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Thursday, April 10, 2014

An endgame masterpiece by Victor Bologan!

Moldovian super Grandmaster, Victor Bologan played the endgame of his life on 9th of April 2014 against the very talented Russian GM Aleksander Shimanov.

A thorough gentleman off the board and a true genius on it: GM Victor Bologan.

Black's last move was e6-e5+. The question is where should white retreat his king?

Its not often you will see such a stunning long term sacrifice in a game between two 2600+ GMs in such a simplified position.

A victory of excellent co-ordination! Take a bow to the great Victor!!

One can afford to smile a little after playing such a terrific masterpiece!

I thank Mr. Vinod Bhagwat for bringing this game to my notice.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A very deep intricacy in a well known position!


I have a habit of buying a chess book in every tournament that I participate. I have to agree that there are many unread books in my library, but in general I like to keep building up my library. I hope one day I can have a collection of chess books like the great chess player Late GM Lothar Schmid!
Late GM Lothar Schmid who had one of the best collection of chess books in the world.

Anyway! The main reason I write this is because I particularly liked one book that I bought recently.
The name of the book is Amateur to IM and it is written by an International Master named Jonathon Hawkins.

The wonderful thing about this book is that it has material which is basic but is so very well explained. Also some of the material which I thought I knew so well revealed some very interesting points. 
I would like to bring to your notice the following position which I think contains a very beautiful point which is not known to even extremely strong players.

My question to you is this: Its white to play. What will you play?

Just before you close this article by thinking that it is too basic, I must warn you to have a deeper think!
If you ask any knowledgeable chess player, his answer will most probably go something like this.
"The black king is cut off by 4 files from the pawn.This is the required distance to win the position. Hence this is a theoretically winning position and hence the right move is 1.a7."

For those who did not know how to win this position, here is the winning technique which is not so straightforward.

So, yes this position is totally winning for white. a7 is a theoretically winning move. Why in the name of God then did I give you this position? Is it an april fool trick? Or am I trying to waste your time?
Certainly not! Here's the difference between a position that you know well and one which you know very very very well.
After 1.a7, the problem is that white is winning but black has the amazing defensive resource

the rook on the 3rd rank is very well placed because after white sacrifices his rook to make a queen, white will not be able to win the black rook and will have to win a queen vs rook ending. Here is how it will pan out.

White has made a queen but there is just no easy way to win the black rook on h3. White will have to play another 30-40 moves and show some good technique in order to take  the full point home.

Lets go Back to the initial position. From what I have shown, it will be very clear to you now that the right move for white in the first position is to play

Denying black the very important third rank! This makes sure that white will not have to play the Queen vs Rook endgame and will be an entire queen or rook up!

Black now can wait on the first rank but as we know the rook on the first rank will be lost. On the 2nd rank too the rook is lost in queen checks as will be shown. And the 4th rank is useless as it allows white king to come out. Hence black is absolutely lost here! Here are the moves:

So, here is my question to you, what would you play on the first move?

Would you play a7 or Re3!
Both the moves win, but here is the difference between a good technical player and a bad technical player.

This reminds me of one example which fits in perfectly.

Its white to play and draw. How would you do it?

There are 2 ways to draw here. The first one is to play 1.Kf8 Kf6 2.g8=N+ and this position is a theoretical draw. 
But as Karsten Mueller says 1.Kg8! is good technique! Kg6 2.Kh8! and after black takes Rg7. Its an immediate stalemate!
You might argue with me that Kf8 and Kg8 are relatively of the same merit as they both lead to the same end, but I say that the means to reach the end are also important. While one gives the opponent some hope for a positive result, the other gives the opponent absolutely no chance!

The definition of technique in the dictionary is something like this:
A way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure.
If you carry out the procedure well, the result is bound to fall in place! That's what good chess technique is all about!

I hope I have convinced you that the position which I had given to you at the start is not so trivial as it seems at first glance and that 1.Re3! is a move which shows a very high level of technical mastery in the game of chess.


Good technique always comes with good knowledge!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Oliver Barbosa conquers Kolkata Open 2014.

It was already 5 hrs into the final 10th round. All the games had been completed except one. The top board game was in progress. It was a battle between two of the most talented youngsters of India. GM Vidit Gujarathi (2602) vs GM Lalith Babu (2575). The crowd had gathered near the board in huge numbers. The winner of the tournament was undecided. Oliver Barbosa had made a draw with Ziaur Rahman and was sitting at the top on 7.5/10. But Vidit was on 7 points and if he were to draw his game, he would have been the champion due to his better tie break.

The extremely tense top board game between GM Vidit Gujarathi (L) and GM Lalith Babu (R).

It was white to play here and this was Vidit’s last chance to make a draw.
Vidit, who was white had a great position from the opening. Call it championship pressure or momentary lapse of concentration, he blundered a piece! The position was worth resigning but Vidit kept fighting and reached the above position.
White had to play Rd7! in this position.  If Kh5 Rd5 Kg4 Rb5= would have secured Vidit the title. But as things stood, Vidit played Kd1 which was a mistake and after Lalith’s excellent move Rf2!, with the idea of Rf6, the point was in the bag and Oliver Barbosa must have heaved a sigh of relief!
GM Oliver Barbosa and GM Lalith Babu both finished with 7.5/10 but Philippine player won the 6th Kolkata Open 2014 due to his better tie break.

A jubiliant Oliver (center) flanked by runner up Lalith on his left and 3rd placed GM Abhijit Kunte on his right.

The Kolkata Open, formerly known as the Goodricke Open was held in Gorky Sadan, Kolkata from 18th to 27th March 2014. 
The tournament is one of the strongest open tournaments in Asia. This tournament witnessed 27 GMs, 18 IMs and 4 WGMs taking part. Players from 13 countries took part in this tournament making it a truly global event. The average rating of this tournament was an astonishing 2394 inspite of the fact tat 77 players had participated. The strength of the tournament can be gauged when GM Nigel Short, the top seed of the event played GM Sundaranjan Kidambi (2400) in the first round itself.  The tournament has a long standing pedigree and likes the Smyslov, Korchnoi, Anand,Bologan,Short and many more star players have taken part in the previous editions. No wonder it is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.
The total prize fund of the event was 14 lakh Indian Rupess (approx 23300$)
It was 10 round tournament with a time control of 90 mins for 40 moves and 30 mins for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 secs from the 1st move. Every round began at 14.00 IST except for the last round which began at 10.00 IST. 

GM Oliver Barbosa of Philippines who won the tournament played some excellent chess and finished unbeaten with 5 wins and 5 draws with a rating performance of 2688 and bagged the winner's purse of 4 lakh rupees (approx 6500$). What was amazing was that Oliver faced 7 GMs and 3 IMs and inspite of such a strong opposition scored very heavily. He scored wins over strong 2600+ players like Levan Panstulaia and Landa Konstantin and was a well deserved winner. Oliver’s hard working and determined nature can be seen from his cover picture of facebook.

When I got the chance to talk with him after the tournament, his humility and down to earth nature could be easily seen. Oliver mentioned, “When I came to Kolkata one day before the tournament, I didn’t even know the player’s list. I was pleasantly surprised to see that so many strong 2600+ players had participated. I thought to myself, a top 5 finish would really be good. But I played well and won the tournament and I am very happy.”
About the strength of the tournament he mentioned, “It was such a strong tournament that it was barely possible to underestimate anyone and Indian players I think are very strong. Even a 2100 player here can beat a GM if you take him lightly.”
This was Oliver’s 3rd tournament victory in India after he had once won the Bhubaneshwar Open and the Delhi Open. However this was definitely the strongest tournament of the 3.
Oliver’s favourite game from the tournament was the one against Konstantin Landa where he as white he gained a small advantage. It seemed absolutely nothing at first. Slowly and steadily just like Capablanca he beat his strong Russian opponent. To outplay such a player like Landa with just a miniscule edge speaks volumes of Barbosa’s talent. Here is the game.

With a live rating of 2580 I consider Oliver Barbosa to be one of the finest talents not only from Philippines but also from Asia. He seems extremely focussed and hardworking and what separates himself from the rest is his will to win. You must definitely watch his queen endgame against Levan Pantsulaia where inspite of being down to his last few seconds and facing stiff resistance from the Georgian GM, he showed amazing tenacity to win the position. Le Quang Liem won the Kolkata Open and shot into prominence on the world level pretty soon. I sense something similar on cards for Oliver!

The top seed and the biggest attraction of the event was definitely Nigel Short. Being a World championship finalist and locking horns against the Great Garry in 1993 World Championship, Nigel is nothing short of a legend in the chess world. However in Kolkata, as Nigel would say, like the English Cricket batsmen, he just couldn’t get going. The tournament signalled off to a bad start for him when he couldn’t win a won endgame against GM Kidambi in the first round. And it went really bad when he lost his 3rd round game against GM Ziaur Rahman.

Nigel was terribly dejected after his loss to Ziaur Rahman in the 3rd Round.
Nigel started making his way back to the top but could not reach the absolute top boards. After the tournament he said, “I am just gathering steam now. Too bad the tournament is already over!”
A 12th position finish was not something GM Nigel Short was proud of. However, his presence surely enhanced the aura of the event.

GM Lalith Babu (2585) finished with a score of 7.5/10 and was the runner up of the event. Inspite of losing the 3rd game to Deepan Chakravarthy, Lalith fought back with a sizzling 4.5/5 end to clinch the silver medal. There is something extremely unique about this 20 year old talent. He is able to find quite excellent resources even in lost positions and this "never say die" spirit helps him to turn many of the inferior positions in his favour.

Known in Indian chess circles as Dada (elder brother in Marathi), Abhijit Kunte was one of the best players of the country during the period of 2000-2005. He has been the national champion on many occasions and also the British champion in the year 2003. 
Off late he had been performing quite poorly and his rating had dipped quite low to 2439. But everyone is aware of his class. It was only a matter of time before the classy player from Maharashtra came back in form. Just when Anand showed his supreme form in Candidates 2014, Abhijit Kunte did the same in the Kolkata Open by gaining 31 elo points with a rating performance of 2671. He dispatched strong GMs like GM SP Sethuraman (2578), GM Deep Sengupta (2529), GM Abdulla-Al-Rakib (2518). If Kunte keeps up this form, then I am sure we can see him back in the 2500 elo range pretty soon!

Touted as one of the biggest talents of Indian Chess, GM Vidit Gujarathi (2602), finished 4th at the tournament. He knows when to press the accelerator and when to pull the brakes, Thus, you can see his 20 odd moves nice win over GM Debashish Das and also his safe draws against GM Kunte and GM Chakravarthy. It was only because of his last round loss to GM Lalith Babu that he lost out on becoming the champion. The 2013 World Junior bronze medallist has a very bright future ahead of him and I surely think he will soon cross the 2700 elo barrier!

GM B Adhiban (2608) who had shot to fame earlier by entering the quarter finals of the World Cup 2013, had broken into 2600 with a strong performance at Gibraltar Open, finished 5th at the Kolkata Open. His style of preparing before the game by listening to music, is going to gain a lot of followers! Is it the secret to reach 2600?!!

Finishing 6th in the tournament is not such a big deal for a strong player like GM Ziaur Rahman (2486) from Bangladesh. However, the fact that he remained unbeaten with a performance of 2688 and also beat 2 strong players Nigel Short and Sergey Fedorchuk and at the same time gained 26 elo points means that he had a tournament of his life! Great play by the Bangladeshi genius!


The beautiful Alexandra Samanagova (2029) from Kyrgyzstan. 

Women power in India!! WGM Kiran Manisha Mohanty on the left, WGM Swati Ghate peeping and  IM Nisha Mohota who is always a live wire! In the background (center) WGM Mary Ann Gomes is also seen along with S Harini (extreme left) and WIM Ivana Maria Furtado! This covers almost all the Indian women taking part in the event except for...

The very cute and affable WGM Padmini Rout!

WIM Ivana Maria Furtado (2177) was surely the find of the event. She not only gained 43 elo points but also scored a WGM norm with a performance of 2406. On her way to her maiden WGM norm she accounted for strong IMs like V Saravanan and Somak Palit.

Putting on his thinking cap! IM Prasanna Rao (2410)

Behind every succesful man is a woman! Recently wed IM Karthikeyan (2355) gained 25 elo points and performed at an elo of 2555. No money for guessing who his second was! :)

Abhishek Kelkar (2286) who is an extremely aggressive player on the board made his maiden IM norm.

He already has 3 IM norms but what's the harm in making a 4th! CRG Krishna is surely way more than IM level material!!

Tenacity best describes the man on the left in the above picture. M Kunal (2339) made yet another IM norm at the Kolkata Open and is well on his way to the IM title.

Seems like a fan of Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang theory: Very strong IM from USA, Justin Sarkar (2452)

The Kolkata Open is often termed as a one man show when it comes to organization. Mr Soumen Majumar (who is seen with GM Harikrishna in this picture) is the whole and sole of this event. There is definitely something about this man and the way he organizes the tournament. He tries to not compromise on the quality and instead focuses on conducting a very high quality event. Isn't it one of the reasons why the average rating of the tournament was 2394.
Here are some of the things that are quite unique to this event.

The beautiful entrance to the tournament hall. It is well decorated with bright lighting to make one feel as if some gala event is in progress!

Near the entrance of the hall, you are greeted by all the world champions right from Wilhelm Steinitz to Magnus Carlsen. Looking at these world champions before the game motivates you to give your best!

In every game, the players were given something from which they could energize themselves. It was a small yet a very kind gesture by the organizers.

This picture is for posterity!! All the people in this picture are GMs and that too very talented ones! Sitting and analyzing are GM Harikrishna and GM Ganguly (who were not participating in the event) with Nigel Short. Looking at them with rapt attention are (from L-R) GM Vidit Gujarathi, GM G N Gopal, GM Abdulla Al Rakib, GM Enamul Hossain, GM Debashish Das, GM Shyam Sundar, GM Sethuraman, and GM B Adhiban.
A huge thanks to the organizer for having a separate analysis room with almost 8 chess sets. This shows that they understand the importance of analyzing the game after the round and players too never had to wait for analyzing their games with the opponent. As the very famous GM Pravin Thipsay of India once said to me. "Analyzing the game with your opponent after its over is a quintessential for a chess player's progress". 

All of the above were just little things but they somehow made the entire experience of playing at the Kolkata Open quite a memorable one! 

The only thing I feel that could have been improved was to not charge any entry fees to the IMs. That would have ensured many more IMs taking part in the tournament.

Some Scenes from the city of Kolkata.
Kolkata is one of the metro cities in India. It lies on the eastern part of India.

The Howrah bridge is one of the most famous symbols of the city of Kolkata.
It weathers the storms of the Bay of Bengal region, carrying a daily traffic of approximately 100,000 vehicles and possibly more than 150,000 pedestrians, easily making it the busiest cantilever bridge in the world.The third-longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction, the Howrah Bridge is the sixth-longest bridge of its type in the world. (picture credit:

Beautiful Art work on the metro train stations. The people of Kolkata are very artistic and they respect all forms of art, be it music, painting or chess. The metro (underground) train service was opened in 1984 in Kolkata. It was the first of its kind in India. While it was revolutionary concept when it was opened, now Business Standard describes as an "exercise in antiquity". 

For living in India you do not need a home or any permission from the government authority! You just find a good spot on the road and build your little nest! :)

TEA: One of the most popular drinks in India and one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. However the best part about the tea in Kolkata is that you get them in little earthen pots which lend its own special feeling while drinking it. Also unlike plastic cups it is environment friendly!

There are a lot of beautiful gardens near the playing venue.

Some players like GM Grigoryan Avetik from Armenia made excellent use of these parks in order to unwind and build their stamina in the evening after the game. That's real dedication!

Alexandra tries her hand at the very famous Bengali sweet Rasagulla! (which she loved!)

Nigel tries his hand at the Dahi (curd) Puchka, a bengali snack, which he found not so appetizing as it was a little sweet. Maybe next time, he must try the one without curd! 

The author of these lines, yours truly Sagar Shah (extreme right) and his wife Amruta Mokal are seen in the picture with the two best players of India GM Harikrishna (left) and GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly.

The game of Kings and Queens which is so close to the heart of every chess player, is highly respected in the city of Kolkata. I hope you enjoyed this little report on the 6th Kolkata Open 2014 and that you will make it a point to visit the beautiful land of India and play in this excellently organized event in the year 2015.

The official page of the Organizer:

A special thanks to my beautiful wife Amruta Mokal who clicked all the above beautiful pictures and made this tournament truly memorable!