The Qatar Masters 2014 held in Doha late November, turned out to be the strongest Open tournament ever. Out of a total of 154 players, 92 of them were GM’s, of which 56 were over 2600 and 14 over 2700. Unfortunately for me, it was one of the worst performances of mine in recent memory. Since my journey over the last 4  years and 10 months from ~1550 FIDE to 2490 FIDE rating, I can only recall a handful of tournaments where I set the rating gear in total reverse.

Things started going wrong from the 1st round itself, when I messed up a completely even position against Chinese Super GM Bu Xiangzhi (2710 FIDE). I had played him at the Millionaire Chess in October, and had lost in similar heart-breaking fashion. I only have myself to blame however, as I let myself fall into time-pressure early on, after which the probability of a blunder increases. Bu didn’t break me, I did that myself.

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[Event “Qatar Masters 2014”]
[Site “Crowne Plaza,Doha”]
[Date “2014.11.26”]
[Round “R1”]
[White “Xiangzhi, Bu  (2710)”]
[Black “Chandra, Akshat  (2489)”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “D45”]
[WhiteElo “2707”]
[BlackElo “2489”]
[SetUp “1”]
[FEN “3b2k1/1b3ppp/pp6/5r2/4p3/1P2P3/P3NPPP/1B1R2K1 b – – 0 27”]
[PlyCount “8”]
[SourceDate “2014.11.26”]

{I made an inaccuracy a few moves prior, and now I have a worse endgame. But,
there is still an easy way to force a draw here.} 27… Bh4 $2 (27… Rd5 $1 {
was an easy draw, and now White is forced to play} 28. Rxd5 Bxd5 29. Nc3 Bc6
30. Bxe4 Bf6 $1 {This is what I missed.} 31. Bxc6 Bxc3 $11 {and the opposite
colored Bishops make it an easy draw.}) 28. g3 Bf6 29. Rd7 Bc6 (29… Bc8 {was
the last chance, and it may still be tenable after} 30. Rd6 Re5 31. Rxb6 Re8
$16) 30. Rc7 Be8 31. Bxe4 $18 {and White won 10 moves later.} 1-0 * [/pgn]

The next 3 rounds were spent fighting it out against lower rated, in which I scraped together 2/3 from those games to get me to a score of 2/4. I now faced Ukranian GM Sergey Fedorchuk (2664 FIDE), an experienced and veteran player. Our game was complex, with both of us spending a lot of time trying to figure things out. But then I inexplicably spent too much time at one point, and was down to my final minute for the last 15 moves. This is not how chess is played. Fortunately, he also ended up coming down in time, though I was still playing mostly on increments, and in the ensuing complications I managed to win an exchange. Things were looking good, and I just had to survive the next 7 moves and reach the time control before assessing things in more detail. But that was not to be, as I blundered away my near-winning advantage on moves 35 and 36. Game over.

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[Event “Qatar Masters 2014”]
[Site “Doha”]
[Date “2014.11.30”]
[Round “R5”]
[White “Fedorchuk, Sergey A  (2664)”]
[Black “Chandra, Akshat  (2489)”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “B47”]
[WhiteElo “2664”]
[BlackElo “2489”]
[SetUp “1”]
[FEN “2r1r2k/4q2p/pp1p1p2/5P2/P2B1Qp1/2P3P1/2P3P1/1R5K b – – 0 34”]
[PlyCount “10”]
[EventDate “2014.11.30”]
[WhiteClock “1:30:30”]
[BlackClock “1:30:30”]

34… b5 $4 (34… Rc6 $1 $17 {was simply the best move here. White has to dig
hard for a draw now.}) 35. axb5 axb5 36. Rxb5 (36. Qxg4 {was stronger.}) 36…
Rb8 $4 {An unfortunate blunder after which White wins for sure now.} (36… Qg7
{still kept things equal.}) 37. Qg5 $18 Rxb5 38. Bxf6+ Qxf6 39. Qxf6+ {and I
had to resign in another 16 moves.} 1-0 * [/pgn]

Losing in such painful fashion due to self inflicted mistakes was simply agonizing. This game triggered a total collapse from my side. Trying to make up for this disaster, I stubbornly deferred a draw in a complete equal position in the next round, and ended up losing. I lost again, and again, and again, until I finally won my game in the last round. It didn’t really matter though, as the damage had already been done.

I ended up losing several FIDE rating points, and recorded an embarrassingly low rating performance. What was the cause of such a disastrous showing? The conditions were great, and there was an ocean-full of higher rated players to play. So what went wrong?

Well in my opinion, the glaring shortcoming was my poor time management. I was playing good chess early on, but it didn’t matter since everything would go to waste after I would repeatedly shoot myself in the foot on the clock. Time is a crucial aspect of this game, and is something which I should not have been so flippant with.

We’ll always encounter setbacks some time in our life, and it’s important that we learn from them and get better. This was a harsh learning experience in particular for me, and something which I will remember for a long time. But I plan to absorb all the lessons I’ve learnt, and come back stronger. You know why? ‘Cause I won’t back down baby 🙂 .

 

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