Tag Archives: Granda Zuniga

The Home Stretch in Benasque: Rounds 8-10

Round 8: Black vs. GM Felix Levin (2564, Germany). A very short draw – Levin surprised me with the Exchange Slav, and smelling a rat, I responded with a surprise of my own with 5…Qb6. As he said after the game, he had prepared this line thinking I would repeat the way I played against GM Sergey Krivoshey in 2006. But as Krivoshey achieved a slightly better position there, I wasn’t going to repeat that, and knowing he pretty much never played this line of the Slav, I decided it was safe to go with a surprise of my own.

After I played 8…Nh5, maybe Black even has a minute pull. However, he offered a draw with 9.Be5 which I saw no reason to decline. The position was essentially equal, and an easy draw with Black against a GM was not so bad.

The game can be replayed here.

Round 9: White vs. GM Rasul Ibrahimov (2537, Azerbaijan). A long fight which ended in a draw. The opening was a Nimzo-Indian, and while I prepared for that, I had not expected the line he played. He paused for a bit after I played 3.Nc3 (I also play 3.Nf3 there), and I have a feeling he made a switch on-the-fly with his normal opening repertoire. Having played the Nimzo for years and years, he was able to do so without too many troubles.

Despite this, I thought the opening resolved itself in my favor. As Karpov might say, I had an “insignificant advantage” over the traditional IQP structures there. But I struggled to find the right plan, and while I burned my time away, my position also drifted a bit. However, down on the clock about 3 minutes to 30 minutes, I started playing forcefully again and essentially forced an exchange of queens that liquidated my isolated queen pawn. The endgame was then a simple draw, although he insisted on playing it out for a few moves before returning my draw offer.

The game can be replayed here.

Round 10: White vs. GM Abhijeet Gupta (2551, India). To end the tournament, I finished with a tough draw against my good friend known as “Bhaiyu”.

Unfortunately, Benasque has the last round at 9 AM. I don’t get that decision – every other round starts at 4 PM and the prize ceremony is scheduled for 5 PM. Given that even the regular afternoon bus leaves from Benasque at 3 PM, there would have been plenty of time to make the bus ride even if the round started at 10 AM.

In any case, the early start changes things dramatically – preparation time goes down (I saw my pairing around 11 PM, prepared for about an hour, and then went to sleep) and my sleep schedule was completely thrown off. Thus, I turned to a cup of coffee to get me started in the morning. The barman gave me a knowing laugh when I ordered a “cafe solo” instead of my usual tea.

The game itself was an interesting one. I had prepared a long opening line in the Grunfeld, but was very hasty in my analysis and I didn’t spend enough time with the position, trusting the computer’s evaluation. I only began to realize this at the board when I saw he could just start pushing his h-pawn. Needless to say, that is precisely what he did. I made a series of only moves, but then we had a bit of a comedy of errors (despite thinking our play was pretty good after the game).

Both of us thought 25…g4, 26.Rc4, and 32.Rc1 were the correct moves, but in fact there was one better alternative at each move (25…Nh5!, 26.Qxb7!, and 32.Rd7!). Unfortunately for me, the last one with Rd7 would have given me a huge advantage, and despite seeing the move, I somehow blitzed out Rc1. After that, the draw is forced (although, to be honest, he could have taken the draw on the previous move with 31…Rd1+.

The game can be replayed here.

Thus, I finished on 7.5/10, good enough for 15th place on tiebreaks. There were many players on 7/9 who drew, and then a whole host of players on 6.5/9 who won. Given the size of the field, 10 rounds is simply not enough to produce enough variation in the scores.

GM Julio Granda Zuniga won in the last round to clinch clear first with 8.5/10. That makes it two years running (the only years I’ve played in Benasque) that I have lost a winning game to the tournament winner. Last year, GM Felix Levin won it all and beat me from a thoroughly horrible position. This year, Granda pulled off the same feat.

Last year, an author chose my loss to Levin as the only tournament game in the writeup for the Spanish national paper (El Pais). Let’s see if my loss to Granda is chosen this year.


Festival de Ajedrez de Benasque 2008: Rounds 4-7

Round 4: Black vs. GM Julio Granda Zuniga (Peru, 2599). My annual game with Granda – I had played him in Balaguer in 2006 and in Sort in 2007, both wins for me. This was an extremely disappointing game, and while Granda put up some resistance, the blame rests squarely with me for not winning this game.

The game can be replayed here.

The opening was a disaster for me, not so much because of the position, but because of the time I spent in playing the moves. I was not happy with my piece placement (for example, the dark-squared bishop might be better on e7 than on d6) and I burned up a lot of clock time trying to find a viable plan. In the end, I settled on 10…Ra8-c8 and 11…c6-c5, but my position looked dicey. However, all was well in reality, and when Granda excitedly banged out 14.e3-e4 and then 15.Ne5-g6, he thought he was winning. However, the exchange sacrifice completely turned the tables and soon I was better. I then whipped up a huge attack, but with only 1 minute on the clock, I was unable to find a knockout blow. And instead of bailing out with one of many perpetual checks, I kept trying and trying, only to find out I was in a lost position after some time.

The most prosaic win was 28…Nxd3 29.Qxh5 Qf6, when White is completely lost. However, playing for checkmate as I did, I would have needed to find 33…Be2!! in a minute to win the game. Of course the computer sees it right away, but we took a good amount of time later to find this. All in all, a disappointing game as this was one I let slip away.

Round 5: White vs T. Abhay (India, 2263). Like many Indian players, Abhay had virtually no games in the database. Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered because while I had jetlag problems in previous days and was not sleeping very well in general, I slept soundly before this game. Too soundly in fact.

I went to sleep at around 1 AM after doing some reading (Vikram Chandra’s 900-page tome Sacred Games), and then woke up to find the clock saying it was 3:15 PM. For a second, I thought it was a joke and I turned on my laptop to check the time there. Of course, the confirmation came and I rushed to shower and eat something before the 4 PM round. My roommate had let me sleep for a while, but when he got back from his own late lunch, he was relieved to find he didn’t have to wake me up.

The game itself was not particularly interesting – after 10…f6, Black was clearly worse. Black should have settled for a more normal position with 10…0-0, but the opposite-side castling only spelled his doom. My attack would arrive first on the queenside, and I later broke through in the center and then on the kingside.

The game can be replayed here.

Round 6: Black vs. IM Silvia Collas (France, 2370). Originally an Italian citizen, I think Silvia changed her locale and affiliation to France after marrying Didier Collas. This was a rather easy game as well, despite it being my first attempt at playing the Slav Defense. I didn’t know what to expect at all, as she plays 1.e4, 1.d4, and 1.c4, but I did expect her to play some sidelines of whatever the opening was. Thus, in the 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Nxc4 Nb6 Slav, she opted for the rare 8.Ne3. However, she then played rather insipidly with 9.g3 instead of 9.a5 (although neither move is especially dangerous for Black).

After that, 16…Nc8! was the move she overlooked, as Black will then execute a nice reorganization of his pieces with the knight on d6. She took the free pawn on b7, but Black’s compensation is without doubt and in fact, Black stands better in short order. The exchange sacrifice with 23…Nf5! only sealed the deal, and after that, it was “a matter of technique.”

The game can be replayed here.

Round 7: White vs. GM Vladimir Burmakin (Russia, 2625). One of my finest positional efforts in a while, and I might dare compare my play to Kramnik’s until almost the end of the game. The opening was a Schlechter Slav, a relatively passive system for Black. However, Burmakin played 6…Nbd7 which slightly misplaces the knight and I took proper advantage with 7.cxd5! and 8.Qb3!, putting pressure on the b7- and d5-pawns.

From there, it was all very smooth – with 14.Nc4 and 18.Qa2 being standout moves. There was a small hiccup on move 31, with Bb2 – this move is likely still winning, but a more “Kramnikian” sequence might have been 31.h3 Qc6 32.Qa3, with the bishop going to a1 and the queen to b2 to set up the powerful battery on the long diagonal. In any case, Black blundered with 32…h4? (instead of 32…f6, which continues to put up a good fight) and gets hit with a mating attack immediately.

The game can be replayed here.