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Attacking the Berlin (2)

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.

Attacking the Berlin

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.

Sicilian assault

Ivory Coast Rapid Abidjan, Ivory Coast May 8-10, 2019

Power chess

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.

Another Magnus show

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.

Girls go to war

In a further recognition of the rise of women’s chess in the Philippines, the UAAP this year introduced a new division in chess competitions, with a girls’ division added to the current Men’s (College), Women’s (College) and Boys (High School) contests.

UAAP high school wars

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).

UAAP women wars

Last year WIM Bernadette Galas played top board for De La Salle University in the UAAP Women’s Team Championship and scored 12/13, leading the Lady Archers to the team gold and winning for herself board 1 gold honors as well as the overall Most Valuable Player award.

UAAP college wars

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.

You can feel the power

Magnus Carlsen put in a really marvelous performance in the Vugar Gashimov Memorial, not only in terms of points scored but also the high quality of play. Here are two good ones which deserve a place in the next edition of his best games.

Magnus The Magnificent

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).

Dubai Open

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!

Bangkok Open

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).

Endgame magic

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.

Nakamura is 2019 US champion

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 European Championship

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.

England takes silver

There was a time back in the 80s when England was considered the no. 2 chess power in the world. They won the Olympiad silver medals in three successive Olympiads: 1984 Thessaloniki, 1986 Dubai and 1988 Thessaloniki.

Russia is world team champ

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.

Our magnificent warriors

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.

Olympiad wrap-up

Previously I discussed the good coaching for the Philippine Women’s Olympiad team. For these team events this is very important. You will recall the Bersamina vs Pichot game from the previous Olympiad.

Good coaching

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.

2019 World Team Championship

The World Team Championships is held every two years as some sort of counterpoint to the Chess Olympiad, which is also a biennial even taking place in even-numbered years. The World Team Championship occurs in the odd-numbers.

Games from Aeroflot

The 17th edition of the Aeroflot Open was held from Feb. 20-27, 2019 at the Cosmos Hotel, Moscow. As recounted to you last Friday the Estonian GM Kaido Kulaots was the shock winner of the event and will be seeded to play in the SuperGM tournament in Dortmund July 13-21.

2019 Aeroflot Open

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.

Wesley So vs David Navara

The St. Louis Champions Showdown took place from 20th to 24th this February. There were five matches, each one pitting a Team USA player against a foreign GM, especially chosen to ensure a clash of styles.

Campo stories

Mr. Florencio “Campo” Campomanes was the moving spirit behind the participation of the Philippine national team in the 1956 Moscow Olympiad. He did everything -- organized the team, arranged for funding, coordinated with the Russian organizers and a hundred and one other tiny details.

Memories of Campo

Last Friday would have been the 92nd birthday of Hon. Florencio Campomanes, someone who all chess-loving Filipinos should remember. He, together with Ramon Lontoc, Jr., share the distinction of being the first Filipino National Masters (in 1956). He was also the Philippine national champion in 1956 and 1960 and represented the country at five Chess Olympiads: Moscow 1956, Munich 1958, Leipzig 1960, Varna 1962 and Havana 1966.

Another Queen’s Gambit story

Last Tuesday I told you the story of GM Andrei Sokolov and how the Queen’s Gambit Declined Blackburne Variation did him in. He wasn’t the only one whose ship was sunk by that line. There is also Nigel Short.

A Queen’s Gambit story

In the latest New in Chess Yearbook (no. 129), Grandmaster (GM) Peter Lukacs and IM Laszlo Hazai wrote a theoretical update on the Queen’s Gambit Declined Blackburne Variation, which they dubbed “The most complicated line in the QGD.”

Games from Tata Steel Masters

GM Teimour Radjabov (born March 12, 1987 in Baku, Azerbaijan) was a child prodigy he attained the international grandmaster title in 2001 at the age of 14, making him the second youngest grandmaster in history at the time. This record has since been broken multiple times, but is rise to the top was faster than anybody with perhaps the sole exception of Magnus Carlsen.

My pet line

A few columns ago I was writing about the need to vary your chess style when playing under different time controls, i.e., standard, rapid or blitz conditions. Specifically, it is a good idea to have a more aggressive opening repertoire for the faster games. England’s GM Michael Adams, who won a big share of rapid tournaments in the 90s and early 2000s, has always preached that in quickplay your goal is not prophylaxis or solidity -- the correct way is to keep your pieces active at all times. The mistakes are going to come, and to have a chance to finish on top your pieces have to have scope.

The Soltis Principle

This is a continuation of our coverage of the 2019 Gibraltar Masters tournament, won by two 20 year-olds, Vladislav Artemiev at 1st and Karthikeyan Murali at 2nd.

Artemiev wins in Gibraltar

The Gibraltar Masters this year was won by two representatives of the next generation. Twenty-year-old Vladislav Artemiev of Russia finished with an 8.5/10 2941 performance to earn himself £25,000 (roughly P1.7 million) and an extra 27.4 rating points.

Carlsen wins Tata Masters

World Champion Magnus Carlsen won the Tata Steel Masters tournament for the 7th time (this is a record, Viswanathan Anand is the only other player to have won it for five or more times) with a final score of 9/13 composed of five wins and eigth draws.

Wesley So in action

Gibraltar is a British Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula and bordered to the north by Spain. It has an area of 6.7 sq.m. and home to around 32,000 people. Gibraltar’s economy is based largely on tourism, online gambling, financial services and cargo ship refueling. For chessplayers, we know the place as the site of one of the strongest chess opens in the world, now on its 17th edition.

Best Endgame for 2018

My son Keith Colby is a student at Xavier School. Around two years ago my wife made me promise to spend more time tutoring him with his math lessons. I really tried to do that but it turned out that my son’s lessons were much too advanced for me -- and he was only in high school! In between my high school days and his the information age arrived, and with the fast access speeds to information from anywhere in the world comes greater demands on the students to catch up fast.

2018 Combination of the Year

Early 2018 in the Gibraltar Masters the Bulgarian GM (Grandmaster) Ivan Cheparinov won a brilliancy against Alan Pichot, an Argentinian GM. This game was recently adjudged “Best Combination for 2018” by the top chess website www.chessbase.com. Of added interest is that it came about from the Sicilian Poisoned Pawn Variation, a very popular line here in the Philippines due to the influence of Bobby Fischer.

Best game of 2018

Some of the top chess websites have run surveys on the Best Game from 2018. Chess.com asked its content team to come up with a list of its Top 10 and the following game from the Batumi Olympiad was adjudged number one.

Wesley So in 2018

The World Chess Federation has published its January 2019 rating list. The top 15 players are:

Sarasadat Khademalsharieh

In the year 2018 rapid and blitz chess have become more popular than ever before. Even in the Grand Chess Tour there were two legs out of the five total which feature exclusively the quicker time controls.

Women’s quickplay

The Chinese Grandmaster (GM) Ju Wenjun (born Jan. 31, 1991) was having a great 2018. In Marcb 2018 she challenged GM Tan Zhongyi for the women’s title and won it 5.5-4.5 to become the 17th Women’s World Chess Champion.

Dubov is World Rapid Chess champion

GRANDMASTER (GM) Daniil Dmitrievich Dubov (born April 18, 1996 in Moscow) won the $60,000 first prize (approximately P3.15 million at the World Rapid Chess Championship by posting a score of 11/15 with seven wins, eight draws and no losses.

Perspective by Peter Long

17th Asian Continental Chess Championship (2nd Manny Pacquiao Cup) Open Division Tiara Oriental Hotel, Makati City, Philippines Dec. 10-18, 2018

Wei Yi is Asian champ

The 19-year old GM Wei Yi from Yancheng, Jiangsu, China, won the 17th Asian Continental Chess Championships with a steady performance of four wins and five draws. He actually tied for 1st with Iranian GM Seyyed Mohammad Amin Tabatabaei and the top-ranked GM from Vietnam Le Quang Liem, but having faced much stronger opposition, was awarded the gold medal.