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The Grand Chess Tour is comprised of five rapid/blitz tournaments and two classical (Croatia which took place last June and Sinquefield Cup which starts August 15) events. The twelve full tour participants will play in both classical events as well as in three of the five rapid/blitz tournaments.
The French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (or “MVL”) made full use of his homecourt advantage and won the Paris Rapid/Blitz Tournament, part of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. Let me clear something up. The tournament I wrote about last week, the Riga Grand Prix, was part of the FIDE Grand Prix which in turn is one of the qualifying events to the world championship.
2019 FIDE Grand Prix series consists of four knockout tournaments, each with 16 players who are paired into 8 mini-matches. The mini-matches consist of two games of classical chess, with a time control of 90 minutes for the 1st 40 moves then 30 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1. If the match is tied two 25+10 rapid games are played. If still tied, there are two slow rapid (10+10) games, then two 5-minute blitz games with 3 seconds increment. Finally, if the two players are still tied, a single Armageddon game is played, where White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4 (with a 2-second increment from move 61) but Black wins the match with a draw.
The first round of the Riga Grand Prix began last July 12th. Sixteen players competed in a knockout tournament. Each round consists of two games of classical chess, with a time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves then 30 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1. If the match is tied two 25+10 rapid games are played. If still tied, there are two slow rapid (10+10) games, then two 5-minute blitz games with three seconds increment. Finally, if the two players are still tied, a single Armageddon game is played, where White has five minutes to Black’s four (with a two-second increment from move 61) but Black wins the match with a draw.
Magnus Carlsen put on a great performance to win the Croatia leg of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour and Wesley So did very well himself to finish a strong second, but they were not the only ones playing some good chess. Today I will show you the game Caruana versus Nakamura, which was very interesting to me since it featured the Baguio Variation, played in game 21 of the Karpov versus Korchnoi world championship match in 1978 held in the Baguio Convention Center.
After winning the Croatia leg of the Grand Chess Tour, Magnus Carlsen’s rating is at 2882 which ties the highest-ever rating he (or anyone else in the world for that matter) has ever achieved. He won the world title from Vishy Anand in 2013 and retained it in 2014. He was also the world champion in rapid and blitz, the first player to simultaneously hold all these titles.
Magnus Carlsen has just won his eighth consecutive tournament with an overpowering 5-win 6-draw result in the Zagreb leg of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour. The moving spirit behind this event is former World Champion Garry Kasparov. As you may know Kasparov tried to run for President of Russia in 2008 against Vladimir Putin but failure to find a sufficiently large rental space to assemble the number of supporters that is legally required to endorse such a candidacy forced him to withdraw. Kasparov blamed “official obstruction” for the lack of available space.
Last June 13 I reported that Wesley’s former coach GM Vladimir Tukmakov has written a book where he extensively discusses the work he did with Wesley So. I received a lot of questions and request for information from BW readers and this is a good time to respond to them.
Vic Glysen Derotas, who plays for Nazareth School of National University, is the new Philippine Junior Champion, Girls Division. Unlike the competition in the Boys Division where there was a stern battle for the gold medal which lasted till the last day and hour of the competition, here in the Girls Division Derotas scored seven wins and gave up just one draw to clinch the title one round before the end. She was awarded the title of Woman National Master by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (FIDE).
The Championship started in 1998 and became an annual event. From then up to now there have been eight champions from China (Xu Jun, Zhang Zhong, Zhang Pengxiang, Ni Hua, Li Chao, Yu Yangyi, Wang Hao and Wei Yi), five Indians (Krishnan Sasikiran, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Penteala Harikirshna, Parimarjan Negi and SP Sethuraman), one Uzbek (Rustam Kasimdzhanov), one Vietnamese (Le Quang Liem) and even one from the United Arab Emirates (Salem AR Saleh), but never a Filipino.
Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem won the Asian Continental Championship by beating the leader S. P. Sethuraman of India in the last round to clinch first place in Xingtai, a city in the province of Hebei, Northern China (“bei” is Chinese for North. Beijing is “Northern Capital,” Hebei is “North of the River,” etcetera).
Players receive two hours for each classical game, with a 10-second increment only after move 40. No draw offers are allowed until move 30. Classical games are worth two points for a win, but in case of a draw players get half a point and play an Armageddon game for the remaining point.
Between the reign of World Champions Anatoly Karpov (born 1951) and Garry Kasparov (born 1963) there was no one in the generation of Karpov who was strong enough to challenge for the world title. Players like Vladimir Tukmakov, Alexander Beliavsky, Rafael Vaganian, Oleg Romanishin, Vitaly Tseshkovsky, Gennady Kuzmin, Yury Balashov and Boris Gulko all had their days in the sun but their star never shone bright enough for them to be considered potential world champions. Strangely enough during this period the Soviets who actually did contend for the title were from the previous generation, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Lev Polugaevsky, Efim Geller and even Vassily Smyslov, who was the world champion from 1957 to 1958 but still was strong enough to participate in the Candidates’ matches in 1983 and 1985, at 62 and 64 years of age!
I maintain a small file on games that catch my eye and last Tuesday’s column on attacking ideas against the Berlin inspired me to look it up to bring you some more choice samples. As you know the Berlin Defense lately has become almost synonymous with “boring endgame.” Well, given two individuals contented with the draw the likelihood of a boring end game indeed is very high, but as long as one of the protagonists is after a fighting game there are still lots of avenues to consider. Today we take up two of them.
This is one event which I missed because of my medical leave last March, and it was a crime to leave it out of our coverage, for a large international Chess Festival was started in Prague consisting of two closed invitational tournaments -- Masters and Challengers -- with a strong open tournament going alongside as well as multiple round-robin rating tournaments for players rated 1500-2000. It was a huge success with thousands of visitors.
Before we go to our main topic I’d like to point out the name of IM Vincent Keymer, the last-placer. You might be wondering what a mere IM with a rating of 2516 is doing in the company of such elite chessplayers. The answer is that he had qualified for it. Alongside the Chess Classic there was the GRENKE Chess Open. Keymer won it in a great upset last year and qualified to play in the main event. This year the winner of the Open was the German #3 Daniel Fridman who took the top honors. There were seven other grandmasters who tied for first: Anton Korobov, Andreas Heimann, Samvel Ter-Sahakyan, Gukesh, Matthias Bluebaum, Alexander Donchenko and Tamas Banusz.
Twenty-one draws in a row. Magnus Carlsen did not take part in the Batumi Chess Olympiad last year and instead participated in the less stressful European Club Cup where he peacefully drew all five of his games. His next event was the World Championship Match in London versus Fabiano Caruana where, for the first time in history, all 12 games were drawn and they had to resort to rapid tie-breaks to determine who the next world chess champion would be. That’s 17 consecutive draws. When at the start of the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee Magnus Carlsen drew his first four games the friendly ribbing escalated and the press was writing about Carlsen forgetting how to win, that he is the new “Leko,” the drawing master. And then came the game with Jorden van Foreest.
Unlike the Men’s and Women’s team competitions in the 81st Season of UAAP Chess, where were blowout victories for FEU and DLSU, respectively, the competition in the High School section was very close and indeed FEU and UST finished the double round-robin event tied at 33 points apiece. The tie-breaker was the match points and so FEU, which won nine matches against a draw and two losses (to UST and Adamson), was awarded the title against the Thomasians who only had seven team wins, two draws and three losses (to FEU, NU and UE).
First of all I’d like to apologize to our readers for the lateness of our reporting. Usually the UAAP chess team tournament is held around towards the end of the school year, around February-March. This year they decided to advance the tournament to the first semester and it happened Sept.-Oct. of 2018. Somehow it never entered my consciousness that the competition had been rescheduled. Anyway, better late than never.
GM Vugar Gashimov is an Azerbaijani player who was no. 1 player of Azerbaijan for a time and among the top players of the world circa 2008-2011. Born July 24, 1986 in Baku, Gashimov represented his country in the chess olympiads of 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 and almost single-handedly revived the Modern Benoni for Black, utilizing it even in crucial games at a time when the general consensus was that it gave too many concessions to White. What’s more, he was willing to use the original move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 move order and defend Black’s cause in the most dangerous White attacks, namely the Taimanov Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.f4 Bg7 8.Bb5+) and the Modern Main Line (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.h3 0–0 9.Bd3).
The traditional Dubai Open was held in the first week of April this year with a starting list of 31 international grandmasters, 24 international masters, two woman grandmasters and eight woman international masters. The top seed was Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem (the only player who is 2700+) followed by Maxim Matlakov (RUS 2692), Yuriy Kuzubov (UKR 2653), Sandro Mareco (ARG 2651) and Venezuela’s first GM Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli (2633). As is common with these big international opens nowadays, there were a total of 80 Indians participating. This is because their country’s federation supports their travel abroad to compete. They are really serious about retaining and even exceeding India’s current status as the No. 4 chess power in the world!
The Bangkok Chess Open, which alternates between being played in exotic resorts all around Thailand and the capital city, was this year held in the luxurious ballroom of the Centara Grand Hotel with a field of 200 players which included 17 International Grandmasters. Three former winners participated as well, Nigel Short (winner in 2012, 2015 and 2017), Jan Gustafsson (2011) and Australian GM Zhao Zong Yuan (2013).
Wesley scored two wins, a loss and eight draws in the just-concluded USA Chess Championship and finished in fourth place. He played a quite magical game in round 2 vs. the former Uzbek Grandmaster (GM) Timur Gareyev, who now plays for the United States. He holds the world record in simultaneous blindfold chess play, taking on 48 opponents in Las Vegas last Dec. 4, 2016.
The Big 3 of US chess Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura were fighting for the lead for most of the tournament and then towards the end the “rookie,” Cuban-turned-American GM Leinier Dominguez, made a late surge that almost took him to first place. Just before the last round Nakamura, Caruana and Dominguez were tied for the top spot but at the end it was only Nakamura who managed to win (vs Xiong) on demand and claim his fifth national title.
The 20th European Individual Championship took place from 18-29 March 2019 in Skopje, organized by the government of North Macedonia. The prize fund is €100,000 (roughly P5.9 million), with €20,000 (around P1.18 million) for first prize. Aside from the prize money the first 22 placers will qualify for the next World Cup, scheduled to take place Nov. 4-30 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The World Cup, aside from its huge money prizes (even the losers go home with around P250,000 each), will qualify its top finishers to the Candidates’ tournament, the final step in determining the challenger for the world title.
The 20th European Individual Championship took place from 18-29 March this year in Skopje, organized by the government of North Macedonia. The prize fund is €100,000 (about P5.9 million), with €20,000 (about P1.18 million) for first prize. Aside from the prize money the first 22 placers will qualify for the next World Cup, scheduled to take place Nov. 4-30 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The World Cup, aside from its huge money prizes (even the losers go home with around P250,000 each), will qualify its top finishers to the Candidates’ tournament, the final step in determining the challenger for the world title.
Team Russia is once again the World Chess Team Champion, a title they last held in 2013 with a lineup composed of Kramnik, Karjakin, Grischuk Nepomniachtchi and Vitiugov. At that time it was a great comeback story -- Russia was held to a draw by Armenia in the first round, then lost heavily to USA 1-3 in the second.
FIDE Master Sander de Erit Severino was born in June 30, 1985 in Silay, Negros Occidental. At a young age he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Both of his legs are paralyzed due to this condition. Sander started playing competitive chess at seven years of age and became a regional champion at nine and National Kiddies Champion at 11.
The Philippine Olympiad team has had a lot of bad coaches over the years. There was one, for example, who spent the whole day in the casino and only showed up the next morning to announce the line-up for the games in the afternoon. There was another very horrible person who even stole the ball pens furnished by the organizers for the players.
The 17th edition of the Aeroflot Open was scheduled to start on Feb. 20 but a bomb threat forced the evacuation of the venue, the Cosmos Hotel, shortly after play had started. When the situation normalized the organizers announced that round 1 would start the next day and there will be a double-round day on the nearest Saturday to make up for the lost afternoon. As a consequence of that, the time control of the tournament, originally 100 minutes for 40 moves plus 50 minutes until the end of the game with a 30-second increment, was adjusted to 90 minutes for the first 40 moves plus 30 minutes till the end of the game with 30 seconds added to the clock after every move. This is to avoid unnecessary strain on the players.