The 24th festival took place on the first weekend of August. It consisted as usual the Open, the Blitz, the team tournament and the so called Super tournament. This year the summer was not very kind and the tennis tournament was cancelled. The Open had 130 participants, but the tournament was not as strong as last year. Similar faces were fighting for the prizes and for the four spots in the Super tournament.
Vladislav Kovalev from Belorussia won the event. He played very confident chess and continued to show the solid play also later in the Super tournament. Other qualifies had some luck, some more some less. Players who did not qualify to the Super tournament could play in the team competition. After two days of the Open tournament the blitz tournament started on Saturday morning followed by the Super tournament and the team competition. The blitz tournament had 13 rounds and Latvian German grandmaster Daniel Fridman was the lucky winner. The blitz started at 11 am and was followed immediately with the Super tournament.
Yours truly won the blitz last year, but this year I got out from bed on the wrong side. I lost two endgames with just two extra pawns and this did not help my mood. Playing two tournaments in one day was kind of bad decision, at least I realized that I may lose all my games in the evening. This did not happen, but my game did not improve much.
The organizers shifted the playing hall back to the old location, but as usual during the chess tournaments only spectators were the players themselves. The playing venue was divided, the Super tournament participants had some more prestigious place on the stage. First day the live transmission did not work for some reason. Later it appeared that the person who was responsible for that took too long Friday out and was not able to work. The festival in general had very friendly atmosphere as usual. Main organizer was the local man and also president of Latvian Chess Federation Aris Ozolins. The festival was reborn 24 years ago thanks to him. The festival took place first time long time ago during the Soviet times.
The Super tournament had four invitees and four qualifiers from the Open. Total only eight players and seven rounds were not so much for rapid format tournament. In the first day Artur Neiksans lost four games, but he came back strong on next day winning the last three. I drew my first two games and then I got tricked in pawn endgame.
Kovalenko as expected was one the favorites and showed interesting games. Daniel Fridman won first three games, but then suddenly lost in completely winning position against Latvian Meskovs, but still shared first place after first day with Kovalenko who also lost to Meskovs with three points.
Next day I helped Fridman in the following game.
Before last round Kovalenko was ahead of Fridman and had white pieces. In last moment already clearly winning position some drama happened and eventually Fridman was the winner.
There are a lot of tournaments going on around the World. Recently I got my eye on the supertournament in Norway and the Americas Continental Championship in Medellin Columbia.
The elite or supertournaments have the same participants over and over again. The qualification to these tournaments are only by invitation. The tournaments are very boring. The Italian game is the most popular opening. I even do not try any more to understand the subtlities of these opening positions. In Norway the biggest sensation was that the reigning World Champion did not win the tournament. Instead Aronian won. Bid deal, next time some other player, if not Magnus, is going to win. Nobody particular suprized me. Still Kramnik did. He is and was famous of his sense of danger. Somehow after winning excellent game against Magnus he immediately lost equal endgame to Maxime Lagrave in the very next round. Still these two games were interesting battles and were commentated everywhere were not equal to what happened in his last round game against Giri. I cannot recall such a defeat in 20 moves in such high level tournament. Giri did not lose in some sharp Sicilian line, but he was carried away in the some modest opening shceme. Kramnik has some poisoness ideas time to time, but still how the player with rocket high rating can manage to lose in 20 moves?
The other tournament I was following was the American Continental Championship in Medellin. My good friend Alexander Shabalov was among the participants. He unfortunately had very mediocre tournament. The youngsters are coming and taking over. Especially Jorge Cori from Peru. He is definitely already a good material for supertournaments. He only needs to raise his ELO rating to over 2750, but even this might be not enough. The rating is one criteria, but he of course has his chances to win the next World Cup in Georgia this September. He has not only chess talent, but also knows how to shake of the balance his opponents. In the following position in dry endgame positon which certainly is a draw he stroke with unexpected b4 and his opponent lost the drawish endgame.
The winner of the tournament by tie-break was 16 years old Sam Sevian from United States. He had some successes recently, but I do not like his too academic style of play. This worked perfectly in Continental Championship, but we need to consider that it was one of the strongest in recent years, but the level of chess in American Continent is not comparable to Eureopean or Asian chess. It is unchanged at least for last 30 years when I was around. Some stars are evolving time to time, but in general the overall level of play is not very high.
Summer is in full swing and many chess tournaments are ahead. I hope to see and cover some of the interesting moments soon.
The tournament was held on the first weekend of March in Jurmala Latvia. On Friday there was a blitz tournament followed with the rapid on next two days. The blitz tournament ended with a surprising victory by the tournament organizer Alexey Shirov. The rapid was won by rating favorite Vladimir Onischuk from Ukraine. There were a lot of interesting games in rapid. I started well winning against strong grandmasters Daniel Fridman and Loek Van Wely in the first day. In the second day I had winning advantage against Onischuk in round seven which was crucial for me. After that disappointment I could not win a single game and finished in tenth place.
Loek Van Wely outplayed Arturs Neiksans, but in time scramble lost control.
Igor Kovalenko one of the pretournament favorites was punished by veteran Evgeny Sveshnikov.
In rapid chess some very strange games may be found. Alexey Aleksandrov from Belorussia created very funny ending against Victor Laznicka.
Ivanchuk won the rapid World Championship in Doha at the end of last year.
I first played against Vassily in 1986. In 1988 he was already rated among the top ten in the World. He is still there today. At age of 47 he is still one of the most unpredicted player around, he can win as we saw in Doha, but he can lose as well. I was lucky to beat him in several occasions. Most notably in Delhi where the famous chair incident occured.
In Doha Ivanchuk controlled his nerves and adding extra credit to his title he won convincingly against Word number one Magnus Carlsen. The game was so one sided, that if you do not know who were playing you might not to pay attention to the game at all. Just one professional running over not so strong player. This is it. It matters how you win or lose. Magnus definately got very uppset and later lost to Ivanchuk in blitz as well. You may follow the live game here.
The blitz game won by Ivanchuk was also very instructive.
Vassily Ivanchuk never became a World Champion and most likely he never does, but he still has his moments.
The 8th festival in London took place in Olympia conference center in Kensington.
There were several events including the supertournament, FIDE Open and the Super Rapidplay. Just before the event I had a training camp with my friend Alexander Shabalov in Estonia. The plan was to prepare for the outcoming US Championship. He also insisted to get some practise. The London festival looked like a good place to participate.
Shabalov is a really devoted chess player and also a coach. My best tournaments are definately over and I did not expect any suprises in London as well. The festival gathered a lot of various chess people and also many senior players took part. In Super Rapidplay next to me John Nunn was playing. We played in the first Word Cup tournament series together at the end of eighties last century.
The FIDE Open had over two hundred players. I started well, winning my first three games. My best game was from round three, where I punished my opponent for too creative opening play.
Meanwhile Shabalov was doing fine as well. He won first four games and was a sole leader. The crucial encounter with the future winner took place in round five.
It was not only about overestimating his position, but the lack of sensing the danger of loosing. There is one player who has this feeling and his name is Vladimir Kramnik. This is not my discovery, but years ago my second Russian coach Vladimir Yurkov explained this to me. In the very next round Shabalov lost winning position to Smirin.
Shabalov has his bright moments as well, when in round four he beat an other ELO favorite.
I missed my chanses in rounds 6 to 8. First I had very good chances to win in round six and seven drawing both games and finally in round eight I lost very promising position.
The Super Rapidplay was won by a women player. It is second big suprise in my knowledge when women player is winning a big Open tournament. Years ago the middle sister of Polgar’s Zsofia won in 1989 the Rome Open with 8,5 points out of 9.
Gunina had some luck, but it was obvious that her opponents were not feeling well playing against her.
Shabalov won first five games in the first day. In round five he had is revenge against Smirin. I started with 4,5 points drawning Bacrot in round five. Next day Shabalov lost again to Bacrot, but finally he finished with 8 points. I lost to Howell in very disapointing game in round eight. In the last round I needed to win to catch up with some prize winners, but was as black against super solid Erik Blomquist and finally I lost in drawish endgame. Still I was satisfied with my overall play. Everybody can win!
In Pühajarve at the last weekend of November was held the strongest handicap tournament ever. It was 17th in a row thanks to the former Estonian PM Mr. Tiit Vahi. The venue was as usual the Pühajarve Spa.
This year 12 grandmasters were among participants. Previous winner Alexei Shirov was a clear favorite and he won again. The tournament schedule was 35 games in three days. On the second day there were in total 20 rounds. Shirov might consider himself as a veteran, but yours truly and other GM-s who may participate already in the official senior World championship were not up to the task.
Still all the players had their bright moments. The field was impressive not only because of the chess legends like Robert Hübner or Alexander Beljavsky with whom I already played nearly 30 years ago. Young players like Swedesh champion Erik Blomquist and Estonian hope Ottomar Ladva were among favorites as well. The time control was 20 minutes which was devided among players relative to their group. Weakest players had 18 minutes againts grandmasters. There were no increment and in some games the two minutes left for the stronger player was not enough. The tournament spirit was friendly and nobody complained, so the arbiters had an easy job.
In the next game Shirov worked nicely with his queen and knight.
Because of the time control a lot of mistakes were made even by very strong players.
Kovalenko tried too hard against Shirov and lost in time in the winning position.
However Kovalenko was lucky in the next game.
My best game was probably next one.
Külaots showed good preparation in the following game.
Ottomar Ladva had a good training opportunity, however he was not satisfied with his result. Too many blunders in winning positions.
We always wonder why someone is successful in chess. The rating should say everything about the ranking before the tournament. However the Chigorin memorial was won second year straight by local player Kirill Alekseenko ahead of 26 higher rated players. I studied his games and made some conclusions. First, he is very good in a small battle, meaning he can calculate very well the small tricky lines. He has his own opening repertoire. All together he is a very good practical player. I do not know only how fast he plays. His style is very similar to Wishy Anand. He is not very deep however. If he can find how to dig deeper into the game he might become next Nepo.
What about others. There are and always were a lot of young talents around. I do not think it makes any sense to praise them. First you need to become a man to see how much fight you really have. Chess is a sport and to foresee the future of today’s prodigies is not possible. The veteran players, only Kamsky perfomed well, in my opinion over his expected value. The playing conditions were difficult. The record number of players were all playing in one hall which definitely was too small. Anyway it was an Open tournament not a supertournament.
Chess is still very popular in Russia. The traditional festival in Saint Petersburg saw record number of chess players. The festival started with blitz tournament on Friday October 14th. Total 13 rounds of chess and nearly 300 players. The participants were around the Word. From Brazilia to China. Still not so many players from EU.
From Baltic states only myself and Ottomar Ladva. Nothing to do with politics. Just the tournaments in Russia are very strong and to count for prize money you need to play very well. Half professionals, the players who just enjoy chess still prefer to play in other tournaments. For chess holiday people are looking for open tournaments in Spain instead of Russia. Still if you are serious about chess you should go to Russia. I was just playing the blitz checking my current form.
The time control was the usual FIDE prefered three minutes plus two second increment. My games went up and down which is fine with blitz. Still my old mistake, playing too quickly cost me few points. As a veteran player I was used to play blitz without increment and two seconds is enough to punish the mistakes on board. Typical game was against Sjugirov.
Crucial game for me was against ELO favorite Lu Shanglei. I was white and just blundered in a good position. Draw in the last round could not help to get higher then 19th place. Still consicering the tournament took place on my birthday I was happy with my overall result.
The traditional chess festival in Latvia took place in the first weekend of august this year in Liepaja . The Open, the blitz, the supertournament, the tennis tournament were all called out. Because of the weather conditions the tennis tournament was cancelled. Not like in Biel Chess Festival where it was also cancelled, but due to no interest. In Liepaja yours truly was really disappointed because recently I had some preparation especially for the tennis tournament.
The Open which was qualification to the super has impressive field. The reason was the RTU Open which started right after Liepaja. I just had participated few days back in Paikuse rapid tournament where I got 6,5 points out 8 finishing second after Neiksans and I had some hopes to qualify in Liepaja.
In the start the rating favorite Fedoseev from Russia showed no mercy. After first day he had 5 points out five. I had four points. Next day we had whopping 8 games to play. The time control was 15 minutes plus 5 second increment and the rounds were scheduled one in every hour. This violates FIDE handbook rules where maximum hours allowed playing chess nonstop is if I am not mistaken seven hours. Endurance is a must to be successful in these competitions. Next day I started well and I had 6,5 points after 8 rounds, but then I met Fedoseev.
I did recover, but in the final rounds I first lost to Neiksans and then to Lintchevski. Against Neiksans my opening choise was not good and he played a good game. Against the future winner of the supertournament in the last round I missed a simple win and then went astray and lost in few moves.
The supertournament was too much for Fedoseev after his winning streak in the Open. Still some other players could manage the tiredness of the Open notably Linchevski and Neiksans who did not lose a single game. Khalifman as usual did not lose also a single game, but he did not win one either.
Before the supertournament and the team competition there was a blitz tournament. I got somewhere little bit angry. How many winning games you can lose? Still I lost very promising position against Neiksans, yes again. Then I won all my final round games and won the tournament. I could not feel anything back then. Probably I won too many blitz tournaments during my career, but it is nice to add this one. Liepaja Blitz tournament had a little bit different time control then usual, four minutes and two second increment instead of three minutes. I tried to play solid positional chess and this was part of my success. Typical game was against Meskovs.
The team competition was for real chess aficionados and who could not play the other tournaments in various reasons. In my team I had teammates among others European Chess Union president Zurab Azmaiparashvili and former Iceland number one Margeir Petursson not to mention Latvian finance minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola. Our team Baltika finished second in tiebreaks.
The festival was great accomplishment of the man behind it Aris Ozolins and we hope to see Liepaja again next year.
Chess has a long history in Iran. Many believe that the game originated from here. The Iranian chess federation was very busy this year organizing different tournaments . One of them was the prestigious FIDE Women Grand Prix tournament in Tehran. However the most interesting event took place in the Anzali Free Zone . The event took place from July 9-21 and was opened by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and former World Champion Anatoly Karpov. The idea was to make a first and not the last chess event as a training opportunity for their young and for the Iranian Olympic team.
The visiting stars were ten grandmasters from various age and from different countries. The Iranian team’s captain was experienced Ehsan Ghaemmaghami who at age of 33 was by far the oldest player in his team. The competition was organized as 10-round Scheveningen match between two teams of 10 players each.
Short Nigel D
Ghaem Maghami Ehsan
Mousavi Seyed Khalil
It was very clear from the start which team is going to win. The overall margin should be bigger, but the visiting stars missed a lot of opportunities. Only happy visitor was Nigel Short who was very determined and finished with 8,5 points. He however was not the winner. 15-year-old Parham Mahhsoodloo rated before the event 2501 was Iran’s most successful player, finishing the event with 8.0/10 and an incredible performance of 2862. This earned him his third grandmaster norm and thus the title. The overall result was 64.5 -35.5 in favor of the World stars.
It was not my first experience to take part in such a event. In 1991 I was participant in the match between representatives of former Soviet Union and Spain. The match held in Logrono was a memorable one for me. I scored 10,5 out of 12 drawing last two games. Other experience I had was in Malaisa. The event took place in paradise island of Bali and I was the leader of the “Rest of the World” team. In both occasions in Spain and in Bali the organizers tried to entertain the visitors as much as possible.
This time in Iran I was the lowest rated player in our team and also the oldest. I was expecting the Bali like beach holiday. I was on the Caspian sea years ago in Baku and I was looking forward to enjoy it again. Our first accommodation was near the beach, but it appeared that the tournament venue was too far from our hotel. It took at least more than an hour by bus. This situation created our own Oliver Twist. He, Nigel Short, even did not care to ask the opinion of others, but demanded immediately other accommodation closer to the playing hall.
Unfortunately his request was granted next morning and we moved to the best hotel of city of Rasht. The playing venue was one of the Anzili free zone building complexes which was very fine, but it was still far from out hotel. Twice a day the bus trip was exhausting. Older players like yours truly missed a lot of winning positions at the end of the tournament.
In overall it seems to me that Iran has a lot of support for chess, sponsors etc. They can still improve the organization side of the chess life in general. Right now some of the players were little bit pessimistic to take another chess adventure to Iran in near future.
In my opinion if we consider the chess as hard work and if the players are well paid it is fine. Still usually the money in chess is so small and we are trying to mix it with holiday adventure or just fulfill our curiosity. Right now I had a lot of chess experience and I got very clear picture of Iranian players and I can predict their future. As a tourist I was on my own and because of the tight schedule, no free day, I am afraid I need one more visit to Iran. The organizers were sure that the second Star’s Cup takes place next year.