In the first 5 rounds of the 2016 MCC Championship there were a grand total of 12 draws out of the 106 games played. In round 6 there were 8 draws out of the 21 games played. Now it might be that the further into the swiss tournament we get, the more even the pairings are likely to be. But there was a definite lack of fighting spirit on some of the boards.
Top board saw a quick draw between FM Jack Puccini and IM James Morris, while my game against IM Guy West also ended fairly quickly. The other IM's, Ari Dale and Mirko Rujevic also could not win against David Cannon and Tom Narenthran respectively. But Vishal Bhat bounced back after his loss to James Morris last week with a win against Thai Ly. This brings Vishal back to the top of the standings alongside Morris and West on 5/6. I'm on 4.5 with Jack Puccini and Eamonn O'Molloy and there is then a big group another half point back.
James Watson provided the biggest upset win of the night beating Justin Penrose who is rated about 200 points higher. However, James is obviously under rated as shown by the fact that he keeps providing upset wins. Soon his rating will rise, and there will be no further upsets!
Next week the MCC Championship takes a break while the Ballarat Begonia Open celebrates its 50th anniversary. A lot of MCC players will be there, along with visiting GM Nigel Short from England. Unfortunately I can't play, but I will definitely make the trip over at some stage this weekend.
Ok, it's time to show the amazing position that was arrived at in my games against James Morris from round 3. I'd played ok against James but the game directed down a line where the master had seen further than the non master. In fact even the computer engines don't see it through clearly at first.
James as black had just played Rg8. The position is totally unbalanced with black's king in the centre. As white I played 17.Rf2 and James threw in his bishop 17..Bh4. I blocked with 18.g3.
Here James played 18..Ne7. His idea was to defend his king and drop his bishop back to f6. I probably should have stopped this with 19.Bd4, but I tried to force things. However, I only managed to force things out of my own control.
19.Nc4!? I reasoned that I could improve my knight's position with the threat of 20.Rxb7 Qxb7 21.Nd6 forking king and queen. 19..Bd5 20.Bb6
When I'd gone into this line I'd thought James had to drop his queen back to b8, but he quickly picked up the queen and moved it forward. 20..Qc6. I couldn't believe it, and thought James had blundered. It was my thinking that was wrong though. 21.Ne5 Qxc3 22.Qh5
So this was the position that I'd been aiming for, but unfortunately James had it all under control. White threatening Qxf7 mate, the bishop on h4 and the h7 pawn. James calmly defended with 22..Ng6! I'd initially thought this unplayable because I could just play knight takes knight and then take the bishop. However, at the last moment I stopped myself after seeing that 23.Nxg6 hxg6! 24.Qxh4 Rh8 25.Qg5 Rh5 traps my queen
It's somewhat scary to believe that James had this type of position in mind around the time he'd played 19..Bd5. Although I stopped myself going for this, I still dropped into a bad position after. 23.Qxh7. Stockfish thinks this is winning for white for about 10 seconds on my laptop. Then it moves from level to slightly better for black. 23..Nxe5
Here I had to play 24.fxe5 but I blundered with 24.Qxg8? where I'll get some material for the queen but my king is too exposed, and I have too many weaknesses to survive. However, I missed some fairly amazing moves in the oncoming positions. 24..Ke7 25.Qh7 Ng6
White's queen is in trouble, so I was thinking what can I get for it. I blundered again with 26.Bxf5, but the crazy line runs with 26.gxh4!? when 26..Rh8 traps white's queen.
Here white has the amazing move 27.Bd8+!? If this doesn't encapsulate the maxim "look for all checks and captures", then nothing does! 27..Rxd8 will allow white's queen to escape via h6, though this might be better than 27..Kxd8 28.Rb8+ Ke7 29.Rxh8 when it is white who will have to bail out with a perpetual.
A bizarre position with white's heavy pieces stuck in the top right hand corner and black's queen and bishop coming very close to mating the white king, but not quite.
As always, it is the variations that contain the most interesting lines, but what was most impressive to me was the depth of James calculation, leaving me far behind in that department.