Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MCC Championship round 3

There are now only 2 players on 3/3 in the MCC Championship out of the 38 players. Ari Dale beat Chris Wallis, while Guy West won against Dusan Stojic. Last year Guy and Dusan dominated the club tournaments they competed in, and their individual encounters proved fascinating. Their game last night was another fascinating battle, and we outside the club were lucky that MCC provided live coverage. In fact, the MCC are putting in a big effort to improve the image of the website which has a combination of club information and multimedia presentations. It is both educational and entertaining. Paul Cavezza seems to be the driving force behind the MCC website, while Kerry Stead, the arbiter for the current tournament, also provides round by round reports. While Dale and West lead the event, it is still early days and any good run from virtually anyone in the tournament will move them up to the head of the field. Of course, if they get there Guy and Ari will be waiting.

While Guy's pedigree is well known, Ari is still a fairly new commodity. In fact Ari's progress has been so fast that it only feels like yesterday that he was a 1500 little kid! Now he is pushing FM level after a great tour of Europe including successful performances in the London Chess Classic, Prague Open (5.5/9 including a draw with IM Bejtovic) and Wijk aan Zee (8/9 in his section). With all that experience, and no doubt the coaching, I have a feeling this could be Ari's breakthrough year in Australia. The first litmus test will definitely be his match up with Guy next week.

I always like to point to the upsets of the week, but there were none really to mention. Alex Kaplan managed his second draw of the tournament with stronger opposition. In the first round, Alex drew with Laurent Michaille and this round he drew with Jim Papadinis. But I think the biggest upset of this round was the club itself. I wasn't there, but I know from experience how hot the club rooms can get during a hot spell. There is no air con in the building, and the club is really in no position financially to install it. So for a few weeks the players have to endure incredibly hot and stuffy conditions, and last night was one of those weeks. The usual arguments then arise. When will the club be able to install aircon? Wouldn't it be better to sell the ramshackle old building and relocate?  There is something to be said for both of these ideas, but neither will be happening so I won't waste my fingers in this post.

Watching the Stojic-West game live was intriguing. These 2 have played a number of critical games over the past 12 months so are well aware of each other's styles. To me it was fascinating watching the duel that swung one way, then another.

The first interesting moment. Guy as black has been angling towards a Hedgehog structure and I expected black to play 8..Be7 or 8..a6. Instead Guy closed the centre with 8..e5. At the time I thought this would suit Dusan's style, but both players have proved themselves quite universal in their ability to play various styles. (By the way, 8..e5 is the top move according to Stockfish!)

This was the next critical position. Guy blundered with 22..Ba6? (22..Nb6) and Dusan wasted little time with 23.Ng6!. The knight can't be taken (23..hxg6 24.fxg6 and white will play Qh4-h7 unless black sacs his queen) so essentially white has won an exchange. Now I'm not sure how long Dusan had taken to get to this position (or whether he relaxed somewhat, though I doubt that) but his game started to go downhill.
While watching I thought 27.Ba5 was an obvious try here (Stockfish also likes 27.Rc3, lifting the rook enabling Rac1 and Ra3 driving black's queenside back.). Dusan played 27.a4 which I didn't really get.
Here Dusan missed an outright win. As white he played 39.Ra8, while 39.Rd8 was very strong. There is no good way for black to defend his d-pawn, as 39..Rxd5 fails to 40.Rd7+ Kh8 41.Qb3 with mate threats linked with attacks on d5 and a7. After 39.Ra8 black defended with 39..Qf7and Dusan immediately blundered with 40.Rb1 allowing black to play 41.Bc4 and win the d-pawn. Black's central mass of pawns proved too much for Dusan to handle, and Guy won a great fighting game!

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