Friday, January 26, 2007

Chess Holidays

Since I started in a full-time job, my chess playing has mainly been restricted to my holidays. I have always made a point of finding a playing site that seems to be a nice destination even if it wasn’t for the chess tournament, and in addition to the Nordic countries, my tournament record includes Corinth, Belgrade, Budapest, Cannes, Barcelona, the Italian Riviera, Bangkok (where I met my wife) and the Tatry mountains.

My first 'holiday tournament' was in Prague in 1996 and I enjoyed the tournament as much as the city. My first lesson was to never arrive at the playing site the same day as the tournament begins, as I actually fell asleep during the final stages of my first round game. Fortunately I was well ahead on the clock and my travel companions noticed and waked me up. Now I prefer to arrive a few days ahead so I can relax and acclimatize myself before playing.

The following game proves not to be of very high quality when checked by Fritz, but I still am quite happy with it.

S.Johnsen (2175) - U.Schenk (2235)
Prague Cedok op (7), 1996
I have always had a weak spot for this move, and whenever I believe the Veresov opening (1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5) to be sound, I also start playing this first move more frequently. In this case I played it because I anticipated Black’s reply.
1...g6 2.h4!?
This is one of the independent ideas behind White’s first move.
I was amazed to find that there actually are 35 games with this somewhat bizarre looking position in MegaBase2006.
3.e4 c6
One of the more high-powered games continued 3...c5 4.d3 Nc6 5.g3 Bg7 6.Bg2 d6 7.Nh3 Bg4 8.f3 Bd7 9.Nf2 Rb8 10.g4 b5 11.g5 b4 12.Ne2 e6 13.f4 with an unclear position which White eventually won in Buhmann-Hodgson, Bundesliga 2001.
4.Bc4 b5
As far as I can remember I was totally unaware of the game Djurhuus-Bern, Norwegian Cht 1994 which continued 4...d5 5.exd5 b5 6.Bb3 b4 7.Ne4 cxd5 8.Ng5 Nh6 9.Qf3 e6 10.a3 Nc6 11.axb4 Bxb4 12.c3 Be7 13.d4 0–0 14.Ne2 Rb8 15.Bc2 with a pleasant edge for White.
5.Bb3 a5 6.a3 d6 7.d4 Ba6 8.Nf3 e6 9.Bg5 Qc7
Black is very reluctant to develop his kingside. Possibly he doesn’t like to return to “Pirc territory”, but more likely he is worried that ...Nf6 will be met by an annoying e5-break.
10.Qd2 Nd7 11.0–0
White is more active and doesn't need to worry about his weakened kingside.
11...Bg7 12.Rfe1 Ngf6 13.e5!
A less demanding continuation would have been 13.d5 cxd5 14.exd5 e5 15.Nd4 Qb6 16.Nc6 with a very clear edge for White, but I was provoked by Black’s slow development.
13...dxe5 14.dxe5 Ng4
Now White’s e-pawn will fall, but only if Black is willing to open the centre completely.
15.Rad1 Ndxe5?! 16.Nxe5 Bxe5
This allows a winning tactics. After 16...Nxe5 17.Bf4 c5 (17...f6 18.Bxe6), White probably will have to find 18.Nd5! if he wants to decide the game quickly, e.g.: 18...exd5 19.Bxe5 Bxe5 20.Rxe5+ Kf8 (20...Qxe5 21.Re1+-) 21.Rxd5 c4 22.Qc3 Rh7 23.Rd7 and Black is busted. White combines a kingside attack with some quite dangerous attempts to trap the black queen: 23...Qc6 24.R1d6 Qe4 25.Ba2 Qxh4 (after 25...Bb7 26.f3 Qxh4, 27.Rd4 Qg5 28.Rxb7 is the safest) 26.Rf6 Kg8 27.Qe5 g5 (27...Rg7 28.Rd4 traps the queen) 28.Rg6+! fxg6 29.Qd5+ and Black can safely resign.
As can be seen from the further course of the game, this was not the result of exact calculation, but more a general feeling that the bishop was a more important piece than my rook.
17...Nxe5 18.Ne4?!
Obviously not 18.Bf6?? Ng4. But a computer finds the winning 18.Qf4 in a fraction of a second. But my gaze was fixed on the weak dark squares around Black’s king.
18...0–0 19.Nf6+?!
Now 19.Qf4 is a bit more complicated, but still an easy win: 19...a4 20.Bh6 Rfd8 21.Re1 and the game is over.
In case of 19...Kh8, however, I was ready to play 20.Qf4!, (it is so much easier to see when the king is the target!) e.g. 20...a4 21.Nxh5! Kh7 (Black is mated after 21...gxh5 22.Qf6+ Kh7 (or 22...Kg8 23.Bh6) 23.Qh6+ Kg8 24.Bf6) and now 22.Rd7! works just as well as in the game continuation.
Actually, 20.Bh6+! was slightly more accurate.
20...Rfc8 21.Nxh5+ Kh7
Again 21...gxh5 leads to a quick mate after 22.Qf6+ Kg8 23.Bh6.
This small tactics immediately decides the game.
22...Qxd7 23.Nf6+ Kg7 24.Nxd7 Nxd7 25.Qd4+
If it hadn’t been for this final piece win, the game could have dragged on for quite a while.

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