måndag 27 februari 2012

The fight for survival

As can be understood from the headline, I just came home from Germany playing two more rounds of the Bundesliga. This time we played in a small town called Remagen, which I of course didn't know a thing about. Already on the flight down the trivial knowledge guru Jonny Hector told me some interesting facts: Apparently Remagen was a very important place during the Second World War. The allied side wanted to cross Rhen and get further into Germany and the Germans countered by destroying all the bridges. Except one - the one in Remagen. By the time they realized, enough allied troops had already crossed the bridge and secured the area which most probably led to the war being shortened by a few months. Or something like that. Whatever, back to chess.

In Saturdays match we played against Solingen. A team which, like ours, consists of many Dutch players. Therefore it wasn't a big surprise that I got to play a Dutchman - GM Erwin L'Ami with black. On my board, like in the entire match, they were slight favourites. However, it turned out that I had done my homework well enough and already after the opening I was the only one who could win the ending. Around move 20 L'Ami offered a draw. I went up to look for the other games, and on the board besides me I saw this position:

Hector - Nikolic, after 16.g4
Being of a slightly more conservative nature than Jonny, I decided to keep on playing :-) However, L'Ami defended accurately and I didn't manage to find my way through the very complicated endgame. Having looked at it a few hours today as well (of course without a computer!), I still can't say if I missed a win. As I played in the game, L'Ami managed to defend pretty easily. The match turned out to be pretty depressing: We lost 5-3 without winning a single game. The only positive thing was that GM Anish Giri managed to save himself in a very interesting theoretical ending. The feeling is that it should be a win, but Ragger didn't find any. Does it exist? Judge for yourself:

Giri - Ragger, after 62.Ra1

Sunday's match against Remagen turned out to be just as exciting and important as it seemed in advance. It started bad even before the first move was made! Remagen made the typical Bundesliga-trick: They changed their team from Saturday to Sunday. That meant almost no time for preparation. The only thing I knew about my opponent, GM Goloshchopov from Ukraine, was that he had had a worse position in a blitz game against my good friend Axel Smith in Norway a couple of days before... Luckily enough I got to play a very topical line of the Queens Gambit, which I had analyzed not that long ago. Getting my usual extra half an hour on the clock, optimism began to grow. However, entering a long forced line with lots of trades I calculated terribly wrong and had to agree an immediate draw. When analyzing the game afterwards I did realize that the position hadn't in fact been as promising as I thought - probably it was simply just an unclear, very complex strategical battle.

A lot of the other games in the match also turned out to be pretty boring draws, some more than others. In the end it was no surprise that Jonny Hector - who else? - was the only one playing a decisive game. Having made 3 draws in 11 games, he is by far the most uncompromising player in the team. This time he won what seemed to be a pretty straightforward game as black. The win meant 4.5-3.5 in the match, 2points for the team, passing Tegel in the standings and greatly increased chances to survive in Bundesliga!


Picture: Marie Frank

We all look happy, don't we? :-)
For good reason, as we had just won our match with 8-0 again, thereby securing 1st place in the leauge! On the picture there can be seen two new players: GM Jan Gustafsson, Germany (top left) and IM Helgi Dam Ziska, Faroe Islands (down left). As usual there isn't a lot of things to be said about the actual match as it was pretty straightforward. Instead we can look forward to next years season with bright eyes!

onsdag 22 februari 2012

Sweden: LASK

Last weekend I went with my Swedish club, LASK, to Gothenburg in order to play two matches in the Swedish Leauge, Elitserien. Basically there is two teams that can win the leauge every year - LASK and Team Viking from Stockholm. Last year we managed to win the leauge despite losing to Viking in the last round. This year, however, they have won all their matches convincingly so far, while we managed to lose the last match, the derby against Limhamn, with 5-3. During that match I was in Germany, but from what I heard afterwards it was a pretty straightforward loss for us.

With one match already lost the goal during last weekend was not only to win the matches, but to win them big. If we in the end wins against Viking, individual points will be counted. Therefore it's important not only to win against the weak teams, but to score as many individual points as possible. In the first match against Kamraterna I got black against IM Bengt Svensson. A bit funny, as it was the 3rd year in a row that this happened. And just like the last year, I got a slightly superior position as black but managed to misplay it and end up clearly worse. That time I saved myself with a draw offer, this time it was a repetition. The difference was that this time I already got out of the worst trouble when we agreed a draw, while last year I was still clearly worse. Not a game to be proud of, but at least the team won 6-2.

Sunday's game turned out to be more pleasing, though I'd say the quality was lower. As in the day before, I got to take on our opponents only IM - this time Victor Nithander as white. After my usual very very tricky c4/g3 moveorder business I managed to get a clearly better Fianchetto KID. For some ten moves I managed to keep my position intact and kept it all in control, but then I wanted to be smart:

Grandelius - Nithander, position after 22-Nce6
Here I'm clearly better, mainly because black completely lacks counterplay. I realized this, and had thought about it for quite some time, but in the end I decided that this was the moment for concrete action. So, I played 23.Nf5, which is just horrible. After 23-gxf5 24.exf5 Kh8 25.fxe6 Bxe6 I'm only having a very slight advantage, if even that. Futhermore after 26.Bb6? he could just have sacrificed the exchange with 26-Bxc4! completely taking over the initiative. After the worse 26-Rd7?! I managed to pull myself together and won the game by fairly decent play.

The match ended 5.5-2.5, which is OK but not more. Hopefully the last weekend will still be exciting :-)

Lunds Akademiska Schackklubb - LASK
LASK has always been a club that attracts the students, as Lunds University is one of the biggest in the country. Therefore our team consists almost exclusively by people from my age up till 30. There has always been exceptions, lately by Tiger Hillarp and Jesper Hall, but the main part of the team are pretty young. I started playing in LASK in the 2008/2009 season, a year in which we finished 2nd. With lots of good results every year and being close many times, it was a great relief when we in our last season finally managed to win the leauge!

Our team in last years final against SK Rockaden. Photo: André Nilsson
But winning the leauge after 33 years also poses some questions - what to do now? Even though we lost our main scorer, IM Jasmin Bejtovic, we decided to continue as usual and try to defend the title. At the moment it seems difficult, but we'll see...

onsdag 8 februari 2012

Germany: Emsdetten!

Our team, with a few players missing.  Photo: Alexander Ipatov

Last weekend I was in Germany, playing for my German team SK Turm Emsdetten in rounds 8 and 9. Before the weekend we had not been doing very well at all, with only 4p out of 14. Therefore we really needed to win at least one of the matches, in order to feel a little bit safer in the leauge. Out of the 16 teams in the Bundesliga, 4 will drop out to 1st division.

The first match was against SV Mülheim Nord, certainly one of the stronger teams in the leauge. This weekend they were expected to play with a very good team as their other match was against Werder Bremen, one of the top contenders. As expected they came with nr. 1-7 on their list, with the German GM Hausrath on 8th board. On board 3 I got to play black against the current European Champion Vladimir Potkin (RUS). In the opening he surprised me by going into an ending which I thought was equal, but with the new move 18.b4! it was nevertheless dangerous for me. After thinking for a long time I entered the critical line with 18-a5 and 20-b6, and pretty much by force we got a very interesting ending in which he had sacrificed a pawn for long-term compensation. The position turned out to be very difficult to play for me, and after missing some tactics around move 32-35 I ended up in an ending which should be lost. He didn't have to show his technique though, as I quickly blundered a pawn and went down without a fight.

While I lost pretty convincingly, the other games in the match went much better! Anish Giri on the first board played confidently in the opening, perhaps too confindently, and allowed a very dangerous piece-sacrifice. The position looked very dangerous, on the verge to lost, but somehow Anish managed to defend and made a draw. 2nd board, Mchedlishvili as white against Motylev, seemed to be a fairly correct draw. The strangest thing in the match definately happened on board 4. As white my good friend Jonny Hector got a slight advantage against Grachev (whom I by the way played in the bughouse tournament in Pardubice a couple of years ago...) but Grachev equalized and got a drawish ending. Then suddenly he fell for some childish trick and lost a piece! On board 5 Brandenburg once again played the depressing Tarrasch Defense and got a slightly worse ending against Daniel Fridman. It was a long game and perhaps Brandenburg had some good drawing chances, but in the end he lost in which seemed to be a fairly normal game. Board 6 saw Pruissers outplaying Landa in a Sicilian Tajmanov. I am not 100% sure where Landa went wrong - perhaps 30-a4 was just a dubious strategic decision. On the 7th board our dutch IM Twan Burg played a very complicated Slav as black against Tregubov. I do not dare to say what happened, as it was very very complicated, but in the end Twan secured the match victory with the draw. Board 8 was the only board where two Germans met, even though it was in the Bundesliga! Dennis Breder played an almost forgotten line of the Hyperaccelerated Dragon, in which he got the bishop pair but not necessarily the advantage. However, Hausrath played a few moves too many with his queen, and after the provocative 15-Ng4? he was just lost after 16.f4! Nfg4 17.Nd5! With an extra piece Breder won very safely, not even getting into the for him very typical time trouble :-)

Matchwinner once again: Roeland Pruijssers Photo: Alexander Ipatov

If Saturday's match against Mülheim was one of our best, the Sundaymorning match against Katernberg could well be described as our worst. I played GM Firman and quickly got a big advantage wih my opponents pieces stuck in the last 3 ranks. However, somehow I managed to miss a cheap trick and my advantage turned into a clearly inferior position. I felt very lucky when my opponents incidentally repeated moves, allowing me to claim a threefold repetition. By that time a part of his advantage had already vanished, but still the position was very difficult for me. The other players in the team didn't do better than me, and in the end we even managed to lose the match with 3.5-4.5. Not a lot of fun to talk about, so I'll leave the readers to check out the games themselves, on http://bundesliga.liveschach.net/


This is my 2nd season for SK Turm Emsdetten. In the summer of 2010 I got contacted by Reinhard Lüke, the team captain, and we quickly agreed that it would be nice for everyone if I played. As Jonny Hector (now living in Helsingör) also played, it was a natural choice to pick another Swede. However, from the 8 games I played the first season I didn't manage to win a single game! The club managed to do very well even with my horrible score, so therefore they felt that I could get another chance :-) The current season is going a bit better for me. With 4/9 I haven't done good, but not bad either. The team has a pretty tough time though. With the win against Mülheim we manage to pick the important 12th place - thus avoiding last four - but we still have to fight hard in order to keep the position. The end of the season will (unfortunately?) be very exciting!

torsdag 2 februari 2012

Denmark: Philidor

Last Monday my danish club, Philidor, played our 5th match for the season. We managed to win pretty convincingly with 8-0, so it doesn't really make any sense to dwelve further into the match. Instead I am going to write a few things about the team.

Philidor is a chessclub which was born in the autumn of 2011. The main man is Jan Andersen a former junior elite player in Denmark who recently took up chess after a break of many many years. When his daughter's school wanted to have some chess, he got interested and is now very involved in school-chess. He then thought that the chessplayers in the school should have a decent club to look up to, and therefore started an adult club and invited some friends to play. As a new club we started in a low divison but the goal is to win every year and rapidly advance to the top leauge, Skakligaen, and win it.

At the moment the team consist of:
GM Jan Gustafsson, Germany.
Swedish GMs Emanuel Berg, Hans Tikkanen and myself.
GM Curt Hansen, Denmark.
Jan Andersen himself.
Former danish national players Svend Hamann and Mogens Moe
as well as a couple of others..

Half of our team: Me, Tikkanen, Moe and Hamann!

With such a team the goal of quickly becoming the best danish club doesn't seem too ambitious as we arguably already are the strongest!