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Shuntaro Maeda clinches Kobe Chess Championship 2024 with a 100% score

by Sheldon Donaldson - 03/04/2024

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 Kobe Chess Championship 2024. The Canadian origin, currently residing in Japan, Sheldon's article is full of high quality photos and some interesting moments from his games. He loves playing, analyzing and making us enjoy various moments from his games. Check out his experience taking part in the tournament which took place in Kobe, Japan. Did he manage to qualify for Japan championship? Shuntaro Maeda won the tournament scoring a perfect 4/4. Four players scored 3/4. Out of them, Sheldon Donaldson and Mitsuhiro Okada secured second and third places respectively according to tie-breaks. Photos: Sheldon Donaldson

On The Road to Tokyo

“...whenever during the game you find yourself in a bad mood, or you aren’t enjoying the game or your position, you straighten your back and smile.” - Kazbek Primbetov

L to R: 3rd Mitsuhiro Okada (JPN) 3/4, 1st Shuntaro Maeda (JPN) 4/4, 2nd Sheldon Donaldson (JPN) 3/4

Hello, my fellow chess lovers, and welcome to another edition of the Osaka Papers. For the last year, I have held the goal of qualifying for the Japan Chess Championship, which will be held in Tokyo in early May. A few weeks ago, I narrowly missed out on advancing to the final, by failing to secure 3 points at the Osaka Chess Championship.


Luckily for me, the Kobe Chess Championship was right around the corner. The tournament took place on Sunday March 17th, consisting of 4 rounds, with a time control 30 mins + 30 secs bonus. It would be my last chance to advance to the competition, and with only 4 rounds, I would need to obtain at least 3 points to be guaranteed a spot.


I told myself that qualifying was not that important to me, that even if I qualified, I might decide not to go, and in any case, learning was much more important than winning...


All well-crafted lies. I want to win, I want to feel the exultation of victory, the thrill of the kill... I want that moment when you break a man's ego. More than that, I want to avoid the pain and despondency of defeat, that time when the opponent is gone, and you are left with only the board and pieces to contemplate.


To guard myself from the agony, I have invested hundreds of hours of training, thousands of dollars on chess materials, and countless ounces of blood, sweat and tears.


But would it all be worth it, would I qualify...or would I spend another year, learning from my defeats?


Well, before we answer those questions, how about a few pics to prove that any of this happened.

The Community Center

The Shrine

The Torii Gate

The Maeda vs Donaldson match

The Naniwa Region

Poison Equine

In round one, I was matched with a young unrated player, by the name of Onno Zhang, he was perhaps 12 years old. I have learned from experience that it is not enough to take such players seriously, one must fear for your very life...


I entered the Italian game, as is my preference and seemed to be doing well, when my opponent sacrificed a knight to set-up a counterattack against my exposed king.

Sheldon - Onno, Round 1

Position after 13...Qxd3?

But is that Knight poisoned...can I just take it, or should I clarify the situation by playing an in between move? White to play, you tell me?

To Be Discombobulated

“One player was winning, but then gave it away.” - That annoying coach that nobody asked.


Thanks to my win in the first round, I was paired with the top-rated player for round two. I was far from frightened as I hold the somewhat delusional belief that I should be able to consistently beat players rated below 1800. This has not been a reality of late, by a stubbornly hold on to this conviction.

It's a Trap!!

A tough loss, but there was no time to dwell on it, I have two games left and need to get full points to guarantee qualification. In round three, I was paired with Dai Araki, an opponent I played and lost to in my last tournament. At the time, I believed him to be a low-rated newcomer, I have come to find out that despite being rated 1079 nationally, he actually has a FIDE rating of 1800!? Yeah, national ratings no longer make sense, but I digress.


My opponent played the French defense, an opening I love to play against as I have been studying a host of particularly aggressive variations, essayed by none other than GM Adhiban Baskaran. In this line, White sacrifices a pawn and loses castling rights, but if Black does not play precisely, he is libel to lose even more.

Sheldon - Dai, Round 3

Position after 9...a6??

Can you see why Black's last move was a Blunder?

Straighten Your Back and Smile

My win in the third round meant I still had a chance, but nothing other than a win would be enough for qualification. My opponent was Takahiro Mizumoto, another player that I had played against and lost to in my last tournament, fate it would seem is not without a sense of irony.


He is a very solid conservative player, so my game plan was simple: take the game into tactical waters, take him into the deep dark forest...


Final standings


And that was it, that was the Kobe Chess Championship.


Victory...the attainment of victory over all other concerns is why I play chess, it cannot be copied, imitated or replicated, it stands alone as the one elixir that heals all pain. Nevertheless, although I attained my goal of qualifying for the Japan Chess Championship, I would be a fool if I did not take stock of the weaknesses in my game. All three of my victories contain glaring misses, that could have led to disaster, if I want to survive the upcoming championships I will need to temper those infirmities.


But for now, I'm going to straighten my back, smile and enjoy my victory.


As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share these games with your friends down at the bar or community center.


Cheers, SheldonOfOsaka.

About the Author

SheldonOfOsaka is a 42-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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