Your trusty correspondent has finally recharged, and provided reports from Day 2 - read on and enjoy!
The first Sunday at a Canadian Open is a very long day for nearly everyone involved. I am not a chessplaying participant at this wonderful event, yet I did not leave the Marriott site until nearly midnight, and I arrived at 10 am. For directors, various committee workers, affiliate staff, and volunteers, I imagine some were there even longer. And players, well a few kept me talking into the late evening, so they weren't getting much of a free ride either!
The reason for all this is the dreaded North American standard of 2 chess games in one day. Having lived in Europe for a few years, and played a significante amount of international chess, I can tell you that the 2 games per day phenomenon is largely a North American one. Most of the Europeans here, I am fairly certain, are not used to the 2nd game, and as such I had expected a fair number (but not excessive) of amicable handshakes in one of the two rounds to save energy and make it through the day - then it dawned upon me that there was a tournament rule in place that draws were not to be offered until move 30!
Well, that certainly changed the complexion of the day's results completely! To everyone's credit, I must say, I saw very few individuals complaining....it was almost as if they were saying, to borrow from a famous saying,"Well, when in Canada, do what the Canadians do, eh?" At the same time, I am sure everyone (Canucks and Yankees included) will be relieved to fall back to the relatively stress-free and relaxed tempo of 1 game per day. The tireless Organizing Committee, MonRoi, directors, and other workers etc. (myself included) will also be pleased to see the back of this past weekend - pretty crazy at times, but we all made it through, and as far as I know, there were no serious casualties.
On to some games from Rounds 2 and 3 - there were some terrific fights. Board 1 on Sunday morning proved to be another powerful endgame demonstration by GM Bu, over recently settled (from Belarus), 17-year-old Artem Samsonkin, of Toronto (incidentally, if anyone else knows a simple way to include diagrams in these blogs (I am using ChessBase Light for the gamescores), please let me or Tim Bouma know in the comments. I'm afraid I am not sufficiently up on the current tech. For now, intended diagrams are listed as **D**) -thanks.
Bu - Samsonkin (2): King's Indian, Fianchetto
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.Nc3 d6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0–0 e5
The move Black aims for in many variations of this opening, but here Black plays it directly when a Queen exchange is possible. More typical are 7...Bf5 (as was played in Kaminski-Krnan from this round), Bg4 and Qa5. The text gives White a small, riskless plus, and gives Black far fewer opportunities to complicate.
8.dxe5 Nxe5 9.Nxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Rxd8 11.Bg5 Rd4
The threats of 12.Nd5 and 12.Ne4, or even 12.Bxf6 and 13.Nd5, forking, have to be met somehow.
12...Rxc4 13.Rfd1 Be6 14.Bxb7 Rb8 15.Ba6! Rc6 16.Bb5, and with a7 hanging, Black's position is terrible. The tactic 16...Rxc3 17.bxc3 Rxb5 predictably runs into 18.Rd8+ Bf8 19.Bh6 Nd7 20.Rd1!, winning. Black's main difficulties here stem from a poorly developed Q-side and some back rank weakness.
13.b4!? Ng4 14.Bc5 e4!? **D**
White's 13th anticipated Black's desire to play ...c7-c6, blunting the long diagonal and facilitating development. Black's reaction hopes to exploit the long diagonal. Complex play ensues.
Accepting the gauntlet. 15.Rac1 is the chief alternative, but 15...f5 seems OK for Black, even after a line-opening 16.f3 exf3. The Exchange sacrifice is certainly the most interesting of options, although during the commentary I had suggested that in hindsight, White may have regretted his choice of 13.b4, regardless of its logic. At least now Black has a tiny bit of material as comp for his awkward mobility problems on the Q-side.
15...Bxa1 16.Rxa1 f5 17.Nc3 Nf6!
Controlling e4. If White can play e2-e4 and open a line for his Rook without allowing wholesale exchanges, Black's sleeping Q-side will cost dearly.
18.e3 Kf7 19.Bd4 a6
I liked White's idea to simply anchor the dark-squared Bishop on d4. Black's last is an attempt to slowly unravel the Q-side with ...Rb8 and ...b6, and make his material count for something.
20.Rb1 Rb8 21.c5 Ne4!?
During the live commentary of this game, I could not understand why Black was so eager to give a pawn away. But as things transpired, it appears that Black was simply doing so to enable the completion of his Q-side development, something that has been plaguing him from the get-go. 21.c5 made the planned 21...b6 impossible, as simply 22.cxb6 cxb6 23.Be5 costs an Exchange.
The text makes an odd impression, but it may be a reasonable decision in practice. Certainly, freeing Black's pieces on the Q-side must have provided some mental relief.
Another interesting choice. Reflexively, I had expected White to take the pair of bishops with 22.Nxe4, but Bu clearly believed that the bishop and knight duo compliment each other better. My old Fritz 4 engine agrees with me to the tune of 3/10 of a pawn, but what do they know anyway? Maybe they prefer tactics with bishops over knights?
22...fxe4 23.Nxe4 Re7 24.Nd2 Be6 25.a3 Rd8
Finally, Sleeping Beauty has awakened!
26.Nf3 Bf5 27.Rc1 h6 28.Nd2 g5 29.f3 Bd3 30.g4! Bb5 31.Nf1 Kg6
An important moment. There were some spectators in my commentary room that opined Black should eliminate this knight with 31...Bxf1 before it could arrive on the g3-square. The endgames are going to be very delicate for Black in all cases. White has two pawns for the Exchange, and most importantly a solid outpost for his B/d4. This is key - not only is material roughly even, the minor piece is pulling it's full weight against Black's rook. Here, it is probably superior.
So, even if Black chooses a line with 31...Bxf1, the resulting endgame will see White with all of the active plans (pawn breaks and advances, h2-h4 being a key one), and Black will have to adopt a "wait and see" strategy, in other words, passive defence. This may result in a draw, but will be a depressing chore to defend. Leaving the extra set of minors on the board will not change the possibility of defending passively, but it will provide Black with his bishop should he choose to seize a moment and defend actively (by returning some material, and aiming for counterplay). This was Samsonkin's choice in the game, and while it ultimately fell short, I was not able to say which course of action was more likely to offer the best hope for Black. The actual game was certainly more exciting for the spectators!
32.Ng3 Rf7 33.Kg2! Bc6 34.Rf1 **D**
Accurate defence. 33.Kf2, which looks more natural, would have allowed 33...Bc6 34.Nf5 h5!, with counterplay.
A big E for Effort. While this move may prove unnecessary and insufficient, it certainly forces White to regroup over the next few moves. This was the turning point I referred to above. Black's choice is an example of active defence. Shuffling further with 34...Bd5, say, and waiting for further developments, would be an example of passive defence. Black will be slightly worse for a long time if he chooses to "do nothing". "Doing something" is psychologically easier for most players, and provides a small burst of initiative. Only an enormous amount of analysis would provide a definitive answer as to which of these courses of action are more likely to succeed in garnering Black his half point.
35.exd4 Rf4 36.d5!? Bxd5 37.h3
Yesterday's live analysis of this game spent much time on 36.h3 Rxd4 37.Nf5, but 37...Rd3, eyeing a3 and f3 and allowing 37...Ne7+, crippling Black's Q-side gives Black active chances to defend the ending due to his active rook. Bu's choice appears much better - returning the pawn to expose Black's bishop slightly, and keeping his knight closer to home for defence and consolidation.
37...Rc4! 38.Ne2! Rc2 39.Rf2 Kf6 40.Kg3 Ke5 41.f4+
The logical and only real chance. Tactics make this move possible.
41...gxf4+ 42.Nxf4 **D**
Another key moment in this great struggle. On 42...Rxf2, White has 43.Nd3+ to save his material, but 43...Kd4 44.Nxf2 Kc4, simply racing for White's Q-side pawns did not look at all clear to those of us in the commentary room. White will always create a passed pawn on the K-side of course, but who is winning the race for fastest counterplay? 45.Kf4 Kb3 45.Ke5 as a sample line, and now what? I couldn't make a definitive evaluation of this endgame, but personally I feel it may have been Black's best chance. His bishop is an ideal minor in dealing with White's K-side passer, and this looks the most active chance for immediate Q-side counterplay.
44.Ng6+ Kf6 45.Kh5 Kg7
Black chooses to defend his h-pawn and create vague mating threats in some fanciful lines. Black could have chosen to "go deep" and activate his King in these lines as well (44..,Kd4, say), but White would likely have 2 passers on the K-side after winning the h6-pawn, so this is less convincing IMHO (in my humble opinion!)
46.Nh4 Bd5 47.Nf5+ Kh7 48.Kh4
Not 48.h4?? Bf7 checkmate!
Otherwise 49.Re2-e7. White need only find a way in with his Rook now, and he can claim a solid advantage. It is somewhat amazing that Black still hasn't had time to capture the a3-pawn.
49.Rf4! Bd5 50.Ne7 Bc4 51.a4
Safeguarding the Q-side. White White's rook now excellent placed on the 4th rank, Black no longer has any threats available against the Q-side pawns, and White can focus on breaking through on the other flank. Black's drawing chances have pretty much evaporated.
51...Kg7 52.Nf5+ Kg6 53.Re4 Bf1 54.Ne3!
Perfect coordination. I made the flippant comment during the game that GM's always seem to have their pieces on the right squares. Coincidence? I think not! White has shown excellent technique, and Black great fighting spirit. Other than a potential chance in a minor piece endgame (and that was rather unclear), I think both sides have played a game very much worth of Board one this round.
54...Bd3 55.Re6+ Kf7 56.Rxh6
White has finally broken through and wraps up in a few more moves.
56...Bg6 57.Nd5 Rc4 58.Kg5 Be4 59.Rf6+ Kg7 60.Nxc7 Rxb4 61.Ne6+ Kh7 62.Rf7+ Kg8 63.Kf6!
Planning to checkmate with 64.Rf8+, 65.Ng5+, and 66.Rh8+. A great game, with many instructional moments....hope you enjoyed. More to come!