UPDATE: Sue figured out the problem and now we have a pgn viewer back. I’d be in a lot of trouble without her!
EDIT: At the moment I can’t get any of my pgn viewers to work so I’ll have to wait for my admin (Sue) to get back from work. Please bear with me!
First of all apologies for a long delay in writing this update and also the lack of Game of the Month for December. I was busy preparing for the tournament and then afterwards had just three days before heading off to Warsaw for the European Rapid and Blitz. I wanted to watch the final round of the Classic too, and that combined with having to annotate a couple of games for Chessbase, writing my Chesspublishing update and coming down with a cold didn’t give me much time!
But anyway let’s return to the Classic. I won’t go into detail about the top section. Vladimir Kramnik won the event ahead of Hikaru Nakamura in second and top seed Magnus Carlsen in third. However the stand out performance – yet again! – was that of Luke McShane. He was actually leading the tournament going into the last two rounds but lost a complex battle with Kramnik in round eight. He had Carlsen on the ropes in round two but he somehow squirmed out, as is his wont. In the end Luke managed to defeat all the other English players and drew with the rest (except the loss to Kramnik).
The other English did less well and Mickey Adams definitely had a tournament to forget, losing consecutive Whites to both Luke and Nigel. I can’t remember the last time he lost two in a row against Englishman, let alone both with White. He was close to putting some respectability on his score with a great position against Nakamura in the last round but he erred short on time in a complex position. A shame for Mickey as he was running in the top 15 in the world before the event but I’m sure he’ll be back.
Playing the Open you get a feeling of it being a bit of an add-on to the Classic. The top six boards have decent conditions, although I was rather cold for most of the event, but the rest of the room seems rather cramped and the room tended to get noisy when the weekend events were on or when Victor Korchnoi was giving a simul. The second of these started just as players were getting into time trouble and the living legend didn’t attempt to keep his voice down. The final annoyance was waiting for the prize giving for over an hour to be told that there wouldn’t be one for the Open.
Apart from these minor quibbles the event ran smoothly but I found a problem for me was one of focus. At the start of the event I was spending too much time watching the screens showing the Classic games and concentrating more on those than my own. When the top players in the world are just across the building it’s hard to get motivated in a standard Open when I really want to be playing in that top event instead.
As Sue wrote previously I won the first round. The game wasn’t so clear but I gradually built up an overwhelming kingside attack and finished it off with a queen sacrifice for mate.
Round Four and I was back playing an Englishman, IM Richard Pert, the twin of Nick, with whom I had just represented England at the European Team Championships. He surprised me on move three in a Trompowsky and gained a significant amount of time. However when his preparation ran out the position was so complex he soon gave it back. Over intent on exchanging pieces he left me in a pleasant endgame and soon my pawns proved the stronger.
Being surprised early in the opening was to prove the theme for the rest of the event. On 4/4 I played Jovanka Houska, top board for our female team. She seemed to exclusively play the Slav and so I decided to play the English Opening but she responded with 1…e6 and quickly the game transposed into a Queen’s Gambit Declined, a highly topical line at the moment amongst the elite. I managed a small advantage out of the opening but was too hasty and soon in trouble. With hindsight I really should have accepted her draw offer but in the end I was forced to grovel in a highly unpleasant endgame for my half point.
Black against my fourth IM in a row and this time I played Adam Hunt, another English player, who has taken a year out from teaching to try and get his GM title. I again avoided the Dragon and chose the Caro-Kann expecting his Panov-Botvinnik, which he had played in every game in the database. However I was surprised on move two when he chose the Two Knights. The Two Knights is a very solid line that I’ve dabbled with myself and is extremely difficult to defeat. We actually reached a position from my game against Viktor Bologan from the Bundesliga but with an extra tempo for Black. However that didn’t really make the winning task any easier. I kept the game going for as long as possible without doing very much and even had some winning chances just before the end but Adam managed to hold the opposite coloured bishop endgame.
Round Seven was against my fifth IM, Alexei Slavin. He is Russian but has lived in England for a while now. I chose the Big Clamp and was very happy with the way the game went and crashed through in pretty style on the kingside. I won’t show you the game now but will try and annotate it and post it separately when I get time.
Going into round eight I was joint first with 6/7 and had Black against Abhijeet Gupta who was top seed. We had actually played three times before and I had 100% but at 2640 he is of course a very strong player. He offered me a draw before the game – afterwards telling me he offered because of a cold – but I declined, not liking to play non-games and wanting to win the tournament outright. Gupta almost exclusively plays the Samisch Variation against the King’s Indian and had played two already that tournament but against me he deviated and I spent a while trying to find the right path. A lot of interesting paths opened up and I spent too long considering various piece sacrifices; in the end getting too short on time and went down. It was annoying afterwards him telling me he hadn’t even considered those options but there’s always a bit of luck in chess.
In the last round I was keen to bounce back. As it was my birthday I wasn’t keen to do too much preparation and so instead we went to brunch with our friends Manuel, Brigitta and Stuart Conquest. I apologise to them for being very late, I still wanted to check over some lines quickly, but as I arrived at the board I realised I’d forgotten to look at the Petroff, which soon appeared. I was playing Bjorn Thorfinnsson, an Icelandic IM who I’d gotten to know six years ago at a European Championship. I chose a line I’d been looking at recently and had played to defeat Bogdan Lalic in the 4ncl and Bjorn couldn’t remember his theory. I managed a big time advantage and an overwhelming position. I didn’t find the most clean-cut finish but managed to win in the end.
On top board Gupta defeated Keith Arkell to win the tournament on 8/9. Another Indian, Sahaj Grover, was very lucky to beat Pete Wells on board two to take clear second with 7.5/9. Unfortunately Jovanka failed to hold a draw to clinch her first GM norm on board three but I’m sure she’ll get herself into position again. I finished third equal and gained 0.2 of a rating point, a more or less satisfactory result. I hope the tournament continues into the future and I’ll have to make sure that my openings are ready should I be offered the leap into the top tier!
Final standings can be seen here