Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reykjavik Open round 9

This is what I had feared all tournament long, no longer playing against someone well above me in rating. I was quite unhappy that I ended up being given two blacks in a row, because I had clearly played much better with white, and I had lost all of my blacks. My opponent showed up more than half an hour late for the game, and then kept jumping up and running around to other places for some reason. This probably contributed both to my dropping a pawn early on and to him dropping a piece in return!

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.11"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Ingvason, Johann"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B48"]
[WhiteElo "2105"]
[BlackElo "2079"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6
I have never played this before, but there wasn't much in the databases to help against this opponent in my normal Nc6 lines, plus I found that he pretty consistently played the same way with this e6 variation.
3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 Qc7 7. Qd2 Nf6 8. f3 Bb4
This was the line that I planned out in my preparation, because this guy liked to attack the black king with g4 and queenside castling, and I felt that getting him to play a3 would help my attack against his castled king.
9. a3 Be7 10. Be2 b5
I showed my hand too soon, I think. I should have held onto this move, hoping that he would castle queenside first. Now I think he got scared of castling queenside and chose to castle the other way instead.
11. O-O d6?!
(better is 11... O-O)
12.Nxc6 Qxc6 13. a4
With this move I felt I was in a bit of trouble, since my unfamiliarity with the typical tactics of this line meant that I didn't see the ideas that could have saved the pawn for me.
13...b4 14. Na2 Qxa4?
I played this because I couldn't see any way to save the pawn, but this is bad and gives white a strong advantage. 14...d5 contained enough tactical finesses to keep black in the game. (14...d5 15. Nxb4 Qd6 16. c3 dxe4 17. Qxd6 Bxd6 18. Rad1 Bxb4 19. cxb4 Nd5 20. Bc5 exf3)
15. Nxb4 Qd7 16.Nxa6 O-O 17. b4 Bb7 18. c4??
I think he felt he was just going to steamroll me now, plus his jumping out of his seat after each move may have contributed to his oversight. This was easily the biggest mistake any opponent made against me in this event.
18...Rxa6 19. Rab1 Rfa8
Now I just wanted to ensure I didn't embarrass myself by blowing this win. I wanted to find logical ways to reduce material on the board.
20. Rfd1 Ra2 21. Rb2 Rxb2 22.Qxb2 Qa4
With one rook removed, I now wanted to either force queens off the board or at least undermine his queenside pawns.
23. c5 dxc5 24. bxc5 Bc6 25.Kf2
I was hoping he wouldn't play this, since then Qa2 would have forced the queens off.
25...h6 26. Qb6 Nd7
I saw that I could get rid of that last annoying queenside pawn. I didn't quite realize how careful I needed to be with the two pieces that would be lined up on the 'c' file. (26... Nxe4+ 27. fxe4 Qxe4 28. g3 Ra2 29. Qb8+ Bf8)
27. Qc7 Bxc5 28. Bxc5 Nxc5 29. Rc1
Now I understood that I needed to be very careful here, as I could easily lose my extra piece.
I didn't look much at 30. Kg3 because my intuition told me I would have something I could do if he played that. I concentrated on him playing 30. Kf1 and I was pleased to see that I could play 30...Nd3! and win pretty easily.
30. Kg3
If 30. Kf1 Nd3! 31. Bxd3 Qxd3+ 32. Kf2 Qd2+ 33. Kg3 Qxc1
30... Nxe4+
I was glad that this tactic was available since I think he would have gained a piece back otherwise, though black was still better. He can't take the knight due to Qe3+.
31. Kh3
If 31. fxe4 Qe3+ 32. Bf3 Qxc1
31... Ng5+ 32. Kg3 Bd5 33. Rb1 Ra2
I thought about playing the rook to a4 to threaten mate on h4, but he could play h3. So, I played this so that if he defended with Re1 I could then play Ra4 and he could no longer play h3 to defend since he would drop the rook on e1 to Qh4+.
34. Rd1 Qe3
My main concern here was that he would play Bd3 to threaten checkmate, but I happily found that 35...Rg2+ would mate him first.
35. Rxd5
If 35. Bd3 Rxg2+ 36.Kh4 Nxf3+ 37. Kh3 Ne5+ 38. Kh4 Rxh2#
35... exd5 36. Qb8+ Kh7 37. Qb1+ Ne4+ 0-1
A great way to finish the tournament. By rating I should have scored only 2 or 2.5 points, but I scored 3.5 instead, and I gained around 30 rating points. Best of all, I did well enough that I only competed against players higher rated than me.

The day after the tournament finished there was a knockout blitz tournament to wrap things up. As I waited to find out my pairing, my son Alexei was fascinated by the blitz games being played by the two top Chinese GMs, Wang Yue and Wang Hao. He stood and watched game after game. Finally the pairings were announced and I had to face IM Jon Viktor Gunnarsson. I played well with white to reach an endgame with bishops of opposite colors, but my poor blitzing skills couldn't hold up. I lost with black pretty badly. All in all, it was a terrific, fun tournament and I learned an amazing amount. Getting to meet luminaries like Boris Spassky, Pal Benko, Vlastimil Hort, Lajos Portisch, and Fridrik Olafsson was great.

GM Lajos Portisch with former world champion GM Boris Spassky

GM Fridrik Olafsson and GM Pal Benko

My son watches GM Wang Yue and GM Wang Hao play blitz

Reykjavik Open round 8

My thinking before this game was that I needed to do something positive with black. I had not lost any whites this tournament, but I had lost every black so far. My opponent didn't have a much higher rating, but looking at her games showed me that she was very experienced against strong competition, plus she played the Alapin Sicilian a lot, which I can't stand. However, I found an interesting plan to play against her Alapin, so I was actually hoping she would go for it! Sadly, she didn't.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.10"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Andersson, WIM Christin"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B33"]
[WhiteElo "2194"]
[BlackElo "2079"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3
I had really prepared hard for the Alapin, so this disappointed me. I did see that she once played into an Alapin after 2. Nc6, so now I hoped for that.
2...Nc6 3. d4
Nope, she was playing something that was not in her large collection of games in my database.
3...cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Nxc6
Even worse, she now played a move that no one had played against me before. I had lightly analyzed this move, of course, since it is always a possibility in the Sveshnikov Sicilian, but I wasn't truly familiar with it. If she prepared this at home, knowing that I played the Sveshnikov, then she had a huge advantage over me right now!
6...bxc6 7. Bc4 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bh4 Bb7
Over the past few moves I kept spending lots of time trying to figure out whether I could get a decent position after taking on e4 with my knight, but it never quite looked okay.
11. Qd3 Qc7 12. Rad1 Rad8 13. Rfe1 d6
Apparently I could have had an advantage here by playing 13...d5. (13... d5 14. exd5 cxd5 15. Bb3 d4 16. Nb5 Qc5 17. Qc4 g5 18. Qxc5 Bxc5 19. Bg3 (19. Rxe5 Nd7) 19... Ne4 20. Bxe5 d3 21. Rf1 d2 22. c3 Ba6 23. Bc4 Bxb5 24. Bxb5 Rd5 25. Bg3 Bxf2+ 26. Rxf2 (26. Bxf2 Rxb5 27. b4 Rd8 28. Bd4 Rxd4 29. cxd4 Rxb4) 26... Rxb5 27. Rfxd2 Nxd2 28. Rxd2 Rc8)
14. Bb3 Bc8
I felt that finding a plan here for black was difficult and I didn't want to just make waiting moves, so I decided to swing the bishop over to e6. I was glad to see later that Fritz thinks it is the right plan.
15. f3 Be6 16. Bf2
I was happy to see this move, because I had not felt comfortable playing d5 as long as that bishop kept pinning my knight. Now I felt that d5 was playable and had to give me at least equality.
16...d5 17. exd5 Nxd5 18. Nxd5 Bxd5 19. Qe3
Hmm, I suddenly realized that I needed to worry about the two loose pawns on a7 and e5. I figured out how to save them for now, but I didn't know whose position was better afterwards.
19...Bxb3 20. axb3 Rxd1 21. Rxd1 a5 22. Qb6 Qxb6 23. Bxb6 Ra8 24. Rd7 Bf8?!
Since I saw a trick to keep her from winning the c6 pawn, I didn't look further to see that later she could still force the win of a pawn. Plus, the plan with 24...Kf8! has some very hard to see ideas in it. (24... Kf8! 25. Rc7 Ke8 26. Be3 (26. Rxc6 Ra6 27. Rc8+ Kd7 28. Rc7+ Kd8) 26... Ra6)
25. Rc7 Ra6
The funny thing was that she actually reached for the rook as if to take the c6 pawn. Oh, how delicious that would have been! But, she saw the skewer of course.
26. Be3 f6?!
I didn't realize here that I was about to lose a pawn. Her advantage in this position was not apparent to me. I think black can always draw this position, but the endgame is quite difficult really. (26... g5 27. Ra7 Rxa7 28. Bxa7 f5 29. Bb6 Kf7 30.Kf2 Ke6 31. Ke2 Bd6 32. Kd3 h5 33. Bxa5 g4 34. h3 Be7 35. Bd2 g3 36. b4 Kd5 37.c4+ Ke6 38. b5 cxb5 39. cxb5 Kd5 40. b6 Bd6 41. b7 e4+ 42. fxe4+ fxe4+ 43. Ke3 Ke5 44. Bc3+ Kf5 45. Kd4 Bb8 46. Bd2 Bc7 47. Kd5 h4 48. b4 Bb8 49. b5 Be5 50.b6 Bb8 51. Bh6 Be5 52. Be3 Bb8 53. Bc5)
27. Ra7
Now I understood that I was going to have a very difficult endgame to try to draw.
27...Rxa7 28. Bxa7 Kf7
There is no way to save the pawn on a5, so I simply get my king into the center, hoping that this will allow me to force a draw somehow.
29. Bb6 Ke6 30. Bxa5 Bc5+ 31. Kf1 f5 32. Ke2 g5 33. Bd2 Kd5 34. h4 Be7
I thought that taking the pawn on h4 would be bad, but apparently I can draw with this. (34...gxh4 35. c4+ Ke6 36. Bxh6 Be7 37. Be3 e4 38. fxe4 fxe4 39. b4 Bxb4 40.Bg5 Ke5 41. b3 Kf5 42. Bxh4 Bf8 43. Be1 c5 44. Bh4 Ke5 45. Bd8 Kf4 46. Bc7+ Kf5 47. g3 Bg7 48. Bd6 Bd4 49. b4 cxb4 50. Bxb4 Kg4 51. Bd6 Ba7 52. Bf4 Bd4 53. Be3 Be5 54. Bf2 Bd6 =)
35. hxg5 hxg5 36. c4+ Ke6 37. Kd3 c5 38. Be3?
This is a mistake that gives black a fairly straightforward draw, but I didn't see the right idea. (38. g4 e4+ 39. fxe4 fxg4 40. Ke3 Bd6 41. Bc3 Bf4+ 42. Kf2 g3+ 43. Kf3 g4+ 44. Kg2 Kd6 45. b4 cxb4 46. Bxb4+ Ke5 47. Be1 Kxe4 48. Bxg3 Bd2 49. Bf2 Bf4 50. b3 Kd3 51. c5 Kc3 52. Bg3 Be3 53. c6 Bb6 =)
I overlooked the power of the coming b4 move, so I thought that getting the pawn to f4 with tempo so that my king could come to f5 would then allow me to play an eventual g4 or e4 and draw. The right move here was 38...g4! since it allows a consolidation that makes it pretty easy to draw. (38... g4 39. Bf2 gxf3 40. gxf3 Kd6 41. Bg3 Ke6 =)
39. Bf2 Kf5 40. b4 cxb4 41. c5 Ke6 42. Kc4 b3 43. Kxb3 Kd5 44. Kb4 g4 45. Kb5 g3
Playing e4 instead doesn't quite work either.
46. Bg1 Bd8 47. b4 Bc7 48. Ka6 Kc4 49. b5 Kd3 50. b6 Bb8 51. c6 Ke2 52. c7 Bxc7 53. bxc7 Kf1 54. c8=Q Kxg2 55. Qc7 Kxg1 56. Qxe5 Kf2 57. Qxf4 g2 58. Qg4 1-0

Reykjavik Open round 7

I was very nervous before this game. As before, I wanted to at least not lose so that I could continue to play people above me in rating. Already I was dropping down to play someone lower than anyone else I had played so far, so losing this game would be a real blow to my tournament aspirations. I had played this gentleman before, in the October Icelandic Team Championships, and he had beaten me with the black pieces. I prepared for the two main defenses he used - the 2...e6 Sicilian or the French Winawer.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.09"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Finnlaugsson, Gunnar"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C10"]
[WhiteElo "2079"]
[BlackElo "2128"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4
This made me really worried. I had not prepared for this, and I had no knowledge of how to properly play against this line. Only twice before had anyone played this line against me, and that was back in the 1980s!
4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6 6. Nf3 b6 7. Bf4 Bb7 8. Be2
I didn't want to play this move,and I don't know why I worried that he would take my f3 knight with his bishop. I should have simply played Qd2 and castled queenside. (8. Qd2 Bd6 9. O-O-O Sadvakasov-Privman)
8...Nd7 9. O-O
I didn't want to castle kingside, yet I convinced myself that I had no choice.
9...Bd6 10. Bxd6 cxd6 11. Re1 Qc7 12. c4 O-O-O 13. b4
I was relatively content here, thinking I might be able to build up a huge attack against his king, but I worried about how fast his attack against my king might come.
13...Kb8 14. Qb3
I think now that I should have played Bf1 instead, with the idea of playing g3 and bishop to g2. That is far better than my lame idea that placed my knight on h4.
14...Rdg8 15. Nh4?!
I shouldn't have worried so much about his attack. I could have simply gone for my own attack with 15. a4 here. (15. a4 Rg7 16. a5 Rhg8 17. g3)
15...f5 16. Bf3
This was why I played the knight to h4. I wanted to try to trade off the white squared bishops.
This is the problem, though. I needed him to trade bishops; I don't want to take his and help him get his queen into the attack.
17. Rac1 Ne4 18. d5?!
I overlooked the best way to seal up an advantage with 18. Qe3! (18. Qe3 Ng5 (18... Qd8 19. Qh6 Rg5 20. Red1 Rhg8 21. c5) 19. Bxb7 Qxb7 20. d5)
An excellent move. Now I am in some real trouble due to that terrible knight on h4.
19. Bxe4 Qxh4?
A bad mistake. He could have had a clear advantage with 19...fxe4. (19...fxe4 20. Rxe4 (20. Qh3 exd5 (20... Bc8 21. f4 exd5 22. f5 dxc4 23. Rxe4 d5 24.Rd4) 21. cxd5 Bxd5 (21...Bc8 22. Rxc8+ Qxc8 23. Qxc8+ Rxc8 24. Nf5 Rc2 25.Kf1 Rxa2 26. Nxd6 Rb2 27. Nxe4 Rxb4 28. Nf6) 22. a3 Qg5 (22...Be6 23. Qc3 Rg4 24. g3 Rhg8 25. Ng2 d5) 23. g3 Rc8 24. Rcd1 Be6 25. Qg2 d5 26. f4! exf3 (26...Qf6 27. f5 Bd7 28. Rxd5 Bc6 29. Rdd1) 27. Nxf3) 20...f5 21. Rxe6 Qxh4 22. g3 Qd8 23. a4 f4 24. a5 h5 25. axb6 axb6 26. Qf3 fxg3 27.fxg3)
20. Bf3 Qe7
I had been nervous about 20...e5, but it turns out white retains a big advantage. (20...e5 21. c5! (21. g3 e4 22. Bg2 Qd8 23.Red1) 21...e4 22. g3! Qe7 (22...exf3 23. Re8+ Bc8 (23...Kc7 24. cxb6+ Kxb6 (24...Kd7 25. Qa4+ Bc6 26. Qxc6#)) 24. cxb6) 23. Bg2)
21. dxe6?!
Well, I blew it with this move. I was still worrying about his attack against me. Instead I should have looked at how I could attack him! 21. c5! is the start of an overwhelming attack here. (21. c5! e5 22. c6 Bc8 23. a4 Qg5 24. g3 f4 25. c7+ Kb7 26. b5 h5 27. Qa3 Qf6 28. a5 bxa5 29. Rc6 fxg3 30.fxg3 h4 31. Rxd6 Qf4 32. Re4 Qd2 33. Qc5 Ka8 34. Ra6 Bxa6 35. bxa6 Qh6 36. d6)
21...fxe6 22. Bxb7 Qxb7 23. f3 1/2-1/2
I made the draw offer here for a few reasons. First, I had just gone from feeling I may be lost a few moves ago to now not knowing who was better. I felt that I might be better, but I just couldn't tell. I figured if he accepted the draw it would suit me since it would allow me to still play up the next round, while if he declined it then that would help me mentally. Why? Because my mind at this point kept thinking about a draw, and since I believe firmly in only offering a draw once per game, if he declined the draw then I could get my mind off of the draw idea and simply concentrate on playing the game.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Reykjavik Open round 6

Oh what a tough round this one turned out to be. For the third time in a row my preparation got me through the opening. He varied just prior to the new move I was going to try out on him, just as FM Arngrimsson did in round 4.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.08"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Thomassen, FM Joachim"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B33"]
[WhiteElo "2308"]
[BlackElo "2079"]

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 Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O 13. a4 bxa4 14. Rxa4 a5 15. Bc4 Bd7
All of this was blitzed out by both sides. Apparently he plays just like this each time he chooses the Sicilian (He plays 1. d4 also, so I had to prepare for that too). I was following a specific game of his, but in that game he played 16. b3 rather than his next.
16. Ra2
In the game I was following he later followed with this move, so I still had hopes of transposing back into that game.
16…Ne7 17. O-O Nxd5 18. Bxd5 Rb8 19. Na3
This killed off any chances for transposition back into my preparation. I saw here that he wanted to go after my 'a' pawn. I looked at two moves, either 19…a4 or the move I chose. I believe I should have gone with a4.
It seems to me to be about equal after 19...a4 20. Nc4 Bb5 21. Re1 Kh8.
20. b3 Qc7 21. Qc2 Be6 22. Bxe6 fxe6 23. Nc4 Rb5 24. Rfa1
I moved too hastily without thinking things through. I assumed I could gain enough counterplay against his queenside pawns. I actually could have had a nice potential advantage here if I had seen the right move - 24...d5! 25. exd5 (25. Nxa5 Bc5 26. Qc1 (26. Qd1 Bb6 27. b4 Qxc3 28. exd5 exd5 29. Rb1 Rxb4 30. Qxd5+ Kh8 31. Rf1 (31. Nb3 Rbf4 32. Kh1 Bxf2 33. Ra8 Be1 34. Rxf8+ Rxf8 35. g3 Qe3 36. Qg2 Bb4 37. Qd5 Rf2 38. Ra1 Qe2 39. Kg1 Bf8 40. Rd1 e4 41. Qd2 Rg2+ 42. Kh1 Rxh2+ 43. Kg1 Qh5 44. Qf4 (44. Qxh2 Qxd1+ 45. Kg2 Qf3+ 46. Kh3 Qxb3 and black wins) 44...Kg8 45. Rf1 Rh1+ 46. Kf2 Rxf1+ 47. Kxf1 Qd1+ 48. Kg2 Qxb3 49. Qxe4 h6 and black wins) 31...Rb2 32. Rxb2 Qxb2 33. Kh1 e4 34. Nc4 Qe2 35. Rg1 Ba7 36. h3 Qxf2 and black wins) 26...Bxf2+ 27. Rxf2 Rxa5 with equality) 25...exd5 26. Ne3 (26. Nxa5 Bc5 27. Qd1 Bxf2+ 28. Rxf2 Rxa5 equality) 26...Bh4 27. Qd3 Qb7 28. c4 e4 29. Qd1 dxc4 30. Nxc4 Qa7 31. g3 Be7! 32. Qe1 (32. Nxa5 e3 33. Nc6 exf2+ 34. Kf1 Qb7 35. Rc1 Re5! 36. Re2 (36. Rxf2 Rxf2+ 37. Kxf2 Bc5+ 38. Rxc5 Rxc5 39. Nd4 Qe4 and black wins) (36. Nxe5?? Qh1+ 37. Ke2 f1=Q+ 38. Qxf1 Qe4+ 39. Kd2 Bb4+ 40. Rc3 (40. Kd1 Rxf1#) 40...Rxf1 black wins) 36... Rxe2 37. Qxe2 Bg5 38. Qc4+ Kh8 39. Rd1 Be3 with a large edge to black) 32...Bc5 33. Qxe4 Rxb3 34. Rxa5 Bxf2+ 35. Kg2 Qb7 36. Qxb7 Rxb7 equality)
25. Nxa5 d5
This is still my best try now, though I wish I had seen the idea the previous move while my rook was still on f8 and could contribute to an assault on the f2 square.
26. Qd3 dxe4
26…d4 may have been a better practical try for counterplay here.
27. Qxe4 Qxc3 28. Nc6 Re8 29. Nxe7+ Rxe7 30. Ra8+ Kf7 31. Qxh7 Rb8!
This is the only move that gave me any chance at holding on for a bit.
32. Qh5+ g6
It is hard for me to tell, but it may have been better to just play 32...Kf6 33. R8a3 Rxb3 34. Qh4+ Kf7 35. Ra8 Rb8 though white still has a clear edge.
33. Qh7+ Kf6 34. Qh4+ Kf7 35. R8a4 Reb7 36. Rf1
I felt this was a great idea by him, threatening to play f4 and open up dangerous lines against my king.
36…Qxb3 37. Re4 Kg7?!
I give up too much. I could have fought a bit harder with 37...Qd5 38. Re3 (38. f4 Rb1 39. Qh7+ Kf8 40. Qh8+ Kf7 41. Qxe5 Rxf1+ 42. Kxf1 Rb1+ 43. Kf2 Rb2+ 44. Qxb2 Qxe4 45. Qd2 with a white edge) 38...Kg7 39. Rfe1 Rf7 40. h3 Rf4 41. Qg3 Rb2 42. f3 Qd4 43. Kh2 Rb5 44. Re4 Rxe4 45. Rxe4 Qd6 46. Rg4 Qd3 47. h4 Qf5 48. Rg5 Qf6 49. h5 and white is winning.
38. Qg5 Qc3?!
Again missing a better defensive try with 38...Rf8 39. Qxe5+ Rf6 40. Rh4 Qc2 41.Qe3 Kg8 42. Re4 Rb1 43. f3 (43. Rxe6?? Rxf1+ 44. Kxf1 Qc4+ and black wins!) 43...Rb2 44. Qg5 Qd2 45. Qg3 Rb4 46. Rxb4 Qxb4 47. Re1 Qd4+ 48. Kh1 Kg7 49. h3 Qc5 50. Kh2 Qc3 51. Re4 Qc5 52. Qe5 Qxe5+ 53. Rxe5 Kf7 54. Kg3 Ke7 (54... Rf5 55. Rxf5+ exf5 56. Kf4 Kf6 57. h4 Ke6 58. h5 gxh5 59. Kg5 h4 60. Kxh4 Kf6 61. Kh5 Ke5 62. g4 and white wins).
39. Rg4 Qd3 40. Qxe5+ Kf7 41. Rf4+ Kg8 42. Qxe6+ Kg7 43. Qf6+ Kg8 44. Rg4
A quicker win was 44. Rh4 Rh7 (44...Rg7 45. Qe6+ Rf7 46. Qe5 and wins) 45. Qe6+ Rf7 46. Qe5 and white wins.
44...Rb6 45. Qg5 Qxf1+
Sure, I could have struggled on longer with 45...Re8 46. f3 Kg7 47. Rc1 Qe3+ 48.Qxe3 Rxe3 49. Kf2 Rbe6 50. Rc7+ Kh6 51. Kg3 but what was the point? I at least felt better with my try, hoping vainly for a perpetual check that I knew wouldn’t come.
46. Kxf1 Rb1+ 47. Ke2 R1b2+ 48. Kf3 R2b3+ 49. Qe3
Exactly, he just gives the queen back with a winning endgame.
49…Rxe3+ 50. Kxe3 Kg7 51. h4 Rb5 52. Kf4 Kf6 53. Rg5 Rb4+ 54. Kg3 Rb3+ 55. f3 Rb4 56. Kh3 Rf4 57. Rg4 Rf5 58. f4 Ra5 59. Rg5 Ra1 60. Kg4 Ra4 61. h5 gxh5+ 62. Rxh5 Kg6 63. Rb5 Ra6 64. f5+ Kf6 65. Rb4 Ra5 66. Rb6+ Kf7 67. Kg5 Ra7 68. g4 Rc7 69. Rh6 Kg8 70. Ra6 Kf7 71. Ra5 Rc6 72. Ra7+ Kg8 73. f6 Rc5+ 74. Kg6 Rc8 75. Rg7+ Kf8 76. Rh7 1-0

Reykjavik Open round 5

Now I was back in the same situation as before round 3, where I didn’t want to lose and end up playing down against lower rated opposition; I wanted at least a draw. To make matters worse, I was really stressed out over what had happened in the game from round 4, and this didn’t allow me to get much sleep. I got up and dutifully began to prepare, but my heart was not in it today. I simply felt burnt out on chess. This is sad because my preparation really helped out today, more than in any other game I have played.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.07"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Bjornsson, Bjorn"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C54"]
[WhiteElo "2079"]
[BlackElo "2194"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5
I had seen from the databases that he always met Bc4 with the Giuoco Piano, though there were no instances showing how he plays against the 7. Bd2 variation. For more than twenty years I had played the mainline 7. Nc3, but my experiences with that had shown me that too many players knew the line cold and black just plain comes out better, so I decided to switch to the more solid Bd2 variation. This game was the first time I got to use it in a real game.
4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2
It really is nice when your preparation works out, because you feel that you are much better prepared than your opponent for what is coming. This line is considered boring by most people, and it is very drawish, but it is hard for white to lose and does give white some practical chances at an advantage. That is exactly what I wanted for this round when I didn’t want to lose and I wasn’t truly in the mood to even play.
7…Bxd2+ 8. Nbxd2 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Qb3 Nce7 11. O-O O-O 12. Rfe1 c6 13. Ne4 Qb6
Well darn. This line is very drawish, and I was hoping he would play the more active 13…Nb6. I had studied the Qb6 move at home, though, so I was ready for it.
14. Nc3 Be6 15. Qxb6 axb6 16. Ng5 Nf5?
This was the first new move for me, and I had not seen it in my home preparation. I had no idea whether it was an ok try or a blunder. I examined the position for awhile, especially the obvious move 17. Nxe6. I became worried about letting him take my d4 pawn with the knight, and since I recognized the endgame after taking on d5 instead and knew it left me with a small edge, I went with that. A better move for black is 16...b5 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. Bb3 and white retains a small edge.
17. Bxd5?!
If I wanted to win then I needed to go for it with 17. Nxe6 fxe6 18. Rxe6 Nxc3 (18...Nxd4 19. Re4 Nc2 (19...Nf5 20. Nxd5 cxd5 21. Bxd5+ Kh8 22. Rd1 Rfd8 23. a3 Rd7 24. g4 Nh4 25. Kf1 g5 26. Bb3 Rxd1+ 27. Bxd1 Rd8 28. Ke2 Ng6 29. Bc2 Nf4+ 30. Ke3 and white wins) 20. Nxd5 cxd5 (20...Kh8 21. Ne7 g5 22. Rc1 Nb4 23. a3 Na6 24. Bxa6 and white wins) (20...Nxa1 21. Ne7+ Kh8 22. Ng6+ hxg6 23. Rh4#) 21. Bxd5+ Kh8 22. Rd1 Rad8 23. Rc4 Rfe8 24. g3 Ne1 25. Kf1 g6 26. Rc7 Re5 27. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 28. Kxe1 Rxd5 29. Rxb7 b5 and white wins) 19. bxc3 and white has a winning advantage. Notice the cute little checkmate if he takes the rook on move 20!
17...Bxd5 18. Nxd5
I offered the draw despite knowing I had an endgame advantage. I had seen a very similar endgame on my computer that morning, and though white had the clear edge, it nearly always still turned out to be drawn. Since I wasn’t in the mood and just wanted to get out of there, I figured this was a convincing position to offer a draw and expect that he would take it. At least it offered me one more round against strong opposition. {18...cxd5 19. Nf3 Rfe8 and white has only a slight edge.}

Reykjavik Open round 4

I was pretty psyched up to play this round. I was getting to play a very strong player, yet my preparation made me feel more confident than usual, because I had an odd feeling that he just might follow my preparation longer than most people had. He did, but not long enough for me to get to implement the new move I wanted to use.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.06"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Arngrimsson, FM Dagur"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B31"]
[WhiteElo "2359"]
[BlackElo "2079"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6
I have seldom encountered the Bb5 variation of the Sicilian, so I have never really become knowledgeable in this particular opening. I had recently been tinkering in blitz with using 3…e6, but I was only able to find good preparatory games against this opponent with 3…g6 and I really liked something I found, so this is the variation I went with.
4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3 Bg7 6. h3 b6 7. Nc3 e5 8. Be3 Ne7 9. Qd2 h6 10. Nh2 Be6 11. O-O
Unfortunately, I suppose his danger sense made him decide not to continue following his older games and he castles short. I think this is not a great move here, though I am admittedly no expert. Castling long seems more natural to me here, and that is what he played in an older game that I was following, hoping to implement a novelty. Since openings are my biggest weakness, I was happy to have reached such a solid position, and frankly I felt that I liked my position here more than white’s. If given the choice, I would take the black side here.
I wanted to castle queenside here in order to throw everything at his king.
12. b3 O-O-O 13. b4?
I don’t trust my old version of Fritz to be accurate, but it considers this to be a pretty serious mistake. I followed my instincts and refused the pawn, though if c4 had not looked like a good option, I would have taken it. I prefer to hold off his attack rather than snatch material.
The computer says that 13... cxb4 14. Ne2 c5 15. Rfc1 f5 is simply much better for black. My move still leaves me with an advantage, but only a slight one.
14. Rfd1 f5 15. f3 g5
An alternative try is 15...cxd3 16. cxd3 f4 17. Bf2 Kb7 with a slight edge, but I was feeling particularly aggressive and wanted to go after him.
16. Qe2 cxd3 17. cxd3 g4!?
The computer prefers 17…Ng6, but like I said, I wanted to really go after him!
18. fxg4 fxg4 19. hxg4 Rhg8 20. Rd2 Bh8
Fritz prefers the caution of 20…Kb8 but I didn’t want to waste any tempii.
21. a4 Bxg4!? 22. Nxg4 Rxg4 23. a5
Here is the critical position of the game. I spent some time thinking about whether to play a defensive move with 23…b5 or simply continue attacking. I have been burned in the past by taking time out to defend a bit only to find that my attack never came then. However, it was silly for me to think that way here, because my plan if he moved his queen after 23…Rdg8 was to then play b5 anyway! So, why not do it now when I clearly saw the potential danger of him playing 24. axb6. I can’t believe I ignored my own logic, because I thought basically just like that during the game, but played the aggressive move anyhow.
This may not be clearly losing, but it really hurts, when I could have played one defensive move and then continued with my attack - 23...b5! 24. Rc1 (24. Bxh6 Rdg8 25. Be3 Ng6! 26. Rc1 Nf4 27. Bxf4 exf4 28. Nxb5 Kb8 and black wins, but 24. Rf1 Rdg8 25. Rf7! appears to be an amazing way to win for white) 24...Kb8 25. Qf3 h5 26. Qh3 Ng6! (26...h4 27. Rf2 Rdg8 28. Kh1 Nc8 29. Rfc2 Ne7 is unclear) 27. Qxh5 Nf4 28. Qf5 Qg7 29. Bxf4 exf4 30. Nd1 Rg8 31. Rcc2 Qh6 32. Qc5 R4g5 33. Qf2 Rh5 34. Kf1 Rh1+ 35. Ke2 Qh5+ and black wins.
24. axb6!
He plays the right move and now things are grim for black.
24…Rxg2+ 25. Qxg2 Rxg2+ 26. Rxg2 a6
This is black’s only try to save the game.
27. Rxa6 Qxd3 28. Ra8+ Kd7??
It is funny how one can have tunnel vision at certain points in a game. I spent around ten minutes looking at this position, trying to figure out what gave me better chances to complicate things, and I only considered the rook checking me on a7; it never occurred to me for a moment to look at the rook coming to d2. How embarrassed I felt. I am losing, but 28. Kb7 has certain possibilities for white to screw up - 28...Kb7 29. Ra7+ Kb8 30. Bf2 (30. Bc5 Bf6 31. Rf2 Nc8 32. Rxf6 Qg3+ 33. Kf1 Qh3+ 34. Ke2 Qxc3 35. Rf8 Qc2+36. Kf3 Qd3+ 37. Kg4 Qxe4+ 38. Kh5 Qd5 39. Raf7 e4+ 40. Kg6 e3 41. b7 Qe4+ 42.Kg7 Qg2+ 43. Kh8 Qb2+ 44. Rg7 Qxg7+ 45. Kxg7 Kxb7 and white wins) (30. Bd2? Bf6 31. Kh2 Qf3 32. Rc7 Bg5 33. Bxg5 hxg5 34. Rxg5 Qxc3 35. Rxe7 Qd2+ 36. Rg2 Qf4+ 37. Kg1 Qe3+ and black has saved the game) 30...Bf6 (30...Qxc3? 31. Rxe7 Qc1+ 32. Kh2 Qf4+ 33. Kh1 Qf8 34. Rh7 Qd8 35. Rxh6 Bf6 36. Rgg6 Be7 37. Rh7 Qe8 38. Re6 and white wins) 31. Rg3 Qd8 32. Bc5 Nc8 33. Rc7 Qd2 34. Rxc6 (34. Rg8 Bd8 35. Rf7 Qxc3 36. b7 Qe1+ 37. Rf1 Qd2 38. bxc8=Q+ Kxc8 39. Bb6 Kb7 40. Bxd8 Qe3+ 41. Rf2 Qe1+ 42. Kg2 Qxe4+ 43. Kh2 Qd5 44. Rgf8 Qd1 45. Be7 e4 (45...Qg4 46. Ra2 and white is winning, though there is still a complicated task ahead.) 46. Bc5 Qh5+ 47. Kg1 Ka6 48. R2f5 Qh3 49. Kf2 Kb5 and white is winning, though again it is tough.) 34...Bg5 35. Rf3 Bf4 36. Kf1 h5 37. b5 Qc1+ 38. Kg2 Qd2+ 39. Bf2 Nd6 (39...h4 40. Nd5 Qd1 41. Nxf4 exf4 42. Rxf4 h3+ 43. Kh2 Qf1 44. Rg6 Qxb5 45. Rf7 Ka8 46. Rg8 Qe5+ 47. Kh1 Qxe4+ 48. Kg1 h2+ 49. Kxh2 Qe5+ 50. Kg1 Kb8 51. Bg3 and white wins) 40. b7 h4 41. b6 Nxb7 42. Nd5 Nd8 43. Rg6 Kb7 44. Rg7+ Kb8 45. Nf6 Ne6 46. Nd7+ Kb7 47. Nc5+ Kxb6 48. Nxe6+ Kb5 49. Nxf4 exf4 50. Rg5+ Kb4 51. Rf5 and white wins)
29. Rd2 1-0

GM Antoaneta Stefanova versus GM Wang Hao from round 2

IM Elizabeth Paehtz versus GM Miezis in round 2

Young FM Ray Robson from the US

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Reykjavik Open round 3

I felt a lot of pressure before this round. I didn’t want to start a string of losses that would end with me having to play against the lowest rated players in the tournament. I wanted to keep playing up, and that meant having to keep getting upsets, at least draws against higher rated opposition. This round I faced a strong master level player, and I wished to get at least a draw if I could. My preparation focused mainly on the Two Knight’s Defense, as the database showed this as his main response to Bc4 in the king pawn opening. As always seems to happen, he varied immediately to blow away my preparation, and the game turned extremely tactical, which suits my style but is very nervewracking!

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.05"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Edvardsson, Kristjan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B98"]
[WhiteElo "2079"]
[BlackElo "2261"]

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 Bd7
I can’t say this is a new move for me in the Najdorf Sicilian, but it is one I never really bothered to think about before. I think I always just tried to follow the same lines as the normal 9…Nbd7 variation, but the fact is that it is quite different. I knew the knight would now come to c6 instead, so I played my bishop to d3 hoping this would lead to a strong attack against his king.
10. Bd3 Nc6 11. Nce2 Nb4
Normally I would not be happy about giving up a strong bishop for a knight, but in this case I felt that getting the free rook-lift to the third rank made it worth it, given that I wanted to be able to swing that rook over to h3 for attacking purposes.
12. Kb1 O-O 13. g4
Part of the usual plan – eliminate the knight on f6, push the pawn to g5, then bring the queen and rook over to either the g or h files.
13…Rfc8 14. c3 Nxd3 15. Rxd3 b5
I was fairly happy now, though I didn’t know the theory of this position. I felt that my attack would come before his.
16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. g5 Bd8
Bringing the bishop back to the 8th rank saved me. I overlooked some defensive possibilities on his part, and without that bishop on d8 I would have lost.
18. Qh5!?
I thought that he had no way to defend the h7 pawn and that my attack might already be overwhelming.
I didn’t see that he could have defended with 18...Qb7. 18…e5 is what I expected.
19. Nf5 Qc4
I completely overlooked this defensive idea and suddenly I thought I was in big trouble. I was expecting 19...g6 20. Qh6 (20. Nh6+ Kg7 21. Qf3 Be6 22. Rhd1 is unclear) 20...gxf5. I didn’t look deeper since it became too complex, but my intuition told me my attack would be decisive if I didn’t screw it up. There could have followed 21. Rh3 Be6 22. Qxh7+ Kf8 23. exf5 (23. g6 fxg6 24. Qxg6 Bf7 25. Qxf5 Qc4 26. fxe5 Qxa2+ 27. Kc1 Qe6 28. Qxe6 Bxe6 29. Rf1+ Ke8 30. Rh8+ Kd7 31. Rh7+ Be732. exd6 Rh8 33. Rxe7+ Kxd6 gives white a big edge) 23…Bd5 24. fxe5! and the attack becomes too crazy for Fritz to give me an answer, but I suspect white may win this.
20. Qf3?
I didn’t look deeply enough to see that there was a better possibility for me that still left me with a large advantage. I was very disappointed at my attack being repelled so easily. If only I had seen 20. Rhd1! Bxf5 (20...g6 21. Nh6+ Kg7 22. Qf3 gives white a clear edge) (20...Qxe4? is what I feared, but it allows 21. Nxd6 Qg6 22. Qxg6 hxg6 23. Nxc8 and white is easily winning)
20...Bxf5 21. exf5 e4?
He played too quickly, thinking that this just won, and I thought so too at first. Then I looked deeper, remembering the Bishop blocking black’s back rank, and I found the saving move. Black should have played 21... Bxg5! to threaten 22…e4, when I could have held on with 22. Rxd6 Bxf4 (22... Be7? 23. Rd7 e4 24. Qg2 Bf6 25. Ng3 Qc5 (25...Re8 26. Nh5 Kh8 27. Nxf6 gxf6 28. Re1 gives white a large edge) 26. Nxe4 Qxf5 27. Rd5 Qg6 28. Rg1 and white has a small edge) 23. f6 g6 24. b3 Qc7 25. Rhd1 and things are unclear.

22. Re3!
Yes, a saving move due to the backrank mate threat!
22…d5 23. Qh5
Since he missed the proper continuation on move 21, I get my attack back again.
He is in trouble regardless, but this just makes things worse. His best try was 23...b4 24. Rh3 Kf8 25. Qxh7 Qxe2 26. Qh8+ Ke7 27. Qxg7 Kd6 28. Qxf7 a5 29. Rc1! and white wins.
24. Qh6 gxf5 25. Rh3!?
Not a bad move, but there was no need to give up the knight. Black has no attack looming, so it was an easy win after 25. Nd4, and this also prevents black from defending as in his next move.
25...Rc6 26. Qxh7+ Kf8 27. Qxf5!?
I was apparently intent on letting him have that knight! I sure make my life harder than necessary. It is still easy to win after 27. Qh8+ Ke7 28. Nd4.
27...Qxe2 28. Rh8+?
I make things far too hard. I looked at the correct move but couldn’t see all the way to the end of the variations, so I passed on it. 28. Qd7! Re6 (28... Rg6 29. Rh8+ Kg7 (29...Rg8 30. Qd6+ Be7 31. Qh6+ Ke8 32. Qc6+ and white wins) 30. Qe8 Bxg5 31. Rg8+ Kh6 32. fxg5+ Rxg5 33. Rh8+ Kg6 34. Qc6+ f6 35. Qxa8 Rg2 36. Qg8+ Kf5 37. Qxd5+ Kf4 38. Rh4+ and white wins) 29. Rh7 Be7 30. Rh8+ Kg7 31. Rxa8 and white wins.
28...Ke7 29. Rh7 Qd3+ 30. Ka1 Kd6 31. Rxf7 Rc7??
Black blunders badly just when he could have made white’s win difficult, though after 31...Kc5 32. g6 Ba5 (32...Qf3 33. Rb1 Ba5 34. Qe5 Qe3 35. g7 Rg8 36. Rd1 Bxc3 (36...Rd6 37. Rf6 Rd7 (37... Rxf6 38. Qxd5+ Kb6 39. Qxg8 and white wins) 38. b4+ Bxb4 39. Rxd5+ Kc4 (39... Rxd5 40. Qc7#) 40. Rc6+ Bc5 41. Qxe4+ Kxc3 42. Qxe3+ Kb4 43. Qxc5+ Ka4 44. Rxa6#) 37. bxc3 and white wins) 33. Rf6 Qc2 (33...Rc7 34. Qe5 Qd2 (34...b4 35. Qd6+ Kb5 36. g7! and white wins) 35. g7 Rxg7 36. Qd6+ Kc4 37. Qc6+ Kd3 38. Qxa8 Bxc3 39. Qxd5+ Bd4 40. Qb3+ Ke2 41. Rxa6 Bg1 42. a3 and white wins) 34. Qe5 Rxf6 35. Qxf6 b4 36. cxb4+ Kxb4 (36...Bxb4 37. g7 Rc8 38. a3 Kb5 39. Rg1 Bc5 40. g8=Q Rxg8 41. Rxg8 Qc1+ 42. Ka2 Qc4+ 43. b3 Qc2+ 44. Qb2 and white wins) 37. g7 Rc8 38. Rb1 Kb5 39. Qf7 and white wins.

32. g6?
Both of us were in time trouble at this point, so I was playing more by instinct than calculation. I missed checkmate with 32. Qg6+ Kc5 33. Rxc7+ Bxc7 34. b4+ Kc4 35. Qc6#
32... Rxf7 33. Qxf7 e3!
Black plays tough on defense. I have to play very accurately to finish things off.
34. Qf8+ Kd7 35. g7 e2 36. a3 Bf6?
Black fails to find the right defense. White would have to find an amazing move to win after 36...b4! 37. cxb4 Bf6 38. Qf7+ Be7 39. f5 Qd1+ 40. Ka2!! Qxh1 41. Qe6+ Kc7 42. Qxe7+ Kc6 43. Qxe2 Qe4 44. Qxe4 dxe4 45. f6 e3 46. f7 e2 47. g8=Q Rxg8 48. fxg8=Q e1=Q 49. Qc4+ and white wins. But if white had missed the brilliant reply on move 40 with 40. Rxd1 exd1+(Q) 41. Ka2 Qe2! Then it is just a draw.
37. Qxa8 Qd1+ 38. Rxd1
Also winning here is 38. Ka2 Bxg7 39. Qa7+ Ke8 40. Qg1.
38...exd1=Q+ 39. Ka2 Bxg7 40. Qb7+ Kd8 41. Qxg7 Qf1 42. Qd4 Ke7 43. h4 Qf3 44. Qa7+ Kf8 45. Qxa6 Qd3 46. Qf6+ Kg8 47. Qd4 Qf5 48. Kb3 Kh7 49. Qf2
Ok, so I played to be tricky here. I knew that I probably needed to bring the king to b4, but I worried about somehow giving up a perpetual check. I wished to end things quickly, and with my opponent in time trouble I decided this trick might work and couldn’t do me any harm.
He falls for it.
50. Qc2 1-0
How thrilled I was! Now I knew I would get to play strong players for at least the next two rounds.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reykjavik Open round 2

I have played Grandmasters in many formats, including a rated action chess game against GM Alexander Wojtkiewicz, but until this second round game I had never gotten to play a GM in classical chess. I spent quite a long time trying to do some preparation against him, and I found many games where he played the Alapin Sicilian as white, so I prepared mainly for that, though I also prepared for the Be2 variation of the Najdorf Sicilian since he seems to like that also. I was not thrilled to see him vary with 6. g3 and there are no instances of him playing this out of all his games in my database.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.04"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Malisauskas, GM Vidmantas"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B91"]
[WhiteElo "2489"]
[BlackElo "2079"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3
This made me nervous already, as I had not found any games where he played the Closed Sicilian, so I had not prepared for it.
2…d6 3. Nge2 Nf6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 a6
I breathed a quick sigh of relief that he transposed back into the Najdorf, so now I just prayed that he would continue as he usually does with 6. Be2.
6. g3
Well, it always seems to work this way for me; they play moves that are in none of their other games in the databases and blow away my preparation.
6…e5 7. Nf3 Be7 8. Bg2 O-O 9. O-O Be6
I suppose there must be something wrong with this idea, though it felt natural to me. I can’t find any GM games in the database with this position, though there are games from the move before my ninth. Fritz seems to feel the position is about equal. I was aware that he would probably chase my bishop with Ng5, but I figured that would be ok.
10. Ng5 Bg4
Frankly, I just don’t know this opening. I never play the Najdorf with black and I only did so because it allowed me to prepare something specific for this opponent. With this move I was hoping that by inducing him to play f3 it might weaken his kingside a bit.
11. f3 Bd7
As soon as I played this I felt uncomfortable about it and thought perhaps I should have played it back to c8.
12. f4
I knew it! He goes after me right away.
12…Nc6 13. f5 b5 14. g4
Not that it helps me any at my amateur level, but Fritz (admittedly an old version) doesn’t like this idea and suddenly rates black’s position as slightly better. I felt during the game that I was in trouble already. Fritz says black has a tiny edge. Go figure.
The computer likes 14... Rc8 15. a3 Qb6+ 16. Kh1 Qd4 with a slight edge for black. My move isn’t bad either, but I think it only ends up helping white’s attack against my king.
15. Nh3 g5?
It is difficult for me to understand why I did this obviously bad move. I felt desperate at the time, feeling that he had a big edge. This is apparently not true as Fritz still rates the position as equal. I thought I saw a defensive idea, but it was just an illusion brought about by the fact that I overlooked a couple of obvious moves on his part. (15...b4 16. Nd5 Nxd5 17. exd5 Qb6+ 18. Nf2 Na5 =)
16. fxg6 Bxg4 17. Qd2 b4?
My original intention was to take on g6, but my original defensive idea didn’t look like it would work; the move I chose instead is much worse. At least by taking on g6 there was the remote possibility he could go wrong, as the following demonstrates - 17...fxg6 18. Qxh6 Rf7 19. Nd5 (19. Qxg6+? Rg7 20. Qh6 b4 21. Nd5 Nxd5 22. exd5 Nd4 23. c3 bxc3 24. bxc3 Bf3 25. Rf2 Qa5 and black has the edge) 19...Bxh3 20. Bxh3 Rh7 21. Be6+ Kh8 22. Qd2 with a large edge for white)
18. Qxh6 Bxh3 19. Bxh3 b3 20. Rxf6 Qb6+ 21. Kh1 1-0

About what I expected from playing a GM. I just wish he had played his normal Be2 variation against the Najdorf so I could have seen how my preparation worked out.

Grandmaster from Lithuania Vidmantas Malisauskas

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Very Good Start

The tournament is dedicated to the late Bobby Fischer

My board before the first round. Look below my game to see more photos.

The Icelandic Chess Center felt impressive today. The organizers did a lot of work to prepare it, with nice posters all over the place showing events of the past Reykjavik Open tournaments. I took pictures of many of the chess celebrities. I was nervous but excited to be playing an IM. I knew FM Bjorn Thorfinnsson a bit, and he was the organizer who allowed me to play in this event (thanks Bjorn!), but I didn't realize he had a younger brother who was an IM.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2008"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.03.03"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Thorfinnsson, IM Bragi"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B89"]
[WhiteElo "2079"]
[BlackElo "2406"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Be3 Be7 8.Qe2 a6 9. Bb3 O-O 10. O-O-O Qc7 11. Rhg1 b5 12. g4 b4
I wasn’t unhappy to see this variation. I love this variation of the Sicilian as the tactics suit me. I am more knowledgeable about the main variation with 12…Nd7. I have looked a bit at this 12…b4 move, mainly a game of Ivanchuk losing against Grischuk.
13. Nxc6 Qxc6 14. Nd5 Qb7
This was the first new move for me. I was ready for the normal 14…exd5, when I play 15. g5 and there follows the threat of bishop takes d5.
15. Nxe7+ Qxe7 16. Bg5
I wasn’t sure if this was right, but I thought the pin would be annoying and hard to get out of. The computer prefers moves that are just way over my head, like 16. Qc4.
16…a5 17. f4
I wanted to up the pressure on that pin of the knight, before he got his queenside attack going.
I was expecting 17…a4 here, when 18. Bc4 b3 19. cxb3 axb3 20. Bxb3 is equal.
18. Bc4
I thought a bit about playing 18. Qe3 since I thought it might leave me with a slight edge, but I got nervous about the bishop perhaps getting in trouble on b3. The computer likes 18. Qe3 e5 (18... a4 19. Bxa4 Bc4 20. b3 e5 21. Qd2 h6 22. Bh4 Rfb8 (22... exf4 23. Qxb4 Be2 24. Rxd6 f3 25. e5 Qxe5 26. Qd4 Qxh2 27. g5 hxg5 28. Rxg5 Nh5 29. Kb2 f2 30. Bxf2 f6 31. Bg1 Qh1 32. Bc6 Bf3 33. Bxa8 fxg5 34. Bd5+ Bxd5 35. Qxd5+ Qxd5 36. Rxd5 and white wins) 23. g5 hxg5 24. Bxg5 Bb5 25. Qe1 g6 (25... Bxa4 26. Qh4 and white wins) 26. Qh4 Kg7 27. Qh6+ Kg8 28. Rg3 and white wins) 19. f5 Kh8 20. Bxf6Qxf6 21. g5 Qe7 with an edge for white.
18... Bxc4 19. Qxc4 d5 20. exd5
Fritz prefers 20. Bxf6 Qxf6 21. exd5 exd5 22. Rxd5 Rac8 23. Qd4 Qc6 24. Qd3 and black seems to have compensation for the pawn deficit.
20... exd5 21. Qd4 Ra6 22. Bxf6Rxf6 23. g5 Rf5 24. Rge1 Qc7 25. Re5 Rc8 26. Rd2 Rxe5 27. Qxe5 Qxe5
I seem to have played quite accurately, at least according to Fritz. Here the computer thinks black should have played 27... Qc4 28. b3 Qe4 29. Qxe4 dxe4 30. Rd5 f6 31. Rxa5 e3 32. Kd1 e2+ 33. Kxe2 Rxc2+ 34. Kd3 Rxh2 35. gxf6 gxf6 36. Kc4 Rh4 37. Kxb4 Rxf4+ 38. Kc3 and white retains a slight edge.
28. fxe5 Rc5
Now I felt a little nervous about the endgame. I felt I should at least draw with accurate play, but I wasn’t certain I would play accurately.
29. Re2 Kf8 30. e6 fxe6 31. Rxe6 d4 32. Rd6 Rxg5 33. Rxd4 Rg1+ 34. Rd1 Rxd1+
I was quite surprised to see him trade rooks here. I thought he would retain the rook and try to squeeze me for a long time.
35. Kxd1 Ke7 36. Kd2
I was uncertain about this pawn endgame. I realized I needed to play very carefully, and I thought I might even have a slight edge, because I felt I could force off all of black’s queenside pawns and still be able to get my king over to the kingside in time.
Kd6 37. c4 bxc3+ 38. Kxc3 h5 39. Kd4 a4 40. b3?!
I play it safe. I wanted that last black queenside pawn gone. However, I could have won with 40. h4 Ke6 (40... g5 41. hxg5 h4 42. Ke4 h3 43. Kf3 Ke5 44. Kg3 and I win) 41. Ke4 g6 42. Kf4 and I win. The sad thing is that I looked at the idea of playing h4 on the previous move but dismissed it because my king was one square too far away from the kingside, so black could play g5. I should have understood now that my king was close enough. It is not such a difficult win to see here.
40...a3 41. Ke4?!
Another inaccuracy on my part. I should have played 41. h4 Kc6 42. b4 (42. Ke5 Kc5 43. Kf5 Kb4 44. Kg6 Kc3 45. Kxh5 Kb2 46. b4 Kxa2 47. b5 Kb3 48. b6 a2 49. b7 a1=Q 50. b8=Q+ Kc2 51. Qd6 and white may be able to win; I just can’t get my tablebases to work, so I am not sure!) 42... Kb5 43. Kc3 g5 44. hxg5 h4 45. g6 h3 46. g7 h2 47. g8=Q h1=Q 48. Qc4+ Kb6 49. Qd4+ Kb7 50. Kb3 and white wins.
41... Kc5 42. h4 Kb4 43. Kf5
I thought quite a bit here, because there was a big choice to make. I saw clearly that going to f5 with my king would be a draw. I thought that perhaps I could win if I played 43. Kd4 instead, but I couldn’t quite see deeply enough, and I got nervous about overlooking something. (43. Kd4 Kb5 (43... g6 seems to be about the same as the Kb5 variation) 44. Kc3 Kc5 45. b4+ Kd5 46. Kb3 g5 47. hxg5 h4 48. g6 Ke6 49. b5h3 50. b6 h2 51. g7 Kf7 52. b7 h1=Q 53. g8=Q+ Kxg8 54. b8=Q+ Kf7 and I seriously doubt that white can find a way to win this.)
43... Kc3 44. Kg6 Kb2 45. b4 Kxa2 46. b5 Kb3 47. b6 a2 48. b7 a1=Q 49. b8=Q+ Kc4 50. Qg8+ Kc5 51. Qxg7 Qxg7+ 52. Kxg7 Kd6 53. Kg6 Ke7 54. Kxh5 Kf7 1/2-1/2

Ok, so maybe I should be a tiny bit upset that I failed to win, but really I have to be happy to start this well. I have only played one IM before in classical chess and he beat me badly, so this is a good beginning. Even better was FM Bjorn Thorfinnsson's result since he beat top seeded and 2698 rated GM Wang Yue of China! Tomorrow I get to play GM Vidmantas Malisauskas of Lithuania.

On the left is wunderkind FM Illya Nyzhnyk of Ukraine and on the right is my opponent, IM Bragi Thorfinnsson of Iceland.

Former women's world champion GM Antoaneta Stefanova

Italian-American Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, seeded 5th

2nd seed GM Wang Hao of China

Top seed GM Wang Yue of China, rated 2698