Commonwealth Championships Roundup

Hello again dear readers. Again apologies for the delay in uploading. The internet in South Africa was a bit temperamental, in the end I got online with a 3G usb modem but had to be a bit careful with my limit. Anyways, as you have seen the tournament was a success and I managed to win both the South African Open blitz tournament (kindly sponsored by Chess Cube) and the Commonwealth Championships itself.

 

The blitz tournament went surprisingly smoothly and I managed 9/9 without too many nervous moments. I am probably a  blitz specialist; I see tactics fairly quickly and a misspent youth on the ICC (www.chessclub.com) taught me a few sneaky tricks which don’t work very well at standard play but are terrible to face in the quicker formats. The main event, however, was definitely much harder work.

 

I managed a perfect start. With such a big field the first few rounds were always going to be simply a case of avoiding slipping on any banana skins (read, not being paired up against any scarily under-rated juniors) and I managed 4/4 before having to face another titled player. In round 5 I was up against Meenakshi Subbaraman (definitely not number 3 or auntie), a Woman Grandmaster and one of the Indian girls who joined us in the Kruger National Park before the event. She reacted to my Scotch Opening rather oddly and I had a definite advantage but she then played well and it took me 55 moves to convert the win.
###pgn###[Event “Commonwealth Championships”] [Site “Johannesburg”] [Date “2011.06.28”] [Round “5”] [White “Jones, G.”] [Black “Meenakshi, Subbaraman”] [Result “1-0”] [ECO “C45”] [WhiteElo “2596”] [BlackElo “2317”] [Annotator “GJ”] [PlyCount “109”] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nxc6 Qf6 6. Qf3 Qxf3 7. gxf3 bxc6 8. Be3 Bb4+ {A very odd move!} 9. Nd2 Nf6 10. Rg1 g6 11. O-O-O O-O 12. Nb3 a5 13. Nc5 Bxc5 14. Bxc5 Re8 15. a4 Nh5 16. Be3 d6 17. Bd3 Nf6 18. Rg5 Nd7 19. f4 Ba6 20. c4 c5 21. Bd2 Bb7 22. f3 Nf8 23. f5 Nd7 24. Bc3 Ne5 25. Be2 f6 26. Rg3 Kf7 27. Rdg1 Rg8 28. Rh3 Rg7 29. f4 Nc6 30. Rxh7 Nd4 31. Rxg7+ $6 (31. Bd3 $1 { was actually my first idea + simpler} Re8 32. fxg6+ Kg8 33. Re1 $18) 31… Kxg7 32. Rxg6+ Kf7 33. Bxd4 cxd4 34. e5 dxe5 35. fxe5 fxe5 36. Rh6 (36. Bh5 Rh8 37. Rh6+ Kg7 38. Rxh8 Kxh8 39. f6 Be4 40. b4 $1 {I couldn’t work out this in my head with Black’s dangerous three pawns and only looked at 40.Bf7 but this appears to be winning}) 36… Rg8 (36… Kg7 37. Rg6+ Kf7 38. Bh5) 37. Bh5+ Kg7 38. Re6 e4 39. f6+ Kh7 40. f7 Rf8 41. Bg6+ Kg7 42. Bxe4 Bc8 43. Re5 Kxf7 44. Rxa5 Ke6 45. Rc5 Kd6 46. Rd5+ Ke6 47. Bg2 Rh8 48. Rxd4 Rxh2 49. Rd2 Rh4 50. b3 Ke7 51. Kb2 Be6 52. Bb7 Bd7 53. a5 Rh8 54. a6 Bc8 55. Bxc8 1-0%%%pgn%%%

Round 6 I was Black against local FM Nick Van der Nat who I’d only played online before (when I played the 2009 SA Open three of us played via Chess Cube from Australia!). He had also started with a perfect score and had just defeated Dave Smerdon so I knew not to under-estimate him (although Dave blundered on move 40 in time trouble from a winning position). I’d heard rumours about his intense opening preparation so decided to deviate from my usual openings which worked well and gained a positional advantage out of the opening and am pleased with the way I converted that into an endgame a pawn up and ultimately another point.

 

So far so good and I leading the tournament outright and asking Graham if he could kindly end the tournament at this point! However I then got into a bit of a rut and proceeded to draw my next three: against the young Indian talent Sahaj Grover where again I had a great position out of the opening but he defended tenaciously, Black against Nigel Short and then White against GM Laxman. Before the tournament I would have been delighted with a draw with Black against Nigel but after the game I had mixed feelings. He surprised me with the English Opening and had a small advantage out of the opening but then played a couple of careless moves and suddenly I had what should have been a decisive attack on the kingside. Unfortunately I then played what I thought was a nuance, missed a tactic and was lucky to hold the draw.
###pgn###[Event “Commonwealth Championships”] [Site “Johannesburg”] [Date “2011.06.30”] [Round “8”] [White “Short, N.”] [Black “Jones, G.”] [Result “1/2-1/2”] [ECO “A36”] [WhiteElo “2682”] [BlackElo “2596”] [PlyCount “85”] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. e4 d6 6. Nge2 c5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d3 Rb8 9. h3 Ne8 10. Be3 Nd4 11. Rb1 Bd7 12. b4 b6 13. a4 a5 14. Bxd4 cxd4 15. Nb5 e5 16. bxa5 bxa5 17. Qd2 Bc6 18. f4 Nf6 19. f5 Nd7 20. Ra1 Nc5 21. Ra3 Bf6 22. fxg6 fxg6 23. h4 Rb7 24. Nc1 g5 25. Nb3 Nxb3 26. Rxb3 gxh4 27. gxh4 Rbf7 28. Qh6 Bxh4 29. Rxf7 Rxf7 30. Nxd6 Rf6 31. Qxh4 Qxd6 32. c5 Qf8 33. Rb8 Qxb8 34. Qxf6 Qc7 35. Kh2 Bxa4 36. Bh3 Be8 37. Be6+ Bf7 38. c6 Bxe6 39. Qxe6+ Kf8 40. Qf6+ Ke8 41. Qe6+ Kd8 42. Qf6+ Ke8 43. Qe6+ 1/2-1/2%%%pgn%%%
My game against Laxman was the only time in the tournament I had a lost position. The game was heading towards a dull draw when he offered me the chance to sacrifice the exchange to force his king out. It was dancing in the centre of the board but there was no win and I should have acquiesced to repetition but fought on and found myself without real compensation for the exchange. He swapped into a winning endgame and heavily ahead on time but I found a way to make it tricky and he erred allowing me to reach a drawn R+2 vs R position.

 

Somehow after surviving this one I was allowed to win again and in round ten I defeated the scarily under-rated Daniel Jere a Zambian FM who gains 20-30 points in every tournament he plays but doesn’t get the opportunities to play abroad. After a somewhat suspicious opening I was obliged to sacrifice a pawn but he didn’t follow it up correctly and I got good play and in the end squeezed him on the light squares, just look at that horrible bishop on c1!
###pgn###[Event “Commonwealth Championships”] [Site “Johannesburg”] [Date “2011.07.02”] [Round “10”] [White “Jere, D.”] [Black “Jones, G.”] [Result “0-1”] [ECO “A20”] [WhiteElo “2344”] [BlackElo “2596”] [Annotator “GJ”] [PlyCount “126”] 1. c4 e5 2. g3 c6 3. d4 e4 4. Bg2 d5 5. Nc3 Be7 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. Qb3 Nf6 8. Bg5 Be6 9. Qxb7 Nbd7 10. Nh3 Nb6 11. Qa6 h6 12. Bc1 (12. Bxf6 Bxf6 13. Nf4 Bxd4 14. Ncxd5 Bxd5 15. Qb5+ Qd7 16. Qxd7+ Kxd7 17. Nxd5 Nxd5 18. Rd1 Bxb2 19. Bxe4 Ke7 20. Bxd5 $16) 12… O-O 13. O-O Bb4 14. e3 Bc8 15. Qe2 Bg4 16. Qc2 Bxc3 17. bxc3 Qd7 18. Nf4 g5 19. Ne2 Bf3 20. h3 Nc4 21. Kh2 h5 22. Ng1 g4 23. h4 Rab8 24. Re1 Ne8 25. Bf1 Ned6 26. Ne2 Bxe2 27. Bxe2 Rb6 28. a4 Rfb8 29. Ba3 Nxa3 30. Rxa3 Rb2 31. Qc1 Qf5 32. Kg1 Nc4 33. Ra1 R8b6 34. Rb1 Rxb1 35. Qxb1 Rxb1 36. Rxb1 Nd6 37. Rb8+ Kg7 38. a5 Qd7 39. a6 Qc6 40. Rd8 Nb5 41. Bxb5 Qxb5 42. Rd6 f6 43. Kg2 Kf7 44. Rd8 Kg6 45. Rg8+ Kh7 46. Rd8 Qc6 47. Kh2 Kg7 48. Kg2 Qe6 49. Kh2 Kf7 50. Kg1 Kg6 51. Kg2 Qxa6 52. Rxd5 Qa2 53. Rc5 a5 54. d5 a4 55. Ra5 Kf5 56. d6+ Ke6 57. d7 Kxd7 58. Rxh5 a3 59. Ra5 Qb2 60. h5 a2 61. h6 a1=Q 62. h7 Qxa5 63. h8=Q Qf5 0-1%%%pgn%%%

Going into the last round I was tied for first with Nigel Short on 8.5/10. He was paired with Argentinean GM Pablo Lafuente while I was playing second seed Abhijeet Gupta. I actually beat him in the London Open back in December but knew he’d be tough. After an interesting opening, however, he allowed me to play a very dangerous pawn sacrifice and soon he had to give up material to stop my mating threats. Meanwhile Nigel also won on board 1 so I was left very tense for a couple of hours wondering whose tie-breaks would turn out to be better. This time lady luck smiled on me and I became Commonwealth Champion by 1 bucholz point. This meant not only did I pick up the title and split first and second prizes but also a 10 000 Rand bonus donated by King Pie and a luxury week long holiday in Leo Lapa next to the Kruger National Park very kindly donated by the owner Mike (I spoke about my trip to the place at the start of my trip).

 

Many thanks must go to Graham Jurgensen for organising a great event which on the whole ran very smoothly, to Emperor’s Palace for allowing us to use their great facilities and all the other sponsors. I’m really looking forward to returning soon and taking up the great holiday and this time bringing Sue with me. Hopefully she won’t get too scared by the animals!

 

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