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The joy of being a spectator! (2/2)

by WGM Soumya Swaminathan - 10/03/2018

WGM Soumya Swaminathan is an extremely strong chess player. She is a former World Junior Champion. More often than not you see her hunched over the chess board trying to find the best way to beat her opponent. However, there are times when she is 'relegated' to being a spectator. Every once in a while when Soumya did this, she realized that it was a refreshing experience. She learnt things that helped her grown stronger as a player and as a person. These tips she now shares with you. Since Candidates 2018 starts today, we decided to bring you the first hand experience of a strong player who was present at the last Candidates Tournament 2016 in Moscow, Russia. Let's delve into Soumya's mind and take a flashback into her Candidates memories.

Soumya at the Candidates Tournament 2016 in Moscow, Russia

By WGM Soumya Swaminathan

This year I decided to stay back at Moscow after the Aeroflot open and watch a few games of the Candidates tournament 2016 ! My very good friends Eesha Karavade & Mary Ann Gomes accompanied me. It was a good holiday cum brief training, I felt so much more relaxed, positive and inspired when I came back home.

The venue for the Candidates 2016 | Photo: Soumya's blog

I would like to share some brief notes which I took during the candidates tournament

My 'notescoresheets' make for good souvenirs :) | Photo: Soumya's blog

March 2016 : Candidates tournament 2016 :


My observations :

Day 1: Round 3

Anand - Caruana, Candidates 2016, What will you play as black? | Photo: Soumya's blog

Within a few moves , Fabi has transformed his position, thanks to excellent re-arrangement! | Photo: Soumya's blog

"Anand drew. Good play by black. Starting from Bd7-Bc6 to h4,Rfe8,a5 ! Controlling b4. Very strong. Anand's Bf3 I didn't like very much and if he has gone Bf3 why not follow it up with Bg4 ?! didn't understand."

Actually, Bf3 is a good move ! I think the idea of Bf3 is to prevent Nd7 (as Nh5 in any case is ineffective as white goes Nd5 everytime). For eg 1. Bf3 Nd7 (idea Nc5) 2. Bg4 Rh6 3. Bf5, followed by Qg3 or Qg5. My suggestion of going for Bg4 plan, with knight on f6 is never good, as black simply moves his rook & if we take on d6, he takes on e4.

Topalov - Aronian, Candidates 2016, White to Play | Photo: Soumya's blog

Topalov went for 1. Qh5 here.

"In Topi's game , why not Qd5 instead of Qh5 ?! If Rd8 - Qe4, if Bg2- Kg2. Maybe Black plays Qd5 - Qa3 ?! Rc7+ Kh8. But I think white will be able to find a defence here. Lets say Rc7 - Kh8 -Ne1 is very much possible."

1. Qd5 was a better try, though after 1...Rd8 2. Qe4 Rd4 ! 3. Qe7 Ne7 4. Be2 c6 5. bc Nc6, black remains a pawn up.

Day 2: Round 4

"Everybody is very well dressed today. Two of them were also very well prepared and quickly made an eventful draw and got up."

Nakamura - Giri 0.5-0.5, Candidates 2016, Final position of the game with the King on g6 ! | Photo: Soumya's blog

Lets move on, shall we !

Karjakin - Anand, Candidates 2016, position after 10...f5, White to play. What will be your plan in this position ? | Photo: Soumya's blog

"Plan for white : Be2, 0-0-0, Rdg1, g4. So lets say 1. Be2, Bf6 2. 0-0-0 Bb7"

The plan I suggested is very dangerous for white as well, there are many knight jumps. While we were thinking of a good way to proceed, Karjakin totally surprised us by going for a positional continuation, and playing against the weakened squares thanks to f5. He played 1. Bb5 in this position, followed by Nd5-ed, d4!, dc - bc & shortcastled.

Black to play | Photo: Soumya's blog

Once we saw this position on the board, it was clear how strong his plan ( and understanding ) is.

"Karjakin has a lot of clarity. He goes for specific positions and does not hesitate"

"If 1...f4 works black is surely fine. So lets try to make f4 work."

But it doesn't work, as for 1..f4 white simply goes 2. Bd3 h6 3. Bh7+ Kh8 4. Bg7 Kg7 5. Qg6+ Kh8 6. Qh6 wins. Anand played 1...Bf6, & later Ba6 & they exchanged both coloured bishops. But the weakness of having committed both d5 & f5 told; Karjakin won this game.

One of the absolute highlights of my stay was a chance meeting with the legendary Mark Dvoretsky !!

"Spoke to Dvoretsky ! Analysed Svidler - Aronian with him. Told him  I loved his books."

Thank you Mark, for being my teacher. | Photo: Soumya's blog

When I heard the news of his passing away, I felt a number of things at the same time..

Sadness that such a great legend had passed away..

A sense of gratitude to have got the chance to meet him in Moscow and even talk to him and tell him how grateful I was for his teachings !

I never knew him personally, but from what I have read and observed, I feel he taught chess until the very last days of his life and it makes me feel very happy for him. I think any person passionate about his work would want to spend his last days the same way.

But above all I felt gratitude.. to have been lucky enough to have read his books and learn from them. In my initial years, I dint use a computer for a very long time, and a large part of whatever I knew about chess was thanks to his books. Even today I always carry one Dvoretsky book with me for every tournament, and the thing about a good book is , every time you read it you learn something new. Thank you Mark, for being my teacher.

Hanging around at the Candidates venue :

Nakamura - Giri : "Well Dressed & Well Prepared" | Photo: Soumya's blog

Soumya's friends Mary Ann Gomes and Eesha Karavade watch the Candidates games live | Photo: Soumya's blog

Spectators watch the Candidates games at the venue | Photo: Soumya's blog

Spectators engage in a game of analysis at the Candidates 2016 | Photo: Soumya's blog

Thats all about the chess stuff..Now lets talk about Moscow !


We managed to take some time out to go around Moscow as well..It's a beautiful city and luckily for us, the weather more or less cooperated with our plans. We visited the Kremlin palace, and went for a tour of the Armory chamber and Cathedral Square. The Kremlin is majestic and left us spellbound . For e.g., The armory chamber has a museum which displays Russian treasury, such as Gold, silver & copper ware & jewellery from the 1700s , thrones used by the Tzars, horses's decorated saddles, dinner & cutlery sets received as gifts by the Tzars by various kings & monarchs all over the world ( it was a custom to bring an appropriate gift for the Tzar while meeting him; among other things, there was 120 piece dessert set gifted to the Tzar by Nepolian ) , gowns worn by the King & Queen for their coronation was a real treat. It took us 3 hours to go through it fully and at the end we were like kash moghals aur britishers India nahi aate, to hamare museums me bhi ye sab dekhne milta (we would have also had similar treasures in our museum, if only mughals and british did not invade us).  Moscow has an old world charm that has been expressed & preserved so well through its architecture. While walking down the streets in Tverskaya street, our eyes would be hooked on to the buildings around us. Even a bank office would be in this rich heritage building. For me , one of the highlights of my sightseeing was travelling in the Underground metro. It is more than 80 years old. built in the 1930s by the Soviet Union. Its many feet under the ground, so that the public transport system would be safe from any bombings. Going down so many feet in the escalator was an event in itself for a person like me who is not comfortable with heights. I was a bit afraid but also thoroughly enjoyed it ! Some pictures from our trip  :

Mary and Eesha enjoy the picturesque Moscow | Photo: Soumya's blog

Moscow architecture is dominated with red bricks, with elements of gold & blue, the colours look beautiful at dusk. | Photo: Soumya's blog

Kremlin at night, with the disneyland- like church at the background. | Photo: Soumya's blog

Beautiful Russian architecture | Photo: Soumya's blog

It's a new day at Moscow :) | Photo: Soumya's blog

Cathedral Square, where Ivan the Terrible and his family is buried. | Photo: Soumya's blog

Gleefully happy Soumya | Photo: Soumya's blog

Relaxed Mary | Photo: Soumya's blog

Three Amigos: Eesha Karavade, Soumya Swaminathan and Mary Ann Gomes | Photo: Soumya's blog

The Tzar's Cannon at Ivanovskaya Square. | Photo: Soumya's blog

Mary stands tall | Photo: Soumya's blog

Mary and Eesha | Photo: Soumya's blog

Space Museum | Photo: Soumya's blog

Space Museum , in the pic above, and The All Russian Exhibition Centre, in the pictures below, are right opposite the Cosmos Hotel, where we stayed for 11 days before the Candidates tournamentt for the Aeroflot Open - but we never noticed either of these !

The All Russian Exhibition Centre | Photo: Soumya's blog

Beautifully lit The All Russian Exhibition Centre | Photo: Soumya's blog

I have always been very fascinated by this city. After all it is the mecca of chess. I love going back to Russia again and again, and playing in Russian tournaments. Even 60 year old 2200 veterans can give you an endgame lesson when you have been a decent chess player for 20 years yourself. Their love and respect for chess is reason enough for me to be drawn to this city. I once read a lovely quote which says when we travel we find out how wrong other people are about the places we visit and people we meet ! Its true..I have never really agreed with this general perception of Russians being cold..though the weather in Moscow remained cold as ever every-time ! But this time, that changed too. Thanks to my friends, my meeting with Dvoretsky and my experience at the Candidates, Moscow was warm. Welcoming and warm.

WGM Soumya Swaminathan is the former World Junior Champion. She is one of the strongest player of the country. She has won National and Commonwealth title. The article was originally published in her blog. Photo: Amruta Mokal

The joy of being a spectator! (1/2)