Category Archives: Festival des Jeux 2010

Stuck in a Rut

In my last post about the Cannes Festival des Jeux, I detailed how I got to 3.5/4. After my 4th round win against Govciyan, I would have been shocked if somebody told me that I wasn’t going to win another game the rest of the way (5 more rounds!).

But, as fate would have it, that’s precisely what happened! Thankfully, I didn’t lose all 5 games, but I was clearly better or winning at some point in all 5 games. From those positions, I only managed 4 draws and a loss.

I started off the second half with black against GM Sergey Fedorchuk (2641, Ukraine). I had already lost to him in a Ruy Lopez as black in December 2009, although that game was a mess from start to finish. This time, I played a different variation of the Lopez against him and achieved a playable position – objectively it was probably about equal, but it was a bit simpler for him to play.

We were already in some mild time pressure and I had already made a serious mistake entering this position:

(FEN: 1rr2bk1/5p2/pn1p2pp/1p1P4/4p1P1/P1P3QR/1P2qPP1/2BR1NK1 w - - 0 35)

I’ve just played 34…Qc4-e2, and at first, I thought I was doing just fine. I had looked at 35.Rd2 Qe1 36.Rc2 Qd1, and White’s rook runs out of safe squares. Meanwhile, 35.Bxh6 didn’t look like it should be so dangerous. Unfortunately, he has 35.Rd1-d4 – after this obvious move, White hits h6 and Black has no good way to defend the pawn. If 35…Kh7, then White takes and plays Qh4 with a winning attack; meanwhile, 35…g5 is ugly, and after 36.Qh2, White sacrifices the exchange on h6 with a nice advantage.

I’m not sure why we both missed it (Maybe since I played 1…e5, neither of us ever seriously considered a piece could land on d4? Maybe he thought I had some sinister trap up my sleeve?), but either way, he didn’t play 35.Rd4.

I breathed a sigh of relief when he played 35.Bxh6?. Unfortunately, it was my turn to return the favor with a hasty 35…Bxh6?. After 36.Rxh6 Qxd1 37.Qh4 Nd7 (Black has to stop 38.Qf6 and mate on h8), White has nothing better than 38.Rh8+ Kg7 39.Rh7+ Kf8 40.Rh7+ and a repetition. That’s how this game ended in a draw.

I still had a bit of time to spare, and if I spent it, I might have realized that 35…Qxd1 was winning! After 36.Bxf8 Rxf8 (36…Kxf8 37.Qxd6+ Kg7 38.Qe5+ leads to mate), White has no good way to continue his attack – 37.Qh4 is met with 37…Kg7!, and White doesn’t have time to stop both …Rh8 and …Kf6 (if Qh7+). Finally, 37.Qxd6 doesn’t work after 37…Nxd5 38.Qe5 f6 39.Qxe4 Kg7 40.Rd3 Qb1 41.Qxd5 Rfd8, and White loses the endgame. Actually, that’d have been somewhat poetic, as the R + N vs. Q endgame is losing for him, and that’s the same endgame I lost to him in December! Still, to be fair – I was worse before I was better in this game, so a draw wasn’t such a bad result.

The next day, I was white against GM Christian Bauer (2610, France). I was surprised in the opening, but I came up with a strong double-pawn sacrifice at the board. With Black’s king stuck in the center, I figured I would have excellent compensation, but eventually, he managed to castle queenside. I threw a rook into the fire to keep things going, and my best chance of the game came in the following position:

(FEN: 1k1r3r/2pq1ppp/Qbp1b3/4N3/p2p4/B6P/PP3PP1/R5K1 w - - 0 24)

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Festival des Jeux

Well … it’s been more than a week, but after my long chess trip, I have been a bit lazy to look at chess (even my own games!) for a little while.

The player list at Cannes for the Festival des Jeux (there were all sorts of other tournaments going on as well, from Backgammon to Scrabble) looked promising. Split into 3 groups, the top group was essentially only open to players over 2200 FIDE. With about half the players being either IMs or GMs, you could look forward to a real fight every round.

The first few rounds didn’t disappoint in that way, as I had to work quite hard to get 3.5/4. I started off with a couple wins against lower rated players, but then a draw against a WIM left me playing down in round 4 as well. I’ll recap those rounds for now and save the rest for later.

In round 1, I was black against Fabrizio Molina, and Italian 2230 player. I’ve recently griped about my opponents’ penchant for the Exchange Slav, and while this wasn’t an Exchange Slav, it was an Exchange Queen’s Gambit Declined. Not the most exciting of openings, but oh well.

My opponent didn’t play it in the usual fashion, choosing to fianchetto his bishop, but I’ve seen this incarnation before when I used to start off with the Triangle (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6). After 15.Rfe1, we reached the following position:

(FEN: r2qr1k1/1p3pp1/2pb1n1p/p2p3b/3P3N/P1N1P1P1/1PQ2PBP/R3R1K1 b – – 2 15)

What to do here? I have the bishop pair, but neither bishop is especially great at the moment. Meanwhile, White has no obvious weakness for me to target. I thought about 15…Bg4, hoping to provoke him into playing 16.f3 Be6 17.e4?. This is a common plan for White in similar pawn structures, but here it backfires quickly as White’s center isn’t that sturdy. For example, 17…Qb6 18.Qd3 (not 18.Rad1 dxe4! and Bb3, picking up an exchange) Be5 19.Rad1 dxe4 20.fxe4 Bg4 and Black is in control. If White could have secured his pawns in the center and started to push Black back, it’d be dangerous, but here Black is hitting at White’s structure from all sides. Unfortunately, after 15…Bg4, he can just play 16.Nf5 and my bishops aren’t doing anything.

After some more deliberation, I decided on 15…Nh7. Objectively, I can’t say the move is that much better than 15…Bg4 or 15…Qd7, or a number of other moves, but I was simply hoping to try and exploit the weakened light-squares on White’s kingside in the future. It worked out after 16.Rac1 Be7 17.Nf5?! (17.Bf3! was maybe the simplest, eliminating the threat before it really becomes a problem, although 17.Nf3 was also reasonable) Ng5!. Now he understood what my idea was, as the f3-square is seriously weak and he doesn’t have any good way of stopping Black from dropping a knight into that square next.

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