Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Live Chess & Moscow !

How lovely it is to be a spectator at a tournament !

My 1st experience at being a spectator was in the World juniors 2014 at Pune, where I was one of the official commentators..I remember I felt so relaxed and tensed at the same time, similar to how we feel in a tournament, but not in the same, nowhere close! It was a very enjoyable experience to simply go and watch the games live , without having the burden of the result on my head. Or shoulders. My main job was to comment on the games, but when I was not doing that, I would spend time observing the players, their body language, mannerisms, tournament habits..Evenings after the game were relaxed , and involved talking to other players or simply hanging out with my friends. Dinners were free from unwanted friends like mr. regret who follows a loss or ms. anticipation who comes with the next day's pairing. It made for a good change and gave me a different perspective towards my own attitude during a tournament.

1st time as commentator

Studying player's body language :D

Sometimes I would try and guess how the players were feeling about their position by their reactions made me realise my opponents must be doing the same during a game !

This is one of my favourite playing pictures, and the reason why I like it more than the others is because I seem so confident and in control !

PC : Official tmt website of World Team ch 2013.

                           How important it is to look confident, to not give away our real feelings !

Have you noticed, our calculations, evaluations are much quicker when we have to take a decision in somebody else's game ! When there is no clock ticking beside the board or no tournament standings or rating calculations to consider. For me, my involvement is much higher when I am present at the venue & watching the game live, rather than watching a game live online. One of the reasons could be that, at home if I am not sure about a certain move, I tend to check it immediately with the engine provided by the website or the followchess app, rather than forcing myself to calculate (This is actually a very bad habit, the right way to check would be to 1st apply your mind and then check with the engine if necessary ) Also, its just much easier for me to recollect Dominguez - Shirov from Corus 2010 or Nakamura - Sasi from Olympiad 2012, than any game I have studied at home, because I was present at the venue and watched them make the moves on the board at the time.The other day I was solving some positions from Jacob Aagard's exceptional book on calculation, titled... "Calculation"  (duh!) & came across this position

Koneru Humpy - Ushenina, 2011


( Chessbase software has this nice feature of saving the position on the board as a picture, which is very very useful. To use it, go to file --> save --> save position. )
Actually, I dint notice the player's names when I saw the position, but I immediately recognised the game. It was played in the World Team Championship 2011, when I was a part of the team and was watching this game Live. I remember this game quite well, Humpy built up the attack move by move & gave the winning blow in exactly this position. She played 1. Qh6 !! The game ended after 2. e6 + f6 3. Rf6 Kg8 4. Nf7+ 1-0.

(The flipside of this information was I found no reason to argue with her and wrote down the same move as my answer - which is not the best move ! For 1. Qh6 black can go 1...Qc5+ 2. Kh1 Qc4 ! 3. Bd3 !! gh 4. e6 f6 5. Bc4 , white is still better , though engine only gives a clear plus, the variations are very nice & very difficult for black to defend. But after the right answer 1. Nh7 ! Nh7 2. e6  white wins immediately. Try & figure out the variations after both 1. Qh6 & 1. Nh7  yourself, and later you can check it with the book or engine :) )
But the best part of visiting and watching live games at a tournament is it makes me feel like I am a part of the tournament. It can be a very inspiring experience you know ! You should try it !

This year I decided to stay back at Moscow after the Aeroflot open and watch a few games of the Candidates tournament 2016 ! My very good friends Eesha Karavade & Mary Ann Gomes accompanied me. It was a good holiday cum brief training, I felt so much more relaxed, positive and inspired when I came back home.

                                                   The venue for the Candidates 2016

I would like to share some brief notes which I took during the candidates tournament

My 'notescoresheets' make for good souvenirs :)
March 2016 : Candidates tournament 2016 :

My observations :

Day 1: Round 3.

V. Anand - Caruana, Candidates 2016, Round 3.

What will you play as black ?
Within a few moves , Fabi has transformed his positon, thanks to excellent re-arrangement!

"Anand drew. Good play by black. Starting from Bd7-Bc6 to h4,Rfe8,a5 ! Controlling b4. Very strong. Anand's Bf3 I dint like very much and if he has gone Bf3 why not follow it up with Bg4 ?! dint understand."

Actually, Bf3 is a good move ! I think the idea of Bf3 is to prevent Nd7 (as Nh5 in any case is ineffective as white goes Nd5 everytime). For eg 1. Bf3 Nd7 (idea Nc5) 2. Bg4 Rh6 3. Bf5, followed by Qg3 or Qg5. My suggestion of going for Bg4 plan, with knight on f6 is never good, as black simply moves his rook & if we take on d6, he takes on e4.

Topalov - Aronian, Candidates 2016. Round 3

White to play
Topalov went for 1. Qh5 here.

"In Topi's game , why not Qd5 instead of Qh5 ?! If Rd8 - Qe4, if Bg2- Kg2.Maybe black plays Qd5 - Qa3 ?! Rc7+ Kh8. But I think white will be able to find a defence here. Lets say Rc7 - Kh8 -Ne1 is very much possible."

1. Qd5 was a better try, though after 1...Rd8 2. Qe4 Rd4 ! 3. Qe7 Ne7 4. Be2 c6 5. bc Nc6, black remains a pawn up.

Day 2 : Round 4.

"Everybody is very well dressed today. Two of them were also very well prepared and quickly made an eventful draw and got up."

Nakamura - Giri, Candidates 2016, 1/2-1/2

The final position of the game with the king on g6 !
Lets move on, shall we !

Karjakin - Anand, Candidates 2016, Game 4. Position after 10...f5. 

White to play. What will be your plan in this position ?

"Plan for white : Be2, 0-0-0, Rdg1, g4. So lets say 1. Be2, Bf6 2. 0-0-0 Bb7"

The plan I suggested is very dangerous for white as well, there are many knight jumps. While we were thinking of a good way to proceed, Karjakin totally surprised us by going for a positional continuation, and playing against the weakened squares thanks to f5. He played 1. Bb5 in this position, followed by Nd5-ed, d4!, dc - bc & shortcastled.

Black to play

Once we saw this position on the board, it was clear how strong his plan ( and understanding ) is.

"Karjakin has a lot of clarity. He goes for specific positions and does not hesitate"

"If 1...f4 works black is surely fine. So lets try to make f4 work."

But it doesnt work, as for 1..f4 white simply goes 2. Bd3 h6 3. Bh7+ Kh8 4. Bg7 Kg7 5. Qg6+ Kh8 6. Qh6 wins. Anand played 1...Bf6, & later Ba6 & they exchanged both coloured bishops. But the weakness of having committed both d5 & f5 told; Karjakin won this game.

One of the absolute highlights of my stay was a chance meeting with the legendary Mark Dvoretsky !!

"Spoke to Dvoretsky ! Analysed Svidler - Aronian with him. Told him  I loved his books."

Thank you Mark, for being my teacher. 

When I heard the news of his passing away, I felt a number of things at the same time..
Sadness that such a great legend had passed away..
A sense of gratitude to have got the chance to meet him in Moscow and even talk to him and tell him how grateful I was for his teachings !
I never knew him personally, but from what I have read and observed, I feel he taught chess until the very last days of his life and it makes me feel very happy for him. I think any person passionate about his work would want to spend his last days the same way.
But above all I felt gratitude.. to have been lucky enough to have read his books and learn from them. In my initial years, I dint use a computer for a very long time, and a large part of whatever I knew about chess was thanks to his books. Even today I always carry one Dvoretsky book with me for every tournament, and the thing about a good book is , every time you read it you learn something new. Thank you Mark, for being my teacher.

Hanging around at the Candidates venue :

   Nakamura - Giri : "Well Dressed & Well Prepared "

Thats all about the chess stuff..Now lets talk about Moscow !

We managed to take some time out to go around Moscow as well..Its a beautiful city and luckily for us, the weather more or less cooperated with our plans. We visited the Kremlin palace, and went for a tour of the Armory chamber and Cathedral Square. The Kremlin is majestic and left us spellbound . For eg, The armory chamber has a museum which displays Russian treasury, such as Gold, silver & copper ware & jewellery from the 1700s , thrones used by the Tzars, horses's decorated saddles, dinner & cuttlery sets received as gifts by the Tzars by various kings & monarchs all over the world ( it was a custom to bring an appropriate gift for the Tzar while meeting him ; among other things, there was 120 piece dessert set gifted to the Tzar by Nepolian ) , gowns worn by the King & Queen for their coronation was a real treat. It took us 3 hours to go through it fully and at the end we were like kash moghals aur britishers India nahi aate, to hamare museums me bhi ye sab dekhne milta.  Moscow has an old world charm that has been expressed & preserved so well through its architecture. While walking down the streets in Tverskaya street, our eyes would be hooked on to the buildings around us. Even a bank office would be in this rich heritage building. For me , one of the highlights of my sightseeing was travelling in the Underground metro. It is more than 80 years old. built in the 1930s by the Soviet Union. Its many feet under the ground, so that the public transport system would be safe from any bombings. Going down so many feet in the escalator was an event in itself for a person like me who is not comfortable with heights. I was a bit afraid but also thoroughly enjoyed it ! Some pictures from our trip  :

Moscow architecture is dominated with red bricks, with elements of gold & blue, the colours look beautiful at dusk.

Kremlin at night, with the disneyland- like church at the background. 

                                                           Its a new day at Moscow :)

                         Cathedral Square, where Ivan the Terrible and his family is buried.

                                               The Tzar's Cannon at Ivanovskaya Square.

Space Museum , in the pic above, and The All Russian Exhibition Centre, in the pictures below, are right opposite the Cosmos Hotel, where we stayed for 11 days before the Candidates tmt for the Aeroflot Open - but we never noticed either of these !

I can take heart that my bad result at the Aeroflot open might have been due to several reasons, but surely not lack of focus. ;)

I have always been very fascinated by this city. After all its the mecca of chess. I love going back to Russia again and again, and playing in Russian tournaments. Even 60 year old 2200 veterans can give you an endgame lesson when you have been a decent chess player for 20 years yourself. Their love and respect for chess is reason enough for me to be drawn to this city. I once read a lovely quote which says when we travel we find out how wrong other people are about the places we visit and people we meet ! Its true..I have never really agreed with this general perception of Russians being cold..though the weather in Moscow remained cold as ever everytime ! But this time, that changed too. Thanks to my friends, my meeting with Dvoretsky and my experience at the Candidates, Moscow was warm. Welcoming and warm.


  1. Nice to read. Please do continue to share your experiences

    1. Thanks a lot, i will try to be more regular :)

  2. Nice to read. Please do continue to share your experiences

  3. Hi soumya, I am Vijay Nagar kar from Ahmednagar Maharashtra. Your father was posted in Ahmednagar in SBI. I reside in Prabhat colony,Kala nagar,Gulmohar road, Ahmednagar and you little baby used to play bicycle in our colony.I am proud of you. You become international player.My regard to your parent.particularly your mother is very conscious about you.God bless you.हार्दिक शुभाशीर्वाद।

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