An unexamined life is not worth living.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Paul Keres Memorial 2009 - overview

Jack Yoos had a great tournament this year, only a month after moving to Vancouver from Montreal. Welcome back, Jack!

Just like I gave an overview of my BC Closed games last October, here are some little notes with quick impressions of my play.

Round 1: LeBlanc – Jiganchine (0-1)

image Black to move.

White is a bit better: 16… Rxd6 is not good due to 17. c5 and the knight on d6 is strong.. Since my bishop is also attacked, I decided to move it with a gain of tempo, playing 16… Bg4. White responded with a big blunder – 17.f3??. After Qxd4+, black picks up up two pawns, so the game ended pretty quickly: 17… Qxd4+ 18. Kh1 Bxf3 19. Rad1 Qxd1 20. Qxd1 Bxd1 21. Rxd1 Ne8 0-1

This surely reminded me of my game against Paul from last year’s Keres where after my blunder he had a winning position, but blundered back and lost.

Round 2: Jiganchine – Orlov (1-0)

If you live in BC, Canada then - basically Georgi Orlov is the strongest player you get to regularly see. And after playing in Keres Memorial 6 times – I never actually got to play him – until the 7th tournament. Jack Yoos and Sergei Sokourinski used to have an argument about whether Orlov and Spraggett were of similar strength, and while Jack was convinced (based on his own score against each) that Spraggett is stronger, the very fact of comparison being made speaks volumes.

Black risked a bit more than he should have in the opening, and the ‘star’ move definitely came here, after Black played … c5.

image White to move

19. Bc6!

No, this is not me drawing the arrow on the diagram incorrectly - the bishop actually did stop one square short from taking the rook. The rook is not running away (taking it would give Black compensation), instead White totally dominates central squares and increases pressure against c5 pawn with Qd5 coming. After the game Georgi admitted having missed this move. He then had to give a rook for a dark squared bishop, and my light squared bishop live to tell the tale, the game ended after some complications in this position:

image White to move

38. Rbf7! and Black resigned since Bf3 mate can’t be prevented without giving up the queen.

After this game – the tournament kind of ended for me – I took a bye, and then still could not play normally since the feeling of having done something special overwhelmed me. This was the first time I played an International Master in my entire life, so to score a win from the first attempt felt quite extraordinary. I realized that Georgi was rusty, and that he comes to Keres Memorial to play risky chess against local amateurs like myself which does mean he loses a game like this once every couple of years, but I still could to get back to my senses (I did try quite hard).

Round 3:  bye (1/2) I was quite exhausted after the previous game, and having been tired before the tournament (this programmer’s been very busy at work recently) – I had planned to take a bye anyway, so this seemed like a good moment for that.

Round 4: Jiganchine – Gentes (1/2-1/2)

image 24… Qb6

After some manoeuvring by both sides, in this position Kevin offered me a draw, which I accepted. During previous few moves I was mostly focused on keeping positional balance.

Round 5: Pechisker – Jiganchine (1/2 – 1/2)

This was the game that really threw me off balance and probably had to do with my dismal play the next day. Alfred has a style that I find hard to adjust to, so every game against him is usually hard for me. Just like in our last game in the BC Closed, I got a great position out of the opening (Slav defence), but failed to convert.

image Black to move

23… Bd5! White has to give up a pawn with 24. e4 just to rescue his tied up pieces.

However a few moves later, the game was somewhere between winning for Black, and a draw and I made a humongous error:

image 35… a6? allowed 36. Nc5, and suddenly my pawns are weak, pieces are passive, and I am low on time.

That kind of move is hard to explain, but I think, I had planned c6-c5, and was concerned about a5-a6, and Nb3-a5-b7 with counter play. Fortunately this time my desperate measures worked, and in the complications Alfred offered a draw, which I accepted. I was terrified however that I allowed such massive counter play in a technical position.

Round 6: Jiganchine - ChangeHe Li (1/2 – 1/2)

image White to move

Another Sicilian Scheveningen, just like in round 4, and again my understanding of position was lacking.
In my quick preparation the morning before the game I had anticipated something similar (an early e4-e5 break), but did not look deep enough.
Here apparently 12.Bxb7 Qxb7 13.Qh5! scores around 90%. I instead played 12. Bf4 and after 12…Nc6 took the knight and offered a draw. I was uncomfortable playing a young improving player, but also getting increasingly worried that I misplayed something (which was kind of true). I also wanted to get some rest before the final round (but had I known that after a draw I would get to play Jack, I would have re-considered).

Round 7: Yoos – Jiganchine (1–0)

I had not lost to Jack Yoos since 1999, but I still remembered the feeling of getting blown off the board before the opening was over. I really wanted to avoid that, so instead of my main opening as Black – I played the line in the Caro-Kann, which I believed to be passive but solid.
Jack played very energetically and still had a very dangerous initiative:

image Black to move

Being tired from defending for the last couple of hours - I missed the most obvious threat created by 19.Nc2 – which is Bxc4, and knight has to keep guarding d7, so White gets his pawn back with great position. Trying to get Nh6 into the game - I played 19…f7-f6? (instead Rd8 was better) and after 20.exf6 gxf6 21.Bxc4! and Rhe1 – I made a few more blunders and lost fairly soon (but things were really going downhill at that point). I was very impressed by the way Jack treated this opening variation (and wished I had put up a better resistance).


  1. keres taught us many lessons; if i knew about chess, i'd know one or two. but the keres memorial teaches us anew: don't play the caro-kann...

  2. That's right, Sicilian forever!


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