A Valentine's Day GM chess challenge from Lienz Open 2019 Part 1
IM Nisha Mohota is one of the strongest female chess players of India. Even after three decades of actively playing chess, her love for the game is very much intact. She has won multiple accolades in her career both in the country and internationally. She takes the time to write down her experiences both on and off the board for all chess readers as well as non-chess players too. She wrote one a few days on her experience in playing at Lienz, Austria, how she fell in love with the beautiful city and more. In Part I of her article, you will get to know how the love for Austria began. Photo: Nisha's blog
The town of Lienz in Austria has a very special place in my heart! The love story with Lienz began in February 2017 when I made my first visit there for the 19th International Dolomitenbank Open. I had just become an author as ChessBase had released my first DVD, 'Strengthen your chess foundation' a month back. In my correspondence with the tournament director, Georg Weiler, I had mentioned about my newly released DVD. He was extremely happy to know about it and immediately arranged for a few hard copies from ChessBase, Germany, to be sold at the tournament!
The international open in Lienz takes place once in every two years. That makes it even more special because people like me who love the event wait eagerly for it for two years! I was very sure in 2017 that I would definitely play in Lienz in 2019! However, the 2019 event was at a time when I was not sure I would be free to travel abroad. Only in the second week of January I realised that I could travel to Europe in February and the first thing I did was to tell Georg that I was coming! In 2017 I had visited Lienz alone but this time I convinced my good friend cum practice partner, Bhagyashree Thipsay, who is the wife of my coach GM Pravin Thipsay, to come along and take part in a wonderful tournament. 20th International Dolomitenbank Lienz Open took place from 9th to 16th February 2019.
The tournament in Lienz takes place in two groups - Group A and Group B. Group A had 87 players with quite a good average rating of the tournament. Out of the nine rounds I played, I faced seven titled players and Bhagyashree faced eight! No wonder that in such a strong field, many international norms are made! This year five players made norms in the tournament.
What I found very interesting in both the editions of the International Dolomiten Bank Open Lienz tourney that I played in is that on Valentine's Day, every female player finds a surprise gift on her table for her! Last year it was a pot of flowers and this year chocolates were awaiting us! This is such a nice gesture by the organisers to make the women feel special!
I was making a record in Lienz this year - playing the longest games everyday! Valentine's day was an exception. I finished my game fast. I think the best part of playing abroad is finishing one's own game and then enjoying the games of other players as a spectator, standing next to their boards! The top players can enjoy chess anywhere on earth but for me the best way I enjoy chess is by seeing some action LIVE! Somehow as there are huge number of players in India, the arbiters back home cannot allow us that luxury to crowd around a board.As my roommate Bhagyashree was playing, I moved around the tournament hall to find a game of interest to me. Finally I found one!
IM Raunak Sadhwani (IND) 2448 - Ruff Maximilian (GER) 2312, Lienz Open, 14-02-2019
13-year-old Raunak is one of the young talents from India who has shown immense maturity on the chess board. The first time I heard his name was when he won the IIFL Wealth Mumbai International Junior Chess 2016, which was the first edition of the tournament. Last year in the first round of the Isle of Man tournament, Raunak gave a scare to Vishy Anand who later said that the young boy is "ridiculously underrated" and that it was an unpleasant feeling for him to see the pairing! Such praise from Anand is enough to draw the attention of the world! When I reached Raunak's board, I realised that he was in deep trouble. I was curious to see whether he will just collapse slowly or will find some way out of the difficult position. The opponent had comparatively much lesser time in his clock and I noticed that Raunak made his moves fast so that the opponent does not get time to find the perfect winning plan.
It has often happened with all of us that we land into a completely winning position, realise that every move seems winning but we miss out on the easiest win and the victory becomes tougher with each move! I will show the next few moves after the above diagram:
So we reach the next diagram:
36...Ne5 idea Nf3 winning the g1 knight or 36...h4 (idea h3) 37.gxh4 Nf2 38.Kh2 Bd6. Both the variations seem to finish off White immediately.
However, Ruff was in time pressure, he had to complete 40 moves in the first time control, and so did not find the immediate finish. He played 36...Kc7 which was still winning, though not immediately.
It seemed to me that Ruff is playing good chess, has now converted his positional edge to a material advantage and has a completely winning position. Should be smooth for Black from here, right? But I know from my personal experience that it is the toughest to win a winning game!! Black managed to handle the first time control but soon found himself in time pressure again after a few more moves.
Looks like a smooth sailing for Black.
Black has succeeded in queening and seems to be on the verge of winning. White, on the other hand, has done two important things - brought the opponent under time pressure again and has pushed his f-pawn as much as he could and is threatening to queen. Here is the last phase of the game:
The opponent took 60...Rxg6, thinking that there could be some win with the jigsaw movement of the queen.The game magically ended in a draw!
A highly entertaining game! As a spectator, I love to see a topsy-turvy game! A one-sided game where one player has an edge and plays to perfection to win it is good for improving in chess but not fun for me as a spectator! This miraculous escape by Raunak made a great impression in my mind! What an escape! It felt like he did magic on the board! One needs a lot of self belief to keep fighting such a lost position! I was extremely impressed! My V-day had been very enjoyable with my love - chess!
I would like to mention here that Raunak made a GM norm in the next tournament that he played in - the Aeroflot Open. He had been travelling with his mother to a couple of tournaments in this trip (His mother told me that he had played the Sunway Sitges, then in Italy and Gibraltar, then stayed back for a week to play in Lienz and heading straight to Moscow from there!), staying away from home, determined to do well and fighting for every half point like a tiger! No wonder with such a fighting spirit he made his GM norm in the next event!
Georg arranges for a bus to pick you up from Munich airport and to drop you back to Munich. The bus journey can be nice with the scenic beauty outside and the scope to make friends with other players inside!
We had a bus full of players on our return journey from Lienz to Munich. I was sitting towards the back row of the bus and Raunak was in the front row. I heard him give a position to solve blindfold to another Indian player in the bus. I did not hear the position. But I heard him say that it was from his game against Ruff and black had only one way to win in that position. Have you seen how a cow eats? It swallows everything at one go and then when it has time takes out the food and chews it one by one! My brain works similarly!! Whatever useful information I get, I put it inside my brain and in my free time I think about that info! That day I was suffering from slight cold and did not want to think chess. A couple of days back I remembered Raunak's words and thought of investigating what he said!
Odisha's first Woman Grandmaster Kiran Manisha Mohanty is a good friend of mine. Since the past few years, her love for chess has grown immensely and she is ready to analyse and discuss anything chess at any time of the day! I showed Raunak's game to her and also mentioned his comment which I overheard - that in one particular position, Black has only one win! Now the question was which position was Raunak talking about? We tried looking at the game again. At every position it seemed that Black has more than one win! Then we convinced ourselves that after 60...Rxg6, there was no win, so that brought us to the following position.
I would now call it a Valentine's day on-the-board composition by Raunak and Ruff!! After 60.f7 it is Black to play. This definitely looked like the position Raunak was talking about that day in the bus! If you are a GM, before you read my article further, try to solve this. It is possible to solve this position in a couple of minutes or a couple of hours. I tried it on some GMs. Two very strong GMs took 2 hours to solve, so just a warning, also look for opponent's resources!
...to be continued in Part II of the article.
The article has been edited by Shahid Ahmed