, I had a relatively win against Feller before I was paired against Magnus the following morning. In this game, much like a few later games, I got a roughly equal position and slowly proceeded to outplay Magnus. Near the end of the game, I was very close to winning but due to a huge time deficit which I had gotten myself into, I was only able to draw. After this, it was more or less smooth sailing for me as I won the rest of my games without too much trouble. The highlight was definitely beating Karpov with black in a Leningrad Dutch in the very last round.
In the quarterfinals I was paired against the up and coming French GM Vachier-Lagrave. Perhaps because it was the start of the match format or just pure nerves, I did not play very inspiring chess. In both of the rapid games, I was significantly worse but was able to salvage two draws. In the blitz, Maxime had the misfortune of walking into some very deep preparation I had done on the Benko prior to the tournament. After getting crushed in a disgusting matter in game 1, he was not able to recover and I moved on to the semifnals. I then had to face legendary grandmaster and former World Champion Anatoly Karpov. In this tough match, we played two very standard rapid games with neither side really achieving much in the way of an advantage. However, once again, I proved my blitz skills as I was able to eliminate him 2-0. This left me with a match against GM Vassily Ivanchuk who is currently number three in the world. Going into this match, I knew I would not be the favourite, so my goal was quite simply to play solid and get into the blitz tiebreaks. Although I knew I had chances at rapid, I figured that at blitz I would have very close to even chances. In the first game we played a fairly standard Open Ruy which I had all prepared up until Rc5. According to my analysis with Rybka Rc6 was slightly better. However, the game then simplified into an ending which was objectively equal. However, Ivanchuk who didn’t want to draw with white started pressing and got himself into some trouble. Fortunately, for his sake, he was able to find a solid outpost with the neat g3-Ng2-f4 manouver and draw. In the second game, I once again played in a very solid manner as my goal was to stick with the game plan. In the middlegame he inexplicably started going wrong when he chose Bc5 over the simple Bxg2 Kxg2 Qxd4 Bxd4 Rfc8 after which it should be a standard draw. Slowly but surely I think proceeded to outplay him with the good knight against bad bishop. All in all, a fabulous result which I am quite happy with. At the start of the tournament I figured I would simply try to play my best chess and hope for a good result. In the end, winning is obviously the best result and I’m very happy about.
I would also like to point out a few mentions of thanks. First, I’d like to thank both Bachar Kouatly and Robert Fontaine for their grateful assistance to both my father and me through this past week as well as their kind words and actions. I would also like to thank my second back in the US, Kris, without whom this result would not have been possible. I know he put it many long nights preparing me for my matches against Ivanchuk and Karpov, so I would be remiss if I did not say thanks. Last but not least, I would like to thank my great girlfriend Laura who provided me with great support and encouragement from afar. So thank you to everyone who helped me and hopefully when I come back in two years I will be able to repeat my success.