Playing the Czech Open 2012


Video Courtesy : Juray Pechac & Michal Novotny, Pardubice Tourism Department, Czech Republic

(I’m finally catching up on a great tournament I played last year – The Czech Open)

Pardubice!  That was our next destination.  After bidding farewell to Belgrade, we boarded the bus to Prague, Czech Republic.  The bus started at noon, and was supposed to reach Prague at 5:00 the next morning, after traveling through Hungary, Slovakia, and the Austrian  border.  That’s 17 hours of quality bus-time!   But this bus, driven by a zippy Serbian reached Prague at 1:30 in the morning, 3 1/2 hours earlier.  So there we were, standing in the middle of some road, half-awake, and no idea where we were.  Fortunately we were able to ask a person who knew English, and they gave us directions to the train station “Hlvani Nadrazi.”   With no cabs in sight, we trudged on the cobble-stone pavements of Prague towards a station that seemed to keep feeling farther away.  Fortunately, the streets of Praha, as Prague is called locally, are safe.  We finally arrived at the station around 3 am, our last few steps a little bit zippier at the thought of entering the cozy station on a nippy early morning.  As we reached the doors and pulled, we discovered that they were locked.  Hastily, we moved to the next set of doors, but with the same disappointing outcome.  We turned around in disappointment, and it started to become clear.  We saw the benches infront of the  station were occupied by travelers like us.  The station is closed around midnight and reopens at 3:30 am.  

So after finding a bench outside the station, we waited for the doors to open.   Extremely tired and disoriented, our long journey was not ending anytime soon.  After our arrival at  Pardubice train station from Praha around 7:30am, we didn’t have the local currency to purchase a bus ticket or hire a cab to the stadium.  The money changer opened at 8:30 am or 9am.  This was too much.  I was EXTREMELY tired and disoriented, and I don’t know how but I just gave up and went to sleep on a small bench.  Pictures later showed, it was quite a feat to sleep on a cramped bench.  After another 2 hours of waiting at the stadium to get directions to our hotel booked by the organizers, and another 1 mile walk or drag I should say, we finally reached the hotel at 11am.  The beds were a sight for sore eyes.  Off we went to sleep.  We woke up later in the afternoon at 4pm.  

This is the time we entered the Prague station.  And it’s AM!

When I woke up, I felt rejuvenated and we checked out the area and visited the tournament stadium.  This was like an Olympics of indoor games – many different kinds of championships around the Chess Tournament.   The best thing happened to me when I opened the door to enter the main arena.  I bumped straight into Super GM David Navara – the polite GM.  He had finished his closed-invitational tournament, and was running out as he informed us to catch a train to another tournament in Europe.  He was polite enough to allow me to have a picture taken with him, and then he was gone.  When we turned around, he was in a distance running away to make his train.  What an impressive, kind person!  He could have said NO and didn’t have to run.  But he said Yes, and then had to run to makeup!  Thanks, David – Truly a Champion!

Refreshed, we set off to explore the City & Venue
The Town Square, near our Hotel; our daily transit point
Czech Open Venue

The Open chess tournament was a 9 round, 2200 and above one, with  259 players.  I was 211th seed!  I was so far down below on the starting list, that you would have to click “Show Complete List” on to see my name 🙂  The games were played on yellow and brown boards, the first time I’d seen those kind.  In the first round I was paired with fellow American IM Alexander Battey rated 2398. I’d met Alex a few days earlier at my last tournament in Europe, but had never played him.  Alex was wearing dark sunglasses, and he kept wearing them throughout the game.  It wasn’t because of any hurt; so perhaps to diminish the glare from the stadium lights.  I thought he may just break into a song any moment 🙂  I was playing White.  It was a Caro-Kann, and my move Qc4 !? sharpened up the game.  I had sacrificed a pawn, but had good compensation.  Alexander misplayed it and then fell into time trouble.  I managed to win a piece, and soon after the entire game.  It felt great to start of the strongest tournament I’ve ever played till then with a victory!  And that too against an IM!  

The second round, I played a Hungarian IM who was 2480.  It was a complex Schliemann Ruy Lopez, and I was feeling rather happy about my position, before I made some peculiar moves.  I missed a way to equalize and lost.  I didn’t spend too much time brooding about  it and decided to clear my head for the next round opponent – IM Tomas Kulhanek.  IM Tomas surprised me during the opening.  I messed up after that and was in huge problems on the board and with time.  Once he opened up a second front, it was curtains for me.  The game was decisively shifting more-and-more towards the IM.  But, then he blundered and I saw a tactical shot!  Hope crept up into my heart as I played Ng3; he moved his King back and I captured his Rook.  He swung his Queen over to f4 and I desperately searched for the win, under intense time pressure.  10 seconds, 9, 8 … I quickly played a random move and lost.  I was heartbroken…crushed.  Here was a chance to make amends, and I let it slip away.  When I analysed the game I realized that I had seen the Win, but missed the sequence of moves.  It stung bad – real bad, knowing that I had missed a Win. But I couldn’t let this ruin my tournament.  I followed the rules which I had written down in my post ‘How to Recover from Tough Losses.’

Getting Ready for the Second Round.
The distinctive yellow & brown chess board.
Top-seed Romanian Chess GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu.
Akshat Chandra playing with Hungarian IM Istvan Sipos in Chess R2
Akshat Chandra with IM Tomas Kulhanek in Chess R3
Akshat Chandra playing Filip Umanec in Chess R4
Akshat Chandra with WIM Havlikova Kristyna in Chess R5
Akshat Chandra with Tokmachev Mikhail in Chess R6
Akshat playing with Martin Lokander –
Top Swedish U16 player; in Chess R7

My tournament went fairly well after that.  I had some nice fighting games, but in two games I missed a Draw and a Win.  I reached the last round with 3.5/8.  For the final round, I was paired with a local favorite FM Michal Novotny!  He worked in the town’s Tourism Department, and at the office he had given us some suggestions on touring the city.  What a coincidence!  Well now, it was time for Michal and I to tour the board 🙂  He played a dubious line, and I found myself with an overwhelming advantage.  I started to Pawn-storm him on the Queen-side, and just as I was about to breakthrough, I erred wtih b6.  Aaargh!  There are many a slip between the cup and the lip!  It was an intuitive move, to open the b file and attack his King.  But things weren’t so easy as I found out.  Michal defended precisely, and soon I found myself a pawn down, and no attack going.  The time on the clock read 2 minutes for me and 18 for Michal.  My time was ticking down, and I was mentally kicking myself for blowing a great position.  I finally erred on move 39, just a move before additional time control, and Michal won an exchange.  My heart sank, and I clasped my head.  But after that Michal started to play quickly, perhaps realizing a Win was coming up soon.  His fast moves gave me hope, and I tested him with a  complicated and tricky move a6.  Michal again moved quickly, and captured the Pawn with Qxa6.  He was doing what would work for me.  But just as I was about to play Ra1, I realized that his Rd6 saves the game for him, and I have nothing thereafter.  The door of hope shut again.  I really wanted to win after missing out on many better outcomes.  I sat there for 10 minutes, wishing I could make it all work.  Then it hit me.  I simply had to inverse the move order, and victory was mine !!  I played Qd8 and my heart leapt in excitement.  I was surging with confidence again.  It was like someone had recharged me.

Akshat Chandra playing WIM Maya Porat, in chess R8
Akshat Chandra playing with FM Michal Novotny
at the Czech Chess Open 2012 ; R9

Michal, realizing his blunder, smiled and resigned.  I felt his resignation was a bit premature, but I’ll take it 🙂  Michal was a very good sport about it and congratulated me.  A big smile broke out at the board, and it sunk in that I had just won a game from a hopeless position.  As Siegbert Tarrasch said, “Nobody ever won a game by resigning.”  I’d to keep trying.  The win pulled me up to 4.5/9, and I finished with +28 ELO rating points.  It was definitely a memorable finish to this strong tournament, and a game I’ll always remember.  Michal from Pardibice Tourism was kind enough to post a video of the game online.  I’ve linked that video at the top of this post.

Thereafter, we spent a few days in Praha.  It’s called a city of Towers and Bridges for a reason.  It’s one of the most beautiful cities we saw on our trip – rich in architecture and culture – a legacy of so many rulers from different empires over the centuries.  If you get a chance, do Play Czech Open in Pardubice and do Visit Praha!

Outside the Stadium Venue. Trying our Luck
with Giant Chess Pieces.  Aditya and Akshat Chandra
Checking out Pardubice 
Near our hotel.  Hey, pretty peacock!
Careful with my fingers; I need’em for my Chess pieces  🙂
At close quarters.  Becoming more friendly 🙂


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