''…the theory of QGD progresses, unlike that of derivatives and tangent lines, making the latter a more attractive and useful option to study.'
Anish on Unive Crown Group 2011 with his annotations



Having arrived after the somewhat gray performance in Slovenia, where I had performed with just 50% for my Russian team 64 ("just" was referring to the pretty low average rating of my opponents),I immediately started the countdown for my next big event- the Univé chess tournament, where I was to meet three strong opponents- Vladimir Kramnik, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Judit Polgar. All my opponents had some successes recently with Kramnik playing well in Dortmund, Vachier-Lagrave in the nationals and Judit having a fantastic score in the World Cup. With all the strong and frightening opponents (of course especially the scary Kramnik), having seriously considered the tempting option of getting scared and running away as far as possible from the city of Hoogeveen, I at the end chose the alternative- to simply prepare for the event and even to show up. Now, I ought to admit that it was the right choice :).

With some school exams and tests here and there (and there, and there…), the big plans for the preparation had to be reconsidered a little, and eventually I arrived to the tournament with a fresh head with a hope that studying math will prove more useful than studying Kramnik's QGD in the long run anyway, as the theory of QGD progresses, unlike that of derivatives and tangent lines, making the latter a more attractive and useful option to study. Yet, I shouldn't exaggerate too much; after all I wasn't that badly prepared thanks to the fact that the repertoire-database can only grow and the ideas tend to accumulate.

At the, usual for the tournament, unusual opening ceremony I learnt that I would play Kramnik with black in round one, as well as that the same Kramnik isn't a big fan of simple puzzles that we had to solve (an area at what I managed to dominate the field :)). The cute little mosaic-like puzzles were determining the order of drawing of lots. Having given up on the damn-puzzle Kramnik , nevertheless, got the first two whites in the tournament. While I, who was the first one to draw the lot, picked the number 3 giving me no privileges. Well, it wasn't the first time I got cheated by Kramnik (neither the last), but that's ok :).

© Fred Lucas

In my first game, having black against Kramnik, I saw no reasons to shy away from the big battle, so I decided that the King's Indian was an interesting choice. Although one might speculate that having to play Radjabov in Kazan's Candidate Matches, Kramnik was well prepared against the opening. I, nevertheless, decided to follow the footsteps of Nakamura, who confidently managed to beat Kramnik in the last round of Dortmund. Against me also, Kramnik opted for a Bayonett system and again, he showed an interesting idea in the opening. I somehow struggled to really figure out the difference between g3 and Re1, which wasn't the main problem. The main problem was that at some point we got into what looked like an unclear position to me, with black having his usual trumps. Yet, I slowly realized that all the lines just didn't work for me and few moves later I ended up in a hopelessly lost position. In the end, even though Kramnik blundered his key-pawn, the position was beyond salvation.

Game analysis Kramnik-Giri (Please click the arrow to view)  





Somehow this loss didn't upset me that much. Certainly I was upset about the fact that I got a zero in the tournament table, but I had the feeling that my head was working properly even though the game didn't really reflect the same :).

© Tournament site

Nonetheless, I must admit that I was a little overcautious in the second game, my game against Vachier-Lagrave, when I had white pieces. Unexpectedly probably for both of us we ended up in a highly theoretical (thanks to Topalov and his seconds) Anti-Grunfeld with Qb3, followed by queenside castling for White. We were both half bluffing, having remembered absolutely nothing. Yet, I managed to get an advantage (thanks to a nice idea 15.Rd2! threatening Ne5 cutting off the bishop on g4, thus forcing Bxf3), which I gave away with somewhat unnecessary and impulsive breakthrough 18.d5. I simply forgot that with 18.Kb1 I prevent Ne7 that will be answered not with 19.Be5?! Nd5! which I saw, but with a simple 19.Qxc7! Obviously black shouldn't give the pawn, but should go 18…Rfc8 and then a complex position arose that during the game I didn't like so much, but probably mistakenly. In any case, I wasn't too much concerned, as I in general believed that I would have enough chances later on in the tournament, as I still had white against both Kramnik and Polgar.

My next game was even less remarkable, when I was playing with the black pieces against Judit. Being surprised as early as in move 2, Judit chose a very boring variation of four knights defense, and even though I optically got into a worse position, I was never in real danger and the game was relatively easily drawn.

The rest-day followed, a day that is always welcome during a top-tournament. It often gives you some time to get all the energy together again, which will be ready to burst out in the second half of the tournament.
Unsurprisingly, besides the usual and cozy sponsor dinner and an interview for a newspaper, there wasn't much going on for me. Oversleeping the breakfast, reading a book and watching some funny nonsense on my laptop was about the fun I could do on that rainy day. Nevertheless, I was full of optimism and energy for the remaining games.

© Chessvibes

With white I certainly wanted to squeeze something out of Kramnik and unlike Dortmund, where I didn't mind entering a theoretical discussion in the main-stream theory and was badly punished for it, I certainly had a better idea in the opening. Playing a side-line in the English opening with e5, I managed to get Kramnik out of his Queen's Gambit fortress and it immediately paid off. Having accomplished my goal number one, which was to get a game on at least equal terms, I was more than optimistic and as if feeling my happiness, Kramnik ended up worse and later misplayed the ending, which was, however, probably still inside the drawing margin. Though, it feels like the win was already there at some point.

Game analysis Giri-Kramnik (Please click the arrow to view) 





Fortunately there was another white, and this time too I decided to opt for 1.c4. Again I emerged with a nice English after the opening. But after being too greedy, playing 21.Qb3 instead of obvious 21.h3!, things became less clear. Then with few strong moves, Judit managed to get the game out of control, and even though I was probably never really in danger, her compensation was almost always sufficient. Interesting knight sacrifice was one of the ways to proceed and it's only the unexpected mistake 38…Bb5?? instead of the obvious 38…Bb3! that decided the game in my favor.

Game analysis Giri-Polgar (Please click the arrow to view) 





© Tournament site

Once I finally got back to 50%, (though saying got "back" is rather weird, as I had never been on 50% before), in the last round I didn't mind to play solid with black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who was chasing me by half a point. Yet, I decided to test a crazy idea I had found at home while looking at the somewhat artificial try 6.a3!? in the Bf4 QGD, something that Maxime tried against Kramnik in round 3. Maxime spent almost an hour in the opening and did a good job as he managed to get a reasonably safe position. At some point in what seemed like an equal position I offered a draw. Having a lot of deep strategic plans and hopes, Maxime forgot about the simple tactic Rd4! and after blundering it he was forced to defend an unpleasant position, which was however pretty much always inside the defendable margin.

So, I yet again scored 50%, but this time I was pretty happy with the event and with my own play, which fortunately made some sense here and there. And what more can we, human chess players, ask for?