Monthly Archives: March 2009

A Leak in the Roof

We’re through seven rounds in Reykjavik, and I’ve struggled my way to 4.5 points. After winning my first game, I drew my next three and then lost in the 5th round. I managed to get back into the win column yesterday and won today against Magnus Carlhammar.

Of my three draws, I should have won both efforts with white. The game with black in round 3 (against FM Thorstein Thorsteinsson) was not very interesting, as he repeated one of my games from Cappelle with a small improvement which kept equality as white. He then didn’t give me any real chances to complicate things and a draw was soon agreed.

In round 2, I had the white pieces against FM Axel Rombaldoni of Italy. He played a Stonewall Dutch against me, which was a bit of a surprise. He had played it a number of times, but he had been playing other openings recently. I tried out a new idea (at least for him), but it turned out to be not so great. However, he didn’t sense the danger and played a little too lackadaisically and found himself in a worse position. He then played quite resourcefully, tricking me into accepting a double piece sacrifice to force a perpetual check and a draw.

In round 4, I had the white pieces against Hjorvar Gretarsson of Iceland. It was a Nimzo Indian Rubinstein, following some old world championship games between Botvinnik and Smyslov. Neither of us had studied the resulting positions very much and so we were spending some time coming up with the ideas over the board. I achieved a small, stable advantage and steadily increased it as the first time control wound down. At the start of the second time control, we were in the following endgame after 49…Ra8:


I now played 50.Rb7? Kg7 51.Bc6, thinking that after the exchange of rooks with 51…Rxb7 52.Bxb7 Re8 (to guard the e4-pawn) 53.Rd7 Nf6 54.Rc7, Black would have no defense to 55.Bc6, winning the a7-pawn. But my opponent then played 55…Kf8!, and all of a sudden he was ready to play 56…Re7 to guard the pawn.

Had I played 50.c5! instead, I would have had a winning position – after 50…bxc5 51.Ra6!, White will get the a7-pawn, when his b-pawn will be much stronger than Black’s c-pawn. His bishop is better as well, and his king can help out to stop the c-pawn if need be. After missing this opportunity, I pressed for another 40 moves or so (all on the 30-second increment), but I never got another chance to win the game.

In round 5, I had the black pieces against IM Clovis Vernay of France. I knew of him as a rather solid player, but when I was preparing for him, I noticed that he was playing a lot of sharp Semi-Slav systems as white. At the start of the game, there was a leak in the roof (the tournament hall is in the courtyard of the Reykjavik Art Museum, and so it doesn’t have a solid roof overhead), and so our table was moved around to a safe area. There were a number of other boards, even those on the stage area, that were similarly affected.

My opponent deviated from my preparation with 5.Nbd2 in the Semi-Slav. It’s not a very challenging move, and after 10 more moves, he offered a central pawn exchange that if accepted would have left things very equal. I decided to sacrifice my d5-pawn for some initiative, but it turned out to be too hard to justify. I had a chance for sterile equality in a couple more moves, but I passed it up to keep my initiative going. However, I made a serious miscalculation in a line that I thought would secure some advantage and instead of equality, I found myself down a pawn. We reached the following position after 16.Nc4:


I was thinking of bailing out with 16…Qc7, and after 17.Qb3 Nxd5 18.Rd1 N7f6 19.Nxd6 Qxd6 20.Bg5 a4 21.Qc4 Qa6, the position is about equal. Instead, I played 16…Rc8?, and on 17.Qb3, I planned 17…a4 18.Qxa4 Re4 19.b3 Rc5, threatening 20…b5 winning the knight on c4. But after he played 17.Qb3, it dawned on me that he could play 20.Qa7 in that position, saving the queen and his knight! I then looked at 19…Nxd5, but he then has 20.Qa5 (the only move, but it secures an advantage). I had to try 17…Nc5 18.Qb5 Nce4 19.Be3 Bc5 20.Rad1 Ng4, but after 21.Bd4, my position was rather bad. I managed to fight back and still had some chances to draw the game later on, but thanks to a couple mistakes in time pressure, I found myself in a dead lost position after the time control.

Food and chess

The first round is in the books at Reykjavik. I won my game as Black against Hakan Ostling (2151 FIDE, from Sweden). The tournament is pretty strong for an open swiss. There are about 110 players led by GM Areschenko (about 2675 FIDE); there are about 20 GMs and a lot of players around 2200 – 2400 FIDE. Tomorrow, I’ll probably play someone around 2350 FIDE. The tournament site is here.

One of the things I was worried about before coming to Reykjavik was whether there would be a good amount of vegetarian food to choose from. In France, I generally struggled mightily to find vegetarian food. In Cappelle la Grande, the meals were provided at the tournament site, and while I normally pass on provided meals that aren’t vegetarian, the buses to/from the hotels would leave for the meals and they sandwiched the rounds in between those trips. Meanwhile, in Paris, I had the unfortunate experience of running into the stereotypical Parisian waiter – when asked whether his restaurant had anything for vegetarians (in French), he responded, “This isn’t a pharmacy.” I was served some bread and cheese, along with a small bowl of plain, pureed vegetables.

Here in Reykjavik though, people are in general much nicer. One example is from a restaurant called Caruso from two days ago. GM Yury Shulman (the current US Champion) and I were having dinner there, and Shulman asked the waiter if he could order a calzone (even though it wasn’t on the menu). The waiter said, “Of course. Everything is possible.” Yury was happily provided with the calzone he ordered. The provided food here is also better – at dinner, they have 4 different vegetarian appetizers and 4 vegetarian main dishes to choose from as opposed to the tried and true, plain egg omelet available in Cappelle.

Oh yes, and my game. The diagram is after I just played 17…Nxe6. Rather than be stuck with a bad pawn structure and material equality, White pushed his pawn all the way to e6. However,  that pawn wasn’t going to make it back home:


Ostling played 18.c4, and after 18…Bxc4 (not 18…Bxf3 19.Qxe6 is check, and then he’ll take on f3 next) 19.Bxa8 Qxa8, he had “won” the exchange for two pawns. However, Black was already winning because of his two pawns and the powerful light-squared bishop. White had been kind enough to weaken the long light-squared diagonal with g3 on move 2, so after I rearranged my queen and bishop on the long diagonal, White found himself short of moves and quickly resigned.

Long overdue: The Cappelle la Grande Roundup

This is a few weeks late, but better late than never. The GM House made an excursion to France in February/March 2009 for the Cappelle la Grande tournament. The tournament started on the 28th of February, but we went to Paris a few days earlier to do some sightseeing and the like.

The tournament went alright, which was some relief after a couple bad tournaments in Berkeley and Delhi. I finished with 6.0/9, performing at about a 2490 FIDE clip. I lost two games – as white to Bobras, a GM from Poland, and as white to Graf, a GM from Germany – and drew a pair of games against lower rated players. I beat everybody else (but they were all lower rated). Josh played the best tournament of us, also finishing with 6.0/9, but he played some strong players in the last 4 rounds. David also finished with 6.0/9, although he struggled a bit more at the beginning of the event, while Jesse finished with 5.5/9. Josh was the only one to finished undefeated.

I’m now off on a tour of Europe and Asia. My first stop is for the 2009 Reykjavik Open in Iceland. I arrived a couple days ago, and the tournament starts tomorrow (the 24th). It ends on the 1st, after which I’ll make my way to Spain for a couple events. After that, I’m going to India to visit relatives.

Writing for

About a month ago, I agreed to start writing weekly articles for For those who haven’t seen the site, it’s a mostly free site that has all sorts of chess content and capabilities – correspondence chess, online games, tactics puzzles, training, etc.

My articles appear every Tuesday morning, and here are the first few by (or about) me:

— 2/24: Introduction (by David Pruess)

— 2/24, Article #1: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

— 3/3, Article #2: The Boa Constrictor

There should  be another article published tomorrow.