Back in April, I made my summer plans and decided to play a series of tournaments in Spain. Rather than jump around from country to country, packing and repacking, and passing through security checkpoints every week, I decided to essentially stay in one place. This is something of a change for me on these long trips. As often as I have played in Spain, I actually haven’t played more than 2 events at one stretch in the Catalonian Circuit before.
The first stop on this tour was Montcada, which is a small town just outside of Barcelona. It’s not traditionally a super-strong event, but it is a Category A tournament for the purposes of the Catalonian Circuit, and the field is generally small enough that you can play a number of good players. This year, Lazaro Bruzon (2668 FIDE) was the top seed, but after that, I was #2 at 2547. Still, there were only 40 players and the average rating of the entire field was in the high 2300s.
I ended up with only 5/9, but the tournament started off as a veritable disaster. I was completely lost against a 2420 in 12 moves, and then followed that up by achieving a lost position against a 2344 in 15 moves!
r3k2r/pp1n1p1p/1q2b1p1/2ppb1N1/6B1/2P3Q1/PPP3PP/R1B2RK1 w kq - 0 13)
I just played 12…Bg7xe5, which pretty much loses by force. I could have struggled on with 12…0-0, but then I was worried about 13.Qh4 (still, this was by far the best option). The weird thing was that I could have stopped 12.Be2-g4, and while I recognized it was his threat, I decided to do nothing about it!
After 12…Bxe5 13.Bf4, it’s all over for Black. The game continued 13…Bxf4 14.Rxf4 c4+ 15.Kh1 Bxg4 (15…0-0 16.Qh4 h5 17.Bxh5 is curtains) 16.Qxg4 f5 (16…Ne5 17.Re1 f6 18.Nxh7! wins) 17.Re1+ Kd8 (17…Kf8 18.Rxf5+ wins) 18.Nf7+ Kc8 19.Qf3 and Black is toast.
Amazingly, this game made it to the front page of ajedreznd.com as the game of the tournament. Really?!
In any case, on to the next disaster.
r2qr1k1/pp1b1pbp/3p1np1/2pP4/P3PPn1/2N2B2/1P1N2PP/R1BQR1K1 b - - 2 15)
I got up from the board here, feeling quite happy with myself as I thought my opponent had just played a horrible Benoni. Of course I saw 15…Nxe4, but I thought that after 16.Ncxe4 Bd4+ 17.Kh1 Qh4, I had either 18.Bxg4 Bxg4 19.Nf3 or 18.h3 at my disposal. When I returned to the board, he had played 15…Nxe4!, and when we reached the position after 17…Qh4, I realized that on 18.Bxg4 Bxg4 19.Nf3, Black has 19…Bxf3 20.gxf3 (not 20.Qxf3 Qxe1 and mate) f5 21.Ng3 Bf2! 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Kg2 Re1!. Black plays 24…Rg1+ next and wins. Uh oh.
But ok, I still have 18.h3, right? Nope – after 18…Nf2+! 19.Nxf2 Bxf2, Black threatens to invade on e1 and to take on h3, with a rather strong attack. Thanks for playing. Better luck next time.
I did manage to crawl back to 2/4, but it wasn’t easy. When you’re playing badly, the wins are hard to come by and the losses happen only too easily. The second of those wins came with the black pieces, against a young 2199 player who was having a pretty good event up until then.
6rk/4qp1p/3p4/P2Pp2p/4P1b1/3BQ3/1R3PK1/8 w - - 1 41)
A tough, strategic Ruy Lopez battle became a bit sharper as we made it to the first time control, and I just played 40…Rc8-g8. I thought I was in great shape here, as I didn’t see how he’d be able to shelter his king. But after 41.Kf1 Qh4 42.Ke1, I realized it’s not so easy to get into White’s position. Meanwhile, the passed a-pawn is a real menace as I can’t really turn my attention to that side of the board. If I do, White might try and invade with his queen on h6 or g5, not to mention the fact that putting a rook on a8 doesn’t actually do anything, as I can never move it off the 8th rank because of Rb8+ and Qg5#.
After a long think, I came up with the best move in the position – 43…h4!. Black uses his own passed pawn to cause some problems. In a strict pawn race, Black wins – 44.a6 h3 47.a7 h2 48.Rb8 Qxf1+! 49.Kxf1 h1=Q#. However, White can throw in f2-f3 at some point to open the 2nd rank for his rook.
Luckily, he went wrong with 44.Rb7?, and after 44…h3 45.f3 Bc8! 46.Qh6 Qxf3 47.Rb3 Qxe4+, White’s position completely falls apart. Had he found 44.a6 h3 47.f3!, though, I would have had to work much harder to win the game.