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The Naniwa Open

by Sheldon Donaldson - 07/01/2023

We often get to know about various chess tournament news of Japan from Mayur Gondhalekar. His good friend, Sheldon Donaldson writes a blog about the last tournament of 2022 he played in Osaka. The Canadian origin, is currently residing in Japan for over 14 years. He started playing chess a decade ago, although he is playing over-the-board chess only for a year. Check out his experience of playing at Nanina Chess Open 2022 held on 10th and 11th December. He also talks about his games with analysis, photos of the tournament and around the city of Osaka, shared by the man who is passionate about the sport. Photo: Sheldon Donaldson

Hello, my fellow OTB players, and welcome to the latest edition of the Osaka Papers.  Saturday Dec 10th through Sunday Dec 11th, saw the passing of the last major tournament of the year, here in Western Japan. The 2022 Naniwa Open Chess Tournament took place in Osaka, Japan.

Me vs a Giant Demon Head

Chess in Japan tends to be a very Tokyo centric affair, with the vast majority of tournaments occurring in the capital city. The Osaka chess scene is a relative minnow in comparison. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many strong players from around the nation make the trip to play on the familiar grounds of my local chess club.


Being the last tournament of the year, it was my final chance to finish things on a high note. I had a lot of disappointing chess losses during 2022; but something told me, call it a voice... even a premonition, that this tournament would redeem my year. I would score well, 3 and 1/2, even 4 points out of 6, placing me among the top finishers.


That turned out to be a LIE.


But before we get into the specifics of this tragic comedy, here are some pics to prove that any of this happened.

The tournament details - everyone understands Japanese, right?

The familiar grounds...

I still don't understand this...?

This neighborhood has a thing with giant heads

The tournament was nationally rated, included 34 participants and consisted of 6 rounds; time control was 45 minutes with a 30-second increment; the prize fund was made up of chess sets, chess books, annotated game collections, and various chess themed clothing, coffee cups, pillows etc.

Round 1 - The Candidate Master

I started the tournament with the unenviable task of playing CM Tomohiko Matsuo. Nonetheless, during the game I felt my position was just a little worse, but not terrible, and I was even able to mount my own threats... all of that turned out to be a LIE.


Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, he was slowly cooking me, without my knowledge.

Round 2 saw me again saddled with the black pieces again; I played against Kota Nagataki who is rated 1917. A game in which I foolishly lost a pawn in the opening, that same pawn went on to crush me in the endgame. A game best forgotten, moving on...

Round 3 - The Unrated

Having lost my first two games I was paired with an unrated opponent. I have learned to be wary of such players, he ended up finishing with two points, which is really good for a first outing. In this match, I got the better of him. I met his Caro-Kann with the Two Knights variation and was able to get my bishop pair and heavy pieces aimed at his kingside.

Sheldon - Kevin

Position after 27...g6

Can you find the best way to win material after 27...g6?

Round 4: Wasted Prep

Round 4 took place the morning of the second day. For the third time this tournament, I had the black pieces. I spent the night before preparing for a possible King's Indian Defense game, as many of my club members favour d4, but I was also careful to spend time prepping both the closed and open Sicilians. My opponent walked in and played 1.f4!?...O_o...*Sigh*...


I replied with e5, we transposed to a King's Gambit Declined: Falkbeer Accepted, Nimzowitsch-Marshall Countergambit (that's a mouthful)...

Ashitani - Sheldon

Position after 21.Bxe5

In the above position, White is threatening the g-pawn, can you find Black's best defense?

Round 5 - A Missed Opportunity

In Round 5, I again played against the Caro-Kann, but this time Black played a novelty. The actual game petered out to a draw, after a tense closed game. But what if I had reacted to that novelty in the best fashion?

Sheldon - Mizumoto

Position after 5...d4

What is the best way to meet Black's threat?

Round 6 - The Underrated Assassin

Is there anything worse than playing against an underrated youngster? My opponent wasn't that underrated. I would estimate that he is probably in the 1400s. In any case, I know from hard experience never to underestimate anyone no matter their rating.


In round 6, I had the Black pieces for the fourth time, in a six round tournament...O_o...*Sigh*...


You ask Why, Dear Reader?? I don't know...perhaps, it was the Will of the Giant Demon Head from the cover photo.


I'm going to be very light on my annotations of this game, as the details might literally cause me PTSD; suffice to say it was a Blunderfest...with both of us gaining the advantage only to throw it away...again...and again...and again...

Congrats to CM Tomohiko Matsuo on winning the event

Congrats to Yuki Hasegawa on winning the U1600 prize

My Chess smile is a lie, I was crying on the inside

And that was it, that was the 2022 Naniwa Open


Overall, despite my last round loss, and having to play with the black pieces four times out of six; I had a great time. I always enjoy OTB chess much more than online, as it's not only a chance to play chess, but a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones.


I was also awarded with fifth place in the U1600 category, which surprisingly won me a beautiful wooden chess set. It was much more than I was expecting.


As for my chess, the one big takeaway is the need to improve my calculation and endgame skill, it's nice to understand your openings, but over-the-board, people play novelties too often for your prep to make that much difference.


As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share these games with your friends down at your local chess club or giant demon head shrine.


Cheers, SheldonOfOsaka.

A special thanks to Bunji Takashima for this wonderful chess set, and for putting on such a well run tournament. He is one of the people who keep chess going here in Osaka.

Final standings

Rk.SNoNameGrFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
11Matsuo TomohikoJPN221452022,517,50
22Makino MitsunoriJPN1998519,52217,50
35Yamaguchi ToseiJPN18774,52022,516,00
44Nagataki KotaJPN19174,51921,515,25
512Kuroda YunosukeJPN1736419,521,512,00
66Takashima BunjiJPN1867419,520,511,00
715Poggenpoel FlipiJPN16195R bye418,52112,50
88Kinoshita AkiraJPN18104182012,00
97Sakai EnjuJPN1864416,518,511,00
109Sakai AzumiJPN17693,519,52210,75


About the Author

SheldonOfOsaka is a 41-year-old chess player originally from Canada, who has lived in Japan for the past 13 years; he took up chess 10 years ago, but only began to play over-the-board tournaments last year.

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