Benasque Open Round-Up

After the last update we had played six games. I had a good start with 5/5, although with a fair bit of luck – the first round was a long struggle with Black to beat the young Indian talent Chopra Aryan and in round three I was completely lost against Brazilian IM Christian Endre Toth in the final position. Unfortunately for him, he thought there was additional time added at move 30 and overstepped the time limit looking for mate.

A curious aspect of the tournament was that in the first four rounds I played players from four different continents, Asia (India), North America (USA), South America (Brazil) and in round four I played Russian GM Igor Naumkin (Europe) who I’d played a few times before. This time my preparation worked well and I got a clear advantage and converted without too many difficulties. I was pleased with my round five game too, the Black side of a Breyer against a strong Spanish IM in which I outplayed him strategically and took control of the board.

So I was on 100% at the half way stage but the tournament was very strong and there were many more titled players to come. Round six I was White against Mihail Marin. Again my preparation worked well but I erred just out of the opening, sacrificing a pawn for what I thought was a dangerous initiative but I missed something and had to be content with a draw. Round seven I was Black against Romanian GM Ioan Christian Chirila. It was a crazy Kings Indian and his king was running in the middle of the board but unfortunately there was no mate and in the end this game also petered out to a draw.

An odd aspect of the tournament that certainly influenced this game and my other remaining rounds was the very fast time control. With one round a day I had imagined we would have the normal FIDE time control of 90minutes/ 40 moves + 30minutes to finish with a 30 second increment every move. Instead they used the initial FIDE time control with increment of 90minutes for the whole game plus 30 seconds a move. This certainly led to some sub-optimal endgame play!

Round 8 I had White against a very talented Spanish junior David Anton Guijarro. While still only an FM his rating is currently 2490 and gaining plenty more points to be over 2500 so presumably he’ll be a GM very shortly. The opening was an interesting 4.f3 Nimzo where I had some attacking chances on the kingside in return for a compromised structure. I took the opportunity to win the exchange but this was probably an error and he seized the initiative. I must have been lost but hung in and held the endgame a pawn down.
The penultimate round saw me get double White, this time against Spanish IM Sergio Garza Marco. At only 2410 this was an easier pairing for me on paper but during the tournament he had defeated GMs Shanava (2578), Sanikidze (2596) and Stocek (2573) so he was obviously having the tournament of his life. He played a Phildor against me and we reached a simplified position out of the opening where White could claim some advantage thanks to the bishop pair. In general I kept control whilst advancing on the kingside and managed to convert bringing my score to 7.5/9.

Normally in Opens 7.5/9 would be enough to win the tournament but with so many players it was only enough for second equal, half a point behind Israeli GM Dan Zoler who was on a pretty incredible 8/9. The final round pairings saw me play as Black against him. I knew I had to go all-in to try and win and when boards 2 and 3 were drawn I knew a win would give me outright first. Black in a Kings Indian I seized the initiative early on and felt I had an advantage although the computer says the position was just level. I played Zoler in the European Individual in Plovdiv and there managed to win what should have been a level endgame playing on his time. Here too he was down on time and playing just on increment. I managed to take the initiative again and had good chances but got short on time myself too and he defended well. In the end I had taken one risk too many and Zoler finished on a mightily impressive 9/10 while I had to be happy with 9th on 7.5/10. You can see the final standings here.

A slightly disappointing end to the tournament and I lost a couple of rating points but I was happier with my standard of play towards the end of the tournament and hopefully it was a good warm up for the British Championships starting in a week’s time. I enjoyed my time in Benasque, the food was pleasant and it was great spending a couple of weeks in the fresh mountain air going for walks each morning – a welcome change from London. However there were some oddities. I’ve already mentioned the time control being unusually fast for one round a day. The organisers also closed the analysis room the second the final game ended, turning the lights off to force us out which seems a bit over the top. The final round was a 9am start rather than the typical 4pm, annoying when you get into a routine for the tournament but normal for Opens to allow people to get away early. However they then waited till 5pm for the prize giving meaning we had to wait all afternoon. With the only bus out of the town at 3pm it also meant that all the prizewinners had to wait till the next day to leave.

As I write this I’m in a hostel in Zaragoza; a 3pm bus from the middle of nowhere won’t get you to any airport in time for a flight that day so I’ve been forced to wait an extra day here before flying home this evening. I really should go out and sightsee!

P.S Sorry about the PGN Viewer, I’m not sure why they aren’t loading but hopefully will have it fix asap. If anyone out there can design a new one, even better! 🙂 (Sue)

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