I ran out of time while in Sydney to blog about the last few days of the Sydney International, so now that I'm back in Melbourne, I thought I would put up a post about the final 5 rounds of the Sydney International.
I finished the tournament with 4.5/9 & was surprised to find out that I had finished =1st in the under 2100 rating division. Overall I was fairly happy with my tournament, although as with everything in chess, there were a few games where I felt I could have played better & got an extra point or half point.
My round 5 game against Queensland FM Gene Nakauchi was another Modern Defence that turned into a Gurgenidze Caro Kann. Although I had to run my king out of the centre early in the game, I was reasonably happy with my position, as theoretically I had a good bishop v bad bishop position, however I totally overlooked Gene's 18. Nxd5 sacrifice, which turned the game completely & Gene played the tactical game that followed really well. In hindsight, 17... Rg6 might have been better to prevent the sacrifice, threatening the h6 bishop, as well as potentially defending on the third rank. Although I tried to hold my position together, Gene managed to pick up a few pawns along the way & finally I found myself in a hopeless rook ending, so resigned.
My round 6 game against American Pieter Bierkens was a bit of a topsy-turvy game. I played a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit & achieved a thematic attacking position that I was very happy to have. However all did not go to plan when I rushed things a little & played 12. d5, which is not in itself a bad move, but should have been preceded by the simple 12. Kh1 to avoid the tactical defences that black had in the game based on checks on the a7-g1 diagonal. As it happened, this rushing meant that I had to throw a bit more fuel on the fire & I decided to sacrifice my bishop to open up lines towards black's king. My superior development & active pieces game me some compensation for the sacrificed material (at one point a rook & pawn), although theoretically not quite enough to justify the material investment. However by keeping the initiative, I gave Pieter the opportunity to go astray & although I also did not always play the best moves, I managed to find my way into an advantageous endgame. After the stress of earlier in the game, I was happy to go into an opposite coloured bishop ending that I had no chance of losing, although it also significantly reduced my winning chances. At the end of it, I was happy to end the game with a draw, although a little disappointed that I wasn't able to find a way to win the position after it showed so much promise.
My round 7 game against Queensland WIM Alexandra Jule should have been a smooth thematic Dzindzi Indian - I reached a fantastic position out of the opening, with white having permanent structural weaknesses on the queenside, as well as the type of pawn structure that severely restricted the white bishop pair, leaving black with the dominant minor piece - a fantastic knight. As a bonus, I was even a pawn ahead! However unfortunately that all meant nothing when I overlooked a simple tactic & lost a rook - I became complacent in the position & made a fundamental mistake of not examining all captures & checks! Even then, I still had chances, although I always seemed to be one or two tempi behind what I needed to hold the position. My one game to forget for the tournament ...
My round 8 game against NSW junior Rowan Willathgamuwa turned out to be my easiest game of the tournament. I played an Alapin French & Rowan responded with 3... Nf6, which leads to a position more like an advanced French, however with white's bishop on e3 & black's knight slightly misplaced on d7, the position is much better for white than a normal advanced French. The usual counterplay that black has against the white centre is not as serious, so white can continue with his play on the kingside with very little to worry about on the other side of the board. When Rowan allowed me to play 14. e6 my advantage was significant & I maintained it throughout the rest of the game. The only thing I was a little disappointed about was that I did not spot the mating pattern with the bishop on f7 & a rook going to the h-file until around move 30, when the idea was there a number of moves earlier when I first got my bishop to f7.
My round 9 game against Taras Yermolenko was another Gurgenidze Caro Kann & I was happy with how the game went. Taras chose to capture the pawn on c5, which allowed me ot capture his pawn on e5, which I thought was an advantageous exchange for me. Although I was unable to castle, the c5 pawn was weak & I was able to win the pawn & after finding some nice defensive moves & exchanging pieces, I was able to exchange into a favourable knight v bishop ending where I was able to win a second pawn & soon after convert this advantage into a win.
All in all I was happy with most of my play during the two tournaments, although there was one game in each tournament that was a bit disappointing.
As usual, both tournaments were well run, although the Doeberl Cup does stand out from an organisational perspective.
In particular, congratulations to IM Moulthun Ly, who won the Sydney International outright (the first time a local player has won the Doeberl or SIO outright since the tournaments featured large numbers of foreign GMs. Also congratulations to FM Junta Ikeda, who not only scored his third & final IM norm in Canberra, but picked up enough points in Sydney to push his live rating past the magical 2400 mark, making him an IM-elect!