The Adventures of Eric and Kostya Part 2: Momentos Memorables en Benasque

Intro by Eric Rosen After getting a strong dose of chess and beach at the FISCA Open, Kostya and I trekked our way west for the Benasque Open. With just four full days of non-tournament play between the events, we did our best to find a balance between traveling, recharging, and exploring new scenery. En route to Benasque, we stopped for two days in Barcelona. Upon arriving, we met up with Kostya's girlfriend Maya, who became a key accomplice in finding awesome restaurants and planning excursions. Additionally, we had a brief encounter GM Mesgen Amanov who was taking a European vacation with his fiancè (I forgot it's possible to take a trip that doesn't involve chess!). Mesgen treated us to the VIP lounge at the Hilton Barcelona with all-you-can eat hor d'oeuvres and all-you-can-drink beverages. Given that Mesgen lives 15 minutes away from my home in the Chicago area, this goes to show that the chess world is a small world!
(L to R) Eric, GM Mesgen Amanov, Kostya, Maya
On July 4th, we made the 5-hour bus trip from Barcelona to Benasque. While we didn't get to experience any independence day fireworks or celebrations (the 4th of July isn't really a thing in Spain), there was still a pretty epic light show in the sky.
4th of July... lightning!?
For those who aren't familiar with Benasque, it's simply an amazing spot of a chess event. The small village is located in the heart of the Pyrenees with a population of just over 2000. To give readers an idea of how small the town actually is, walking end-to-end was about a 15 minute walk. The entire town could also be seen by taking a short walk up one of the main trails.
The village of Benasque
Despite the small size, Benasque had everything we could ask for... nice hotels, a variety of cuisines, a few convenient stores, breathtaking scenery, and great weather (for the most part). Although not too many locals spoke English, I was able to use the minimal Spanish I remembered from high school. Using the Google Translate app also came in handy on many occasions. The tournament attracted over 450 players, including 20 GMs. As this was my second straight year competing in the Benasque Open, I completely understand why it's a popular event for chess professionals and amateurs alike. With a one-game-a-day format of the course of ten days, there was plenty of time to enjoy our surroundings while still taking the chess seriously. Over the course of the event, we both had a number of memorable moments on and off the board. Here are some of the highlights ... Round 1 Miracle In the first round, I played Ricard Nadal Fajardo from Spain, rated 1894. With a rating differential of over 450 points and a material advantage by move 13, I assumed it would be an easy win. Making that assumption was a huge mistake. My opponent fought valiantly and I missed some chances to maximize my advantage. Towards the end of the game, I was on the cusp of accepting a draw. I had just a rook for a bishop and two pawns. I felt somewhat devastated, but decided to keep pushing as my opponent looked nervous. Although the position should have been trivially drawn, he missed a crucial trick.

Nadal Fajardo - Rosen | Black to move after 71.Ke1??

Show Solution
[pgn][Event "2018 Benasque Open"]
[Site "Benasque"]
[Date "2018.07.05"]
[White "Ricard Nadal Fajardo"]
[Black "Eric Rosen"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A06"]
[WhiteElo "1894"]
[BlackElo "2355"]
[Annotator "Eric Rosen"]
[PlyCount "2"]
[EventDate "2018.07.05"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. b3 d5 3. Bb2 Bf5 4. e3 e6 5. Bd3 Bg6 6. O-O Nbd7 7. Ne5 Nxe5 8.
Bxe5 Nd7 9. Bb2 e5 10. f4 exf4 11. Rxf4 Bd6 12. Bxg7 Rg8 13. Bh6 Bxf4 14. Bxf4
Nc5 15. Bxg6 Rxg6 16. Qh5 Ne6 17. Bg3 Qg5 18. Qxg5 Nxg5 19. Nc3 c6 20. Rf1 Rd8
21. Rf4 Ne6 22. Rh4 h6 23. Ne2 Kf8 24. Nf4 Nxf4 25. Bxf4 Kg7 26. Kf1 Re8 27. g4
d4 28. h3 dxe3 29. Bxe3 b6 30. Rh5 Rd8 31. c4 Re6 32. Ke2 Rh8 33. Kd3 Kg6 34.
a4 Rd8+ 35. Kc3 Kg7 36. Bd4+ Kh7 37. Be3 Kg7 38. Bd4+ f6 39. Be3 Rh8 40. a5 c5
41. axb6 axb6 42. b4 Re5 43. Rxe5 fxe5 44. bxc5 bxc5 45. Bxc5 h5 46. Kd3 Kf6
47. Be3 Ke6 48. Ke4 hxg4 49. hxg4 Rh4 50. Kf3 Rh3+ 51. Kg2 Rh8 52. Kf3 Rc8 53.
d3 Rg8 54. d4 exd4 55. Bxd4 Rc8 56. c5 Kd5 57. Bg1 Rf8+ 58. Kg3 Ke4 59. Bh2 Rc8
60. Bg1 Rg8 61. Bf2 Rf8 62. Kg2 Kf4 63. Bg3+ Kxg4 64. c6 Ra8 65. c7 Ra2+ 66.
Kf1 Rc2 67. Be5 Kf3 68. Ke1 Ke3 69. Kd1 Kd3 70. Bf4 Rc4 71. Ke1 $4 (71. Bd6 $11 {easy draw}) 71... Re4+ $1 {An unfortunate move
for white to overlook! Black will capture the bishop next move and white will
have no time to promote the pawn.} (71... Re4+ 72. Kf1 (72. Kd1 Rxf4 $19) 72...
Rxf4+ $19) 0-1[/pgn]
From a psychological standpoint, I think this type of start to tournament is more beneficial than it is hurtful. Having escaped from the jaws of drawing,  it was clear wake up call. I went into the later rounds with more momentum. Having Fun with Knights and Horses In round three, I got to unleash one of the most thrilling combinations of my event. By move 16, my opponent was up two pawns, but was severely underdeveloped. Such situations call for further sacrifice...
[pgn][Event "2018 Benasque Open"]
[Site "Benasque"]
[Date "2018.07.07"]
[White "Cora Castellet Menchon"]
[Black "Eric Rosen"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E40"]
[WhiteElo "1834"]
[BlackElo "2355"]
[Annotator "Eric Rosen"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r4rk1/ppp1q1pp/2n2n2/3P1P2/3PP3/P4P2/5Q1P/R1B1K1NR b KQ - 0 16"]
[PlyCount "25"]
[EventDate "2018.07.05"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]

16... Nxe4 $1 {A clear tactical shot to exploit white's under-developed
setup. Before playing this move it was necessary to anticipate the follow up
after Qe3} 17. Qe3 (17. fxe4 Qxe4+) 17... Nxd4 $1 {An aesthetic sacrifice! Now
white will be punished regardless of which knight is captured} 18. Qxd4 (18.
Qxe4 Nxf3+ $19 {Winning the queen}) (18. fxe4 Nc2+ $19) 18... Qh4+ 19. Ke2 Ng3+
20. Kd3 Qxd4+ 21. Kxd4 Nxh1 {A decisive advantage for black. It is now
possible to grab pawns while also holding onto the knight on h1.} 22. Be3 Rxf5
23. Nh3 Rh5 24. Ng5 Rxh2 25. Rg1 Rd8 26. Ne6 Rd7 27. f4 c6 28. Ke4 cxd5+ 0-1
  Similar to knights, horses are also fun if you have decent control.
Unlike knights however, the horses weren't too keen on jumping over anything | Photo by Maya Nelson
  Kayaking In addition to the horseback riding, we explored the mountain scenery via kayak. The neighboring town of Eriste was just a 45-minute walk from Benasque and offered kayak rentals for 10 euro/hour-- a great bargain and an even greater upper-body workout!   104-move disaster Unfortunately, my experience in Benasque was not completely absent of pain and tragedy. In round 7, I seized an early advantage against a lower rated opponent. In the process of trying to grind down a two-rooks-versus-queen endgame, I made a fatal error...

Martinez Fernandez - Rosen | White to move after 88...Rfg2??

  Show Solution
[pgn][Event "2018 Benasque Open"]
[Site "Benasque"]
[Date "2018.07.11"]
[White "Raul Martinez Fernandez"]
[Black "Eric Rosen"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B40"]
[WhiteElo "2220"]
[BlackElo "2355"]
[Annotator "Eric Rosen"]
[PlyCount "207"]
[EventDate "2018.07.05"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
[SourceVersionDate "2009.02.28"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. g3 Nc6 4. Bg2 Nf6 5. Qe2 e5 6. O-O d6 7. h3 Be7 8. c3 O-O
9. Rd1 Be6 10. d4 cxd4 11. cxd4 exd4 12. Nxd4 Nxd4 13. Rxd4 Qc8 14. Nc3 Bxh3
15. Bf4 Rd8 16. Rad1 Bg4 17. Bf3 Bxf3 18. Qxf3 Qe6 19. Nd5 Nxd5 20. Rxd5 Re8
21. Bxd6 Bxd6 22. Rxd6 Qxa2 23. Rd7 b6 24. Rb7 Rad8 25. Rd5 Rf8 26. Rxf7 Qxd5
27. exd5 Rxf7 28. Qb3 Rd6 29. Qe3 Kf8 30. Qe5 Rfd7 31. Qf5+ Kg8 32. Qe4 h6 33.
Qe8+ Kh7 34. Qe4+ g6 35. f4 Rxd5 36. g4 Rd1+ 37. Kf2 Rf7 38. Kg2 Rd6 39. g5 h5
40. b4 Rdd7 41. Qe6 Rde7 42. Qd6 Re4 43. f5 Rg4+ 44. Kh3 Rxg5 45. fxg6+ Rxg6
46. Qd3 Kh6 47. Qe3+ Kg7 48. Kh4 Kf8 49. Qe5 Rgf6 50. Qb8+ Kg7 51. Qg3+ Kh7 52.
Qd3+ Kh6 53. Qd2+ Rf4+ 54. Kh3 h4 55. Qd8 Rf3+ 56. Kh2 R3f4 57. b5 R4f5 58. Qe8
Kg5 59. Qd8+ Kg4 60. Qd4+ Rf4 61. Qd1+ Rf3 62. Qd4+ Kg5 63. Qd5+ R3f5 64. Qd8+
R7f6 65. Qd2+ Kg6 66. Qd7 Rf7 67. Qd3 Kg5 68. Qd8+ Kg4 69. Qd1+ Rf3 70. Qd4+
Kh5 71. Qe5+ R3f5 72. Qe2+ Kh6 73. Qd2+ Kh7 74. Qd3 R7f6 75. Qd7+ Kh6 76. Qd2+
Rg5 77. Qe3 Rff5 78. Qe6+ Kh5 79. Qe2+ Kg6 80. Qe6+ Rf6 81. Qg8+ Kh5 82. Qh7+
Kg4 83. Qe4+ Rf4 84. Qg2+ Kh5 85. Qe2+ Kh6 86. Qe6+ Rg6 87. Qe5 Rf2+ 88. Kh3
Rfg2 89. Qh8+ Kg5 90. Kxg2 Kf4+ 91. Kf2 Re6 92. Qxh4+ Ke5 93. Qc4 Re7 94. Ke3
Rd7 95. Qc6 Re7 96. Kd3 Rf7 97. Qe8+ Kf6 98. Kd4 Re7 99. Qc6+ Kf5 100. Qc8+ Kf6
101. Kd5 Re5+ 102. Kd6 Rxb5 103. Qd8+ Kf5 104. Qd7+ 1-0[/pgn]
Putting in over 5 hours of effort to ultimately throw away a great position was simply devastating. Thankfully, clear skies exist behind every storm...   The view The beautiful view from my hotel room offered a nice mental escape after such a tough loss. I've found that photography can be a nice outlet from the pains of chess. 10 Decisive Games After the disappointing loss in round 7, I managed to win the remaining 3 games and finish in a tie for 19th place with 7/10 points. To my surprise, I had some of the best tiebreaks out of the 29 players who also finished with 7/10. The first tiebreak was number of decisive games and all of my games were decisive! As a result, I finished in 20th place and won 100 euros along with a trophy (one of my first trophies of adulthood!).
(L to R) GM Tamás Bánusz, GM Péter Prohászka, IM Eric Rosen
  At the award ceremony, I met up with Grandmasters Tamás Bánusz andPéter Prohászka who were my teammates on the Webster Windmills in the 2018 season of the PRO Chess League. Congrats to Peter to finished in clear first with a stellar 8.5/10!   YouTube Similar to the FISCA Open, Kostya and I produced daily videos covering in-depth analysis our games. Readers are more than welcome to binge watch the following playlist:
The final cross table and be viewed here
Kostya's Contribution: After my experience in Benasque, I'd have to recommend for every chess player to visit the Benasque Open at least once. The beautiful scenery, crisp air and delicious food means players can really enjoy themselves outside the actual rounds of the tournament. The relaxed one-game-a-day schedule allows for ample preparation time as well as some nice sightseeing/hiking. And the event itself was quite strong, boasting dozens of GMs, IMs, and norm-hopefuls, one of which turned out to be Eric's roommate for the event, who completed his final GM norm with a round to spare. My own tournament performance was on par with my level, and thus unspectacular. I lost my one encounter with a GM and allowed a few too many draws against lower rated players to get another chance, eventually finishing with a respectable 7/10, (with poor tiebreaks) and gaining 0.2 points. Since this was my third tournament in a row, I could definitely feel some fatigue setting in, but my games were nevertheless instructive, and I really enjoyed recording the post-mortem videos with Eric daily after the round. With all the games, preparation, YouTubing and touring that we had to do, I'm shocked we manged to fit it all in and still perform reasonably well! In what was a first for me, it was great to have Maya join us for the entire tournament. It seems like the organizers are pretty thoughtful about choosing the dates for the tournament. In early July the Benasque weather is nice and warm, but during this time it is not as busy with tourists in the small town as in August, when it actually gets quite crowded. So essentially we had this quaint vacation spot almost all to ourselves, a real treat. And that was before we discovered our eventual favorite 'hang-out' spot with Eric, Vuelvo Sola (I go alone), a hip vegan cafe with delicious smoothies and an amazing vegan burger that I still think about! That said, my main focus, of course, was the tournament, and despite how good life was on the outside I still tried to maximize my chances in each game. Unfortunately, I displayed poor technique in a couple games and allowed my opponents off the hook, leaving some crucial half-points on the table. But...let's focus on the highlights! The Stumbling King My favorite game from the tournament took place in Round 7, where I pushed and pushed and pushed in a drawn position with two rooks against the queen and finally managed to win on move 90. This was the second longest victory of my career, with the longest, a 112-mover, just having recently taken place in the decisive last round of the FISCA Open. Well, check it out:

[Event "2018 Benasque Open"]
[White "Kavutskiy, Kostya"]
[Black "Gomez Anadon, Daniel"]
[Site ""]
[Annotator "Kostya"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Date "2018.07.11"]
[WhiteElo "2409"]
[BlackElo "2228"]
[PlyCount "99"]
[Setup "1"]
[FEN "7k/p5p1/2q5/4P3/6p1/2p3P1/4R2P/2R2K2 w - - 0 41"]

{[#] It was basically around here when the fun began. With Black's last move
40...Qc6, Qh1+ was threatened, winning both of White's kingside pawns. Kg1
would allow Qc5+, and White cannot make progress. So I took a deep breath and
played} 41. Rcc2 $1 {Connecting my rooks and throwing all caution to the wind.} Qh1+ 42. Kf2 Qxh2+ 43. Ke3 Qxg3+ 44. Kd4 {This was essentially my only chance
to win the game, banking on the stability of my rooks and the power of my
e-pawn.} Qg1+ $6 {This doesn't blow anything, but Qf4+ was a lot easier.} (44... Qf4+ 45. Kxc3 g3 46. e6 Qf6+ 47. Kb3 g2 48. e7 Qf7+ 49. Kb2 g1=Q 50. e8=Q+ Qxe8 51. Rxe8+ Kh7 $15 {and if anyone, only Black can win.} )45. Kc4 $1 {
No checks for now and the pawn can advance forward.} Qb6 46. e6 Qc6+ {Now at
this point, it's very improbable for White to get out of the incoming endless
series of checks. But both of us were more or less playing on increment at
this point, and basically every move from here on out was made in 30 seconds
or less. The position is drawn, but as you can see, the king always has
practical chances to snake out if no clear perpetual can be found.} 47. Kb3 Qb5+ 48. Kxc3 {It's always a good idea to take a mental note of the move
number/50 rule move counter when it might be the last capture/pawn move for a
while. So here we've got until move 98 to make something happen!} Qc5+ 49. Kb2 Qb4+ 50. Ka2 Qa4+ 51. Kb1 Qb3+ 52. Kc1 Qa3+ 53. Rb2 ({There's no way to get
out along the first rank:} 53. Kd1 Qd3+ 54. Ke1 Qg3+ 55. Rf2 (55. Kf1 Qf3+ 56. Kg1 Qg3+ 57. Kh1 Qf3+ 58. Rg2 Qf1+ 59. Rg1 Qf3+ 60. Rcg2 Qe4 $11 )Qe3+ {
and of course it's important to watch out for pitfalls like} 56. Rce2 $4 Qc1# )Qc3+ 54. Kd1 Qd3+ 55. Ke1 Qg3+ 56. Kd2 Qf4+ {This still holds. In fact,
Black is able to hold for many more moves, but I felt like Qd6+ was better, as
this would keep White's king from advancing forward.} (56... Qd6+ 57. Kc2 Qc5+ {should have drawn more comfortably.} )57. Kc3 Qf3+ 58. Kd4 Qf6+ 59. Kc4 Qf4+ 60. Kd5 Qf5+ 61. Kc6 Qf3+ 62. Kc7 Qf4+ 63. Kc8 Qc4+ 64. Kb7 Qd5+ 65. Kb8 Qd8+ 66. Kb7 Qd5+ 67. Kxa7 {Ok! Always nice to reset the 50-move counter and keep
trying :). I still wasn't sure how I was going to win this one, but I did
notice a crazy route to go through Black's kingside! My opponent was
definitely a bit rattled from having to play on increment, so even though I
felt like the position had to be drawn, I knew there may be a practical chance
to exploit if I could keep making incremental progress.} Qa5+ 68. Kb7 Qd5+ 69. Kc7 Qc5+ 70. Kd8 Qd6+ 71. Ke8 Qc6+ 72. Kf7 Qf3+ 73. Kg6 $1 {This looks awfully
dangerous, but I double checked to make sure I wasn't blundering any mate! The
point is that it's awkward for Black's queen to keep giving checks without
giving up the g-pawn.} Qf6+ 74. Kh5 Qf5+ 75. Kh4 g5+ $6 {In retrospect this
makes Black's task a bit more difficult, as the king will now have less
protection (the eventual deciding factor).} (75... Qf6+ 76. Kxg4 $11 {is still
a draw, but the game goes on and White is still pushing for a win.} )76. Kh5 g3 $6 {Allowing White to push e7 is not fatal, but again, makes Black's task
harder.} (76... Kh7 $2 {would allow} 77. Rb7+ Kh8 78. Rf7 $1 { and White is winning.} )(76... Qh7+ $11 {would keep Black relatively
safe in the drawing zone.} )77. e7 g4+ 78. Kh4 Qf6+ 79. Kxg3 Qf3+ $2 {It's
very difficult to play this endgame from either side, so it is a bit amusing
how many errors the engine will find in both sides play.} (79... Qd6+ 80. Kxg4 Qg6+ $11 {is still drawn as long as Black can keep White from being able to
block the checks with his rook.} )80. Kh4 $2 (80. Kh2 $1 {was actually winning!
} Qh3+ (80... g3+ 81. Kg1 {and the checks have run out.} )81. Kg1 Qg3+ 82. Kh1 Qf3+ 83. Rg2 $1 Qf1+ 84. Rg1 Qf3+ 85. Rbg2 Qe4 {and now the study-like finish:} 86. e8=Q+ $1 Qxe8 87. Rh2+ Kg7 88. Rxg4+ Kf6 89. Rf2+ Ke5 90. Re2+ $18 )Qf6+ (80... Qh3+ 81. Kg5 $18 )81. Kxg4 {I decide to take the pawn, not
realizing it may have impaired Black's queen a bit more.} Qg6+ 82. Kh3 Qh5+ 83. Kg2 Qg4+ $2 {With this check Black's queen gets too close.} ({The right way was
} 83... Qd5+ 84. Kh2 Qh5+ 85. Kg1 Qc5+ 86. Kh1 Qc1+ $1 87. Kh2 Qh6+ 88. Kg1 Qc1+ 89. Kg2 Qc6+ {and Black is drawing as long as he can keep checking
without letting White's rooks block and get to the g-file (setting up eventual
mate).} )84. Kh1 Qf3+ 85. Kh2 $2 {Foolishly repeating and allowing my opponent
a chance to revert to a draw.} (85. Rg2 $1 $18 {and White would win as in the
game.} )Qf4+ 86. Kh1 Qf3+ $2 (86... Qc1+ $1 {would not allow White to
block with the rook, and would still keep the draw for now.} )87. Rg2 {Now
White is finally winning, as I'll be able to setup a mate along the g- and
h-files while Black is busy capturing the e-pawn.} Qd1+ 88. Rg1 Qf3+ 89. Rbg2 Qe4 90. e8=Q+ {A fairly exhausting game. While Black was drawing for most of
the ending, I kept my hopes up by trying to make incremental progress with the
king before eventually stumbling upon a winning idea. I think this often
happens, the longer the game drags out, the more fatigue plays a role in the
game.} 1-0

Post-Spain After Benasque, Maya and I first took a bus back down to Barcelona and then got a very cheap flight to Bordeaux, France. From there we met with two friends who were fresh from celebrating France's FIFA World Cup victory. We spent a few days together in Cap Ferret, a seaside vacation spot with some incredible food and lovely beaches. Our trip also included a stop in Arcachon to climb the Dune of Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe! From France, I then traveled to Santiago, Chile, for the 2018 Pan American Youth Chess Championships, which I previously wrote about here. All in all, this trip was quite rewarding. My next excursion is now not too far out--I'll be going to Spain for the World Cadet Championships, followed by a brief stopover in London to check out a couple rounds of the upcoming World Championship match.  


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great analysis and videos! RAR is proud of you!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

At what time were the rounds daily? I know that it use to be very common in Europe for rounds to be at 2pm or 3pm in the afternoon. Such a schedule would only leave the morning (and maybe night) for free time and preparation. Do they do it differently in Spain?

In reply to by Larry Cohen (not verified)

The rounds were at 4pm daily, which is a bit later than usual. The norm is typically 1-3pm. Despite the relaxed schedule, we had a lot of stuff to pack in each day :)

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Kostya, if I counted correctly, that epic king march took your monarch on a tour of over half the squares on the board! Every student needs to see an endgame like this so they know not to get frustrated by the endless checks, but rather to search for the winning plan. Fun read as always from the two of you!

In reply to by "Coach Jay" St… (not verified)

Oh wow, nice! Yeah, persistence pays off!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] Europe, and I knew that my friends IM Eric Rosen and IM Kostya Kavutskiy were also on the road.  It just so happened that we were all in Barcelona, and I invited them to visit me in my hotel for […]

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