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.

[pgn]1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 O-O Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 O-O 9 h3 Nb8 10 d4 Nbd7 11 Nbd2 Bb7 12 Bc2 c5 13 a4 Qc7 14 d5 c4 15 Nf1 Nc5 16 Ng3 g6 17 Bg5 Rfb8 18 Qd2 bxa4 19 Bxa4 Bc8 20 Ra2 Nxa4 21 Rxa4 Rb6 22 Be3 Rb7 23 Rea1 a5 24 Qe2 Bd7 25 R4a2 Bb5 26 Bg5 Bd8 27 Nd2 Nd7 28 Bxd8 Qxd8 29 Ngf1 a4 30 Ne3 Rc8 31 Nc2 Nc5 32 Nb4 Nb3 33 Rd1 f5 34 Qe3 f4 35 Qf3 h5 36 Qe2 Qf6 37 Nc6 Nc5 38 Nf3 g5 39 Nh2 Qf7 40 Nb4 Qh7 41 f3 Nd3 42 Nxd3 cxd3 43 Qf2 Rcb8 44 Rd2 Qd7 45 Ra1 Bc4 46 Kh1 Rb3 47 g3 a3 48 Rxa3 Rxa3 49 bxa3 Qxh3 50 Rb2 Rxb2 51 Qxb2 d2 0–1[/pgn]

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.

[pgn]1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 Nf3 O-O 6 h3 e5 7 d5 Nh5 8 g3 f5 9 exf5 gxf5 10 Ng5 Nf6 11 g4 Qe8 12 Bg2 e4 13 gxf5 Bxf5 14 Nb5 Na6 15 Nd4 Qg6 16 Nxf5 Qxf5 17 Ne6 Nc5 18 Nxc5 dxc5 19 Be3 Nh5 20 Qc2 Rae8 21 O-O-O Rf6 22 Rd2 Rb6 23 Qa4 Rf8 24 Bxc5 Qg5 25 Bxe4 Rxb2 26 Be3 Qe5 27 Rxb2 Qxb2+ 28 Kd1 Nf6 29 Bf3 Ne8 30 Bg2 Qb1+ 31 Kd2 Qg6 32 Bf1 Bh6 33 f4 Bxf4 34 Bxf4 Rxf4 35 Bd3 Qg2+ 36 Kc3 Qg7+ 37 Kb3 Nd6 38 Qxa7 b6 39 Rf1 Rxf1 40 Bxf1 Qg3+ 41 Ka4 b5+ 42 cxb5 Qf4+ 43 Kb3 Qxf1 44 Qb8+ Qf8 45 Qxf8+ Kxf8 46 a4 Ke7 47 Kb4 Kd7 48 a5 Ne4 49 a6 Kc8 50 Kc4 Kb8 51 h4 h5 52 Kd4 Nd6 53 Kc5 Nc8 54 Kc6 Ne7+ 55 Kc5 Nc8 56 Kd4 Nd6 57 Kc5 Nc8 ½–½ [/pgn]

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.

[pgn]1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 e5 4 Nf3 exd4 5 Nxd4 Be7 6 g3 Nc6 7 Bg2 O-O 8 h3 Nxd4 9 Qxd4 Be6 10 O-O Nd7 11 Nd5 Bxd5 12 Qxd5 c6 13 Qd1 Re8 14 Be3 Qc7 15 Re1 Bf6 16 c3 Rad8 17 Qc2 a5 18 Rad1 Nc5 19 f4 Be7 20 Qf2 Nd7 21 g4 Bf8 22 g5 b5 23 h4 b4 24 h5 bxc3 25 bxc3 Rb8 26 Bf3 Rb5 27 Bd4 c5 28 Qe2 Reb8 29 c4 Rb4 30 Bc3 Nb6 31 Bxb4 cxb4 32 g6 hxg6 33 hxg6 fxg6 34 e5 Re8 35 Qd3 dxe5 36 Bd5+ Nxd5 37 Qxd5+ Qf7 38 fxe5 Re6 39 Rf1 Qe8 40 c5 g5 41 c6 Kh7 1–0[/pgn]

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)