After the Saskatchewan open the previous weekend I was not very confident going into this tournament and to tell the truth not very excited about playing in it.
Round 1 Opponent - Richard Roberts (1459)
A good first round win against the Sicilian. Last year I came out of 13 years of chess retirement at the NAO and I was paired on board 1 vs. IM Vicentee Lee. Needless to say this was much easier. Position After 18.Qd2 I believe Black miscalculated the following exchange 18...Nxc2+?? 19.Kd1+- Qxd2+ 20.Kxd2 Nxa1 21.Nxf6 Rg6 22.Nd5 Kd7? [¹22...Nxb3+ 23.axb3 Kd8+-] 23.Rxa1 b5 24.Rf1 and I went on to win after 10 more moves 1–0
Round 2 Anastasia Kazakevich (2152)
She played the Sicilian and after opening the c file we exchanged Queens and all the rooks and she surprised me by playing 25…Bc5 and offering a draw which I accepted. I thought she would keep playing to try to get the full point from someone rated 350 points lower even though I think I had the stronger position. After the tournament I wondered if I accepted too quickly but at the time I was more concerned with gaining back some of the points I lost the previous week and I didn’t want to risk anything. Fritz rates the position as += (0.33). My score now 1.5/2.
Round 3 Keith MacKinnon (2081)
I knew Keith played the Lopez exchange version sometimes and I wasn't prepared for that line so I played the petroff. I got a great position and was able to win a pawn and have a great attack against his king. We both had about 27 min left on our clocks and I was fairly sure it was a won position for me until I played 22...Nhg5?? I was deciding which Knight to retreat to g5 and chose the wrong one. Fritz suggests 22...f4!? which I did not consider at all [22...f4 23.gxf4 Nh4–+ 24.Qg3 Nf5 25.Qxh3 Nxe3 26.Qg3 Nxd1 27.Bxd1 Bxf4] Even after losing the piece for a pawn I still felt my position was close to equal due to his weak king and Fritz actually shows black with a slight advantage 23.h4³ Nxh4 24.gxh4 Ne4 25.Bf2 Re6 26.Nbd2 Rg6 27.Qf3 Rh6 [here Fritz suggests 27...Be6!?µ] 28.Nxe4= fxe4 [I thought about 28...Rxh4+ 29.Bxh4 Qxh4+ 30.Kg1 fxe4 31.Qf2 Qh6] 29.Qxe4 Rf6 30.Qe2 Bf5 31.Bc2 Qd7 [31...Bxc2!? 32.Qxc2 Qd7=] 32.Bxf5² Qxf5 33.Bg3 Re6 34.Qf2 Qe4+? [¹34...Qxf2!? 35.Bxf2 Rf8± I was down to 10 min on my clock now and my play deteriorated] 35.Qg2+- Bxg3 36.Qxe4 Rxe4 37.Nxg3 Rxh4+ 38.Kg2 Re8 39.Re1 Kf7 40.Nf5 Rxe1 41.Rxe1 Re4?? Black crumbles [41...Rg4+ 42.Kh3 Rg6+-] 42.Nd6+ 1–0 Even though I lost, I think this was my most enjoyable game of the tournament. 1.5/3
Round 4 George Sponga (1554)
The night before I asked Micah what George played for openings and he said he played no specific opening but he like to make odd h6, g6 pawn moves and I should try to take advantage of superior development by sacrificing to develop an attack. Sure enough George played d6, h6, g6, and c6 in the first 7 moves but I think I waited to long to sack a pawn and I don't think I was better after the opening. Position shown after 27.Qf4 which lead to the following simplification. 27...Bxf6 28.Qxf6+ Qxf6 29.Rxf6 Kg7 30.Rb6± Nd7 31.Rxb7 Nc5 32.Rb5 Nxb3 33.cxb3 He is tenacious and it came down to a rook ending. I was very pleased with the way I played this especially considering how badly I blew a rook ending last week against Roger. 33...Ra8 34.Ree5+- Rac8 35.Rxa5 Rc2 36.Re3 Rd8 37.Rb5 Rd1+ 38.Kh2 Rdd2 39.Rg3+- Rc1 40.Rb7 Rdd1? Trying for a cheap mate in the corner 41.Rf3 Rh1+ 42.Kg3 g5 43.Rbxf7+ Kg8 44.Rf2 Rcd1 45.Rb7 Rd3+ 46.Kg4 Re1 47.Kh5 Rd6 48.Rbf7 Re8 49.R7f6 Rde6 50.Kxh6 R8e7 51.Rxe6 Rxe6+ 52.Kxg5 1–0
Score now at 2.5/4
Round 5 Sardul Purewal (2094)
This was a surprisenly easy game for me. I didn’t use exsesive time in the opening like I usually do and I never felt in any danger throughout the game. He played the Scandinavian Defense and seemed to be willing to exchange pieces including the queens. I admit I was playing conservatively and based on his willingness to exchange I offered a draw after 20.c3 in the position shown. He declined and said that he was going to play to the end and we continued to play on - exchanging more pieces until we got to a knight and pawn ending. He tried to force a pawn through on the queen side but I was pleased with the way I played this end game too and we reached a position where he had to repeat moves otherwise my outside passed pawn and superior king position might have won it for me. 20...b5 21.Na5 Bc5 22.Rd3 Nh5 23.Be3 Bxe3+² 24.Rxe3 c5 25.g3 Nf6 26.Nb3 Ke7 27.Re2 Kd7 28.Kd2 Kc6 29.Ke3 Rd8 30.Rd2 Rxd2 31.Nxd2 Nd7 32.f4 f6 33.b3 a5 34.a3 Nb6 35.c4 a4 36.cxb5+ Kxb5 37.bxa4+ Nxa4 38.Kd3 Nb6 39.Kc3 c4 40.Kd4 e5+ 41.fxe5 fxe5+ 42.Kc3 Na4+ 43.Kc2 Nc5 44.Kc3 Na4+ 45.Kc2 Nc5 ½–½
Final score 3/5. Overall I was very pleased with my results from the tournament especially compared to how I played last week in Saskatoon. In my 3 games against expert players I had 2 fairly easy draws and a won position (that I managed to lose). Plus I managed to get the full point from both of my lower rated opponents. Rp=1944 and brought my rating up to 1817. Thanks to the guys from Saskatoon for getting me a ride to edmonton and to Micah for putting us all up. If not I probably wouldn't have played.