6. heinäkuuta 2017

Spring Cup 2017 - Ashwin beats Antti in the finals, becomes a hero

I won the 2017 Spring Cup. It was the second time I won the tournament, the last time being in Spring 2015. No money for the winner, but a much more valuable (in my eyes) painting that he gets to keep until the next tournament. This painting has been around since the 1990's and has the name of the winner of each cup written on the back of it. A truly historic piece of memorabilia. I'm relieved to have won it back as my apartment is in desperate need of some decoration!

Group Stages
Petri Mäki-Fränti (2–0) – He was my opponent in the thrilling 2015 Spring Cup Final. As always, a difficult opponent with lots of tactical prowess.
Aleksej Leppänen (2–0) – A new member of the club; it was a pleasure to play with Aleksej and discuss ideas on how to improve his chess. Though relatively inexperienced, he clearly has a very good feel for the game. In our second game, he was essentially a piece down, but played impeccably well to regain the material and make it a tight finish.

Quarter Finals
Arto Heimonen (2–0) – Arto has improved a lot over the last couple of years. I was particularly impressed with some of the endgame tricks he pulled out against me. There are a lot of strong players who may not have even considered those kind of possibilities. Just goes to show how much room there is for improving one's endgame skills and how big an impact that will have on one's rating.

Semi Finals
Kauko Kaiju (1½–½) – After our match, Kaiju and I had a pleasant chat in which he said – "I'm blind. But luckily in chess, you don't need to see!" That quote in itself says a lot about Kaiju's wisdom, grace and sense of humor. It also shows in his chess. A very balanced player; he has immense positional skill and is a tricky tactician as well. Upon analyzing his games, I would say he could be a bit more careful before advancing his pawns, and also a bit more careful when trying some tricky tactics.

1. Ashwin vs Kaiju 1–0
2. Kaiju vs Ashwin ½–½

Antti Suominen (2–0) – Clearly one of the toughest tacticians and openings experts I've encountered, Antti is the only player in the world for whom I don't play my usual set of openings because I know he is so tough in them. Upon analyzing our games, I'd say that he had the opportunity to win both games, but erred by not allowing himself enough time to have the mental clarity with which to spot the winning tactics. As players, it's important for us to recognize that we need a lot more time than we perhaps realize to spot tactics at later stages of a game than in the earlier stages (because the later positions are much less familiar to us than the earlier positions).

1. Ashwin vs Suominen 1–0
A pretty even game for the most part. What started out as a relatively simple looking position turned into a very sharp double attack game with both queens and paired bishops on the board. Very easy to make a losing blunder in such situations. And I in fact did just that with 30. Qc3??, but was lucky that Antti didn't spot the winning continuation (30...Rf8). I would attribute that to his not having enough time to calmly respond to my unexpected move.

2. Suominen vs Ashwin 0–1
Antti played fantastically in game 2. His first significant error came as late as move 33! Meanwhile I had made about 7 inaccuracies before. Just goes to show how one mistake can undo a lot of hard work. In the game, I was surprised that he allowed the trade of queens early in the game (considering that he needed a win), but he later explained that it was favorable for him to do so in our Isolated Queen's Pawn type of position. I was most impressed by the series of moves that led to 21. Nc8, which I did not account for in my calculations, and which gave him a clear edge. Fortunately that end game was not so easy to play for white, and so I managed to survive and eventually win.

Next up is the Autumn Cup. Better sign up fast if you want to have a shot at taking down the Champ.

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