Home Page Chess Life Online Archives Karlsson, the Original, Wins Training Tournament
|Karlsson, the Original, Wins Training Tournament|
|By GM Ian Rogers|
|October 22, 2015|
Travelling around central Europe in a train is a preferred holiday for many, while competing in a tournament for some people is akin to work. So when Pavel Matocha combined the two to create the Chess Train in 2011, the appeal of the concept was expected to be limited.
Four years later, the Chess Train has become one of the hottest tickets in the chess world, with all 180 places in the 2015 Chess Train reserved by March and 2600+ GMs turned away. The travellers in 2015 included a 90-year-old German woman, Marianne Hartlaub who scored 3.5/11, and a family with two toddlers.
The Chess Train runs for five days and four nights, beginning and ending in the beautiful Czech capital Prague, with each day consisting of 1 to 3 games of chess in the morning, a serious middle-European lunch on board the train, and a new country to explore in the afternoon and evening.
The 2015 edition of the Chess Train ran from Prague to Dresden to Wroclaw to Bratislava to Vienna before returning to Prague. Czech number one David Navara was presnt at Prague main station to see the train depart - he had decided at the last minute to take his own train to Berlin for the World Rapid and Blitz Championship - while another legendary Czech GM, former winner Vlastimil Hort, was present for the prizegiving, apologizing for being unable to come along for the ride in 2015, adding "but I am not finished yet!"
Czech railways has thrown its support solidly behind the concept, creating a Chess Train locomotive. The 2015 train consisted of 11 carriages, each named after a World Champion, with six being playing areas, one an arbiters' room, two dining carriages, one for accompanying people plus a luggage car. Food and drinks on board, alcoholic and otherwise, are extremely cheap - 2 Euros for a dessert, little more than half that for a coffee or glass of wine.
Last year Steinitz hosted the top 10 boards and Spassky carried the luggage. However this year it was feared that the new carriage on the block, Fischer, might object to hauling luggage, so the set-up was rearranged to give Tal the top boards, Fischer the motley crew who didn't want to play chess, Petrosian and Spassky served the food, while Steinitz took the extra kilos of 100+ suitcases.
Of course playing on a train has its difficulties, most notably the playing conditions are hardly ideal, with the noise and movement of the train and the possibility of the sun suddenly shining in your eyes as the train rounds a bend. (The latter problem had cost Vlastimil Hort the tournament last year when, in a winning position, he lost on time while trying to get someone to shut the curtains to shield his eyes.) Players are encouraged to keep score, just in case the sudden braking of the train sends all the pieces flying, as has happened once in an early year of the Chess Train.
However the generally relaxed rules on the train - no zero forfeit, no anti-draw rules and no mobile phone ban - encouraged a general atmosphere of camaraderie which solved most problems.
Train travel can also be rather hit-and-miss as far as timing goes. The Chess Train sometimes meandered across the countryside on the shorter legs in order to allow everyone to finish lunch and this year track-work in Poland forced the Chess Train passengers onto a bus for the final two hours before Wroclaw which cost a lot of time.
One feature of the 2015 Chess Train was the presence of an English-based documentary film crew who captured the players and scenes inside and outside the train; for example, trying to understand the concept of the Grandmaster draw, discovering the secret smokers' area created by two nicotine addicted GMs, visiting the new Prague Chess Cafe on Wenceslas Square, and witnessing the thousands of Syrian refugees at Vienna Station. Expect Chess Train - The Movie to dominate the Oscars in 2016.
This year for the first time the Chess Train had a substantial American presence, most notably top seed Julio Sadorra from Texas.
Sadorra scored an excellent 9.5/11 but was overshadowed by 'the other Carlsen' - GM Lars Karlsson from Sweden.
In the late 1970s Karlsson, with astonishing blitz skills looked like a superstar in the making. However a near-death experience in a plane going to a tournament in the USSR caused Karlsson to foreswear air travel, going to all future tournaments by train or boat.
His career was seriously restricted but even so he briefly became a top 30 Grandmaster. However family life, including being a parent for a total of seven children, obliged him to leave the professional circuit.
In recent years Karlsson has restricted himself to competing in Sweden but he made his international return on the Chess Train tournament.
Karlsson due to his flying phobia - now overcome - has probably taken more trains than any other Grandmaster, was in imperious form, drawing only two of his eleven games and beating Sadorra in the tournament's key game in the fifth round.
Karlsson is a disciple of another great Scandinavian player Bent Larsen, and the Swede started every one of his games with White on the Chess Train with Larsen's opening, 1.b3.
Chess Train 2015
Opening: Larsen's Opening
1.b3 Nf6 2.Bb2 d5 3.e3 e6 4.f4 c5 5.Nf3 Nc6?! 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.0-0 a6?!
Giving Karlsson everything he could hope for from his modest opening.
8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.Ne5 Rc8 10.d3 Be7 11.Nd2 0-0 12.Rf3!
Karlsson was on auto-pilot, since he had reached the same position in a game earlier this year.
Karlsson-Segerstrom, Vasteras Open 2015, had seen the wimpy 12...Kh8 and Karlsson ended with a flourish after 13.Rh3 h6 14.Ndf3 Be8 15.Ng5 Ng8 16.Qh5 Bxg5 17.fxg5 Kh7 18.Rf1 f6 19.g6+ Kh8 20.Nf7+ Bxf7 21.gxf7 Ne7 22.Rxf6 Nf5 23.Qxh6+! Nxh6 24.Rfxh6 Checkmate!
Weakening, but almost forced since 13...f6 14.Qh5 fxe5 15.Qxh7+ Kf7 16.Nf3! leaves White with a winning attack.
"I really wanted to play 14.Qh5!!???," said Karlsson, "but sadly it doesn't work because of ...Bg5."
"Ah!" said Slovak GM Jan Plachetka watching the post-mortem in the restaurant car, "I did win a game like that." Plachetka showed his 12 move win over Zinn from 1974 which went 1.Nf3 c5 2.b3 Nc6 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.e3 d5 5.Bb5 e6 6.Ne5 Qc7 7.0-0 Bd6 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.f4 0-0 10.Rf3 Nd7 11.Rh3 g6 12.Qh5!! 1-0.
"He was in shock and resigned," said Plachetka. "Later I saw that [German GM] Pfleger had drawn with Black from that position, against Juan Bellon after 12...Nf6 13.Qh6 d4! 14.Ng4?! Nh5! 15.Rxh5 f5!. I was intending to play 12...Nf6 13.Ng4!! which wins at least two or three pawns."
14...f6 15.Qe2 Nd6 16.e4 dxe4?
"The decisive error," said Karlsson. 16...d4 was necessary."
17.dxe4 Nb5 18.c3! Qc7 19.a4 Nd6 20.c4!
Now Black is totally without counterplay and White soon crashes through.
20...Ne8 21.f5! g5 22.e5! exf5 23.Nh6+ Kh8 24.Nxf5 Qd7 25.e6 Qc7 26.Qh5
Sadorra's best game came against the Russian rapid chess specialist Oleg Maksimov, who finished fourth.
Chess Train 2015
Opening: French Defence
Comments by Julio Sadorra
1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.d4 c5 6.dxc5 Nc6 7.Bf4 Bxc5 8.Bd3 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.0-0
10.Qe2 0-0 11.0-0-0 is a more double-edged line.
10...0-0 11.Ne5 a6!?
Preparing my main idea.
With Nh5/Qh5 ideas later.
13.Bg3 Nh5 14.Rae1 Nxg3 15.hxg3 Nxe5
I was originally intending to play 15...Bd4 16.Nxc6 bxc6 but noticed the small tactic 17.Bxh7+! Kxh7 18.Qd3+.
16.Qxe5 Qf7 17.Nd1 Bd7 18.c4 Rae8 19.Ne3 Ba7 20.Ng4 Kh8 21.Qg5 dxc4 22.Bxc4 h6 23.Qd2 Bb5
I think it's essential to trade off his bishop otherwise it'll be impossible to stop his threats around my king after Ne5 and Qd3.
24.Bxb5 axb5 25.Re5?!
I think this is where White's problems start after which he loses piece coordination. I was expecting the more natural 25.Ne5 Qf5 and hoped to obtain more play along the c & d-files, and placing my bishop on d4.
25...Qg6 26.Ne3 Rd8 27.Qb4?
I thought 27.Qe2 was the best defense.
27...Bd4 28.Rxb5 Bxe3 29.fxe3 Rxf1+ 30.Kxf1 Rd1+ 0-1
My opponent resigned, seeing the forced win after: 31.Kf2 Qc2+ 32.Kf3 Rf1+ 33.Kg4 Qg6+.
The biggest surprise packet of the tournament was the performance of US chess book publisher Hanon Russell, the 32nd seed, who with two rounds to go found himself on 7/9, a point behind Karlsson and half a point behind Sadorra. However Russell had flown too close to the sun and two losses to conclude the tournament left him with only the U/2100 prize.
Chess Train 2015
Opening: Scandinavian Defence
1.e4 d5 2.Nc3 dxe4 3.Nxe4 Qd5 4.Nc3 Qd8 5.d4
After 5.Ne4!? the game could have finished even more quickly than McShane-Nakamura in Millionaire Chess!
5...Nf6 6.Bc4 a6 7.a4 Nc6 8.d5
This is what Black is hoping for. 8.Nf3 is more sober.
8...Nb4 9.Be3 Bf5 10.Bb3 e6! 11.dxe6 Qxd1+ 12.Rxd1 fxe6
12...Nxc2+ was even stronger.
13.Rd2 Bd6 14.Nge2 0-0-0 15.h3 h5 16.Nd4 Rhe8 17.Nce2
After 17.0-0 White has nothing to fear.
17...Ne4 18.Rd1 Nc5 19.Nxf5 exf5 20.Bxc5 Bxc5 21.Rxd8+ Kxd8 22.Bf7 Re7 23.Bxh5 Nxc2+ 24.Kd2 Nb4 25.Rd1?!
25.Kc3 was the last chance.
25...Rd7+ 26.Kc1 Bxf2 27.Rf1 Be3+ 28.Kb1 c5 29.b3 Rd2 30.Nc3 f4 31.Ne4 Rxg2 32.Rd1+ Kc7 33.Nd6 Bd4
Chess games have been organised on boat cruises, in hot air balloons and underwater, but the Chess Train remains unique as a regular touring event with normal prize money.
The precise schedule for the 2016 Chess Train is not yet known but is likely to add an Austrian ski resort. The Chess Train is a rare event where just about every player goes home happy.