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!