Impressions from the Polar Capital Open

(This entry was published in unfinished form, twice, due to a bad case of time-optimism from my side.) For the third year in a row I participated in Jersey’s annual open, the Polar Capital Open. It is a lovely tournament which is played at the Hotel Ambassadeur, next to the scenic St. Clemens Bay. The tides in front of the venue are impressive and within only a few hours the landscape changes dramatically. If you like walking on sand, then you can walk for miles and miles and encounter few obstacles.

This years tournament was stronger than it was last year, with a handful of grandmasters and some strong international masters too. Already in the second round I had to face IM David Eggleston (draw), so for those hunting for norms, this was a good opportunity. In the third round I played against Alan Merry, whom I lost against (deservedly) last year, and I played somewhat cautious, missed the chance for some advantage and had to pull the hand brake in order not to drift into a worse position. For me, it wasn’t the best start, but I was happy with the way I played anyway. During the next three rounds I again scored 2/3 and Alan Merry started to cut through the grandmasters in the field. In round four he won convincingly against Pruijssers, in round five Vakhidov couldn’t stop him and in round six he won convincingly against Hebden. It seemed like he could win the rest of the games if he kept the steam up. Then, in round seven he lost an exciting game against Jonathan Speelman. After a draw in round eith against Arkell, he had to win with the black pieces in order to get a grandmaster norm:

I eventually picked up some steam of my own and finished with 3/3 against the other top rated GM:s, which earned me a shared first place with Alan. My best game was played in the last round:

This weekend I played a tournament in Gothenburg and committed one of my worst blunders in a long while, in a deciding game. As they say in Sweden: “Upp som en sol, ned som en pankaka.” Literally: “Up like a sun, down like a pancake.”

DVD on the Modern

With the Candidate Tournament going on in Berlin, the chess world has turned like sunflowers in that direction and I guess my timing is the worst. One a half year ago I went to Simon Williams’ high tech study (at the end of a garden, in a shed) and shot a film where Simon and I go through the Modern together. It has been “in production” ever since, but now it is finally finished and can be downloaded at Ginger GM. I have seen some of it and although it annoys me that I repeat some phrases too often, I am quite happy with the result. If you read or bought one of my books on the Modern and wish to get your paws on a easier going, more general, viewpoint on the Modern (with a6, mostly), then this is it for you. Here is a sample.

So, then I thought, I ought to show my latest game in the Modern and came to the realization that I haven’t played my opening since the beginning of December. This even surprised myself. Really, the reason is as simple as that I have felt more interested in other stuff lately and have only invited my opponents to enter the Modern when I have been completely unprepared. To make matters worse, my last game with the Modern was not that good. The upside is that it was entertaining:

Not the best advertisement for the Modern, unless you are very superficial. I have every intention of playing this line again, but in a less chaotic manner.

A bit of nonsense and one game

I arrived in Guernsey in late October, to participate in the Guernsey Chess Festival; possibly my favourite tournament in the World. En route, I spent three days in Godalming with my friend Alfredo, Simon Williams, Clive Simmonds and Simon Ansell, shooting a video about the Modern Defence. Alfredo and I stayed at the “King’s Arms”, which is – we were informed – one the more haunted places in Surrey, if not in all of England. I stayed in the loft and slept like a log while Alfredo got room no… (forgotten), which was supposedly the most haunted room of them all. He slept as soundly as I did. No ghosts in sight. Horror was absent.

Echoing what I wrote last year at almost exactly the same time: I had a tough year behind me, with few games that I was proud of. The spring was uninspiring and the summer even worse. A few decent games did little to make up for numerous not-so-decent games. I usually focus on playing well, but things had gone too far and “playing well” was for once becoming suspiciously close to an excuse for not playing well enough. I arrived with a full set of support. Among other things: J. sent me inspiring gif:s every morning, A. convinced me I am better than I felt I was (that such a thing should be possible…) and so, I was dead set on winning. Still, winning when you don’t play well is hard and perhaps not a very productive aim. Under normal circumstances I even find “winning” to be a rather silly goal. This was to be an exception, just to get me back in a more focused mind-set.

The evening before the first round, I couldn’t find anywhere to eat and rediscovered the “L’Islet Chip Inn”, a fish’n chip, hole-in-the-wall kind of establishment, where I used to go and eat years ago. I had completely forgotten about the place and was convinced that it had closed. With the food in a plastic container I stumbled through the darkness while eating the fish with my fingers. It was delicious and had I found a place to sit down, it would have qulified as “perfect”.

I started out with 2/2, but in the third round, against John E. Curtis, I lost all sense of objectivity and found myself in a lost position by move 15. It was a small miracle that I managed to win the game in the end. Later in the evening I went to L’Islet again and took my food to a small stone slate bench by the Cobo Bay. When I picked up the first piece of fish I noticed a movement in the (near complete) darkness to my right. A cat; a white-ish cat. Perhaps it had been drawn by the smell of the fish. I took another bite. I saw the cat come closer in the corner of my eye. I turned my head. There was no cat. Well, stranger things have happened; my eyesight is not what it was and the mind can play tricks on you. A few moments later I was it again, to my right, a few feet away and I turned my head. No cat. Nothing.

How ironic. I stay in the most-haunted-hotel for three nights without sensing even the slightest occult occurrence, but when I eat my fish’n chip a few days later I run into a ghost cat. At this moment, my crazy laughter scared the hell out of some boy scouts who were out in the darkness watching for the orionid meteor shower. They scattered in the darkness. I restrained myself. Now, let me make something clear: I do not believe in ghosts. I accept that there are people who do, but I loathe the commercialization around it. Paranormal reality shows are about the worst thing I know. (I have to swallow a number of times in order to find a non-insulting adjective to describe my feeling towards them and in the end I can’t find one. “False” hardly qualifies as non-insulting.) But, as I sat there in the darkness, thinking about it, it made a whole lot of sense that of all the ghosts that I could possibly have seen, I had seen a cat ghost. Due to my name, I’ve always had something of an obsession with felids; real as well as fictional. A cat once fell on my head (from the fourth floor) when I entered a store in Malmö. I don’t usually miss a chance to make a cat part of my personal narrative. Nor would I miss the chance this time. So, I decided to embrace this ghost. Perhaps, even, it would help me win the tournament?!

Once more stumbling my way towards the hotel in the darkness, I wondered what someone who really believed in ghosts would have done in my situation? It seemed a bit too narcissistic to just blatantly hijack its non-existence into a story of my own device, without giving it the benefit of the doubt; from a non-believer’s perspective. Back at the hotel I googled “pet”, “cemetery”, “Guernsey” and “ghost cat”, to see if I would catch something interesting. In this way I found out that there are at least two famous ghost dogs in Guernsey and that it is generally thought to be a bad omen to spot one of them. Also, I found some articles about “Blarney the cemetery cat”, that had been living at a place called St Sampson’s graveyard, and eventually was buried there. So, where could that be? I present to you exhibit 1:

I sat on a bench facing the Cobo bay where the “pin” is placed. The cat approached me from almost precisely the direction of Saint Sampson. It must have been a real ghost, or rather could have, or – to be more precise – not. Still, it doesn’t bother me that my cat is not real. It was, according to my narrative, a great help when, the next day, I won the critical game of the tournament:

It is the second time I have been outplayed by Jean-Pierre and managed to turn the game around. I fear that not even a ghost cat will be able to help me, if I get into this kind of a pickle a third time.

After this game I managed to pull myself together and play some almost decent chess. A draw with Black against Korneev in round 5 was comes to my mind. In the last round I was even able to draw and still become clear first.

There are those who fear that the world will become a dull and unimaginative place if we stop believing in things like ghosts and whatsnot, but I cannot agree. The stories that we tell can be as powerful as the truth (whatever that is…), but imagination and truth-seeking are not the same and should not be put on equal terms. I lose people if they go from “I believe” to “I believe and it is my right to express and treat my beliefs as universal truths”. The latter truly horrifies me and the consequences of this kind of attitude is the only true horror story that I know of.

Saint Petersburg match against Alexander Morozevich, part 2.

…and the match continued. My hopes were slightly higher when it came to the go games, so it didn’t bode well for me to lose the first one like that. Now I had to win the second chess game in order to stay in the match:

Mmmm, however beautiful that was, it didn’t feel too great to be crushed like that and I didn’t look forward to losing the match 0-4. I had to get my stuff together and play my best:

It was a relief to win the last game. In the evening I celebrated with another five games of go.

After my return back to Sweden, Alexander Morozevich continued to play in the open group of the tournament and managed to score an impressive8/9. (The system for go tournaments is completely different from chess tournaments and you mainly play those at or around your own strength) Even more impressive, he managed to beat a 2dan opponent in the last round. In a later mail I got from Alexandre Dinerchtein, who wrote that Morozevich will likely be promoted to 1dan. So, although I still haven’t played a single turnament game in go, I feel it is reasonable to say that I’m close to 1 dan and lately, for the first time in a year, I have experienced an increase in my rating on the servers. Considering what I did in Cellavision Cup last weekend (which I will write about next), it is nice that some things go well.