Thursday, April 19, 2012

The MCC Champion is....

Well actually we don't know yet, as the 2 star players of this tournament continued their amazing play. FM Dusan Stojic beat IM Mirko Rujevic on board 1, while IM Guy West took care of myself on board 2. This means that a play off will be required to establish the 2012 Club Champion and with 2 great players, it is a match we can all look forward to. And with a World Championship match coming up, most of us will be fully into matchplay format!

Just to show how dominant these 2 players were, third place was shared by FM Chris Wallis and Laurent Michaille, a full 1.5 points behind. Chris had a solid enough tournament, while Laurent showed that he will be one of the elite players at the club with an unbeaten performance. There were a further 14 players who scored better than 50% with Sarah Anton's 5.5 being perhaps the best performance. Sarah finished second in her rating group, behind superkid, Karl Zelesco. Karl scored a fantastic 6/9 (surely it will not be long before his name finds itself on the Club Champions honour board!) while Sarah's 5.5 was equalled by Richard Voon and Bosko Mijatovic. This was for the first rating group category of under 2000. There was another rating group of under 1800 which was won by Marcus Ogden, Alex Kaplan and Kevin Brown who all scored 4.5 for 50%. This brings up a number of issues. First, it is a great effort by these players and it shows the strength of the MCC Club Championship that the second rating group should be for players under 1800. However, on the down side it shows that lower rated players are not entering this most prestigious event, which is a great shame. Perhaps if the MCC guaranteed a rating group prize for players say under 1400, the tournament might not be quite so top heavy?

My personal tournament was pretty good even though I only finished on 5.5 and a share of 9th place. I played a very tough field including the number 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds and unrated Laurent Michaille. In my ninth round game against IM Guy West I played much too slowly (and Guy put extra pressure on me by playing quickly) and found myself in time trouble just as the game was getting interesting. It was a Hedgehog where Guy waited patiently until either b5, or d5 worked. When he crashed through the centre I put up little resistance and he won a pawn, but then Guy made an uncharacteristic mistake, playing quickly in my time trouble and I found a resource that kept me in the game.
Guy as black is a pawn up, but his knight is attacked. He chose to advance it which wasn't best. 33..Nf4? 34.Qh2! Now white has action against black's king on the a1-h8 diagonal. 34..Nce6!? creating a nasty trap which I fell straight into 35.Nxh6? I believed that I had attacking chances and put my faith in the imminent double check, but...35..Rc2! an amazing find, and one that completely threw me. After this I crumbled. 36.Nxf7+ [Better was 36.Qh4 though you'd still want to be black] 36..Kg8 37.Ne5 Bc5+ and there is no defence. I played a couple more moves, but was lost.

Once again it has been a pleasure to play in the club championship, with so many interesting games, and so many courteous opponents. We now get a break for 2 weeks before Monday nights start up with the City of Melbourne Open which I am a definite starter for. The arbiter will once again be Kerry Stead who is putting in a mega amount of work into chess at the MCC and in Victoria generally. Besides this he keeps a very good blog going too!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blunders at Doeberl

Easter in Australia is the time for the traditional Doeberl Cup tournament held in Canberra. I say traditional because this tournament has now reached its fiftieth edition and there was also a book released over the weekend chronicling the history of the tournament. Doeberl started as a long weekend tournament and in fact the one time I had played it, it was a 7 round tournament over 4 days. Now, under the direction of Charles Bishop and his O2C company, the tournament is a 9 round norm achieving monster. This year the field for the Premier included 8 Grandmasters and 13 International Masters, and you had to have a minimum 1900 FIDE rating to enter. There were 3 other events run alongside this over 4 days and 7 rounds. These were under 2000, under 1600 and under 1200 limited rating events, and all were well attended and hard fought.

I played in the Premier and was seeded 42/79. I had an ok tournament scoring my expected score, and winning against a strong player. However, I also lost to a lower rated player than me (although I doubt he's any weaker) and made a number of weak moves throughout my games. I think it is a pretty good therapy and learning experience to examine these howlers. It's important to admit your weaknesses in an attempt to eradicate them. So here was my tournament.

In the first round I was near the top of the second half of players and subsequently was paired with a huge rated opponent. Gergely Szabo was ranked fourth and finished equal first in the tournament. I was playing ok against him, probably a little worse, until I had a complete brain faze:

In this position as white I had to move my light squared bishop, but where? My first thought was back to e2, but then he has Rbc8 and his rooks are very threatening. So what about g4? Ok, that sounds good....but hold on, look at all checks and captures! What about Bxe4 and after he recaptures I have Rfe1 skewering both his bishops. Cool, I'll do that! 1.Bxe4?? Bxe4 2.Rfe1 f5 3.f3 Rbc8 and I can resign. The worse thing is that I'd looked at this and just thought I'll take his bishop, he takes my bishop and I take his other bishop. Oops!!

In the second round I played Ian Rout and won, though not convincingly and then I had my best game of the tournament against WGM Irine Sukandar. In the fourth round I played FM Chris Wallis who I'd recently lost to in Ballarat. I got another reasonable position until I decided on a bad plan.
This had been a fighting game up to this point. As black I'm worse, a pawn down, but by no means lost. However, I played the tempting 1..Bd4?? which loses to 2.Re8+ Kf7 3.Rf8+ Ke6 4.Re1+ (the move I hadn't counted on) 4..Kd6 5.Rd8+ resigns as I'm losing a piece.

In round 5 my opponent forfeited as he had to withdraw from the tournament due to illness, and in round 6 I scored a draw against IM Andrew Brown, though perhaps I threw away good winning chances. Then in rounds 7 and 8 I played horribly. This was the penultimate day and I lost both games. The first mistake I made was playing into variations that gave my opponent's an initiative. In round 7 I was facing FM Igor Bjelobrk who had sacrificed a pawn to reach the following position:

I am white and I have an extra pawn on d5. If this pawn goes, then I am clearly worse. A typical plan would be Nxf5 and then Rd1, or more subtle is just Rd1 straight away. Then I may be able to unwind with Ba2, b3/b4, Bb2 and Rac1. However, I chose 1.h3?? thinking that after 1..Nbxd5 I would have time for g4. At the last moment I saw that black can take on e3 and I'm completely busted. I carried on with 2.Nxd5 Nxd5 3.Bxd5 Qxd5 4.Nxf5 Qxf5 but didn't last much longer.

In the next round I faced the current Australian Junior Champion Alistair Cameron. I had a tough position before I just gave away a pawn for nothing.
This was a Noteboom gone wrong so I decided to try a tactical way of exchanging pawns. My thoughts were running something like this. If I can give up my a and b pawns for his c and d-pawns, the game must be level, or perhaps he will have a slight advantage. So how to do this? This implementation was where things went wrong! 1..b3?? 2.Nxb3 and it was here that I realised that my planned 2..Rb4 would fail to 3.Qxb4 axb4 4.Rxa8 with mate to follow.

I finished the tournament with a none too easy win against Ari Dale and ended on 4.5/9. This was ok for me, but nothing fantastic. However, it has inspired me and I will be playing more chess and working on my game. It was a great event to be a part of, and rubbing shoulders with such strong players is always an uplifting experience.