Lucopen Lille: secret of scoring a GM norm

by Sagar Shah
5/25/2015 – In Part I of our report we told you how 20-year-old French IM Quentin Loiseau won the event, and we brought for you three wonderfully annotated games by the top three finishers. Meanwhile our reporter IM Sagar Shah made his second GM norm in this tournament. In part two he reveals some of the secrets that helped him achieve this 2600+ performance. Sound advice.

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6th Lucopen in Lille – Part 2

Report from France by Sagar Shah

The two GM norms: IM Quentin Louiseau, who also won the tournament, IM Sagar Shah

For a 2600+ performance you have need two things: consistency and luck. I was lucky enough to play against all the top four seeds of the tournament. Surely, this was a fortunate fact as I could have faced much lower rated opponents. But I also played consistently making three draws and beating Vladimir Burmakin. There were two things that I did differently in this tournament.

  1. I made sure to get away from Facebook and Whatsapp for seven days of the tournament. By not checking the updates and messages it kept my mind free to focus on much more important things and not getting tired by dwelling on what other people have to say.

  2. Before I left my room for the playing hall, I made sure that I would solve ten minutes of tactical problems. Of course there are many books or databases for that, but I really loved working on the new interactive website that ChessBase has come up with. The problems were not too difficult, but that was exactly what I needed. The fact that you earn rating points for every correct move and lose them for incorrect ones keeps you on your toes. As my friend IM K. Ratnakaran from India, once told me, “solving light problems just before the round helps you to avoid tactical mistakes in the first few minutes of the game as you have already got your brain working!”

But of course mistakes are unavoidable no matter how hard you try. But, it is simply an inexplicable feeling when one of your mistakes actually becomes a wonderful concept and helps you win the game! Unable to understand what I just said? Have a look at my second round game of the event.

[Event "Lucopen Lille"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.05.05"] [Round "2"] [White "Henris, Luc"] [Black "Sagar, Shah"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B10"] [WhiteElo "2153"] [BlackElo "2436"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "48"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [SourceDate "2009.03.06"] {My opponent is an aggressive, attacking player with a liking for offbeat variations. He plays exclusively the King's Gambit against 1.e4 e5. Hence, I wasn't sure what to expect. After the game I came to know that he has authored a 600-page book on the Albin Counter Gambit. With such an opponent you are bound to have interesting games, no matter how solidly you play!} 1. e4 c6 2. Ne2 $5 {An off beat variation that has been tried by many good players. By delaying d4, White tries to take the game into the Advance Caro with an extra tempo for development rather than a pawn move.} d5 3. e5 d4 {Making White repent for not having taken the centre.} (3... Bf5 4. Ng3 Bg6 5. h4 h6 6. h5 Bh7 7. e6 $1 {is the point of this entire line.} fxe6 8. d4 $44 {White has excellent compensation thanks to dead f8 bishop.}) 4. c3 (4. b4 f6) 4... c5 { So I have made four moves with my two pawns. But their journey is not coming to an end yet!} 5. b4 {This move came to me as a surprise. I knew that b4 could be played without c3. But c3, c5, b4 was new to me. d3 followed by c4 looked too tempting to refuse.} d3 (5... cxb4 {was Vidit Gujrathi's choice against Nils Grandelius. Vidit, who is now well over 2600, realised that after pushing his pawns to d3 and c4 things could get out of control and he tried to play it solid. But this cannot be the refutation of White's idea.} 6. Nxd4 $14) 6. Nf4 c4 {[%csl Rb1,Rc1,Gc4,Gd3,Rf1] Thanks to these two pawns, three of White's pieces have been strangled. But of course making six moves with two pawns has it's drawbacks.} 7. e6 {I knew that this was his only choice because if I were to get in g5 followed by Qd5 he would be totally lost.} (7. Na3 {has been played before by some strong players, but Black should be doing fine after } g5 {leads to a forced draw after} (7... Qc7 8. Nd5 Qxe5+ (8... Qc6) 9. Ne3 Be6 10. Qa4+ Nd7 11. Qb5 Ngf6 12. Qxe5 Nxe5 13. f4 Neg4 14. Naxc4 O-O-O $15) 8. e6 gxf4 9. exf7+ Kxf7 10. Qh5+ Kg7 11. Qg5+ Kf7 12. Qh5+ $11) 7... Nf6 $146 { Seeing all the threats like Qf3, exf7 and Qh5 I thought that this was the safest move in the position. I completely forgot that my opponent could give a check on a4 now!} (7... Qc7 {Donchenko's choice against Lawrence Trent seems like the best.} 8. Qf3 Nf6 9. Na3 fxe6 10. g3 Qe5+ 11. Qe3 Qxe3+ 12. fxe3 e5 13. Nh3 Be6 14. Ng5 Bd5 15. e4 Nxe4 16. Bg2 Nxc3 17. Bxd5 Nxd5 18. Nxc4 Nd7 19. Bb2 Rc8 20. Rc1 N5b6 21. Na5 Rxc1+ 22. Bxc1 e6 23. a3 Be7 24. Nxe6 Kf7 25. Nc7 Rc8 26. O-O+ Nf6 27. Nb5 a6 28. Nc3 Rc7 29. Bb2 Kg6 30. Re1 Kf5 31. Re3 e4 32. g4+ Nxg4 33. Rxe4 Bf6 34. Re8 Bd4+ 35. Kf1 Nxh2+ 36. Kg2 Ng4 37. Rd8 Rd7 38. Rxd7 Nxd7 39. Nxb7 Nge5 40. Nd1 Bxb2 41. Nxb2 h5 42. a4 h4 43. Nd1 Nc4 44. Nf2 Nde5 45. Nc5 Nxd2 46. b5 axb5 47. axb5 Ndc4 48. Ncxd3 Nf7 49. Ne1 Nfe5 50. Nc2 g5 51. Nd4+ Kg6 52. Ne6 Kf6 53. Nd4 Kg6 54. Ne6 Kf6 55. Nd4 Ne3+ 56. Kh3 Nd5 57. Ng4+ Nxg4 58. Kxg4 Kg6 59. b6 Nxb6 {1/2-1/2 (59) Trent,L (2470)-Donchenko, A (2552) Aarhus 2015}) 8. Qa4+ {Time to resign? Well the c4-d3 pawns at least give me some hopes.} Nbd7 $5 (8... Nc6 $2 9. b5 Ne5 10. b6+ Nc6 (10... Nfd7 { The problem is that he is not forced to take on d7 right now.} 11. Nd5 $1 $18 { Black is busted.}) 11. Qxc4 $16 {and if my c4 pawn falls so does the guy on d3. }) 9. exd7+ {Nothing can be more natural than taking the piece.} Bxd7 {Let's take a stock of the situation. Black has only a pawn for a piece. That shouldn't be sufficient right? But then you look at the pawns on d3 and c4 and say to yourself, those are really monsters. They single-handedly cramp three of White's pieces. White needs to get rid of them at some point, but then greed always comes in between, doesn't it?!} 10. Qa5 (10. Qd1 Qc7 11. Qf3 Bc6 $15 {With e5 coming up, it looked like good compensation.}) 10... Qb8 (10... Qxa5 11. bxa5 {The computer thinks that Black is not worse here, which definitely tells us something about White's compensation.}) (10... b6 11. Qe5 { and I didn't like the Q on e5.}) 11. Nd5 (11. Nxd3 cxd3 12. Bxd3 e5 $44 {Black is a pawn down, but with the bishop coming out on d6, followed by 0-0 and e4 Black should be doing excellently.}) 11... Nxd5 $1 {I liked my solution. This is my football theorem in action: 4 vs 3 is not so easy to defeat in a game of football, 3 vs 2 is less difficult and 2 vs 1 is just a plain victory for the side with double the forces. Here the knight on f4 was active and it made sense to exchange it with my knight. Now my remaining pieces will be doing much more than their counterparts.} (11... e6 12. Nc7+ {didn't look so good.}) (11... b6 12. Nxf6+ exf6 13. Qd5 {and I couldn't see much compensation here.}) (11... Qe5+ 12. Ne3 {The knight sits well on e3.}) 12. Qxd5 Bc6 $1 13. Qd4 (13. Qxc4 Qe5+ 14. Kd1 Ba4+ $19 {was a very nice variation.}) (13. Qg5 $5 {could have been interesting.} b5) 13... b5 {In order to play e5 I need to defend my c4 pawn.} 14. a4 (14. Bxd3 cxd3 15. O-O e5 16. Qxd3 Bd6 $44 {This definitely seemed excellent compensation to me.}) (14. f4 {Trying to stop e5 is pointless. It just weakens the position further.} Qb7 {[%cal Ga8d8]} 15. a4 Rd8 16. Qf2 a6 17. axb5 axb5 $44 {the pawn on f4 doesn't really help White.}) 14... e5 15. Qe3 (15. Qg4 {I thought it was better to keep an eye on the g7 pawn to prevent me from developing the f8 bishop.} a6 16. axb5 axb5 17. Rxa8 Bxa8 (17... Qxa8 {is also good.}) 18. Na3 Bc6 19. Nxc4 {This would have been excellent for White, but Black has the intermezzo:} h5 $1 $15 {after which the queen cannot keep an eye on the c4 square.}) 15... a6 {Keeping cool and asking White what he intends to do.} (15... bxa4 {This was tempting, but would undo my entire strategy of keeping a firm pawn chain.} 16. Na3 $1 Bd5 17. Nxc4 Bxc4 18. Bxd3 $16 {White is just better.}) 16. f3 $2 {At this point I could sense that my opponent wanted to sacrifice his bishop on d3 but was not happy with the resulting positions. However, if you do not sacrifice then what do you do? As he played in the game he is trying to prove that he is a piece up when in fact he is almost a piece down, as his queenside is totally jammed.} (16. Bxd3 cxd3 17. O-O e4 $15) 16... Bd6 {Black's play is natural and easy.} 17. g3 O-O 18. Bg2 Bc7 {Preventing 0-0.} 19. a5 {[%csl Ra1,Rb1,Rc1] Even if Bb6 was a threat you just cannot make this move. It's like saying to those three guys on the queenside: "Rot in hell for the rest of your life!"} Qb7 20. O-O Bb8 {The bishop relocates itself on the strong diagonal.} 21. Kh1 Ba7 22. Qg5 (22. Qxe5 Rae8 $19 {White's position wouldn't last long with a rook infiltrating on e2.}) 22... e4 {Opening up the position to land the final blow.} 23. Qf4 Rae8 24. Na3 (24. fxe4 Rxe4 $1 25. Qf3 Re6 $19) 24... Bb8 {Maybe one of the most interesting games that I have played. It's not everyday that you make a piece blunder on the tenth move and then realize that it was not actually a blunder but an excellent practical choice!} (24... Bb8 25. Qe3 exf3 26. Qxf3 Re1 $19) 0-1

Final standings (after nine rounds)

Pl Ti. Nom Elo Pts Tr. Perf Bu.
1 m Loiseau Quentin 2415 7 45½ 2644 56
2 g Gharamian Tigran 2647 7 45 2653 56
3 g Demuth Adrien 2515 7 45 2602 54½
4 g Chatalbashev Boris 2541 7 45 2564 55½
5 g Zhigalko Andrey 2586 7 43 2577 52½
6 g Burmakin Vladimir 2585 7 42½ 2549 53
7 f Martynov Pavel 2376 7 40 2422 47½
8 m Sagar Shah 2436 45½ 2608 55½
9 m Le Quang Long 2405 41½ 2418 50
10 m Van Foreest Jorden 2519 40½ 2385 49½
11 m Dourerassou Jonathan 2414 40 2364 48
12 m Bailet Pierre 2519 6 45 2495 55½
13 g Maiorov Nikita 2563 6 43 2449 53
14 m Terrieux Kevin 2439 6 43 2412 52
15 g Karpatchev Aleksandr 2466 6 43 2411 52½
16 g Naumkin Igor 2445 6 43 2360 53½
17 m Shirazi Kamran 2385 6 42 2427 51
18 f Di Nicolantonio Lucas 2414 6 41½ 2401 51½
19 g Manolache Marius 2498 6 41½ 2378 49½
20   Midoux Sebastien 2315 6 40 2303 48
21   Guezennec Franck 2231 6 38½ 2195 47½
22   Van Foreest Lucas 2312 6 38 2289 46
23 g Strikovic Aleksa 2526 6 37½ 2329 46
24 f Bannink Bernard 2267 6 36½ 2201 44
25   Frederic Clement 2231 6 35½ 2122 43
26   Majhi Ankit 2178 6 32 2070 38

Eighth: The author of this report had a great tournament and made his second GM norm

IM Le Quang Long (picture above, with a kibitzer who seems to say, “Son, you need to study your classics!”) finished ninth in the event. He is the brother of the world famous grandmaster Le Quang Liem. Long currently studies in France, and is doing his PhD in Nanotechnology. He came to the tournament only as a vacation but performed very well, beating GM Boris Chatalbashev who finished fourth.

The talented Dutch IM Jorden Van Foreest (2519) had a mediocre event, finishing tenth

The photographer of this report and WIM elect Amruta Mokal won
the prize for the best woman player at the event [picture by Ronald Flou]

GM Marius Manolache from Romania wasn’t at his best but featured
in two of the games annotated by the top finishers in our previous article

GM Igor Naumkin from Russia

Naumkin is one of the very few professional players in the world who do not carry a laptop to the tournament. He doesn’t prepare for his games and plays on his excellent positional judgement that he has acquired over the years.

GM Alexander Karpatchev, the early leader of the tournament with
4.0/4, found the going tough in the second half as he scored 6.0/9

IM Kamran Shirazi from France

Kamran was born and spent nearly 35 years of his life in Iran. He then shifted to USA and stayed there for twelve years. Once, when he came on a vacation to Paris, he fell in love with the city to such an extent that he left USA for good and made Paris his permanent residence! He has also worked in the movie ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’ where he played the role of a grandmaster playing a game of blitz with the hustlers on the street. He already has three GM norms and had reached a live rating of 2499.1. At the age of 62 he still plays very strong chess and is trying to become a grandmaster.

The style quotient was quite high at the Lucopen

That’s true passion for the game

Fascinated by the wooden pieces

Building the bridge or the Lucena position in the rook endgame was found way back
in 1634 by Alessandro Salvio, but it has stood the test of time and now it is
one of the most important positions that should be known by every chess player.

The most comfortable seat to watch the games

The organiser of the event, Serge Weill, was lively, friendly and
made the players feel extremely comfortable with great hospitality

At the end of the last round a huge book shop was set up with titles from almost every publisher

Pandatabase (see this Facebook page) was a novelty at this event

Pandatabase was a project introduced by one of the students at the event. The score sheets were such that they could be read by a scanner. So if you wrote your games in decent handwriting and submitted the games, the score sheets would be scanned and the games would be directly uploaded on the website, with some analysis as well!

However, there were a few technical difficulties. The handwritings of all the players were not so great and the machine couldn’t pick it up so well, and also the notation had to be in French. So the normal English notation of K for the king and Q for the queen would not be read. Yet, this seemed like a pretty interesting innovation. We promise you a full report in the near future.

The players were treated to some delicious macaroons at the end of the event

A number of beautiful cathedrals adorn the streets of Lille

La Statue du General Faidherbe at the Republic Square

The Palace of Fine Arts (Palais des Beaux-Arts) in Lille

There were a few streets in Lille which were closed for vehicles. That meant that you
could enjoy walking on these cobbled streets as you indulged in window shopping…

….or you could just sit outside a typical café and enjoy the atmosphere

There was also a zoo near the playing venue, with exotic species like the Red Panda …

… or this white owl

Pictures by Amruta Mokal


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Topics France, Lille

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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mosherachmuth mosherachmuth 5/27/2015 04:21
The most important thing in this report is the game. It is a fantastic game. It teaches you that the secret to great chess is actually creativity.
Bertman Bertman 5/26/2015 04:48
@Jefferson The puzzles will increase in difficulty as your rating on the site increases, and will eventually become quite challenging. You do need to login with an account name (free BTW). The first handful of positions of any session are easy to get you awake, even after your site rating is over 2000.
jefferson jefferson 5/25/2015 09:23
I tried the "new interactive website" for tactics by chessbase. It's pretty useless for anyone over the elo of 1000, or anyone over the age of 5. I don't see how a GM could possibly benefit from doing a bunch of mindless really obvious two move checkmates. I got my elo up to 18 or 1900 and then quit, as the tactics never progressed past two-movers. Once again, useful for kiddies... not so much for Grandmasters.
fistoffury fistoffury 5/25/2015 06:45
I feel the content of the article does not stand up to the title.

What's needed for securing a GM norm have been menitoned as follows: Consistency, luck, solving light tactics before game, staying away from social media (I dont get this social media part - This is not a world championship match for anyone to post disturbing impressions! Reminds me of anand saying this about his own prep in an interview, which could have possibly influenced the author! )

Consistency and luck is applicable to any tourny. I guess i was disappointed as I was expecting more details on the preparation or way to prepare for a GM norm. Rather the facts favouring authors performance were summed up in one paragraph and followed by the coverage of the tournament venue.
KevinC KevinC 5/25/2015 04:10
The "secret to scoring a GM norm" is simple: Start playing young, and have a little good coaching. Have a good memory, and a little talent. Work hard, and make chess your entire life. Prepare hard for a tournament, and go to play in many over the years. Lastly, play hard, and have a little luck.

See? Anyone can do that. (Yes, this was all sarcasm.)