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!

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