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.