''…it was a pleasant experience and I hope there is more to come…''
Anish on Dutch Championship 2011 with his annotations

Just few days ago I managed to take back my Dutch title, that I already won back then in 2009. This year, though, the event was certainly stronger, but then again, so was I (or at least that's what I was hoping for). But let's start from the start.

The tournament was held in a city of Boxtel and due to lack of geographical knowledge I can hardly elaborate on that, besides saying that the city is laying somewhere in province Brabant close to a big city 's-Hertogenbosch. Besides Loek van Wely who is taking a (rather suspicious) sabbatical, everyone was present, including Dutch top- Sokolov, Smeets and L'Ami. All other players were not much weaker, with only one player being not a GM- Ruud Jansen, but as compensation, Ruud had an ELO over 2500, so the tournament was rather solid, especially for Dutch standards, to say the least. We were staying in a conference hotel in Vught, a city close to Boxtel, about 20 minutes driving.
…for the moment enough about the organization details, let's get to the actual chess tournament.

I was pretty happy with my pairing, as I had all my main opponents in first 5 rounds. My happiness didn't last for too long, as already in the very first round I played a terrible game against Sipke Ernst. While I was winning once and my opponent twice, I decided that I should be content with a half a point, but besides that there wasn't much to be content with.

My second game I was playing against Erwin L'Ami, who decided to surprise me with a strange looking Bd7-Bc6 setup in an English Catalan that I played. I found the correct setup and got a big advantage without too much effort. In time trouble I was a bit too hesitant and somehow managed to spoil everything, but things remained complex enough and I managed to emerge winning anyway.
The next day I had my birthday. I expected a lot of presents and I actually hoped for one from Sokolov, but in exchange Slav things never got too exciting. In the opening I was a bit impatient, trying to force things, ended up in an unpleasant position but with few exact moves I managed to draw the game without many troubles.

I certainly wanted to win another game, against Friso Nijboer, with white and I managed to get a promising position indeed. In Leningrad variation of Dutch defense, I chose a rare b3 line and even managed to play an interesting over the board novelty. Probably interesting is all it was, but Friso fell for the only idea it contained and after 20 moves I had over 1 hour advantage and an enormously pleasant ending. Perhaps it was too enormously pleasant as it was nothing more than a slight stable advantage. I was trying to squeeze something bigger out of my position in my calculations, but all I ended up with was blundering a simple shot after which it was me who had to defend carefully. Having still huge time advantage I offered a draw, in a position with no risk of winning, but also no big risk of losing and the game was drawn.
I was extremely annoyed by the game and probably it did me good as I managed to win…all the remaining games afterwards!

I started my winning series with an important win against Jan Smeets. We both were on plus 1, while probably not worrying that much, as the leader Wouter Spoelman, who took off with 3/3 was still about to play all of us. With black I picked a rare variation of Najdorf, the Polgar-Kasparov line with Ng4. My move Nd7, protecting the extra pawn that was given a move ago was technically speaking a novelty. The compensation was there, but not really concrete and eventually it vanished completely. Obviously I did mess up a little bit, but my advantage never vanished and after the time control we got a strange position with me being an exchange up in the endgame, for two pawns. At first I was rather pessimistic about my position and was even considering making a draw with repetition of moves, but then obviously it stroke me that I still had a big advantage. I played the rest of the game rather decent and converted the advantage without any ups and downs, which wasn't that difficult considering that Jan ended up in a second time trouble already after two moves.

Game analysis Smeets-Giri  

Already after this game it was clear that I was on a right track, and so I was very optimistic heading into the rest day. That day I spent rather typically, wasting some time, watching some movies, having some walks and traditionally preparing for what would not appear on the board next day.
I must add that before the game being absolutely not superstitious I for the second in a row time took the car (we were arriving to the playing hall by cars of the participants) of the Women Dutch Champion Peng and as I was winning game after game I never changed my driver again:).

Against Brandenburg I saw no reason not to go for a sharp Sicilian again and while being surprised by Daan's choice of 6.h3 Najdorf, it was probably him, who was less familiar with the variation that arose. In no time we got an equal position, which is probably somewhat easier to play with black. After some inaccuracies from my opponent I got already a slightly pleasant game, while after a strange exchange of my d6 pawn for his c2, it quickly went downhill for white. What I liked about the position I had was that there was absolutely nothing white could do and after rather sadistic a5-b4, I eventually picked up the doomed pawn and won the game smoothly.

My next opponent was Swinkels, who decided to go for Grunfeld. I didn't mind it so much and was happy to catch him off guard with the Russian system that is characterized with Qb3. I didn't hesitate much to refute the relatively new variation starting with Nc6, which is recommended in the recent books about Grunfeld. The concept of prophylactical g3 was suggested to me by my coach Chuchelov, already long time back and indeed over the board I liked it even more than before. Robin decided to do something with a suspicious e6, and after throwing in Bg5 and Na4 I realized that I was winning. The blunder by Swinkels only speeded it up.

My next opponent was Ruud, who was struggling to find his best shape in the tournament. Yet I was happy that he beat Smeets in the game just before ours, as I felt that he got more and more dangerous with every round. Ruud opted for a strange setup, playing rather provocative in the opening. He forced my knight to regroup only to realize that there it was a good regroupment for me, regardless of the pawn structure. I didn't hesitate to grab the e3 pawn and in the arising complications there was nothing White could catch.

After the fourth win in a row I already secured my title, as my opponents- Sipke, Sokolov, Wouter and Swinkels were somehow all kicking each other. Yet I was feeling full of motivation for my last game, against the ex-leader Wouter Spoelman.

In a topical line of Slav, we followed the game L'Ami-Smeets played in the first round. That game ended in a draw, without too many real problems for black, what probably was the reason Wouter followed the game. However, I deviated with early Ne5- followed by Nxd7! and it soon became clear that Black still has a lot of questions to answer. I very much liked my idea of a4 followed by Qa5, but unfortunately for me there was a strong move c3! instead of somewhat inconsistent retreat Nd7. While after c3 the game would probably end in a draw (with White having a pawn more, but with opposite coloured bishops, no real winning chances) after Nd7 I had a full control and the idea of Wouter e5 followed by Nc5 would be good if not what happened in the game, where there were too many pieces hanging, mainly the bishop on d5. It was apparent that Black's position was already collapsing, when Wouter blundered with Bc6.

Game analysis Giri-Spoelman  

With this win I won the tournament, 2 points ahead of my runner up- Sokolov, and got some ELO points that are always welcome in our modern era.
Obviously it was a pleasant experience and I hope there is more to come…