Monday, 18 August 2014

41st World Chess Olympiad - Part 1 - Rounds 1 to 3

Having announced my possible retirement from National duties in my previous post, this year's Olympiad is a particularly important and emotional event. I badly wanted to do well for 3 concrete reasons - i) To achieve my final GM norm, ii) to make up for my abrupt departure during the 2012 Olympiad and iii) this may well be my last Olympiad for some time. 

However, the preparation for such a big event was hardly ideal. I was still doing last minute handover at my office 3 hrs before my flight to Norway and my opening preparation was next to zero. I did, however, manage to squeeze in 3 standard chess training games with former Olympians and IMs Hsu Li Yang and Terry Toh which played a very important part in warming me up. Qing Aun also had the chance to play 3 training games (vs Choo Tong Neo, Olimpiu Urcan and former National Champion Lau Keng Boon) when certain weaknesses in his opening repertoire were made aware to him. I also had a couple of last minute training sessions with Zhang Zhong, Jingyao and Qing Aun while Qianyun played in an open tournament in Spain and this was more or less it. It goes without saying that our preparation could and should have been a lot more elaborate but the late announcement of the team composition may have played a part. Hopefully, with the implementation of the Dream Team initiative whereby scheduled trainings are expected to take place on a regular basis, such shoddy preparation may be a thing of the past.

We departed on 31st July and arrived in Tromso early afternoon on 1 August, via a couple of transits in Bangkok and Oslo. Our team captain, IM Leslie Leow (himself, a former National player and Olympiad player) was waiting for us and hurriedly told us to have lunch and not to worry about anything else. Apparently he had already completed all the accreditation and hotel check-ins for us! His initiative and pro-activeness will prove to be extremely helpful throughout the tournament as you will soon read.

We stayed at the Rica Ishavs Hotel, incidentally the same hotel as the Norweigians, Hungarians and the English, among others. The hotel also housed the Kasparov campaign office and it soon became a common sight to see the Boss himself walking about in the corridor together with SCF President Ignatius Leong and other members of the Kasparov team. The Kasparov team had clearly spared no expenses for the FIDE elections. Huge posters of Kasparov were everywhere in the city and a book authored and autographed by Kasparov himself was presented to each member of every team were just 2 examples. If Kasparov had expected to lose, he clearly had no intention to go down without a fight.

Meanwhile back at home, a Facebook group comprising ex-National players and Olympians such as IMs Hsu Li Yang and Terry Toh, FM Ong Chong Ghee , NM Lee Wang Sheng and Junior Tay was formed. The Group would be the Singapore team's no.1 fan club, following our games religiously every round and providing live annotations and often hilarious comments.

Round 1 - Singapore 4 Papua New Guinea 0

In the first round, we were paired against the lower seeded Papua New Guinea team and Zhang Zhong was rested, allowing Qianyun, Jingyao and Qing Aun to make their Olympiad debuts with relatively straightforward wins. Board 1 was a tough struggle though: A game that I liked
[Event "WCO2014"] [Site "Tromso"] [Date "2014.08.02"] [Round "1.13"] [White "Goh Wei Ming Kevin"] [Black "Fancy Stuart"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C23"] [WhiteElo "2433"] [BlackElo "2036"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r4rk1/6pp/2ppbp2/1pp1n2N/P3P1P1/1P1P2KP/1BP5/R4R2 b - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "28"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] {After some rather harmless opening play, Black had comfortably equalised although the current late middlegame still retained some play for both sides. I honestly wasn't sure what I was playing for though given that I was already in semi-time trouble having consumed huge amount of time in the opening. Here, Stuart played the slightly inaccurate} 24... c4 $6 {to which I followed up with } 25. d4 Ng6 26. axb5 cxb5 27. g5 $5 {, with the idea of creating some play down the long diagonal.} ({Here,} 27. d5 $1 Bf7 28. bxc4 bxc4 29. Bc3 $1 Ne5 30. Nf4 {followed by h4 and g5 looks more promising.}) 27... Rxa1 28. Rxa1 fxg5 29. d5 Bd7 ({I was rather afraid of} 29... Nf4 $1 {and Black seems to be fine.} ) 30. Ra7 Rf7 (30... Nf4 $1 {is a better defensive try and appears to hold after} 31. Rxd7 Nxh5+ 32. Kg4 Nf6+ 33. Bxf6 Rxf6 34. bxc4 bxc4 35. Kxg5 Kf8 36. Rc7 Rg6+ 37. Kf4 Rf6+) 31. Bxg7 Bc8 32. Ra8 Rc7 33. b4 $1 {This was an inspired decision although I certainly wasn't aware of it during the game! Here, I suddenly saw 33...Nf4 which seemed terribly strong and I panicked for a second...} Kf7 $2 {This loses without too much resistance.} (33... Nf4 {was indeed best but White wins after} 34. Nf6+ Kf7 35. h4 $1 {(the g7 bishop is still immune)} ({the team analysed} 35. Bh8 Ng6 $2 {and now Qianyun pointed out the incredibly strong} (35... h5 $1 {was best.}) 36. e5 $3 {, winning in all variations for example} dxe5 37. d6 $1 Rc6 38. d7 $18) 35... h6 36. hxg5 hxg5 37. Bh8 Ng6 38. e5 $3 Nxh8 39. exd6 Rb7 40. Ne4 $1 Bf5 41. Nc5 Rb6 42. d7 Bxd7 43. Nxd7 Rd6 44. Ne5+ Kf6 45. Ng4+ Kg7 46. Ne3 {with a clear edge for White.}) 34. Bh6 Ne5 35. Bxg5 Bb7 36. Ra7 Kg6 37. Nf4+ Kf7 38. Ne6 1-0
A rather fortunate win but I was certainly not complaining! Stuart, who's actually a friend of mine was a good sport after the game and actually went on to score 7.5 points in his next 10 games.
In Round 2, we were up against the mighty English. With the team littered with 2650+ GMs, the English team was able to rest superstar Michael Adams against us and still outrate us heavily on every board. The match turned out be a much closer affair.

Round 2 - England 3 Singapore 1

On board 1, Zhang Zhong played his trademark 3.Qxd4 Anti Sicilian against the dangerous Gawain Jones and had a good opportunity to seize an early opening advantage:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "WCO2014"] [Site "Tromso"] [Date "2014.08.03"] [Round "2.5"] [White "Zhang Zhong"] [Black "Jones Gawain C B"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B53"] [WhiteElo "2611"] [BlackElo "2665"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:09:11"] [BlackClock "0:09:45"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nf6 {After the game, Zhang Zhong confided in me that he had looked at virtually every line except for this particular move and was extremely annoyed at himself for missing this in his prep.} 5. e5 Nc6 6. Qa4 $1 (6. Bb5 {is the main alternative but Black generally does very well here after the forcing variation} Qa5+ 7. Nc3 Qxb5 $1 8. Nxb5 Nxd4 9. Nfxd4 ({perhaps, White should play for equality after} 9. Nbxd4 dxe5 10. Nxe5 {although I still prefer Black after} Nd5 $1) 9... dxe5 10. Nc7+ Kd7 $1 11. Nxa8 exd4 12. Bf4 Nd5 (12... e5 $5 {, with the idea} 13. Bxe5 Bd6 $1 {also looks good for Black.}) 13. O-O-O e6 14. Rxd4 Bc5 15. Rd2 Kc6 16. Be5 b5 $1 {and Black has good chances in the ensuing endgame.}) 6... dxe5 7. Nxe5 Qd4 $6 {This seemed very logical but this actually allowed White decent chances to seize the initiative.} ({Destroying his own structure with} 7... Qc7 $1 8. Nxc6 bxc6 {seems counter-intuitive but is actually pretty efficient in terms of the ability to develop his pieces quickly. For example,} 9. g3 Bd7 10. Nd2 (10. Bg2 Qe5+ $1 {is awkward to meet.}) 10... Rb8 11. Bg2 c5 12. Qc4 Rb6 $1 {and with the threat of ...Re6, Black is very active.}) 8. Qxd4 Nxd4 9. Na3 Nd7 $6 { Another slight inaccuracy from the Englishman.} (9... a6 10. c3 Nf5 {is a safer defence although White retains a very small pull after} 11. Be2) 10. Bf4 $2 {This threw away any chances of obtaining an opening edge.} (10. c3 $1 {, as mentioned by Zhang Zhong after the game, was pretty good. For example,} Ne6 (10... Nxe5 11. cxd4 Nc6 12. Nb5 {forces Black to displace his king with} Kd8) (10... Nc2+ 11. Nxc2 Nxe5 12. Be3 a6 13. Be2 $14) 11. Bb5 Nec5 12. Nxd7 Bxd7 13. Be3 $14 {. In general, White gets a small but risk-free edge which is the kind of thing you want to get against a 2600+ Grandmaster.}) 10... f6 $1 {This equalises by force and the game eventually petered out a draw after mass exchanges:} 11. Nxd7 Bxd7 12. O-O-O e5 13. Be3 Bxa3 14. Bxd4 Be7 15. Be3 Be6 16. g3 Rc8 17. Bg2 b6 18. Bd5 Kf7 19. f4 Rhd8 20. Bxe6+ Kxe6 21. fxe5 Rxd1+ 22. Kxd1 fxe5 23. c3 h5 24. Ke2 Rc4 25. h3 b5 26. Rc1 Re4 27. Re1 h4 28. Kf3 $6 { Not the most accurate, although good enough eventually.} (28. g4 {was safest, and the resulting pawn endgame after} Bc5 29. Kf3 Rxe3+ 30. Rxe3 Bxe3 31. Kxe3 Kd5 32. b3 {leads to a clear draw.}) 28... Ra4 29. Ra1 hxg3 30. Kxg3 a6 31. b3 Re4 32. Kf3 Rh4 33. Kg2 Re4 (33... Rh8 $5 {[%cal Gh8c8]}) 34. Kf3 Rh4 35. Kg2 Re4 1/2-1/2
I took the Black pieces against the legendary Nigel David Short, someone I've played (and lost to) many times on the server. The opening was not a major success by any means but I somehow managed to break free after getting squashed the entire time, after which the game sprung to life:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "41st World Chess Olympiad"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.08.04"] [Round "2"] [White "Nigel Short"] [Black "Goh Wei Ming, Kevin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C05"] [WhiteElo "2665"] [BlackElo "2433"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [PlyCount "72"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 {In my many duels with Nigel on, Nigel has often played 3.Nc3 here and in all the games, have killed me from strangulation. I was slightly surprised with the Tarrasch as this is not his favored choice against the French according to my database. Of course, being somewhat of a French expert himself, it's not surprising that he knows a lot about every line here.} Nf6 {I didn't want to walk into any surprises after 3.. .Be7 which has always been my preferred choice. After the game, Nigel told me he used to play tons of games with 3...Nf6 back in the 1970s to which I wryly replied "I wasn't even born yet".} 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 {This was another unpleasant surprise as this cramping move has fallen out of favor at top level these days ever since Black found convincing ideas to look for counter play. My preparation with this however is several years old and I couldn't remember a single thing over the board.} c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ndf3 Qb6 8. a3 $5 {This was already slightly rare. White normally only plays this after he plays Nge2.} ({ The old mainline goes} 8. Ne2 f6 9. g3 Be7 10. Bh3 cxd4 11. cxd4 O-O $1 {(a sharp sacrifice which I vaguely remember)} 12. Bxe6+ Kh8 {and here,} 13. Bxd5 $2 {is a well known error due to} fxe5 14. dxe5 $2 Nb4 $1 15. Be4 Nc5 {with an irresistible initiative.}) ({After} 8. Ne2 f6 9. a3 Be7 10. h4 {(A standard move in this line - prepping Rh3, adding control over the g5-square and in general just space gaining.)} O-O 11. Rh3 a5 12. b3 {(this anticipates a future pawn-fixing ...a4)} Qc7 {, Black gets a fair share of activity and the position remains extremely tense.}) 8... a5 {I generally like to stop b2-b4 although Black does have decent alternatives.} 9. b3 {As mentioned earlier, this move prevents ...a5-a4 permanently and also gives rise to the possibility of Ra1-a2 where the rook is flexibly deployed.} Be7 10. h4 $5 {This was a cunning move, delaying the development of the g1-knight for reasons that will be clear very soon. The good thing about White's position was that he has a number of useful waiting moves while the same can't be said for Black.} ({In fact,} 10. Ra2 $1 {may be even more efficient when he once again gets his ideal set up after} O-O $6 11. Bd3 $1 {and h4 may not be necessary since White manages to castle kingside smoothly.}) 10... f6 $2 {Completely missing the point.} ({During the game, I felt} 10... Qa7 $5 {, momentarily preventing White's next move and preparing ...Rb8 followed by ...b5 makes a lot of sense.} ) ({John Watson gives} 10... cxd4 11. cxd4 h5 $5 {as a permanent way to halt White's progress on the kingside but White definitely remains for choice here after} 12. Bb2) 11. Bd3 $1 {Of course, this was the key idea behind White's last few moves. White's light square bishop is strategically preferred on the d3 square but in these f4 variations, it often gets deployed on h3 instead due to Black's pressure on the d4 pawn. Here, White's queen continues to defend the d4 pawn tactically.} Qc7 {Played with the idea of ...Rb8 and ...b5, seeking counterplay.} ({I had no intention of allowing Nigel to win beautifully after} 11... O-O $2 12. Bxh7+ $1 Kxh7 13. Ng5+ Kh6 (13... fxg5 14. Qh5+ Kg8 15. hxg5 {is crushing.}) 14. Ne2 $1 {, followed by Ng3 when Black has no defence.}) 12. Ne2 Rb8 ({Now that the queen does not have any access to the h5 square, I briefly considered} 12... O-O $5 {but didn't like the looks of} 13. Qc2 {when} f5 {looks forced when White should be quite happy as he is the one holding the trumps on the kingside and can potentially set up a future g4 break.}) 13. a4 ({During the game, I was wondering about a move like} 13. h5 $5 b5 14. h6 g6 {and what this sequence meant structurally for Black. There are some specific risks here since after} 15. exf6 Nxf6 16. Qc2 $1 {, White threatens to sacrifice on g6 with a terrifying initiative. Even without concrete tactics, White's structure looks preferable as he can look to exert pressure on the e6 pawn and the h6 pawn is always a thorn.}) 13... cxd4 14. cxd4 Nb4 15. O-O Nxd3 {It felt right to exchange some pieces although the c6 knight was clearly my best piece for the time being.} 16. Qxd3 O-O 17. Ba3 $2 { Exchanging the dark square bishops was highly desirable strategically but unfortunately, (or fortunately for me), this allowed Black a momentous tactical sequence that equalised on the spot.} ({The team analysed} 17. Bd2 b6 18. Rac1 Qa7 19. Nc3 ({Leslie suggested} 19. Rc6 {but here, Black had the amazing resource} fxe5 20. fxe5 Ba6 21. Qe3 Rfc8 ({The computer suggests the jaw dropping} 21... Nc5 $3 22. dxc5 Bxc5 23. Rxc5 bxc5 {and claims equality here.}) {, with the idea} 22. Rxe6 $2 Nf8 $1) 19... Ba6 20. Nb5 {and White retains a clear spatial edge.}) ({Zhang Zhong also suggested} 17. h5 $5 {which should also be sufficient for an edge.}) 17... Bxa3 18. Rxa3 Nc5 $1 {Now, Black gets his problem knight to a useful square regardless of White's reply.} 19. Qc3 {The queen exchange is more or less forced.} ({After} 19. Qe3 Ne4 20. Rc1 Qe7 21. Raa1 Bd7 {Black is already going to take over the initiative.}) 19... Na6 20. Qxc7 Nxc7 {The worst had clearly passed and I was beginning to feel quite optimistic about my position. I planned ...Bd7-e8 and ...b5, with pressure all over the board. Nigel's next move stopped me in my tracks.} 21. h5 $1 h6 {A reactive move which I didn't spend too much time on.} ({I wasn't sure what happens after} 21... b6 22. h6 gxh6 23. exf6 {but it seems like Black is doing fine after} Ne8 24. Ne5 Nxf6 {[%csl Gc8][%cal Gc8a6]}) 22. exf6 gxf6 23. f5 e5 ({Wrecking my structure with} 23... exf5 $2 {would have caused me game-long suffering after} 24. Nh4) 24. Nh4 Bd7 25. Ng6 ({I was a little worried about} 25. b4 $5 axb4 26. Rg3+ Kf7 27. Rg6 {although Black's passers on the queenside obviously means that there is some inherent risk with this approach. The computer gives a 0.00 score here so who knows what is really happening?}) 25... Rfe8 26. Raa1 Kf7 27. Rac1 Na6 28. g4 b5 $1 {This felt liberative and despite the time trouble, I felt I may already have enough grounds to play for a win here. White's pawn triangle on the kingside may be restraining but was also somewhat vulnerable and my knight and bishop covered the c-file quite sufficiently.} 29. Rfe1 $2 {This looked and felt natural but was actually an inaccuracy.} (29. dxe5 fxe5 30. Rfd1 $1 d4 31. axb5 Bxb5 32. Ng3 $1 Rbd8 33. Ra1 $1 a4 $1 34. bxa4 Bc6 35. a5 e4 $13 {was a piece of computer-inspired analysis.}) 29... bxa4 30. bxa4 Rb4 $5 {I was playing by instinct alone and I felt the rook on b4 felt right.} (30... exd4 $5 31. Nxd4 Rxe1+ 32. Rxe1 Re8 $1 {would have put White under severe pressure although after} 33. Rc1 Re4 34. Nb5 $1 {, threatening Nd6+, White should retain sufficient counter play although things are of course extremely messy and the result could go either way.}) 31. Kf2 exd4 32. Nef4 Rb2+ 33. Kf1 $2 {Gifting Black the one and only chance he needed to play for the win.} (33. Kg3 Nb4 $1 34. Rxe8 Kxe8 35. Re1+ Kd8 36. Ne6+ Bxe6 37. fxe6 Rb3+ 38. Kg2 d3 {gives Black good winning chances}) (33. Kf3 {may be best but Black can still soldier on after} Bxa4 34. Rxe8 Kxe8 35. Nxd5 d3 36. Nxf6+ Kd8 37. Ne4 d2 38. Nxd2 Rxd2 39. Ke3 Rd7 40. Ne5 {when White may win one of Black's remaining two pawns with good chances for the draw.}) 33... Re3 $6 ({It's hard to argue with a move that forces a draw with a top player but here,} 33... Bxa4 $1 {is extremely strong and would have allowed Black to press infinitely for the win.} ) 34. Nxd5 {Basically agreeing to the draw.} (34. Rxe3 dxe3 35. Nxd5 Rf2+ ( 35... e2+ 36. Kf2 Bxa4 37. g5 $1 {would have given White some tricks.} ({I was calculating} 37. Nc3 $2 Nb4 $1)) 36. Ke1 Nb4 37. Nxb4 axb4 38. Rc7 Ke8 39. Rb7 Bxa4 40. Rxb4 Bc6 {should also be fully equal.}) 34... Rf3+ 35. Kg1 Rg3+ 36. Kf1 Rf3+ 1/2-1/2
Qianyun got a highly promising position straightout from the opening against David Howell and also had a significant time advantage. Before the tournament, I was following the British Championships a little and noticed that David is a bit of a "thinker" and often gets into time trouble even when the positions he gets are theoretically known. In this game, David spent huge volumes of time in the opening but got himself a bad position. However, Qianyun drifted for a few moves and the classy GM pounced to nasty effect:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "WCO2014"] [Site "Tromso"] [Date "2014.08.03"] [Round "2.7"] [White "Gong Qianyun"] [Black "Howell David W L"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C24"] [WhiteElo "2328"] [BlackElo "2650"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:01:05"] [BlackClock "0:01:09"] 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 $5 {The Bishop's Opening is a nice line to play if you are terrified of the Petroff. The downside is that it allows the system that David utilised in the game.} Nf6 (2... Nc6 3. Nf3 {transposes to the Giucco Piano but White has effectively avoided the Petroff defence with this move order.}) 3. d3 c6 $5 {This is the mainline of the Bishop's Opening which equalises by force.} ({Again,} 3... Nc6 4. Nf3 {transposes to well-known stuff.}) 4. Nf3 h6 $5 {An interesting choice played after a long think.} ({David undoubtedly knows the theory after} 4... d5 5. Bb3 Bd6 {but is perhaps keen to avoid the simplifications that may arise after} 6. Nc3 dxe4 7. Nxe4 Nxe4 8. dxe4 {when its unrealistic for Black to play for a win against a decent opponent. I'll just like to add that} Bb4+ $2 {here does not equalise in view of} 9. c3 Qxd1+ 10. Kxd1 Bd6 11. Kc2 O-O 12. Rd1 Bc7 13. Be3 $14) 5. Nc3 d6 6. h3 g6 $6 {This seemed extravagant.} (6... Be7 7. d4 Nbd7 {with a Philidor-type of position seems better especially when White has spent 2 moves to push her pawn to d4.}) 7. Be3 (7. d4 $1 {, with the idea} Qe7 8. dxe5 dxe5 9. a4 Nbd7 10. O-O Bg7 11. b3 $1 {seems very promising for White. White simply develops in Philidor style but Black has spent two important tempo to fianchetto his dark square bishop where its actually misplaced. Black would have to play very carefully not to end up with a lost position inside 20 moves.}) 7... Bg7 8. Qd2 {This plan, not allowing Black to castle kingside was also pretty good and secured White a safe advantage. Here, Houdini 4 at depth 20 suggests the ridiculous 8... c5!?!?! which is a clear indication on how dubious Black's position was at this point.} Nbd7 9. Bb3 ({Again, I like} 9. a4 $1 $16) 9... Qe7 10. d4 a5 11. d5 $2 {Qianyun overlooked a move in her calculations and allowed Black to equalise with a straightforward shot.} (11. dxe5 Nxe5 12. Nxe5 dxe5 13. O-O $14 {would have continued to pose some problems for Black.}) 11... a4 $1 {A typical but nice motif.} 12. Bxa4 Nxe4 13. Nxe4 Rxa4 14. dxc6 Rxe4 15. cxd7+ Bxd7 16. O-O-O Ra4 $1 17. a3 ({I felt that} 17. Qxd6 Qxd6 18. Rxd6 Rxa2 19. Kb1 Ra8 20. Re1 {was a promising way to "force" a draw although there's still a lot of chess to be played.}) 17... Ra6 $15 {Black had gained a lot over the last few moves, opening up the a-file, getting rid of White's pawn centre and gaining the bishop pair and had seized the advantage. This was truly a remarkable turnaround after the dubious opening. From here, the class of the English Grandmaster told and he never gave Qianyun a chance.} 18. Rhe1 Be6 19. g4 Qc7 20. Ng1 h5 $1 21. gxh5 Rxh5 22. f4 Qc4 23. fxe5 Rxe5 24. Nf3 Rb5 25. Bd4 Qa2 26. Qe3 Rxb2 $1 27. Bxb2 Qxb2+ 28. Kd2 Rxa3 29. Qf4 Bc3+ 30. Ke2 Qxc2+ 31. Nd2 Be5 32. Qe4 Qc3 33. Rc1 Qxh3 34. Rh1 Bg4+ 35. Kf2 Qg3+ {A painful defeat for Qianyun but also a reminder that one cannot afford a single slip against top players.} 0-1
On Board 4, Matthew Sadler, the world's strongest "amateur" in my opinion, utilised the King's Indian Attack against Jingyao's 2...e6 Sicilian. I felt that this was a clever choice given Jingyao's lack of experience on the Black side of the 2...e6 Sicilian. Nevertheless, the fight was extremely messy and Jingyao obtained genuine chances:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "WCO2014"] [Site "Tromso"] [Date "2014.08.03"] [Round "2.8"] [White "Sadler Matthew D"] [Black "Tin Jingyao"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A08"] [WhiteElo "2653"] [BlackElo "2251"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:16:59"] [BlackClock "0:04:52"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d3 {Sadler is well known for his originality during the opening stage of the game and he not surprisingly chose not to enter the main lines of the Open Sicilian.} ({There are some merits of the move} 3. g3 $5 { which allows White the flexibility to be able to push his d pawn directly to d4 in some cases. Here,} d5 {is Black's main attempt in refuting this move order but White gets a playable position after} 4. exd5 exd5 5. d4 Nf6 6. Bg2 Qe7+ 7. Be3 Ng4 8. O-O $1 Nxe3 9. fxe3 Nc6 10. Nc3 Be6 {with an unclear game in prospect.}) 3... Nc6 4. g3 d5 (4... g6 {is another line and here White can try} 5. d4 $5 {although Black has the well-known equaliser} cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bg7 7. Nb5 d5 8. exd5 exd5 9. Qxd5 Qe7+ $1 10. Be2 Bg4 {and Black is completely fine here.}) 5. Nbd2 Nf6 (5... Bd6 6. Bg2 Nge7 {is another decent set-up.}) 6. Bg2 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. Re1 b5 ({Here, Jacob Aagard and Nikolaos Nitirlis highly recommend} 8... Qc7 $5 {in "Playing the French" - Quality Chess 2013. The point is that after the logical continuation} 9. e5 Nd7 {, White is forced to go} 10. Qe2 {whereas in the normal move order as in the text, White is in time to complete natural development with Bf4. In any case, the position after} b5 11. Nf1 a5 12. h4 Ba6 13. Bf4 {remains highly complex.}) 9. e5 Nd7 10. Nf1 Qc7 {This move is rarely seen in this theoretical position although it is by no means bad.} (10... a5 {is the usual move.}) ({while} 10... b4 11. a3 bxa3 12. Rxa3 {leads to a different type of position.}) 11. Bf4 Bb7 ({On page 272 of "Experts vs the Anti Sicilian", Christian Bauer gave} 11... Nb6 12. h4 d4 13. N1h2 (13. h5 Nd5 14. Bc1 {"would have presented Black with the traditional dilemma; should he allow h5-h6 or play ...h6 himself, thereby creating a target for the enemy pieces?" - Bauer}) 13... Nd5 14. Bg5 Bb7 {with a level position.}) 12. h4 d4 $1 {Jingyao commits his intentions early with this move although again, the plan is based on sound positional motifs. The b6-knight was heading for d5 after which the rooks would be developed on the d and c files.} ({During the post mortem, I felt} 12... a5 $5 {may be more flexible but White simply continues with} 13. Ne3 Nb6 14. Ng4 {, with the idea} d4 $2 15. Nf6+ $1) 13. N1d2 $1 {A classy move, quickly targetting the e4 square for his knight.} Rfd8 (13... Nb4 14. Ne4 Nd5 15. Qd2 (15. Bg5 h6 $5) 15... Nxf4 16. Qxf4 {was another possible route.}) 14. g4 $5 {The computer doesn't like this move but this came across to me as a very natural move. Surely, the dark square bishop was both tactically and strategically well placed on g3?} (14. Ne4 Qb6 (14... Nb4 $2 15. Nf6+ $1 {is the key motif.}) 15. Qd2 {was another possibility. Here, Black achieves decent Queenside play with} c4 $1 {when it's not clear how White can make further progress on the Kingside.}) 14... Nb4 $1 15. a3 ({After the logical} 15. Ne4 {,} Bxe4 $1 {is an interesting positional decision, with the point that after} 16. Rxe4 Nb6 {, Black may have given up the bishop pair but the e4 rook can hardly hope to participate in the Kingside attack and Black is ready to press ahead with c4 and Rac8.}) 15... Nd5 16. Bg3 Rac8 17. Ne4 Qb6 ({During team analysis, Jingyao showed that the tempting c4 here didn't work in view of} 17... c4 18. Nd6 $1) 18. Qd2 b4 ({According to Jingyao, Sadler demonstrated the following complicated line after the game:} 18... c4 19. dxc4 Rxc4 20. b3 Nc3 $1 {although the computer refutes it with} 21. Nf6+ $1 gxf6 22. bxc4 fxe5 23. Nxe5 Bxg2 24. Kxg2 bxc4 25. Qh6 $1 $14) 19. g5 bxa3 20. bxa3 {Black had done well to reach this position but for now, he appeared stuck for a plan. White might not be crashing through on the kingside at this stage but Black certainly should not be taking things for granted and had to continuously find active moves. But how?} Qc6 (20... Ba8 $1 21. h5 Rb8 $1 {with the ideas of ...Qa6, ...Rb2 and ...c4 looks cumbersome but is strangely enough, hard to stop.}) 21. h5 {Now, Black's position starts to feel uncomfortable.} N7b6 $2 {An inaccuracy, with the following sacrifice in mind. However, Jingyao had missed his opponent's 24th move.} (21... Ba8 $5) 22. Nd6 Bxd6 23. exd6 Rxd6 24. Ne5 $1 {An extremely strong tactical resource. After losing such an important pawn, Black's position was destined to collapse.} ({ Jingyao would have gotten fantastic compensation for the material after} 24. Bxd6 Qxd6 {where he believed he had genuine chances to play for the win. While the appreciation of the positional factors (outpost on c3, weak a3-pawn etc) was spot on, it was unfortunate that this resource failed tactically.}) 24... Qe8 (24... Qc7 25. Nc4 $1 {wins a lot of material by force.}) 25. Nxf7 Qxf7 26. Bxd6 {With an exchange down for nothing, Black was hopelessly lost and Sadler cleaned up efficiently:} Nc3 27. Bxb7 Qxb7 28. Qf4 Qf7 29. Qg4 Kh8 30. g6 Qf5 31. Qxf5 exf5 32. Re6 Nd7 33. Rae1 Nf6 34. Bxc5 1-0
In Round 3, the team was paired with the lower seeded Barbados (affectionately coined the "Barbie Dolls" in the Facebook group) and I hurriedly volunteered to sit out this round as I felt I would potentially face a lower rated opponent that may jeopardize any possible norm chances. I fully expected the team to win the match convincingly but as we'll soon see, the story could have turned out very differently...

Round 3 - Barbados 0 - Singapore 4

A big win as expected but this certainly could have turned out very differently! On Board 1, Zhang Zhong was surprised by the 4.f3 variation in the Nimzo-Indian and misplayed his preparation and was facing a hopelessly lost position by move 16. His opponent, clearly overawed by the occasion, started playing inexplicably for the draw and somehow managed to throw away an extremely advantageous position:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "WCO2014"] [Site "Tromso"] [Date "2014.08.04"] [Round "3.40"] [White "Warner Delisle"] [Black "Zhang Zhong"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E25"] [WhiteElo "2243"] [BlackElo "2611"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [PlyCount "120"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:56:52"] [BlackClock "0:18:07"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 $5 {This is a favourite of the Chinese superstar Ding Liren and has been played at the highest level, most notably by Vishy Anand in the World Championship match against Carlsen.} d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ ( 5... Be7 $5 {is topical, with the idea of} 6. e4 dxe4 7. fxe4 e5 8. d5 (8. Nf3 $5) 8... Bc5 9. Nf3 Bg4 {, with interest dark square play.}) 6. bxc3 c5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. dxc5 Qa5 ({After the game, Zhang Zhong told me that he had forgotten his opening preparation and in fact, his line had always been} 8... f5 $5 {, rather than at move 10 in the game.}) 9. e4 Ne7 10. Be3 f5 $2 {This led to a significant disadvantage.} (10... O-O 11. Qb3 Qc7 {is of course the hot mainline and readers will do well to consult Edward Dearing's book "Play the Nimzo-Indian" which covers this position adequately.}) 11. Qb3 Nbc6 12. Bd3 Bd7 13. Ne2 {With simple play, White had increased his edge and Black, not quite able to castle either side without suffering some sort of compromise was facing an impossible situation.} Ne5 14. Bc2 Qa6 15. Rb1 Nd3+ {This should have lost immediately but its hard to suggest any sort of move here.} 16. Bxd3 Qxd3 17. c4 $4 {After his previous flawless opening play, White managed to somehow throw away the lion share of the advantage in one move.} ({Here, Zhang Zhong said} 17. Kf2 {was more or less winning on the spot. Perhaps, Black was afraid of some form of counterplay after} fxe4 {but} 18. Rhd1 Qa6 19. Rxd7 $1 Kxd7 20. Rd1+ (20. Qxb7+ Qxb7 21. Rxb7+ Ke8 22. Nd4 {was also pretty strong}) 20... Ke8 21. Rd6 b6 22. Rxe6 {is curtains.}) 17... Qxb3 {Probably played with a sigh of relief. However, the worst may have passed but the danger had not and Black remained a pawn down with very little in return. But at the very least, his position was not lost yet.} 18. Rxb3 fxe4 19. fxe4 O-O-O 20. O-O Ba4 21. Rb4 Bc6 22. Bg5 $6 {This in itself was not a bad move but the intention behind it was deeply flawed.} ({Here, I was mainly concerned with} 22. Nd4 $1 { , with the idea} e5 23. Nb5 {when White infiltrates on the dark squares.}) 22... Rd7 23. Bxe7 $4 {White completely lost thread of the position with this strategically mistaken exchange.} ({It was hard to imagine what White was thinking here, giving up his dominant dark square bishop for the temporarily paralysed knight but perhaps he was afraid of something like} 23. Nc3 Ng6 { followed by ...Ne5. However, the knight on d6 after} 24. Nb5 $1 Kb8 25. Nd6 { is about a hundred times more important than a knight on the e5 square which could be dislodged easily at any point.}) 23... Rxe7 {Continuing his passive strategy of "holding and exchanging at every opportune moment".} 24. Nc3 ({If White was fighting for a draw, I thought} 24. Nd4 $1 Bxe4 25. Re1 {exchanging another set of pawns, would have made more sense.}) 24... a6 25. Rd1 h5 $1 { Played with the idea of ...h4 and ...Rh5. Black had completely equalised and had his best position of the game so far. Zhang Zhong was no doubt buoyed at this stage and must be thinking of playing for the win!} 26. Rb2 h4 27. Rf2 Kc7 ({Zhang Zhong showed that after} 27... Rh5 {,} 28. Rf8+ Re8 29. Rxe8+ Bxe8 30. Rd6 Bd7 (30... Re5 $5) 31. c6 $1 bxc6 32. Na4 {, White would obtain a draw relatively comfortably. Hence, he wanted to keep as many pieces on the board as possible. Percentage chess, Mr. Terry Toh?}) 28. Nd5+ $5 {An interesting piece sacrifice to get his pawns rolling. Such a piece sacrifice is normally more effective with more pieces on the board though. A typical example is seen in the famous game Vishy Anand - Wang Hao, Wijk Aan Zee 2011.} exd5 29. cxd5 $2 (29. exd5 $1 {, keeping control of the b5 square was much stronger as analysed by the team after the game. For instance,} Rd7 30. Rb1 Ba4 {(Black would dearly like to play ...Bb5 here.)} 31. Rb4 Bd1 32. Rfb2 {with sufficient counterplay for equality but no more.}) 29... Rd7 {Now, Black was clearly in the driver's seat.} 30. d6+ $2 {Giving up total control of the light square was suicidal.} ({A move like} 30. Rfd2 {would have forced Black to continue searching for good moves to formulate a breakthrough.}) 30... Kc8 31. e5 Re8 32. Re1 Re6 33. Rf4 Rd8 34. Rxh4 Rde8 35. Rh5 Rg6 $1 36. g3 Kd7 37. Kf2 Rf8+ 38. Ke3 Ke6 {Zhang Zhong had blockaded the central pawns nicely and didn't slip up from here:} 39. Rh4 Rf3+ 40. Kd2 Rxa3 41. Rh8 Rg4 42. Re3 Rxe3 43. Kxe3 Re4+ 44. Kd3 Rxe5 45. Kd4 Re4+ 46. Kd3 Kd5 47. Rh7 Bb5+ 48. Kc3 Rg4 49. Rh5+ Kc6 50. Re5 g6 51. Kb3 Rd4 52. Rg5 a5 53. Rxg6 Kxc5 54. h4 Rxd6 55. Rg7 Rd7 56. Rg5+ Rd5 57. Rg7 Bc4+ 58. Ka4 b6 59. g4 Rd2 60. Rc7+ Kd4 0-1
Qianyun's game was pretty ruthless as she simply tore her opponent's defences apart:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "WCO2014"] [Site "Tromso"] [Date "2014.08.04"] [Round "3.39"] [White "Gong Qianyun"] [Black "Husbands Orlando"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B53"] [WhiteElo "2328"] [BlackElo "2118"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2rq1rk1/1p2p2p/p1npn1p1/5b2/2P5/1P3NNP/PQ2BPP1/3R1RK1 w - - 0 20"] [PlyCount "29"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:44:52"] [BlackClock "0:15:16"] {Black had gone astray early in the opening and Qianyun started her usual aggressive play with} 20. Nh4 $1 {when Black was already in a difficult situation.} Ne5 (20... Qc7 21. Bf3 Ng7 22. Ngxf5 gxf5 23. Rfe1 {also looks ultra depressing for Black.}) 21. f4 Qb6+ 22. Kh2 Nc6 23. Nhxf5 gxf5 24. Bf3 Nc7 25. Nh5 $1 Rf7 26. Bxc6 $1 Qxc6 27. Rd3 $1 {White's play was so smooth and logical that no commentary was required.} e5 28. fxe5 dxe5 29. Qxe5 Qe6 30. Rg3+ Kf8 31. Qc5+ Qe7 32. Qd4 Ke8 33. Ng7+ Kf8 34. Nxf5 {and Black had enough. An utterly ruthless demonstration.} 1-0
After the game, the Facebook Group promptly dubbed Qianyun as the "Husbands killer"! Not sure what that meant to my old friend Mr. Tay Shihao....

On Board 3, Jingyao had to face the quiet 2.c3 Sicilian where his opponent had gone for an early queen exchange. The position was not without its dangers though, and Black had to tread carefully:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "WCO2014"] [Site "Tromso"] [Date "2014.08.04"] [Round "3.38"] [White "Denny Kevin"] [Black "Tin Jingyao"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B40"] [WhiteElo "2261"] [BlackElo "2251"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1b2rk1/p3bppp/np2pn2/1N1q4/3Q4/2P1BN2/PP2BPPP/R4RK1 b - - 0 11"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:01:16"] [BlackClock "0:31:56"] {Here, Black played the erroneous} 11... Bc5 $2 {which could have led to an extremely tricky position.} ({Instead,} 11... Bb7 {was solid enough.}) 12. Qxd5 $2 (12. Qf4 $1 {, with the idea} Bxe3 ({or} 12... Bb7 13. Rfd1 Qe4 14. Nd6 $14) 13. Qxe3 Bb7 14. Rfd1 $1 Qc6 15. Rac1 {followed by queenside expansion with b4 and c4 looks very good for White.}) 12... Nxd5 13. Bd2 Nac7 14. Nxc7 Nxc7 15. b4 Be7 16. c4 f6 17. Nd4 Bb7 {Black had escaped into an objectively equal not-quite-an-endgame, or NQE but I would rather prefer Black here as his plan of playing ...e5, ...Kf7 and ...f5 is attractive and easy to play. White soon lost thread of the position and Jingyao displayed fine technique in outplaying his IM opponent to a victory:} 18. Rab1 Rfd8 19. Be3 Be4 $6 (19... e5 $1 {was more accurate.}) 20. Rb2 (20. Bf3 $1 {is a strong computer suggestion, the point being that after} Bxf3 21. gxf3 Bf8 22. b5 e5 23. Nc6 {, the strong knight on c6 compensates for White's wrecked kingside pawns.}) 20... e5 21. Nf3 Ne6 22. Rd1 Rxd1+ 23. Bxd1 Rd8 24. Nd2 Bb7 {Black was dominant at this point.} 25. Bg4 Kf7 26. h3 Bc6 27. Bf3 Bxf3 28. Nxf3 Rd1+ 29. Kh2 e4 $1 30. Nd2 f5 31. g3 g5 32. c5 f4 $19 33. cxb6 fxe3 34. fxe3 axb6 35. Nxe4 Rd3 36. Rf2+ Kg6 37. Rf3 Nd4 0-1
On the last board, young Qing Aun was much surprised by the relatively rare Kalashnikov variation of the Sicilian defence. The problem with playing the mainlines is that it is very easy to be susceptible to such tricky opening variations which are perhaps, not quite mainstream but are fully playable enough to cause damage if White is not familiar with the theory. Not surprisingly, Qing Aun deviated from established theory and drifted into an extremely difficult position having consumed volumes of time in the process. To his credit, the young boy fought like a lion and in a remarkable turnaround, took his opponent to the cleaners:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 12)
[Event "WCO2014"] [Site "Tromso"] [Date "2014.08.04"] [Round "3.37"] [White "Lee Qing Aun"] [Black "Del Castilho Martyn"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "1893"] [BlackElo "2221"] [Annotator "Wei Ming"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:30:32"] [BlackClock "0:30:06"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 $5 {The Kalashnikov variation is lesser known than its sister line, the Sveshnikov but it was notably played on multiple occasions by Teimour Radjabov.} 5. Nb5 d6 (5... Nf6 6. N1c3 d6 { transposes to the Sveshnikov.}) 6. N1c3 {Probably White's best way to fight for an edge.} (6. c4 {is the other approach.}) 6... a6 7. Na3 b5 8. Nd5 Nge7 { Here, Qing Aun sank into deep thought, having fallen on unfamiliar territory.} (8... Nce7 {was also playable.}) ({while} 8... Nf6 9. Bg5 {again transposes to the Sveshnikov.}) 9. Bg5 $6 {This had been established to allow equality.} (9. c4 $1 {is the mainline and I think White has good chances to obtain an opening edge. I'll just show some of my old notes here:} Nd4 10. Be3 Nxd5 11. cxd5 Be7 (11... g6 {(a suggestion of Jan Pinski)} 12. Nc2 Nxc2+ 13. Qxc2 Bd7 14. Bd3 Bg7 15. O-O O-O 16. Qc3 $1 $14 {[%cal Gc3b4]}) 12. Bd3 O-O 13. O-O Bd7 14. Qd2 Rc8 15. Rac1 $14) 9... h6 10. Bxb5 $1 {Objectively White's best move here although this does not lead to an advantage. More importantly, Qing Aun had used a lot of his time to calculate the ramifications after this aesthetic looking piece sac.} hxg5 11. Nxe7 axb5 12. Nxc6 Qd7 13. Nb4 Ra4 14. c3 d5 {Black had blitzed out all his moves so far. Faced with such a position with Black's bishop pair looking menacing, having a severe time disadvantage and out-rated by over 300 points, one can imagine the turmoil that must have been going through Qing Aun's head and not surprisingly, he erred pretty soon.} 15. Nac2 (15. Qxd5 { would have led to calm waters, for example after} Qxd5 16. exd5 Bxb4 17. cxb4 Rxb4 18. O-O-O Bf5 19. b3 Kd7 20. Kb2 $11 {but perhaps White was still striving for complications?}) 15... dxe4 16. Qe2 $6 {This led to a pretty uncomfortable position.} (16. Qxd7+ {looks like the most practical solution as after} Bxd7 17. O-O Be6 18. Rfe1 f5 19. Nc6 $1 Bd6 20. Rad1 {, by not allowing Black to stabalise the position, White gets very decent play in the centre.}) 16... Qb7 17. O-O-O Be6 18. b3 {This weakened his king unnecessarily.} (18. a3 {looks safer although anyone would prefer Black after a move like} Be7) 18... Ra8 19. h3 Be7 20. Kb2 O-O 21. Rhe1 Qa7 $1 22. Ra1 $2 (22. Qxe4 $1 Qxf2 23. Nd5 Bxd5 24. Rxd5 {would be a more resolute defence although I still much prefer Black after} f5 $1 {, with the idea} 25. Qxe5 $4 Rxa2+ $1) 22... Bxb4 23. cxb4 Rfc8 24. Rec1 Bf5 $2 {Throwing away almost all his advantage.} (24... f5 {was screaming to be played. Perhaps, Black was afraid of} 25. f3 {but} exf3 26. gxf3 (26. Qxe5 Bf7 $1 27. gxf3 Qf2 {wins. I suspect Black missed this nuance.}) 26... Bf7 $1 {and since White cannot capture on e5 because of ...Qf2, Black is likely to be winning here.}) 25. g4 $1 Bg6 $2 {This transfer to g6 was hugely mysterious. Perhaps, Black had high hopes for the bishop after a line-opening . ..e4-e3 but White naturally stopped this quite easily. The rest of the game was mired with time trouble and hence not surprisingly, inaccuracies.} 26. Qe3 Qe7 27. a3 Rc6 (27... Rd8 $1 28. Ne1 Rd4 29. Rc6 f6 $15) 28. Ne1 Rac8 $2 (28... Rd6 29. Rd1 Rad8 $1 30. Rxd6 Qxd6 $15) 29. Rxc6 Rxc6 30. Rc1 Rxc1 31. Qxc1 Qd8 32. Nc2 f6 33. Qe3 Qd5 34. Qc5 (34. a4 $1 {was more accurate.}) 34... Qd2 35. a4 {This allowed an unexpected resource which Black fortunately overlooked.} bxa4 $2 {Allowing double passers on the queenside was tantamount to resignation.} (35... e3 $1 36. fxe3 Bxc2 37. Qxc2 Qxe3 38. axb5 Qd4+ {draws.}) 36. bxa4 Kh7 37. a5 $2 (37. b5 $1) 37... Kh6 (37... e3 $1 38. fxe3 Kh6 $3 {was a tremendous drawing resource. During the post mortem, we simply wrote off Black's position as completely lost but this is where Chess can be at its most unpredictable.}) 38. Qe3 Qd5 39. a6 Bf7 40. Qa3 Be8 41. a7 Bc6 42. Qb3 Qb5 43. Qg8 1-0
The team was not completely sure whether to be elated or dismayed when we found that our round 4 opponents were to be the mighty Spanish. With Paco Vallejo spearheading the team of 5 2600+ Grandmasters, we knew that we were up against the odds. However, the team was determined to prove that we deserve to be counted and the result was an unexpectedly hard fought match....


  1. Thanks for the hard work Kevin! It would be useful too if the players themselves made the annotations, but then yours was insightful enough.

    1. Thanks! I would probably do ask them to comment in subsequent parts of this report.

  2. Are you going to play in Qatar Master? I see your name in the list of lucky winners of "WildCard" Raffle which was held during Tromso Chess Olympiad! See this: