Sunday, July 15, 2007

Round 9: Other Key Results and Comments

The Board 1 matchup between GM's Bu and Miton featured the identical opening to Bu's win over Atalik from Round 8. Miton played 13...Bxc3, capturing what looked like a "hot pawn", instead of Atalik's 13...Ba3+, but this may have been a case where using Fritz, Rybka, or some other silicon oracle, came in handy. Indeed after the cool 16...a5!, it was tough to find anything convincing for White, despite the risky-looking position of Black's King. Bu tried a couple of different discovered check sequences, but ultimately settled for a threefold repetition.

Bu - Miton: Slav Defence

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 e6 7.f3 c5 8.e4 cxd4 9.exf5 Bb4 10.Be3!? dxc3 11.Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.0–0–0+ Ke7 13.bxc3 Bxc3!? 14.Bc5+ Ke8 15.Nxc4 Nbd7 16.Ba3 a5! 17.Nd6+ Ke7 18.Nc8+ Ke8 19.Nd6+ Ke7 20.fxe6 fxe6 21.Nf5+ Kf7 22.Nd6+ Ke7 23.Nc8+ Kf7 24.Nd6+ Ke7 25.Nf5+ Kf7 26.Nd6+ Ke7 27.Nf5+ Kf7 ½–½.

If this defensive idea holds for Black, I will have to downgrade 10.Be3! to 10.Be3!?, but I suspect we may not have seen the end of this line yet (well, probably in this tournament). Regardless, it is still a pretty cool move!


GM Milov scored an important win with Black against former leader GM Suat Atalik of Turkey, so he faces top seed, GM Bu, tomorrow on Board 1:

Atalik - Milov: King's Indian

1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.e4 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nge2 0–0 7.0–0 Nh5 8.Bc2 e5 9.d5 Ne7 10.a4 c5 11.f4 exf4 12.Nxf4 Nf6 13.Nd3 Ng4 14.h3 Bd4+ 15.Kh1 Ne3 16.Bxe3 Bxe3 17.Qf3 Bh6 18.Qg3 f5 19.e5 dxe5 20.Qxe5 Bg7 21.Qe2 b6 22.Rae1 Bf6 23.Nf4 Kh8 24.Rf3 Bd7 25.Re3 Nc8 26.Ne6 Bxe6 27.dxe6 Ne7 28.Rd3 Qb8 29.Rd7 Qg3 30.Nd5 Rae8 31.Qd1 Nxd5 32.cxd5 Re7 33.Rxe7 Bxe7 34.Qd2 Rd8 35.Re3 Qf4 36.g3 Qf1+ 37.Kh2 f4 38.gxf4 Qxf4+ 39.Kg2 Rxd5 40.Qxd5 Qxe3 41.Qd7 Qe2+ 42.Kg3 Qe3+ 43.Kg2 Qg5+ 44.Kf3 Kg7 45.Qxa7 Qf6+ 46.Ke2 Qxe6+ 47.Kd1 Kh6 48.Qc7 Qd5+ 49.Ke2 Bg5 0–1.


The other big win on the top boards went to English GM Nigel Short, who took the full point with Black against Ottawa's IM Tom O'Donnell. Short was apparently quite pleased to not make it "six in a row", referring to his long drawing streak since starting the event with 3-0. With a win in the final round, he will cinch a minimum of equal-3rd, depending on the results on the top two boards between the four players on 7 points.

O'Donnell - Short: Nimzo-Indian

1.d4!? Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 b6 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Bb7 7.Nf3

Not the sharpest line. 7.Bg5 is the hot theory here, but Tom has only recently made the switch from a lifetime of 1.e4 to 1.d4. I joked with him after this game, pointing out that his e-pawn stayed on e2 for nearly the entire game, and he actually ended the game with 35.e3 - so the e-pawn has gone from a star with top billing to a completely minor side show! :-)

7...d6 8.g3 c5 9.dxc5 bxc5 10.Bg2 a5 11.0–0 a4

Gaining space on the Q-side. Initially I thought that White should not have allowed Black to clamp down like this, but it turns out that Tom has a specific idea in mind.

12.Rd1 Ra6!? 13.b4 axb3 14.Qxb3 Bc6 15.a4 Qc7 16.Bd2!? 0–0 17.Be1 Nbd7 18.a5

So White is simply playing to pester Black with the passed a-pawn, and use its annoying presence as a (hopeful) distraction to certain Black plans of action. I wasn't fully convinced that Black couldn't eventually round it up (by playing ...N/d7-b8-c6, say), but that will take some time, which may in turn give White time to make counterplay elsewhere. My intuition sensed a small plus for Black, with his central pawn advantage.

18...Rfa8 19.Ra3 h6 20.h3 R8a7!? 21.g4?!

This seemed out of character for Tom's style, and I speculated if a time shortage may have been responsible for his decision to "do something active". Nigel had spoken briefly to me on one of my errands to the playing room for .pgn updates, and suggested that "winning on time" might figure into his plans for winning today's game.
It turns out that Tom was, in fact, somewhat short of time, but that his real reason for playing actively had more to do with the book, Chess for Tigers, which advocates randomizing positions against significantly higher-rated opponents if you feel that playing your own game is going to simply be bound to failure. Interesting idea!?
Both Tom and Nigel were present in the commentary room after the end of their game, and we were fortunate to share some opinions on these matters. Nigel was actually most concerned about Tom finding a way to "do nothing" in a constructive fashion, and leave it to Black to find a convincing plan to improve his position and play for a win. He was also very quick to point out that there are very few players in the world who can do nothing constuctively, so to speak, and that it was a real talent! He also made the witty observation that contrary to what has been written in several chess books, he felt that "Having no plan is far superior to having a bad plan!" Several books (and I agree that I have seen them as well) advocate the opposite, saying that a bad plan is better than no plan at all. In Nigel's opinion, no plan will not necessarily worsen one's position, whereas a bad plan is usually labelled bad because it creates some kind of damage. In this sense, it was unfortunate that Tom decided upon the plan (ultimately bad) of advancing his g-pawn. Now Nigel had something concrete to focus on!

21...Nf8 22.Qe3 e5 23.g5 hxg5 24.Nxg5 Bxg2 25.Kxg2 Ng6

All foreseen since move 21. Black aims to exploit the weakened f4 and h4 squares.

26.Rb3 Ra8 27.Rdb1 R6a7 28.f3 Nf4+ 29.Kh2 Re8!?

Another interesting psychological moment. Black could immediately bear down on the weak h3-pawn with 29...Qc8, say, but as Nigel pointed out, White would undoubtedly be quite prepared for such a direct threat. Instead, Black feints with a useful move - for example, on the reasonable try, 30.Bg3, Black simply takes on a5, and now 31.Bxf4, eliminating the powerful N/f4, loses the e2-pawn after 31...exf4 opens up the e-file. With time ticking, Nigel's move is a much tougher one to meet, and Tom admitted to running out of ideas here. He wasn't particularly satisfied with the move he chose.

30.Rb6 Qd7 31.Rb8 Ra8 32.Rxa8 Rxa8

So the h3-pawn is targeted after all, and with serious consequences.

33.h4 Nh7! 34.Qg1?

34.Qf2 is only slightly better, but Black wins minimum of a pawn, with a vastly superior position.

34...f6 35.e3

35...Nxg5! 0–1.
Unfortunately for White, only one Black knight can be taken at a time, so White is getting mated on h3.
According to Chief Arbiter, Jonathan Berry, Toronto teen, Nikolay Noritsyn of Canada has made a 9-game IM norm at this event, holding three GM's to draws (Miton, Milov and Rychagov, and losing only to GM Tiviakov). Congratulations on a great result!
Tomorrow's final round is at the ungodly hour of 10 am (those inconsiderate out-of-towners who have planes to catch, etc....I tell ya! :-))
It's been a great event, but like the players, I am going to need some sleep to have sufficient energy to wrap things up nicely....see you soon.

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