Tuesday, June 16, 2015

City of Melbourne Open: Back In Front

It's been a real struggle for anyone to hold on to the lead in the City of Melbourne Open at the MCC. First I led after 4 rounds and was beaten by Mirko Rujevic. Mirko then took the lead and was beaten and leapfrogged by Jack Puccini. Then Jack sat on board 1 but was beaten by Nam. It seems that leading players on board 1 are having a hard time of it this year.

The seventh round of the City of Melbourne saw few upsets, a few draws against the ratings and Roger Beattie's excellent result against Efrain Tionko. I managed to win a game that I was fairly happy with against David Cannon. David played well and could have gone into a very level endgame, but decided to complicate the game instead, unfortunately to his own disadvantage. My win takes me back to the sole lead in the tournament with 2 rounds to go, and I have to say I'm very happy with my play. If I carry on at this rate, I could even see myself back at 2200!

Before the round started I was in the joint lead with Jack Puccini, but Jack was beaten by Hoai Nam Nguyen who jumps above him into second place. Jack drops to equal third with a group of players: Mirko Rujevic, Mehmedalija Dizdarevic (a good win against 2200 rated Neidmovic), and Richard Voon. A further half point back are David Cannon, Simon Schmidt, Justin Penrose and Shanon Vuglar. With only 2 rounds to go, I'd say the top places are being fought over by this group of players, though those behind could jump many places with 2 final wins.

In my game against David Cannon, I think this was a key moment. David, as white, had a chance to play for an equal endgame by 29.Rxd4 Rxd4 30.Qxd4 Qxc5 31.Rd1 g6 (I'm not saying these moves are forced, but I remember thinking about this line over the board and wondering whether I'd have any winning chances, but probably not)

I'd be fairly happy with this position as white against a stronger player. It is easier for the white king to enter the game, and white's pawn chain on the king side sits on dark squares, opposite to black's bishop. Black does have a majority on the queen side, though I'm not sure how useful that will prove for quite some time.

David, however, didn't enter the above endgame, refusing to take on d4 and trying to build complications.

Going back to the first position, he played 29.Rc1? Qe4 30.Qa5, but had probably missed that his c-pawn is pinned, and black can play 30..b6.

This completely throws back white's pieces and black's d-pawn now becomes a major passed pawn. The game continued 31.Qb4 bxc5 32.Qa5 Rcc8 33.Ba6 Rb8 34.Rxc5 regaining the pawn, but leaving the back rank that bit weaker.
 White's pieces are all stuck on the far queen side of the board, while black's passed d-pawn has little to stop its march forward. 34..Qe3 35.Kh1 d3 (passed pawns must be pushed, even in middlegames)

Now David played 36.Bb7 A move which stopped me in my tracks! Of course, the bishop can't be taken because of Qxd8#, but I found a plan to defend d8, and thus win the bishop. 36..Qe2 37.Re1

37..d2 (Giving up a queen but getting one back straight away, an done that will be defending d8!) 38.Rxe2 d1=Q+ 39.Re1 Rxb7

A nice picture to end the game with, black is threatened on d1 and d8 but neither can be taken and black is simply a piece up!

Next week will be the penultimate week, and I'm guessing I'll be white against Nam on board 1. Can I break the sequence of results seeing the leading player on the top board lose?

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