Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Australasian Masters, the Half Way Mark

I have to admit, I started this tournament reluctantly but have begun to warm to it. Playing one game a day, and putting maximum work into that game is excellent and there's a ton of material to be working through, in both preparation and analysis. The tournament's have both just crossed the half way mark with 5 of the 9 rounds having been played. By this stage it is already possible to see who's in form and who is fighting for places and norms.

The GM event has seen Anton Smirnov in great form so far leading the tournament with 4/5. Anton needs 2.5 for a GM norm and is half a point ahead of the field. Russian GM Vasily Papin who is making a return to Australia. The other GM's Kazhagaleyev, and Khunsnutdinov are on 3/5 which is ok, but nothing special. There are still some norm possibilities for some other players, the most likely being an M norm for Luke Li if he scores another 2.5. With 4 more rounds to go, the tournament is still wide open.

The IM event that I'm playing in is tight. There are 3 players on 3.5, IM's Kanan Izzet and Igor Bjelobrk and Yi Liu. This is a great performance from the young Queensland player who by his won admission has not played much chess this year. There are then another 2 players on 3/5, New Zealander Bob Smith and Bill Jordan. With 5 players separated by just half a point, we're in for an exciting finish. The best norm chance lies with Yi Liu, though he still needs 3.5 out of the final 4 games.

Unfortunately, I stopped Eugene Schon's norm ambitions form this tournament today. He is still on 2.5, just a point behind the leaders and could finish on a high score, but the IM norm now eludes him. I am on 1.5 after beating Greg Canfell yesterday and drawing with Eugene today. My play has been generally improving as the tournament moves on. I feel more confident about my play and calculation which bodes well for the future. I am not playing perfectly, or perhaps even as a strong as I have in the past, but I can at least see the possibility of getting back to a former playing strength.

In today's draw with Eugene, the following position was reached.
I was white and fighting for a draw so I thought in these terms.

1. trade queen side pawns
2. sacrifice my knight for black's h-pawn
3. draw the pawnless ending of rook and knight versus rook.

Seeing I had about 2 minutes plus increments, that was fairly good. The move Nc5 came to my mind, but I didn't choose it because I saw a drawing method which involved little risk to my mind.

Another boost to the confidence comes when good players praise your game. Today IM Mirko Rujevic told me he'd been impressed with my win against Greg Canfell the day before. I thought the position played itself, and it became obvious early that I knew more about the opening than Greg. Anyway, here is the game.

9.e5 was a new move on me, and after the game Greg said that he'd completely overlooked 11..Qa5. He spent about 40 minutes on his 12th move. In the final position it will be mate after 23.Bc4 Na4 24.Rb1 Qc3+ 25.Rb2 Qxb2.

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