An unexamined life is not worth living.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Keres Memorial 2008 - game over

Keres Memorial 2008 is over, Georgi Orlov and Bindi Cheng tied for 1st place with 5.5/7. These were the two strongest players in the tournament, so this is obviously not a surprpise. Bindi managed to revenge for last year's loss, and defeated Georgi in a complicated game, but himself lost to Vicente Lee. I myself tied for 4th place with 4.5 points out of 7, same as last year, and as in 2006. I am satisfied with the result, but the quality of my play in some of the games was awful. I did not take any byes this year, so in the middle of the tournament I lost concentration and started to make blunders. Here is the brief breakdown, in a diary form:

Round 1 - Jiganchine-Jack Cheng (1981) - 1:0

I was not too familiar with this line in Ruy Lopez, but soon after the opening got a large advantage. I won a pawn, but Black got some counterplay on the kingside. Fortunately Black had his knight stuck on b7 without any moves for most of the game, so when the position opened up I won with the decisive attack against Black's king. I was happy with my play in this game.

Round 2 - Bindi Cheng (2360)-Jiganchine- 1:0

This one was a true disaster. I played a line in Slav defense that I last time looked at about 9 years ago. Ever since Bindi came to BC 3 year ago I had a hard time in my games against him (a few difficult draws and a loss), but this time I did not even get out of the opening. What I vaguely remembered to be a book line, contained a few calculational problems for Black to solve, but I just could not decide which move was safe and which one was not, so by move 20 I was dead lost (down a pawn and in a terribly passive position). That does happen to me with Black pieces every once in a while against strong chess players (2300+) - they just play natural moves, and I am scrambling to remember something, ending up playing weak moves...

Round 3 - Jiganchine-John Niksic(1950) - 1/2:1/2

I played a passive line in Open Sicilian, and Black was better around move 30. John got a typical good Sicilian endgame, but misplayed it at some point (it was not obvious) and I got some initiative (strong passed pawn supported by a bishop). I was however down to 10 minutes on the clock (with increments), so I started to repeat when the opportunity arose. I had a feeling my technique did let me down - it is my goal, after all, to grind down lower rated players in slightly better endgames. Given that I don't study openings and play only one tournament a year - sacrificial attacks are not exactly what I should play for.

Round 4 - Andrei Kostin (2060)- Jiganchine - 1/2:1/2

I had some difficult choices in the opening as Black, but very soon Andrei made a couple of passive moves, and got a position with bad IQP. Again I was hoping to grind down my opponent, but instead I allowed lots of counterplay (all starting with White knight arriving on c5, never a good sign in IQP positions). Again, I got a better endgame (again - strong passed pawn supported by a bishop), but could not convert. I turned down a repetition, but a few moves later was glad that the position simplified to a draw.

Round 5 - Jiganchine-Dan Erichsen (2056) - 1/2:1/2

Ruy Lopez as White was a good sign, but in a Chigorin with my opponent seemed about equally familiar with the plans. I wasted a tempo on Bc2-b1-d3, but then he gave up the 'c' file, so there was hope for a complex struggle, but I made a terrible move Kh2, and with the Black queen on b8 that gave Black a chance to open up a diagonal against my king with d6-d5, winning at least a pawn. However, my opponent used that opportunity to ... offer to me a draw 3 moves later, despite him having a winning position. Draw by reputation, as John Emms calls it!

Round 6 - Paul Leblanc (1950) - Jiganchine - 0:1

I used to win lots of games like this when I was a junior: White plays d4 opening, followed by passive middlegame, trades into inferior endgame, putting all pawns on same color as a bishop. Should be an easy win, but it was not. I thought I found a plan with the pawn breakthrough; it seemed like it would work. However I missed a very simple defensive move, and my own rook was trapped on g4, surrounded by White pieces and pawns. Paul had to sacrifice an exchange which would leave me in total zugzwang, but instead he dropped a piece to a one move combination. Very lucky escape for me!

Round 7 - Jiganchine - Luc Poitras (2192)- 1:0

I was disgusted with my play in previous game and considered withdrawing, but decided to play since it was too late to worry about my performance. This game actually went very well for me, where in Kalashnikov Sicilian, Luc mistakenly simplified to a position where not only his d5 was a weakness, but also the d6 pawn was very hard to hold. He tried to create a kingside counter attack with knight and queen, but that only lead to his queen getting trapped via a tactical shot. This is what happens when luck is on your side - beating stronger opponents does not involve so much effort (or we were just both very tired and barely cared about the outcome).

The conclusion for me is that opening play was taking a lot of my effort, and combined with generally being in bad shape that led to missing more chances later in the games. Blunders like the ones in rounds 5 and 6 are also a very serious warning sign, as they did not happen to me in Keres'06 or Keres'07 as much.

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