Chess at the chateau. Part 2: ups and downs
I ended up spending a lot of time at the first four boards of this tournament

Chess at the chateau. Part 2: ups and downs

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At the end of Day 1 of the Chateau d'Asnieres rapid tournament I found myself at the top of the tournament table with 4/4. In the evening I learned that I am playing GM Etienne Bacrot in Round 5. I was really excited, as it was going to be my first-ever game against a 2700+ player. I knew that my chances were very slim but I hoped that I would at least put up a good fight. 

Well, I failed at that too. The game turned out to be exactly what one would expect in a clash between opponents with 350+ points of rating difference (almost 600 points if we look at the rapid ratings). On a positive side, there is still some instructional value in seeing a grandmaster demolish an amateur, so let's see how it all played out. 

I was not too down after losing this game (after all, it was to be expected), although I was a bit disappointed with the way I lost. 

Fortunately, in the rapid tournaments one does not get too much time to dwell on the losses, as the next game is coming fast. In Round 6 I was playing White against IM Wojtek Sochacki. I didn't know that he was an IM - in fact, I didn't know much about almost anyone at the tournament - and that was probably a good thing, as I was going into the games without any fear of my opponents. All I knew was his rapid rating, a very respectable 2298, but then I was convinced that my own rapid rating inadequately represents my own playing strength (all chess players think that) and so I was going into the game believing that we were perfectly matched. Turned out I was right.

Other than a minor slip in the opening, this victory felt quite deserved. This boosted my optimism for the Round 7, in which I got to play another grandmaster. The legendary GM Anatoly Vaisser is a four-time World Senior champion (and incidentally, my new teammate). I saw quite a few of his games in my youth and so I knew that GM Vaisser is an dangerous attacking player and a specialist in all-out variations, such as Four Pawns attack in the Modern Benoni. My plan for the game was to keep the position relatively dull but it's not how it all unfolded...

Well, this win certainly didn't feel completely deserved, but I could not blame myself for anything either. I was doing my best to defend a difficult position throughout the game and it probably played a role in my opponent overstepping the time limit. After all, it's rapid, so time on the clock is as important as the position on the board...

At this point I had 6/7, which was good enough for sharing the 2nd to 4th places in the tournament. I have already played the leader, Etienne Bacrot, who led with 7/7, and the GM Relange, who also had 6/7. That left only one possible pairing for me - in Round 8 I was playing with IM Yovann Gatineau, the only other player at 6/7.

Quite a heartbreaking loss, as I knew that I was standing better in the opening.

IM Gatineau - GM Bacrot game in Round 9

After this game our tournament paths diverged. In the next round IM Gatineau smartly played an ultra-solid version of the London system against GM Bacrot and drew (by the way, it was the only half a point that GM Bacrot gave away in the whole tournament). In the end IM Gatineau scored 9/11 and shared 2nd-3rd places.

For me the loss in Round 8 marked the beginning of an unfortunate slide in the final part of the tournament...

(to be continued)