Gawain Jones | October 12, 2011 23:37

Mátar

 

We arrived back in England earlier today and, after a slight delay at the airport picking up an errant scarf, I travelled home and Sue off to work. We were both rather exhausted as we managed less than five hours sleep last night (in search of the errant Northern Lights but Sue will expand on that in another post). I spent today doing most of my ChessPublishing update for October and getting ready for my trip across to Germany tomorrow.

Before I leave I thought I should do a quick write-up of the chess side of events in Iceland. Sue and I played for Mátar, which literally means ‘mates’ as in English and can refer to both friends and checkmates. In the first round we played the Hellir A team and I played my Drunken Knight team mate, Simon Williams. I had White and followed the repertoire in my new book, How to Beat the Sicilian. I followed a line first tried by Shirov where I allow my kingside to be shattered but in return he has a very bad pawn structure on the queenside. I caught Simon by surprise but he came up with an interesting counter and we reached an interesting endgame. The time control of 90 minutes plus 30 seconds a move for the whole game meant that some errors crept in but in the end I managed to convert my extra pawn and levelled the match at 4-4. A great team effort against a much stronger side.

PGN string

 

 

The game only started at 8pm and so it was pretty late by the time we were back. Quickly off to sleep and the following morning we played round two. This time we were paired with the Reykjavik team. I played Vasily Papin, a Russian GM a year younger than me. I was Black and we played a Fianchetto Kings Indian. I repeated the line I played against Baburin in Galway. He deviated at move eight and an interesting strategic battle developed. I had a bad knight on d8 hemmed in by a pawn on d5 but managed to play the typical freeing …f7-f5 and stuck my knight on f7. The game was around balanced but he then gave me the opportunity to sacrifice my queen for rook and a very powerful dark squared bishop. The position was probably still around level with best play but much easier for Black and after a couple of inaccuracies I picked up a stray knight. This was my first win with Black against a player above 2500 since August 2009 (2583) and I was relieved to have finally broken that record! The team did less well this round with mine being the only victory and we went down 5.5-2.5

The second game of the day was always going to be the really tough one of the day. We were paired up with the favourites Bolungarvik A. The place has a population of only around a thousand but is sponsored by some local fisheries and thus can afford to bring in some very strong players. Indeed when we played them they had GMs on the top six boards and an IM who gained the few points required for the GM title on board 7 – congrats Stefán! I was up against Loek Van Wely.

I saw no reason to deviate from the repertoire that worked in the first round and again had a Bb5+ Sicilian. I followed the book for twelve moves or so and then he varied. I had a long think and decided to go for a kingside attack. This was a double edged decision as I created some holes in my position and if the attack didn’t hit then I would be left with some positional defects. Unfortunately that’s what happened and I was forced to grovel although managed to hold the draw. However, that’s not the whole story as in the following position I missed a knockout blow.

Black has just played 22…Nc5 and I quickly replied with 23.Rdf3 hitting the f7 pawn and forcing his rook passive. Instead had I gone 23.Qh5! I’d have had a decisive advantage.

PGN string

 

Rúnar had a very good result on board three drawing with Vladimir Baklan, a high rated Ukranian GM but no one else managed anything else from this match and we went down 7-1. Onto round four on the Sunday morning and the final round of this weekend. This round we had our local derby with Akureyri, the town where most of the Mátar team members are from; although they now generally live in Reykjavik. I played Danish IM Thorbjorn Bromann who I’d actually played ten years ago in the Smith and Williamson Young Masters tournament. That time he was victorious so I wanted my revenge! He’s known for playing rather offbeat openings and so his 1.b3 didn’t come as a complete surprise. I followed a line I’d seen some strong players trying out recently and after a complex opening managed to come away with some initiative. He defended well but I managed to put him under enough pressure that he erred in a slightly worse endgame and lost the exchange.

 

The team fought well and for a while it looked like we might be victorious with Pálmi winning on board six. Then disaster struck and Jón Árni, playing on board seven, lost on time thinking he would get another thirty minutes at move 40. I can only sympathise with him and direct him here where one of the World’s Elite did a very similar thing. The match ended 4.5-3.5 but as the Icelandic league is scored on game points rather than match points it wasn’t the end of the world. (With match points you get two points if your team wins but with game point you simply add up all the individual results on the boards.)

Mátar are in seventh place currently with three more games to go in March. There are eight teams in the league and two get relegated so our task is to get out of the relegation zone! However things aren’t too bleak as we have already placed teams 1-3 in the standings and so it’s within our hands to pull ourselves safe. I’d like to thank my team mates who are all so friendly and helpful with special thanks going to Arnar who provided us with food, drove us the hour trip to the airport both to collect and to drop us off (both of which were trips at 1am!) and found time in his really busy schedule to always help us out. He organised a trip for us, got us a great discount and even came as our guide on our hike up Mount Helgafell!

 

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Author: Gawain Jones

Gawain Jones is an English chess player and grandmaster.

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