Saturday, May 24, 2008

UTD last days in China and Great Wall

Hello fellow readers!

As we say in spanish 'mil disculpas' for the lack of information! The firewall of china was greater than my abilities and resources and it was impossible to access this blog.

I am currently in Dallas, updating as fast as I can. Next tournaments include the World Open in Philadelphia, Alajuela International in Costa Rica and I'm training hard to become the next World Junior Chess Champion, the championship will be held in Gaizantep, Turkey in August. The rest of the team has already taken off to exciting places:

Marko and Kul-J have departed for their countries in former Yugoslavia (Serbia and Croatia respectively). Marko will be coming back in a few weeks to teach in the UTD SUMMER CAMPS. Davorin will be playing in tournaments throughout Europe, hopefully becoming UTD's second home grown GM (the first being Magesh Panchanathan, who got his final GM norm in the world open in philadelphia a few years ago).

Jacek Stopa defies the human limit by flying to the Chicago Open. He is currently 1/1 and we hope he wins the tournament! I will try to update the blog with anything I can find from him.

Igor is back home in NYC, and his plans include the amazingly strong Czech Open in Pardubice and Kabala Open in Greece.

For now I will leave you with some photos of one of UTD's coolest things during our trip: playing chess in the Great Wall! We were the center of attraction while we played as hundreds of tourists stopped to watch us play:

Friday, May 16, 2008

The games between utd and nankai university were held in the hotel we are staying in, in a special apartment place exclusive to the chinese federation and it's players.


The entire match saw some very interesting, close games. Let's go by board:

Ramirez, A - Wang Yue 1/2-1/2

My first game against Wang was very interesting. Wang Yue is a known specialist of the ... a6 slav (a very solid opening) but this time he chose to play the very agressive Gruenfeld against me, probably going for the full point. This plan backfired and I got a very comfortable position out of the opening, being slightly better through the entire game. However, I was unable to find any continuation leading to a clear victory, and only very in depth-analysis might possibly reveal such variation.

Zhao Jun - kuljasevic, d 1/2 - 1/2

"dado"s game had a similar story to mine: Zhao did not play his normal variation and saw davorin get a significantly better position. Zhao's defense was amazingly tenacious and at the end it was impossible for our utd player to break through the defenses.

Zivanic, Marko - Weng Yan 1/2-1/2

Marko's game featured the highly complex queen's gambit - exchange variation. Visually pleasing, it is always a tricky opening for white, and despite the enourmous space advantage of Marko, Weng's sacrifice in the queenside (where Marko castled) created too much counterplay. At the end the player's agreed to a draw in a highly unstable position.

Li Chen - Stopa, Jacek 1/2-1/2

Jacek was his typical self in this game: he boldly played an inferior line and snatched a pawn from his opponent in exchange of giving him a huge initative. The game was very tactical and rather short, it ended abruptly when Li saw nothing better than sacrifice a bishop for a perpetual check, forcing our Polish international master to concede the half point.

Shneider, I - Li Haoyu 0-1

Igor playing white was faced against his own defense against the king's pawn - the french defense. Igor sacrificed a pawn to attempt an attack on the enemy king, and black was eventually forced to concede the pawn back leaving Igor with a nice advantage. However by this time our player had almost no time left (about 30 seconds, remember that after every move he plays he gets an extra 30 seconds added to his remaining time). The pressure was unsurmountable and the fact that Igor has been sick since we arrived did not help at all. The Chinese player was merciless to Igor's mistakes and took the full point.


Wang Yue - Ramirez, A 1-0

The Chinese super GM slightly surprized me by playing a side variation in my favorite opening, the benko gambit. I managed to get into a good position, and the game was very complicated for a long time. Our clocks ran down to 5 minutes per player and it was still very hard to say who would win the game. At the end it was me who made the mistake, underestimating the chances his passed pawn on the queenside gave him. Wang played a flawless game and took the victory. I have to say, however, I am very satisfied with my level of play in these two games, Wang is one of the top GMs in the world and it was an honor to have played such a close match, which could have gone either way.

kuljasevic, d - Zhao Jun 1/2-1/2

Zhao played the Nimzo-indian defense, which later turned into a hedgehog. The reason chessplayers call this setup the hedgehog is because blacks pawns resemble the spikes from said animal, which curls to defend itself from any attack. This approach was successful and davorin was left to work with nothing, no choice but to walk away with the draw.

Weng Yan - Zivanic, Marko 1/2-/12

Another fascinating game where lots of pieces were flying over the board. Weng left his king completely unprotected by pawns in order to send them to the attack, but Zivanic's cool maneouvres forced the game into a slightly favorable endgame for our player. The difference was however too small, and with excellent play the chinese held on to the draw.

Stopa, J - Li Chen 0-1

This game was probably the most heartbreaking of all. Jacek refused a draw from his opponent in order to launch an initiative, which would have worked had Jack not overlooked a cunning retort from his opponents. After this mistake the game was very difficult to hold, the Chinese was implacable and both clocks ran below the 1 minute mark. Jacek was unable to hold on and Nankai took another point.

Li Haoyu - Shneider, I 1/2-1/2

I am not sure what happened in this game, Igor claims to have been better and lost a good chance to score a victory for us, but I was too absorbed in my own duel to really notice what happened. I will ask more details from Shneider later.

So at the end, Nankai takes the match with a convincing 3.5-6.5 and conceding no full points. Congratulations to our opponents, it was definitley a very interesting match!

Pictures will be uploaded when this internet feels like working...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Today the team had an early breakfast that consisted of Seaweed, some unidentifiable soup, some unidentifiable stringy brown thing, fried eggs and warm milk.

Shortly after our... interesting... breakfast we took a subway to Tian'anmen Square, right in front of the Forbidden City. The City proved to be far more spectacular than I ever imagined, its sheer size overwhelming and its colors fascinating. We had a very friendly tour guide named Han who showed us the city up and down.

"dado" kuljasevic, your dear blogger and Jack blending in.

Some of the players and chinese representatives in front of the gates, and Mao

I apologize for the quality of any picture I am in, the substitute photographers seem to fail

We also had the great honor of meeting the nephew of the last emperor. Since the last emperor, Henry Puyi, never had offsprings, his nephew would have become the new Emperor since he is part of the Qing dinasty, the Imperial Family of the Aisin-Goro clan. It was really quite an honor! He is now one of the most famous calligraphers in China, and his works are collected and exhibited around the world.

This is how amazing the service is in China.
Later we had lunch at a restaurant where the speciality was duck. Again the food was simply unbelievable, exquisite and abundant. No words can really describe it so I will just leave you with the following image:


After eating we visited the Pearl Market, where we found everything from Silk to Ipods, Iphones, chess sets and Rolexes, all for 1/10 of the price they would have in the U.S.A. You also have to wonder how authentic these things are... but that's just, of course, a small detail. Bargainning was fierce, and we managed to bring many things down to 40% of the original cost. The girls that sell... stuff (stuff is really the only term I can think off, they really do sell everything) in this market speak enough english to bargain very well.

Exhausted from our adventure through Beijing the majority of team crashed immediately after returning to the hotel. Tomorrow we will play against our Chinese rivals. I personally know I will be playing Wang Yue, who is an incredible opponent. Wang recently won the First FIdE Grand Prix tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan, in front of the top players in the world. Wish me luck!

p.d. yes I know there aren't any images, Chinese internet is being difficult... I will try in the morning -

edit2: Pics are finally uploading!!!! also I apologize for the formatting, but remember that due to china's firewall I cannot access my own blog, and thus can't view it at all.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Hello fellow friends, players, fans and groupies!

As many of you may now, the UT chess team has embarked on its latest adventure: representing the comets in Beijing, China against a strong contingency of the top Chinese chess players!

The team is led by coach Rade Milovanovic and program director Jim Stallings.  Our roster is:

1. GM Alejandro Ramirez
2. IM Davorin Kuljasevic
3. IM Marko Zivanic
4. IM Jacek Stopa
5. FM Igor Shneider

We are still unsure who our opponents are, but rumors are that they include figure such as Wang Yue, who recently tied for first in the super GM tournament in Azerbaijan.

Yesterday we set off towards Beijing in an early 8 am flight from d-town, passing first through San Francisco.

The Beijing airport was very impressive, not only because of its sheer size but because of the amount of people in there!

Igor and Jacek being engulfed by people in the immigration line

We were greeted by old chinese friends, which had joined us in the past utd GM tournament in dallas last december.

We arrived at the hotel around 5 pm, and had little time to rest before a welcome dinner was held in our honor.

To be fair, this is simply put the most outstanding dinner I have ever expierienced in my life.  Not only was the food very varied and magnificent (we had easily 7 courses, including appetizers, soup, another soup, a plethora of entrees and desserts), but the service was simply spectacular.  As soon as you took a sip of your Cha (Chinese Tea) we would have a smiling waitress refilling the cup.

Jacek can't hide his amazement... and these here are only the first round of appetizers!

After dinner we had a little walk around the block, which unfortunately does not seem to be as nice as the hotel.  Jacek tried, unsuccesfuly, to buy some ice cream in exchange for his us dollars.

Not too friendly...

And an unsucessful merchant named Stopa, who did get the attention of the entire market...

Please pardon your blogger for such a short update, I will be uploading more as soon a I can.  The flight was, after all, 13 hours and the slow chinese internet makes it hard to upload photos.  Stay tuned!