Malta Chess Federation

Commonwealth Chess Championsips 2023/24

March 26, 2023 by Robert Novak

I was very proud and elated when I got the news that I would be participating in the Melaka Malaysia tournament. After checking to see who would be participating and I saw the first 12 seeds were Grand Masters I knew it wouldn’t be an easy peasy trip, but I was fully geared up and excited for the opportunity.

Round 1 NG SHU HENG (MAS) rating 1455 0-1:

I knew I would not have an easy game. If it’s a kid with low rating then I knew I had to focus 101%, a draw or a lose and I already lost 10-20 elo rating, because nowadays every kid know the opening up to 20 moves. Obviously, I started the tournament with the black colour…

I chose the French defense because I did not find any games from him in the database and I have quite solid knowledge in it so i knew this would be a powerful start for me.

After 16 moves I managed to get a piece advantage in a complex middle game but my time started to shrink.
In the 35th move I blundered a piece but I was still a pawn up.
38th move was to be my second blunder… Again, a piece for one pawn… After we simplified the material I had 5 pawns + rook against 3 pawns + rook + bishop.

Beinf conscious of this, in my mind i was thinking “Let’s fight for a draw” but when I offered this, he refused immediately.
In the end game I managed to over play him with a king manuever and collect the full point.
Game ended with 1/1!

Round 2 Sherralhan Marimuthu (MAS) rating 1272 1-0:

No games again in the database but with white I didn’t feel it’s a bad day for me. I wanted revenge for Peter because the previous day, Peter had a 3-8 moves checkmate against this guy but he missed and lost.

After the opening I was better by the computer but I didn’t feel it +0,8 (my dear reader could ask, what was the opening?, and I would respond “It’s obvious! Catalan!”) After 15th moves his clock was on 1:30mins… I thought, okay, if you don’t want to think, I will do! So in move 23 I prepared a trap for him, and he fell for it, hook line and sinker, after 5 sec he moved and bang: The time had come to sacrafice my queen but in the end of the combination I would have a plus piece! 8 moves later I had 2/2 points.

Find the solution:

Round 3 WGM Nandhidhaa, P V rating 2366 (Women 3rd place):

Her first game in the database was against Василь Михайлович Іванчук a.k.a Vasyl Mykhaylovych Ivanchuk with white and where he overplayed her in a difficult rook endgame: 

Terrible pairings for me, I thought… Let’s prepare. She plays everything in Sicilian… She plays almost every variation in French….(Advanced (Be2, Bd3, a3…), Nd2, Nc3 Hmmm she has bad handling in Nc3 French, all whilst I was hoping she will play that one.. I am ready for the battle, let’s start.

1. e4-e6 2. d3!!!!!!! What???? She never played this based on her 500 games. Ok improvisation is happening, I knew then I had to up my game… I studied KIA (a.k.a Kings Indian Attack) quite a while ago but I remembered up to 14-16 moves. Ok time to offer a draw. She will refuse it, even if both of us knew she didn’t have an advantage in the slightest! She played without an answer. Middle game = She tries to attack King side I try to attack Queen side.

I felt her attack is harmless so let’s create something on my side. After we exchanged the queens I started to feel confident myself and push for more than a draw and olllalallaaa there it was, a good Bishop manuever! Is this really deciding the game? Were my eyes playing tricks on me? NO! Counting everything precisely I made one more point 3/3! Analysis in the end of the article.

Round 4 GM Vignesh, N R (IND) rating 2525 (4th place Open section, Blitz winner) 1/2-1/2: 

I wasn’t surprised of my opponent strength after 3 rounds, I had 3 points so I had to play with one of the best player in the tournament. He finished as 4th in the end and won the blitz tournament. 
Let’s prepare… khm… hmm.. ahhhaaa… etc… He plays everything against e4/ c4/ d4/ g3/ Nf3. I found some holes in his openings and I tried to prepare for it but something totally different happened in the game.

d4 Nf6 Nf3 d5 g3…………………………………………………………………………………5 mins later……………………………………… 10 mins later…………………………………………………………………………….. 15 mins later g6!

What?? Again, g6, really?? I was prepared against b5, seriously, why do you do this to me? 🙂 Why can’t you play what you already did 15 times? 

Let’s play what I remember… Equal opening good! Time for a draw offer, let’s annoy him. Refused. Equal middle game, good! He offered to change queens, I accepted. (If I don’t do it +0,8 for me by computer) After some minor piece and rook moves he played 33. c5 and said Draw?

I had to ask him to repeat because I didn’t beleived what i was hearing… Did you offer a draw? He said, Yes. So I grabbed his hand and he almost fell over the board (Haha, just joking). 3,5/4 I am super happy.

“Can we finish the tournament and I go home?” We went out to talk and I asked him if he ever played g6 in this position. He said never, not even in blitz or rapid. And I said I would continue with Na3 or Ne3 (after his last move 35. c5) and he responded that’s what I was worried you’d do.

Round 5 IM Mohammad, Nubairshah Shaikh (IND) rating 2415 1-0: 

I knew that he was known for being a really strong player and play’s catalan. My second game on the same day and facing an international master, it’s not an easy situation. Opening: Catalan… but he didn’t play the best moves, so I equalized. The game was in balance up to 28 moves when I did my first inaccurate move and in the 31st, the second inaccuracy, which was enough for him to win the game.
I was super exhausted. It had been a long day, so it was time to go back to the hotel and sleep.

Rest day:

During the night I could not sleep because I developed a cough, thankfully, around 4am I finally managed to fall asleep.
I couldn’t understand why they had to set the AC to 20 degree celsius in the playing room. We complained and nothing happened. In the end of the tournament 50% of the people was coughing and becoming sick.

Due to how bad I was feeling, I was unable to go with Peter and the others to visit and explore the city which was disappointing. Instead of sightseeing, I was coughing and sleeping, sleeping and coughing. On this day I slept around 17-18 hours. 

Round 6 Chong Jin Cheng (MAS) rating 1684 (+114,4 elo rating and U20 Winner): 

I was well prepared, which was visible, right through to the 15th move, by then you could tell he didn’t know what the best move was and after this he was struggilinlg in the full length of the game.

I was impoving my position, move by move and we reached a point where I had a rook advantage. Of course he resigned.
I went back to the hotel and tried to recover during the night.

Round 7 WGM Gong Qianyun (SGP) rating 2263 (Women winner):

I didn’t feel good but I gave it my all.

She chose e4 e6 d3! Oh it’s good, at least I remember the opening and I can save some time.
Opening same as round 3, but in the middle game she impoved a little compared to my previous game but it was still equal. In the 37th move I was much better because she made a mistake which I took full advantage of and started to push on the queenside.

After the 40th move none of us had more than 5 minutes on the clock and unfortunately in move 47th I blundered a rook which was leading to a lost end game.

What is the best and only move for white for keep the balance 0.0?

Round 8 WGM Srija Seshadri (IND) rating 2283:

Still pushing through the sickness, but at this point I knew if I drew, or won, I had a chance at a prize.
Sadly, all the preparation didn’t help me in the opening.After eleven moves I was definitely the least favourable, she on the other hand played very well.

It turned out to be my worst game and I could not continue on which resulted in me having to withdraw from the competition. 

Epilogue: First of all, I would like to thank you, Malta Chess Federation for giving me this opportunity, it was not only an amazing opportunity, but also an amazing experience.

A personal thanks to Peter Briffa Sammut for helping me during the tournament, team work is key!

A further acknowledgement to SportMalta for the financial assistance provided.

I gained +11 elo rating and I realised without +30 mins after 40 moves I am slow, definitely room for improvement, but I am also still proud to have been able to represent Malta at this level.

I have learnt a lot from this opportunity and believe that with my passion and determination, I will work even harder to improve on the areas that I need to so that I can continue participating in such tournaments in a stronger capacity.

WGM Nandhidhaa, P V 2366 – Robert Novak 2130 0-1
Robert Novak 2130 – GM Vignesh N R 2525 1/2-1/2

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