Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Malitis Memorial Past the Half Way Mark

We're already into the end stretch of the Malitis Memorial at the MCC. In fact, the committee were already finding out who was playing in the next tournament, the MCC Open starting at the end of August. I expect the MCC Open to be massive, as virtually all the Monday  night events have been heavily subscribed to this year.

The Malitis Memorial has been split into 2 groups, a top 8 round robin, and a swiss section for the rest of the field. I suggested the system of 2 swiss sections to committee member Simon Dale last night, and he seemed pretty interested in the idea. The system I suggested last week was to scrap the Round Robin and replace it with a small elite swiss event, with maybe the top 16 players represented in one tournament, and another swiss for the lower rated players. Saying that, I'm pretty happy at whatever system is thrown at me, so long as I get to play some chess.

The round robin section is looking like a 2 horse race. IM Mirko Rujevic is leading with 4/4, while junior David Cannon is second on 3/4. Both of these players won last night to extend their lead over the field. The 2 other games ended in draws leaving no one else above half points. There is still one game left to be played, but even a result in that game won't take anyone above half points. Still, with 3 rounds to go, there could still be some twists.

In the swiss section Mehmedalija Dizdarevic held on to his lead after drawing with Tristan Krstevski. Tristan was half a point behind, which is where he remains. He is joined by David Lacey, Ray Yang, Felix Wyss, Tom Kalisch and Sarah Anton. There's a further group of players another half point down, so this is still anyone's tournament. There haven't been too many big upsets through the swiss section of the Malitis this year, though I guess with the top 8 players out, it means there are less big rating differences. Saying that unrated Axel Ahmer won against MCC regular Alex Kaplan, while Sarah Anton defeated Justin Penrose rated 200 points higher.

My own game was a painful affair. I grabbed a pawn in a Catalan against Thai Ly and grimly held on to it enduring an awful position in the hope that I would at some stage come out of things still with that extra pawn. To be honest, I never got out of the difficult position, Thai won his pawn back and the game looked bleak. And then when I thought I'd got through the worst of it Thai simplified to the following pawn endgame.

I was black here and things look bad. Black's passed c-pawn is not dangerous while white's protected passed e-pawn most certainly is. Based on the general idea that the defending side should trade pawns, I managed to find the only drawing line, 52..g5!! This is probably the best move I've played this year, saving the game. 53.fxg5 [53.hxg5? loses as black will have distant passed pawns that white's king won't be able to cope with] 53..Kxe5

This position is a draw, but you have to know how to draw it, or it is very losable. White's king intends to head over and take black's extra pawn and black must be ready to defend his pawn, but he mustn't move it. The black king is inside the square of white's passed g-pawn and can remain inside that square as long as it sits on the d-file. So when white's king gets to c4, black must be ready to play Kd6. The game continued 54.Ke3 Kf5 55.Kd3 Ke5

A key position. If white now plays 56.Kc4, black will reply 56..Kd6, and the follow up 57.Kb5 is then met by 57..Kd5 bringing about the following position.

White can make no progress. His king has to retreat when black's king will do the same. If white pushes the g-pawn, black's king runs over and takes it, and even if white wins black's h-pawn, the game is a draw. Without going into all this Thai saw that there was no way through and offered a draw which I was very happy to accept.

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