Double the fun in Cardiff (1/2)

by Alina l'Ami
7/20/2016 – Combining two passions can be a best of two worlds, unless they are found in conflict. Fortunately, this was not the case as Alina L'Ami discovered upon visiting Cardiff, Wales for the South Wales Open, where she could join the local fans still in euphoria over their football aspirations, as well as a pleasant chess open in the beautiful Welsh backdrop.

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“Morning love!” is probably not exactly the type of greeting one would expect to hear from a random person passing by. But the more I travel the less I know... “hello love”, “how was your day, love?”, “everything all right, love?”, kind of stalemated my ears, at least in the beginning, until I somewhat passed the initial Welsh cultural 'shock'. I am not sure if it is a local thing (Cardiff) or if this casual, friendly way of greeting is common all over Great Britain, but either way, it doesn't mean they're actually in love with you, they're just trying to be nice!

And they succeeded – they smile, I smile

It is always wonderful to be surrounded by optimistic, positive people and perhaps this was also one of the reasons why I felt great during the 13th South Wales International Open, held in Cardiff between 7 – 13 July. Besides, since I recently discovered I really like watching football, this was the place to be for the semi-final between Wales – Portugal!

Quick stroll along the quiet streets of Cardiff before... (click for high-res version)

... the Welsh started to sing their hearts out while supporting their favourite football team!

Even the passage ways were ready for the confrontation

The most recognizable Welsh symbol, the dragon, was visible
absolutely everywhere. Here is a more subtle version: on the cap

No age limit to being a fan!

Very much to the disappointment of all their supporters, Wales didn't make it to the final but they did go down in the history books as the smallest nation to ever reach a semi-final in the UEFA European Championship, which is a remarkable result indeed. In a similar daring-to-dream fashion, another pocket-sized nation proved that everything is possible, when Iceland got as far as the quarter final. The moral of the story? The ball is round not only in football but in our game as well and being the underdog can turn into your own advantage: nothing to lose, everything to gain.

Boris Chatalbashev and Marian Petrov had played many times before in the South Wales
Open so they were 'vaccinated'; but somehow you can never be ready enough for...

... tough resistance

It is hard to beat a player that never gives up

Keith Arkell found that out the hard way

Key moments in Arkell's games

Select games from the  menu below the board

Arkell - Martin

Here is a position that might have occured and would have led to a win. Black
has just played 21...Ned3, how should White reply? White to play and win.

[Event "2016 South Wales International"] [Site "Cardiff"] [Date "2016.07.11"] [Round "8.3"] [White "Arkell, Keith C"] [Black "Martin, Lewis"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E68"] [WhiteElo "2455"] [BlackElo "2053"] [Annotator "AA"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2q1rk1/1pp4p/3p2p1/p1nNn3/2PN4/1P1b2P1/PQ3PBP/3RR1K1 b - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "27"] [EventDate "2016.07.07"] [EventRounds "10"] [EventCountry "WLS"] [WhiteClock "0:03:23"] [BlackClock "0:24:35"] {This was eye-candy for a chess player! I remember walking around the boards when my eyes opened wider at the view of the following sequence of moves:} 19... c6 $1 20. f4 $1 {and just when my newest friend thought he's winning} Bxc4 $1 {landed on the board; Now that looks pretty! Just like Keith, I felt this should be winning for White and started thinking for a while but was unable to sort things out as I had to get back onto my own chess business. Thirty minutes later I looked again and the clock was still ticking for White.. .once later on in the room, I turned on playchess and checked out of curiosity if and how should have Keith won. You can also give it a go if you wish:)} 21. fxe5 {was played but led to nothing but a rather equal position for White.} ({ Obviously the only alternative is to grab the other hanging piece but what would you play after} 21. bxc4 Ned3 {?} 22. Rxd3 {looks promising as well but doesn't work} (22. Qe2 $1 {hits the jackpot! If you didn't find it don't worry, I gave this position to some GMs friends of mine and they struggled too:)} Nxe1 23. Ne7+ Kf7 (23... Kh8 24. Ndxc6) 24. Rxe1 Re8 25. Ndf5 $1 gxf5 26. Qh5+ { quite some calculation had to be done, all the way from the beginning. If you place this in a sea full with other attractive alternatives it becomes less and less clear which is the right route to victory. And that was the case in the game as well.}) 22... Nxd3 23. Qxb7 {because of the sneaky} Rb8 $1 (23... Nxe1 {is losing immediately} 24. Ne7+ Kh8 25. Ne6 Rb8 26. Nxg6+ hxg6 27. Qg7#) 24. Qxc6 Nxe1 25. Ne6 Qe8 {calculate and asses that if you can!}) 21... Bxd5 22. Bxd5+ (22. exd6 {was more precise, liquidating into a rather equal endgame. We know this is Keith's territory, so probably he would have found his way like a fish in the water.} Qxd6 23. Nb5 Qf6 24. Bxd5+ cxd5 25. Qxf6 Rxf6 26. Rxd5 b6) 22... cxd5 23. e6 Qf6 24. Qg2 Ne4 25. Nb5 Rae8 26. Nc7 Qc3 27. Rxe4 dxe4 28. Nxe8 Qe3+ 29. Kh1 Rf2 30. e7 Rxg2 31. Nf6+ Kg7 32. e8=Q Rg1+ {Once again, the general level of chess knowledge increased and these days players with 2000 rating can find and apply real troubles on the board, which became so obvious in Cardiff. Conclusion: the written rating can induce you into severe error, especially in Wales.} 1/2-1/2

Boris was not exempted either, as he lived through difficult times in round
two, when only the goddess Caissa was able to still save him.

After a well-conducted game in the very same second round, instead of scoring I shot in my
own goalpost and left home with only half a point. But Tihana should get full credit for that:
she stubbornly defended a pretty awful position.

The tournament winner had his scares too

Ralphs – Gretarsson

[Event "2016 South Wales International"] [Site "Cardiff"] [Date "2016.07.09"] [Round "4.2"] [White "Ralphs, Nigel"] [Black "Gretarsson, Hjorvar Steinn"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B47"] [WhiteElo "2000"] [BlackElo "2550"] [Annotator "AA"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2016.07.07"] [EventRounds "10"] [EventCountry "WLS"] [WhiteClock "0:27:23"] [BlackClock "1:00:58"] {Why does winning seem so much harder than losing? And a draw can feel like a loss at times, especially for the player rated more than 500 points higher.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be2 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Be3 Bb4 9. Na4 Be7 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. Nb6 Rb8 12. Nxc8 Qxc8 13. Bd4 c5 14. Be5 Rb6 15. Qd3 O-O 16. b3 d6 17. Bc3 Nd7 18. Qg3 Bf6 19. Bxf6 Nxf6 20. e5 Nd5 21. Rfd1 Rd8 22. Bf3 Ne7 23. Be4 Qc7 24. exd6 Rbxd6 25. Rd3 Rxd3 26. Bxd3 Qxg3 27. hxg3 a5 28. Re1 Nc6 29. Re4 Rd4 30. f4 Kf8 31. Kf2 Ke7 32. Ke3 f5 33. Rxd4 Nxd4 34. c3 Nc6 35. Bb5 Na7 36. Bc4 Kd6 37. a3 Nc6 38. Bb5 Ne7 39. Bc4 Nd5+ 40. Bxd5 exd5 41. Kd3 Kc6 42. a4 h6 43. Ke3 g5 44. Kd3 Kd6 45. Ke3 Ke6 46. Kd3 1/2-1/2

The first half of the match is the most important, both on the football field and on the chess board, and rating (or the odds) is no barrier, it's just a limitation you put in your mind. Dare to be fearless and love the game like the Welsh chess players do and 'miraculous' results are bound to happen!

Work hard but keep having fun!

No wonder the professionals were goaded into despair at times, as it is also quite difficult to defeat a player who refuses to give up, who keeps on finding newer and trickier resources.

The sharp 6. Bg5 Najdorf employed by my friend Alan. Therefore, I decided to strike back: paparazzi time!

Marian was the only player in the tournament's top ten ranking list who
didn't suffer any major casualty provoked by a lower rated opponent

Just like football, chess is also a rather simple game in its rules but so difficult to play it simple... And when the double rounds arrive, don't be surprised if you get a warning from your brain: ”Sorry, mind closed until further notice”.

Continued in part two...



Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.
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