Friday, July 13, 2012

I Met Pal Benko Today

I don't post much here anymore, because I haven't been doing much with chess lately. I did play in a First Saturday tournament here in Budapest last November, but since my chess viewer stopped working, I didn't post anything about it back then.

Today I was on the bus coming home from work when a couple got on and the woman sat near me. The bus was crowded so there weren't many places to sit. Since they were older than me, I decided to stand up and allow the man to sit down next to the woman I assumed was his wife. When I saw his face, though, I instantly recognized him as the famous American-Hungarian Grandmaster of chess Pal Benko.

Benko was a contemporary of the legendary American world champion Bobby Fischer. I saw Benko in 2008 in Reykjavik when he attended the Bobby Fischer Memorial Tournament (in which I did very well, almost beating an international master, though I messed it up and only got a draw instead). I didn't get to speak with Mr. Benko that time, but I did this time.

I said hello, and he asked if I recognized him. I said I always read his columns in Chess Life, and I told him that I saw him in Iceland. He asked where I worked, and I told him. He than asked if I was playing in the chess tournament series in Budapest. I told him I don't get much free time, but I did play in it last November. Sadly, my stop had already arrived, so I had to get off and couldn't speak further with him.

I would never want to bother someone like him, but he and his wife seemed nice. It would have been awesome to invite them to dinner or something, but I would never want to impose.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Will I Ever Get to Play Again?

I know I am writing just for myself now, and who could blame anyone? I can't post anything if I don't have any chess experiences. I thought I would get to play here in Baku, the birthplace of Garry Kasparov and the home of some of the strongest GM's in the world, but I haven't been able to play at all.

So, I am thrilled that next summer I will move to Budapest, which has a thriving chess scene, mainly thanks for Laszlo Nagy's First Saturday tournaments each month. I gained my FIDE rating in Budapest in 2003 at the Spring Chess Festival. I know I won't be able to play immediately after arriving, as I will need to settle into my new home and position at work, but I am excited at the prospect of finally getting to play again.

I see that the game reviewer app stopped working on my blog. I wish there was a way of using the Chessbase export feature with Blogger to allow me to show my games here that way. The USCF uses it all the time, but I have no idea if there is a means of doing it on Blogger. I believe you need some space somewhere on the server to store the game data. Anyone know how to do this in Blogger?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chess in Baku

I recently arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan. I want to be able to play chess here, but the chess calendars that I have found so far do not show any events in Baku for the next year. There is the Baku Open in September, but unfortunately I don't think I can play in that due to being too new at work here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

See You in Baku

I just wanted to let anyone who happens to read this know why I am not posting these days. There are two reasons. One is that I have been finishing a book that I have been writing. The second reason is that I am moving from Iceland to Baku, Azerbaijan. We will arrive in Baku in August. I won't be able to play chess for some time, since I will be settling in to the new position, but I hope to eventually play in Baku. They sure have a strong chess tradition, including being the birthplace of Garry Kasparov. If any Azeris see this blog, perhaps you can help me out with finding good FIDE-rated events in Baku. I've tried emailing the clubs and federations that I could find, but no one responded.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 9

I have played in many tournaments in my life, and 455 tournament games, yet this event has been the worst performance I have had. Given how the rest of the tournament went, this last round was fitting. I played a young boy with no official rating - though FIDE shows that he has just begun playing and so far has a 1670 rating - and he played like each of my previous opponents has - mistake free. I have had games in the past where the computer showed no real mistakes by my opponent, but this is the first time I have had an entire tourney with no such mistakes!

I noticed some interesting patterns between this year's tournament and last year's. Last year I never once had to play down against a player lower rated than myself, and I gained around 30 rating points. This year I had to play down five times, and I lost around 18 rating points. Last year I didn't lose a single game with white; this year I nearly lost every white and didn't lose any with black!

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.04.01"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Karlsson, Mikael"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B40"]
[WhiteElo "2076"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Bd3 Qb6 6. Nb5?!
The proper move here is 6. Nb3, but I was feeling particularly aggresive and I didn't care if he took the pawn.
He would have been fine taking the pawn: 6...Nxe4 7. Bxe4 Qxb5 8. Nc3 Qb6 9. O-O d5 and black has a small edge.
7. Be3
The computer likes 7. N5c3 better.
7...Bc5 8. Bxc5 Qxc5 9. N5c3 Nc6 10. Nd2 b5 11. O-O Bb7 12. Kh1 O-O 13. f4 d6 14. a3 Rfd8 15. Nb3
Looking back on it, I don't like this move. The computer recommends it, yet in the game this knight was just out of play for a long while.
15...Qb6 16. Qe2 Qc7 17. Rad1
The computer also recommends this, but if I was really going to follow the plan that you see over the next few moves, then this is just a wasted tempo.
17...Rac8 18. Rf3
I told myself not to do this. I knew I wouldn't play like this against a higher rated opponent. Yet, I felt that lower rated players often panic when someone directly attacks their king, and I didn't quite like the idea of playing g4 and g5 instead, since my king is potentially exposed to the black bishop.
18...Ne7 19. Rh3?
I couldn't back down, even though I knew I should. Since I could see that his knight was swinging over to g6, this move doesn't do any good anymore. Perhaps it would have made better use of itself on g3. Best of all would have been to abandon that line of play and just play it back to f2 or f1.
19...Ng6 20. Rf1
You see how moving this rook to d1 was a waste of time?
An excellent move that highlights the drawbacks of my overly aggressive plan. I either have to allow the opening of the d file for black's rook or further weaken my kingside with g3. Neither is appealing. So, black gets a perfect outpost for his knights on f4.
21. fxe5 dxe5 22. Rg3 Nf4 23. Qf2
I really thought I had him here. So many 1600 level players would have gone right in for the knight trade on d3, but given the way this tournament has gone, I am not surprised he didn't go for it.
I had hoped for 23...Nxd3?? 24. Qxf6 and white wins.
24. Rf3 Nxd3 25. cxd3 Nf4 26. Nc1
Here I missed the chance for equality with 26. d4!
26...Rd7 27. g3
Better was 27. N3e2 f6 (27...Nxe2 28. Nxe2 Rcd8 29. b4 f6 30. Rc1 Qd6 31. Rc3 Rc7 32. Rxc7 Qxc7 33. h3 with a slight edge to black.) 28. Nxf4 Qxc1 (28...exf4 29. Ne2 g5 30. Nc3 =) 29. Nh5 Rf7 30. b4 Qc2 31. Qb6 Qc6 32. Qf2 Qe6 with a slight edge to black.
27...Ne6 28. Nd5 Bxd5
Black overlooked a much easier win here with 28...Rxd5! 29. exd5 Bxd5.
29. exd5 Nd4 30. Re3 Rxd5 31. Re4 Rc5 32. Ne2 Nxe2 33. Rxe2 Rd8 34. d4! exd4 35. Qxd4 Qc6+ 36. Qe4 g6?!
Black should have played 36...Qxe4+ 37. Rxe4 Rc2 38. Rfe1 g5 39. R4e2 Rdd2 40. Rxd2 Rxd2 41. b4 Rd3 42. Ra1 with a good advantage for black.
37. Qxc6 Rxc6 38. Re7 Rf8?!
Much better was 38...Rc2 39. Rexf7 Rdd2 40. Rf8+ Kg7 41. R1f7+ Kh6 42. Kg1 Rxh2 43. Rf2 Rhxf2 44. Rxf2 Rxf2 45. Kxf2 Kg5 and black should win.
39. Ra7 Kg7 40. Rf2 h5 41. h4 1/2-1/2
Though my move is the last one, it was actually he who offered the draw. He is too new to chess to know that he has to make his move first before offering a draw, I guess. I was lucky to escape alive. So, how come 1600 level players are all of a sudden playing like experts?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reykjavik Open 2009: Photos from Round 1

A friend took some photos in round 1, and I just received them. Oddly enough, after so many tournaments, this is the first time I have photos of me playing in a tournament (not a simul):

Here is top seeded Ukrainian grandmaster Alexander Areshchenko in round 1, playing against fellow Ukrainian Anastazia Karlovich.

U.S. champion GM Yuri Shulman is the second seed.

Here I meet my first round opponent, Icelandic grandmaster Throstur Thorhallsson.

Me playing against GM Thorhallsson.

Just before the game begins.

One last shot of me playing in round 1.

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 8

I finally managed to play a pretty good game from start to finish. I am happy with this one. I learned my lesson from two rounds ago and decided to play a brand-new opening line so I would avoid my opponent's preparation. It is strange playing something that you don't know, but I don't think I made too many mistakes.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.03.31"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Thorsteinsdottir, Hallgerdur"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B22"]
[WhiteElo "1951"]
[BlackElo "2076"]

1. e4 c5 2. c3
I knew from the databases to expect either an Alapin Sicilian or a Rossilimo Sicilian, so I prepared for both. This is the Alapin.
My surprise! I have never played this variation before. I prepared as best I could, but there is just too much to actually learn in one day.
3. e5 Nd5 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. cxd4 d6 7. Bc4 e6 8. O-O Be7 9. exd6
This is where she took me out of my preparatory knowledge.
9...Qxd6 10. Nc3 a6
Other moves played here are 10...O-O or 10...Nxc3.
11. a3
This is a novelty according to my database. 11. Ne4 has been played previously.
11...O-O 12.Qd3 Rd8 13. Bg5 Bxg5 14. Ne4 Qe7
The computer really likes black now and likes a line beginning with 14...Nf4. I actually considered this move, but it looked far too complicated to actually try in this situation. The mainline analysis runs 14...Nf4 15. Nxd6 (15. Qb1 Qc7 16. Nexg5 h6 17. Qh7+ Kf8 18. Qh8+ Ke7 19. Qxg7 hxg5 20. Nxg5 Rxd4 21. Rad1 (21. Qxf7+ Kd6 22. Rad1 Qxf7 23. Nxf7+ Ke7 24. Rxd4 Nxd4 25. Rd1 Nf3+ 26. gxf3 Kxf7 and black wins.)) 15...Nxd3 16. Nxg5 (16. Bxd3 Bf6 17. Ne4 Bxd4 18. Nxd4 Nxd4 with a large edge for black.) 16...Nxb2 17. Ngxf7 Nxc4 18. Nxd8 Nxd6 19. Nxc6 bxc6 and black has a large advantage.
15. Nexg5 f5!?
Much safer is 15...Nf6.
16. Rfe1 Qf6 17. Rad1 h6 18. Nh3 g5 19. Ne5 Bd7 20. Bxd5 exd5 21. Qb3 Rab8
I knew I had to give up the central pawn, but I thought I saw more than enough compensation for it.
22. Qxd5+ Be6 23. Qc5 Rd5 24. Qc3 Rc8 25. Nxc6 Rxc6 26. Qe3 f4 27. Qe4 Rcd6
Amazingly, all of these past moves are the computer's first choice!
28. f3 Bxh3 29. gxh3
White had a better play for equality here. The line is long and there are many possibilities, so I will just give the computer's main line: 29. Qe8+ Qf8 30. gxh3 Qxe8 31. Rxe8+ Kf7 32. Re4 Rb5 33. Rd2 Rb3 34. Kf2 Rdb6 35. Ree2 Re6 36. Rxe6 Kxe6 37. h4 gxh4 38. d5+ Kd6 39. Kg2 a5 40. Kh3 Rxf3+ 41. Kg4 Rf1 42. Kxh4 Rc1 43. Kh5 Rc5 44. Kxh6 Rxd5 45. Rf2 Rf5 46. Kg6 Rf8 47. h4 Ke5 48. h5 Rg8+ 49. Kf7 Rh8 50. Rh2 f3 51. Kg7 f2 52. Rxf2 Rxh5 =.
This had to be played or I could get into serious trouble.
30. Qe6+ Qxe6 31. Rxe6 Rxd4 32. Rxd4 Rxd4 33. Rxh6 Rd1+ 34. Kg2 Rd2+ 35. Kg1 Rxb2
I was certain I could win this endgame.
36. Rg6+ Kh7 37. Rxg5 Rb3 38. Rf5 Rxf3
I overlooked the more convincing 38...Rxa3 39. Rxf4 b5 and wins. However, I am still winning.
39. Kg2 Rxa3 40. Rf7+ Kg6 41. Rxb7 a5 42. Rb5 a4 43. Ra5 Ra1
This wins because once the pawn comes to a2 I can move the rook with check against her king (at the right moment). If she tries to avoid this, then I get to move the 'f' pawn down.
44. h4 a3 45. Ra6+ Kh5 46. Kh3
This is a very good try for her, looking for stalemate.
This must be played. Pushing the pawn to a2 would be a terrible mistake: 46...a2?? 47. Rxa2 =.
47. Ra5+ Kh6 48. Ra6+ Kg7 49. Ra7+ Kf6 50. Ra6+ Ke5 51. Kg3 a2 52. h5
If she tried 52. Kf2 then 52...Rh1 wins due to the skewer of the king and rook once she takes on a2.
52...Rg1+ 0-1
I am very happy with my play. My opponent didn't make any major mistakes (the theme for this event!), yet I was still able to find enough pressure to earn the win.