The Art of Excuses

The Grandfather of the chess wisdom Saviely Tartakower once wished that he would be able to win a game against a totally healthy man. It appeared that anytime he had won one (which he actually did quite regularly) his opponents appeared to be suffering of something.
After four rounds of the Cork Chess Congress I was in the Excuse-Search-Mode. Desperately. I have just lost a game against Simon Williams, an endgame a pawn down but with opposite colored bishops on the board. It was one of those positions which one considers easy to hold when looking outside the board, and devilishly unpleasant to defend over the board. Taking into an account the draw that I made in the previous round the chances of a price seemed already gone.
Well, I thought, my headaches are good excuses. Right, but they are something which I always have throughout the tournaments. And it did not prevent me from winning an important game at the last Cork Congress.
I’ve been rusty, did not play for a long time? True, but this happens to everyone. Have a look at Alex (Baburin) who plays very seldom at the Irish events and is a whole point ahead of you.
Then, you know, the toe of my right leg aches. I even went to the Doctor for that.
You know what, I said to myself, if we continue this way I might end up with a recommendation of head amputation for stupidity.
Let me try first to win my two remaining games and think again about the excuses then.
It actually appeared not that bad as I managed to win both of them:

Collins,S (2465) - Bojkov,D (2507)
Cork (6), 21.04.2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 cxd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.Nb3 a5 15.Be3 a4 16.Nbd2 Bd7 17.Rc1 Qb7 18.Qe2 Rfe8 19.Bd3 Rab8 20.dxe5 Nxe5

In this theoretical position Sam decided to surprise me:

21.Bb1 [21.Nxe5 dxe5 22.Bc5 is the main course of the events instead.]

21...Bc6 [After a brief check I decided to hit the center. This leads to a very interesting tactical skirmish:]

22.Nd4!? Bxe4 23.Nxe4 Nxe4 24.Nc6!

24...Ng5! [The only way.]

[24...Nxc6? loses the horse on the pin after: 25.Bxe4 Rec8 (I must admit that I missed the check in this line- 25...d5 26.Bxd5 Nd4 27.Bxf7+ Kxf7 28.Bxd4 Bb4 29.Qh5+) 26.Qf3 Ne5 27.Bxb7 Nxf3+ 28.Bxf3+–]

25.Nxe7+ [We both missed in the line: 25.Nxb8 Ngf3+ that White can go for the tricky- 26.Kh1!? (Instead- 26.gxf3 Nxf3+ 27.Kf1 leads to a draw- 27...Nh2+ (Sam was afraid of: 27...Nd4 but there is a simple refutation- 28.Qg4 Qh1+ 29.Qg1 Qxh3+ 30.Qg2+–) 28.Kg1 Nf3+=) 26...Nxe1

I saw that far, the computer a bit further- 27.Nc6 the same motif again. It's funny how people (or it is probably just me) tend to miss recurring tactical themes in a single game. 27...Nxc6 28.Be4 True, this time the resource- 28...d5 works- 29.Bxd5 Nd3 30.Qxd3 Nb4 31.Qxh7+!? (Or- 31.Bxb7 Nxd3 32.Rc7 Nxb2 and Black should survive.) 31...Kxh7 32.Bxb7 Nxa2=]

25...Qxe7 26.f4?! [26.Qh5 Better was: Although also interesting is: 26...h6 (when I intended to go for: 26...Ngf3+ 27.gxf3 g6 28.Qh6 Nxf3+ 29.Kg2 (29.Kh1 Qb7) 29...Nxe1+ (29...Qf6? 30.Red1 Nh4+ 31.Kh2+–) 30.Rxe1 with unclear play) 27.f4 Nc4 (27...Ngf3+ 28.gxf3 g6 29.Qxh6 Nxf3+ 30.Kf1 Nxe1 31.Rxe1±) 28.Bf2 Ne6 29.Qf5 Still, in this line White keeps strong pressure for the sacrificed pawn.]

26...Nc4 27.Rxc4?

One mistake and the game is thrown away. White could go for an endgame:]

[27.fxg5 Qxe3+ 28.Qxe3 Rxe3 29.Rxe3 Nxe3 30.Kf2 Nc4 31.b3 axb3 32.axb3 Na5 33.b4 Nc4 34.Be4 The good bishop compensates a bit the lost pawn.]

27...Nxh3+ 28.gxh3 [Or: 28.Kh2 Qh4]

28...bxc4 29.Qg4 Rxb2

The bishops will not have the time to show their potential. White resigned.]


The top board that day finished a draw. Alex Baburin was half a point behind Simon Williams and everyone was surprised seeing him call it a day in a playable position with good chances for an advantage. The Englishman won the tournament, Baburin came second, I took third.
However, I was most proud of Michael Bradley, who scored 5/6 at the major tournament to share the second place! Fionn O'Neil won this section, and Padraig Sheehy won the minor section with 6/6.


Interview with WGM Margarita Voiska

The beginning of the Bulgarian Individual championships is a good occasion for a quick interview with the freshly crowned European Senior Champion for women, WGM Margarita Voiska of Bulgaria:

Hello, Margarita, and congratulations for your title! How did the tournament go for you?

I learned that I can take part at the event around a month prior to the start. Right before the championship, I took part at the traditional Ladies tournament in Belgrade. Unfortunately, I had to play there while taking strong antibiotics (caught some unpleasant season virus) and did not feel quite comfortable. Thus, my performance was not satisfactory, started with +2, but ended with three straight losses; all of them caused my painful blunders.
In fact I started the championship in low spirits… I was worried that there will be fatigue as it was the second straight tournament but it appeared that it was not quite like that. The old chess saying: “The best medicine for chess player is a win!”- found another proof! With each round my mood was getting higher. My play was running smooth and I managed to realize (almost) all my ideas! And as a whole Plovdiv is my favourite Bulgarian city, not only chess- wise. Plus, the conditions at the Novotel were once again excellent.

Which was your most difficult game?

My most difficult, albeit short was the game against Nona Gaprindashvili. Perhaps because prior to the game Nona was the indisputable leader in our encounters. Right after the opening I offered a draw, which she found hard not to accept J. However, the tensest was my last but one game against Tamar Khmiadashvili of Georgia which appeared to be decisive for the overall ranking. I also came out of the opening with a solid advantage, but slowed down with the realization and achieved only a draw in a rook endgame, a pawn up. I guess I played over solidly as the draw was enough to secure the first place.

And your best effort?
This is probably my best game from the championship:
Miednikova,Swietlana (2142) - Voiska,Margarita (2289)
13th European Senior Ch (w) Plovdiv BUL (2), 12.03.2013
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c6 4.Bc4 d6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.e5 dxe5 7.Nxe5 0–0 8.0–0 Nbd7 9.a4 a5 10.Bb3 Nb6 11.f4 Nbd5 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Be3 Bf5 14.c3 Qb6 15.Rf2 Rad8 16.Bc2 Ne4 17.Bxe4 Bxe4 18.Nd3 Qc6 19.Nc5 Bf5 20.g4 Bc8 21.Qf3 b6 22.Nd3 f6 23.f5

23...e5 24.fxe6 Qxe6 25.h3 Rfe8 26.Bf4 Qc6 27.Re2 Rxe2 28.Qxe2 Ba6 29.Qf3 Qc4 30.Rd1 Re8 31.Nc1 Re4 32.b3 Qc6 33.Bg3 Bh6 34.Bf2 Bc8 35.Ne2 f5 36.gxf5 Bxf5 37.Ng3 Rf4 38.Qe2 Bxh3 39.c4 Bg4

White resigned. 0–1

You work as a trainer of some of the Bulgarian young talents. Does this work help your chess?

The trainers work helps as it keeps me informed about the chess life around the world. Still, it matters who I am working with. If the students are highly qualified, the coach should also stay in top-form in order to provide best services. But if one teaches beginners who have just learned the basics, then the coaching might harm the player’s strength.

What was your preparation for the tournament like? Did you get any additional support?

I prepare for the tournaments alone, except for the team championships with the Bulgarian national team- Olympiads and European Team Competitions. In those I use the advises of GM Boris Chatalbashev (in the last few years), especially regarding the opening preparation. We have similar opening repertoires and I profited a lot from our co-operation. Of lately I pay the most attention to the opening phase, and of course the tactical sharpness before a chess tournament. Now that I look at my last games I get the feeling that I will need to pay serious attention to my technique, especially when converting the advantage!

What are your tournament plans for the future? Will you represent Bulgaria at the World Senior Championship?

In the nearest future I will take part at the Bulgarian Individual Championship in Bankya where I hope I can show good play above all! In a slightly more distant perspective there are the sea tournaments in June at the Golden Sands and Albena resorts... and at the end of the year the World Senior Championship will take place in Croatia where I might also play. I have planned it, but we shall see… there is a slight conflict of interests as the Senior Championship coincides with the ETCC for women in Poland. Still, the future will show…

Thank you for the interview! I wish you good luck in your projects!
Pictures BCF and Emilia Georgieva.


The Newest Bulgarian Grandmaster

At the beginning of March a very strong open tournament took place in Macedonia. It was won by the Croatian GM Kozul and overall eight players tied for the first place.
The tournament was though memorable for a participant who scored half a point less, but who obtained his final GM norm. This was Petar Arnaudov from Bulgaria, a very original and unpredictable player with entertaining style of play.

He was very kind to annotate one of his efforts from the event for the readers of the blog:
Arnaudov,G (2468) - Damljanovic,B (2562) [A30]
Karpos Open 2013 Skopje MKD (3.15), 10.03.2013
[Petar Arnaudov]

Karpos Open in Skopije was a really strong and excellently organized tournament. It will also be quite a memorable event for me since I managed to achieve my last GM norm.After two easy wins in the first two rounds, I faced in round 3 Serbian chess legend GM B. Damljianovic.

1.Nf3 c5 [Now my preparation was over :)This was our second game for the day and I did not have much time to prepare. Branco is famous for his fighting spirit and his main weapon is The Kings Indian Defense which I mainly expected. ]

2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0–0 a6 [This is not the main move but it is perfectly playable. Hedgehog expert S.Shipov recommends 6...Be7 which is more flexible]


This is quite an interesting system which I prepared some months ago and this is my first game in it. I have tried 7.d4 and 7.Re1 many times in the past.]

7...d6 8.Bb2 Nbd7 9.d4 [9.e3 Be7 10.d4 This is the main theory, which is also quite interesting.]

9...cxd4 10.Nxd4!? [This was the first critical moment in the game. If Q:d4 we will be in a well known variation where black should be quite OK. The key difference between this position and the one after 7.d4 cd 8.N:d4 (which is quite harmless and black equalizes easily) is that Black cannot play the idea Qc8 and Nc6. Now the N cannot come to c6 and Black should be very careful to maintain the balance. White plan is very simple e3, f4 and Qf3.]

10...Bxg2 11.Kxg2 Rc8 [11...Qc7!? 12.e3 Qb7+ 13.Qf3 Qxf3+ 14.Nxf3+/=

this position is very unpleasant for black who do not have any counter play.]

12.e3 h5?! [My opinion is that this is too optimistic and just bad.]

13.f4! [This move is quite strong and unexpected for my opponent. I believe that here he understood that his position is dangerous. Maybe he was hoping for :

[13.h4? Be7= where the g4 square is very weak; Or- 13.h3 Qc7 14.f4 Nc5 15.Qf3 Nd3 16.Ba3 d5 with unclear play.]

13...Be7 [This move comes after 60 !!! minutes of thinking. It is clear that white has won the opening battle.]

[13...h4!? If black continues with his idea, 14.g4 h3+ 15.Kh1І the pawn on h3 seems very weak]

14.Qf3 Qc7 15.h3!

I like this move a lot. Now If black castles, g4 will come and the black king will feel unsafe.Black has no useful moves here. On the other hand, White can increase the pressure with Rd1, Rf2-d2, Ba3]

15...Rg8?! [This move came as a shock for me, I did not consider it at all. Now the very experienced Grandmaster tries to confuse me, he threatens g5 attempting to take control over e5 square. Pushing the pawn to g4 is also a possible threat. I think that after this move Black's position is strategically lost.]

[15...0–0 16.g4 g6 17.Rad1 Nc5 18.g5 Ne8 19.f5± this is just one variation which shows how dangerous blacks position is]

16.Ne4 [I like this move, despite the fact that computer does not agree with me .]

[16.Rad1 g5 17.fxg5 Ne5 (17...Rxg5 18.Ne4 Rg6 19.Nxf6+ Nxf6 20.Ne2 e5 21.Nc3 +/=) 18.Qf4 Nfd7 19.h4± Nf8 these variations look quite good for white, but I did not want to give any chance to black to complicate matters. I believe that his position is strategically lost and I do not want to allow him any chances for a dynamic play.]

16...g6 [16...Nxe4 17.Qxe4 g5 18.fxg5 Rxg5

19.Rxf7! Kxf7 20.Rf1++–]

17.Nxf6+ Bxf6 18.Rad1 [The rule "Exchange minor pieces if you lack space" is not valid here. So the trades of two minor pieces can only be in White's favour.]

18...Bg7 19.Rd2 [Prophylactics, Black has no counter-play and now I prepared to double on the d-file and in the same time protect the bishop just in case.]

19...Nc5 20.Ba3!

Now b4-b5 is a threat]

[20.Rfd1? This automatic move would be a mistake here because : 20...f5! and black has good chances.]

20...Bf8 21.Rfd1 Be7 [21...Qb7 22.Bxc5 Qxf3+ 23.Nxf3 dxc5 (23...bxc5 24.Ng5; 23...Rxc5 24.Ng5) ]

22.b4 [Now everything is ready to for the final effort and blacks position collapses very quickly.]

22...Na4 [22...Nb7 23.Rc2 +/=]

23.b5 g5 [the last try to complicate matters.]

24.fxg5 [But I had 1 hour against 30 seconds here and I had enough time to find the best moves and to finish my opponent.]

24...Rxg5 25.bxa6 Qxc4 26.a7 Qd5 27.Nc6 Qxf3+ 28.Kxf3 Nc5 29.Nb8

Very elegant finish. Now a8 -Q is coming, so my opponent resigned. I am very proud of this game, the fact that I outplayed so convincingly such a famous and experienced Grandmaster. I believe that this is one of my best games so far.Finally I finished the tournament with 6.5 from 9 with 2643 performance which achieved me my final GM norm.]