Tag Archives: Bruzon

A Quick (-chess) Recap

I was exhausted at the end of Badalona, so I had my doubts as to whether I’d actually play in the rapid tournament in Poble Nou. Even after the three days in-between, I was still a bit tired, but I decided that a rapid tournament wouldn’t take too much more out of me. As added motivation, I needed at least one rapid tournament to qualify for the overall Catalan Circuit prizes (combined total from 5 events).

Like the previous category-A tournaments on the Circuit, this one featured Lazaro Bruzon at the top of the list and a host of Cuban IMs and GMs behind him. It was a 10-round swiss at a time control of G/25 (no increment or delay). There were 7 GMs and 14 IMs playing, as well as a dozen WGMs, FMs, etc.

Even though I was playing way down, the first round was actually a bit of an adventure. The tournament started at 10 AM, and while I had woken up in time, my brain was lagging a bit behind. I thus decided to try and completely avoid his attack by entering an endgame, but the endgame promised me few objective chances as it was tough to find any active idea. However, he finally made a mistake and I ended up winning. Round 2 was a much smoother affair, as I outplayed my opponent from start to finish.

With 2/2, I was white against IM Vladimir Bukal Jr. in round 3. We reached the following random position after 13…d7xe6:

(FEN: rn2k2r/pbp1b1pp/1p2pn2/8/2PP4/P2B2P1/1PQNN1qP/R1B1KR2 w Qkq - 0 14)

With a G/25 time control, there is the opportunity to think a few times during the game. This was one of those moments for me. The thing is that I need to move my knight on d2, but moving it to b3 (to prepare Bf4/g5 and 0-0-0) allows Ng4xh2, when Black has a nasty check on f3 after the Rf1 moves.

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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 first three rounds at Barberà went pretty well, as I scored 2.5/3. The one draw I had was where both of us had mutual chances. However, starting with round 4, something strange seemed to happen – my opponents either seemed to respect me too much or not much at all!

In round 4, I was black against IM Roberto Aloma Vidal, a 2460 IM from Montcada. I was expecting a serious fight, but instead my opponent sucked all the life out of the position as quickly as possible. I recently switched from the Slav to the Nimzo/Queen’s Gambit Declined, and as part of that opening set, I have to face the Catalan. I’ve played a couple different lines against the Catalan, and I decided to go with one of the more theoretical choices amongst that group.

(FEN: r1bqkb1r/pp3ppp/2n1pn2/2p5/2pP4/5NP1/PP2PPBP/RNBQ1RK1 w kq - 2 7)

Unfortunately, the line with 4…dxc4 and 5…c5 also presents White with an early set of options: the first, with 7.Ne5, leads to a complex position, which holds promise of an advantage for White, while the second, with 7.Qa4, leads to quieter positions, with the option of sterile equality if White wants it. My opponent quickly played 7.Qa4.

(FEN: 2rq1rk1/pp1b1ppp/4pn2/2b5/7Q/2N3P1/PP2PPBP/R1B2RK1 w - - 3 13)

After some further moves, we reached the above position. Black has no good deviation that I know of along the way (7.Qa4 Bd7 8.Qxc4 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Rc8 10.Nc3 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Bc5 12.Qh4 0-0), and strong players have been trying for decades. Virtually every deviation is supposed to give White a clear advantage, but in 2008, the pawn sacrifice with 12…0-0 caught on. According to theory, Black has adequate compensation for it after 14.Bxb7 Rb8 and 15…Rb4. Still, all 3 results are possible there. Instead, Aloma again chose the blandest continuation, going with 13.Bg5, which has resulted in a draw in every single game in which it’s been featured. Stronger players than me have fallen victim to the drawing bug with this line (GMs Naiditsch and Drozdovskij have recently given up draws to players about 160 points below them here).

Even stranger was the fact that he offered me not one, but two draws within the first 25 moves … and there was a 30-move minimum before draws could be agreed! After the second one, I reminded him that we had to play at least 30 moves, but in the end, he managed to hoover off all the pieces without providing me with any real chance.

Of course, part of the blame lies with me and my opening repertoire in these games. Had I played something that immediately creates imbalances, like the Dutch, maybe I would have had better chances to win a game. At the 2009 FIDE World Cup, GM Gata Kamsky lost his first game to GM Wesley So and had to win the second game as black to force the match to tiebreaks. Kamsky tried the Dutch, but was lucky to escape with a draw when So didn’t bother to press home a big advantage (the draw was enough to advance). After the game, Kamsky said, “In the second game I had to solve a difficult problem: it is almost impossible to beat a good player with black.”

Obviously my opponents here are not as good as Wesley So (nor am I as good as Kamsky), but the problem remains that most openings now have some lines with extremely strong drawish tendencies. Deviations, as in the Aloma game, usually concede a rather large disadvantage, and I’d rather not lose just to avoid a draw.

And to be honest, I wasn’t too unhappy with the result at the time. Aloma is only rated about 60 points below me, and he had easily outplayed a higher-rated GM (Omar Almeida) the previous day with the white pieces. That was only my second black, and I figured things would be different in my other games.

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Sisyphus in Spain

After a horrible start in Montcada, I was at 50% after four rounds. The second half of the tournament was a little better than the first, but that’s not saying much.

In round 5, I got my second black in a row against Jonathan Cruz (2437, Colombia). I didn’t find a lot of his games in the database, but he generally seemed to pick the sharp main lines. Thus, I was a bit surprised when he went for the 6.e3 variation of the Slav. Everything in his past games seemed to point to him repeating 6.Ne5, but I guess he had prepared something himself.

The variation with 6.e3 is somewhat testing, but it’s generally considered to be less challenging than 6.Ne5. White often gets a symbolic advantage, but can’t really do much with it. Compared to the main line with 6.Ne5, games with 6.e3 tend to end in a draw much more often. That is how this one ended up, although as it turns out, I should have played on in the final position:

(FEN: 5rk1/np1qbrpp/p3p1p1/P2pP3/3P1PPP/2NQ1R2/1P6/4BRK1 b - - 6 33)

We had been repeating with …Na7-c6-a7 and Nc3-e2-c3 the past couple moves, and this was a chance for a three-time repetition. I was down to about 3 minutes at this point to reach move 40 (along with a 30-second increment). I was tempted to play on, with 33…Qd8, hitting both h4 and a5.

I’m not quite sure what I was afraid of now, as 34.f5 gxf5 35.gxf5 Bxh4 nets a pawn (White can’t take on e6, because after the mass exchange on f3, the bishop on e1 hangs). White has some compensation after 36.Bd2, but Black is definitely playing for a win. Meanwhile, on 35.h5 gxh5 36.gxh5, I remember thinking my position was quite pleasant after 36…Nc6.

I think normally I would have played on here even if I thought the position was equal (after all, I’ve played on in much worse positions, and with less time!), but maybe because of my prior blunders, I decided not to tempt fate in time pressure and just repeated. The strange thing was that when I offered him a draw before finishing out the 3rd repetition, he declined and said it wasn’t 3 times. I was a bit confused by this, but instead of letting my clock run to zero, I just wrote my move down and claimed the draw. The arbiter duly verified the claim.

The next round, I was white against Melkior Cotonnec (2296, France). The opening of this game was completely ridiculous – here’s the position we got after 11.Rh1-g1:

(FEN: r2qk1nr/ppp1n1p1/3bppb1/3p2Pp/3P3B/P3PN1P/1PPN1P2/R2QKBR1 b Qkq - 2 11)

If you look at the pieces from the 2nd rank to the 7th, it almost looks like something that would come out of a Chess960 opening, but no, this game started with the usual arrangement of pieces and 1.d4. During the game, I thought I was a little better now, while after the game, he thought he was doing fine here.

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