A big shout out to Steve Ouma, Amos Simiyu, Judy Mwashe and George Ochieng. After my Round 5 game, I had lunch and was relaxing in my chess car (black piece one), listening to some Michael Jackson. I dozed off. When I awoke, the music was gone, and I discovered my chess car battery had gone dead. This left me anxious. But Amos provided the jumpers, Judy, the car to jump from, and Steve and George graciously lent their muscles to push the vehicle to a suitable jump spot, and I was sorted.
I was paired against my ‘Bete Noire‘ – James Kabui. My track record against Kabui was a disastrous -3. Yes, I had lost all three previous games against him. In fact, in the 2017 Kenya National Championships, the guy beat me so bad that I abandoned that event after just four rounds). So I was a bit anxious since I felt I was jinxed to lose to the guy.
The first major change came about in the opening. These upcoming guys are a pain in the ass when you play the QGD as black. And the QGD has been my favourite since I was young and briefcased.
Last night I had a semi-forensic look at the three games I lost to James Kabui. One thing that stuck out was that he was pretty comfy out of the opening in each of the three games. So I made a conscious choice today to divert from my usual lines. Even if I had not played the opening before, to his 1.d4, I essayed a hybrid Nimzo – Dutch Defence set up.
I have never done that before. It was a risk, but it worked out splendidly. Kabui lost his positional bearings in the closed position, and I clamped down and got a comfy edge. I rolled the dice a bit as I allowed a tactical counter, judging that in the ensuing heavy piece ‘4th phase of the game’ featuring just the heavy pieces and pawns and of course the ‘mfalmes‘ (King – in Kiswahili). I would have the initiative which is so important in the ‘4th phase’ scenario.
It got complicated, but I maintained control. Though I feel I could have played better. (Maybe I need to revisit Mihail Marin’s chapter on Alekhine in his ‘Learn From The Legends‘ book.
James Kabui lost the thread of the tick-tock ck cheek, checks, and I pounced. Game Over. I won for the first time against JamesKabui.
James Kabui v Mehul Gohil
So the big awaited heavyweight match up with Joseph Methu happened.
To my 1.d4 he surprised me with 1…Nf6. A delightful surprise. With no hesitation I replied 2.Bg5 and was right inside my home ground of the Trompovsky. I think this was a preparation mistake on Joseph Methu’s part.
The variation we headed for was the same exact one I had played twice (on different occasions) against IM Fy Rakotomaharoof Madagascar. The IM beat me on both occasions. I wanted to give up on the Trompovsky after those two games because it hurt.
Later on I had a re-look at those games and realised how I needed to play the position. I had to play it slowly and in positional manouvering style. So Methu headed right for a position where I had done some deep soul searching.
What transpired was that I ended up beating JosephMethu in a way I have not beaten him – careful positional play followed by an endgame crush. Our previous games have all been ballistic and full of zig zag dynamics. This time I got an edge and kept control right to the end. I never let him have a chance.
This is so far the best game I have played in the tournament.
I leave you with one of the positions that occurred in the game vs Methu. All his pieces are driven to the first rank, reminding me of the Karpov vs Kasparov match Linares 1993.