Anand Wins Brilliant Game Four

Anand,V (2787) - Topalov,V (2805) [E04]
Sofia BUL, WCC 2010 game_4 Sofia BUL (4), 28.04.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 a5 7.Qc2 Bxd2+ 8.Qxd2 c6 9.a4 Yet another know-how by Kramnik. However, after: 9...b5

Anand deviated with a novelty: 10.Na3N Instead in the first game from the match Kramnik-Topalov, Elista 2006 White played: [10.axb5 cxb5 11.Qg5 which is nowadays the main theory. Curiously, the last game in my Megabase is Meier-Wojtaszek from the ETCC in Novi Sad this November. As far as I know Anand allows to his seconds to play the lines that they have studied after the match is over. I wonder when exactly did the world champion start his preparation for the Catalan- for this one, or for the previous?! The move itself is very reasonable, White developes a piece, and puts strong pressure on the opponent's pawns and center. The compensation that appears is quite typical for some lines of QGA and Slav Defense.] 10...Bd7 Black had a choice of giving back his extra pawn in order to speed up his development- [10...Bb7 11.axb5 cxb5 12.Nxb5 0–0 13.0–0 Bd5 14.e3 White is better structurally, but Black's active pieces might compensate this- for example Qd8-b6 and after this even to b7, Nb8-c6, and Rf8-b8. Still, this is quite risky from strategical point of view, as if White manages to win a pawn on the queen's flank, the resulting endgames 5 versus 4 pawns are most often lost. ] 11.Ne5 Nd5 12.e4 Anand temporarily closes his Catalan bishop, but the central break-through d4-d5 will follow soon. 12...Nb4 13.0–0 0–0 14.Rfd1 Be8 15.d5! Typical and strong. Until here Anand had spent only twenty minutes on his clock, a good sign for thorough opening preparation. 15...Qd6! The best defense. [15...Qb6 leaves the queen too far away from the king's flank. White can continue with: 16.dxe6 (16.Ng4!?) 16...fxe6

17.Qd6!! Qxf2+ (17...Nd3 exchanging the mighty knight might be best for Black, although his position is hard to envy after: 18.Nxd3 cxd3 19.axb5 Qxf2+ 20.Kh1 Qxb2 21.Rf1 Bf7 22.e5±; 17...Rxf2 18.Kh1! Rf8 19.Rf1! gives decisive attack for White) 18.Kh1 Qxb2 19.axb5 cxb5 20.Rdb1 Qe2 21.Qxe6+ (21.Rf1!?) 21...Kh8 (21...Bf7 22.Nxf7 Rxf7 23.Rf1+-) 22.Nxb5 and White is clearly on top.(22.Rf1!?) ] 16.Ng4 The Indian keeps the pressure and preserves the pieces on the board. The straightforward: [16.Nxc6 N8xc6 17.dxc6 Qxd2 18.Rxd2 bxa4 19.Nxc4 Bxc6 leads to massive exchanges and almost certain draw.] 16...Qc5 17.Ne3 N8a6 18.dxc6 bxa4 19.Naxc4 Bxc6 20.Rac1 White has a slight edge.

Up to here both the players played their strong and logical moves. Who could possibly immagine that Topalov will riun his position after only three normal moves?! 20...h6 After seeing the course of the game we can advise Veselin to keep his queen close to the king's flank, but there is a danger for it to be cut-off from the game there: [20...Qh5 21.Nd6 Rad8 22.Qd4 Bb5 23.e5; 20...Qe7 is another good after-game advice...] 21.Nd6 Qa7 22.Ng4 This was a move that Zurab Azmaiparashvili was recommending, having in mind the following sacrifice. 22...Rad8

It is even hard to call this move a mistake, although Black is now losing by force: 23.Nxh6+!! A move that even the engines cannot find easily (if at all). 23...gxh6 24.Qxh6 f6 There is no salvation in the other lines neither: [24...e5 25.Qg5+ Kh7 (25...Kh8 26.Qf6+ Kg8 27.Nf5 is mate in four.) 26.Bh3! threatening mate, and Black is forced to part with lots of material: 26...f5 27.Bxf5+ Rxf5 28.Qxf5+ Kg8 29.Qg5++-] 25.e5! [25.Bh3 is another reasonable move, but it leads only to a draw after: 25...Qe7 26.Rxc6 Nxc6 27.Bxe6+ Qxe6 28.Qg6+ Kh8 29.Qh6+] 25...Bxg2 26.exf6!

26...Rxd6 [26...Bf3 27.Qg6+ Kh8 28.f7 or(28.Rc4- Rogers both lead to forced mate) ] 27.Rxd6 Be4 28.Rxe6 Nd3 29.Rc2 Qh7 30.f7+ Qxf7 31.Rxe4 Qf5 32.Re7 In the interview for the Bulgarian National Television D-r Stefan Sergiev, the president of BCF praised highly the game, and gave his respect to the brilliant play of the world champion. There were also many positive reactions from Bulgarian players and fans, as Anand abandoned the passive positional approach and came back to his true active positional style. However, Krasi Kushev, candidate master and leading journalist from BNT reminded us that Topalov is usually playing better in the second part of the events, and we can wait for his come-back after the rest day tomorrow. 1–0


Third Game is Draw

Topalov,V (2805) - Anand,V (2787) [D17]
Sofia BUL, WCC 2010 game_3 Sofia BUL (3), 27.04.2010
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 After the painful defeat in the frst game, it was generally expected that Anand will choose something solid in his next black game. What can be more solid than the Slav? 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 e6 7.f3 c5 8.e4 Bg6 9.Be3 cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 Nfd7 Learning from his previous mighty opponent for the WCC, Anand is using Kramnik's defensive set-up against Topalov. 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6

Kramnik's invention. Black's plan is simple, albeit slow. Since his only problematic piece is the excluded bishop on g6, he wants to bring it into the game after some manouvers- Rh8-g8, Bf8-d6(b4), Ke8-e7, f7-f6, and finally Bg6-f7. White's has space advantage, and objectevely better prospects, but Black's play is very easy and natural. Moreover, it is fully in accordance with Anand's general plan that I mentioned yesterday-dry positions, preferably with queens off the board. 14.Rc1 [14.Ke2 was the game Topalov-Kramnik, WCC Elista 2006, that was eventually draw.] 14...Rg8 15.h4 White grabs some extra space, and wants to misplace further the bishop on h7, thus making it more difficult for Black to get it into the play. Topalov said at the press conference that had the upper hand, but could not pose the problems that he wanted to. Probably these problems are connected with the manouver Nc3-e2-f4. 15...h6 16.Ke2 Bd6 17.h5 Bh7 18.a5!

Topalov is creative, and invites his opponent into complications. 18...Ke7! Anand correctly sensed the danger. After: [18...Bb4 19.Na4! Bxa5 20.b4! Bxb4 (20...Bd8 is better, but White has good compensation there, too) 21.Rb1 b5 22.Rxb4 bxc4 23.Rxc4 White will practically have an extra piece for long term, for the bishop on h7 is excluded, and the opposite-coloured bishops always favour the attacking side.] 19.Na4 f6 20.b4!? Another attempt to change the character of the game. 20...Rgc8!

But Anand calmly proceeds with his plan and is already fully equalizing the game. After: [20...Bxb4 21.Rb1 Bxa5 22.Nc5!? (22.Rxb7 Rgb8 23.Rhb1 Rxb7 24.Rxb7 Kd6 is unclear) 22...b5 Bad is (22...Nxc5? 23.Bxc5+ Kd7 24.Rhd1+ Kc6 25.Ba3 b5 26.Rd6+ Kc7 27.Bxe6 Rgd8 28.Rc1+ Kb8 29.Rxd8+ Bxd8 30.Bd6+ Ka7 31.Bd5+-) 23.Bxe6 Nxc5 24.Bxg8 Bxg8 25.Bxc5+ White has an extra exchange, and should be better, as the black pawns cannot be advanced easily.] 21.Bc5 Bxc5 22.bxc5 Rc7 23.Nb6

23...Rd8! One more calm and subtle move after which the position will be soon exhausted. Black could have still go wrong after: [23...Nxb6? 24.cxb6 Rc6 25.Bxa6! Rxc1 26.Rxc1 Rxa6 (26...bxa6 27.Rc7+ Kd6 28.Rxg7 Bg8 29.Rg6 wins a third pawn for White and is close to winning for him) 27.Rc7+ Kd6 28.Rxg7 Bxe4 29.fxe4 Rxa5 30.g4±] 24.Nxd7 Rdxd7 25.Bd3 Bg8 26.c6 Rd6 27.cxb7 Rxb7 28.Rc3 Bf7 29.Ke3 Be8 30.g4 e5 31.Rhc1 Bd7 32.Rc5 Bb5 33.Bxb5 axb5 34.Rb1 b4 35.Rb3 Ra6 36.Kd3 Rba7 37.Rxb4 Rxa5 38.Rxa5 Rxa5 39.Rb7+ Kf8 40.Ke2 Ra2+ 41.Ke3 Ra3+ 42.Kf2 Ra2+ 43.Ke3 Ra3+ 44.Kf2 Ra2+ 45.Ke3 Ra3+ 46.Kf2

It is a fact that the players forgot to shake hands while they were discussing the eventual draw agreement with the arbiter. However, I believe that this was just coincidence, and not on purpose, as some chess fans claim. The press conference was honoured by the former world champion Antoaneta Stefanova. The reasons for this visit are a couple of Spanish journalists who were torturing the interpreters from the very beginning of the match, by asking their questions in Spanish. Since both Anand and Topalov speak fluently this language, the questions were answered in the same way, and remained mistery for the audience. Today Ety translated them in Bulgarian, and after Radislan Atanasov in English, and this was the way they made it. 1/2
This game should ring a bell in Bulgarian's camp as it seems like that the world champion is taking control over the course of the match.


Anand Strikes back in Second

There were a lot of parties this Saturday evening and Sunday, and I could not make it to the venue, which was a pity, since the second game offered another great battle, this time in positional manner:
Anand,V (2787) - Topalov,V (2805) [E04]
Sofia BUL, WCC2010 game_2 Sofia BUL (2), 04.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 The Catalan is a rare bird in Anand's repertoire, but he obviously had prepared it especially for the match. The point is that the resulting positions are rather dry, with slight, but long-lasting positional advantage for White, and no chances for Topalov to show his best sides- creativity and fantasy. 4...dxc4 5.Bg2 a6 6.Ne5 c5 7.Na3 cxd4 8.Naxc4 Bc5 9.0–0 0–0 10.Bd2 [10.b4 is quite an entertaining option- 10...Bxb4 11.Rb1 Bc5 12.Nd3 Be7 13.Nb6 Ra7 14.Qb3 Nc6 15.Bb2 with good positional compensation for the two sacrificed pawns that White eventuall y won in 1–0 Russo,G-De Haro,M/Guarapuava 1992/EXT 1998 (71)] 10...Nd5 11.Rc1 Nd7 12.Nd3 Ba7 13.Ba5 [13.Na5 N7f6 14.Qb3 Rb8 15.Rc2 Bd7 16.Rfc1 Bb5 17.a4 Bxd3 18.exd3 Re8 19.Nc4 Qe7 1/2 Vidit,S (2356)-Venkatesh,M (2462)/Nagpur 2008/CBM 126 Extra] 13...Qe7 14.Qb3 Rb8 15.Qa3!?

Only this move is a novelty, that was evaluated with mixed feelings by both the annotators and the general public. The idea is obvious, White is clearing the d6 square, and is getting rid of the strong defender on e7. On the other hand he exchanges pieces, and doubles his pawns, which are serious drawbacks. But I believe that this is part of Anand's general strategy in this match- he will look for dry positions, with long-lasting initiative as White, and try to force Topalov to defend as long as possible, to torture him. Something similar did Boris Spassky, in his match against Mikhail Tal in 1969. [15.Nce5 Nxe5 16.Nxe5 Qf6 17.Nd3 b6 18.Bb4 Rd8 19.Bxd5 Rxd5 20.Rc7 Bb7 21.Be7 Qf5 22.Qc2 e5 23.Rc1 h6 24.Nb4 d3 25.exd3 Rd7 26.Rxb7 Rbxb7 27.Qc8+ Kh7 28.Nxa6 Qxd3 29.Nb4 Qd2 30.Bf8 Rb8 0–1 Gulko,B (2559)-Shulman,Y (2606)/Tulsa 2008/CBM 124 Extra] 15...Qxa3 16.bxa3 N7f6 17.Nce5 Re8 Profilaxis, for the immediate: [17...b6 is not good- 18.Bb4 Nxb4 19.axb4±] 18.Rc2 b6 19.Bd2 Bb7 20.Rfc1 Rbd8

Topalov is patiently improving his pieces. The strong central pair of knights secures his position, and now he wants to find work for the black-squared bishop via b8-d6, and then eventually to a3 with the idea to fight for the only open file once that he chases away one of the white rooks. On the other hand- Anand has a strong grip on the c line, active pieces, great Catalan bishop, and opportunity to seize the bishop pair at any time by a knight thrust on c6. The position is roughly ballanced. 21.f4 Bb8 22.a4 a5 This move should be good. Indeed, somewhere in the near future White is threatening to advance a4-a5, occupying the c5 square with his knight, followed by a2-a4 (in case that Black replies with b6-b5), and eventually the black pawn on a6 becomes relatively easy target. Now even if Black loses the b6 pawn, the remaining one on a5 is sufficient to stop both the white pawns. Another direction of the game could have been: [22...Bd6 23.a5 b5 24.Nc6 Bxc6 25.Rxc6 Ba3 26.R1c2 Ra8 with compensation for White.] 23.Nc6 A good move, White secures both the bishop pair, and the open file. 23...Bxc6 24.Rxc6 h5 [24...h6 is another way to open air for the king; If Black wanted patiently to repel the white active pieces he could have tried-; 24...Rd6!?

with the idea to exchange one pair of rooks, followed by Kg8-f8-e7-d7 and Rd8-c8. If Anand rejects the offer- 25.R6c4 then strong is 25...Ne3 26.Bxe3 dxe3 and Black is restoring "the bishop ballance" and the position is approximately equal.] 25.R1c4 Ne3? The same plan, but Black not only gives away the extra pawn, he also allows his opponent to preserve both his active rooks. 26.Bxe3 dxe3 27.Bf3?! [27.Rxb6 should be more exact] 27...g6?! also Black does not use his defensive potential, for he had to exchange a pair of rooks: [27...Rd6 28.Rxd6 Bxd6 29.Rc6 Rd8 30.Rxb6 g6 as he can defend the remaining a pawn now. 31.Rb5 (31.Ra6 Bc7) 31...Bc7

White is still slightly better, but Black can defend-in case that Anand comes with his knight for the a pawn, he can counterattack with the rook.] 28.Rxb6 Ba7 29.Rb3 Rd4 30.Rc7 Bb8 31.Rc5 White rooks occupied both the open files, and the bishop cannot defend the a pawn. And since the Catalan bishop controls the a8 square, Black is strategically lost: 31...Bd6 32.Rxa5 Rc8 33.Kg2 Rc2 34.a3 Ra2 [34...Nd5 was a try, and if White wants to promote his pawn as fast as possible, he might let the win slip away- 35.Ra8+ However, after the precise- (Better is-35.Bxd5! exd5 36.Kf3+- and White is winning) 35...Kg7 36.a5 Nc3 37.Ne1 Rc1 38.a6 Rd2 39.a7?! Nxe2! 40.Rg8+ Kxg8 41.a8Q+ Kg7 42.Rxe3 Ng1+ (42...Nxf4+!?) 43.Kf1 Bc5 44.Qe4 Bxe3 45.Qxe3 Nxf3 46.Qxf3 Rxh2 47.a4 Ra2 when the most likely result is a draw.] 35.Nb4 Bxb4 36.axb4

The doubled pawn became a healthy one, and when supported from the rook from behind decides the issue. 36...Nd5 37.b5 Raxa4 38.Rxa4 Rxa4 39.Bxd5 exd5 40.b6 Ra8 41.b7 Rb8 42.Kf3 d4 43.Ke4 The press-conference was brief, just like after the first game, and curiously, Topalov repeated the words of Anand from then- "I simply played badly". The result is equalised, and chess in general is a winner for the moment. 1–0


Topalov Starts with a Win

Impressions from the match
Topalov,V (2805) - Anand,V [D87]
Sofia BUL, WCC2010 Sofia BUL (1.22), 24.04.2010
1.d4 The most difficult move in the game as it was produced by the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. This time, unlike the last year's Mtel Masters tournament he did not block the live-transmission of the game... 1...Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0–0 10.0–0 Na5 11.Bd3 b6 12.Qd2 e5 13.Bh6 cxd4 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.cxd4 exd4 16.Rac1

Topalov is the first one to surprise. His game against Kamsky in Sofia continued with: [16.f4 and was eventually drawn later. This time the Bulgarian uses: "an old analyses, that we prepared some time ago".] 16...Qd6 The only predecessing game in my Megabase saw: [16...Bb7 17.f4 Rc8 18.Rxc8 Qxc8 19.f5 Nc6 20.Rf3 Ne5 21.Rh3 Rh8 22.f6+ Kg8 23.Qh6 Qf8 24.Qxf8+ Kxf8 25.Nxd4 Ke8 26.Bb5+ Kd8 27.Rc3 a6 28.Ba4 b5 29.Bb3 Re8 30.Nf3 1/2 Karjakin,S (2732)-Carlsen,M (2765)/Foros 2008/CBM 125] 17.f4 f6 18.f5 Qe5 19.Nf4 g5 20.Nh5+ Kg8 21.h4 h6 22.hxg5 hxg5 23.Rf3

This was the moment when I arrived in the venue, avoiding the usual fuss of the starting round. Both players had 1.41 at their clocks, which meant that they have spend mere nineteen moves on their 22 starting moves. Anand thought for about twenty minutes, but produced a fatal mistake: 23...Kf7? Topalov did not hesitate too long: [23...Bd7 is probably the best move, and most probably the game should end a draw after some knight sacrifice on f6, followed by a perpetual check. But who knows, probably Topalov had something deeper on his mind...] 24.Nxf6!! And it seems that White is already winning. At the short press-conference Peter Doggers from chessvibes.com asked him if this was still part of his home preparation since he thought for some 5-6 minutes and continued to practically blitz after that. Topalov hesitated for a while, and then replied that "This is quite a typical sacrifice". However, later on he confessed for the Bulgarian National Television that the game was very easy since Anand felt into an opening preparation. I am pretty sure that 24.Nf6 is home made. Zurab Azmaiparashvili who is annotating for the audience in Sofia live was also fully convinced that the game is practically over. The attack that followed was a piece of cake for Veselin: 24...Kxf6 [24...Qxf6 looks somewhat more stubborn, but White wins as well after: 25.Rc7+ the best, though there are two more very interesting moves that might also win- (25.e5; 25.Rh3) 25...Ke8 (25...Kg8 26.e5 Qh6 27.Rh3+- loses control over the vital g5 point) 26.Bb5+ Kd8 27.Rfc3 a6 28.Ba4+- the situation is quite similar to the one that appeared in the game. Black's pieces are completely discoordinated, and helpless. The game may conclude: 28...b5 29.R3c5 Nc4 30.Rxc4 bxc4 31.Qa5

and mate in three follows.] 25.Rh3 Rg8 Or: [25...Rf7 26.Rh6+ Ke7 27.Qxg5+ Ke8 28.Bb5+ Bd7 29.Re6+ Black lacks the time to include more pieces into the defense:; 25...Bd7 26.Rh6+ Ke7 27.Qxg5+ Ke8 28.Be2+-

] 26.Rh6+ Kf7 27.Rh7+ Ke8 [27...Rg7 28.Rxg7+ Kxg7 (28...Qxg7 29.Rc7+) 29.Qxg5+ Kf8 30.Qd8+ Qe8 31.Qxd4 Bd7 32.Rc7 and White is completely winning; 27...Kf6 28.Rcc7 forces Black to sacrifice his queen in order to prevent immediate mate on f7.] 28.Rcc7 Kd8 Even an average GM like me was already clearly seeing what is about to happen: 29.Bb5! Including the last pieces in the assault. 29...Qxe4 [29...Qxb5 30.Qxd4+ is mate; 29...a6 would have givven White a chance for one more nice shot: 30.Rce7! Qd6

31.Qxg5!! Rxg5 32.Re8#] 30.Rxc8+ [30.Rce7 was winning similarly like the line above, but Topalov sees a more prosaic win:; 30.Rxc8+ Kxc8 31.Qc1+ Nc6 32.Bxc6 Qe3+ 33.Qxe3 dxe3 34.Bxa8 with a sure extra piece rather than mate.] 1–0
The press conference was short, and Anand confessed that he simply played badly, rather than being tired after the long trip. “Tomorrow is a new day, and a new game”, said the world champion.
The start of the match is great, and I am expecting a great battle now.


Sydney Open in Parramatta

Sydney, the Capital city of New South Wales was again hosting its 4th International Open with players from 12 Federations participating. This included players from Europe, Asia and Oceania. The event is held in the beautiful city of Parramatta, which is in fact a part from Sydney.
Sydney is the home city of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and is also the closest city to the Capital of Australia, Canberra. Apart from Chess, Australia also plays Rugby, Soccer, Cricket, Swimming and not to forget the Australian Football (a.k.a Footy).
The 2010 Sydney International Open coincided with the end of the 48th Doeberl Cup 2010. This back-to-back events made it like a "single strike two down" events for all the foreigners to come and participate. This year the organizers made a one-day break between the tournaments, which is still something if you consider the fact that both the events are nine rounds, played in five days. Amongst the participants were ten GM's, eight IM's, three FM's and as for the women, three WIM's and 1 WFM. The arbiters were also quite colourful mixture- from Australia, Papua New Guinea and The Fiji Islands. It is worth mentioning that one of the arbiters-Shawn Press is the leader of the Papua New Guinea team, where his captain is none the less but the chief organizer of the Sydney open- Brian Jones. Aussies were also delighted that the world Under 8 (2009) equal second, Anton Smirnov took part at the event.
After Canberra most of the outlanders came to themselves, and it seemed to me that the tournament is proceeding in a more logical way that the one in the Australian capital. There lacked any major upsets on the top boards in the first rounds, and logically the heavy-weighted battles started somewhere around round three. The top six games were transmitted live, and again there were the marvelous annotations by Ian Rogers as a bonus for the audience. At the first day he called me and asked me a couple of questions about my game and the Canberra tournament in general. I complained about the jetlag, but admitted that for this tournament I have no more excuses. So, I have burned down the “excuse bridges” and had to get seriously to busyness. I started well scoring some good wins, and sharing the point with the top-seeded Li Chao. The third day was especially lucky for me. First I had a terrible position against Indian GM Panchanathan, who could torture me as long as he liked without any risk, but we felt in time trouble just when the position got open and required precise calculations, and I managed to trick him. We played until twenty minutes before the start of the sixth round, and logically I was groggy against the Ukrainian Malaniuk, but Lady Luck did not let me down, when in very difficult position for me his flag felt. I took the sole lead. However, on the next day, I had to pay my dues back, by first not converting an extra pawn in a rook endgame against Fernandez, and later spoiling an excellent position against the top Aussie Zhao Zong Yue. Going into the final round Zhao and Gawain Jones were leading with 6.5/8, and a quick draw secured them a shared first. I should mention that they equally deserved their excellent result, since they both did not lose any games, and played quite confidently. The next three boards were fighting hard to catch up with them. On second the game Kunte-Fernandez saw advantage for white, but Black saved himself by constructing a marvelous fortress with two bishops versus a queen. This game brought a second IM norm for the Singaporean Daniel Fernandez, and he was really close to a GM one! He did lost only one game against Malaniuk, and scored 6.5 point conveniently. The young fellow’s coach at the moment is none less but Zurab Azmaiparashvili himself. Fourth table saw Li Chao’s hopes for another trophy disappear after the calm defense by V. Malanuik, who managed to convert an extra pawn. Finally, on board three I had a do or die clash against the Indian’s second ever GM D. Barua, which eventually ended in my favour, and this brought to a three-way tie for the first. Bucholz seems to be a cousin of Lady Luck, for it gave me a half point margin in front of my rivals.
On Saturday Parramatta becomes a market place and has many visitors. The chess players used that fact to organize simultaneous exhibition in front of the venue with prices for the winners, and it was quite successful for I have seen people sitting for a while, and learning the basic rules of the game.
The tournament was over, and we used the opportunity to see the Blue Mountains resort, and the Featherdale Wildlife Park.


Doeberl Cup in Canberra

At the beginning of 20-th century there was a strong debate which major city to be the capital of Australia. There were two main contenders- Sydney and Melbourne, but somehow none of them prevailed. Finally, a compromise decision was taken that there is an independent capital, somewhere between the two major cities, and this is how the town of Canberra was created. It now has approximately 300 000 inhabitants, and the Australian institutions are situated here.
This year’s Doeberl cup took place between 1-5 Aprils in Australia’s capital. The tournament is named after the architect Erich Doeberl who strongly supported the tournament for the years that he lived, supplying the bigger part of the price fund, and some times giving additional funds when he was especially satisfied with the course of the event (unfortunately that noble chess lover passed away some years ago, but the tournament is still named after him).
It was a nine-round Swiss Premier open, including additional sections-Major, Minor and U 1200. We can claim that it was quite successful, as the altogether number of participants almost caught up with the old record of most participating players (268, back in 1985 as our chief arbiter Shaun Press had explained to me).
For financial reasons there were double rounds almost every day starting from the first round. Australia is way away from Europe, and the first days it was more survival rather than chess tournament, as the jetlag was telling itself. Waking up at four a.m. is not a nice way to prepare for a morning game, and in that relation the Aussies (or Ozzies- as the locals name themselves) have definite advantage against the guest players. Going a bit in advance I would say that they managed to use that perfectly by scoring one GM and 3 IM norms in the tournament, which was huge success, and one of the main ideas of the event as the chief organizer Charles Bishop explained at the closing ceremony.
One of the most interesting features of the event was the so called fighting price fund. An extra thousand dollars were to be distributed for those who win their last efforts, but there were two additional conditions- those players should not have made any grandmaster draws (GM draw here was considered a game that ends in a draw before the thirtieth move), and the contenders for the price are only players who have equal or more points to the score of the player on board four.
Curiously, no one could win that price this year. The lowest score on board four was 5.5 points, which meant that only the top five boards are competing for the fighting fund. First board saw a quick draw between Li Chao and Malaniuk, which secured a clear first for the Chinese player, who owed the white pieces, and eventually shared third for the Ukrainian. Smooth tournament for Li Chao, since he was not ever in danger in any of his games. Board two saw an eventful game between Panchanathan and Smerdon, which eventually ended peacefully but after a long fight. It was Indians only draw in the tournament, but in an inconvenient moment. Board three saw a drama, as another Indian GM- Kunte who was dictating the game blundered a whole queen against the local George Xie. Xie though had a quick draw in the last but one round and was already out of the fighting fund fight. Nevertheless he can be completely satisfied with his tournament-clear second place, but what is more important-he scored his last and definite GM norm, that will soon bring him the title. Board four saw Roy Chowdhury winning as white against Zhao Zong Yuan, but he also had an under-thirty move draw (this was however questionable since his draw was a repetition of moves, that might have been avoided). Last, but not least we had the most eventful game of the round between Gawain Jones and Rej Tomek. White was first completely winning (extra exchange), then completely lost (clear piece down in an endgame), and finally it was a draw. Tomek’s consolation was the achieved IM norm, and two more Australians managed to do so.
One of the most remarkable points of the tournament was the live commentaries of GM Ian Rogers. Australian’s best player ever was annotating for the wide audience throughout the whole round, supporting by his wife Cathy.
There was very little time for sight-seeing after the closing ceremony, and we used it to visit the nearby Canberra nature park and make pictures of the kangaroos.
Sydney open starts tomorrow, another report to follow soon.



Kissing the stone for luck.

The first round in the tournament had to start at 8 p.m. on 26-th of March, so I took the advice given by the locals to go to Blarney. It is a small town, situated some ten kilometers away from Cork, where a noble old castle is the main attraction. The guys told me that there is a stone that brings luck if you kiss it, I could not miss this before the tournament for sure; it was not easy though, and there is some risk for the ordinary chess player…
The thing that they did not explain to me at the beginning is that kissing the stone also means that you get that gift of speaking too many things without saying anything, rubbish to put it mildly…there is even such a word in the English language, and it comes precisely from that place. The story tells that it was the Queen who addressed the word to a noble called Blarney, and it started its existence since then.
Anyway the place was wonderful, with some old buildings, druid and witch stones, wonderful lake, some funny animals and lots of flowers.
There were three tournaments altogether, although the participants were a bit less than expected.
The event started without big surprises, and up to the fourth round the top seeded four players in the “A” open had full amount of points. I should admit that in round three the Blarney stone did quite a good job in my game against Philip Short- a five-time Cork champion and local legend when he blundered in the time trouble in winning endgame.
Before the final round I managed somehow to get half a point advance and the white pieces against Alex Baburin in the final one. Alex is a strong Russian player who lives for seventeen years already in Ireland, and represents the country. He was not in his best form though, and could not show the best of his play. We drew our encounter, and this gave a chance for two players more to tie for the first- Alex Lopez, young Spanish player who lives in Cork, and Bogdan Lalic. The former one had the habit of coming late at least 10-15 minutes for the game, but I managed finally to take a picture of him at the closing ceremony.
There was a small surprise before the closing ceremony, since the top two players in each group had to place an “Armageddon” blitz game to define the winner. In group “C” there was a four way-tie for the top, but only the best two played a game. One important thing was that the games were “friendly”- which means that you can touch any piece that you want, and even take your move back before you press the clock. In case of a draw, a second game would have taken place. The calmer young player won the blitz game in the “C” tournament.
“B” tournament saw a clear winner, so there was no match. However, our cute organizer Michael Bradley, after a first-game bye due to the organizational stuff managed to score 4/5 in the remaining games, and to tie for the second place. “Connections, what to do”, explained he at the ceremony, presenting the price for himself. By the way, he is from Blarney himself, do not be astonished.
From our three-way tie Alex Lopez had the worst criteria, and did not play. I chose the white pieces (remember the stone?), and was lucky enough to win the game. I received the chance to make some pictures with the wonderful cup, and the promise to defend the title the next year.
However, the thing that I am most proud of are the remarks of two of the local players who took part in the Tactical Lecture on Thursday, one day before the tournament- that they managed to win one game each thanks to the knowledge they got that night.
Next stop- Australia.