Piotr Sabuk clinches Nagoya Open 2023
Mayur Gondhalekar and his good friend, Sheldon Donaldson regularly keeps us updated about the Japan chess scene. Sheldon writes a blog about his experience playing at the Nagoya Open 2023. Almost four years ago, India's 21st GM Sriram Jha became the first Indian to win this event. The Canadian origin, currently residing in Japan, Sheldon's article is full of high quality photos and some interesting moments from his games. He enjoys playing, analyzing and making us enjoy various moments from his games. Check out his experience taking part in the tournament which took place in Nagoya, Japan. IM Piotr Sabuk won the tournament scoring an unbeaten 5.5/6. Japan no.2 IM Ryosuke Nanjo secured second place scoring 5/6. FM Mirai Aoshima and IM Shinya Kojima scored 4.5/6 each to secure third and fourth place respectively. Photos: Sheldon Donaldson
From Blunders to Brilliancy in Nagoya
“I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious.”
– Vince Lombardi
Hello, my fellow over-the-board warriors, and welcome to another edition of the Osaka Papers. The last few months have been a tumultuous time in my chess life, missed wins, rating loss and blunders have been the general rule for quite some time now. All of this has led to my national rating plummeting to the 1400s...sad times. But as the old saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn...
Dawn it would seem has taken the form of the Nagoya Open 2023, which took place in the city of Nagoya, Japan on October 8th and 9th. The tournament comprised six rounds, games had a time control of 50 minutes + 30 second increment per move.
With three International Masters and one FIDE Master participating, the competition was quite stiff by the standards of these parts, furthermore the tournament boasted a ¥200,000 prize fund, the largest in Japan.
The silver lining of my rapid rating decrease was that I would have a great chance of winning the Under 1500 section. More to the point, I took it as a matter of personal pride that I should win the section.
You can lose a game of chess and still have fun...but victory, that feeling of putting forth your best effort and coming out on top, well, it has been too long since I have had that feeling.
But before we get into the games, how about a few pictures to prove that any of this actually happened.
An Undeserved Victory
The first and second rounds ended in me being unceremoniously defeated. I think my readers have seen enough of my defeats, so let us wipe those results from the record and our collective memories.
In the third round, I found myself paired with the lowest rated player of the tournament. A 700 rated 10-year-old. I know from experience that I must always take my opponents very seriously, but I admit that going into the game I was confident of a victory.
The boy tortured me for 40 moves... O_o
I blundered a pawn in the opening and he proceeded to torture me, it was horrifying. Even after he blundered the exchange, he still had the bishop pair and the advantage going into the endgame. Surely, he deserved to win.
Yabuki - Sheldon, Round 3
In the following position White has all the pluses. There are many ways to win, but for accuracy’s sake it is important to consider how best to use the connected passed pawns. What is White's best move?
I certainly did not deserve to win that one, but Caissa, the Goddess of Chess, doesn't care if you deserve to win or not, if you make a mistake in the endgame, she will punish you without mercy or regard. Remember that.
Return of the Shogi Master
In the the fourth round, I was paired against Mitsunori Makino, who just so happens to be a Shogi Master. Shogi is Japan's version of chess, the pieces move in similar patterns, the main difference being that once you capture an opponent's piece you can use it by placing it on the board as one of your own pieces.
Makino is ranked among the top 100 Shogi players in Japan, which actually means he is ranked in the top 100 in the World. So he is kind of a big deal around these parts. I have played him on two previous occasions, losing both matches.
But, perhaps the results of today's game will surprise or perhaps not.
Well, chalk one up for the Shogi Master, but in truth I didn't consider myself in competition with players rated in the 1900s and up. The next match however, was an absolute must win.
The Adhiban Gambit
In the summer of 2022 the 44th Chess Olympiad was held in Chennai, India. The penultimate round saw India 2 facing off against eventual champion Uzbekistan. I watched the event live and keenly remember witnessing GM Adhiban Baskaran use this Gambit against the English opening to secure a draw on board 4.
Well, in the penultimate round of the Nagoya Open my unfortunate opponent walked directly into a line I had been prepping for several weeks, what followed was a game that even Adhiban would be proud of.
Even with my inaccurate play the Adhiban Gambit proved deadly. With my match finishing early I was able to spend some extra time resting and prepping for the final round.
A Question of Precision
Up to this point I had played twice as White and three times as Black. So imagine my shock when I saw the pairings and realized that I was to play Black for the fourth time in a six round tournament. O_o... drats.
As it turned out, it made little difference, a back and forth fight brought us to an even endgame. It was that special moment in the playing hall when almost all the games are finished and the crowd starts gathering around your table.
Slowly but surely I'm gaining the advantage, and the game looks to be over, but I'm posed a question: go for a line that requires a lot of calculation and perhaps end up blundering or simply play a theoretical system that should lead to victory eventually, but it might not?
Well, Dear Reader, I leave it up to you.
Sawamura - Sheldon, Round 6
Which is more precise? 63...e5+ or 63...Rxc3
Victory!! It was a dog fight, by no means the most accurate game, but I loved it. With this win, I assured myself the C-Class Trophy, and some long overdue pride in my chess ability.
And that was it, that was the Nagoya Open 2023. So, what did I learn:
If you are paired with a 10-year-old, it is not enough to take him seriously, you must fear for your life.
If Adhiban essays an opening, it is your duty to learn it and play it.
If you put the work in, eventually the results will follow.
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share these games with your friends down at the bar or on the battlefield.
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.