Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship ends with a tie

The Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship has just finished, and it ended

with a breathtaking tie. This event ran between December 27th and December 30th, the Frick Chemistry Laboratory of Princeton University in New Jersey.

As well as the Princeton team itself, a number of other American university teams attended the event, such as Yale. Yale is a university with a vibrant chess scene, and a well-attended chess club. This year, they put in a great performance at the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship, though they failed to make the top spot. The final result, indeed, was a tie. In the final round, wherein the championship was to be decided, UT Dallas and Webster University drew 2-2.

America has a grand tradition of intercollegiate competition in sports, and chess is no exception. The Pan-American Chess Championship is organised around a Fix Roster Swiss Tournament. In this setup, players are initially paired with other players of similar ability (and so, for instance, the best player in one team will play against the best player in the opposing team). Winners then play winners and losers play losers until the final, championship, round when players from the two teams who have made their way to the top of the tournament battle it out against each other.

The atmosphere at this event was one of great camaraderie between team members, as well as some serious competitiveness between teams. The Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship is also a FIDE-rated event, and some of the players in attendance this year from both UT Dallas and Webster University significantly boosted their ratings.

Armageddon comes to Russia

The news has been full of prophecies that Armageddon was due to hit us on December 21st. Luckily this did not happen. But in the world of chess, an Armageddon of a different kind hit a small village in Russia on Saturday December 29th. The Piterenka Rapid/Blitz tournament took place in the eponymous village of Piterenka in the Moscow area of Russia and featured an exciting ‘Armageddon’ game between Sergey Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk. One of the quirks of this event was that, as part of their prize, the winner is given a piece of land in Piterenka. This year, the winner was Grandmaster Karjakin, who, at the last rating was ranked the eighth best player in the world. Karkjakin is also the youngest Grandmaster ever, earning the title at the age of just twelve.

It was in the final, ‘Armageddon’ game between Karjakin and Grischuk that Karjakin secured the title. Though they make for extremely exciting and fast-paced chess, Armageddon games can be somewhat controversial among serious chess enthusiasts. Critics of the Armageddon setup sometimes argue that these games are engineered solely for entertainment, at the expense of solid rules, tactics, and strategy.

An Armageddon game involves a unique pair of rules. Firstly, the rules state that, in order to win the game, white must win outright whereas black needs only to attain a draw. Secondly, white is given more time (this almost always comprises an extra minute) to play than black.

Whatever your views, however, the play at Piterenka was fascinating, with Karjakan on his usual outstanding form.

Anton Korobov wins AICF-AAI Cup!

The winner of the AICF-AAI cup 2012 has recently been announced to be Anton Korobov. This result has surprised commentators, as Korobov began this tournament as a top seed. The player who was the top seed, the Polish Grandmaster Radoslaw Wojtaszek, who had been on something of a roll in the past few years, saw his ratings slip further and further down as the AICF-AAI Cup progressed.

This event in the UAE was characterised throughout by some daring and close-matched games. In a 0.5-0.5 game between Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Parimarjan Negi, for example, Wojtaszek moved his bishop at the last minute from d2 to c3. This creeping move helped to seal the final result in an endgame where tactics were all as each player was evenly matched with six pawns and a single bishop left to play with.

Ukranian Grandmaster and current Ukranian chess champion Korobov is sure to be delighted with his win. The past few years have been filled with ups and downs for Korobov. He was knocked out in the first round of the European Chess Championship in 2011 for instance, and yet came joint first (or second if the tiebreak scores are factored in) in the 2012 Aeroflot Open with Mateusz Bartel of Poland and Pavel Eljanov, a fellow Ukranian. With his clean, clear win in the AICF-AAI Cup, however, he has ended 2012 on an extremely strong note. Beating the top seed Wojtaszek and coming a full point ahead of the player who took second place in the AICF-AAI Cup, the one-time Russian chess champion Evgeny Alekseev, were great achievements for Korobov. As 2013 draws near, he has everything to gain, and his ratings look set to soar much higher than his most recent FIDE rating of 2702.

Christmas sum-up

It’s been a busy Christmas period in the chess world. Alexey Dreev took his second rapid title within a week, after finishing first in the Rapid Grand Prix of Russia 2012, immediately following his success at the European Rapid Championship. He beat Vladislav Artemiev 1.5-0.5 in the final, and is sure to be welcoming the chance to make it a triple now that the Aeroflot Open 2012 has been changed to a rapid tournament too.

Other News

The 50th Groningen Chess Festival is well underway in Holland. Favourites taking part include Alexander Kovchan, Robin Van Kampen, Zaven Andriasian and Sabino Brunello. Although Van Kampen took an early lead, Zaven Andriasian and Benjamin Bok have overtaken him as the tournament goes into its final days. Anything can happen, Michalik, Kovchan, Sipke and Pancevski all have a score of 5.0 by the 28th December, and Benjamin Bok of the Netherlands is the current leader.

World Cities Team Championship 2012

Al Ain, United Arab Emirates was the venue for the 2012 World Cities Team Championship. There were some surprises in the opening rounds with London being knocked out by the Swedish city of Lund, which saw the British GM Simon Williams’ French defence beaten by the Swede, Carlsson Pontus in 54 moves, and IM Axel Smith beating Zhou Yang Fan of Britain with a Sicilian defence game in 53 moves. Top seed Paris was also a shock early exit. In the quarter final stages, Baku was the first team to go through after defeating Wu Xi 3:1. Play commenced and Novi Sad beat Lund, Sweden to take their place in the semi finals, followed by Tashkent after their respective victory over Athens. Hoogveen beat Saratov to take the final semi final place. The day of the final arrived and, by the 28th it was down to two cities. Hoogveen and Baku played for the top two places, while Novi Sad and Tashkent played for the third place. Top place eventually went to Hoogveen who beat Baku 2.5-1.5 in the final, which saw a good win from Sergei Tiviakov. The results of the final were Giri 1/2 Safarli, then Rauf Mamedov 1/2 Sokolov and Sergei Tiviakof’s 1-0 win over Nidjat Mamedov, plus Durarbayli 1/2 Smeets. Novi Sad took a win on top board which earned them third place on tie break over Tashkent.

88th Hastings International Congress

The Sussex seaside town of Hasting is once more the setting for the Hastings International Congress which will take place from 28th December till the 6th January 2013. A favourite fixture, there will be a ten round Masters tournament, as well as a three day, five round Christmas Tournament, and other tournaments are scheduled, including a New Year Morning tournament, over five days and a New Year Afternoon tournament,. The event has attracted some top names, including British GM Simon Williams who will be looking for a good showing following London’s early departure from the World Cities. The Masters Tournament kicks off on the 28th, and is a chance to not only win titles but to qualify for FIDE ratings. The ratings go down to 1000, therefore anyone with an ECF 75 grade or over would be advised to participate, with the possibility of achieving a partial FIDE rating. Entry is free for masters and those players who are over 60 or under 21. With cash prizes to be won, as well as the Hornteye Brilliancy Prize, for which there is a trophy as well which the winner holds for a year.

The leading players in the 88th Hastings Masters on 28th December are Gawain Jones, Kaido Kulaots, Andrey Sumets, Sarunas Sulskis, Nick Pert and Mark Hebden.

88th Hastings Chess Congress begins on December 28th!

On December 28th, the 88th Hastings Chess Congress will begin in the historic city of Hastings, UK. The event is set to end on January 6th, and it looks like it is going to be a very interesting set of games. The Hastings Chess Congress is always a great event, as the organisers are committed to providing a combination of serious games between acclaimed chess stars from around the world and some more playful and fun games in the evenings. A FIDE-rated Blitz tournament is also promised for this year’s Hastings Chess Congress.
Some of the top players arriving in Hastings include Gawain

Jones, the English Grandmaster and winner of a number of individual and team events (including the London Chess Classic 2010) who is currently rated at 2644. Jones is currently the highest rated player in the 88th Hastings Chess Congress: we must wait and see if he takes the first prize this year, though. Another great player coming to Hastings this time is Andrey Sumets of the Ukraine. Sumets tends to play the Queen’s Pawn Game (which runs A40 A41 E00) or to open with the Slav formation, marking him out as somewhat different from the majority of chess players.

Last year’s congress at Hastings was won by Sengupta Deep of India. English GM David Howell put in a credible performance at the 87th Hastings Chess Congress, too, and he returns to the 88th Congress as the second best rated player after Gawain Jones.
PGN representations of the games will be available on the official website of the 88th Hastings Chess Congress. The organisers aim to update the PGN games and summaries of each day’s play on a very regular basis, so make sure that you tune in to hear the latest on the 88th Hastings Chess Congress!


The 42nd Rilton Cup has begun in Stockholm!

Following the Rilton Cup this fortnight is a great way of linking the Christmas and New Year holiday periods for chess fans. The 42nd Rilton Cup has just begun: it takes place in Stockholm from December 27th 2012 to January 5th 2013.
In actual fact, there are three linked events going on in Stockholm between these dates. The Rilton Cup itself is open to all chess players with an ELO rating (or equivalent) of, or over, 2200. Players whose ElO ratings fall below this benchmark can nevertheless enter the ‘Rilton ELo’ event, which runs concurrently with the Rilton Cup. Both the Rilton Cup and the Rilton Elo take the form of nine-round Swiss tournaments. A third event, the Rilton Open, can be entered by any player from a Nordic country who has a national rating which is lower that 1800. All of these events look to be fun, friendly, and exciting to watch.
Last year, the Rilton Cup was won by Aleksandr Shimanov. Born in 1992, Shimanov is a Grandmaster from St Petersburg in Russia. His win with 7.5 points was very clear-cut. The player who took second place, Swedish Grandmaster Cicak Slavko, was a point behind Shimanov, having gained 6.5 points.
This year, the Rilton Cup has an extra quirky twist on offer. A hundred years ago, Stockholm played host to the 1912 Olympics. In order to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of these Olympics, the organisers of the Rilton Cup will give every chess player one of the medals belonging to an Olympic athlete from 1912.


Christmas Eve sees a new Russian Rapid Champion Crowned!

On Christmas Eve, Alexey Dreev was crowned the Russian Rapid Champion, after an event which took place over two days. Aged 43, Dreev is currently ranked as the 46th best player in the world by FIDE, with a rating of 2654. His highest ever rating was that which he attained last year, when he rose to 2711. A Russian Grandmaster of long-standing prowess, and with a number of prestigious victories behind him, Dreev may yet attain even higher ratings if his performance at the Russian Rapids i anything to go by.
Employing a dexterous Slav opening formation, Dreev beat his formidable opponent Vladislav Artemiev in the final of this year’s Russian Rapids, gaining a clear victory. Born in 1998, IM Artemiev is much younger than his fellow Russian Dreev. He has a rapid rating of 2536, marking him out as one of the greatest rising stars in chess today.
Dreev is certainly no stranger to wins in the rapids. His most recent victory, before the Russian Rapids, was at the European Rapid Championships last week (December 15th and 16th, to be precise). Here, once more, Dreev took the top place in a stunning final game. Dreev’s victory here was due to his superior play in the tie-breaker. This aside, the first prize was shared four ways, between Dreev, Sergei Rublevsky, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Alexei Shirov.
It has now been decided that there will be an annual Russian Rapid Championship for men and women, and potentially a concurrent blitz event as well. The first such rapid event is due to take place between May 20 and May 23 2013, so watch this space!

Round off the year by tuning in to the 50th Groningen Chess Festival

he 50th Groningen Chess Festival is now in full swing. Having begun on December 21st, this event is set to end on December 30th, and is a perfect way to round off the chess year. The players will be taking a break on Christmas day, and then resuming play up until the 30th. Live coverage of this event is available via the event’s website, so if you are looking for some exciting chess news over the Christmas period, make sure that you tune in to these updates to find out what’s going on in Groningen!

The main part of the event will take the form of a Swiss Tournament in nine rounds, meaning that, as far as is possible, each player will be matched against an opponent of similar ability at each stage of the tournament, with no two players playing each other more than once. The top seeds viiting Groningen this year include Armenian Grandmaster Zaven Andriasian (who comes fresh from his achievement of second place in the Armenian Chess Championship this year) and Italian Grandmaster Sabino Brunello, who tends to favour the Ruy Lopez and Sicilian openings depending on whether he is playing black or white respectively. Brunello also sometimes plays the relatively rare Scotch Game formation, indeed he used this to great effect a number of times in the World Junior Championships in 2006.

One of the great things about annual the Gronigen Chess Festival is the way in which it attracts new top seeds each year. This year, the main players to look out for are Andriasian and Brunello, as well as other chess stars such as Robin van Kampen. Last year, however, the tournament was won by Ukranian Alexander Kovchan and American Robert Hess. Though Kovchan has entered the Groningen tournament again this year, the competition has changed, with new top seeds presnting him with new and different challenges.

Check out the Al Ain Chess Classic for its fantastic players and unique rules!

The Al Ain Chess classic 2012 is running from December 22 to December 28th this year. It is hosted in the United Arab Emirates by the Al Ain Chess Club, and is often noted by commentators for its intriguing system of rules.

The Al Ain Chess Classic operates according to the relatively rare Swiss Tournament system. A Swiss Tournament is a series of chess games which endeavours to pit players against opponents of similar strength. The first round usually pairs up opponents according to their ratings, however some Swiss Tournaments also pair players at random. Then, in subsequent rounds, players will be paired up with players who have scored similarly to them in the first round. Swiss Tournaments also attempt to ensure that no two players play each other more than once. It is also common in the Swiss Tournament system for measures to be taken so that each player alternates between playing Black and White, or at least as far as is possible.

However this will be a Swiss tournament with a difference, as the Al Ain version of the Swiss tournament also incorporates a number of additional rules and provisions. For example, chess players who were eliminated early on in the World Cities Chess Championship are allowed to enter the Al Ain Chess Classic and to carry the points they earned at the World Cities event into the Al Ain event. Other rules in place in the Al Ain Chess Classic include the prohibition against offering draws until Black has made its thirtieth move, and the fact that all moves must be made within a time-span of one and a half hours, allowing 30 seconds for each move to take place.

The question of who will win the $30, 000 prize money at the Al Ain Chess Classic is relatively open. The two top seeds participating in the tournament, Dimitri Komarov and Tigran Kotanjian both have exactly the same rating: 2518. Perhaps these two esteemed Grandmasters will end up battling each other neck and neck for the title this year!

The AICF-AAI Cup has begun!

On Tuesday December 21, one of the final events of this year’s chess calendar officially began. The AICF-AAI Cup is hosted and provided with its acronym by the All India Chess Federation and the officers of the Asian, Australasian, and Indian chess federation. This year’s event, which is due to draw to a close on December 30th, is taking place amid the historic architecture of the bustling metropolos of New Delhi.

Round one saw some exciting chess games played, with stars such as 25 year old Polish Grandmaster Radoslav Wojtaszek who came a stunning second place in the World Chess Championships earlier this year, and Anton Korobov, this year’s Ukranian chess champion. Round one has left all to play for still, as there were a number of nail-biting draws. Wojtaszek drew with his oppopnent Parimarjan Negi, whilst the two top Indian players Abhijeet Gupta and K Sasikiran drew when they played each other too. Moreover, Russian player Evgeny Alekseev drew in his game with Korobov.

It is going to be exciting to watch Gupta and Saskikiran play on their home turf. Both are exciting and intriguing players. Gupta, for instance, well known for opening the Slav Defence (which begins d4 d5 and then continues c4 c6) and its rarer variant the Semi-Slav when he plays with the white pieces, has won a number of medals in chess championships across the world.

The AICF-AAI Cup is set to provide just over a week of fascinating chess games and analysis. Luckily, live commentaries and videos and other types of update are posted on the official AICF-AAI Cup website, so make sure that you tune in to get the latest news on what is going to be a brilliant way to round off the chess year!