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.
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

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.