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Playing Chess in Japan

I would like to start this article telling that Japan is one of my favorite countries together with Brazil and, of course, Spain. So, the opportunity to play chess in Japan was too perfect to be dismissed. Tokyo is one of the most modern cities in the world, Japanese people are kind and hospitable, their culture is millenary, food is amazing... what else can you ask for?

Thanks to my Caissa Grand Prix results, I was invited to participate in this event. I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to enjoy chess here these two years. Many thanks, David GN!

The Japan Chess Association organized a very interesting tournament: The Japan League. The best players in Japan were playing and the organization was great. All the tournament (7 rounds) was played in 4 days (2 classical games per day and 1 game last day). Those dates, 12-15 August, I was told that, for Japanese people is like CNY for Chinese, or Christmas for Spaniards: these are the dates where you go home and meet with your family.

Chess is the poor brother in Japan. Go and Shogi are the important “mental” sports. They have the resources. For example, the organizer doesn’t have chess sets enough for all the players. The players are coming with their own chess sets to play. I think that the Japanese players prefer to use their own pieces, as they are used to analyze at home. In Spain, this would be impossible, there would be a lot of confrontations to see what set the two players are going to use.

From Hong Kong, 4 players were there to enjoy chess and Tokyo: Noah Michishita (our host), Wilf Hill-Wood, Ed Hill-wood and me, David Rivas. All the other players were very experimented, so it was a tough and challenging tournament for all of us.

For me, ELO Rating is not important at all. If we play thinking of rating all the time, we won’t enjoy and almost for sure our rating will decrease. However, it is true that ELO is a good tool to understand if we have play a good tournament or not. I think that the 4 players from Hong Kong have played a good tournament: two of us increased our rating and the other two got a good ELO rating.

This is my game in the last round, I played with Black against a very good player, Shogi professional player too. And he played with White… I needed a plan for the game, as I needed the victory to reach the podium. Lasker said “Better a bad plan than no plan at all”. So I prepared my plan for this game: “As he is a better player and I play with Black, I have to lay careful and defensive until my opponent would make a mistake”:

Aoshima,Mirai (2295) - Rivas Vila,David (2146) [D37]

Japan League (7.3), 15.08.2018

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 a6 7.Rc1 Nbd7 8.cxd5 [ D37: Queen's Gambit Declined: 5 Bf4]

8...exd5 9.Bd3 Re8 [9...b6 10.0–0 Bb7 11.h3 c5 12.dxc5 bxc5 13.Re1 Re8 14.e4 dxe4 15.Nxe4 Nxe4 16.Bxe4 Bxe4 17.Rxe4 ½–½ (43) Donchenko,A (2588)-Dourerassou,J (2451) Vandoeuvre 2015]

10.0–0 Nf8 11.h3 Ng6 12.Bh2 Bd6 13.Bxd6N [Predecessor: 13.a3 c6 14.b4 a5 15.Qb3 axb4 16.axb4 Bxh2+ 17.Kxh2 ½–½ (42) Kahn,P (2166)-Stavenhagen,J (1991) Dresden 2005]

13...Qxd6 14.Qc2 Re7 15.Rfe1 Bd7 16.e4 [16.a3 is interesting. 16...Bc6 17.Bxg6 hxg6 18.Ne5 Bd7 19.Qb3]

16...dxe4 17.Nxe4 Nxe4 18.Bxe4 c6 19.Bxg6 hxg6 20.Re5 Rae8 21.Rce1 Be6 22.b4 [22.Qc5= keeps the balance. 22...Qxc5 23.dxc5]

22...Bd5 [22...Qxb4µ 23.R5e3 Bf5]

23.Qc5 Qxc5 24.dxc5 Rxe5 25.Rxe5 Rxe5 26.Nxe5 Bxa2μ [

Endgame KB-KN. The plan had worked! I am a pawn up in the endgame. Will I be able to win?]

27.f4 Kf8 28.Kf2 Ke7 29.Ke3 Kd8 30.g4 Kc7 31.h4 b6 [Black should play 31...Be6µ aiming for ...f6. 32.g5 Kd8]

32.Kd4!= [The position is equal.]

32...a5 33.cxb6+ Kxb6 34.bxa5+ Kb5 35.Nd3 Be6 36.g5 Bf5 37.a6 Kxa6 [

White must now prevent ...Bxd3.]

38.Ne5 Kb5 39.Nxf7 [ Threatens to win with Nd6+.]

39...c5+ 40.Kd5 [ Strongly threatening h5!]

40...Kb4 [ ...c4 is the strong threat.]

41.Ne5 Bb1 42.Nc6+ Kb5 43.Na7+ Kb4 44.Nc6+ Kb5 [Interesting game, now it is time to accept the draw.]


I didn’t get a prize. It is impossible to get always one. I had a chess teacher that told me once: “In a tournament, you have to get to play for your aim in the last round. That means that you have played a good tournament… and you have to enjoy this last round!”. In that years I thought: “I want my prize, the last round I will suffer more than enjoy!”. Nowadays, I understand that competition is competition: sometimes you win, sometimes… you learn. The effort is the only thing that you cannot negotiate with yourself. If you enjoy this last round in the tournaments, you will win a lot of times.

I would like to finish with this interesting position that I played in round 6, against one of the Japanese Olympic team member:

White to play. Is it a good idea 28. Rc7? Does 28. … Rxb2 work??

Rivas Vila,David (2146) - Matsuo,Tomihiko (2216) [C55]

Japan League (6.5), 13.08.2018


28. ... Rxb2? [28...Bd5±]

29.Qg4!+– Qxf2+ 30.Kh1 Rf7 31.Rxb7! [ Threatening mate with Rc8+.]

31...Rxb7 32.Qc8+ [¹32.Qe6+ Kh8 33.Qe8+ Qf8 34.Qxf8#]

32...Qf8 33.Qxb7 Rc2 34.Rxc2 1–0

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