Stranded in Budapest (2) – Balaton

7/14/2020 – We want you to find a caption for this picture. It shows the Balaton tournament director IM Janos Rigo congratulating winner IM Leon Luke Mendonca, who is fourteen years old. Due to the pandemic Leon has been trapped in Budapest, together with his father, for almost four months now. Fortunately it is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and fortunately the legendary Judit Polgar has helped make their stay more pleasant – this time by sharing a culinary adventure.

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The Balaton Chess Festival Open

By Lyndon Mendonca

My son Leon and I have been stranded in Budapest since 18th March 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, and no visible signs of us returning home. Leon felt really excited upon hearing that Europe was slowly easing travel restrictions and that the first over the board tournament was being conducted from the 12th to the 20th of June in Balatonlelle – a small town near the famous Balaton lake, around 150 kms. from our apartment.

At this point of time repatriation had just begun for only those having compelling reasons to return, like pregnancy, sickness, senior citizens, students etc. These repatriation flights were from Frankfurt, and the cost for both of us including quarantine was a whooping sum of around 200,000 Indian rupees (2,500 Euros)! And the feedback that we received from those being repatriated was frightening. Since the risk of contracting the virus was high and the flight costs were so exorbitant, we decided to postpone our return until some normalcy prevailed.

I went ahead and registered for the Balaton Chess Festival Open. Balatonlelle is a hot tourist destination where most Hungarians look for excuses to escape for staycations or just weekend getaways. We booked a studio apartment with a kitchen through the organisers. The beauty of the Balaton lake, situated just five minutes walking distance, was extraordinary – the water wonderfully clean, calm and knee deep for quite a stretch. We were naturally tempted to go in for a dip, and were left with no choice but refrain considering the circumstances. I promised Leon though that we could swim on the last day after the tournament ended. The sunsets that we witnessed throughout our stay were absolutely priceless and a professional photographer's dream.

All safety precautions like masks, social distancing, etc. were strictly adhered to in Balatonlelle, and we felt most secure throughout our stay. Leon cruised through with an emphatic win of the tournament scoring 8.5 points out of 9. His rating performance: 2685! Here are a couple of games very nicely (and extensively) annotated by the lad:

[Event "Balaton Chess Festival Open, Hungary"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.06.19"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Czebe, Attila"] [Black "Leon, Mendonca"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A14"] [WhiteElo "2367"] [BlackElo "2452"] [Annotator "leon"] [PlyCount "126"] [EventDate "2020.01.21"] [SourceVersionDate "2016.08.03"] {I was leading the tournament with 7/7, my GM opponent was second with 5.5. If he should had any chance of winning the tournament, he had to defeat me. That is why I thought he might go for a long game with 1.Nf3} 1. Nf3 ({He also plays } 1. e4) 1... Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 e6 4. O-O Be7 5. b3 {Played after 3 minutes} ({Attila had played} 5. d3 {aiming for} O-O 6. Nbd2 c5 7. e4 Nc6 8. Re1 { . I thought he would not play this because It does not really fit with his strategy of a long game}) 5... O-O 6. Bb2 b6 7. c4 Bb7 8. e3 {I have played about 3-5 games in this line with black, so I had a little bit of experience and I knew the plans} dxc4 ({I could also start with} 8... c5) 9. bxc4 c5 10. Nc3 (10. Qe2 {is precise because White should wait for Nc6 and then only play Nc3 so that Black does not have Ne4}) 10... Nc6 {Sticking to the normal route} (10... Ne4 $5) 11. Qe2 Qc7 12. d3 a6 13. Rab1 $1 {Played after 9 minutes. My opponent figured out the right plan!} Rab8 14. Ba1 Na7 ({I could wait for White to commit something with} 14... Rfd8 $5 {. After} 15. Rfd1 {, it transposes to the main line}) 15. Rfc1 $5 {Instead of formulating his own play, Attila plays against my plan of ...b5. Incidently, this was played by the great Rafael Vaganian against Mihail Tal!} Rfd8 {a neutral move} (15... Rfc8 16. e4 Nd7 17. Qe3 Bf6 18. d4 cxd4 19. Nxd4 Ne5 20. Na4 Nxc4 21. Qe1 b5 22. Bf1 Ba8 23. Nf3 Bxa1 24. Rxa1 Ne5 25. Bg2 Nxf3+ 26. Bxf3 Qe7 27. Rxc8+ Nxc8 28. Rb1 Qa3 29. Qd2 Nd6 30. Rb3 Nc4 31. Rxa3 Nxd2 32. Nc5 Rc8 33. Bd1 Nxe4 34. Nxe4 Bxe4 35. Rxa6 Rc1 36. Rd6 Kf8 37. Kf1 Ke7 38. Rd4 Bf3 39. Ke1 e5 40. Rd3 e4 { 0-1 (40) Vaganian,R (2590)-Tal,M (2705) Yerevan 1980}) 16. Na4 {Forcing matters } Nd7 {Played after 10 minutes. Many times I wonder why I think so long!} ( 16... b5 $6 17. cxb5 Nxb5 {would play right into what White wants}) (16... Ba8 $5) 17. e4 (17. Nxb6 $4 Bxf3 (17... Nxb6 $4 18. Qb2) 18. Bxf3 Rxb6) 17... Bc6 18. Nc3 b5 19. cxb5 Nxb5 ({I did not want to keep my knight passive after} 19... axb5 {.} 20. Nd5 (20. a3)) 20. Nd1 $1 {White has to keep the pieces on the board in order to get sufficient winning chances. I had about 45 minutes while Attila had about an hour} (20. Nxb5 Bxb5) {At this point I felt I should somehow exchange the bishop on a1 or/and the knight on f3 in order to get a square for the kngiht on b5. Incredibly I spent 30 minutes on this move.} 20... Bd6 {The move is simple but I just did not see it!} 21. Ne3 (21. a4 Nd4 22. Nxd4 Rxb1 23. Rxb1 cxd4 24. Bxd4 Bxa4 {Black does not have any problems}) (21. Qd2 {stopping ...Ne5} h6 $5 (21... Ne5 $2 22. Bxe5 Bxe5 23. Rxc5 {with the queen on e2 I would have Nd4})) 21... Ne5 22. Ne1 {This is objectively not good but Attila needed to play for a win} ({on} 22. Nc4 {I intended} Nxc4 23. dxc4 (23. Rxc4 $4 Nc3) 23... Na7) 22... Nd4 23. Qd1 $2 {My opponent probably missed my 24th and 25th moves} (23. Qd2 {had to be played} Rxb1 24. Rxb1 Bb5 25. f4 Nec6 $15) 23... Rxb1 24. Rxb1 Qa5 $1 25. f4 Ba4 {The point! I have a much superior position but I was low on time because of my 30-minute think on move 20} 26. Qh5 $4 {Objectively a blunder, but if he had played 26.N1c2, It would not be complicated for me to figure my way out} (26. N1c2 Nxc2 27. Nxc2 Nc6 $17 (27... c4 $5 $17)) 26... Qd2 $4 {Time was going down and I had to make a move so I made this one} (26... Qd2 {was my original idea but after} 27. Bxd4 cxd4 28. Nf1 Qxa2 29. Rb7 Nd7 {Black is better but I thought I had something better}) (26... Nxd3 $4 27. Bxd4 (27. Nxd3 Qd2 $17) 27... Nxe1 28. Qg5 Bf8 29. Nc4 $18) (26... g6 27. Qh4 Qxe1+ 28. Rxe1 Nef3+ 29. Bxf3 Nxf3+ 30. Kf2 Nxh4 31. Bf6 $1 Rd7 32. Bxh4 $11) (26... Rb8 $1 {I had actually seen this winning move when playing 24...Qa5 but later forgot about it! What a pity! The same thing can be done after 26...g6 but it is more effective here}) 27. Bxd4 cxd4 28. Nf1 Qxa2 29. Rb6 Ng6 $2 {I started to panic not knowing what went wrong} (29... Nc6 $1 {The only move to keep an advantage. It is very important to control the a5-square to not allow the queen-shift} 30. Rxa6 g6 31. Qd1 Bxd1 32. Rxa2 e5 $15 {/-/+}) 30. Rxa6 Qb1 $1 {I managed to pull myself together and realize that I need to fight for equality} 31. Qa5 Be7 32. Ra8 {With this move White goes into an endgame with a pawn up but it it very drawish} (32. f5 Nf8) 32... Rxa8 33. Qxa8+ Nf8 34. Qxa4 Qxe1 35. Qxd4 Qc1 $1 36. Qc4 Qxc4 37. dxc4 Bc5+ 38. Kh1 Nd7 $6 ({Attila told me after the game that I should have played} 38... e5 $1 {and we would have shaken hands and gone home!}) 39. Nd2 Be3 40. Nb3 e5 { Finally! We reached the 40th and I could think leisurely again} 41. Bh3 Nf6 ({ I was not sure of} 41... Nc5 42. Nxc5 Bxc5 43. fxe5 Kf8 44. e6 fxe6 45. Bxe6 Ke7) 42. Kg2 $2 {Attila thought that the pawn is not important} ({The best chance was obviously} 42. fxe5 Nxe4 43. e6 Kf8 44. exf7 Kxf7 45. Kg2 Nc5 46. Kf3 Bg1) 42... exf4 43. Kf3 g5 44. e5 Ne8 45. Ke4 Nc7 46. Bg4 Na6 47. Nd4 Kf8 48. Nf5 Nc5+ 49. Kd5 Bg1 50. gxf4 gxf4 51. h4 Nb3 52. h5 Nd2 {A well calculated move!} 53. Nh4 (53. c5 f3 54. Bh3 $5 {is tricky} (54. c6 Bb6 55. Kd6 f2 56. Be2 f1=Q 57. Bxf1 Nxf1 58. c7 Bxc7+ 59. Kxc7 $11) 54... Ke8 $1 (54... f2 $4 55. c6 {and there is no ...Bb6}) 55. h6 Bf2 $11) 53... Bf2 54. Nf3 Nxf3 55. Bxf3 {Now its a dead draw} h6 56. Kd6 Ba7 57. c5 Bb8+ 58. Kd5 Ke7 59. Be2 Bc7 60. Bg4 Bb8 61. Ke4 Bc7 62. Kf5 Kf8 63. Bf3 Kg7 1/2-1/2

One more?

[Event "Balaton Chess Festival Open, Hungary"] [Site "?"] [Date "2020.06.17"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Geher, Koppany"] [Black "Leon, Mendonca"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2295"] [BlackElo "2452"] [Annotator "leon"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2020.01.21"] [SourceVersionDate "2016.08.03"] {I was leading the tournament with 5 out of 5 while my opponent was on 4.5. We had faced each other 4 months earlier in Rigochess GM Round Robin where I defeated him with white} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 Nc6 {I decided to play a sharp variation because I felt 6...e5 was too dull for that day. I just saw some games in this as preparation} (6... e5 7. Nde2 h5 8. Bg5) 7. g4 Qb6 {Driving the knight away} (7... Nxd4 $5 8. Qxd4 e5 {is also possible}) 8. Nb3 e6 9. Bg2 {Here I was out of book} (9. Be3 Qc7 10. g5 Nd7 11. h4 b5 12. a3 Nb6 (12... Bb7 13. f4 Nc5 14. Bg2 Be7 15. Qe2 O-O-O 16. O-O h6 17. Qf2 hxg5 18. hxg5 f6 19. g6 Kb8 20. Rad1 Rh5 21. Bf3 Rh3 22. Bg2 Rh5 23. Bf3 Rh3 24. Bg2 {1/2-1/2 (24) Svidler,P (2755)-Artemiev,V (2682) Sochi 2017}) 13. h5 Rb8 14. Nd2 Be7 15. Rg1 O-O 16. g6 fxg6 17. hxg6 h6 18. Qh5 Bf6 {0-1 (41) Baklan,V (2587)-Korobov,A (2688) chess.com INT 2020}) (9. g5 Nd7) 9... Be7 ( 9... Qc7 {is maybe more precise although the move I played is fine}) 10. g5 Nd7 11. h4 (11. O-O Qc7 12. Ne2 b5 13. f4 Bb7 14. f5 exf5 15. exf5 Nce5 16. Nc3 Bxg2 17. Kxg2 Nb6 18. Qe2 O-O 19. Be3 Qb7+ 20. Kh2 Nbc4 21. f6 Bd8 22. Bd4 Re8 {1/2-1/2 (83) Prizant,J (2515)-Sjugirov,S (2647) Ekaterinburg 2013}) 11... Qc7 {Continuing with my plan} 12. h5 $6 (12. f4 b5 13. Be3 Nb6 14. Qe2 {looks normal to me}) 12... b5 13. Rh3 {With the idea of playing g6. This plan somehow looked a bit unnatural to me} (13. g6 $2 hxg6 14. hxg6 Rxh1+ 15. Bxh1 fxg6 {Black is simply a pawn up}) ({the enigne suggests} 13. h6 {but this does not make much sense} g6) (13. f4 $142 Nb6 14. a4 b4 15. Ne2) 13... Nde5 $6 ( 13... h6 $1 {I did not see this move probably because I always thought that I should not play on the side where I am weak}) 14. Qe2 $2 {This move, played after 15 minutes is very bad because of my next move} (14. f4 {is the most natural move for which I planned to play} b4 $1 (14... Nc4 15. Qe2) 15. Ne2 Nc4 ) 14... b4 {Suddenly White is in trouble} (14... Z0 {The idea is} 15. f4 Nc4 16. a4) 15. Na4 (15. Nd1 $2 a5) 15... a5 16. f4 Ba6 17. Qf2 Nc4 $6 {The knight looks very nice here but in fact in is vulnerable} (17... Bb5 $1 {I do not know why I missed this move, maybe because I thought Nc4 was good}) 18. Bf1 Rb8 19. Bd3 $2 (19. Nd4 $142 Nxd4 20. Qxd4 e5 21. Qd5 exf4 22. Bxf4 Bc8 23. Rg3 Be6 24. Qc5 $1 Qxc5 25. Nxc5 Rc8 26. Bxc4 Rxc5 27. Bxe6 fxe6 $11 {/=/+. This line is not forced but it is just an example}) 19... Bb5 {I have to play this finally} 20. Nd4 {I had not seen this move but I am still better} (20. Qe2 d5 $1) 20... Nxd4 21. Qxd4 O-O $2 (21... e5 22. Qd5 Na3 23. bxa3 Bxa4 $17) 22. b3 e5 23. Qd5 $4 (23. Qf2 {had to be played} exf4 $1 24. bxc4 Bxa4 25. Bxf4 Bd7 26. Rg3 Be6) 23... Nb6 $2 {A nice trick but I had a better option} ({My original intention was to play} 23... Na3 {but after} 24. Bxa3 Bxa4 25. Bb2 { I thought White activated his queenside but I completely forgot that his queen is in danger} Bd7 26. f5 Bc6 27. Qc4 Bxg5 $19) 24. Qxb5 {Played after 15 minutes} (24. Nxb6 Bxd3 25. Rxd3 Rxb6 26. Be3 Rc6) 24... Nxa4 25. Qxa4 Qc3+ 26. Kd1 Qxa1 $2 {Incredibly this move is a mistake!} (26... d5 $1 {I should have realized that the rook has little value at this point and instead gone for the king} 27. Qxa5 Qd4 $1 28. Rh1 (28. Qxd5 Qg1+ 29. Kd2 Qg2+) 28... Rfd8) 27. Qd7 {We were both under time pressure and the situation got tense} Rbe8 $4 { The most natural move[to me] turns out to be a blunder! The tables have turned} (27... Bd8 $1 28. Qxd6 (28. g6 Bf6 $1) 28... Rc8 29. Qxe5 Qxe5 30. fxe5 Bc7 31. Bc4 Bxe5 $11 {/=/+}) (27... d5 $5 {is also possible} 28. h6 $1 Rbd8 29. Qxe7 Rfe8 30. Qb7 exf4 {and somehow the engine shows 0.00!}) 28. g6 fxg6 (28... Bf6 $4 29. gxf7+ {This is why 27.Bd8 is better than Rbe8: I cannot take the pawn here}) 29. hxg6 h6 30. Bc4+ $4 {it is now 0.00} (30. Rh5 $1 {The only move which wins! I did not see this move and I am sure my opponent did not have a clue too} exf4 (30... Qd4 31. Qe6+ Kh8 32. Qh3 Qg1+ 33. Ke2 Qxg6 34. f5 Qh7 35. Bxh6 gxh6 36. Rxh6 Rf7 37. Bc4 Rg7 38. Rxh7+ Rxh7 39. Qe3 $18) 31. Qe6+ Kh8 32. Qh3 $1 Bg5 33. Rxg5 Qd4 34. Qh1 (34. Rh5 Qg1+) 34... Rf6 35. Qg1 Qxg1+ 36. Rxg1 $18) 30... Kh8 (30... d5 $5 31. Qxd5+ Kh8 32. Qxe5 Qxe5 33. fxe5 Rf2 34. Bf7 Rd8+ 35. Ke1 Rxc2 36. Bxh6 gxh6 37. Rxh6+ Kg7 38. Rh7+ Kf8 39. Rh8+ Kg7 40. Rh7+ $11) 31. Bf7 $4 {Now my queen gets to the game with the help of a trick} ( {during the game I saw} 31. c3 $1 {which actually turns out to be the only move to keep the balance. The idea is simple: cut the queen from the battle. Black has more than one way to play, but a sample line goes} exf4 32. Qg4 $1 bxc3 33. Rxh6+ gxh6 34. g7+ Kh7 35. gxf8=N+ Rxf8 36. e5 $1 dxe5 37. Qd7 Rd8 38. Bd3+ Kh8 39. Qxe7 Rxd3+ 40. Ke2 Rg3 41. Qxe5+ Kh7 42. Qe4+ $11) 31... Qd4+ 32. Bd2 Rd8 ({It is more precise to play} 32... Qg1+ 33. Be1 Rc8) 33. Rxh6+ { A last attempt to spice things up} gxh6 34. Qxe7 exf4 35. Be8 Qg7 36. Qxd8 f3 { There are no more resources for white} 37. Be3 Qa1+ 38. Kd2 Qc3+ 39. Kd1 Qa1+ 40. Kd2 f2 {A very complex game where both sides made many mistakes but my opponent made the last ones!} 0-1

I kept up to my promise and we celebrated with a prolonged swim in the famous Balaton lake. After the informal prize distribution we headed back to Budapest with heavy hearts and most definitely fond memories.

A typical tournament photo, here from a 2019 event: guess who is the opponent to fear!

Lunch with royalty - Judit Polgar

Back in Budapest I called Judit Polgar and thanked her for being there for us during these challenging times, and told her we would be leaving Budapest and traveling to Serbia for tournaments. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that she is extremely fond of spicy Indian cuisine! So I invited her to lunch at our simple Airbnb accomodations, and she accepted.

Now in spite of Indian not being my forte, I took the liberty of inviting her to join us for lunch at our apartment, to which she gladly obliged. We both were absolutely elated with her coming over and I immediately started off by asking Google what my chances were of getting fresh Indian produce here in Budapest. I was astonished to find a handful of stores selling products imported mainly  from the U.K and of course India and Pakistan. I felt comforted to see fresh green chillies, coriander leaves, ghee (clarified butter) and coconut besides the usual spices, pulses, rice, pickles, etc.

The only challenge I was facing was with the desserts. Considering we are from Goa (where Indian sweets aren't as popular as the rest of India – thanks to the Portuguese influence that left behind a tradition for fresh home baked desserts). I decided to bake another cake in her honour as she highly appreciated the one I had baked earlier. The only issue here was that this apartment sadly had only two burners and no oven. I decided to call Leslie, through whom we had rented most of our apartments here. He got back saying that all his apartments were occupied, but that a friend of his, Peter Laczik was prepared to share his oven on one condition, that Leon plays chess with him during the baking process. Voila!

Peter Laczik: a game against Leon while the cake is baking

Now since pineapples and cherries were in full bloom at this time, I decided to bake a pineapple upside-down-cake, which I learnt from my dearest aunt Tia Berta Pereira.

Judit came over on around noon. I told her she would live a hundred years irrespective, as this very morning Leon’s coach GM Vishnu Prasanna had unknowingly selected her game against Vladimir Kramnik to study in-depth during Leon's group of students routine online coaching. Yes, what a coincidence indeed!! She was highly impressed with Vishnu's approach and was happy to know that Leon was in the best of hands.

Judit gifted Leon exquisite chocolates and started on a high note by having our traditional 'Chai' – Indian tea all the way from the Munnar tea plantations in Kerala. For starters we had paniyarams (resembling cheese balls but here the batter is similar to the idli/dosa batter), plain and masala (Mumbai style) dosas (India's answer to the French crepe), uttapams (thicker dosas with toppings) with coconut chutney and sambar (vegetable stew cooked with dal and tamarind) – all south Indian specialities of Tamil Nadu and widely rated as some of the world's healthiest food options. The main course included New Delhi style Rajma (red kidney beans in a thick gravy extremely popular in North India) with potato, spinach stuffed Haryanvi parathas (Indian flatbread) and a Hyderabadi chicken biryani (a perfect blend of long grain rice fried in ghee along with exotic spices before cooking and sandwiched with precooked chicken). It is topped using fried onions, cashew nuts, raisins, and garnished with coriander) along with garlic-chilli Sindhi papadums (thin, crisp, round flatbread).

On the table at the Mendonca-Polgar feast: Biryani, Sambar, Rajma, sprout salad, dosa bhaji [Click to mouthwateringly enlarge]

Judit made Indian bread varieties to go with bhaji

Judit and Leon get pineapple upside-down-cake for dessert

Judit clearly relished her meal, and we most definitely cherished her company!! We thanked her for gracing us with her distinguished presence and told her that all Indians must be extremely honoured, privileged and humbled by her love and passion for India and its exquisite cuisine.

For those of you who do not know Judit, her love for India and its cuisine is so immense that she could easily give any typical Indian housewife a complex. She knows how to make parathas, naans, pudlas, baturas and even teplas!! On this note, I decided to surprise her and take her on a gastronomic journey across (hopefully) uncharted Indian terrain.

By the way for those of you intending to visit Budapest, you can contact Leslie +36 202126837 for accommodation. He has a number of beautiful and ideally located heritage apartments. Personally, he is an epitome of Hungarian hospitality!


Judit was an inspiration for the young IM, but she was not the first chess legend he has met. Here we see Leon with the great Garry at the ASEAN Championship in 2014. Still quite a big difference in stature!

Leon Luke Mendonca was born on March 13, 2006. He became a full IM at the age of 12 years, 11 months and 3 days, doing this in Jan./Feb 2019, when in just seventeen days he played three events in Serbia and scored three IM norms, pumping his rating to 2446.

Now the goal of the 14-year-old is to become a GM as soon as possible. In the past year he has narrowly missed multiple GM norms. In our next report we will tell you how the lad did so once again, by a whisker, in the Paracin Open. A pretty harrowing tale.

Leon is is also a budding violinist and is currently preparing for his Grade 5 Trinity College-London Music Examination. But he quite endearingly remains a playful kid, as you can see in this video of him baiting dogs in Budapest - while ensuring social distancing!

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lajosarpad lajosarpad 7/15/2020 11:05
Caption: I may learn something from this player
anthonyy anthonyy 7/15/2020 08:09
caption? easy: totally irresponsible
AWSoP AWSoP 7/14/2020 05:43
Caption: "What did you ask? Why I don't wear a mask? Get out of here!"
Justjeff Justjeff 7/14/2020 02:46
"The sunsets that we witnessed throughout our stay were absolutely priceless and a professional photographer's dream." Where are the photos?
Frederic Frederic 7/14/2020 02:06
Caption: "This child won the event? What next, babies in diapers??"
Tommytabs Tommytabs 7/14/2020 01:23
Rigo says: "I once was that age? Seriously?"
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