Tag Archives: Badalona

Achilles Last Stand

In my last blog, I mentioned how even if I beat Konguvel, I would need some help to make the final 8. In a strange turn of events, almost all the results around me worked in my favor, but almost all my previous opponents lost.

Thanks to those results around me, there were 5 people with 5/6. That left 3 spots for the 7 players (including me) who were tied with 4.5/6. Unfortunately, my collective opponents from the first 6 rounds scored a whopping 1.0 out of 6 that day.

Most of my fellow 4.5’ers had played weaker fields up to that point, so even with that 1.0/6, not enough of them leapfrogged me in the Buchholz race. I thus snuck into the final 8 as the #8 seed, but had any of my previous opponents won that day, I would have moved up to #6.

I also wrote earlier that the two-stage design was somewhat similar to the 2010 US Championship. The knockout stage in Badalona, though, was rather different from the second stage of the US Championships. In St. Louis, they had the top 4 break off and play a round-robin. Here, in the first round of the knockout, seeds at opposite ends of the bracket faced off in the first round.

Each round would start with a single slow game with rapid tiebreaks if necessary (and potentially blitz and Armageddon as well). With only one game and no draw odds, the only advantage you can give the higher seed is the white pieces, and that meant that as the #8 seed, I would get the black pieces in all 3 rounds no matter who I played. I would only see the white pieces if I drew the first game.

There was a time when I used to score about evenly with both colors, but this year, I’ve struggled with the black pieces (especially in beating lower rated players). From 2008 through 2009, I have 95 games in my database with the black pieces – I scored 65% with black in those games and outperformed my own average rating by 13 points then. In 2010, though, things have changed – in 44 games, I’ve underperformed my rating by about 90 points. Hence, Achilles Last Stand …

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The Rat Race, part 2

In round 5, I was black against GM Lazaro Bruzon. Bruzon was listed at 2653, but having played through the Catalan Circuit (and Pamplona) with nothing but success, he was up to about 2675 at game time. I had played him once before, in 2008, and while I got into serious trouble there, I managed to escape with a draw. This time, I was not in any trouble until I managed to lose!

(FEN: r1bqk2r/2p1bppp/p1np1n2/1p2p3/P3P3/1B1P1N2/1PP2PPP/RNBQ1RK1 b kq a3 0 8)

He surprised me by playing an Anti-Marshall with 8.a4 (in the Ruy Lopez), even though I wasn’t “threatening” to play the Marshall. With the pawn already on d6, it’s not supposed to be very dangerous because Black doesn’t have to play …Rb8 (giving up the a-file), …b4 (weakening the b-pawn and the c4-square), or …Bb7 (putting the bishop on a diagonal where it just hits against the strong e4-pawn).

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The Rat Race, part 1

Following Balaguer, I continued my play in the Catalan Circuit with Badalona. The Badalona tournament is a pretty unique one on the calendar, although I guess it shares some similarities with this year’s US Championship.

In the top section at Badalona, everybody plays in a 6-round swiss to start the event. The top 8 (using tiebreaks) then advance to play a 3-round, 8-player pseudo-knockout. Those not lucky enough to make it top the final 8 continue playing 3 more rounds of a swiss. Thus, everybody gets 9 regular games, but amongst the top players, it’s a real race to make that final 8.

My tournament started off well as I beat Francisco Rojano (2127 FIDE) in the first round pretty handily. He played a Semi-Slav against me, and at the board, I decided to switch things up from my normal repertoire and played the 5.g3 gambit line instead of my normal 5.e3 (that is, 1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.g3). It’s always had its adherents, but in general, most top players don’t believe that the gambit offers White anything special with the knight on c3. In the Catalan, a similar position can easily arise, but White’s knight isn’t on c3 so early there. That early development puts it in the line of fire with …b5-b4 (in response to a typical a4, for example), or …Bb4 and …c5 ideas. My opponent didn’t know the theory of the line, though, and let me develop very smoothly. In the diagram below, he just played 19….Qc7.

(FEN: r1b1r1k1/ppq3pp/2p1p1n1/2P2p2/3P1P2/2P3P1/P4QBP/1RB1R1K1 w - - 0 21)

White is clearly better, but to make progress, he needs to open the position to take advantage of this greater potential. With that in mind, I played 21.c4 here. I want to play d5 next, opening the long diagonal for the Bg2 and also clearing a diagonal for my dark-squared bishop. After 21…b6, I continued forward with 22.d5. There isn’t really anything for Black to do now; his position is pretty much lost. For example, 22…cxd5 23.cxd5 Qxc5 loses to 24.Qxc5 bxc5 25.dxe6 (or 25.d6), when the Ra8 is trapped. He tried 22…cxd5 23.cxd5 Bb7, but that offered no respite after 24.c6 Ba6 25.Ba3. I wrapped up the game on the 30th move.

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