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A Grandmaster Vacation: GM Pascal on Sturbridge Print E-mail
By GM Pascal Charbonneau   
August 19, 2010
GM Pascal Charbonneau
Several months ago, contemplating the rapidly approaching summertime, I realized I had not taken a full week of vacation since the Olympiad in Dresden, 2008.  At the time, I had just started a new job, and while in the interviewing process, I had requested permission to participate, as I had already agreed to play for Canada before the job switch.  I knew when I joined the hedge fund boat that it would consume much of my time, but I didn't know whether I'd play much chess or not.  Fast forward to 2010, and in the two years preceding, I had played in Foxwoods once, Bermuda, twice, and the US Chess League.  It dawned on me that I could call this a retirement. 

As I contemplated where to go, and in an attempt to combine fun,  family, and some chess, I decided to play in the Quebec Open held in Montreal (where I am from) .. and unsure whether this would be a real "return" to the game, I really looked forward to playing.  The tournament, as much as I'd like to say (and part of me thinks) went horribly, probably followed a pretty fair course.  I had a good 2/2 start including a win against current Canadian Champion Jean Hebert, then drew the solid GM Malaniuk with black, before spoiling a decent (and easily drawn) position against Kovalyov in round 4.  In round 5 I played an interesting game that led to (a first in my career) a winning N+N vs P (white pawn, blockaded on e4) ending, but I did no better than many others and could not checkmate.

This was somewhat embarrassing because as a Grandmaster, you are expected to win what's winning.  In the eighth round I was half a point from first and playing one of the two leaders, GM Sambuev.  It is perhaps this game that had the greatest effect on me, and more specifically, in the decision that followed.  A rather dull, slightly better maneuvering game led to a major piece endgame, where I managed to set one of my most devilish traps.

Charbonneau,Pascal (2513) - Sambuev,Bator (2478) [C06]
Quebec op inv. Montreal CAN (8), 30.07.2010
A messy game has led us to a tricky major piece endgame that has the potential to fizzle out to a draw with a queen trade. 
This move looks like a blunder, but is actually quite annoying, because Black's natural (and strong looking response) leads to trouble.
Not really a mistake, but one that creates a lot of inertia.
Provoking White into the abyss.
44...Qd2 45.Rc3
A sneaky retreat and suddenly Black's position is critical. 46.Rf3 is threatened, and Black's intended Ref8 does not help.
45...Qxb2 46.Rf4 Qxc3 was the only chance but rather hard to find and still easier for White to play; 45...Rg8 46.Qxg8+ Kxg8 47.Rc8+ Rf8 48.Rg4+ Kf7 49.Rg7# is the point; 45...Ref8 46.Rf3 Rg8 (46...d4 47.Qg7+! Rxg7+ 48.hxg7+ Kxg7 49.Rg4+ is another cute motif) 47.Rxf7 Rxg3+ 48.Kxg3 Qg5+ 49.Rg4 Qxh6 50.Rf6 and White wins.
46.Rf4 Qh5
This looks like it is close to a defense but in fact with a few quiet moves Black is paralyzed.
47.Rcf3 Ref8
47...Rg8 48.Rxf7 Rxg3+ (48...Qxh6 49.Qxg8+ Kxg8 50.R7f6!) 49.fxg3
48.Rxf7 Rxf7
After this simple move Black can't do anything and White can combine picking up pawns with mate threats.
49...d4 50.Rxe6 Rd7 51.Rd6 Qe8 52.Rxd7 Qxd7 53.e6
followed by e6-e7 which will distract the black queen. 1-0

Catapulted to a tie for first place with Kovalyov, I went into the last round with the tougher pairing, Black against Gagunashvili while Kovalyov had White against a submarined youngster, FM Louis Jiang.  Fortunately for me, Kovalyov drew after playing inaccurately, and Gagunashvili quickly handed me the initiative.  Unfortunately, after missing two wins (one very clear one), I found myself in a slightly better ending.  I saw no easy path and decided to make a draw (and thus tie for first), little did I know I found just about the only logical move that did not draw right away.  Reaching a difficult (but they're always drawn, as per a Russian proverb) rook ending, I was so disgusted by my own play (something I need to work on!) that I mishandled it grossly and lost. 

One would think this would send me straight to retirement?  And yet, I was reminded of a famous quote  by the great Dr. Tarrasch, who said "Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy." 

A couple of days of self-flagellation later, I registered for the Continental Open in Sturbridge, MA.  And despite another event high in frustration, I'm just about ready to sign up for the Atlantic Open. 

I headed for Sturbridge after a typical day, and since this is the first time I've blogged in a while, I will walk you through the day briefly.  3 AM - Phone rings.  Stock broker in the UK has some important news to tell me.  Act or do nothing?  3:30 AM Ahh, back to sleep.  5:50 AM Alarm clock goes off so I can get to the office by 7 AM. 5 PM - The workday is over.  Andrei Zaremba, roommate past and future, good friend, is lost on the bus to Jersey.  We eventually meet.  8:30 PM Sturbridge arrival, check in.  At this point I am near collapse.  But there's a bit of fire in me, like this is something I am happy to be doing.

Andrei and I find an excellent Japanese restaurant called "Kaizen", which the waiter explained means that tomorrow will be better.

And since Sturbridge is a well-known place in American history, I figured I'd walk you through the history of this lovely place which I gleamed from my time there.  I'm just kidding...at that point, it was time to sleep and then play.  So I'll have to go back. It's a pity that chess events rarely leave time for other pursuits. 

Signed up for the two day schedule, we had four games to play on Saturday.  Roommates Zaremba, Rosenberg, and Charbonneau were actually the top three seeds, as it seems few were insane enough to take part in this schedule. 

Evan Rosenberg

As it turns out, after I won a good game against Cherniack, we were the only three with a score of two points, and I had to play Zaremba.  I don't know if this is just me, but I always find it weird to play good friends.  Andrei certainly deserves credit for playing a good game.  But I deserve discredit for some extremely strange decisions. 

Andrei Zaremba

It was a bad day to be roommates as in round four, when all schedules merged, we noticed that the grandmasters present (Kacheishvili, Ivanov, Lenderman, Kudrin, Kekelidze) had all given up a draw (mostly to each other) and so Evan and Andrei stood alone at 3/3.  They played, and after a tough fight where both sides had chances, Andrei prevailed.

1.d4 d6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e4 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.h3 c5 7.d5 e5 8.Bg5
8.dxe6 Bxe6 9.Bf4 Nc6 10.Bxd6 Re8 is known to give Black good counterplay.
8...h6 9.Be3 Nh5 10.Qd2 Kh7 11.Nh2 Na6
11...Nf4 12.g3
12.0-0-0 was interesting as well
12...Nf4 13.Bf3 f5 14.exf5 Bxf5 15.g4 Bd7 16.Be4 Nc7 17.Qc2 Qf6 18.0-0-0 b5 19.h4
White has played this part very well and Black's position is dangerous.
19...Kg8 20.g5!
20.Rdg1 Qf7 allows Black to keep the position closed, to his advantage, as the g5 or h5 breaks can be met by a pawn push.
20...hxg5 21.hxg5 Qf7 22.cxb5 Rab8 23.Nf3 Nxb5 24.Nxb5 Rxb5 25.Nd2 Bf5 26.f3
26.Nc4! would have made Black's life difficult, for example 26...Ne2+ if black sits passively, he won't be happy with the bishop on g7. (26...Bxe4 27.Qxe4 Ne2+ 28.Kd2 Nd4 29.Nxd6 Rxb2+ 30.Kc1 Qc7 31.Kxb2 Qxd6) 27.Qxe2 Bxe4 28.Nxd6
Suddenly Black has a large advantage.
27.Nc4 Nxe3 28.Nxe3 Bxe4 29.fxe4 Qxa2 may not be lost because the bishop is so bad, and so might have been the best chance.
27...Qxd5 28.Ne4 Qxa2 29.Rxd6 Rfb8
30.Rh2 Rb4 31.Qb1 Qb3
31...Rc4+ 32.Rc2 Rxc2+ 33.Qxc2 Qa1+ 34.Qb1 Qxb1+ 35.Kxb1 Rb3
32.Qd3 Rc4+ 33.Rc2
33.Kd2 Qxb2+ 34.Ke1 Qb1+ 35.Qxb1 Rxb1+ 36.Kf2
33...Rxc2+ 34.Qxc2 Qxe3+
A good fighting game by Black. 0-1

In the same round, I played my most aesthetic game of the tournament (really, I do not see how else to describe it, because it probably was not all "correct" and thus best) After a dubious/risky opening, my opponent Yelfry Torres found all the right moves and managed to keep his position together.  After  a long think, I could find no clear path to a better position, and remembered some games of my favorite player, Tal, and prayed for inspiration.  Suddenly I found a plan and once I saw it, I knew I had to play it.  I was quite happy when looking at it with the famous fish (Rybka) after the game, she actually rather liked the sacrifice and thought it was good enough for an edge.  And while the tournament was to end in another disaster, I think this game still sticks in my mind more than the rest.

Charbonneau - Tores [B67]

Not finding any special edge, I went for this interesting continuation.  In some lines, the rook can swing to b4 or a4, which seems logical enough.  However, the main point is to prepare Rgd1xd6.  
24...Ka8 25.Rgd1 Rh3 26.Rxd6!? Bxd6 27.Rxd6
For the exchange White has managed to "break through" the black fortress and if he can dislodge the knight on e5, the position will crack.  
27...f6 supporting the knight was key, and while White has obvious compensation, there doesn't seem to be an immediate win.
Stopping ...Bxe4 and forcing the knight to move, even at the cost of a second exchange.
28...Nxf3 29.Bxf3 Rxf3 30.Nxc6 bxc6 31.Rd7 also wins.
29.Rxc6! bxc6 30.g6! e5
30...Ng5 31.Qxg7 Qb8 only move 32.Bxa6 Qxb6 33.Bb7+ Ka7 34.Nxc6+
The queen swings over to the a-file with irresistible threats
31...Nd8 was more tenacious 32.Nxc6!! (32.Bxd8 wins more prosaically 32...Rxd8 33.Nxc6 Rd7 34.Bxa6 Ra7 35.Nxa7 Qc3 36.Nc6 Rh1+ 37.Bf1+ Kb7 38.Qb5+ Kc7 39.Qb8+) 32...Qxc6 (32...Nxc6 33.Bxa6 Qe6 34.Bc8+) 33.Qxa6+ Kb8 34.Qa7+ Kc8 35.Ba6+! (35.Bb5 Re7!! and black might lose but it's still a fight!) 35...Nb7 36.Bb5 Qxb5 37.Qa8+ Kd7 38.Qxb7+ Kd6 39.Bc7+ Kc5 40.Bd6+
Resourceful but insufficient [32...Qxa6 33.Qxc6+; 32...Qd7 33.Nxc6 and White's pieces stand pretty and strong].
33.Kb2 Nb5 34.Bxc8 Rb1+ 35.Kxb1 Nc3+ 36.Kc1 Nxa4 37.Bd7 1-0

Andrei continued his good play against Ivanov with a draw in round five, and so he maintained his clear lead as the grandmasters again could not find a winner.  Andrei used an amusing tactic at the end of his game:  when he knew he was slightly better in a complicated position, he offered Ivanov a draw, expecting the higher rated player, who was also trailing him by a half point, would surely contemplate the draw offer for a long time before declining anyway and playing on.  His plan worked beautifully as Ivanov's clock ticked down and down and down...until Alexander shook his hand!  Still, the trick is worth a shot (maybe?!) and it served him well in this tournament. 

Andrei found himself with 4.5/5 followed by a pack of hungry wolves at 4 points of Kacheishvili (whom he was playing against with black), Ivanov and Kudrin (playing each other), this writer and Lenderman (playing each other also)

Andrei managed to hold the draw after a complicated struggle where he started off a bit worse, only to be better after complications and if anything letting a nice edge slip away into a draw. 

On the second board, Ivanov and Kudrin were both quite solid and while they both tried to fight, nothing could separate them.
Alex Lenderman
That leaves my game with Alex Lenderman.  Alex played very riskily in the opening and I found myself with a nice edge, until several inaccuracies led me to an equal position, which I grossly mishandled and found myself in a tough knight endgame, which I lost badly.  Alex, to his credit, played extremely well after his risky opening play, and  deserved his share of first place.  

1.e4 c6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nxd5 6.Nf3 Nxc3 7.bxc3 g6 8.d4 Bg7 9.Bd3 0-0 10.0-0 Nc6 11.Re1 b6 12.Bg5 Qd6 13.Be4
Black's play has been very risky and he has to make a series of only moves
13...Bb7 14.Bxe7!
Very tempting but the simple and typical h4!? might have been better
14...exd5 15.Bxd5
Now White's pawn structure is bad but Black is faced with Bxf7 and Be7 threats.
Alex finds this cool defense. Instead [15...Qc7 16.Nd4! (16.Be7!? Nxe7 17.Bxa8 Be6 18.Be4 black has undeniable compensation for the exchange) 16...Bb7 17.Nb5 Qb8 18.Nd6 and the pressure is hardly tenable.
A big inaccuracy that loses a tempo.  Once I realized it was difficult for black to make a move (Bb7 Re7!! is very bad) I should have found the much stronger Qd2! which I played on the next move [16.Qd2 Re8 17.Rxe8+ Qxe8 18.Re1 and black is forced to play Be6 since 18...Qd7 (18...Be6 19.Bh6 with a large if not decisive advantage.) 19.Bxc6 Qxc6 20.Qd8+ Bf8 21.Re8 wins]
The only move but it is not bad
17.Rxe8+ Qxe8 18.Qd2 Bb7 19.Re1 Qf8 20.Nd4
20.Qf4 was much better, keeping the pressure on 20...Rc8 21.h4 Na5 not forced but what else? 22.Bxb7 Nxb7 23.Be7 and black still has big problems to solve.
20...Na5 21.Be7 Qc8 22.Nb5
I had overestimated this move, totally overlooking black's response.
22...Nc4 23.Qd3 was not so clear.
23.Qxd5 Qc6
simple but good. White can no longer claim an advantage.
My only good move since move 15! White holds the balance and the game should now peter out to a draw
24...Bf8 25.Bxf8

25.Nd6! Qxd5 26.cxd5 Bxe7 27.Rxe7 Rd8 28.Nxf7 Rxd5 should be drawn although white has the fun.
 25...Kxf8 26.Re4??
An awful and inexplicable move given I still had plenty of time on the clock.  Any pawn move (h3, h4, g3,g4) would have kept the balance.  
26...Qxd5! 27.cxd5 Rc8!
And now White has to waste time defending against the mate, after which the d5-pawn falls.
28.f3 a6 29.Nd4 Rc5
and Alex wins the pawn because if 30.d6 Rd5. He handily converted the ending.   0-1

As for me, the only good thing about this loss is that it allowed me to copy and paste a fragment from earlier in the story, about the similar game arc I had against Gagunashvili, saving precious time. Unless it happens a third time in a row, I won't attempt to explain (well, at least not in prose) what is causing my last round mishaps. Until next time!

See the complete crosstable from Sturbridge on MSA 
and see Pascal's latest CLO article on Blitzing the Donald Benge Memorial.

March - Chess Life Online 2010

First US Championship Wildcard Determined Catching up with GM Joel: A Ticket to the Big DancePhiladelphia Open Kicks Off Tonight! Macnificent Games from the North American Masters Team OC Wins Amateur Team Playoffs Former World Champion Smyslov, 1921-2010Andrew Hubbard Wins World Amateur Champion of Champions: Perspective from Delaware Mackenzie Molner Wins Big in Skokie! Bob Rasmussen, Clubs Committee Chair, is Open for QuestionsDaniel Gurevich on the Mid-America Open Maurice Ashley, $10,000 blitz tourney highlight 2010 U.S. ChampsMarch Madness on ICC: Champion of Champions and Amateur Playoffs Shankland on Blitz, Blunders and Comebacks in France Nakamura Blitzes Dos HermanasYoungest Chess Author Ever: An Interview with Daniel Naroditsky Craig Jones is the 2010 US Masters Champion! World Amateur Kicks Off in Skokie! Becerra Wins SPICE CupChess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis Facebook Raffle! A Simul and a Lifeline for CharityUS Masters to Merge TonightChess Diva Show Invites All Blitz Comers to Support Haiti Relief Darwin Yang, 13, Earns First IM Norm Chess in the Wild Chessboxing Hits Los AngelesDarwin Yang Leads in LubbockBereolos, Jones and Pohl Lead the US Masters Two Weekend scheduleChess Without Borders Students Present at Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots EventSicilian Upsets Kick Off Western Class US Masters to Kick off in North CarolinaMarshall Chess Club Hosts Bobby Fischer Memorial BlitzCalling All State Champions Nakamura, Kamsky, 17 Others Confirmed for 2010 U.S. Chess ChampionshipSpring in the Air at the Eastern ClassJennifer on Philly's Hall of Fame and Roulette Chess Illinois Top Juniors Learn From Top GMsAn Armenian Master on the UMBC Open Affiliate Emailing Service UpdateSpring Scholastics Notice Team Sevillano Tops Unique California Event Chess and Peace: Alexandra Kosteniuk The Sicilian Slayed: Kaidanov on Polgar Match The March Check is in the Mail