I’ve just finished my tournament here in Mallorca, but I’ll break my recap up into a few posts to make it more manageable to read (and write!). I arrived here on the 20th with the event starting on the 21st. I was immediately greeted by a ton of posters and cutouts of Nadal in the airport – he’s clearly a big thing here. Too bad he was swept away at the World Tour Finals in London this past week …
Normally, I like to make my plans to arrive at least one full day in advance, not just one night, and my sleep schedule here probably suffered greatly for foregoing this liberty. Even though I was pretty tired after I arrived at about 10 PM, I was only able to sleep for about 5 hours that night. To catch up on my sleep debt before the first round in the afternoon, I took a 3-hour nap a little later in the day. The next day, I again slept only 5 hours at night and took a 4-hour nap during the day. That set the tone for me for the entire event, as after that 2nd night, I didn’t get more than 3 hours of sleep after my games at any point. Instead, I would be awake very early in the morning and then sleep a lot during the day. Not ideal, but I managed to make it work out. Now I have a few days before my next event in Navalmoral, so I’m forcing myself to stay awake during the day to get myself to sleep during normal hours.
Anyways, on to the chess.
The tournament was a bit stronger than I expected based on the pre-registration lists online and it was definitely much stronger than last year’s edition (I didn’t play last year, but I know some people who did). There were about 150 players with 28 GMs, 26 IMs, and over 60 players rated above 2300 FIDE.
In the first round, I was white against Carles Sagrera Balosch (2062 FIDE). He essayed the Budapest Gambit against me, the first time I faced this over the board. Here’s the position after 17…0-0-0:
Black’s position doesn’t look so bad – he’s got all his pieces out and he has more central pawns (and fewer pawn islands). Meanwhile, white has a slightly funny-looking pawn on e3. Unfortunately, for Black, though – his d6-pawn is a real liability and White’s two bishops, while currently not so powerful, will really come into their own once those center pawns are out of the way.
After 18.Ne4, he played the natural 18…Bh6 (Rybka’s first choice on my machine, for example, on depth 11), but after 19.Rad1 Bxe3+ 20.Kh1, Black was in real trouble. He can guard the d-pawn with 20…Qc7, against which I was planning 21.Qc3 Bh6 22.Qa3! (hitting a7 and d6, thereby winning the pawn back favorably).
Instead of 20…Qc7, he played 20…d5, but after 21.exd5 exd5 (21…Rxd5 22.Nd6+ is good for white) 22.Nf6 Qc7 (White was threatening Qf5+) 23.Ng4, he couldn’t save his bishop and deal with the threat of Qf5+, winning the knight on e5.
The following day was the only double round day in the event. In the morning round, I was black against FM Luis Alberto Gomez Jurado. I played the opening a little more provocatively than I might have against a higher-rated player, for example, and it paid off after he played 15.d4-d5 to get to the following position:
My setup with …f5 and …c5 was predicated on playing …cxd4 and …Nc5 later, after which I’d be ready to expand in the center with …e5 and/or take the bishop pair with …Nxd3+. He wanted to stop that and thought the weak f5- and h7-pawns would justify his central pawn push. Instead of this, though, he should have played 15.Ng5 with a small advantage.
After 15.d5, I responded with 15…exd5 16.Bxf5 Rxf5! 17.Qxf5 Ne5 18.Qc2 Nxc4. Black has a bishop and pawn for the rook, but he doesn’t appear to be so well developed and his kingside is devoid of defenders. Based on this, I didn’t think I would have enough compensation at first, but on closer inspection, I decided Black was already a little better!
I don’t think it’s winning, but I do think Black has some advantage because of the potential in his position. If Black can regroup with say …h6, …Qf7, and …Bf5, it’d be hard to dispute his advantage. White has no attacking chances on the kingside, while Black dominates the center and queenside with his pawns and minor pieces. Thus, it’s up to White to make something of Black’s relatively undeveloped state, but how?
If 19.Ng5, then 19…g6 prepares 20…Bf5. If 19.Be3, Black has 19…Nb6, guarding the d5-pawn and preparing …d4 amongst other things. Finally, if 19.Rhe1, Black has 19…Bg4, when the bishop can be rerouted to a nice square on g6 via h5, or come back to f5 after something like …Rf8. He chose 19.Qd3, hoping for 19…Nb6 20.Ba5!, but after 19…Qf7 20.Ng5 Qf5, he found nothing better than to enter the endgame, but that was very much in my favor.
In order to remove my powerful bishop from e4, he played Ne1 and now f3, but his dark-squares and 2nd rank were too weak. After 28…Bf4+ 29.Kc3 b4+ 30.Kb2 Bg6, he has no good way of dealing with …Re2 and …Be5 mating. He tried 31.Nd3 Re2+ 32.Ka1, but 32…Bg5 finished him off. A nice finish is 33.f4 Bf6+ 34.Ne5 Rxe5! 35.fxe5 Bxe5 36.Rd4 Bxd4 checkmate!
With 2 points, I played the Canadian IM Leonid Gerzhoy in the nightcap. For most of the game, I was in the driver’s seat, but around the time he got into horrible time pressure, I missed a nice defensive resource and almost threw the game away! Here’s the position after 29.Rd6:
At this point, I figured I was winning – with Rd6, I would win the g6-pawn next with check and invade, and to add to his troubles, he was essentially playing on the 30-second increment at this point while I had 37 minutes left!
However, he found the best move in this position with 29…Qe7!. I was expecting him to play 29…Qf5, when I had planned: 30.Rxg6+ Kh7 31.Rxh6+! Kg7 (if 31…Kxh6 32.Qd6+ wins the rook on c7 with check and then the bishop on b7, as 32…Kh5 loses to 33.g4+) 32.Rg6+ Kh7 33.g4!!. The g4-move isn’t the only way to do the trick, but it is particularly effective since now Black has to deal with Qh3 mating ideas. He can check my king forward with 33…Qb1+ 34.Kf2 Qc2 35.Kg3 Qg2+ 36.Kh4 Qxh2+ 37.Kg5, but the king is quite safe on g5 and he is powerless to stop White’s queen from entering his position on d6 or f8 with decisive impact.
After 29…Qe7, the game continued 30.Rxg6+ Kh7 31.Qh3? (31.Qc3 was winning, when White has 32.Qc2 and 32.f5 as his big threats) Qc5+! (it’s important to check the king to h1 as it sets up back-rank mating ideas) 32.Kh1 Qf8 33.Qe6?.
From 29.Rd6 to this point, I had spent 8 minutes, and I thought this position was winning. Sadly, it’s Black who has the winning chances in this position! With 33…Bc8! 34.Qd5 (White’s best is 34.Qd6 Qxd6 35.Rxd6 c3 36.Rd1 with chances to hold the endgame) Rc5! 35.Qe4 Rxe5!!, Black wins. On 36.Qxe5, the rook on g6 falls, while on 36.fxe5, we see why the check on c5 was so important as 36…Qf1 is mate.
Luckily for me, Gerzhoy overlooked his only chance to get into the game here. Instead of 33…Bc8, he played 33…c3 34.Rf6 (White is now threatening 35.Qf5+ if the Black queen moves) Bc8, spotting the idea one move too late. Here, though, it doesn’t work as White has the very nice 35.Nd7!!, jamming up the works.
On 35…Rxd7, White wins with 36.Qf5+ (he can’t take the queen right away because of …Rd1+) Kg7 37.Qg6+ Kh8 38.Rxf8 mate. If 35…Qg7, 36.Qf5+ Kg8 37.Rf8+ wins the Black queen with mate soon to follow. He played 35…Bxd7, but resigned after 36.Rf7+! Qxf7 37.Qxf7+ Kh8 38.Qf8+, as 38…Kh7 39.Qe7+ wins the rook on c7 by force. If Black moves to g6, White checks from d6, while if he goes to g8 or h8, White checks on d8. With this win, I moved up to 3/3 along with a handful of other players.