In the Batumi Olympiad our women’s team had a great victory over Spain, the 15th seed, in round 6. As can be seen from the table below we were out rated on every board and yet came away with a 3.0-1.0 victory.
bd01 IM Sabrina Vega Gutierrez 2404 vs WGM Janelle Mae Frayna 2287; 1/2
bd02 FM Marta Garcia Martin 2329 vs WFM Shania Mae Mendoza 2113; 0-1
bd03 IM Ana Matnadze 2362 vs WIM Marie Antoinette San Diego 2102; 1/2
bd04 WGM Monica Calzetta Ruiz 2235 vs WIM Bernadette Galas 2080; 0-1
Our margin of victory could have been much bigger, as top board WGM Janelle Mae Frayna, the first and so far only Woman Grandmaster from the Philippines, had a winning game but nerves got in the way. Janelle told her story:
Vega Guiterrez, Sabrina (2404) — Frayna, Janelle Mae (2287) [C00]
Women’s Chess Olympiad 2018, 28.09.2018 [WGM JM Frayna]
I was convinced by coach GM (grandmaster) Jayson to return to my old weapon, the French Defense. Recently, I mostly play 1..g6 and try to stir the game into Modern or Pirc territories.
Usually my opponent plays the Tarrasch Defense 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2. When I studied her games I came to a conclusion that she has particular inclination to positional chess. Since this is the Olympiad, I always expect my opponents to try and play something they don’t usually do so as to frustrate my opening preparation — this game was no exception.
My preparation ended here! I just know that Q on e2 isn’t that appealing for 1.e4 e5 lines. Now I just have to trust my instincts.
3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3!? Nf6
White was obviously planning to push her pawn to d4 and I was not sure how to continue. Here are more or less my thought processes:
4…Bc5 is no good, white can now make good use of her extra Q tempo with 5.Nxe5! typical idea 5…Nxe5 6.d4 Bd6 7.dxe5 Bxe5 8.f4 Bf6 9.Be3 and white has smooth development;
4…d5 I thought for about 25 minutes on this move. I wanted to play ala Ponziani Opening with the added move of Qe2 but I saw that this wouldn’t work in my favor 5.exd5?! (5.Qb5?! During the game I felt so annoyed by this possibility 5…dxe4 but 6.Nxe5 Qd6 and Black is at least fine 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.Qe2 Nf6 since in exchange of the broken pawn structure, white danced too much with the royal mistress) 5…Qxd5 6.d4 Bg4 7.dxe5 0–0–0 8.Nbd2 if she plays this line, I believe I would be better but taking the pawn isn’t forced at all;
I finally decided against playing 4…d5 because of 5.d4! and I think I am losing a pawn thanks to White’s seemingly misplaced queen!
5.d4 d6 6.d5 Nb8!? 7.c4
Ok. 7. c4 is a normal center grabbing move. But guess what, I’m totally happy she played it. Since I know I could transpose the line to a King’s Indian Defence (KID). IM Sabrina Vega has more than 1,450 games in my database and I noticed that she only plays 1.d4 if she believes that her opponent will reply with 1…d5. In other words she does not like playing against Indian Defenses. So I got this feeling that psychologically, I have won the opening battle already. Maybe it’s too subjective but that’s how I convince myself!
7…g6 8.Nc3 Bg7 9.h3 0–0 10.Be3 Nh5
The King’s Indian Makogonov System goes 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 0–0 5.Nf3 d6 6.h3 e5 7.d5. That is basically the position we have on the board except that White’s queen is on e2.
An “automatic” move. It seems to me now that 11…a5 is better in anticipation for a probable queenside castling 12.Bg2 Na6 13.0–0–0 (13.0–0 Bd7 then a4) 13…Qe8! this is far better than the normal developing move 13…Bd7 as I think playing f7–f5 is still a priority even in opposite side castlings. Black should be okay here.
12.Bg2 f5?! 13.exf5 gxf5 14.Ng5! Nf6?!
Played after about 25 minutes. I thought 14…Qe8 was a mistake because of 15.Ne6 Bxe6 16.dxe6 f4 17.gxf4 exf4 18.Bd2 Nc5 19.e7 then I stopped in this line thinking white is simply better but 19…Rf5 saves the day 20.0–0–0 Re5 21.Qf3 c6 with equal chances.
[15.g4!? is possible here, this blasting idea is also typical in KID structures]
15…Qe7 16.Ne6 Bxe6 17.dxe6 c6
I don’t think I have a choice here.
18.g4! f4 19.Bd2 Nc5
Improving my worst piece. I felt like I was walking a tightrope but at least I’m hanging well! Now, I have my counter chances. 19…Qxe6 20.Bxf4 Nxg4 21.hxg4 Rxf4 it seemed to me that Black’s position is dangerous.
20.g5 Ne8 21.h4 Nc7
I wanted to put my knight in d4 to create counter possibilities. Both of us are now down to about 10 minutes.
[22.Ne4 is essential to create some nuisance and counterattacks on the king 22…N7xe6 but during the game I think white may have her chances if I defend poorly]
22…N7xe6 23.h6? <D>
POSITION AFTER 23.H6
Played on instinct, I guess?
Now I am winning.
24.Bxf3 Nd4 25.Bd5+!?
[25.Qf1 Rxf3 is too tame and I think could convert my advantage with 26.hxg7 Nd3+ 27.Kb1 Nxf2 Black is clearly winning]
I was surprised that Bh8 was simply winning for me. I was just so worried of the possible opening of the g-file, and some ghost mating ideas. This clearly shows my lack of courage and faith on my calculations. With this game, I have committed too many safe moves that eventually made me miss the win.
Not the best but it still should be enough for me to win the game. 26…Bh8 27.g6 Rf5! keeping my cool and finding counter attacking moves 28.Nxd5 (28.Qh3 hxg6 29.h7+ Kf7 30.Nxd5 Qe6 White has just given up too much material) 28…Qe6 29.gxh7+ Kxh7 I am simply winning.
27.Kb1 Nxf2 28.g6
This isn’t the best move for a losing position, that’s according to the engine. But for human, I think this is the best effort to make things more scary for me. 28.hxg7 Qxg7 29.Nxd5 Nxh1 30.Nf6+ Rxf6 31.gxf6 Ng3! intermediate move. I have to work more on my tactics and of course get my nerves under control!
Played immediately. 28…Bf6! is a clear win. After 29.Rdg1 (29.Nxd5 Qe6 threatening Nh1 or liquidation with Qf5) 29…Nxh1 White has no good follow-up.
I played two consecutive quick moves. I have about 3 minutes in my clock so I rushed on taking the rook on h1 but this is stupid since I have another choice of capture! 29…Nxd1 and I think it’s over with a pawn and exchange up. This could be an easy endgame win for me 30.Rxd1 Qf7 an irresistible trade as I have access on the crucial f5 square.
When she played this move, I broke out in cold sweat because I already saw what’s coming and I realized that what I played was a mistake. I had only expected 30.Rg1 Qf7 of course, parrying the threat (30…Rf7 31.Nxd5 Qe6) 31.Qxg7+ Qxg7 32.Rxg7+ Kh8.
30…Qf7?! 31.Qxg7+ Qxg7 32.hxg7 Kxg7?!
I considered 32…Rfd8 for a long time. Then I thought after 33.Bg5 Rdc8 34.Nxd5 Kxg7 would leave my king exposed and she could somehow force some tricks. What a dummy! I hate it whenever I play too cautiously.
33.Bh6+ Kg6 34.Bxf8 Rxf8 35.Nxd5
With just seconds on my clock, I was so confused on what transpired on the board. From decisive advantage to a slightly better position but I still thought that even with one pawn I could still nail the win. But the files were wide open and I know she’s got some annoying checks on her sleeves.
The final dubious move. 35…Rf3 36.Rg1+ Kf7 37.Rh1 b5 38.cxb5 Nxb5 39.a4 Ke6! another in-between move! Black is clearly better.
36.Rg1+ Kf7 37.Rf1+ Kg7
Alas! The king cannot escape! 37…Ke6?? 38.Nc7+
38.Rg1+ Kf7 39.Rf1+ Kg7 40.Rg1+ Kf7 ½–½
I had multiple chances to win but let them slip through my fingers. I understand that for me to win games, I have to be firm with my calculations, work on my nerves and practice a champion’s attitude of being bold and fearless.
This was a thrilling day for the team as we defeated the 15th seed Spain (3–1). It’s just a pity that we had not sustain our good start in the first half of the tournament with 4.5/6. We slumped down to 67th as a result of our poor output of winning just one out of the five remaining rounds. As the first board player, I felt responsible for our team’s final standing. I felt we could have done better, but life goes on. It only means that we still lack of training and the heart to win crucial games. I will be better, we will be better. Hoping to play for our flag again in the 2020 Chess Olympiad but not only just to play but to dominate our category group or even reach the top 10.
Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.