Saturday, February 18, 2017

Playing an IM with a brand new opening

This next game happened in round 6 of the 2014 Budapest Spring Chess Festival. It is long and has some really crazy twists to the story. First, when I looked at the white repertoire of IM Szalanczy, I realized pretty quickly that I had no hope if I played my standard Sicilian as black. He was just too good with white, even doing very well against GMs. I couldn't find any weaknesses, plus he played so many different variations that I couldn't even try to prepare for any specific one.

That left me in a quandary, because I only play the Sicilian as black. Isn't it insane to try a brand-new opening for the first time against an International Master? How could I hope to survive such a thing?

Well, one thing I noticed when I went through his games in the database was that in one particular line of the French he had only played against it three times, and he hadn't won any of those games. I'm not fond of the French and it has so many complications, but I did like this one particular variation. So I studied it like crazy for hours and hoped he wouldn't vary. I got lucky. He played right into it. Let's see how it went.
IM Emil Szalanczy (hunonchess.com)
Szalanczy,IM Emil (2240) - Cross,Ted (2034) [C18]
Budapest Spring Chess Festival Budapest (6), 19.03.2014

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qa5 7.Bd2 Qa4
This was it, the line of the Winawer French that I was hoping for!
8.Qb1 Nc6 [8...c4]
But here already I managed to forget the correct way to play it. I needed to play c4 right away. Luckily he didn't punish me, which he could have done with 9.Bb5 Qa5 10.dxc5 Nge7².
9.Nf3 c4 10.g3 Nge7
I knew the correct move here was Bd7, but I suddenly became afraid that if he took the pawn on b7 I wouldn't remember how to punish it properly. [10...Bd7 11.Bg2 (11.Qxb7? Rb8 12.Qc7 Nge7 13.Be2 Qa6 14.0–0 Rb7 15.Qd6 Nf5 16.Qc5 Rb5 17.Bxc4 dxc4 18.Qxc4 Na5–+) 11...0–0–0÷]
11.Bh3 b6 12.0–0 Bd7 13.Nh4 0–0–0 14.Qb2 Rde8 15.Rae1 Rhg8 16.Bg4 Nf5
This may look odd, but while looking over all the GM games in this line, I saw that pretty much the only way black gets any play at all is by making this knight move at the proper time and trying to get some counterplay. Not saying I made it at the right time, but I made the offer and he refused it.
17.Ng2 
[¹17.Nxf5 exf5 18.Bh5 Be6²]
17...g6 18.h4 h5 19.Bf3
By refusing to take the knight on f5, white essentially allowed me to create a fortress that is very hard to break down. In fact, it looked so difficult that shortly white decided to sac an exchange!
[¹19.Bxf5 exf5 20.Nf4 Be6±]
19...Nfe7 20.Nf4 Rd8 21.Nh3 Be8 22.Bg2 Nf5 23.Ng5 Rd7 24.Nh7 Rh8 25.Nf6
I was very unhappy that I had allowed him to bring this knight to f6 where it could strangle my position. I took the time to get rid of it, but that meant allowing a pawn to throttle me on f6 instead. Still the fortress is hard to do anything against.
25...Rb7 26.Ra1 Nfe7 27.Rfb1 Bd7 28.Qc1 Ng8 29.Bf4 Nxf6 30.exf6 Re8
So now white decides he isn't going to get anywhere without desperate measures, so he sacs an exchange. As long as my pawn chains don't break down, the only route into my position is via e5, and there just isn't enough there for white to do anything.
31.Rb4 Nxb4 32.axb4 Qc6
32...Qb5! 33.Qa3 Bc6µ is what the computer says, but I struggle to understand it. My best guess is that the computer believes black can win by stuffing white's bishops with the pawn wall, while breaking through on the queenside.
33.Qe3
The computer doesn't like white's move and thinks he gets equality with 33.Ra6! e5 34.Bxe5 Bf5=. Now comes a long maneuvering battle where white tries to find some way to break down the fortress and fails.
33...b5 34.Qe5 a6 35.Ra5 Kd8 36.Kf1 Bc8 37.Ke2 Bd7 38.Kd2 Bc8 39.Bf3 Rh8 40.Ra1 Bd7 41.Qg5 Bc8 42.Re1 Bd7 43.Ra1 Bc8 44.Be2 Rb6 45.Rh1 Re8 46.Be5 Rh8 47.Qe3 Rb7 48.Bf4 Ra7 49.Ra1 Ra8 50.Bh6 Kc7 51.Bg7 Re8 52.Qh6?!
I knew full well that white was playing absurd moves like this only to try to goad me into doing something, anything other than simply maintaining the fortress.
52...Bd7
So I could have punished him here with 52...Qd6! 53.Qe3 e5 54.dxe5 Rxe5 55.Bf8 Qxf6 56.Qc5+ Kd7™–+. Frankly, though, look at the position. Over the board it looks a bit scary, so I did look at trying to break out using my extra exchange, but each time I felt it was dangerous, so I decided to play it safe and simply keep up the fortress. 
53.Qe3 Kb7 54.Bh6 Rh8
Here again I had a hard-to-fully-see line to push for a win. 54...Qb6 55.Qe5 a5 56.bxa5 Rxa5 57.Rxa5 Qxa5 58.Qd6 Bc6 59.f3 b4 60.Qxb4+ (60.cxb4 Qa1 61.Qc5 Ba4 62.Bd1 Rc8 63.Qa5 Qxd4+–+) 60...Qxb4 61.cxb4 e5 62.Be3 exd4 63.Bxd4 Bd7 64.c3 Kc6µ 
55.Bf4 Rae8 56.Bf3 Ra8 57.Qe5 Rhe8 58.Qg5 Rh8 59.Be5 Rae8 60.Qf4 Bc8 61.Bd6 Rd8 62.Be7 Rde8 63.Qg5 Qd7 64.Bc5 Qc6 65.Re1 Qd7 66.Re5 Kc6 67.Bg2 Bb7 68.Qf4 Qd8 69.Bf3 Qd7 70.Bg2 Qd8 71.f3 Qd7 72.Ke2 Qd8 73.Kf2 Qd7 74.Kg1 Qd8 75.Kh2 Qd7 76.Bh3 Bc8 77.Qg5 Bb7 78.Re1 Bc8 79.Bg2 Bb7 80.g4?
As with his earlier exchange sacrifice, white gets tired of trying to get anywhere and pushes a bit too hard.
80...hxg4
Perhaps a slightly better try at punishing him was ¹80...Qc7+ 81.Re5 (81.Kh3 Rh7 82.Qe5 hxg4+ 83.fxg4 Reh8–+) 81...Bc8 82.Kg3 Bd7 83.Qf4 hxg4 84.fxg4 Kb7 85.Bf3 Reg8 86.g5 Bc6µ
81.fxg4 Qc7+ 82.Re5 Rh7 83.Kg1 Qd7 84.Re3 Bc8 85.Kf2 Reh8 86.Rh3 Re8 87.Bf3 Qc7 88.Qe5 Bd7
I knew when he played the queen to e5 that my chance to win was by taking it, but I looked and looked and just couldn't see deeply enough, so again I decided to keep the draw in hand. [88...Qxe5 89.dxe5 a5 90.h5 gxh5 91.gxh5 a4 92.Be3 Bb7 93.Rh1 Ra8 94.Ra1 Kd7 95.h6 Bc6 96.Be2 Rah8 97.Rg1 Kd8 98.Ke1 Rxh6 99.Bxh6 Rxh6–+]
89.Be7 Reh8 90.Qg5 Kb7 91.Kg2 Bc6 92.Rh1 Kc8 [92...Ra8µ] 93.Bc5 Re8 94.h5 gxh5 95.Rxh5 Rhh8 96.Qe5 Kd7
The computer prefers 96...Qxe5 97.dxe5 Reg8 98.Kf2 Kc7 99.Bd4 Kd7 100.Bd1 Bb7 101.Bf3= and says black is better, but I think it just doesn't understand fortress positions. 
97.Rg5 Rh7 [97...Qxe5 98.dxe5 Rh7 99.Rg7 Rxg7 100.fxg7 Rg8 101.Bf8 Ke8 102.g5 Rxf8 103.gxf8Q+ Kxf8 104.Kg3=]
98.Kg3 Reh8 99.Rg7 Qxe5+ 100.dxe5 Rxg7?
I thought this was clearly the right way to play, because I didn't see that sacrificing a pawn here would actually be better for me. [100...d4! 101.Bxc6+ Kxc6 102.cxd4 Kd5 103.Kf3 c3! 104.Kf4 Rh2 105.Rxf7 Rf2+ 106.Kg5 Rxc2 107.Rc7 Rf2 108.Kg6 c2 109.Bb6 a5! 110.Bxa5 Rh1 111.Rc5+ Ke4 112.f7 c1Q 113.Rxc1 Rxc1 114.Bd8 Rc8 115.Bf6 Rfc2–+] Now that's a hard line to see!
101.fxg7 Rg8 102.Bf8 Ke8 103.Kf4 Rxf8
This is why I played this line, believing that I could give back the exchange to go into an endgame up a pawn. I had no idea what a weird resource was available to white. Can you imagine a position where taking a free rook with a pawn with check is wrong? Well here it is!

104.gxf8Q+?
Who could have thought this was a mistake? Check out the amazing double-exclam move white had here! And on move 104 no less.
104.Kg5!! Rg8 (104...Ke7 105.gxf8Q+ Kxf8 106.Kf6+–) 105.Kf6 Rxg7 106.Kxg7 Ke7 107.g5 Bd7 108.Bh5 Be8 109.Kg8+–
104...Kxf8 105.g5 Ke7 106.Bh5 Be8 107.Ke3 Kd7 108.Kd4 Kc6 109.Bf3 Kb6 110.Bg4 Kc6 [¹110...Bd7=]
 I overlooked his tactic here or I would have played Bd7. I could tell that the spectators and IM Szalanczy thought I had blown it and was lost. To be honest, I thought I had as well, but I took a long time after 111.g6 and examined the position deeply and realized it was still a draw.
111.g6 fxg6 112.Bxe6 g5 113.Bxd5+ Kc7 114.Be4 Bd7 115.Kc5 Be6 116.Kd4 Kb6 117.Bd5 Bf5
Even taking the bishop is still a draw, though during the game I felt that taking the pawn on c2 was a must.
[117...Bxd5 118.Kxd5 g4 119.e6 Kc7 120.Ke4 Kd6 121.Kf4 Kxe6 122.Kxg4=]
118.e6 Bxc2 119.Ke5
Nothing white does here makes any progress.
[119.e7 Bg6 120.Be6 Be8 121.Bf5 a5 122.bxa5+ Kxa5 123.Kc5 Ka4 124.Bc2+ Ka3 125.Bd1 Kb2 126.Kb4 Kc1 127.Be2 Kd2 128.Bg4 Kc2=; 119.Bf3 Bg6 120.Kd5 a5 121.bxa5+ Kxa5 122.e7 Ka4 123.Be4 Be8=]
119...Bg6 120.Kf6 Be8 121.Kxg5 a5 122.bxa5+ Kxa5 123.Kf6 b4 124.cxb4+ Kxb4 125.Ke7 Bh5
½–½

I was really proud of this result, amazed that I could play a totally new opening for me against an IM and survive.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Budapest Spring chess Festival 2014 part 1

The next time I played chess was a full year later in the next edition of the Budapest Spring Chess Festival. It was a mixed bag, with one really memorable game, and a continued failed experiment with the Sicilian Grand Prix.

After a fairly simple win in round one, I tried out a different Sicilian than I usually play. I played it decently, with only one early move where I clearly didn't understand the line.

Bitran,Daniel (2133) - Cross,Ted (2034) [B99]
Budapest Spring Chess Festival Budapest (2), 15.03.2014

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0–0–0 Nbd7 10.g4 b5 11.a3 Bb7?!
 Here is where I clearly didn't know the line, where Rb8 would have been equal, while my move leads to a small edge for white if he plays correctly.
12.Bd3?!
 Which he didn't, thankfully.  [12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.g5 Bxd4 14.Rxd4 0–0²]
12...Nc5 13.Rhe1 Rc8 14.Kb1 Qb6 15.Qe2 b4! 16.axb4 Qxb4 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 18.e5 dxe5 19.fxe5 Be7
 I had played well to this point and had a significant advantage. Be7 here still leaves me with an edge, though Bh4 was stronger. [¹19...Bh4 20.Rf1 0–0–+]
20.Rf1?! 
 White gives me an opportunity to gain a winning advantage. [¹20.Ne4 0–0µ]
20...Nxd3?! [¹20...Rb8 21.Na2 Qb6 22.Bc4 0–0 23.b3 h6–+]
 Which I promptly fail to see. Luckily I still have a nice edge.
21.Rxd3 0–0 22.Ne4 Bxe4?
 But here I blow most of my advantage. I'd have been winning with  [22...Bd5! 23.Nd2 Rb8 24.N4b3 a5 25.Rd4 Qb7–+]
23.Qxe4 Bc5?!
Now I let white get equality, while I'd still have a large edge with [23...Rc4! 24.Rfd1 h6µ] 
24.c3 Qa4 25.Rh3 g6 
The computer thinks g6 is fine but says a tiny fraction better is [¹25...h6 26.g5 Rb8 27.Rf2 Qd1+ 28.Ka2 Bxd4 29.cxd4 Rb4 30.gxh6 Rxd4 31.Qb7 (31.Qg2 g6 32.Qb7 Qa4+ 33.Ra3 Qc4+µ) 31...Ra4+ 32.Ra3 Rxa3+ 33.Kxa3 Qa1+ 34.Kb3 gxh6µ]
 26.Qf4 f5??
And I blow everything, giving white a winning game. The right way to play was [26...Rb8! 27.Rf2 (27.Qh6?? Rxb2+ 28.Kxb2 Ba3+ 29.Ka2 Bc1+–+) 27...Rb7 28.Rc2 Rfb8 29.Rf3 Bxd4 30.Qxd4 Qxd4 31.cxd4 Rb4³]
 Now it's just easy for white.
27.exf6 Qd7 28.Rd3 Rce8 29.Qe4 Qd5 30.Qxd5 exd5 31.Nb3 Bd6 32.Rxd5 Bxh2 33.g5 Re5 34.Rxe5 Bxe5 35.Nc5 Bd6 36.Ne6 Rf7 37.Nd8
1–0

So that was painful, to do so well in a new line only to throw it away with one bad move. The next round saw me continue my experimentation with the Grand Prix Sicilian. I was playing an International Master, so maybe I'd have been better off sticking to my normal opening.

Cross,Ted (2034) - Pirisi,IM Gabor (2258) [B23]
Budapest Spring Chess Festival Budapest (3), 16.03.2014

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 g6 3.f4 Bg7 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bb5 Nd4 6.0–0 Nxb5 7.Nxb5 a6 8.Nc3 b5 9.d3 d6 10.Qe1 b4 11.Ne2 Nf6 12.h3 0–0 13.Qh4 e6 14.f5 exf5
Fourteen moves in and I'm doing fine. I had been studying a book by GM Perelshteyn, and though I didn't know it at the time here I was exactly following a Perelshteyn game. Only on the next move the GM played correctly while I went astray.
15.Bh6? [15.exf5 Nh5 (15...Re8; 15...Nd5) 16.Bg5 Bf6? (16...f6 17.fxg6 fxg5 (17...hxg6 18.Bd2 f5 19.Qc4+ Kh8 20.Nf4 Nxf4 21.Qxf4±) 18.gxh7+ Kh8 19.Qxh5 Qe8 20.Qxe8 Rxe8 21.Rae1±) 17.g4!? (17.Ng3 h6 18.fxg6 fxg6 19.Nxh5 gxh5 20.Bxf6 Rxf6 21.Qxh5±) 17...Bxg5 18.Nxg5 h6 19.f6 hxg5 20.Qxg5 Re8? (20...Ng7! 21.Rae1 c4 22.Ng3 Ra7 23.Qe3 Rd7 24.fxg7 Kxg7 25.dxc4±) 21.gxh5 Re5 22.Qg2 Ra7 23.hxg6 fxg6 24.Qxg6+ Kh8 25.Ng3 Qg8 26.Qxg8+ Kxg8 27.h4 d5 28.Rf4 Rh7 29.a3 bxa3 30.Rxa3 Kf7 31.Ra5 d4 32.b4 Rh6 33.Ne4 Bb7 34.Nd6+ 1–0 Perelshteyn,E (2360)-Montalvo,A (2235)/Mermaid Beach 1997/EXT 2001]

15...Nh5 16.Bxg7 Qxh4 17.Nxh4 Nxg7 18.Ng3?!
I'm in trouble no matter what, but slightly better was [18.exf5 Bxf5 (18...Nxf5 19.Nxf5 Bxf5 20.Ng3 Be6 21.Ne4 Rfd8 22.Rae1µ) 19.Ng3 Be6 20.Ne4 Ne8 21.a3µ]

18...f4 19.Ne2 g5 20.Nf3 h6 21.Rae1 Bb7 22.g3 fxg3 23.Nxg3 f5 24.exf5 Nxf5 25.Nxf5 Rxf5 26.Nd2 Rxf1+ 27.Rxf1 Kg7 28.Re1 Kf6 29.Ne4+ Bxe4 30.Rxe4 d5 31.Re2 Ra7 32.Re8 Re7 33.Rc8 Re2 34.Rxc5 Ke5

After all this fairly straightforward maneuvering, I actually dared to think I might be able to save the game at this point. The computer laughs at my naive thinking! I failed to understand how deadly black's kingside pawns would be.
35.c4?
Even the better [35.a3 b3 36.cxb3 Re3 37.Kg2 Rxd3 38.b4 Rd2+ 39.Kf3 h5–+] fails.

35...Rxb2 36.Rxd5+ Kf4 37.Ra5 Kg3 38.Kf1 Kf3 39.Kg1 h5 40.c5 g4 41.hxg4 hxg4 42.c6 Rb1+
0–1

So after a win followed by two losses in a row, I needed to get back on track quick. My next opponent was a Swede that I had played in the same tournament in 2003.

Pesola,Jyrki (1863) - Cross,Ted (2034) [B98]
Budapest Spring Chess Festival Budapest (4), 17.03.2014

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6
Again I try the Najdorf Sicilian even after my loss two rounds previously.
6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Be7 9.Qf3 Nbd7 10.0–0–0 Qc7 11.Bf2 b5 12.Bd3 Bb7 13.a3 Nc5 14.Rhe1 Rc8 15.Qe2 Qa5
I had played the opening well, gaining a slight edge to this point,and now my opponent gave me a dangerous opportunity.
16.Qd2? e5?
Which I failed to see. Best was [16...b4! 17.axb4 Qa1+ 18.Nb1 Ncxe4 19.Qe2 0–0µ]

17.Nf5?
Luckily for me he messed up for a second move in a row, and this time I didn't let the chance escape me! [17.fxe5 Ng4 (17...dxe5 18.Nf5 b4 19.Bxc5 bxc3 20.Nxg7+ Kf8 21.Bxe7+ Kxe7 22.Qf2 cxb2+ 23.Kxb2 Rc3 24.Nf5+ Kf8 25.Ra1²) 18.exd6 (18.Kb1 Nxd3 19.cxd3 dxe5 20.Nf5 Bxa3 21.bxa3 Qxa3 22.Na2 g6 23.Ne3 Qb3+ 24.Qb2 Qxb2+ 25.Kxb2 Nxf2 26.Rd2 Nxd3+ 27.Rxd3 Bxe4 28.Rd6 Ke7 29.Rxa6 Rhd8 30.Re2÷) 18...Bg5 19.Be3 Nxe3 20.Rxe3 0–0 21.Rde1 Rce8 22.Qf2 b4 23.axb4 Qxb4 24.Nf5 Nxd3+ 25.cxd3 g6 26.Ne7+ Kh7µ]

17...b4 18.Nd5??
Even without his blunder here he was lost [18.fxe5 bxc3 19.Qxc3 Qxc3 20.bxc3 Nxd3+ 21.cxd3 dxe5 22.Nxe7 Kxe7–+]

18...Nb3+
0–1

I'll get to the really memorable game that I mentioned above in the next post.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Budapest Spring Chess Festival 2013 part 2

After the disaster of round 4 it took me some time to settle down and play decently again. In round five I played fast and carelessly and was punished for it, losing from a winning position. In round six I played against a nice Iranian lady, and though I didn't play flawlessly, I did manage to play well enough to get back in the win column.

[Event "Budapest Spring Chess Festival"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2013.03.23"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Allahverdi, Maryam"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C50"]
[WhiteElo "2041"]
[BlackElo "1807"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "111"]
[EventDate "2013.03.18"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4 Be7 5. c3 d3 6. Qb3 Na5 7. Bxf7+ Kf8 8. Qa4 Kxf7 9. Qxa5 d6 10. O-O
 This was the first tournament in which I attempted this opening, so I wasn't very familiar with the variations. Castling was my instinct more than anything, though I did look at the more correct 10. Qd5+ Be6 11. Qxd3 with a huge edge.
10... Nf6 11. Qb5 Re8 12. Qxd3 h6 13. Re1 Ng4 14. Bf4 Bf6 15. Nbd2 Ne5 16. Nxe5+?!
 I'm naturally possessive of my bishops, so it's normal that I would play this, but it's a mistake that lets most of my advantage dwindle away. Much better was simply 16. Bxe5 dxe5 17. Qe2.
16... dxe5 17. Qxd8 Rxd8 18. Be3 b5?!
This move gives white back the edge.
19. a4 c6 20. Red1 a6 21. axb5 cxb5 22. Nb3 Rxd1+ 23. Rxd1 Be7 24. Bc5
While my move isn't bad, it's 'bad' in the sense that allowing opposite colored bishops gives black too much hope to hold on, and I didn't need to allow that. Better was 24. Na5 Be6 25. Nc6 Bf6 26. Ra1 with a big advantage.
24... Be6 25. Bxe7 Bxb3 26. Rd7 Ke8 27. Rb7 Be6 28. Bd6 Bd7 29. Rb8+
 I wanted to reduce material, though again this isn't necessarily the wisest choice in an opposite colored bishop ending, even up two pawns. 29. Bxe5! Bc6 30. Rxg7 Bxe4 31. f3 Bd5 32. Rh7 and white is winning.
29... Rxb8 30. Bxb8 Kf7 31. Bxe5 Bc6 32. f3 g6 33. h4 h5 34. Kf2 Ke6 35. Bf4 a5 36. Bd2 a4 37. Ke3 Kf6 38. Kd4 Ke6 39. g3 Bd7 40. Bg5 Bc6 41. Bd8 Bd7 42. Bb6 Bc6 43. Ke3 Bd7 44. Kf4 Bc6 45. Bd4 Bd7 46. Kg5 Be8 47. g4 Bf7
Lots of maneuvering, since that's what the position dictates. I can be slightly inaccurate in places, because the position is one where I can pretty much do what I want, moving back and forth until I figure out the right plan of action. 47... hxg4 48. fxg4 Bf7 49. h5 gxh5 50. gxh5 Bg8 51. h6 Bh7 52. Kf4 Kd6 53. Bg7 Ke6 54. Ke3 Kd6 55. Kd4 Bg8 56. e5+ Kc6 57. Bf8 Kd7 58. Kc5 and white wins.
48. Kh6 Be8 49. gxh5 gxh5 50. f4 Kd6 51. f5 Ke7 52. Kg7 Bf7 53. e5 Be8 54. Bc5+ Kd7 55. Kf8 Kd8 56. Be7+ 1-0

With a couple hiccups in the tournament making it less than wonderful for me, I at least finished with three and a half out of four at the end, wrapping it up with this nice victory over a FIDE master (though admittedly one whose rating has taken a beating as he has aged).

[Event "Budapest Spring Chess Festival"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2013.03.27"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Letay, FM Gyula"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B99"]
[WhiteElo "2041"]
[BlackElo "1967"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "117"]
[EventDate "2013.03.18"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Nbd7 8. Qf3 Be7 9. O-O-O Qc7 10. g4 b5 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. f5 Ne5 13. Qh3 b4
I haven't made any comments yet because all of this is a standard opening line, and one that I have played all my chess playing life. But this last move 13... b4 is only the second-most played variation here, far behind the standard 13... 0-0. My database shows white's winning percentage go from 47.5% after the castle move to 82% when b4 is played. That's a huge difference.
14. Nce2 Nc6 15. fxe6 fxe6 16. Qh5+ Kd8 17. Qf7 Nxd4 18. Nxd4 e5 19. Nf5
 There's nothing wrong with my move, though even stronger is 19. Qd5! Ra7 (19... Bb7 $2 20. Ne6+ Kc8 21. Nxc7 Bxd5 22. Nxd5) 20. Nc6+ and an easy win.
19... Bxf5 20. gxf5 Rc8 21. Bd3 a5 22. Rhg1

What a lovely position, at least from the standpoint of anyone who loves the Sicilian as white! Total domination of the white squares and the one open file. And though there are opposite colored bishops, white's is a good bishop while black's is clearly very bad.
22... Qc5 23. Rg7 Re8 24. Rdg1
I fell too much in love with that open file. While my position is still dominating, this move changes the evaluation from 'winning' to just a 'very large advantage'. The better human move would be 24. b3, while the best move is one only a computer could love: 24. Rd2! and black is simply stifled.
24... Kc7 25. Qe6?!
This move looks nice, and at the time I thought keeping the queens on the board was more dangerous for black, but it was the right time to trade them off. 25. Qc4! White still has a large advantage, though. It's actually pretty hard for white to mess this position up!
25... Kb6 26. R7g2 a4 27. Qd5?
And yet here I go and try to do just that! 
27... Qe3+?
Luckily for me my opponent thought the queen trade was bad for him! After 27... Qxd5 28. exd5 Bf8 29. Re1 Bh6+ 30. Kd1 white has lost all advantage.
28. Kb1 Rc5?!
Black could have kept damage to a minimum with 28... Qc5, though white retains an advantage after 29. Qe6 a3 30. Rd1.
29. Qf7 Rcc8 30. Rd1 Qc5 31. Rg7 a3 32. Qd5?!
Sigh. I'm really trying hard to mess things up on that d5 square. After the correct 32. Qb3! just try to find a plan for black.
32... axb2?
And black really, really doesn't want to trade queens and get back into the game! 32... Qxd5 33. exd5 h5 34. Rh7 and white's edge is minimal.
33. Qxc5+ dxc5 34. Bc4 h6?
Okay so white was already winning, but this move just overlooks the threats white has against black's pieces.
35. Rd7 Rc7 36. Rxc7 Kxc7 37. Bb5 Kd8 38. Bxe8 Kxe8 39. Rg6 c4 40. Kxb2 Kd7 41. c3 Kc6 42. Rxh6 Kc5 43. Rh7 Bd8 44. Rd7 bxc3+ 45. Kxc3
Black plays on in a hopeless position, hoping for a miracle. More accurate here was to give black's bishop no counterplay at all with 45. Kc2! Bb6 46. h4 Kc6 47. h5!
45... Ba5+ 46. Kc2 Be1 47. Rh7
Better here to stifle all counterplay with 47. Rd1! Bh4 48. Kc3!
47... Kd4 48. Rh6 Kxe4 49. Rxf6 Bh4 50. Rc6 Kd5
If 50... Kxf5 then 51. a4 wins easily.
51. Rh6 Bg5 52. Rg6 Bf4 53. h4 e4 54. f6 e3
If 54... Ke6 55. f7+ Kxf7 56. Rg4 and it's over.
55. f7 e2 56. f8=Q e1=N+
If 56... e1=Q 57. Qxf4 or better yet 57. Qf7+.
57. Kd1 Nd3 58. Qd8+ Ke4 59. Re6+ 1-0


It was nice to finish this tournament on a high note. I had no idea at the time that I wouldn't play again for a full year, in the next annual version of this same event.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Budapest Spring Chess Festival 2013 part 1

I have a fondness for the Budapest Spring Chess Festival, since back in 2003 it was the tournament in which I first earned my FIDE rating. Now ten years later I was back to play in it again. The first round I had a fairly standard win against a lower-rated player, not really worth seeing, and the second round I played the Grand Prix attack for the second time (see my previous post), this time against an FM and I didn't make any huge mistakes, but I was slowly outplayed. I considered showing it to you, but I just couldn't find much of interest in it. I certainly failed to improve on my use of the Grand Prix, as I performed miserably with it over both this tournament and the next one.

Instead I'll show you this third round game, again against a master. It was the first time I tried playing the Leningrad Dutch. I had played the Stonewall for many years when I was younger, and I didn't like the types of positions I got from it, so I had long considered switching over to the Leningrad.

[Event "Budapest Spring Chess Festival"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2013.03.20"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Zentai, Peter"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A88"]
[WhiteElo "2269"]
[BlackElo "2041"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "93"]
[EventDate "2013.03.18"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. Nc3 c6 8. Qc2 Na6 9. a3 Qc7
While the 'usual' move here is 9... Qe8, the database shows me that black performs much better in this Qc7 line.
10. b4 e5 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Bb2
Playing this move leaves black with a slight advantage. It was better for white to go ahead with 12. e4 himself. If the next phase of the game has few comments, it's because both sides played solidly, with no mistakes, and the computer rarely offers up anything much better than what we chose.
12... e4 13. Nd4 Qf7 14. Na4 Be6 15. Rac1 Rac8 16. Rfd1 Bd7 17. Nb3 b6 18. c5 b5 19. Nc3 Nc7 20. e3 Ng4 21. Ne2 Ne5 22. Bxe5 Bxe5 23. Rd2 Nd5 24. Nbd4 g5 25. Nc3 Nxc3 26. Qxc3 Be6 27. Qc2 Bd5 28. Qd1 Kh8 29. f4 gxf4 30. gxf4 Bxd4 31. Rxd4 Rg8 32. Qc2 Rg7 33. Rd2 Rcg8 34. Kh1 Qf6 35. Qc3?!
The first real mistake of the game!
35... Qh4
I failed to take advantage of it. Black would have a large advantage after 35... Qxc3 36. Rxc3 a5 37. Rc1 axb4 38. axb4 Ra7. Now the game turns equal and peters out to a draw.
36. Qe5 Rf8 37. Rg1 Qf6 38. Qxf6 Rxf6 39. Bf1 a6 40. Rg3 Rfg6 41. Kg2 Rd7 42. Kf2 Be6 43. Ke1 Rxd2 44. Kxd2 Kg7 45. Kc3 Kf6 46. Be2 Rh6 47. Rg2 1/2-1/2
While it wasn't a highly exciting game, playing a new opening against a master strength player is tough, so doing well and even having a chance to gain a large edge at one point gave me confidence that I could play the Leningrad with decent results.

The next round was one that should have been a triumph for me, but turned into a nightmare with one of the biggest hallucinations of my life. I was playing against a 2100-level player and I felt this was the make or break point in the tournament. I wanted to get a statement win, a confidence builder, and the way I played it should have worked out. Instead it left me devastated.

[Event "Budapest Spring Chess Festival"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2013.03.21"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Marjanovics, Gyorgy"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C54"]
[WhiteElo "2041"]
[BlackElo "2116"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "122"]
[EventDate "2013.03.18"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4 Bc5
My opponent switches the opening over to a giuoco piano.
5. c3 Nf6 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Nxe4 8. Bxb4 Nxb4 9. Bxf7+ Kxf7 10. Qb3+ d5 11. Qxb4 Rf8 12. O-O Kg8 13. Qb3
I knew this line fairly well, and with this last move and the next I repositioned my queen, since I didn't want it imprisoned by black's wall of pawns. I knew this sort of position would entail lots of slow maneuvering.
13... c6 14. Qe3 Qf6 15. Nc3 Bf5 16. Ne5 Rad8 17. f3 Nd6 18. b3 Bc8 19. Rae1 Rfe8 20. Qd2 Nf5 21. f4 Nd6 22. g4 Qh4 23. Qf2 Qh3?!
My opponent makes the first mistake of the game. He needed to trade the queens. Now white gets a decent advantage.
24. Re3 Qh6 25. Kg2 Qf6 26. Rh3
I was trying to carefully probe black's position to see if anything would crack. Better was 26. f5, which of course I saw, but I felt at the time that it was too early.
26... Re7 27. Qc2 g6 28. Rg3 Rf8 29. Rff3 Kh8 30. Rh3 Kg7 31. Rf2?
My first mistake. Luckily black didn't see the correct way to punish it.
31...Nf7?!
Black could have had a significant edge after 31... h5! 32. f5 Qg5 33. Rg3 h4 34. f6+ Rxf6 35. Rxf6 Qxf6 36. Rf3 Qg5 37. h3 Bf5 38. Qf2 Be4 39. Nxe4 dxe4 40. Re3, and though this isn't close to lost yet for white, it sure isn't easy to try to salvage.
32. Rhf3 Ree8 33. h3 Nd8 34. Nd1 Ne6 35. Qd2 Kh8 36. Ne3 Ng7 37. h4 h5?
I had a large advantage no matter what black played here, but playing h5 turned the position into a decisive edge for white.
38. f5! gxf5 39. gxf5 Rg8 40. Rg3
There's nothing wrong with my move, though the computer likes 40. Kf1 even more.
40... Nxf5?
White's advantage was already winning, but now it grows huge.
41. Nxf5 Bxf5

I knew this was the critical moment of the game. I felt it. And what is worse is that the very first idea I examined was the correct one--42. Nf7+!. I saw most of the lines after this move and felt strongly that it had to be winning. Ironically, it was following the instructions of so many chess manuals that steered me wrong here. They always said that you shouldn't just see the first winning line and go for it, but instead look for something even better. So after spending a decent amount of time examining the correct move, I decided to see if there was something more correct, and here is where I hallucinated. I looked at the combination of queen, knight, and the rook on the g file and thought I saw a smothered mate. And I so clearly saw this hallucination that I didn't even bother to take a breath and look it over carefully. I just reached out and played the worst move of my life.
42. Qh6+??
The way to win was 42. Nf7+! Kh7 (if 42... Qxf7 43. Qh6+ Qh7 44. Qf6+ Rg7 45. Rxf5 (I had seen this far in my analysis and was certain this was a win for white) Ree7 46. Qf8+ Rg8 47. Kf2 Reg7 48. Qf6 a6 49. Rgg5 and it is over.) 43. Ng5+ Kh8 (and in this line this was as far as I saw in my analysis, and again I'm pretty sure that once I did get this far I would have found the right plan) 44. Qd1! Rg6 (44... Be4+ 45. Kg1) (or 44... Bg4 45. Rxf6 Bxd1 46. Nf7+ Kh7 47. Rh6#) 45. Qxh5+ Kg7 46. Rxf5 Qxf5 47. Qh7+ Kf8 48. Rf3 and again it's all over.
42... Qxh6 43. Nf7+
There was no point in me playing on, but I was in total shock at what had happened and just needed some time to mentally torture myself.
43... Kh7 44. Nxh6 Be4+ 45. Kh2 Rxg3 46. Kxg3 Kxh6 47. Rf7 Rg8+ 48. Kf4 Rg7 49. Rf6+ Bg6 50. Rd6 Re7 51. Kf3 a5 52. a3 Kg7 53. b4 axb4 54. axb4 Kh6 55. b5 Re4 56. b6 Rxd4 57. Rd7 Rxh4 58. Rxb7 Rb4 59. Rb8 Kg5 60. b7 c5 61. Rd8 Be4+ 0-1


Friday, December 2, 2016

First Saturday FM-A Budapest in May 2011

I had only a mediocre return to chess after more than two years away, but I got better toward the end of the event, and I won both round 10 and 11 fairly smoothly.

[Event "First Saturday FM-A"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2011.11.14"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Jamalia, Natalie"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B33"]
[WhiteElo "1984"]
[BlackElo "2058"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "70"]
[EventDate "2011.11.14"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8.
Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 O-O 12. Nc2 Bg5
I have always enjoyed the wild craziness of this opening, and I play it from both sides! All of this is standard for this variation so far.
13. Nce3 Ne7 14. Bd3 Rb8 15. O-O g6 16. Nxe7+ Qxe7 17. Nd5 Qa7 18. Kh1 Be6 19. Bc2 Qb7 20. Nb4?!
The opening had drifted to a slight edge for black, and this was the first little mistake for either side. It simply wastes a tempo for white and let's black have a trade that I desired anyway. Better was 20. a3 with just a slight black edge.
20... a5 21. Nd5 Bxd5 22. exd5 Rfc8 23. Qg4 Bh6 24. Qh4 Bg7 25.
Rad1 Rc5 26. f4 Rxd5!?
Nothing wrong with this plan, though more accurate is 26... b4 with a more distinct advantage for black.
27. Rxd5
Giving more chances is 27. f5 Rxd1 28. Rxd1 d5 29. Bb3 d4 30. Rf1 Kh8 though black retains an edge.
27... Qxd5 28. Bb3 Qd3 29. Rd1 Qe2 30. Qe7 Rf8 31. fxe5 Bxe5 32. Qh4 a4 33. Re1 Qxb2 34. Bd5 Qxc3 35. Rf1 Qd3 0-1


I followed up this straightforward win with one that was fun, especially since it was the first time I was trying a new opening.

[Event "First Saturday FM-A"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2011.11.15"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Makrai, Peter"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B23"]
[WhiteElo "2058"]
[BlackElo "1812"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "91"]
[EventDate "2011.11.15"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. f4 d5 4. Nf3 d4 5. Ne2 Nf6 6. d3 Nc6 7. c3
 This was my first time trying the Grand Prix Attack. My move here isn't bad, though the database statistics prefer 7. g3 Be7 8. Bg2 O-O 9. O-O.
7... Qb6
This seems to be a novelty, at least in my database, and the computer seems to think it isn't bad.
8. g3 h5
But this feels a bit optimistic and white now has a slight edge. Better is to just develop with 8... Be7.
9. h3 Be7 10. Bg2 Bd7 11. O-O Bd8?
Black makes the first mistake in a complicated middle game, and follows it up with another one next move.
12. Ne5 Qc7?
While this is a mistake, black's position was already difficult.
13. Nxc6 Bxc6 14. cxd4 Be7 15. Be3 O-O-O?
And one more mistake to seal the deal.
16. Rc1
Not bad, but the computer likes 16. Qc2 even more.
16... Kb8 17. f5 Qa5 18. fxe6 fxe6 19. Qb3 Bd7 20. dxc5 Ka8 21. d4 h4 22. Bg5
More accurate is 22. Nf4! e5 23. Ng6 Rhe8 24. Nxe5 with a dominating position.
22... Ng8 23. gxh4 Bxg5 24. hxg5 e5 25. Rf7 Qa6 26. Rcf1
About this point I began to play cautiously, knowing my position was winning and not wanting to allow counterplay. Here the computer prefers 26. d5 Qxe2 27. c6 bxc6 28. dxc6 Bxc6 29. Rxc6 Qd1+ 30. Qxd1 Rxd1+ 31. Kh2 Nf6 32. Rcc7 though I'm wary during games of allowing what looks like more counterplay options.
26... Bb5
If 26... Be6 then 27. d5 is best, though I had planned to play 27. Rf8 Ne7 28. Rxh8 Rxh8 29. d5 which is just fine.
27. R1f2
Again being cautious. Stronger is 27. Nc3 Bxf1 28. Bxf1 Qc6 29. Nd5.
27... Bc4 28. Rf8 Ne7 29. Qf3 Rhxf8 30. Qxf8 Nc6 31. Qf3
One more time with the overcautious play. Much better is 31. Qxg7 Bxe2 32. d5 Nb8 33. Qxe5 Bb5 34. Qf6 Qa5 35. e5.
31... exd4 32. Nf4 d3 33. Nd5
 It's hard not to win at this point, but more accurate was 33. b3! Ne5 34. Qe3 Bg8 35. Nd5 and total domination.
33... Bxd5 34. exd5 Nb4 35. d6 Nc6 36. Rd2 Qc4 37. Qe3 Qc1+ 38. Kh2 Nd4 39. Qxd3 Nf5 40. Qd5 Rb8 41. Rf2 g6 42. d7 Qxg5 43. c6 Qg3+ 44. Kg1 Qc7 45. cxb7+ Rxb7 46. Qxb7+ 1-0

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Returning to Chess

It has been a very long time since I have blogged about chess, but I have recently gotten back into it again, and I'm interested in doing some posts of my more interesting games over these past few years, since doing these posts gives me some small insights into my own thought processes during games.

I believe the last game I posted about was from my years in Iceland, which means I haven't blogged about the tournaments I have played in both Hungary and Bahamas. So I hope to make up for that over the next few weeks, especially since there are some intriguing games I have played. I can't promise all of the ones I blog about will be fascinating, but I believe all of them will be instructive, at least for players lower than master strength.

So, I didn't get to play any chess during the two years (2009-2011) I lived in Baku, Azerbaijan. It's a strong chess country, but they didn't seem interested in having me play there. I spoke a couple of times with their federation officials and no one would tell me anything about clubs or trainers, and the one big open tournament they held each year was in September, which didn't work for my arrival, and also they held the event outside of Baku sometimes (I also lived in Baku from 2014-2016 and this latter problem prevented me from playing those two years as well).
I saw both Kasparov and Judit Polgar again while in Budapest
Thus I didn't get to play chess for a long time and was rusty again once I did get to play, in May 2011 in Budapest. We lived in Budapest for three years, from 2011-2014, and I played in three events there. The first one was one of the famous 'First Saturday' events held by Laszlo Nagy. My rust showed and I finished with 3 wins, 4 losses, and 4 draws. I'll show just some of the more interesting games. This first one was short and fun. The player liked to play the same weird opening as black against e4, so I got to prepare and it worked out very well for me.

[Event "First Saturday FM-A"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2011.11.08"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Zala, Gyula"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C40"]
[WhiteElo "2058"]
[BlackElo "1999"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "29"]
[EventDate "2011.11.08"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5
This is called the Elephant Gambit. I never had to play against it before, so it's a good thing I got to prepare in advance.
3. exd5 e4 4. Qe2 Be7 5. Qxe4 Nf6 6. Bb5+
Okay, so the better move here is 6. Qa4+, but Bb5+ isn't bad, and since I knew the line my opponent liked to play here, it was better for me to go along with his line since it led to an easily winning opening.
6...c6
This here is my opponent's novelty, and it isn't very good except as a surprise, which it wasn't for me.
7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bxc6+ Nxc6 9. Qxc6+ Bd7 10. Qa6
This is a pet opening of this fellow, though here he varies between Rb8 and Qc7. Yes, he's given up three pawns but he has a lot of development for them, and this is a very dangerous line for white if
he isn't prepared.
10...Qc7 11. O-O Rb8 12. Re1 Kf8 13. Nc3 Bc6?
It's usually hard to win fast in this variation, because black has so much initiative and white has to play under such stress, but this move lets me end things quickly.
14. Ne5! Ba8 15. Qc4! 1-0
With the queens forced from the board, black has no chances and thus resigns.

The next game was against the top rated player in the event, and it featured lots of tactics and big swings of fortune.

[Event "First Saturday FM-A"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2011.11.10"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Juracsik, Jozsef"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B98"]
[WhiteElo "2058"]
[BlackElo "2172"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "2011.11.10"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Be7 8. Qf3
Qc7 9. O-O-O O-O
I have always enjoyed this opening, and I've always felt that castling here for black was too soon and gave white a ready-made attack.
10. Bd3
This is my personal preference, since the bishop here aims at the critical h7 square and also allows either of the knights to easily come back to e2 without blocking in the bishop. In many lines the pawn goes to e5, clearing the lane for the bishop's attack against h7.
10...Nbd7 11. Kb1
11. Rhe1 may be only slightly stronger here, according to the computer, but it scores much more heavily according to the database percentages.
11...Nc5 12. h4?!
My first doubtful move. This takes the position from a strong white advantage down to about equality. Much stronger was 12. Qg3.
12... b5 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. e5 dxe5 15. Qxa8?
It was a bad idea to take the 'free' rook. Now I could get into trouble. Much better is to keep an advantage with 15. fxe5 Be7 (15... Bxe5 16. Qxa8 b4 17. Bxh7+ Kxh7 18. Ne4 Kg8 19. Nxc5 Qxc5 20. Qe4 with a large advantage) 16. Qxa8 Bb7 17. Ncxb5 axb5 18. Nxb5 Qxe5 19. Qa5 Nxd3 20. Rxd3 Bxg2 21. Re1 and the computer struggles to understand who is better in this very complex position.
15... Bb7??
My opponent returns the favor with a big blunder, going from a winning position to one that is much better for white. He could have won with 15...exd4 16. Bxh7+ Kxh7 17. Ne4 Nxe4 18. Qxe4+ Kg8, and though it may not look it, the computer rates this as a huge advantage for black.
16. Bxh7+ Kxh7 17. Qxf8 exd4 18. Ne2 Bxg2 19. Rhe1 
My move isn't a mistake and white still has a large edge, but the defensive move 19. Rh2 leaves white even better for navigating the upcoming tactics.
19... Be4 20. Nxd4 Bxd4
Though white is up two exchanges, black's active pieces are all congregated around white's king. I needed to be more aware of the explicit dangers and to look more deeply at the tactics.
21. Rxd4??
A terrible decision that turns my advantage into a losing game. Correct was 21. Rxe4 Nxe4 22. Rxd4 Qxf4 23. Qd8 f5 24. a3 with a strong edge to white.
21... Bxc2+ 22. Kc1
The only way to continue, though it is as dangerous as it looks. Playing the 'safer' looking Ka1 gets white mated: 22. Ka1 Nb3+ 23. axb3 Qa5+ 24. Qa3 Qxe1+ 25. Ka2 Qb1#.
22... Ne4?
It's not so easy to see all the correct tactics over the board. My opponent misses the best continuation. 22... Bg6 23. Kd2 Nb3+ 24. axb3 Qc2+ 25. Ke3 Qxb3+ and black is winning, though these weren't exactly simple to see moves! 
23. Qd8
Now it's all equal again, though still a complex position where we can and do go wrong. Look at that board. It doesn't look very equal, does it! But the computer pegs it as dead even.
23... Qc5 24. Rdxe4?
Yes, my move is a mistake, but it wasn't easy at all to find the correct move to maintain equality, which was 24. Rd2! Bd3+ 25. Kd1 Qh5+ 26. Kc1 Qc5+.
24... Bxe4+ 25. Kd2 Qf2+ 26. Re2 Qxf4+ 27. Re3 Bg6 28. a3 Bh5 29. Qd3+ Bg6 30. Qc3 Bf5 31. h5 a5 32. Ke1 b4 33. axb4 axb4 34. Qb3 f6 35. Rg3 Qd4 36. Re3 Qh4+ 37. Rg3 Qf4 38. Rf3 Qd4 39. Re3 Kh6 40. Rg3 Kh7??
 Perhaps this seems easy to win, but over the board it didn't feel that way, and my opponent accidentally let the position repeat three times, making it a draw. It's not so clearly easy, though, as you can see by lines such as 40... Kxh5? 41. Qf3+ Bg4 (41... Kh6 42. Qh1+) 42. Rh3+ Kg6 43. Qd3+ Qxd3 44. Rxd3 f5 45. Rb3 Kf6 46. Rxb4 g5 47. Rc4 and it's equal
41. Re3 1/2-1/2

 Two games is enough for now. I'll return with more games from this event soon.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Chess World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan

Today was a really cool day for me as a chess fan. I visited the chess World Cup here in Baku, Azerbaijan. It began with 128 players and now has only 16 as of today. Three of the remaining 16 are American players--Grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, and Wesley So.
Nakamura plays Adams
The organizers were very nice and gave me a press pass so that I could go inside the roped off area and take photos up close. I was introduced to Wesley So's adopted mother and we had a nice conversation for about twenty minutes. It's fascinating to learn details of an elite player's life. Then I saw and watched the games for a couple of hours.
Fabiano Caruana
Nakamura only needed a draw against Michael Adams of England in order to advance, and he did that easily. Caruano lost yesterday, so he had to win today and he only managed to draw, so he is eliminated. As I type this Wesley So's game against Vachier-Lagrave of France is still going on, but it looks as if he will lose and also be eliminated. So a mixed day for American chess!
Wesley So