Baden-Baden completed a perfect 15 wins in the very competitive Bundesliga. I have always enjoyed playing in this testing competition, and this season scored a solid 6/9. As far as I can see the only two flaws to the German league are the fact that all the games are only FIDE rated once the season is complete – ridiculous with the monthly rating list, and also the decision to only confirm the team orders shortly before the action begins is bizarre for what is otherwise a very professional event.
Battle on the Rock
I would have been pretty happy with 7.5/10 before the event, but it shows how hard it is to win open events these days that 4 players managed to amass 8 points. One of the special appeals of the Gibraltar tournament is the varied array of chess themed evening entertainment. One new feature was the Battle of the Sexes, watching this with a glass of wine in hand ( I recommend replicating this bit at home) was rather entertaining. See for yourself.
I haven’t had a lot of big tournament invitations in recent times apart from Gibraltar and the London Classic but this year is shaping up more promisingly, starting with a strong event in Baden-Baden whose powerful club team has won the Bundesliga for the last 8 years, I was happy they fulfilled their long time plan to organise a tournament. My games were interesting although few ended decisively; I finished the event on a high getting back to 50% with a late win with Black against Fabiano Caruana.
The tournament hotel was the exceptional Brenners Park hotel and spa in Baden-Baden, a beautiful spa town by the Black Forest. The weather has not been nice anywhere during this extended winter, but this can be forgiven in Baden-Baden which is a winter wonderland with the snow on the ground. The event ran very smoothly, particularly for a debut effort, and thanks are due to Hans Walter Schmidt, Sven Noppes , Christian Bossert and Dr. Markus Keller for quality of organisation.
I should also mention the efforts of my fellow chess.com blogger Lawrence Trent who manfully put in long hours in the commentary room.
After my debacle last year, I approached the London Chess Classic with a certain amount of trepidation, but after a good start winning a couple of decent games against Gawain Jones and Judit Polgar things went considerably better. However, I lost to Magnus Carlsen, where I made one of the least excusable errors in chess allowing my time to run very low in a pleasant position thinking the position was too safe to lose. As some players in the candidates have also found the 40 moves in 2 hours time control without increment means you have to handle your clock responsibly or pay the penalty. I then scored a rather fortunate victory versus Viswanathan Anand, but it was nice to beat the World Champion! I slipped up against Luke McShane in a lengthy struggle, generally well played by both players but I have highlighted a couple of key moments where we went wrong.
It is great to have such a special event in London and just as pleasing to see the evolution of the Chess in Schools Charity which supports the event, making massive strides with an ever increasing number of coaches and pupils involved. Malcolm Pein has also pulled off a great coup in securing additional funding of £689,000 from the Education Endowment Foundation.
To bring things up to date, and because for a change I won a chess tournament, I am writing about my most recent event and will wrap up the LCC, Baden-Baden, and Gibraltar soon. I garnered a lot of enjoyment and chess education in weekend tournaments, and it is sad to now see few interesting events of this type in England. Fortunately the scene is much more vibrant in Ireland and they are very welcoming to English players, so I was happy to make my second visit to Bunratty for their event.
Although the tournament has a big social side ( one of my opponents almost fell off his chair during our game, and needless to say it wasn’t due to shock at my move) the chess is quite serious, and due to the magic of sensitive boards rather than trying to decipher my Guinness stained scoresheets evidence of my play remains. I have made a few comments to my first 5 games (round 6 was a bit brief!)
In round 1 I was happy to adjourn to the bar with a point on the board fairly quickly, admittedly more due to luck than judgement.
The next morning game with Mark Orr I have annotated in a little more detail, his rook ran into trouble in an unusual manner.
Round 3 I was lucky again as I gambled in an unpromising ending and got rewarded for it.
In the stamina sapping third game on Saturday I managed to avoid major errors, which is often good enough at that stage.
On Sunday I achieved a more promising moves played to drinks consumed ratio as I scored a swift victory in the morning and halved out in the afternoon.
Thanks to all involved with the event especially www.blackthornetransport.co.uk ,Gary O’Grady and Gerry Graham for their great efforts.
Not long after the London Grand Prix I was heading for the Eurocup this time held in Eilat in Israel. This made for a grueling and expensive journey which may explain why the number of teams participating fell from 62 in 2011 to 34. Unfortunately the organisation was unimpressive; the playing hall was much too small causing my chair to be knocked on a regular basis by players returning to their boards. It was also rather warm which is rather more serious than it used to be bearing in mind the draconian ECU dress code.
The hotels were very pretty but despite paying in full and in advance, the hotel tried to expel at least four of our group from our rooms several days prematurely and before one of my games I was sufficiently concerned about this possibility to pack our belongings in case the hotel followed through on their threats.
The team wasn’t favoured by the disgracefully bad pairing system that was totally lacking in logic and fairness and considerably worse than the poor effort they had used previously. It is unclear why the ECU is so reluctant to remedy this long standing problem.
Still there are no good excuses for a bad result and I didn’t play as well as would have liked.
On a brighter note, Tara and I stayed on as tourists for a few days afterwards and had a good time visiting the Old City in Jerusalem, floating in the spectacular Dead Sea, and spending a relaxing day in Tel Aviv before heading home.
Around lunchtime the day before the opening ceremony, I got a late call up to the London leg of the FIDE Grand Prix substituting for Peter Svidler for that one event only. Despite the lateness of the invite, openings-wise I fared quite well, but was tired towards the end of the event and felt I should have picked up a few more half points from the positions I had.
The rules were the usual FIDE mishmash: it’s not clear why Sofia rules are used during this event when they aren’t during the World Championship match when they would actually be useful. The event was also unusual for unintentionally employing two different time controls; we started with 40/2 followed by 20/1 but now things got confusing as in the first couple of games you were only credited with your additional 15 mins plus 30 seconds once your regular time had elapsed rather than on move 60. The additional increment would have been welcome in my first game with Wang Hao. To remedy this flaw from round 3 onwards, we received the increment on move 60 as is the norm.
This event was the first to be organised by Agon although it is clear that they won’t have time to implement their main ideas until at least the London Candidates. Obviously they are serious about chess and I was impressed with their concepts concerning branding and presentation of the game several of which were new to me. I hope they can be successful with the big problems of finding sponsors, and creating a proper World Championship cycle.
I was back in Turkey in time to re-use my visa from the team competition, this time for the Olympiad, held not far from the airport. The hotel and meals were quite good compared to recent editions, although the state of the hotel internet was a problem that was never fully resolved. The teams in the WOW hotels were lucky to be able to walk to the venue although there were limited facilities around and those who had to bus it to the chess might have had a more interesting location.
The playing hall was quite decent from a player’s point of view although the temporary toilets which were brought in for the event were at first insufficient in number and none too pleasant. I was shocked to see only 3 VIP rooms and would hope that a minimum of 1 room per esteemed guest would be the bare minimum in the future.
Spectators had it rougher; there were very limited possibilities to view the games outside the hall. If you stashed your phone and ventured into the playing area it was only possible to see the first 10 boards in each section. Even making out the scores in other matches was impossible as the boards showing results were not large. Spectators have had a raw deal at Olympiads for too many years now and for such a showpiece event it needs to improve.
Plenty has been written about arbiters at this event but it seems to me that fewer are required as with the incremental time control there is little for them to do, and many of them seemed incapable of resolving simple problems like three fold repetition or dealing with a faulty clock. The ludicrous Zero Tolerance was made even more ridiculous by the rounds routinely starting over 5 minutes late.
Another area of concern is the excessive charging for hotels; and other dubious money making measures such as charging for press passes which were also in evidence. Of course the ever increasing size of the event, whilst great for the game, doesn’t make it easy for organizers to balance the budget, but making it too expensive to attend is counterproductive from everyone’s point of view as people simply choose not to come.
Moving onto the chess, the team lost a good opportunity to build on a good start with slip ups in rounds 8 and 9, this missed opportunity against the Philippines was irksome:
This game was followed by an abysmal loss to Le Quang regrettably the 2 key matches which cost the team,. Several of my team-mates were also having a frustrating time, although Nigel Short carried the team with an excellent performance.
I am very grateful to a number of individuals who generously donated money to help fund the team, and I was happy to demonstrate the game below at a small gathering with them after the Olympiad. There are a lot of computer lines but the power of the machine in these types of position is rather humbling.
I’m not sure Danny is the next Rory Bremner based on the clip below, although he has picked on some mannerisms. I remember Ivan Sokolov doing a very good impression of me during Leon 1995, but it was definitely alcohol assisted.
The Danny Gormally Show
You can see the original post for The Danny Gormally Show at GingerGM.com.
I was somewhat less recognisable in the clip below (I wasn’t involved in the filming in anyway), but I suspect it got a slightly larger audience. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the Gormally show catches up.
“Mickey Adams” on Coronation Street
I was happy to return to the Turkish League for the second time, although the dates selected proved unfortunate for me as they were very unfriendly for both the World Open and the British Championship which I originally planned to play at least one of. My team ISEK Aquamatch was in optimistic mood as in my absence the previous year they had won the league but hopes of defending the title proved farfetched. Two years ago the top boards were considerably less tough as in the interim many teams had shrewdly recruited 2600 rated young foreigners. It’s easy to forget how many strong players there are out there that you may well not be aware of. I began with a sequence of five draws before finding someone in worse shape than me in the second game of the day in round 7.
In passing whilst it’s obviously undesirable to play 2 games in a day the ordeal could be minimised if some sensible rules regarding time controls were applied to this situation. I would think 90mins +30 secs for the whole game should be a maximum timelimit allowed for a double header.
The team situation was even worse with only one win in seven; I think four consecutive defeats might be a team worst for me. After a crisis meeting on the free day, (ironically in the Turkish League two double round days are neatly bisected by a free day as, if I understand it correctly, for some reason this allows the local participants to dodge military service) we established a new plan to avoid relegation which with four wins in the last six rounds we narrowly achieved. I actually won a couple of decent games against Tregubov and Safarli but managed to sour my tournament in the last round with a horrible blunder.
*For those of you wondering if my spellchecker is on the blink, tragesty was Julian Hodgson’s favourite description of such incidents, when someone informed him it was not a word, he replied that it was a cross between a travesty and a tragedy I’m sure the OED will catch up soon.
At the London Classic I got chatting to Daniel Parmet who kindly mentioned that he might be able to set up some events if I played in the Chicago Open again. I decided to give it a go as it was a good excuse to follow up with a Florida visit. He put me in touch with Sevan Muradian at The North American Chess Association where I gave a couple of lectures, for which I was a bit more prepared this time, and a simul. NACA had not long before hosted the FIDE president, and when we drove back into the centre of Chicago that evening, we found the city gridlocked due to the NATO Summit with security at our hotel being especially tough as another President, Barack Obama by name was a fellow guest, this made things interesting!
I also gave a clock simul at Daniel’s local club, I haven’t played a serious event like this before so was interested to get the chance to play a 10 board event against solid opposition. I didn’t do a great job at concealing my unfamiliarity when after making a move on the first couple of boards I failed to press my clock! After this I got into the swing of things a bit, and ended up ahead on time in most games and managed a 10-0 sweep much to my surprise.
Daniel has written a comprehensive report on the event which is well worth a look. Many thanks to Daniel Parmet for all his efforts.
Flushed with success from this and having got over jetlag I should have been in good shape at the Chicago Open but played horribly from start to finish. I’ve had a pretty good run in opens ELO and prize wise recently, but this wasn’t a happy outing. The high point of the event was submerging it with large beers afterwards with John Fedorowicz whom I hadn’t seen for way too long.