Wednesday, 22 November 2017

November Thoughts

Dear readers,

My apologies for writing so rarely. I've had a very tough schedule through this second half of the year- a lot of travelling from one tournament to another. It hasn't been very easy, but that's really nothing to complain about. I am very lucky to do what I love.

The last 4 tournaments I played- the Croatian League, Maria Albulet Memorial, the ETCC and Romanian League went quite well. I won the 1st board in Croatia after which Caissa smiled to me again- won the "Maria Albulet Memorial"...

The European Team Chess Championship came afterwards. It was the 2nd time I had the honor to play for Romania's team on the 1st board. It was very interesting and challenging. Somehow, I didn't play many strong tournaments after the EIWCC in Riga and I was a bit "bored of chess" if I can say so. You know this feeling when you play a lot vs lower rated opponents and at some point you feel like you can't take any more games like this- avoiding too "dry" variations, playing strange openings, having to fight in all the games like it's the last one. It can become a bit too stressful. That is why I was very happy when hearing I'd be on the 1st board- it meant I could finally play some "calm chess" and just enjoy it. I guess this is the main reason why I had a quite good tournament, scoring 6/9p. We had a slow start, but as I've noticed at this kind of tournaments- the finish is the most important. A good finish helped us share 4-5th place which was definitely a success for us!

from right to left: Alina l'Ami, Corina Peptan, Ciprian Nanu, Elena-Luminita Cosma, me and Mihaela Sandu

After barely 2 days of rest we had to go to the Romanian League. The opponents were not as strong as at the ETCC, but my chess got worse- too many blunders and misses, I guess I didn't have enough rest... It was a bit frustrating to know that I can play better and still not to be able to show it. Considering this fact, 6,5/8p was a decent result- good enough to help our team- "CS Politehnica Aqua Carpatica Iasi" to become Champion for the 3rd year in the raw!

from left to right: Bella Khotenashvilli, Alina l'Ami, me and Miruna Lehaci
There is one more classical tournament waiting for me this year- a strong ladies round robin in Wroclaw, Poland. It will start on the 29th of November. I hope to have a good rest until then and to  show some quality chess there!

May you have a wonderful end of the week!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

R4 Impressions

GM Yuriy Kuzubov
     Four rounds are already behind in the EICC in Minsk. Only one player is on 100%- GM Yuriy
Kuzubov of Ukraine, with many players following with 3,5p/4. There were some very interesting games yesterday. I will show some fragments of the games which have impressed me the most.

     Russian GM- Maxim Matlakov showed a really impressive level of preparation vs Pavel Ponkratov. I have the feeling that it was a very well placed opening trap. My engine is going nuts in the following position, giving a big advantage for black. After I play it's first line- it says it's already equality, to finally give an advantage for white after some good minutes of thinking:
Black to move
     The last move was 11.h4. Black answered with 11...gxh4 12. Qg4- Be5 13. Ne4- all first line moves, after which white has a big advantage. What can I say? This is the risk of playing sidelines nowadays- you never know where a novelty is hidden, one that will simply end the life of your sideline. The game continued a few moves, but the fight was basically over already here.
     Another really surprising game was the one won by the Greek GM- Mastrovasilis Dimitrios vs GM Andrei Volokitin- a well known Ukrainian GM who is known to have a deep knowledge in all kind of Sicilians along with a very sharp style of playing. It seems that he either forgot or was unaware of a nice opening trick:
White to move
     At the first glance- it seems that white is in trouble, his knight on "c3" being pinned and the bishop on "b5" seemingly unstable as well. The move that followed solves all white's issues and even puts black in some serious trouble. 7.Rb1! - there are already a few games played in this position with white having an almost 100% score. This "mysterious" move is meant to protect the bishop on "b5" after an eventual capture on "c3". A really aesthetic move! 7...a6 8. Bxd7- Bxd7 9. 0-0 - Nxc3 10. bxc3- e6 11. d5!
Black to move
     White has a decisive attack, which the Greek GM successfully converted into a full point a few moves later.

     I guess it is enough with illustrating opening disasters... My point is that even at the top boards of the ECC, which implies top GMs such things are possible. Remembering some of my recent upsets from the EIWCC, I feel it's not only "women who make these kind of mistakes".

     As about the Romanian players, GM Constantin Lupulescu played a book-like game until the very last moves where, being in time trouble he missed some nice tactics which would win the game immediately, giving away the whole advantage some moves later and having to settle with a draw...

White to move
          White could play  57. Nc6! here, the point is that after 57... bxc6 58. dxc6- black's bishop can not go away because of 59. Rxh7 followed by 60.c7 +-
          Instead, white played 57. Ke2- fxe4 53. Qxe4? (it was important to give an inttermediate check- 54.Rg1+! first, only after that capturing on "e4" with a winning position) 53...Rg7!. Objectively, black is still worse, but being in time trouble, white's king already feels endangered and it's not that easy to understand how is the position after 54. Nxb7, which is engine's first choice.
          White played 54. Kd2? instead- giving away the whole advantage. A draw was agreed because after 54... Qg5+, followed by 55...Qxh5 black is already not worse.
           A big miss for our player who could have made it to +3 if winning this game.

      If we can say he was unlucky, the Romanian IM Mihnea Costachi definitely had Caissa on his side, with his opponent- GM Daniele Vocaturo- blundering a whole exchange in a better position.

Black to play
IM Mihnea Costachi
      The opening stage did not go that well for white, thus black has a pawn up on "c7". After an eventual 22...Re7, protecting it, black is still better, white would have some compensation for the pawn, but it would have to be proved if that was enough. Instead, black played 22...c5, blundering  23. Nb6 which left him an exchange down. Our player played precisely to convert his material advantage into a full point.

     GM Bogdan Deac  won in nice style vs his lower rated opponent, climbing to a solid +2 as well. GM Mircea Parligras has had a slow start, drawing all his games.

     IM Vladimir Hamitevici of Moldova won a nice game with black vs the Russian GM Boris Savchenko. It was a very intstructive game played in the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann Defence:
Black to move

     In this double-edged position, it seems to me that black is faster in his attack 12...f6! 13. exf6- Ng6 14. c4- Nxf6 15. Rc1- g4, with a dangerous attack with which white was unable to cope.

     GM Dmitry Svetushkin blundered in a totally winning position, having to settle for a draw and remaining on +1.

     Concluding, R IV of the EICC in Minsk was a very interesting one to follow, with many things to learn. 
     I wish all our players the best of luck for the 5th round and to give their best before tomorrow's free day!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

EICC in Minsk

     The European Individual Chess Championship is in progress these days in Minsk.

GM Constantin Lupulescu
     At some point, I considered participating myself, but my schedule will be very tight this summer and I thought such a serious tournament would take too much energy and preparation. Otherwise, this has been my favorite tournament to play for some years in a row, as it is the strongest Open in Europe and a player like me never gets to play vs such strong opponents in every round.
     Romania is represented by GM Constantin Lupulescu (2/2p), GM Bogdan Deac (1,5/2p) , GM Mircea Parligras (1p/2) and IM Mihnea Costachi (1p/2).
     The toughest battles are still ahead....
     I liked yesterday's game of GM Lupulescu vs IM Moskalenko, as it was a perfect demonstration of  how the pair of bishops dominates the board! You can see it yourself in the diagrams below:
Black to move
     Black decided to take 18...Bxc3, giving  white the advantage of having the pair of bishops. While I can understand that something went wrong for black in the opening stage and the positions is already unpleasant, I believe that this move is definitely not the way to continue the fight.

White to move
      White is clearly better and goes on in creating another weakness in black's position 33.h5, followed by 34. h6. While it's not engine's first choice, for the human understanding it looks like the most logical way to make the advantage decisive.

GM Dmitry Svetushkin

     GM Dimtry Svetushkin of Moldova also played a high quality game to make a draw with black vs the N.3 favorite of the tournament- GM Dmitry Jakovenko. It was a Spanish, Anti-Marshall System, where black solved all his opening problems and I think was even somewhat better in the final position, where the draw was agreed. You can judge yourself:

White to move

     Black has just played 11... Nd8!- following his idea which began with his 10th move - Qd7, to play "c5" and then to prepare slowly "d5", taking control in the center. He illustrated it perfectly in the game:

Black to move
     This is the position where the draw was agreed. Black has achieved all of his goals, taking control in the center, getting some space advantage and placing all of his pieces harmoniously. I guess that the endgame after the queen exchange should be more pleasant for black to play.

Here are the pairings for today's round: R3 

     I wish all the Romanian and Moldavian players participating good luck in today's 3rd Round and I hope to see some interesting fights!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The kind Caissa

     As my posts get more and more sporadic, my life becomes more and more pleasing. Yeah, I guess that's how the things work- one doesn't feel the need to share when everything's fine, or is it just about me?
     Anyhow, I thought that I can't just let my blog die, so...
     Since February, I played a round robin tournament in Dubai, one I really enjoyed playing, I finished it sharing  2nd-3rd place, but a win in the last round would have brought me the 1st place. It was a tournament of missed opportunities for me- so many games which where completely wining and I drew or even lost... The average Elo was about 2380, so it was very good as a training before the Romanian Women's Championship. Not many people knew I went to Dubai, as it was quite an unpredictable decision, taken a few days before the tournament. I was really impressed by the chess Club of Dubai, it is like a palace and all the best conditions are created for the chess players. All in all, I enjoyed the nice weather 26-30 Celsius degrees while there were -15 in Romania and the good organisation.

     The Romanian Women's Championship followed, which I was really set to win, as this is the only title I'm missing in Romania. Unfortunately, I shared the 1st-2nd place once again and I became 2nd. Well, I guess I was unlucky that my main contender- IM Corina Peptan was in a very good form and showed a really high level of chess. The both of us scored 8p/9, but she became first as her Bucholz was higher, and she won against me in the direct match. It was a very good result for me, as it's never easy to win 13 Elo points in a tournament, but there was some biterness left...
     Somehow, I've grown to really enjoy the atmosphere at all the later national events- all the friends and hanging out, it's a blessing which I really miss in between tournaments.

     The European Individual Women's Championship in Riga followed shortly after. I have to be frank and say that it was the best women's event I have ever participated at. As I've already mentioned a few times, the hotel & food was great, the playing hall- perfect for playing, the location- very central, with a few walking areas around and I really loved Riga.
     I was very happy to meet all my friends there! I had a really bad start, scoring just 0,5/2, I made a come back then, but lost once again against GM Monika Socko, having a winning positions right after the opening stage- it was painful to lose a whole point in such a manner.... I won again then,vs GM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan but collapsed in the game vs GM Kateryna Lagno, losing my chances to qualify for the World Cup. The last game was a draw, though it was not dull at all. I scored 6,5p/11 (+2), not a bad result itself, but not what I aimed for.
     I rested a few days and came to UK then, for 3 games in the 4NCL. I won all of them vs players with 2150-2190, which was quite pleasing, as I will finally reach a new Elo record. The last one was set in 2012 (!!!), yeah, 5 years ago and you can't imagine how unhappy I was all these years, not being able to show that my chess has improved. My team promoted, so we'll be playing in the 2nd Division next season!

    Last, but not least- my German club- Schwäbisch Hall, has become Bundesliga Champions!!!  (Ah, somewhere in between all these tournaments, I have won 3 games and drew one in Germany as well :D ). I can not express how happy I am! We were so close to this title the last 2 years, but both times we became 2nd. We have such a great team- it's very uncommon for so many women with strong personalities to be great friends and to make such a great company with each other! Our managers are like family already and every time I have to go to Germany- it's like a feast!
Schwäbisch Hall Club

     There are not many upcoming events for me until July... I will play the Romanian Rapid Club Cup and a short tournament in Germnay in June. Many strong events will follow from July on.

     I am grateful Caissa has been kind to me lately and I hope it can last!

xoxo from Oxford ;)


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Big City Life

     Life can not be more lonesome in a big city...
     A few days or weeks in between tournaments- and there can pass hours or even a day or two until I speak to a real person, until I have a real conversation, not on phone or skype or facebook... Yeah, people live in groups and societies not accidentally.
     Well, I have decided that I had spent enough time on social media and phone so I went out for a change. I went to the bus stop, wondering which is the bus I should take to a quite close to my flat shopping center. Being thirsty for a conversation with a "real person", I asked a young woman what number had the bus I should take. Quite common, right? I was expecting a quick, bored answer, maybe accompanied by a suspicious look- that's how people usually react here, tired and sore from their routine- big city life...
      Like I've said, she was a young woman, a few years older than me perhaps... A long "grey-ish" coat, some worn black boots, a pink-ish cap and a scarf, no make up- she was drowning in the city's endless shades. She told me I could take whatever bus came first- they were all driving the same way- like many of us do- work, home, work, home, home, home and work again. Not I, I am the lucky chess player whose home and work routine is not quite defined... After some 20 sec thought and the suspicious look I've already got used to, she decided she could share a bit more- there was a free bus, one she was waiting for as well- it was driving towards the shopping center I aimed for. Surprised by her being so talkative, I decided to continue our conversation. What could I say? I complained a bit about the mud that was all around, saddened about my recently polished shoes which looked quite sad as well, by that time. She told me I could use the public restroom of the shopping center in order to try to clean them. Hm, I was surprised by her remark... She stopped talking and started to look again for the bus we were waiting for. She told me then that the bus had a specific logo and it didn't stop at every station, we had to wave the hand for it to stop and take us. It was the most common and in the same time the strangest conversation I have ever had in my whole life!
     When the next bus came, I told her I'll just take it, tired to wait for the "free logo bus". I had a conversation today and it was enough. It was just the time to go clean my shoes...
      No, I'm not lonely, and I don't wait eagerly for the next tournament, I love to drown in the sad shades of this big city, with its suspicious, bored and sore people who can be very talkative... From time to time...

Cheers from Bucharest!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

In Memoriam- Cristina Adela Foișor

     Nici nu știu cum să încep...

     Simt că aș vrea atâtea să spun... Dar, poate dacă nu le voi scrie, va mai fi o șansă ca totul să fie doar un coșmar din care să mă trezesc...
     De câteva zile tot am insomnii și ghemul ăla din stomac nu mai vrea să dispară...
     Simt că orice aș scrie, ar fi prea puțin...
     Punctele astea de suspensie, le-aș continua la nesfârșit... Nu era loc de punct atât de devreme...

     Mai am încă pe laptop baza ”Caro Foișor”... A apărut după vreo 2-3 partide pierdute în 1.e4-c6 2.d4- d5 3.Cc3-g6. Am avut nevoie de multe ore de pregătire pentru a reuși o primă remiză... Ce stres aveam când vedeam pe tragerea la sorți- Cristina Adela Foișor.

     Este puțin spus că port un respect deosebit față de Cristina... Soție, mamă, campioană- le reușea pe toate!
     Coerența si cronologia nu sunt punctele mele forte, dar totuși:

     Baku, Olimpiada de Șah 2016

     Pe la jumătatea turneului- România era printre primele poziții ale clasamentului, în mare parte- datorită Cristinei, care avea un scor fantastic.
     Seara, ca de obicei, eram cu toate fetele în camera căpitanului pentru a hotărî cine joacă și cine stă a doua zi.
     Eu eram necăjită, avusesem probleme cu stomacul încă de la începutul turneului, ca să mai și răcesc pe deasupra... Mi se părea că sunt cea mai săracă... Cu ochii de acum, aș fi spus prima- ”Eu vreau să joc mâine!”. Dar nu, stăteam cu o mutră de găină plouată, plângându-mă de febra mea.
     Cristina a spus atunci că ea va juca mâine, că va rezista ea cumva să facă măcar o remiză (chiar dacă resimțea deja oboseala acumulându-se), iar eu să stau să mă fac bine, ca să fac cât mai multe puncte pe final.
     Numai ea știa cum s-a dus, în starea pe care o avea, a doua zi la rundă...  Despre asta era Cristina, așa am cunoscut-o eu...

     Wroclaw, Septembrie 2015

     De câte ori nu am vorbit până în miez de noapte despre câte-n lună și în stele...
     Îmi amintesc o istorioară din nenumăratele...
     În seara aia, îmi dăduse să gust din borcanul cu miere pe care îl adusese de acasă. Apoi mi-a spus și povestea din spatele lui. Ovidiu hotărâse să cumpere albine, să facă miere... Zis și făcut! După ceva timp, nu îmi mai amintesc exact cu ce ocazie, a venit acasă cu un cadou pentru Cristina- ”un costum de albinuță”- cum l-am ”botezat” noi râzând... Așa a luat naștere mierea din acel borcan.
     Tot la turneul din Wroclaw am analizat vreo 2-3 ore o partidă de-a Cristinei în Spaniolă, jucase o variantă rară pentru negru... Ne-am tot uitat la o ordine de mutări, la alta... Ea confundase ceva și îmi explica diferențele... Diferențe pe care memoria mea le-a înregistrat doar până in Baku, când în meciul cu Azerbaijanul mi-a fost jucată varianta respectivă și nu am reușit să-mi mai aduc aminte nimic... Îmi era o rușine... Nici nu am întors capul spre dreapta, înspre masa 2, unde juca Cristina... Nu a menționat nimic despre asta, nici față de căpitan, nici față de celelalte fete... Mi-a spus după aia la masă, din nou, cum trebuia să joc și care erau diferențele...

     Se mândrea atât de mult cu fetele ei- Sabina și Veronica!
     Îmi amintesc cum într-o dimineață am întrebat-o la ce se uita pe youtube și mi-a zis că e un video de-al Sabinei în care ea analiza o partidă recentă... Zicea că ”Uite, abia a început să publice video-uri și deja are atâtea vizualizări!”.
     Uneori îmi povestea diverse curiozități din lumea geneticii, pe care, la rândul ei, le știa de la Veronica, cu care se mândrea nespus de mult, mai ales pentru că a reușit să intre la una dintre cele mai bune Universități din lume!

     La turneul ăla am devenit mai mult decât colege de echipă...

     Eram într-un moment de cumpănă și ea mi-a dat niște sfaturi pentru care îi sunt recunoscătoare până în ziua de astăzi. Am simțit că dacă mama mea ar fi fost șahistă, mi-ar fi zis exact la fel...

     Plovdiv, 2014

     Avusesem o evoluție intermediară la Campionatul European feminin din acel an, dar am hotărât să merg totuși la festivitatea de premiere pentru a o aplauda pe Cristina, care reușise încă o calificare la Campionatul Mondial. Zis și făcut! Am felicitat-o pe Cristina și stam noi acolo de vorbă, când îmi aud numele! Împărțisem ultimul loc premiat- 20, împreună cu alte vreo 20 de șahiste... Câștigasem vreo 45 de euro... Cristina, mai în glumă, mai în serios, mi-a zis să păstrez măcar o bancnotă de 5 până la urmatorul Campionat European și să văd cum o să se înmulțească! Așa am și făcut. Ce credeți? La următorul Campionat European la care am participat, în 2016, în loc de 45 de euro au fost 1000!

     S-au scris și s-au spus multe despre Cristina zilele astea...
     Pentru mine, ea a fost unul dintre acei oameni trimiși de către Dumnezeu în calea noastră pentru a ne inspira și pentru a ne fi un model în viață...

     Așa va rămâne Cristina în inima mea- ca o a doua mamă din lumea șahului.

    Dumnezeu s-o odihnească în pace!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A Chess Saga

     2017 is already here and it has brought loads and loads of snow in Bucharest... (yep, Bucharest is my new home now!).
     While most of the "normal" people had to return to their normal schedule and go to work, I'm taking advantage of the privileges of being a chess player, staying comfy at home, drinking tea and planing the calendar for this year... 
     2016 was definitely an interesting year! There were many ups and downs, but somehow, more ups come to my mind, which is a good thing...
     I hope that 2017 will be at least as good as 2016!
     November & December were some veeeery full months for me! I think that I've never played so much chess! There were more or less successful tournaments, but I've understood that it can't be healthy to play so much if you want to think of yourself as of a professional.
     I hope to play less in 2017 and if possible- better! :)) Why not, right?
     I've achieved the "so much wanted" 2400+ Elo again, though I try not to overthink it. After all, chess is not about ratings and this 2400 doesn't either feed me or warm me any better than 2395... 
     I hope that I'll be able to make the necessary adjustments this year so I would start playing better chess, that's the main goal (besides buying a sofa and a TV for the new "hommie" :)). 
     These being said, here's a little timeline of the last "chess months":

Calimanesti, Romanian League, beginning of November, smiley face

late November, Kings' Tournament- vs GM Mihail Marin (my face as expressive as ever!)

Again a very friendly Irina, this time vs GM Vlad Jianu
Romgaz Open- very late November- again a "happy" face
My mood at the beginning of December!

Wining 3 National titles (Rapid, Blitz and Solving) right after the beginning of December deserved a smile!

Finally a happy face and a week break from chess!

Vandoeuvre, France, first half of December- happy face goes on!

End of December, Austria, right before the last 3 "very successful" rounds (0,5p/3)

     I will finish on this positive note, the face I had after those 3 rounds got no official record!

xoxo from Bucharest :)