Saturday, March 14, 2009

Not Ready Yet

In a little more than two weeks I shall play my first real tournament in more than four years.
The 9th Bangkok Chess Club Tournament now has 12 registered GMs and I am ranked no. 61 out of 146 participants. It surely will be a nice tournament but it worries me that I am badly prepared in almost every way.

According to plans I should by now have completed my update of the London Systems files, and be well on my way to have a complete repertoire against 1.e4. Unfortunately that's very far from reality. I have barely started looking at the London and am still undecided about which opening to play against 1.e4.

However, the openings are not my weakest point. If I can only raise my tactical vision and my concentration I suppose I will not do too bad. The problem is that this is a much more evasive goal than working out an opening repertoire. Fortunately I have roughly one free week before the tournament and I have some tricks that I hope will kick-start my tactical vision.

The main problem with playing some blitz and basically no tournament games is that my sense of danger has been weakened. Yesterday's game in Sjakkalliansen, the informal Oslo team league for companies, was quite typical:

Sjakkalliansen 2009
1.d4 Nf6
Normally I am very poorly motivated for these unrated team games. They are played on Wednesdays' evenings and a quick draw normally is a perfect result. However, for this game I tried to raise some interest in order to test my play. It helped somewhat that I lost my previous game against my opponent. Nørve must be roughly as rusty as I am but he is a three times Oslo champion from 20 years ago or so.
2.Bf4 b6 3.Nf3 Bb7 4.e3 g6 5.Nbd2 d6 6.Bc4
This bishop placement makes sense against a set-up with ...g6 and ...b6 but wasn't examined deeply in 'Win with the London System'.

6...Bg7 is better but Black probably wanted to catch my bishop before I got around to play h3.
7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5? (Dia)
This move has a tactical flaw which makes Black's plan starting with 6...Nh5 meaningless.
I still usually notice this kind of simple tactics.
9...dxe5 10.Qxh5 e6 11.Bg3 Bg7

11...exd4 12.Bxe6 looks extremely dangerous. After 12...Qe7 13.Bc4 Bxg2 I may even consider 14.0–0–0!? Bxh1 15.Rxh1 as it's hard to see how Black can ever complete his development, e.g. 15...Nd7 16.Qf3 Rc8 (16...0–0–0 17.Ba6+ is of course not an option) 17.Qb7 and White must be winning.
12.Bxe5 Bxe5 13.dxe5 Bxg2 14.Rg1
Around here Jonatan, my three years old son, decided that he had seen enough and decided to leave for his mother, trusting that not even his father could mess this up.
14...Bd5 15.0–0–0 Bxc4 16.Nxc4 Nd7

17.Qf3! as pointed out by my opponent is very strong, preventing Black from ever castling.
17...gxf4 18.Rg7
In this position I actually considered 18.Qf3! but discarded it thanks to some very sloppy calculations.
18...Qe7 19.exf4 0–0–0!
Black correctly judges that an endgame a pawn down is his best chance.
20.Qxf7 Qxf7 21.Rxf7 Nc5 22.Rxd8+?!

This move starts a phase of planless play.
22...Rxd8! 23.Ne3
23.b3 might well have won me a couple of tempi compared to the game continuation.
23...Rd4 24.b3 h5 25.h4 Kd8 26.a4 a5 27.Nc4?!
This blunders a pawn and hints that my form is not the best.
Here my opponent offered a draw and considering the trend of the game I would normally have accepted. However, the exchange doesn't change the fact that I am somewhat better thanks to my sounder pawn structure.
28.Nxa5 bxa5 29.bxa4 Rxa4 30.Kd2 Re4 31.Kd3 Re1 32.Rh7 Rf1 33.Ke3 a4

My thought process run something like this: 'Can there be any danger picking up the pawn? No - if he tries to run with the a-pawn I just check him and go to a8 with my rook.' Well, that's exactly how you trick yourself into not calculating properly. Chess is a logical game but simplified logic brings you nowhere!
My opponent didn't spend much time on this move but I still had time to discover 34...Kc8! and see that I couldn't stop the a-pawn by normal means. As a matter of fact this nice move wins easily even against 35.f5 which seems to be my best trick.
35.Rh8+ Kd7 36.Ra8 Rh1 37.Ke4 Rxh4 38.Rxa3 Rh1 39.Rg3 c5?
This makes my task easier but I believe my position must be won anyway.
40.Rd3+ Kc7 41.Rd6 Re1+ 42.Kf3 Rf1+ 43.Kg4 Rg1+ 44.Kh5 Rf1 45.Kg4
45.Kg5 Rg1+ 46.Kf6 Rg4 47.Kxe6 Rxf4 48.Kd5 Rf2 49.c4 also wins quite easily but at this point it appeared that if I won this game my team would surprisingly qualify for next year's top league and I didn't trust my calculation skills at all.
45...Rg1+ 46.Kf3 Rf1+ 47.Ke3 Re1+ 48.Kf2 Rc1 49.Rxe6 c4 50.f5 c3 51.Ke2 Rxc2+ 52.Kd1 Rd2+ 53.Kc1 Kd7 54.Ra6 Rd5 55.e6+ Ke7 56.Ra7+ Kf6 57.Rf7+ Kg5 58.e7 1-0
A little later my team mate on board secured his draw and my team had qualified for next year's first league (provided that there is one as it quite likely may be replaced by a cup system).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Chess Club

Today I stumbled across this blog reporting from a visit to my chess club, Oslo Schakselskap (OSS). Dana didn't get all the details correct but probably some of our members were responsible for most of the inaccuracies.

OSS really is a nice chess club, located very conveniently close to Majorstuen in Oslo. It arguably is the oldest Norwegian club, founded in 1884. With 4 GMs it has also got quite a strong line-up for team tournaments.

One thing Dana forgot to mention was the club's very nice library, which is very useful - in particular if you are looking for old magazines, tournament books, or the like.