Wednesday, 11 May 2011

European Senior Team Championships Rd 9

Rudy concludes his series of reports:

The team played its strongest players in the final round. John’s game finished first. His opponent surprised him by going down a complex line in the Schliemann, where John had plenty of home analysis. However White's piece sacrifice then yielded a draw by repetition. Rudy’s opponent as White played a passive line, setting a King’s Indian against a King’s Indian, but Black actually had more freedom of movement, as only one White piece got into the Black territorial space on g5. The White pieces bunched together around the king and, when an inadvertent advance lost a key pawn, White had had enough. The Finland 2 team only had four players, and the need to play every game had clearly taken its toll. Richard got exactly the kind of niggling edge he had prepared for against his opponent’s Grunfeld. However, seeing the team was ahead, he offered a draw, which was taken. Iolo got interesting play, avoiding the Stonewall Dutch his opponent had used to good effect in the previous round. It transposed to a King’s Indian Attack against a French setup, but after various clearances on the queenside, a draw was enough to clinch the match. Score 2½-1½, and Wales end above their initial ranking of 22nd out of 35 with a 50% match result, level with England 1 on match points (though game points put us a few places below.)

Russia 1
Germany 2
Scotland 11
England1 16
Wales 18
England 2 20
England 3 28

European Senior Team Championships Rd 8

Wales has broken the logjam with a win after 3 drawn matches. Norway left out their top player, but perhaps this was compensated for by the strength of their two bottom players. Although officially listed as 1600, they are at the moment ungraded, but actually both have part-ratings in the bag from a previous Senior event, and should both be in the high 2000s in the next grading list. Rudy played one of these and got a clear advantage on the Black side of a King's Indian, but a breakthrough somehow eluded him(and the rest of the team on looking at the game afterwards). On checking the database, Rudy had the exact same position only last year at the Senior team event in Dresden, and played a far better continuation, which led to a win there. A draw occurred here by repetition. Bob got an excellent position against the Alekhine Defence, sacrificing a pawn on e6 to jam in the Black pieces. He castled long, opened up the h file, and launched a fierce kingside attack. However he then missed several excellent chances, won an exchange but his opponent's two bishops and central pawns were enough, so a draw was agreed. Iolo employed his usual Old Indian, and established a central wedge. When that was loosened, there were too many weaknesses left in the White position, which led to a loss of pawns, the exchange, and finally another bishop as well. John got an excellent position against a French Winawer with an early b6 . The black-square weaknesses, coupled with White’s spatial advantage, meant that John was able to put his pieces into position to demolish the Black kingside. Faced with a number of different mating possibilities, Black resigned. Score, back to 3-1 to Wales.

We end with Finland 2, having started with Finland 1.

European Senior Team Championships Rd 7

Another mixed bag today. Richard didn’t quite get the variation in his King’s Indian that we prepared for, and, having had a restless night, agreed to a threefold repetition. John as White played a complex line in the Winawer, but forgot to play the exact move, and was a rook down albeit for several powerful pawns. His opponent, surprised by this, offered a quick draw, which was accepted. Rudy had an unfortunate experience. Playing a Leningrad Dutch reversed, he quickly broke through on f5 and d5, winning a pawn in the process and gaining passed pawns on the e and d file. One slow move, followed by another not quite correct, meant that a loss of an exchange was inevitable. His opponent missed a mate in two and let Rudy struggle trying to get a pawn through until he ran out of them 23 moves later. This left things up to Iolo. His normal Old Indian defence led to two bishops for Black, and the queen came in, picking up first the e4 pawn, then mating the king in the corner.

So, 2-2, and in the next round again we have avoided the Bye caused by Belgrade not turning up.

European Senior Team Championships Rd 6

A tale of mixed fortunes. Iolo and Rudy ended up after a few transpositions, with the same Catalan position. Rudy missed a chance (Iolo more so as he could have won a pawn early on), and was offered a draw on move 23. Carrying on with a bishop against a knight, he missed several possibilities and ended up losing. Iolo was getting into difficulties, headed for an opposite-colour bishop ending a pawn down, where his opponent had chances of another passed pawn, but after Black went astray a draw ensued. Bob played for a mobile pawn attack when the kings were castled on opposite sides. Eventually a complex position was reached where both sides had advanced pawns and pressure against both kings on the back rank. A draw by repetition was reached. Richard came under some long-term pressure in a closed Sicilian, and after some exchanges offered a draw, which was declined. His opponent seeking a quick win, missed a neat in-between move by Richard, so went a pawn down. As he was seeking to recover it, Black was now able to start a successful king hunt with queen and rook, whereas against the White counterattack, Richard's K was able to move out to freedom.
So, 2-2 another draw.

The afternoon saw the team go on a bus trip up to 1,000 metres of the snowcapped Mount Olympus, which rises to 2,900 metres in total.A long winding road with magnificent views of the countryside below. On the way back called in at the monastery of St Dionysius, a multi-levelled quiet site, a little reminiscent of Portmeirion(well some of Clough's ideas did come from around here). Calling in a Litichoro, a town on the lower slopes was a little disappointing- a pleasant enough place, but it being Sunday shops were closed, so had to settle for a taverna. Called in via the coast on the way back to St Pantaleimon. But rather than a traditional Greek village with cobbled stones as mentioned (well it may have been somewhere there)it was more like Blackpool or Great Yarmouth. The more you move around, the more it remains the same.

European Senior Team Championships Rd 5

A tale of mixed fortunes against Denmark 2,slightly below us in ranking.
Rudy was first off the mark, finishing after two hours' play, having played 53 moves in total,11 more than Iolo who took another hour and a half to reach that. In the end Rudy had more time at the end than he started with. A positional game where the White pieces moved into good squares, and the Black position just collapsed as the White pieces moved further in. John looked good initially in a Stonewall Dutch, but an incautious f4 lead to White having enormous kingside chances, finishing off with a queen's pawn moving through to queen. Iolo had excellent pressure throughout in a kind of Catalan position. Winning a pawn, Iolo finished off neatly when his king came in to f6,to join with rook on the 7th and the white-squared bishop to force a mating sequence. The tragedy was in Bob's game. In a From Gambit turned to King's Gambit, he won the d pawn with a precise tactic, against a player rated 1990.
White got some counterplay, holding up the advance of the extra pawn, so Bob offered a draw ,which was declined. White then pushed too hard, and reached a losing position, with Bob having a very advanced c pawn. Unfortunately he decided he could give up a b to get the pawn through, but got blocked by the rook and knight. Eventually Bob found himself in a lost position with rook versus rook and two pawns.
Result 2-2.

After lunch the team retired to the taverna, where,after looking at the games played earlier, a five-player game ensued, people always alternating colours with each time they got to play. Bare kings was the final result here.

European Senior Team Championships Rd 4

We are at a sideroute in Greece, looking up at the Olympus mountain range covered in snow at some 9,000 plus feet. It might have something to do with the server continually breaking down, so we only get snatches of elections in Wales and Scotland.

Wales was a little unlucky in the draw. Having lost 3-1 the previous round to the number 11 seeds, the gods sought to challenge us with a pairing against the no 9 seeds, Sportfreunde, Katernberg, which translates as Sport friends from a place in Germany, 3 of them well into their seventies and FMs clocking in at 2200 plus.Even their bottom board, now at 1600 was playing at 1930 standard only a few years ago. And while us oldsters might be prone to blunder, we might just play that perfect game from long ago.

Rudy was the first to finish, playing a risky line of the Budapest against a 2243. His opponent failed to force Rudy down a rather dubious piece sacrifice at move 7. The position evened out, but Werner, intent on winning a bishop on f2 by forcing Black’s queen away from its protection, missed seeing that 13...Bh3 was mate. (Robert awarded him as many Welsh grading points as the game lasted, so maybe he should have kept it going a bit longer?) Richard started off fine with a rook on d6, but felt unable to maintain it there. Almost out of nowhere the Black pieces began to infiltrate and Richard decided not to wait for the inevitable mate. Although a little surprised by the exact line chosen, Bob got a good position against his opponent's Petroff, and looked to be better with an advanced pawn on e6. However Black was able to chisel away at the edges, and won a pawn or two when Bob failed to find the most active continuation. The rook and pawn ending could not be held. The last game to finish went nearly the full length. Actually with 30 seconds increment per move they could go on for a very long time. From a Benoni, John’s pieces got a bit hemmed in on the queenside, and a consequent kingside raid by Black merely resulted in the opponent having bishop and knight for a rook. After a great deal of manoeuvring, with John down to about 2 minutes, the White central pawns, backed by a potential bishop check, broke through to queen. Score, once again 3-1, but on the losing side.

Fortunately lunch is served from 1 to 5 pm. The team has also discovered a local tavern.

Monday, 9 May 2011

European Senior Team Championships Rd 3

Wales was drawn against a still strong Switzerland team, even after missing Korchnoy, who unfortunately has had a little spell in hospital.

Iolo playing a slightly higher graded FM got a nice manoeuvring position from a Queen's Indian type game, turned down a draw,but after exchanges a draw ensued. Richard played the veteran IM Edwin Bhend, facing an odd early Rb1, a3 and b4 against his Sicilian, but his pieces ,though defensive ,were well placed, and he happily accepted the draw offer from his higher rated opponent.Rudy played a Ruy Lopez with d3, and got good pressure against f7. However Black got a knight in at f4, and, since the king's position was untenable, he let his opponent finish with a mate. Robert was also playing against a 2100 + player, and unfortunately missed a queen moving from a4 to h4, losing a rook in the process, which his opponent then duly won.

We seem to be having a pattern of rain in the early morning, with quite good sunshine later.

European Senior Team Championships Rd 2

Rudy reports from round 2:

It ended 3-1 to Wales, the reverse of round 1. But though on paper Norway 2 was an easier team, in practice the gods make life difficult. (They are looking down from Mount Olympus above us as we go about our destined moves.)

Despite his opponent choosing the Qe2 'drawing' line against Iolo's Petroff, the endgame provided Iolo with pawn after pawn, to safeguard the win against Jan Arne Bjorgvik. John had more trouble against a solid Sicilian setup, where development was the key. Bard Standal missed a breakthrough(which of course the chess engines spotted easily), and was happy to accept the draw offer. Richard suffered similarly: a little inferior from the opening, he went for a draw. Odd Birkenstrand turned it down, but then overpressed and Richard's king moved into the centre and queenside, making further resistence futile. Robert Hurn was fortunate in that his opponent, Gunnar Bue, gave up a pawn eaely. But Robert absorbed any ensuing counterplay easily enough, and looked set to win; however his opponent got some compensation, so a draw resulted.

Walking along the beach alongside the Aegean Richard suddenly found a White Knight chess piece.Maybe this will enable the Welsh Marchog to ride on to victory.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

European Senior Team Championships - Round 1

Rudy reports from the European Senior Team Championships, where he is representing Wales:

In the European Seniors Team event, Wales faced a strong Finland side, who were able field two GMs and two middle 2200 players. The GMs duly struck. Iolo Jones faced Rantanen , who bit by bit increased his space advantage. At the end material was still level, but a Black pawn on g2 was too powerful. John Thornton faced Heikki Westerinen, who played a passive White opening, seemingly running scared of any violent counterplay that John might unleash. However an ever so slight imprecision meant the White pieces successfully overran the Black king. Richard Miles faced a tough 2200 + player (FM Harri Hurme), and got strange variations against the Swedish version of the Tarrasch defence. The opponent got an extra pawn on the queenside in a rook and bishop ending, Richard pushed through in the centre, eventually going a pawn up. However he was unable to hold it and the rook and pawn ending was drawn. Rudy faced a double fianchetto against the King's Indian, and turned it into something resembling a Leningrad Dutch, with a knight well placed on f7 to hold up any central advances. When his opponent grabbed an a-pawn it took his away from the fray, and a series of tactics in the centre meant that White was happy to accept the draw, especially since he was running short of time. A 3-1 loss in a seeded Swiss where we are lying no 22 out of 37, is a decent result. Most of the other lower rated teams went down 3½-½ or even 4-0.

It's quite a superb hotel, but few other local facilities, though there is a pebbly beach.