söndag 11 mars 2012


Last weekend the 3 last rounds of the Swedish Leauge was played in Västerås. The conditions were, as always in Västerås, excellent. The organizer - former bughouse God André Nilsson - is doing a great job for the chess in Sweden nowadays, instead of playing bughouse. LASK were to one team against which we should win, and two very difficult matches. As first place seemed unrealistic, especially with some late cancellations, our goal was to keep the 2nd place.

On Friday's match against Eksjö I got to play against GM Jacek Gdanski, from Poland. In the opening I once again got a completely equal Ragozin ending, but was downplayed pretty straightforwardly after making the very common mistake of trying to force the draw instead of just playing the equal ending. Despite my poor play I think it's a pretty instructive example of how easy things can go wrong:

Gdanski - Grandelius, after 18.Rxc4
This ending should of course be an easy draw. White has a good knight on d4, some slight pressure on the c-file and a slightly more active king. Black has the better pawnstructure and a very solid position. But how to achieve the draw in the easiest way? By, for example, 18...b6! 19.Rac1 Rd8 and black puts his rook on d6 with a fireproof fortress. If white tries to go a4-a5 black will get a weak pawn on b6, but by trading the knights the 4v3 rook ending is very easily drawn. Instead I went 18...Ne4 in the game, after calculating for a long time. After 19.Rac1 Nd6 20.Rc7 white does penetrate, but I figured out that he could do nothing - I just walk with the king to d8. This was all correct, and I will manage to trade both rooks. All fine? No! After 20...Kf8 21.Kd3 Rxc7 22.Rxc7 Ke8 23.e4 Kd8 24.Rc5 Rc8 25.Rxc8+! the knight ending turned out to be very difficult for me - something I wasn't even close to realizing on move 18. The ending could probably still be held, but it's clear that black is facing a very difficult defensive task. In the game Gdanski just advanced his kingside pawns and won by utilizing the weakness on h6.

The rest of the match was pretty exciting. GM Tikkanen won a very nice game on 1st board against the normally very solid Per Vernersson. Axel Smith managed to hold a difficult ending with white against GM Cicak, in a game where both players offered draws at different points! Our team captain FM Sebastian Nilsson made an inaccuracy in the opening against the 8 time swedish champion IM Axel Ornstein, who then showed no mercy. My bughouse co-world champion FM Linus Olsson outplayed his opponent as black in a complicated Benoni, but offered a draw to secure match victory. Our luckiest board was (as always?) FM Drazen Dragicevic. With white he quickly got a terrible position, but true to his style he showed amazing fighting spirit and in a mutual time trouble even managed to win the game! Very well fought! On the 7th board we had a debutant - Fredrik Hansson. As black in an Exchanged Ruy Lopez he won what seemed to be a pretty convinzing game, and so did Mladen Gajic on the last board. The final result, 5-3, felt fair.

A happy Drazen after his swindle! Photo: Sebastian Nilsson

The match on Saturday against SK Rockaden was beforehand the most important one, as they were the one chasing us for the silver. Sebastian gave me the pleasure of the white pieces, which I converted well in a good game against GM Lars Karlsson. Our strategy for the match was to give our titleholders white, and it worked pretty successfully. Tikkanen won on 3rd and Smith on 5th. Only Linus lost on 7th, against the talented Martin Lokander. Having the higher rated players playing white normally means trouble on the black boards, though. And this was true also in this match - all black's lost :-(

5-3 was of course not nice, but not that bad either. In the final match we played Team Viking:

Photo: Sebastian Nilsson
As can be seen very clearly from the picture, they had already won :-) The match was still important for us, though. We had a lead with 2 matchpoints (which of course were to disappear after our very likely loss) but also with 6 board points. This meant that if Rockaden won 8-0, we had to take at least 2.5. 8-0 might seem unlikely, but Rockaden'ss opponent SK Kamraterna had already lost 8-0 earlier during the season. In the end Rockaden won 7-1, which meant that we had to get 3 draws. This might seem very easy, but with an average rating difference of about 200p nothing was clear. I got outprepared and lost horribly as black against GM Evgenij Agrest. IM Axel Smith played a very complicated Anti-Moskow against GM Matlakov, but somewhere he went wrong and Matlakov, who played a very good game, won convincingly. 3rd board saw GM Kotronias in a very interesting theoretical battle in the Tarrasch French aganst Tikkanen. Hans sacrificed a pawn and got interesting compensation in a very complicated middlegame. Kotronias managed to find his way into a slightly better endgame, which Hans didn't manage to hold in time trouble. So far so bad, as they say. But on the last 5 boards we took some very nice tactical decisions. On 4th board Sebastian Nilsson outprepared GM Emanuel Berg completely, but offered a draw in a slightly better ending with one hour up on the clock. While I wouldn't approve to such a decision in an individual tournament it was perfectly suitable here. Emanuel agreed and we were one step closer to the silver! 5th board saw GM Rozentalis against Drazen. Rozentalis played quietly as usual, and Drazen sacrificed positional factors for some activity. To me it seemed dubious, but according to their post-mortem it was all rather unclear. Somewhere in the timetrouble Drazen unfortunately made a simple blunder and lost without a fight. 6th board saw Fredrik Hansson with white against Pontus Carlsson. After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 he did the only correct thing: 3.exd5! exd5 4.Bf4! Yes - we desperately needed every half point. And again, were it an individual tournament he should be punished. In the game Fredrik got a drawish ending where he unfortunately wasted a bit too much time. In mutual time trouble he blundered a pawn and the game. The 8th board was Linus Olsson against a former LASK member- IM Daniel Semcesen. Also in this game our player took a good tactical decision and played the London setup. After a very boring but solid middlegame Linus even got some chances in a double rook ending, before it all petered out into a fairly uneventful draw. The 7th board saw Mladen Gajic as black against Bosse Lindberg. Once again Mladen tried a new opening as black, and got a fairly normal position. After some exchanges a fairly drawish position arose, with queen, rook and 4 against 4, with a slightly weak black d-pawn. Somehow Bosse completely lost the thread and allowed a vicious counterattack, which even forced him to give the queen! The following kind of position was reached:

The win is not that easy, as white is very close to having an impregnable fortress. However, there is a win. First, put the Q-f3 and the K-c5. After that it turns out to be amazingly difficult for white to make a move! After thinking about that position for some time, you will realize that it's just winning for black. White has to play, for example 1.Kf1 Qh1+ 2. Ke2 Qb1! and white is in another zugswang and black wins easily, for example 3.Kf3 Qf1! with the decisive threat of g4. Of course this was very difficult to see during the game, and Mladen instead took the draw, thus securing our silver medal!

LASK 2012 +Daniel Semcesen, exmember. Photo: Sebastian Nilsson

lördag 3 mars 2012

A bit about training

During the first few days of this week a living legend visited Lund: GM Ulf Andersson. He came to visit his good friend Calle Erlandsson, but also to have a few training sessions with different players, one of which was me. Analysing chess with such an extremely strong player is always very interesting. Of course I am myself a player from the computer generation, so the contrasts in the ways of thinking is very big. This could perhaps be understood by this example:

The position is from Potkin - Grandelius, played a month ago in the Bundesliga. White sacrificed a pawn in the opening but got serious compensation. With the last move, 24.a4, the idea is clear: to play slowly and keeping it all under control, whereas black has very few chances to get active himself. At this point I was mostly concerned about my c5-pawn and the very nice knight on e4. Therefore I played 24-Nd4 with the idea of f5, but after 25.Rac1 f5 26.Nd2! I was clearly worse: Potkin just went Ba2, Nc4 and picked up my a5-pawn. When showing the game to Ulf, he immediately pinpointed the most important aspect of the black position: the 'dead' bishop on d7. Not only is it blocked by the pawns on a4/b5 and e6, but it also blocks the d-file, thus stopping black from getting an active rook. The solution to the position must be to improve the horrible bishop: 24-Be8! Our mainline went 25.Rac1 Bg6! 26.Ba2 Nd4 and now the tactics works in black's favour after 27. Nxc5 Bc2! 

For example 28.Nxe6 Nxe6 29.Rhe1 Bxa4! 30.Rxe6+ Kd7 and in view of the active king black is at least OK.

But all this looks pretty easy, you might say? Well, to some extent I actually agree. Finding the bishopmanouver is definately not beyond my abilites or understanding of the game and if I had gotten the position after 24.a4 as an excerice I'm sure I would have solved it. But that's not the point. The point is that this requiers another way of thinking during games. To ask myself questions such as "Which is my worst placed piece?" might sound trivial, but during a game there are always lines to calculate, pawn that are hanging and threats that has to be taken care of. This is precisely the area where a player like Ulf Andersson excels and therefore also an area where I can learn the most from him.

Yesterday the lineup for Sigeman 2012 was announced on www.sigeman-chess.com
Caruana, Leko, Giri, Li Chao.... Interesting!