First encounter with a GM

Jun 17, 2016, 11:15 AM |

It happened a week ago, and now that the emotions quieted, I feel ready to write about it. At first I was just a casual observer, watching a simul and taking pictures:

The guy has good; the old man wearing the Brooklyn cap was losing after only 15 minutes into the simul. The rest of the games looked good for white as well. I approached a lady who looked like one of the organizers, and asked who is playing. "GM Marcin Tazbir", she replied. I nodded my head, faking recognition. Tazbir... Tazbir... It did ring a bell. Yeah, a bell was ringing, but I didn't know at which church. He wasn't one of the big local names, such as Wojtaszek, Socko or even the semi-retired Macieja. I'd look him up later on wiki, I decided. Here was my chance to play a GM for the first time in my life... I took a place with my back to the Sun.

He approached the board and we shook hands.


"Please make your move after I finished the round", he said. I nodded and waited for him to return.


Yes, I was going to play my favorite, the Sicilian. Hopefully he would not go for the Alapin or some other anti-Sicilian system.


Good! No murky sidelines!


Please let it be the Pelikan (a.k.a. the Sveshnikov)! It puts fear into the guys at the park...



Awww, s#%@! The Rossolimo? What now?

I listened to my inner voice. "DO NOT play ...a6. Do not waste the tempo. This isn't the Ruy Lopez. He's going to take the knight anyway."



With the intention of Fianchettoing the bishop, of course. To which he replied


Thank you, inner voice!



Why did I recapture with the b-pawn, and not with the d-pawn, one might ask? Well....

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

  Down to a sunless sea.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Kubla Khan

Hundreds of miles to the east of the mythical Xanadu, and some years before Kubla Khan was born, the Japanese version of chess, Shogi, was slowly taking shape. The most powerful pieces in the game were the flying chariot, which moved like the rook in chess, and the angle mover, which moved like the chess bishop. A standard plan for the second player in Shogi would be to combine the power of the two pieces and launch a coordinated attack on the opponent:

In my game, I captured with the b-pawn in order to clear the b-file for my rook, and eventually bear down on the b2 square...


Huh? Definitely not a move I was expecting. I though he would play d4 or even c3, but d3? Only later on, at home, I would find out that this was a common move in this position.


All according to plan.


Another surprise! Alas, all this is still theory. 

During the game, I started to get nervous. My only developed piece is the bishop. If he succeeds in playing e5, not only will he block the bishop, but take away the f6 square from my knight. And there's no way I'm playing ...Nh6. I need the knight either in the center or attacking the queenside. Not stuck on the rim somewhere on the kingside.

Conclusion? e5 must be stopped.



Finally something predictable.


Securing e5 once again, indirectly. Is it over?

8. Re1 


Time to neutralize the white knight on f3. 


He comes back and plays...


... which is just fine with me. e5 ceases to be a real threat.



So far so good. 


Getting ready to castle finally.

For the first time in the game, I felt good. Or should I say "well"?

Or maybe "felt good about the position"? Who knows? I'm too big to go back to school and learn.





All safe now and ready for the planned queenside assault.


I didn't understand the move at all during the game, but later on it dawned on me that he's just getting ready to play f4...


Freeing the diagonal for the bishop and getting ready to seize the b file.

13. Rb1

Is he reading my mind?


The b-pawn is pinned. Wouldn't it be great if he missed ...Bxc3?


Of course not.


What else? I want to double the rooks on the b file to put more pressure on the b2 pawn.

He's back to play 


It took me a couple of seconds to even consider the best move. My natural instinct told me "do not expose your queen to a discovered attack." Especially voluntarily. But here, here.... The brazen ...Qa5, attacking the weakened knight on c3 looked like a real possibility. What good is a discovered attack on my queen if the d2 bishop is unprotected? I had about one minute to make up my mind before he returned to the board...

But he's a #%$^& Grandmaster, how could he miss ...Qa5?? But there is no real defence, what can he do...? What the hell is he going to play in response to ...Qa5?? His knight is lost! Another voice in my head was getting heard:

He approached the board. I made up my mind.


Almost without any thought, he made his move



I was winning a pawn. I had to take a picture of the position.


I made the move and told myself "you cannot lose this game now, under any circumstances."



The engines prefer 17...Qxa2 at this point, but I simply wanted to solidify my position.


The pawn on a2 is protected now.


And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, 
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, 
A mighty fountain momently was forced: 
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst 
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, 
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: 
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever 
It flung up momently the sacred river. 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Kubla Khan


Throwing all I have to the queenside, and getting ready for an all out assault.


A counterthrust in the center. Of course. He wants to follow up with either e5 or f5.


A somewhat primitive attack on the c2 pawn. The game was becoming way too fast for me.


I don't see a way to make use of my extra pawn. Maybe push the a pawn? Regroup!


Planning to play a5 next.


He just moved the rook back to where it was before. Is this the so-called "silent invitation to a draw", I wondered. I looked at the position and saw that pushing the a pawn to a4 was not enough for a b3 breakthrough. He just had the square to well covered.


Repeating the 19th move. 


Here I proposed a draw and he accepted. It was over. I drew a GM in a simul, and offered the draw from a better position. I took a picture of the final position.

I felt elated. The realization that I should have played on would come later. My immediate thought was to get home asap and recreate the game from memory. It could make a decent entry on a blog...

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion 
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, 
Then reached the caverns measureless to man, 


And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean

Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Kubla Khan

 The End