''I am slowly becoming an experienced team player…'
Anish on Spanish Team Championship with his games' annotation


I am slowly becoming an experienced team player, playing around half of my tournaments in team competitions. Recently I have been introduced to yet another league- the Spanish one. I was already introduced to my club-Sestao Naturgas, the club from the Basque city of Sestao, located closely to Bilbao, city known in the chess world for its Grand Slam Final, when playing in the local Basque League, where we clinched the Basque title. This time the challenge was somewhat tougher, yet our main concurrent was the same Basque club of San Sebastian, Gros Xake Taldea. Unfortunately at the end we finished just behind them on the tiebreak points.

Perhaps I got a bit carried away in the introduction, so I will return to the common chronological order now and tell the things from the start.
We arrived in the city of Melilla, located, in fact, in Africa. I didn't have much time to enjoy the sightseeing, so I will save the precious lecture about the coastal city that combines Moroccan and Spanish culture to those that had, and instead will get to the actual chess tournament.

My team consisted of Cuban Super-GM Dominguez, two French friends with two and one names respectively- Vachier-Lagrave and Romain Edouard, and Spanish players with awesome Spanish names, which I have to shorten a little as this article should have a readable format after all- Grandmasters Salvador Del Rio, Alfonso Romero and Mario Gomes, who all performed very well for the team scoring quite a few important wins.

Our opponents in first rounds were somewhat weaker than us on paper, but as it usually is we hadn't had a single easy match. In the very first round I had to play Krasenkow with the black pieces. Opening with Queen's Indian I was full of ambitions and at some point things seemed to go very right. Yet I overestimated my position, underestimated some ideas of my opponent and by the beginning of the time trouble I realized that it's time to seriously think about saving my skin. I found a reasonable human defense (over the board when I found the idea I thought it was very strong, but as it always is after analyzing your game with computer, the term very strong changes into "reasonable human"), but instead of barely saving I even got a slight hopes after my opponent unnecessarily gave a piece. The position remained drawn almost all the way till the end, but eventually my opponent collapsed, committed a chess suicide and my first win was there. Dominguez managed to win an absolutely lost position against Dreev and an unclear match turned into a nice and convincing victory.

© Tournament site

My second game, when I was playing against Jobava with white, wasn't really my favorite after all. In a complex Carlsbad position I kept on changing my mind in the opening and eventually I simply got outplayed. I just had no chance whatsoever as the position was bad for me positionally as well as tactically. Unfortunately we also drew that match.

As I tried to complicate my next game with black against Svetushkin in Winaver, it just didn't work. Svetushkin entered a theoretical ending that seemed very promising for black at the first sight, but which was in fact absolutely harmless for white. After few unobvious inaccuracies I ended up in a highly unpleasant position, but with few inaccuracies by my opponent and accuracies from my side I managed to hold the game rather easily. Our team won the match without too many adventures as far as I can remember.

The round 4 was held on the same day, so to limit the damage I decided to open with 1.c4. I was playing white against Aleksandrov and he managed to misplay the opening surprisingly quickly. It's hard to imagine that white can be so winning after like 12 moves in any opening that starts with 1.c4, but it was how it was. I was a little too subtle and positional answering 12...Qg6 with 13.Qd1. The obvious e4 would lead to a winning advantage. Fortunately I still had a huge, this time positional advantage, played the remaining game pretty well and managed to score a convincing way anyway. Our team somehow didn't win this match, as some games saw an unexpected turn around, but those 'turn arounds' are the reason we love our game, aren't they?!


So it was a big relief to have just one game on the next day. Yet it didn't help me against Parimarjan Negi. After few logical moves in a sideline of the French defense (I was on the black side) I ended up in a very unpleasant position. My creative and provocative defensive attempt 15...Bd6!? was interesting, but was nicely exploited by a totally unexpected 16.Bh6!. In fact it was funny, as after my opponent executed the move instead of feeling what normal people would feel, which would be a shock, a fear, or whatever, I felt a relieve. I was happy that instead of having to defend a strategically dangerous position I could just calculate lines and prove my opponent was wrong. Unfortunately for me my opponent was right; nevertheless I kept on making the only moves till at some point, when I was already running short on time I lost hope, missing a very strong defensive resource which would save the day. Yet, I didn't feel too bad about the game, as believe me, there were a lot more games in my short career so far, which I played much worse. The comrades of my opponent didn't manage to accomplish the same and it was a victory for our club.

Negi-Giri (click the arrows for the game annotation)




My next game was just calling for a win as another 50 percent score seemed rather dramatic, so I spent the whole evening before the rest day eagerly trying to find a win in the Italian game. Eventually I came pretty close and in my game against Etienne Bacrot I got a more or less decisive advantage out of the opening which was a healthy pawn and a healthy hour more. Yet it was very hard to make progress in the position and eventually it even started to look as if I am not going to make it anymore.
Fortunately, at some point my opponent allowed a nice regrouping of my pieces and after that it went very easy and smooth. What also stimulated me was that at some point, around after-the time trouble phase, my teammates came to me and told me that I shouldn't lose the game and that a draw is a good result. This was a huge motivation and fortunately after the game the Frenchman with two names apologized for his lack of trust in me.

Giri-Bacrot (click the arrows for the game annotation)





We had to win this match with 4.5-1.5 to clinch the title and even though the task was hard, at some point we came extremely close to achieving it. However after the time trouble hurricane passed by, the scored 3.5-2.5 were the maximum we could achieve.

After all my uncompromising Spanish adventures ended with a modest +1, the ELO win was the modest -1 point, so everything was balanced again.
At the end we shared the first place, remained unbeaten and have beaten the winner. What can be better would you ask? I can answer- to be the actual winner!
Well, hopefully that's for the next time.