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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 7

Well, what had so far been a dismal tournament has now officially sunk below anything I ever imagined in my worst chess nightmares. Sorry, I have nothing positive to say on this, because that is the truth. Besides shedding a boatload of rating points, I feel as if my opponents play as perfectly as computers and there is little I can do about it. Today I faced the lowest rated opponent I have faced in ages, only 1660 ELO. I am more than 400 points higher rated, so my statistical chances are supposed to be about 99%, if I recall correctly. Well, this opponent played as mistake-free as any of the much higher rated opponents I have faced. I kept finding devious little ways of trying to win in the endgame, but she never fell for a single one, though in my past experience 1600 level players would have fallen for at least one of them. I know it's just how I feel right now, but I feel like I should give up chess. If I were prone to that sort of thing, I would weep.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.03.30"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Finnbogadottir, Tinna"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B34"]
[WhiteElo "2076"]
[BlackElo "1660"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6
Ah, of course. Every game I saw in the database had her playing consistently with 2...e6, so naturally she varies now. It's what I thought I should do yesterday, but didn't and paid the price.
3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Be3 Nf6 6. f3
I am sure she didn't know this, but this was a perfect opening choice against me, because I do not allow the normal dragon, yet she got me into it. Now I have to play an opening I don't know.
6...Bg7 7. Nc3 O-O 8.Qd2 d5 9. exd5?!
This shows my lack of knowledge of this version of the dragon.
9...Nxd5 10. Nxd5 Qxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. c3 Rb8 13. b3?
A terrible move (see, I am the only one who makes mistakes these days!). I could have had a slight edge with 13. Qxd5 cxd5 14. O-O-O
13...Qa5 14. b4 Qe5
Better is 14...Qa3! 15. Rc1 Bf5 16. Bc5 Rfd8 17. Qe3 Qb2! 18. Be2 Bd3! 19. Kf2 Bxe2 20. Rb1 Qxa2 21. Ra1 Qb2 22.Rab1 Qxc3 23. Qxc3 Bxc3 24. Kxe2 and black should win this.
15. Rc1 Bf5 16. Bc4 Bh6 17. Kf2 Rfd8 18. Qe2 Bxe3+ 19. Qxe3 Qxe3+ 20. Kxe3
You see, even with a less than stellar opening, I have fought back to a slightly better endgame. If my opponent only played like a normal 1600 player, I could expect to win this!
20...Rd6 21. Rhd1 Rbd8 22. Bb3
I played this because in my past experience, this level of player, more often than not, likes to trade down, and this looks like a very plausible plan here, though in fact I would likely win if she did. So, naturally she doesn't.
Of course. If 22...Rxd1 23. Rxd1 Rxd1 24. Bxd1 I am pretty sure I could win this given my centralized king.
23. Rxd6 exd6 24. Rd1 Re8 25. Bxe6
The computer likes 25. Kf4 better, but it just leads to equality after 25...Bxb3 26. axb3 d5 27. Rd2 Re1 28. b5 cxb5 29. Rxd5 a6 30. h4 Rb1 31. b4 =.
25...Rxe6+ 26. Kd3 Kf8 27. c4 Ke7 28. a4 Kd7 29. Rd2 Kc7 30. Re2 Kb6
Of course she doesn't trade rooks like a normal 1600 player often would.
31. a5+ Ka6 32. Rb2
My move isn't really a mistake, but easier to play would be 32. Re4 c5 33. Kc3 Rxe4 34. fxe4 h5 35. g3 cxb4+ 36. Kxb4 f6 37. Ka4 Kb7 38. Kb5 a6+ 39. Kb4 Kc6 40. Kb3 Kc5 41. Kc3 f5 42. exf5 gxf5 43. h3 d5 44. cxd5 Kxd5 45. Kd3 Kc5 46. Ke3 Kb4 47. Kf4 Kxa5 48. Kxf5 Kb4 49. g4 =
32...f5 33. Kd4 Re5 34. h4?!
I keep making my life harder than it needs to be. Better is 34. Rd2.
34...f4 35. Rd2 c5+ 36. bxc5 Rxc5 37. Kc3 Kxa5 38. Rxd6 Rh5 39. Rd5+??
Strange. I looked at this move first and thought it didn't work. Then I looked at the correct move, 39. Rd4 and wasn't sure if it quite worked or not. When I looked at my current terrible move again, I thought I saw something better. I just miscalculated. Drawing would be 39. Rd4 Rxh4 40. g4 g5 41. Rd5+ Kb6 42. Rxg5 Rh3 43. Rb5+ Kc6 44. Kd4 Rxf3 45. Rf5 Rf1 46. Rf6+ Kc7 47. Rf7+ Kc6 =.
39...Rxd5 40. cxd5 Kb6 41. Kd4 Kc7 42. Ke5 Kd7?
The first and only mistake that she makes in the entire game! Flat out winning is 42...a5 43. h5 a4 44. hxg6 hxg6 45. Kd4 Kd6.
43. Kxf4 a5 44. Ke4 a4 45. Kd4 Kd6 46. g3??
I blow it. I could have held the draw with 46. Kc4 a3 47. Kb3 Kxd5 48. Kxa3 Ke5 49. Kb3 Kf4 50. Kc4 Kg3 51. Kd4 Kxg2 (51...Kxh4 52. Ke5 Kg3 53. Kf6 Kxg2 54. f4 Kg3 55. Kg5 h5 56. Kxg6 =) 52. f4 Kg3 53. Ke5 h5 (53...Kxh4 54. f5 gxf5 55. Kxf5 =) (53...Kg4 54. h5 =) 54. f5 gxf5 55. Kxf5 =).
46...a3 47. Kc3 Kxd5 48. h5 a2 49. Kb2 Kd4 50. Kxa2 Ke3 51. f4 Kf3 52. Kb3 Kxg3 53. hxg6 hxg6 54. f5 gxf5 55. Kc3 f4 56. Kd2 Kg2 0-1
Of course, playing the stellar way that she did, she deserves the win. I just don't understand how a 1600 player plays like this. I know she did it on her own, because she rarely left the board, so congratulations to her, and massive frustration for me.

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 6

I never have photos of me playing chess, so it is nice that someone posted this one on the blog. This is me on the right playing today's opponent, while in the center of the photo is the lady to whom I lost in the next round.

I deserved what I got today, and possibly should have even lost. As black I have a pretty predictable set of lines against 1. e4, and that bit me hard today. I considered playing something I have never played before, just to throw off my opponent's preparation, and I should have done so I guess, but I decided to stick with what I knew. My opponent planned things perfectly, using a line I have never had played against me and which I have never studied. I was lucky to get a draw...

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.03.29"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Eiriksson, Vikingur"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B33"]
[WhiteElo "1882"]
[BlackElo "2076"]

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 13. h4
My opponent deserves full credit. He found a gaping hole in my opening knowledge here. I knew instantly that I was going to suffer. I know only the next two moves of this line, and I just knew that my opponent had spent all day studying this line on his computer. He confirmed that afterward.
13...Bh6 14. g4 Bf4 15. Qf3 Be6
A common alternative, though I didn't know it, is 15...Rb8.
16. Bd3
This move is fine, but also decent is 16. Nxf4 with a game so complex that I am not even going to try to give you any analysis.
Here is where my lack of knowledge hurt. This is bad. Instead, 16...Re8 is fine here.
17. Nxf4 exf4 18. Qxf4 Ng6 19. Qg3 Ne5 20. Be2 Bc4?!
Again not so good. Better was still 20...Re8.
21. f4 Nc6?!
Better is 21...Nd7.
22. Bxc4 bxc4 1/2-1/2
I offered a draw because I saw more danger of losing than of being able to make any sort of comeback to win. I saw some possible pressure against the 'e' pawn if he went after the pawn on c4, but he could just castle queenside and my attack would probably not be enough.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 5

I have noticed a pattern - my opponents never blunder. Oh, they make occasional second-best moves, but overall they just don't mess up. I believe I have played relatively well in this event, yet my results are miserable, and if you examine each of the games you will notice that my opponents never really make any mistakes. I have to assume that this is because my playing style is not generating enough confusion...

Today I played a new line (for me) of the French, simply because this line was the only example of a French that I had for this opponent. I played relatively well, yet I never gained any advantage, and my opponent kept playing almost all the best moves throughout the game, so that slowly but surely I was strangled. Note that my old Fritz 8 is not sufficient to be able to analyze the complexities that arose in this game, so I don't trust all of the analysis. I sure wish the new Fritz 11 or the Rybka 3 were more affordable.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.03.28"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Halldorsson, Gudmunder"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C03"]
[WhiteElo "2076"]
[BlackElo "2248"]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2
I have never played this variation before, but it was the only one for which there was an example of my opponent's previous play.
3...Be7 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. Bd3 c5 6. dxc5 O-O
I'm sure he purposely varied from his previous game in this line, which was played earlier in this same tournament against a GM. He played 6...Nc6 in that one.
7. O-O a5 8. a4
This is a novelty according to my database, and while my computer seems to think it is okay, I felt throughout the game that I had some trouble because of this move. ({RR} 8. Re1 Na6 9. exd5 Qxd5 10. Re5 Qd8 11. Nb3 a4 12.Nbd4 Nxc5 13. Bc4 Qc7 14. Nb5 Qb6 15. Nfd4 Bd7 16. Qf3 Rac8 17. Be3 Qa5 18. c3Bxb5 19. Bxb5 Bd6 20. Rg5 Nce4 21. h4 h6 22. Rg4 Nxg4 {Martinez Lopez,E-Bermejo Martinez,J/Mondariz 2003/CBM 95 ext/0-1 (37)}) ({RR} 8. Qe2 Na6 9. c4 Nxc5 10. cxd5 Nxd3 11. Qxd3 b6 12. Re1 Ba6 13. Qb3 Bc5 14. h3 exd5 15. e5 Ne8 16. Nf1 Nc7 17. Bg5 Qd7 18. Ng3 Ne6 19. Rad1 d4 20. Ne4 d3 21.Be3 Bb4 22. Bd2 Nc5 {Ruiz Jimenez,F-Baron Rodriguez,J/Mondariz 2002/CBM 91 ext/1/2-1/2 (51)})
8...Na6 9. e5
I didn't even look at the move the computer likes best: 9. exd5!? Qxd5 10. Bxa6 Rxa6 11. Nb3 and my old Fritz 8 says white is a little better here.
9...Nd7 10. Nb3 Naxc5 11. Nxc5 Nxc5 12. Bb5 Bd7 13. Qe2 Rc8 14. Be3 Bxb5 15. Qxb5 Qc7 16. Rfe1 Rfd8 17. c3 Qc6 18. Nd4 Qxb5 19. Nxb5 Nb3
I am sure there are ways to improve in the previous moves, though nothing really stands out. This 19...Nb3 move really hurt, because I had to choose between giving up a pawn and remaining somewhat active, or placing my rook on a terrible square.
20. Ra2 Rc4 21. Bb6
An alternative worth exploring is 21. Rd1.
The computer likes 21...Rd7 much better here and gives black a slight edge.
22. g3
I actually looked at the move the computer likes best - 22. Bc7!? - and it didn't look bad to me, but I wasn't sure enough about it.
22...g5 23. h3
23. f3 or 23. Rd1 are possibly better alternatives, but too complex to give lines here, especially since my computer isn't up to snuff.
23...h5 24. Nd6
The computer also likes 24. Kg2, but again I don't trust the analysis.
24...Rc6 25. Be3 b6 26. Nb5 Nc5 27. f4
My computer can't make up its mind about the move I played versus 27. Rd1.
27...gxf4 28. gxf4
The computer prefers that I first play 28. Nd4 Rcc8 and only then 29. gxf4. I imagine this is because it keeps black's knight out of b3.
28...Kh7 29. Kh2 Rg8 30. Rg1?!
Here again I had the chance to keep the knight out of b3 with 30. Nd4.
30...Rxg1 31. Kxg1 Nb3
You see, my rook gets stuck again.
32. Na7!?
The computer prefers 32. Kf2, but it seems to just lead to a lost game anyhow: 32. Kf2 Kg6 33. Kf3 Bc5 34. h4 f6 35. Na7 Rc7 36. Nb5 Rc8 37. Bxc5 bxc5 38. Nd6 Rd8 39.Ra3 c4 and black has a winning advantage. During the game I actually thought I might be winning here, but I was soon to be proven wrong.
32...Rc4 33. Bxb6 Kg6!
I had only looked at him taking on f4 with the rook, whereupon I thought I could win with 33...Rxf4 34. Nc6 Bc5+ 35. Bxc5 Nxc5 36. b4! Ne4 37. bxa5 Nxc3 38. Rf2 Rxa4 39. Rxf7+ Kg6 40. Rf6+ Kg5 41. Rxe6 and it is white with the winning chances.
34. Kg2
The alternative 34. Be3 still just loses to 34...Kf5 35. Nb5 Rxf4! 36. Bxf4 Kxf4 37. Kf1 Kxe5 38. Na7 Bf8 39. Ke1 Ke4 40. Kd1 Kd3 41. Nc6 f6 42. Nd8 e5 43. Ne6 Bd6 44. Ng7 e4 45. Nf5 e3 and black wins.
34...Kf5 35. Be3?
Better was 35. Nb5 Kxf4 36. Nd4 Nxd4 37. Bxd4 Rc8 38. Ra1 Rb8 39. Rf1+ Ke4 40. Rf2 Bh4 41. Rd2 Bg5 42. Rc2 Kd3 43. Rf2 Bd2 though black still has a large edge.
35...Ke4 36. Kf2
It's hard to call this a mistake when everything loses now. For instance 36. Bf2 Kd3 is also losing.
Also winning was 36...Kd3!.
37. Ke2 d4! 38. Bxd4
I know this looks like a terrible blunder, but it really is no worse than anything else. I was vaguely hoping I could find a way to pick up the 'a' pawn and start pushing my pawns. Just as bad was 38. Bd2 d3+ 39. Kd1 Bg3 40. Nb5 Nxd2 41. Kxd2 Bxf4+ 42. Kd1 Rc5 43. b3 Rxe5 44. Rf2 Rg5 45. Rf1 Rg2 46. Re1+ Kd5 47. c4+ Kc5 and black wins.
38...Nc1+ 39. Kd2 Nxa2 40. Nb5 Kxf4 41. b3 Rc6 42. Kc2 Nb4+ 43. Kd2 Nd5 44. c4 Ne7 45. Bc3 Ra6 46. Nc7 Ra7 47. Nb5 Rd7+ 48. Ke2 Nc6 49. c5 Bd8 50. Nd6 Nxe5 51. Bd2+ Kg3 0-1
It gets frustrating to watch other games and see people making mistakes, while in my own games the only one who seems to ever make mistakes is me...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 4

I was really stressed out before this round. After last night's debacle I really needed to get a positive score today, but this player uses opening lines that don't sit well at all with my style. Even worse, when I looked through his games, in the possible opening lines I might see, he plays so tough that I couldn't imagine actually winning this one. With how badly I figured I would do today, I have to be pretty happy that I got a draw. My opening preparation helped some. He varied pretty early into something I didn't know, but studying the opening all day helped me figure out some plans.

I chatted with American grandmaster Vinay Bhat before the round and took the photo above. That's GM Bhat on the left. He seemed like a really great guy, and I wish I knew him better.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.03.27"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Naslund, FM Mikael"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D23"]
[WhiteElo "2195"]
[BlackElo "2076"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qb3
It was a relief to see him actually play this, because it was the only line I studied all day.
4...dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bf5 6. g3 e6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Nc3 Nbd7 10. Re1
This was new for me. I didn't really know what to do now, so I stuck with the same basic plan tht I had from the original game I was following. I had expected him to play 10. Qb3 here.
Looks like this is a novelty, and not too horrible according to my computer.
11. e4 Bg6 12. Bf4 a5
I wanted the option to play the queen to a6. I wasn't yet sure exactly which rank I wanted to put each rook on, so I 'passed' with this move. The computer likes 12...Rfd8 here.
13. a3 Qa6 14. Qxa6 Rxa6 15. d5
Yeah, I knew this was coming. The question was just whether I would find enough counterplay to survive.
15...cxd5 16. exd5 Nc5 17. Ne5 Bd6
After the game my opponent said that this move really surprised him. We looked at some alternatives, and some looked okay, but I still think this works out best.
18. Nxg6 hxg6 19. Bxd6
The computer comes up with a very difficult to see line that seems to give white a big edge here. 19. Be3! exd5 20. Rad1 Re8 21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. Rxd5 Bf8.
19...Rxd6 20. dxe6 Nxe6 21. Red1 Rfd8 22. Bxb7 Rb6!
This was my saving grace. The endgame is slightly better for white, but it should be manageable.
23. Rxd8+ Nxd8 24. Bf3 Rxb2 1/2-1/2
Since he was already getting low on time and I didn't see any winning chances for me, I offered a draw and was grateful that he accepted.

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 3

What a terribly distressing game today. I finally outplayed a strong titled player only to throw all of my hard work away in one instant of blindness when the game was finally all but winning for me.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.03.26"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Johannesson, FM Ingvar Thor"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A08"]
[WhiteElo "2076"]
[BlackElo "2345"]

1. e4 e6 2. d3
I was in the mood for something more solid today.
2...d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. Ngf3 Nc6 5. g3 g6 6. Bg2 Bg7 7. O-O Nge7 8. Re1 h6 9. c3 Qc7 10. Nf1
This is apparently a novelty, at least according to my database. I had an idea to play for an attack due to the pawn on h6 being a little weak.
10...O-O 11. Ne3 Rd8 12. e5!
I really liked this move. It blunts the power of the rook on d8 and gives some kick to my kingside attack.
You can see the point of 12. e5 if he had played 12...Nxe5 13. Nxe5 Bxe5 14. Ng4 Bg7 15. Nxh6+ Kf8 16. Qf3 Nc6 17. Bg5 with a good advantage to white.
13. Ng4 dxc3 14. bxc3 Nf5 15. Nf6+ Kh8 16. g4!?
I was in the mood for attack and attacking is always easier. A more solid advantage could have been gained by 16. Bf4 b6 17. Qa4 Bb7 18. g4 Nfe7 19. g5 h5 20. Rad1.
16...Nxe5 17. Nxe5 Bxf6 18. Bf4
Here I thought I was flat out winning, but I overlooked his next move.
18...Nd6 19. Qf3
I wanted to build up pressure, especially since he was getting into time trouble. Probably best was simply 19. Bxh6.
A better defense for him would be 19...g5 20. Bg3 Kg7 21. Rad1 with an unclear game.
20. Qh3!?
Again I wanted to keep adding to the pressure. Better is probably just 20. Nc4 Kg8 21. Bxd6 Rxd6 22. Nxd6 Qxd6 23. Rac1. The computer calls this equal, but I have to believe white has the advantage here.
20...Kh7 21. Bxh6
Crazy complications arise after 21. Nc4!? e5 (21... Bxc3 22. Qxh6+ Kg8 23. Rac1 Bxe1 24. Rxe1 and white wins.) 22. Nxe5 g5 23. Bxg5 f6 24. d4 fxg5 25. Qd3+ Nf5 (25...Kg8 26. Bd5+ wins.) (25...Kh8 26. Ng6+ Kh7 27. Re7 wins.) 26. gxf5 Bxe5 27. f6+ Kh8 28. Qg6 Bxh2+ 29. Kh1 Bf5 30. Qxf5 Bd6 and white has a large edge.
21...Bxh6 22. g5 Nf5 23. gxh6 Rh8 24. Re4 Qe7 25. Bf3
I had two things in mind when I played this. First I wanted to begin opening the g file for a rook. Second, I was concerned about black playing f6, and this move prevented it.
You see, if he had played f6 there could have followed a nice queen sac: 25...f6 26. Nxg6 Rg8 27. Qxf5 Rxg6+ 28. Kh1 e5 29. Qxg6+! Kxg6 30. Rg1+ Kh7 31. Rg7+ Qxg7 32. hxg7 Rb8 and white is better.
26. Kh1 Kg8 27. Rg1 Rxh6 28. Nxg6
I thought that this gave me the edge, but according to the computer black ends up better with correct play.
He should have played 28...Rxh3 29. Nxe7+ Kf8 30. Bg2 Rxd3 31. Nxf5 exf5 32. Rh4 Ke7 33. Re1+ and black has the edge.
29. Ne5+! Kh8 30. Nxd7?
This felt so right at the time, but the right way to win here is 30. Qg2! Bc6 31. Ng4! Nh4 (31...Rg8 32. Nxf6 Rxg2 33. Bxg2 Rxf6 34. Rg4 Bxg2+ 35. Kxg2 Rh6 36. Rb1 Nd6 37. Ra4 a6 and white should win.) 32. Nxf6 Nxg2 33. Ng4 Bxe4 34. Bxe4 Rh5 35. Bxb7 Rd8 36. Bxg2 Rxd3 37. Nf6 Rg5 38. Rb1 Kg7 39. Ne4 and white wins.
30...Rxh3 31. Nxf6 Rxf3 32. Reg4??
Aaaaaaaagh!! I still had around twenty minutes on my clock so this is hard to explain. Basically I flat out overlooked that once his knight moved my own knight would be hanging on f6. I literally thought the game was over; that after my move (which threatens mate on g8) he could only play 32...Nh6 and then I would mate him with Rh4. Obviously once he played his move I saw that I had blown it. I still could have had good winning chances with 32. Ng4 Rxd3 33. Ne5 Rxc3 34. Nxf7+ Kh7 35. Ng5+ Kh8 36. Nxe6 Rg8 37. Re5 Rxg1+ 38. Kxg1 Nd4 39. Rxc5 Rxc5 40. Nxc5 b5 41. Kf1 Kg7 42. Nb3 Nc2 43. Ke2 Kf6 44. Kd2 Nb4 45. a3 Nd5 46. Kd3 Ke5 47. h4 Nf4+ 48. Kd2. I had to leave out many possible variations in order to keep this manageable, but they all led to a white edge. How come my opponents never blunder like this against me?
I could have just resigned right here, but I was stunned to suddenly go from believing I was won to having to accept that I had lost.
33. Nd7 Nxg4 34. Rxg4 Rxd3 35. Rh4+ Kg7 36. Rg4+ Kh8 37. Rh4+ Kg7 38. Rg4+ Kh6 39. Ne5 Rd5 40. Nxf7+ Kh5 41. Re4 Rf8 42. Ne5 Rxf2 43. Re1 Rdd2 0-1
A humiliating disaster!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 2

At last year's Reykjavik Open I never had to play down during the entire event. In the second round I had to play against an unrated player. There were very few games in the database, but he seemed to be a pretty strong player, and about the only preparation I could do was to assume he would play 1. e4. I am always very nervous in such situations because I really don't like to lose to lower ranked players. The game ended up being a mess, where the computer sees better moves for both sides on nearly every move at one point when we were in time trouble.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.03.25"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Unnarsson, Sverrir"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B33"]
[BlackElo "2076"]

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. Bxf6 gxf6 10. Nd5 f5 11. Bd3 Be6 12. c3 Bg7 13. O-O O-O 14. Nc2 Rb8 15. Nce3?!

The first doubtful move of the game. Other games have gone (15. Qh5 f4 16. g3 Qd7 17. f3 fxg3 18. hxg3 f5 19. Nce3 f4 20. gxf4 exf4 21. Nf5 Rxf5 22. exf5 Bf7 23. Qg5 Bxd5 24. f6 Ne5 25. Be4 Bxe4 26. fxe4 Rb7 27. fxg7 Qh3 28. Qd8+ Kxg7 29. Rf2 Nf3+ {Klundt,K-Maugg,L/Bad Woerishofen 2003/CBM 93 ext/1/2-1/2 (33)}) or (15. Nde3 f4 16. Nd5 Bxd5 17. exd5 Ne7 18. Qh5 f5 19. f3 Qd7 20. g4 fxg3 21. hxg3 Nxd5 22. Rae1 Rbe8 23. Kf2 Nf6 24. Qxf5 Qxf5 25. Bxf5 a5 26. Re2 Re7 {1/2-1/2 Bergen,K-Deutschmann,R/Graz 2002/EXT 2003 (26)})
15...fxe4 16. Bxe4 f5 17. Bc2 e4?!
I was playing to try to trap his knight in the center with f4, but this move just throws the initiative to white. Better was 17...Qd7 18. Bb3 Rf7 19. f4 b4 with an unclear game.
18. Bb3 Kh8 19. Nf4 Bxb3 20. axb3 Be5?!
Although this move is doubtful, it at least attacks, while white still retains an advantage after the supposedly better 20...Qc8 21. b4 Be5 22. Ned5.
21. Ned5
I was happy to see this. I had feared 21. Ne6 Qh4 22. g3 Rg8 23. Nxf5?, but this actually loses to 23...Qh3 24. Ned4 Nxd4 25. cxd4 Bf4. White has a clear edge after 23. Rxa6 instead.
I keep attacking. I could have had equality with 21...a5 22. Qh5 Qe8 23. Qh6 Qf7.
22. Qh5
Better here is 22. Rxa6! with an advantage.
A bad move, showing how my mindset was just to attack. I could have held white's advantage to a minimum with 22...Qc8 23. Qh6 Qb7 24. f3 b4.
23. Rxa6!?
Now he could have had a winning advantage with 23. Qxf5 Qg8 24. h3! Rg5 25. Qxe4 Re8 26. Qf3.
23...Qc8 24. Rxc6
Better was 24. Rfa1 Bxf4 25. Nxf4 Rxf4 26. Rxc6 Qxc6 27. Ra7 Rb7 28. Ra8+ Kg7 29. Qg5+ with a big advantage.
24...Qxc6 25. Qxf5 Rbg8 26. g3?
A mistake. Still winning is 26. Nf6! Bxf6 27. Qxf6+ R8g7 28. g3.
I was trying to be tricky, hoping he would take the e4 pawn so I could win the knight on f4. Better is 26...R4g5 27. Qe6 (27. Qxe4? Bxf4) 27...Re8 28. Qh6 Rg7 29. Re1 Bxf4 30. Nxf4 Qb6 31. Qf6 Kg8 32. Rd1 e3 33. fxe3 Rxe3 34. Qd4 Qxd4 35. Rxd4 Rd7 an white has a tiny edge. Note that white was in significant time pressure somewhere around here.
27. Ra1?!
White could get back a significant edge with 27. Re1 b4 28. Qxe4 bxc3 29. bxc3 Qxb3 30. c4.
My heart's in the right place, but this is not a good move. I actually could have taken over the advantage with 27...R4g5 28. Qe6 Rf8 29. Kf1 e3.
28. fxe3 R4g5 29. Qd3 Qg7 30. e4 Qh6 31. Ne7?
This is when I finally felt I would win. He was in terrible time pressure and just threw this move out. 31. Rf1! keeps an edge for white.
31...Bxf4 32. Nxg8 Rxg8 33. Qf3 Be3+ 34. Kh1 Rf8 35. Qg4 Bc1
I really liked this move. I wasn't going after the pawns really; I was cutting off the rook on the file so that my queen and rook could better pressure his king. Luckily for me, with his next move he made this plan work even better.
36. Ra7? Bxb2 37. Rc7 Qc1+ 0-1
If the king moves then Qf1 is mate.

I wasn't happy with how I played, but it was a relief to get a win. Now I just hope I can do better next round.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reykjavik Open 2009 Rd. 1

It's been a long time since I have blogged, mainly because I have not been playing. I last played in October, so I worry that I will be rusty in this event. I love the Reykjavik Open because it gets so many strong players. The only sad thing was that they did not post the first round pairings, probably due to many players dropping out at the last second, so I didn't know who I would play, and I didn't get to prepare anything.

[Event "Reykjavik Open 2009"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2009.03.24"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Thorhallsson, GM Throstur"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B01"]
[WhiteElo "2076"]
[BlackElo "2442"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6
Well that tears it. I already know next to nothing about the Center Counter defense, but once he plays 2...Nf6 I literally only know one more move (3. d4) in the opening. That's not a good sign when you are playing a grandmaster!
3. d4 Nxd5 4. c4
Like I said, I didn't know if this was a line or not (it is). I just prayed that I could somehow come through the opening alright.
4...Nb6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3
While this move didn't feel right to me, I was purposely playing to prevent his white square bishop from developing easily. If I ever played Nf3 early on it would give him the g4 square. I was hoping to force him to play e6 before developing his bishop.
6...Bg7 7. Be2 O-O 8. Rc1
You see? I am still playing to prevent the bishop from coming out.
8...Nc6 9. d5 Ne5 10. Bd4
This was a spur of the moment decision because I saw some tactical motifs that I liked.
10...e6 11. f4!
This is what I was thinking of when I played Bd4. It feels terrible, especially when I haven't completed development, but I didn't see any instant attacks available for black, and I liked pushing the knight back to where it further impeded his development.
11...Ned7 12. Bxg7 Kxg7 13. d6!?
I decided on this because I didn't like opening lines for him. I had initially thought to play the correct line, but it worried me so I ended up trying to keep the center more closed. Better was 13. Qd4+ Nf6 14. g4 Kg8 (14...c5 15. Qxc5 Nxg4 16. Bxg4 Qh4+ 17. Qf2 Qxg4 18. d6 and white is slightly better)15. g5 Ne8 16. Nf3 exd5 17. c5 Nd7 18. Qxd5 c6 19. Qc4 Nc7 20. O-O with an unclear position.
13...Nf6 14. c5
Better was 14. Nb5 cxd6 15. Qxd6 Bd7 16. Nd4 with equality.
14...Nbd5 15. Nxd5 exd5 16. dxc7 Qxc7 17. Qd2 Re8 18. Nf3
I finally get a chance to develop the knight! I felt like I was just barely hanging on here.
18...Re4 19. Ne5 Bg4 20. Nxg4 Nxg4 21. O-O Ne3!
His plan over the past few moves was good, as this knight will be much better than my bishop.
22. Rf3 d4 23. g3 Rd8 24. Bd3 Re6 25. b4
It looks like it is better to go ahead and play f5 right here rather than later. (25. f5!? Re5 26. fxg6 fxg6 27. b4 a5 28. a3 axb4 29. axb4 b6 30. cxb6 Qxb6 31. b5 =)
25...a6 26. f5 Rf6 27. Re1
A little better is 27. Rf4
27...h6 28. Qf2 g5 29. h3 a5 30. a3 axb4 31. axb4 b6 32. cxb6 Qxb6 33. b5 Qb7
I am so close to being about equal, but not quite. It was frustrating that he never really made any mistakes.
34. g4 Rc8 35. Rg3 Rc3! 36. Bf1 Nxf1 37. Rxc3 dxc3 38. Qxf1 Qb6+ 39. Kg2?!
It probably wouldn't have made a difference to the outcome, but Kh1 is a touch better.
39...Rd6 40. Qc4?
I'm lost anyway, but here I overlooked a cute tactic. Qf3 was slightly better.
40...Rd2+ 41. Re2 Qe3!
Cute! This is what I didn't see. I could have just resigned right here, but I kept hoping I was overlooking something.
42. Rxd2 Qxd2+ 43. Kf3 c2 44. f6+ Kxf6 0-1