Keith Hoban Memorial and NEJCA rising stars

The annual North East junior chess associaton Keith Hoban memorial tournament was held on Sunday 28th February 2016 at Albyn School, Aberdeen.

The Keith Hoban memorial was dominated by Murad Abdulla who won the tournament with 5/5. Tariq Pasha finished with 3½/5 , and Aditya Hegde and Atharva Dabholkar both scored 1½. Grading results for the Keith Hoban memorial can be found on the NEJCA website here.

The rising stars tournament was won by Kalyan Kante with 5½/6. Connor Sibbald tied for 2nd with 4/6 whilst Pranav Saravanan finished in a tie for 4th on 3½/6. Grading results for the rising stars tournament are here.

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Scottish National Chess League Rounds 5 and 6

Bon Accord secured the division 4 title in the Scottish national chess league with a pair of victories in rounds 5 and 6. Bon Accord scored a 5-0 victory against Dundee City C in round 5, and a comfortable 3½ – 1½ win over Crouching Tigers in round 6.

Round 5

 Bon Accord  Dundee City C
1 W Adam Bremner 2244 1 0 Declan Shafi 1763
2 B Hamish Olson 2212 1 0 Daniel Thompson
3 W Anthony Bourached 1951 1 0 Ben Volland 1543
4 B Euan Gray 1656 1 0 Euan Dawson 1322
 5 W Callum Smith 1483 1 0 Agnijo Banerjee 1240
5 0

Round 6

 Crouching Tigers  Bon Accord
1 W Peter Smith 1989 ½ ½ Adam Bremner 2244
2 B Andrew McHarg 1797 1 0 Hamish Olson 2212
3 W Ioannis Dabos-Doukas 1614 0 1 Anthony Bourached 1951
4 B Siddharth Berera 1457 0 1 Euan Gray 1656
 5 W Rachel Lorna Smith 1316 0 1 Callum Smith 1483

Congratulations to Adam and the team. We are looking forward to having a go at the Scottish team lightning championship in a month’s time and SNCL division 3 next season.

Update – 01/03/16 – Thanks to Hamish for pointing out that the detailed results for round 6 were exactly the opposite of those given in the post. I have corrected these.

Festival International des Jeux – rounds 7 – 9

I had made a mediocre start to the tournament, but in round six I had won a nice game and had finally achieved a plus score.

Round 7 – White vs Andrei Lazo (2185)

Before this game I had never beaten anyone rated above 2150, and after this game I still hadn’t. Faced with the challenge of a much higher rated player I produced one of my worst games of the tournament.

We join the action after 13 moves of a game that began as a Semi-Slav defence, but has reached a position that very strongly resembles a Stonewall Dutch.

White to play
White to play

My play for the previous few moves has been dedicated to removing the knight from e4, and I now decided to do this. 14. f3 Nd6 15. c5 . And here I had failed to notice that after pushing this pawn the knight on d3 would pinned to my rook. 15…bxc5 16. Nxc5 I can’t really not take this pawn and expect to have a playable position. 16…Bxf1 Now I could have just played 17.Bxf1 and after 17…Qc8 Houdini thinks that this position is equal. Instead I spotted a more interesting alternative based on a rather basic miscalculation 17.Nxe6? Qc8 18. Nxf8

Black to play and blunder
Black to play and blunder

18…Bc4? My opponent thought for quite a long time here – his only significant think of the game and made a mistake. The error I had made when making my 17th move was in the variation 18… Bxg2 19. Nfg6+ hxg6 20. Nxg6+ Kh7 21. Nxe7 Qd7 here I had miscounted the number of pieces on the board assuming I was going to be level rather than a piece down. The game continued 19. Nfg6+ hxg6 20. Nxg6+ Kh7 21. Nxe7 Qe6. I assumed I was lost at this point, so I went for what I thought was the most active move 22. Qd1?, but I could have played 22. Qc3 with the point of picking up the a pawn after 22…Qxe7 23. b3 Be2 24. Qd2 Ba6 25. Qxa5. In the resulting position I’d rather be black, but white does have three pawns for the piece and the bishop pair. Instead I sacrificed a pawn to open lines on the kingside and generate some pseudo-activity. My opponent swiftly neutralised this and checkmated me after 13 further moves.

Round 8 – Black vs Laurent Papadopoulos (1813)

At 50% after seven rounds I needed a big finish for an acceptable result. After 20 moves of my round 8 game it wasn’t looking good.

White to move and it is looking very good for him
White to move and it is looking very good for him

Here white is a clear pawn up, and had he played 21. Rdc1 black has got nothing to look forward to except for a grim defence of an ending a pawn down. Instead white chose to defend the c pawn with 21. Rac1? which suddenly gives black some opportunities: firstly I can use a gain of tempo on the rook to unpin my bishop 21… Ba3  22. Rc2 secondly I can attack the c pawn with my knight 22…Nd5 23. Bd2 and thirdly there is now the possibility of a knight fork owing to the loose position of the rook on c2 23…Nb4! 24. Qe4 After the game my opponent suggested 24. Bf4 which I wasn’t able to refute at the time, but 24…Qc6 wins an exchange because 25. Ne5 would drop a piece: 25… Nxd3 26. Nxc6 Nxf4. The game continued 24… Nxc2 25. Ng5! (A good move – forcing me to weaken my kingside. I had been anticipating 25. Qxc2 h6) 25… g6 26.Qxc2. Black is now clearly better, but had white set out to draw from here I think this position would be quite difficult for black to win. White has a pawn for the exchange and it is hard for black to create a passed pawn. What happened in the game was that white tried to attack on the kingside, and in doing so weakened his own king’s position. Just after the time control we reached the following position:

White to play
White to play is in trouble

I am threatening Rxg4, so white defended with his king 44. Kh3 unfortunately it turns out that this doesn’t defend the g pawn because after 44…Rxg4! 45.Kxg4 Qd7+ leads to checkmate. My opponent found the best defence 45. Bh6!  which gave me a fright because I had missed it – I had been expecting to win in two or three moves however the white kingside is too weak to defend and the game finished 45… Rc4 46. Qe3 Qd7+ 47. Kg2 Qg4+ 48. Kf1 Re4 49. Qa7 Qh3+ and white resigned because it is checkmate next move.

Round 9 – White vs Arnaud Labarthe (1770)

In my experience last round games are often very strange. My opponent who is aged about 80 must have been feeling tired because he blundered badly in the opening. After 6(!) moves we reached the following position:

White to plan and win
White to play and win

Here I played 7.Ng5 after which there is no good defence of the f7 pawn. Later on in the game I won a second pawn and although I did have to work a little to defend against his active pieces I was able convert fairly easily, delivering checkmate on move 29.

In summary

As a resident of Aberdeen I can highly recommend Cannes as a place to visit in February. The tournament is large (there were 372 players over three tournaments) and high quality: in the B tournament there were 109 players rated between 1700 and 2000 – exactly the sort of players I want to play. If you are a higher rated player (above 2100) the A tournament is very strong with 19 Grandmasters and 23 International Masters. The venue has a pleasing view of the Harbour and the Mediterranean sea which makes an agreeable change from the various School halls and Leisure centres I am used to playing in. The negatives: on the lower boards (where I spent most of the tournament) the tables are a little bit cramped (conditions improve as you play on higher boards). Also there are two days with double rounds, where the morning round starts at 9.00 am. This can be quite tiring – in the A tournament Alan Tate lost a game against an International Master in round 5 that took over 5 hours to complete and then had to play another strong player in round 6 less than an hour later (he also lost that game).

I would have taken my score of 5½/9 at the start of the tournament, however I started slowly and consequently didn’t face a particularly strong field. My tournament performance was 1867, compared to my FIDE rating of 1921 so I will have lost a few points. The feature of my play in the first part of the tournament was a failure to convert winning positions – I was objectively winning in rounds 1,2 and 5 and scored 1/3 from these games. I think part of the problem is a tendency to play passively in positions with extra material – one of my opponents described my play as too “comfortable” which is an acute observation. There is also a certain amount of luck involved – my opponents in the first two rounds defended bad positions very well where as in later rounds my opponents generally didn’t defend that well.

I enjoyed my time in Cannes and I might well play this tournament again.

Club Championship Round 5

After four rounds of the club championship there are six players tied for 1st on 3 points. However the game between Richard Jennings and Duncan Harwood in round 4 has been postponed, so one either Richard or Duncan will be in the lead by a clear point, or both Richard and Duncan will be tied half a point in front depending on the result from that game.

The draw for round five is as follows:

White Black
Duncan Harwood (3+1) Tariq Pasha (3)
Ross Brennan (3) Richard Jennings (3+1)
Neil Irving (3) Stuthi Hegde (2+1)
Dave Smith (1½+1) Jeremy Mitchell (3)
Alex Stewart (2) Mike Cavanagh (2)
Alan Smith (2) Ricky Telford (2)
John Ewen (2) Ian Grieve (2)
Eugene Ogosi (2) Leston D’Costa (2)
Callum Smith (2) Sean Gordon (2)
Duncan McClymont (2) Oishani Dutta (1½)
Nandini Dutta (1½) Connor Sibbald (1½)
Eric Davidson (1) Atharva Dabholkar (1)
Ramesh Kante (0) Kalyan Kante (½)
Aditya Hegde (1) BYE

The deadline for games to be played is Friday 25 March 2016. If any games cannot be played please contact Ross Brennan.

Festival International des Jeux – rounds 4 – 6.

The  tournament thus far has not been a particular success. I have played six lower rated opponents and only won two games. Worse than that I have had positions that were more or less winning in rounds 1,2 and 5 and scored two draws and a loss. On the other hand I did win a very nice game in round 6. Anyway here are the results from round 4,5 and 6.

Round 4 – Black vs Jean De Lagontrie (1760)

Although the early middle game was quite interesting, but the position quickly became completely blocked. With the knights exchanged and the heavy pieces about to be exchanged on the single open file I could see no reason to decline my opponent’s draw offer.

Round 5 – White vs Yves Roche (1806)

I played quite well for much of this game, gradually improving my position in a typical Maroczy bind, but just when I had a winning position the game degenerated into a blunderfest:

White to play
White to play

I’d been grinding away for a while, and here I decided it was time to break through on the queenside 29. a5 bxa5? (The only move that holds the position together for black is 29… Nc5) 30. Qxa5? Here I automatically recapture the pawn, missing the obvious 30. Nxa7 winning a whole exchange.  30… a6? (black needs to get his rooks out of the way, so something like 30… Rd8 is required). 31. Nbc3?  (31. Na7 still wins an exchange) 31… Rcb8 32. b4 Rb7? the rook on a8 is now undefended, so I can carry out a decisive pawn break on the queenside. Black needed to play something like 32… Be8.

White to play is still winning
White to play is still winning in spite of his earlier efforts.

33. b5 Bxd5 34. Nxd5 Nc5 35. Bxc5 dxc5 36. bxa6 (36.Nb6 is the simplest win here – 36…Rab8 37. bxa6 Rxb6 38. a7 Ra8 39. Qxb6 and white is an exchange up with a pawn on the seventh) 36… Rba7 37. Qxc5 Bf8 38. Qb5 Rxa6 39. Nc7 Ra5

White to play and win easily
White to play and win simply

40. Qb6? (This was the last simple win in the game 40. Nxa8!? Rxb5 41. cxb5 white has two rooks for the Queen, and stopping the b pawn from promoting will cost at least the bishop) 40… R8a7 41. Nb5 R7a6 42. Qb7 Ra2 43. Qd5? (I decided that I wanted to get the Queens off the board, but the bishop combined with the rook is a really powerful combination 43. c5 is still winning according to Houdini.) 43… Bh6 44. Rb1 Rc2 45. Nd4? Rxc4 46. Rb8+ Kg7? (46…Bf8 is equal) and here I played 47. Qxf7+ and offered a draw, aware that I had messed the position up. What I wasn’t aware of  what that black’s last move was a major blunder  so here is a puzzle – white to play and win – answer at the end of the article.

Black's last move was a blunder - white to play and win.
Black’s last move (Kg7) was a blunder – white to play and win.

Round 6 – Black vs Pascal Pasture (1764)

This game started about two hours after the previous one finished. I was feeling somewhat traumatised having messed up so badly and in my experience when this happens usually punishment follows. I was expecting the worst, and was rather surprised to play a fairly smooth positional win.

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd6 4. d4 Nf6 5. Be2  this seems like a slightly contrived way of developing in this position compared to the normal Nf3. 5…c6 6.Bf3 Bf5 7. Nge2 e6 8. O-O Be7 9. a3 {I guess that white wanted to prevent Bf4 being met by Qb4, but 9. Bf4 Qb4 doesn’t seem like a great idea – for example 10. a3 Qxb2 11. Rb1 Qxc2 12. Rxb7 Qxd1 13. Rxd1 Nfd7 is  better for white. I would have played 9…Qd7.) 9… O-O 10. Bf4 Qd7 11. Qd2 Na6 12. Rad1 Rfd8 13. Qc1 Rac8 14. Ng3 this was a move I didn’t particularly like because it allows me to force the exchange of a pair of minor pieces, which I thought was desirable for black as I have less space. I thought white should instead play something like Rfe1 or h3, or perhaps b4 is an interesting move here. 14…g6 15. Rfe1 Nd5 and now white has to decide what to do about the threat of Nxf4

White to play has to decide whether to capture the knight
White to play has to decide whether to capture the knight

16. Nxd5 I was quite surprised he took this, as the change of pawn structure benefits black – the minority attack is going to be pretty quick, and white isn’t ready so start things on the kingside yet. I was expecting 16. Bd2 Nxc3 17. Bxc3 Nc7 18. Bd2 Nd5 19. c4 Nf6 which I judged as slightly better for white – he has more space, but black has exchanged a pair of minor pieces (a good thing with less space), has a solid position and can aim for a c5 or e5 break. 16… cxd5 17. c3 b5 18. Be2 Nc7 This was part of a plan to improve my worst placed piece. The knight is going to be moved to e8, and can then come to f6 if it is needed to defend the kingside or to c4 via d6 if the queenside attack needs support. 19. Bd3 white doesn’t normally want to trade the light squared bishop on this sort of pawn structure, but it is hard to find good plan for white here. The problem with his position is that his knight is very badly placed. 20. Ne8 20. Bxg6 hxg6 I wanted white to capture on g6 so that the pawn would restrict the knight on g3. 21. Qb1 a5 22. Rd3 b4 23. axb4 axb4 24. Bd2 Qb5 round about here I probably play inaccurately. Houdini thinks I should capture here immediately but I wanted to keep the tension in the position for the moment. I thought it might be an advantage if white could be persuaded to capture on b4 as he would then have weak pawns on b2 and d4, instead of a single weak pawn on c3. 25. Nf1 Rc6 26. Rh3 Rdc8 27. Qd3 Qxd3 it might have been better not to exchange queens here, but the temptation of playing for two results was too great for me to resist. 28. Rxd3 bxc3 29. Rxc3 Nd6 30. Rxc6 Rxc6 31. Bb4 Bf6

White to play and defend
White to play and defend

32. Bc3? (32. Bc5 would have been a stronger defence, but black can continue to grind away against white’s weak pawns and awkwardly placed pieces. For example 32…Ra6 33. Ne3 Nb5 34. Rd1 Ra2 35. Rd2 Bg5 and black is a bit better) 32…Nb5 Now I am just winning a pawn. 33. Re3 Nxd4 34. Nd2 Nb5 35. Bxf6 gxf6

White is lost
White is lost

As well as being a pawn down, white’s pieces are very badly placed, and this enough to win a second pawn and consequently the game. 36. Rb3 Nd4 37. Rb8+ Kg7 38. g3 Rc2 39. Nf1 Nf3+ 40. Kg2 Ne1+ 41. Kg1 Nd3 42. b4 Rxf2 43. b5 Rb2 (43… d4 immediately is even stronger because the knight then can’t move.) 44. Ne3 Nc5

Pasture_IrvingB44
White resigned

white resigned because he has no useful moves.

The schedule for the rest of the tournament is one round per day. Round 7 is tomorrow and I have white against Andrei Lazo of Moldova – at 2185 the highest rated player in the tournament.

 

Answer to the puzzle

47. Ne6!+ wins because 47…Qxe6 48. Qd8! and black has to give up a bunch of material to avoid being checkmated. The most reasonable line seems to be 48…g5 49. Qh8+ Kg6 50. Rg8+ Kh5 51. g4+
Kh4 52.Rg6, so instead of this he has to play 47…Rxe6 but then 48.Qxc4 and white has won an exchange.

Festival International des Jeux – rounds 1 – 3.

I am currently playing in the 30th International games festival at Cannes. The chess tournament is part of the festival which also includes a draughts tournament and a very large scrabble tournament in the hall downstairs. The tournament is played in the palais des festivals and the view, looking out over the marina to the Mediterranean sea is spectacular

The playing hall at Cannes
The playing hall at Cannes

There are three tournaments. The A open is very strong, with the top seed being the former world championship candidate and multiple US champion Gata Kamsky. Former Scottish champion Alan Tate is also playing in the A tournament. I am playing in the B (under 2200) tournament.

My tournament has not exactly gone well thus far. I managed to draw in round 1 as white against Guy Cornut (1668 France), when my opponent offered me a draw in a position I had thought (and Houdini agrees with me) was basically lost for me. In his defence we were both playing on the increment at that point, but even so I would have carried on his position.

I was paired with black against Driss Daif (1562 France) in round 2, and I won a pawn when my opponent mishandled the opening. Then this happened

White to play
White to play

Here I had been happily contemplating something like 20.Ne4 Be3+ 21.Kh1 f6 when black’s king is fairly safe, and he will probably be able to convert his extra pawn. Instead my opponent found 20.f6! after which black is in serious trouble. For example white has a winning attack after 20…Bf6 21. Rxf6! 21.gxf6 22.Qh5 Rfe8 23.Qxh7+ Kf8. I found the only way to continue 20…g6 21.Bc1 Be3+ (another way to lose is 21…Bxc1? 22.Bxc1 Kh8 23.Qh6 Rg8 24.Ne4 g5 25.Nxg5 Bf5 26.Bxf5 and checkmate next move) 22.Bxe3 dxe3 23.Qf3 Qb6 24.Kh1 Kh8 25.Rae1 Rde8 26.Rxe3 Nd4 27.Qe4  Bc6 28.Qh4 Nxc2 this was based on a tactical oversight, but Houdini thinks the position is already lost.

White to play
White to play

29.Qh6? (29.Re2 is winning) and here I missed a miraculous resource 29…Rg8? (I assumed this was completely forced, but black would actually be winning after 29…Bxg2+! 30.Kxg2 Nxe3+ 31.Kh1 Rg8) 30.Bxc2 Bxg2+ 31.Kxg2 Qc6+ 32.Be4 1–0

In round 3 I was given the white pieces against Sergio Nanni (1745 Italy). I proceeded to misplay the opening, and reached the following position after 17 moves with black to play.

Black to play and place his Queen on an unfortunate square
Black to play and place his Queen on an unfortunate square

Here signor Nanni moved his queen to a very unfortunate square 17…Qe7? and I was now able to grab a pawn with 18.Bxg7 because 18..Kxg7? loses to 19.Nf5+. Twelve moves later we reached the following position:

Black to play
Black to play

Here black should have played 29… Ne6 30. Nxe6 Bxe6. White can then make progress with 31.Qa7 attacking the Queenside pawns, but the game would continue for a while. Instead he blundered with 29…Ne4 30.Bxe4 Bh3 31.Bg2 when white was a knight up. I think his idea had been 30…Rxe4 31.Rxd7 Rxh4, but it doesn’t work because white attacks first. 32. Rd8+ Kg7 33. Qf8+ Kg6 34. Rd6+ Kg5 35. Rxd5+ Kg6 and now 36. Rxh5 R4xh5 37. Qa8 is one of several ways to win.

Finally like most experienced chess players I have spent a small fortune on chess books in the (mostly vain) hope that they will somehow improve my game. Today however I made the most optimistic chess purchase to date.

An optimistic purchase
An optimistic purchase

Not only am I hoping it will improve my chess, I am also hoping it will improve my French. Here’s to optimism!

Chess Training Weekend

On the weekend of the 6th-7th February Bon Accord chess club hosted a chess training weekend given by FIDE trainer Jonathan Grant at the Castlewood lodges in Strachan. There were approximately 19 participants with ratings ranging from around 1200 – 1900. About ⅓ of the participants were juniors, and the event attracted participants from Newmachar, Stonehaven and elsewhere, even a couple from Dundee.

Jonathan used a mixture of training techniques during the weekend. Mostly he would present interesting games or fragments on a demonstration board, and stop at critical moments to ask the audience questions relevant to the current position. At other times he would give out positions to work on individually or in teams, and then discuss the results with the whole group.

Jonathan at work
Jonathan at work (photo Ross Brennan)

The main things I took away from the session were:

  • Candidate moves – there was a tendency among all of the participants not to consider enough candidate moves when analysing positions. For some positions none of the considered the correct move! For example one of the exercises we worked on individually was the following position
Black to play and win
Kamsky – Svidler World Cup 2011 – Black to play and win

Here most people in the group thought the solution was 26…Qg3, and some saw that 27.Nc6 is met by 27…Re2 but no-one then noticed that after 28.Qc3 white is at least equal. In the game Peter Svidler found the marvellous 26…Re2! which wins after 27.Qxe2 Qg3, and also after 27.Qc3 Rxf2.

  • The principle of two weaknesses – on the second day we looked at the principle of two weaknesses where a player needs to create a second weakness in his opponent’s position in order to make progress. Here is one of the examples:
Botvinnik - Zagoriansky Sverdlovsk 1943 White to play
Botvinnik – Zagoriansky Sverdlovsk 1943
White to play

In this position black has played passively and has a weakness on d5, but white now somehow needs to create a second weakness in order to make progress. There were a lot of different suggestions here 25.b4, 25.e4, 25.Bg4, 25.Kh2, 25.Kh1 before the correct solution 25.g4 seeking to create a second weakness on the king side was suggested (Jonathan also thinks 25.h4 is a good move which no-one suggested).

Special thanks to Jonathan Grant for preparing some excellent training material, and presenting it in a very interesting manner, to Richard Jennings for organising the event and to Alison Smith who very kindly donated the use of the venue free of charge.