Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Malitis Memorial Wrap Up

Last night was the final round of the Malitis Memorial. This year the tournament had been split into 2 sections, an 8-player round robin for the top rated players, and a swiss for all others. This had the desired effect of getting a larger than usual number of players to attend. A total of 43 players competed across the 2 divisions and I'm sure this is something the MCC will look at repeating in the future.

The Round Robin section had already been decided before yesterday's final round. IM Mirko Rujevic was 1.5 clear before the last round, but relentlessly won his final round game to score a clean 7/7 picket fence. Second place on an excellent 5/7 was junior David Cannon. I'm not sure if this is David's first breakthrough performance, but it will certainly not be his last. The improving youngster deservedly came clear second. I managed to salvage a bad start by claiming third place on 4.5/7. Not a brilliant performance, but not bad either. Somehow, I felt that I didn't play well enough to credit the +2 score.

The Swiss section was won by another veteran, Mehmedalija Dizdarevic, with an excellent 6.5/7. Mehmedalija could still have been overtaken going into the last round, but he secured victory with a win against Irishman Eamonn O'Molloy. The field was very competitive, which makes the winner's result even more impressive. Second place was shared by David Lacey, Rad Chmiel and Gary Bekker on 5/7. The strength of the field can be seen by the fact that no one in the top 18 was FIDE rated below 1700, with the top rated player being 1946. Roger Beattie proved to be the best under-1700 player, though Axel Ahmer finished on the same score as Roger, 3.5/7 but couldn't receive a rating prize because he is unrated. I don't think it will be long before Axel has a rating of at least 1700.

The MCC offer brilliancy prizes for each of their FIDE rated tournaments. I am, unfortunately, probably my own harshest critic, and instead of seeing the brilliant in my games, I tend to focus on that which was less good. Oh, and endgames, but it isn't often that an endgame wins a brilliancy prize! So while I've played some ok chess in this tournament, I haven't been too impressed overall with my play. Last night against Malcolm Pyke, I was gifted a positionally strong position out of the opening, and then converted it. There were some interesting tactics, but as is often the case, these were in the variations, rather than that which was played. The key position was:
This is a fairly typical Sicilian Rauzer type position. I can't say I know too much Rauzer theory, but I know that if white castles king side, it takes a little out the sting of a black exchange sacrifice on c3, but offers little in the way of playing for an opening advantage. As I tend to be the safety first type of player, this suited me. I thought that the game would continue with 8..Qa5 which virtually forces white to play 9.Bxf6 when we have  dynamically difficult position for both sides to play. I was also considering 8..Be7 in the above position, where it looks more like a Scheveningen, though white has played Bg5, rather than the more common Be3.

I was surprised to see 8..Rc8?! played. It is obviously what a Sicilian player is thinking of, putting a rook on the semi open c-file, but it leaves d6 weak. In the game, I was thinking that I'd seen this type of thing but without black having played e6. However, I haven't looked at the Rauzer for quite a while so I might have been mixing things up. Anyway, I played 9.Ndb5 hitting d6 twice, and black is already on the defensive. Malcolm saved his pawn with 9..Qe7, but it is not the sort of move that he would have wanted to play.
Black's pieces are all in the way of each other. I chose a plan to weaken black's light squares, and it worked out nicely. 10.Bf4!? e5 11.Bg5 losing a tempo, but taking over the d5 square, and the light squares.
Now, a white knight is going to land on d5 with plenty of force. After the moves 11..a6 12.Nd5 Qd8 13.Na3 Be6 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Bg4 black is in a very difficult position, which I was able to maintain, and develop into a winning advantage later in the game. 
By pinning the Be6, white maintains the knight on d5. Black is cramped for space, has weaknesses to aim at, and no counterplay so the win was relatively straightforward from here. I think that if I was black here, my chances of surviving against an equally rated player would be close to 0%.

My play in this tournament hasn't been brilliant. I have played some solid positional chess and some decent endgame play, but my openings are still rather shaky, and my calculation has been off at times. I can't play in the next event, The MCC Open which starts next Monday. It's a shame as it looks as if it's going to be another good field.

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