Success for Gonzaga players at the 2015 Gonzaga weekender as rising star of Irish chess Conor O Donnell wins with 5/6, while last year’s winner and Conor’s Armstrong Cup teammate Killian Delaney shared joint second with Carl Jackson (Also a member of the Armstrong Cup team) and Tim McCarthy who scored 4.5/6.
The event was a dismal failure for the top three seeds, who were the only titled players. The three FM’s; David Fitzsimon, Colm Daly, Daire McMahon all ended on 3.5 with Daire drawing 5 games, two of which were against Killian and Carl, with one win. David losing to Conor in round three after walking into a self mate in a drawn endgame in which he was a pawn up. Below is his smooth win in the preceding round.
Then in round four David made a draw against Karol Marzec in which he almost lost. With a further loss in round five to myself, and in turn, I had lost to Killian Delaney in round three after blundering a pawn in the opening/middle game for nothing. Then in round four I made a draw with upcoming junior Henry Li in which a lucky perpetual check was a miraculous escape that denied a certain win which was to be had for the young and very promising junior, but for time pressure.
A feature of the event this year in the top section was allowing players the option to play up above their rating and this did deliver some very encouraging results from some of our juniors. Of particular note was a first round draw by Alex Byrne against Gerry O Connell and then a good win against Tim Harding
With Henry Li also beating Tim Harding and drawing with me (having a winning position for the later half of the game after a couple of blunders were seized upon with some fine play) after only allowing a perpetual because of time trouble and with seconds left on his clock.
There were also some other interesting games and results which show positives signs from our younger players. The tournament website may have further details and results. Overall the event attracted over 150 players in three sections. http://gonzagachessclassic.webs.com.
Some game annotations, photos and more video clips will be available here soon this week.
Games and report pending
Critical rounds that would determine who would win the 2015 tournament.
Games and report pending
Games and report pending
This game featured Phillip Short comfortably obtain an equal position and then outplay White to have a slight advantage for most of the game. But at the cost of time, and after being a bit better and or comfortably equal for so many moves he got into time trouble and went wrong at a critical moment, and then gradually found himself in a difficult and, soon after, lost endgame.
The opening seen Mark Hebden repeat moves from a game he had previously played against GM Keith Arkell earlier the previous year. But not only did White not gain or retain an advantage, he started to drift a little and gradually found himself in a difficult position.
So far the game has followed a previous game by Mark Hebden against Keith Arkell from Bunratty 2013 in which White now played 12 Be1. That game was drawn after a long fight that ended with only a king each left on the board. Now the game goes through a phase of re-positioning each others minor pieces. 12… Ne8?! 13. Na4 Nd6 14. Nc5 Na5 15. Qd1 Nac4 16. Bc3 b6 17. Nd3 Ne4! 18. Bb4 Ncd6.
19. Nfe5 a5 20. Nc6 Qe8 21. Bxd6 Nxd6 22. b4? Black is a little better now. 22… Bb7 23. Nce5 f6 24. Nf3 a4?! [24… axb4! Was best] 25. Rc7 Rf7 26. Rxf7 Qxf7 27. Nb2 Bc6 28. Rc1 Qd7 29. Nd2 Bf8 30. Nb1 b5 [30… Rc8!] 31. Nc3 Qb7 32. Bf3 Rd8 33. Qe2 A curious game so far, not a lot of action but plenty of maneuvering that has seen Black outplay an experienced GM with relative ease and obtain a slight advantage, only problem is that he has used up a lot of time and already time trouble for Black becomes a feature. 33… e5! 34. dxe5 fxe5 35. Rd1
The critical moment in the game has arrived in the diagram below.
Black has more space on the Queen side, and in the centre with more central pawns, plus the two bishops. But on the other hand White has no obvious weakness and Black was very low on time.
White is trying to target the d5 pawn and provoke Black. It seems that the best way for Black to proceed now was to fix the central e pawn by pushing it forward, however with having the two bishops Black probably assumed that pushing the d pawn and keeping the position more open made more sense.
But as it happens, pushing the e pawn would have played more into the other advantages within the Black position along the lines of more space and restricting White even more. Black has two moves which retain an advantage and the move played in the game allows White full equality, which with very little time left on the clock for Black, and plenty left for White is tantamount to giving White a nice advantage.
35… d4? A small error which loses the advantage. [35… Nf7 36. h4 e4 37. Bg4 Bg7 38. Rc1 Rd6! And Black keeps a nice advantage. Two bishops, more space in the center and Qside, meanwhile White seems cramped and not well coordinated. 35… e4 36. Bg4 Qf7! 37. Qc2 Bg7 38. Ne2 Bd7 Keeps Black on top.]
36. exd4 Bxf3 Black understandably wants to start exchanging pieces to have a simpler position on the board. But often when one is keen to make a draw with time trouble being a feature there is a real chance of going astray. 37. gxf3 exd4 38. Rxd4 White is a pawn up now but it is doubled and his Kside is weak. Black had good play but must be careful. 38… Re8 [38… Bg7 39. Qe6 Qf7 40. Qxf7 (40. Rxd6? Qxe6 41. Rxe6 Bxc3 Is better for Black again.) 40… Kxf7 41. Rd3 Bxc3 42. Rxc3 Nf5 And the activity of Black’s pieces leaves Black on a path to an easy draw.] 39. Ne4 Nxe4 40. Rxe4
Rd8? A small mistake born of time trouble which makes White a little better. [ 40… Rxe4! 41. fxe4 (41. Qxe4?? Qxe4 42. fxe4 Bxb4 Actually wins for Black) 41… Qc6 And Black has enough for the pawn deficit owing to his safe King, good bishop and active well placed queen.]
41. Re5 White attacks the only weakness in the Black position and again because of time trouble Black does not play the most accurate move. 41… Qc7? Black possibly thought that he had threats on the c file and back rank, but when he losses the pawn on b5 the c4 square is available to White with great effect and the a pawn is weak. [41… Rd5!] 42. Rxb5 Qc1 43. Kg2
White now has the huge threat and resource of playing Qc4 check. 43… Bg7 44. Qc4 Qxc4 45. Nxc4 Rd3 46. Rb8 Kf7 And White was able to force resignation soon after. A somewhat tragic and unlucky loss for Black but a good example of an experienced and practical player being patient and alert, able to switch gear and take every chance in a clinical manner.
This year’s event was overshadowed by the sad passing of long time Kilkenny CC stalwart Sean (John) Bradley just shortly before the annual weekend chess festival, of which he was so much a part of.
I did not know Sean very well myself, only ever having played him once in 1993, appropriately enough at the Kilkenny congress. That game I can still recall well as being perhaps very revealing of the character of Sean. Because in that one game he showed his chess knowledge, culture and genuine enthusiasm and also modesty.
He was clearly an admirer of, and influenced by Boris Spassky as he played the same variation of the Richter Rauzer that had been used to good effect against Fischer in their famous 1972 ” Match of the century”.
Sean played the first sixteen moves flawlessly and the position was finely balanced until he went for a tactical shot which had a very good idea behind it and was playable until he made an error, which after the game, he explained was based on a miscalculation that spoiled an otherwise neat idea. I can still recall his genuine enthusiasm for chess and manifest modesty. The game is below -click on diagram to view.
Sean was a real gentleman and I last seen and spoke with Sean briefly at the last round of the Armstrong Cup earlier this year. My last recollection was again of Sean being true to his nature, and having some kind words to offer, being his usual friendly self. He will be badly missed.
A couple of articles in the Kilkenny People Newspaper just before the 38th Kilkenny congress is testament to the regard and affection felt for Sean from far and wide.
This year’s event went ahead with over 200 participants and although I did not play myself I will try give some impressions on the purely chess side of things, as with the live games and modern media being what they are, with text’s, emails and social media plus personal contacts available, it is possible to get some decent information and perspective about how some chess games went. Even without actually being present.
I had considered playing myself but the thought of a whole weekend of chess, plus my foul mood following my ridiculous Armstrong game on the Wednesday left me not keen enough to want to play chess for a whole weekend. Also I sort of feel that I have to earn the right to give up a whole weekend for chess.
If I had won my Armstrong game or perhaps even made a draw then I could sort of reward myself, or justify going away for a weekend of chess. However as I had instead thrown away a nice win, I sort of felt so annoyed with myself that I decided I did not deserve to go away for the weekend.
To get an idea of why I would have been so annoyed with myself, check out the position below and click on the diagram to view the game and see why I would not be keen to play another game of chess for a little while. The game now has notes.
In any event, this years Kilkenny tournament was deservedly won by GM Mark Hebden, with second place going to GM Sebastian Maze outright. Third place was shared between a group that included Bogdan Lalic, Sam Collins, Alex Baburin and Bram Van Dijk
For my impressions of some of the games played start with O Cinneide – Collins from round 2
In this series of posts I will concentrate on some games from the 2014 Kilkenny Masters section and give some impressions and notes on some of the chess games played or and things I noticed. There were a few interesting games well worth looking at and plenty of twists and turns too. But I will start with the first game that caught my attention, which was the round two clash between Mel O Cinneide and Sam Collins
The first thing to note about this game was that it was a very unusual opening which left both players on their own very soon into the game. As Sam is well known to be a very hard worker and generally very well prepared player it is no surprise that he was following a game played by GM David Navara who also played 3…g5, after 1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 d4 3 b4. However play deviated straight away and both players were soon on their own and had to navigate the muddy waters after 3…g5 from then onwards.
The effect of playing a move like 3…g5 can be very strong and it is almost a given that if Sam was willing to play it then surely it’s can’t be bad? Well it is not bad at all, but not especially good either, at least not objectively. However from a practical point of view it is excellent. It gains space on the Kingside, prepare to put the bishop on g7 to support the d pawn and forces White out of his comfort zone instantly.
The first question is why can’t White just take the pawn? Well he can, but then after e7-e5 Black gains more time to develop and secure his already pleasant spatial advantage in the center. So at first White puts the bishop on b2 with tempo and only then takes. But after 4 Bb2 Bg7 5 Nxg5 e7-e5 White went wrong with the weak move 6 Nf3, after which Black was able to then play 6…e4 with further tempo gain to increase his space advantage and disrupt the White development. Black can be said to be comfortable as a result.
After a few more natural enough moves 7. Ng1 Nh6 8. g3?! O-O[8… a5!? was also interesting] 9. Bg2 Re8 10. Nh3 Nc6 11.Qb3?! a5! 12. b5 a4 13. Qd1 Ne5. (some of which I feel may not have been best from White) we have the curious position below.
So what are we to make of how things have gone? Well for the small price of a pawn Black has two central pawns on the fifth rank. very active pieces almost all developed, meanwhile White is under developed, cramped and probably already lost. So after Black played 14…Nf3 and White played 15 Kf1 Black now had a great chance to play a beautiful move 15 …Ng4 which would give us the position below.
It is not easy to see such a move I guess but not very hard either and I would expect there is a good chance that Sam would have played this if he was in better form maybe? The critical lines can be seen by clicking on the diagram and viewing the notes. What was played by Black was still fine and after 15 …Nh4 there was a bit of a comical series of mutual errors.
Firstly White played 16 gxh4 (Nf4 was better) when Black should have played 16…Qxh4 but instead played 16…Bxh3 17 Bxh3 Qh4 18 Bg2 e3 19 Qe1 When we had the critical position below.
Black has failed to play the most accurate moves at some critical moments but he is still doing fine. He plays the correct and natural move 19…a3 20. Nxa3 White is just about hanging on but Black should be able to cash in now. Instead he blunders and is just lost! 20… d3??
Astounding and very much similar to my own game against Sam just a few days before when I also blundered into a lost position on move 30.
Black should have played [20… exd2! 21. Qxd2 Ng4 22. Qf4 Be5 23. Qf3 d3 Was the way to go. 24. Rb1 Bxb2 25. Rxb2 Rxa3 26. exd3 Qg5!]
21. fxe3 Qxe1 22.Rxe1 Bxb2 23. Nb1 And all of a sudden Black is lost. The rest as they is say, is just technique. White was under a lot of time pressure however, so his play has to be applauded. A few inaccuracies but nothing that put White in any danger on the board of not winning. 23… dxe2 24. Kxe2 Rxa2?[24… Reb8!] 25. Bxb7 Nf5 26. Kf3? c5?? Odd to say the least 27. bxc6 Bf6 28. c7 Nd6 29. Bd5 Ra7 30. d4 Rxc7 31. Nd2 Kf8 32. c5 Nf5 33. Ne4 Bh4 34.Re2 Bd8 35. Ra1 Rce7 36. Kf4 Ng7 37. Nf6 Bc7 38. Kf3 Rd8 39. Nxh7 Kg8 40. Nf6 Kf8 41. e4 Ne6 42. Bxe6 fxe6 43. Ke3 Rb8 44. e5 Rf7 45. Rg2 Ke7 46. Ra7 Rb3 47. Ke4
For more of my impressions of some of the games played see Mark Hebden – Phillip Short from round 2
So Carlsen went back to the Grunfeld and Anand went for the interesting 5 Qb3 variation and then soon after we had the sharp …Na6 line
A curious choice by Carlsen which seems to suggest he is up for a fight today and happy with a complex game. If I had to make a prediction I would say that I think he will win today [usually a draw is by far the most likely result of course]. The reason being that I think his prep will be good enough to see a dynamically equal position and both players will at some point be left on their own and when it gets too tense I think it more likely that Anand will falter.
The position below is very complex indeed.
After…Bf5 14 Rad1 One of the seconds of Anand had previously played a game with this line as White but lost.
So presumably they know this line well enough and anyway Black was the first to deviate by playing 14…Ne4 instead of 14…Qb6
Another Berlin in the Lopez. Who cares? Boring game [relatively speaking of course]. It is not that the Berlin can’t lead to rich and interesting play, it is just at this level it really is very boring and this short draw only underscores this. The final position is just equal and if White was to push for more he could easily end up worse.
A good result for Anand which will boost his confidence again. It is by no means over yet and I think Carlsen is ready to pounce if he gets half a chance. Anand has real chances now, and a win really would and could potentially cause panic for Carlsen.
So Anand held on easily enough in game seven and is only one win away from leveling the match. Can he do it, and what is the outlook for the match now generally? Well I have to admit that at the outset I was of the view that Carslsen would pretty much destroy Anand and win the match by an even bigger margin than the last match they played. This, though flying in the face of perceived conventional wisdom, was because although it was true that Ananad has had a good time on the chess board since he lost his crown and very impressively won the candidates tournament that earned him the right to play Carlsen in this match I think an objective and clinical look at his games will not reveal that he was exactly a player on fire.
Rather it seemed to me that Anand was still in “Match Mode” and was just going to be very hard to beat and very focused on that while being motivated enough to be still good enough to take his chances when offered, and so this is more or less how he won the candidates tournament so deservedly but not quite so impressively as we might at first think. In the contest of him having lost such a bruising match with Carlsen his candidates tournament win was very impressive and even inspiring, but from a purely chess point of view not earth shattering.
So therefore while I expected to see a far more stable and determined Anand with renewed self confidence and belief I also felt that if he got dealt a couple of blows from Carlsen this might all start to unravel and he would again be fragile [relatively speaking of course]. So many people seem to forget or are n aware of the famous Kasparov – Anand match in 1995 when the first eight games were all drawn. Then it was even Anand who got the first win in game nine only to lose four out of the next five games and draw the match out with four more draws. Point being that was Anand at the same age as Carlsen is now! So no excuses about age issues can be mentioned.
Si it seems to me that Anand has certain potential vulnerabilities against exceptional players and for his part I thin that Carlsen will have been bruised and somewhat frustrated by his own performances of late, though here too some people seem to forget that his results were not actually bad, just below par for his standards. So I figure that Carlsen would be very eager and hungry to prove to himself and the world that eh was till clearly “The Best” and would be very determined to impose himself on Anand and win in some style or show a certain dominance.
Considering all these things I felt sure that on balance Anand was in for a beating, the like of which he would never forget. Not that I wanted that as if it turned out that he somehow managed not to lose and instead win the match then that had a fantastic narrative and inspiring story. Especially considering that he is a player of my own generation and we actually played in the World Junior same year back in Baguio all those years ago. He won it in a year that saw an incredibly strong field.
So if Anand did manage to win this match with Carlsen I would indeed find it inspiring to see a man in his 40s defeat a man in his 20s. However I am really be happy to see the best player win and I simply think that is Carlsen. The combination of youth, energy, brilliance and hunger being too much. At the start of the match that was very much confirmed for me, but when Anand struck back straight away I almost had doubts, even though that game was mainly just preparation and not so much a pure reflection of his chess prowess or outplaying Carlsem.
However after a few more games I began to think that Anand was very much back in the match but then he had this tragic loss where he fell apart after missing a golden opportunity to most likely win after Carlsen blundered in game 6. Then yesterday he showed his best qualities with an impressive defense and well deserved draw. Now I am not at all so sure of how the match will go, and Anand is still in with a chance.
So back to today’s game. A QGD Bf4 line in which it seems Carlsen was the first to deviate or bring the game more into his preparation. Firstly it is good to see that he has gone fr an active game and the game looks interesting and complex already.
Blacks last move seems to be a novelty and the move Bg5 played by White was not the most popular either, likewise 9…Re8 was also not the main line. The way the game has gone since, it seems that it is all still in preparation for Carlsen and he has no difficulty.
After a few more natural moves we reached the position below which looks interesting and complex. But that did not last long and the game quickly fizzled out into a very boring and drawn sort of position.
This is probably the least exciting or interesting game and is sure to be a draw. A clean success for Carlsen and a slight frustration for Anand. The position below is just before the mass exchanges that leave it hard to see how the game can continue much further.
There is so little left of interest in this position that I will leave with the position below as I can’t see anything but a draw and imagine there might be a draw very soon. Nothing else really to do here?
Well I came a bit late to this game, to the position at move 24 to be exact, and to be honest I am already quite bored with this game. I find it rather depressing to see the Berlin on the board and both players follow theory for so many moves with no great sign of anything interesting.
After 24 g4 Nd6 25 Rh7 Nf7 I think the position is still very sterile and White has no appreciable advantage. I expect a draw is surely the only logical result. Very disappointing game really. It turns out that the position after 23…Be6 has been played before but 24 g4 seems to be a new move but nothing very special.
After 26 Ne3 Kd8 27 Nf5 c5 28 Ng3 Anand played Ne5 which is funny considering that in the last game 26…Nxe5 was a big move that he did not play. However in this game 28…Ne5 seems one of the weaker moves available to Black and he may have given Carlsen a chance to obtain a workable advantage.
One variation of interest is 29. Rh8 Rg8 30. Bxe5 fxe5 31. Rh5 Rf8 32. Ke3 Bd5 33. Ne4 Bxe4 34. Kxe4 Rf4 35. Ke3 Rb4 36 Rxe5 Rxb2 37 Rxc5 When we have the position below.
If the game does go this way then White does have an advantage. Probably still a draw with best play but not easy to play. Svidler is suggesting that after 30. Bxe5 fxe5 31. Rh5 Black can give up his Bishop on g4 but after 31…Bxg4 32 Fxg4 Rxg4 White has 33 c3 which seems to be close to winning for White, though not easy to play.
Well, well, well Anand has gone for it and followed the line suggested by Svidler. But Carlsen did not play 33 c3 and moved very quickly with 33 Rxe5 instead. Maybe this is just as good or better but White seems to have real chances of winning now.
After 33 Rxe5 b6 34 Ne4 Rh4 35 Ke2 Rh6 36 b3 Kd7 things have become very clear. Black is just trying to draw and White is the only player with chances to win. If I had to bet I would say Carlsen will win but I don’t see how. Anand will probably crack at some point but his experience could insure he gets a draw.
So after a lot of pushing wood we reached the position below, which I still don’t see any good plan for White.
Anand has defended well and this is an easy draw at the end. A big result for him which keeps his chances very much alive.
So what to expect today as Carlsen has the first of two White’s in a row. He must be pretty eager to stamp his mark on things right about now. It has looked really good for him after the first two games but he has not looked his best since then. He will know that if he fails to win at least one of the next two games then this will hand the momentum back to Anand.
So what will his approach be to the game today? Which first move will he play? My guess is that he won’t play 1 e4 today. Why? Well perhaps the Anand team will assume that he will have done work to prepare against the Sicilian (Anand might then switch back to 1..e5) so they would be surprised by him not playing 1 e4. Then Carlsen could have something prepared with either 1 d4 or just want to get a game with 1 c4.
My guess is that Carlsen will play 1 c4 but I really would not bet on it either. If he does play 1 e4 and Anand does play the Sicilian then I do think he has to take on Anand in a main line variation and he could just get the breakthrough he needs now. I also think that if Carlsen does play 1 e4 then Anand should play 1…e5 as I think it will annoy or frustrate Carslen a little, cause a bit of confusion or doubt and most likely be the most safe and sound way to insure a draw, which would increase pressure on Carlsen and may cause Carlsen to make some rash choices?
The scenario in which the match stays level with each round is not in my view a 50-50 situation for the players. With every round that goes by in which Anand simply avoids losing, there is a small increase of an edge in favor of Anand. He now he even has the confidence to actually pounce if Carlsen falters. This potentially changes the dynamics of the contest greatly, but Carlsen is a very astute and self aware player too, so he may well just be patient and then torture Anand in at least one of the next two games. Either way, I have the feeling we might be in for a great game today.
So it is a Sicilian after all. But sadly not really! Anand plays the Paulsen/Kan variation and Carlsen plays 5 c4 which when I was growing up, was understood to be a weak line, as in, it allowed Black an equal game very easily and quickly. The reason being that Black can play 5…Nf6 6 Nc3 Bb4 and White usually then plays 7 Bd3 Black responds with Nc6 and White plays 8 Nxc6 and after 8…dxc6
A well known position soon occurs [after 9. e5 Nd7 10. f4 Nc5 11. Bc2 Bxc3 12. bxc3 Qxd1 13. Kxd1] which is worth looking at briefly.
This endgame is basically an easy draw for Black and one of the reasons why I used to avoid playing the Paulsen/Kan was because of this very variation which becomes a sterile position with no winning chances.
However Carlsen avoided this main line of the 5 c4 variation by playing 7 Qd3 but I don’t think this changes much really. Black plays in the same manner and after a few logical moves, Nc6 8. Nxc6 dxc6 9. Qxd8 Kxd8 10. e5 Nd7 11. Bf4 Bxc3 12. bxc3 Kc7 when we have a very similar endgame with the difference being that White has the option to castle and he has not played his pawn to f4 which preserves more scope for his black squared Bishop. But nevertheless I think this is an easy position for Black to play.
Already I would predict a draw and judge that Carlsen has wasted a game with the White pieces. This line, even with the 7 Qd3 twist is an insipid variation and not a good choice even practically. A bad day again for Carlsen and another disappointment from a chess point of view.
Apparently Peter Svidler thinks differently and suggests that White has some edge and Black has not yet obtained an equal position, but I just don’t agree. I think this is an easy position for Anand to play and White is just blowing hot air with no real chance to start a fire. The first sign of something that might be called a critical position occurred after 13. h4 b6 14. h5 h6 15. O-O-O Bb7 16. Rd3 c5 17. Rg3 Rag8 18. Bd3 Nf8 19. Be3 g6 20. hxg6 Nxg6 21. Rh5 Bc6
22 Bc2 Kb7 23 Rg4 has then been played but I don’t see any progress for White. I am amused that after 23…a5 24 Bd1 Svidler still feels that White is making some progress but I can’t see it at all. 24…Rd8 and 25 Bc2 was played so is Carlsen offering a draw? Presumably Black will play 25…Rdg8 and it is back over to Carlsen to find something.
Yes it is back over to Magnus to find a way to keep chances for White. Astounding! Carlsen just blundered! After 26 Kd2? Anand could and should have played 26…Nxe5 but instead he played 26…a5-a4 and now after 27 Ke2 a4-a3 28 f2-f3 and Anand is deep in thought reflecting on what he just missed as he surely must have realized it.
One has to fear for Anand now as although the position is fine for Black I also don’t like this plan of pushing the pawn to a3 either and he must be in turmoil. He probably should just remind himself that it could have been him that blundered and he would have lost, so at least as he has not blundered he has no reason to feel he can not get a draw. Anand has instead been a bit rattled and played 28…Rd8 which seems a bit rash and we now do have a critical position.
29 Ke1 Rd7 30 Bc1 is the reason I did not like pushing the a pawn, as now it can be attacked. Black defended with 30…Ra8 but Anand is under pressure now. A few moves have been played 31. Ke2 Ba4 32. Be4 Bc6 33. Bxg6 fxg6 34. Rxg6 Ba4 and this looks like a total collapse from Anand. 35 Rxe6 Rd1 36 Bxa3
A few moves later 36…Ra1 37. Ke3 Bc2 38. Re7 and Anand had to resign. A sad and unlucky loss. He seemed to have been badly affected by the missed chance he had and played poorly thereafter.