Irish Open: a cheater caught and an agonizing loss
My daily walk to the tournament: Irish Spring!

Irish Open: a cheater caught and an agonizing loss

HanSchut
NM HanSchut
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7

The Irish International Open 2019 was held in Dublin from April 17 to April 22. Almost 100 players participated in this 9 round Swiss event including 8 GMs 

After 5 rounds, A.K.A.M.K. (FIDE rating 1522) was taken out of the tournament for cheating. At that moment he had 4 out of 5. He scored his 4 wins against players rated on average 2245, i.e. more than 700 points higher than him. His cheating scheme was simple: he brought 2 friends who signaled the best moves to him using their phones to analyze the DGT transmissions. The only game A.K.A.M.K. lost was against tournament winner GM Robert Ruck. The organizers deliberately disconnected the DGT board and playing on a separate GM stage it was impossible for his 2 friends to help him. adequately.

K.A. (as he is known in Galway) had scored this year so far seventeen wins, one draw and no losses! He won the Major Section (1200-1800) at the Galway Chess Congress with 5 1/2 out of 6, the Bunratty Major (1200-1600) section with a faultless six wins from six games, and became the Galway Winter League champion with a round to spare by winning all of his first 6 games.

Perceptions can change easily ... in March people were in awe with K.A.'s breakthrough performance in 2019, yet after the Irish International Open he will be looked at as a probable 'serial cheater' and the discussion has shifted to 'ban', 'correcting previous results', 'prize money' etc.

Back to the tournament: all K.A.'s results were changed to forfeit including his loss to Robert Ruck. As a result, round 6 pairings included some surprises. It was good that this intervention from the arbiter was after round 5 and not later because now at least it did not have a major influence on the final standings.

The tournament was a 9 round Swiss in 6 days with games in 90 minutes for the game with a 30 seconds increment from move 1 onward. So no extra time on move 40 and once you are in the 30 seconds treadmill it is hard to get out and stressful. I won my first 2 games against lower rated opponents and was paired in round 3 against GM David Larino Nieto (2434). 

Prelude

I had played Larino Nieto before in 2016 in Spain during the IX Chess Open Villa de Bilbao. This tournament was held in a beautiful theater in Bilbao and was played alongside the Bilbao Masters (won by WC Magnus Carlsen). Larina Nieto sometimes plays quite casual giving chances to his opponent.

Some spectator looking at my game. (I am the player with the cap.)

After 7... h6 White can obtain a winning advantage. Can you see how?

I continued with the 'natural' 8.Be3?! and after opposite castling and 2 Black king moves decided to sacrifice a piece for 2 pawns and a kings attack.

Conclusion: I play a GM rated 370 points higher and miss a win on move 8. Then I sac a piece on move 17 against 2 pawns (an 'engine-approved' sac) His king goes from e8 to h7 and I chase it back to e8. Between the sac on move 17 and the blunder in time pressure on move 33 I am winning, better or equal. Plenty of chances but I blew it in time pressure. End of prelude. 

Principal

This was the second game on Thursday April 18. Below you can see the evaluation graph of my game against GM Larino Nieto. I was playing with the White pieces.

From move 28 to move 49 the evaluation of my position was between +3 and +8. This means not just a winning chance, but winning for more than 20 moves! Until I fell of a cliff... Before I take you to the cliff, let's first look at some critical moments.

From move 26 to move 64 I was living of the 30 seconds increment. Thirty eight moves with a count down from about 30 seconds to zero, each move again and again. Stressful.

As I wrote above David has a 'casual' style. King in the middle, weakened dark squares, it is almost as if Black is challenging White to attack and then to look for a counter attack.  But how to continue as White? The 'royal' way probably would have been to play here Be2 followed by g3 and f4 and White is better. I had a more aggressive plan in mind and sacrificed 2 pawns with h4 gxh4 followed by e5. Surprisingly, the engines evaluate the position after that as approximately equal. This means that White must have a lot of compensation for the 2 pawns.

Flash forward. Black just played 21... Rd8 and threatens mate on d1. How did White continue?

The next puzzle is after 27... c5. How did White obtain a winning position?
So finally, let me take you to the 'cliff': my blunder that ruined the game.
Black played 48... Kf5. How should White continue? I played 49.Qe8?
The full game:
So what did I learn from this agonizing loss? I wrote in my blog Improving as an Adult that it is important to play in tournaments that you feel comfortable in. I concluded that for me, two games a day with no additional time after move 40 is too much. I came close but in the end the 8 hours of play that day and the time control without additional time after move 40 killed me.
The playing venue: Gonzaga College in Dublin