Expect to see regular contributions about the goings-on at the Calgary Chess Club.
All told a near record of 34 players joined the tournament, including 18 juniors, 11 adults and 5 seniors. The average rating of all 32 rated players was 1692, with the top Section A average at 2207. Reviewing the results in several sections of the event, it appears as though volunteering your time at the Alberta Chess Association and Calgary Chess Club ends up improving your playing strength as well. Bonus!
Southern Alberta Open
The 2019 edition of the Southern Alberta Open took place in Calgary on the weekend of November 23-24 with a record 42 participants. Ten players made the trek from out of town, including Gordon McCall who came all the way from Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Pairings for the first round of the event were mailed out to players the day before, made possible because all but four pre-registered online. That allowed your Tournament Director to start play well on time, since the last minute entries had to settle for inferior pairings amongst themselves. Next time, perhaps, they too will take advantage of online registration!
The 2019 Banff Open had an exciting finish. On top board Leduc's WIM Agnieszka Matras Clement battled defending champion IM Mark Ginsburg from Arizona. If Agnieszka could win, she would not only claim the event outright but also collect a $1,000 Fischer Prize for a perfect score! On the other hand, Mark Ginsburg looked poised to win his third Banff Open in a row, no doubt aided by the organizer's promise to supply the winner with a bobble head, inspired by the Society of Chess Aficionados two bobble heads that went viral last year.
Junior Battle of Alberta
The more than two hundred point Elo rating difference should be easily decisive, with only the actual margin of victory for Team South in question.
The annual Junior Battle of Alberta took place in Red Deer on September 28, 2019 with defending champions Team South once again the favourites to win. They had prevailed 17-7 in 2018, and were this year even stronger. The entire roster on all twelve boards was composed of Calgary Chess Club members! Aditya Raninga wasn't available, but a strong contingent averaging Elo 1779 faced a Team North with an average Elo of just 1555.
Battle of Alberta
For me the Battle of Alberta started sometime in May when I offered Omid Malek help with the organization of the tournament. Gathering historical results going back to 1996 uncovered that North and South each won nine events until 2013, followed by a run of five consecutive wins by team North. Team North, in fact, has utterly dominated the entire last decade.
My lofty if not impossible goal was to bring the Cup back to Calgary. Step one was to sign up two of our strongest players and Battle of Alberta faithfuls FM Gary Ng and FM Ian Findlay. Unfortunately neither was available due to prior commitments. FM Alex Yam on the other hand, in spite of a long period of inactivity, agreed to join the team over a cup of coffee.
It is possible to trace by way of last winter's Tournament of Legends Blitz event and the Kings vs Princes competition that followed it, the return of several very strong Masters to active play. Some have done so after decades of inactivity, and their success at the Battle of Alberta provides ample proof that new programs at the Calgary Chess Club are paying dividends.
From Amateur to Master
The first From Amateur to Master class, sponsored for free by the Calgary Chess Club, took place on Sunday September 8, 2019 and attracted 13 students. The instructor Knut Neven is an experienced National Master who has been a three time Correspondence World Championship finalist, top 10 finisher at multiple national championships, and the author of numerous instructional DVDs and articles for ChessBase of Germany. He was also the editor of Canada's national chess magazine En Passant for five years between 1998 and 2003.
In the course, the instructor lectured about the epistemology of improving rating and becoming a Master. The class featured analysis of several positions and games on a demonstration board with an emphasis on learning methodology rather than the specifics, i.e. tactics, openings, etc...
Neven also offered advice about valuable resources, books and otherwise, as well as the types to avoid. A major focus of the session was on what material to study and how to work most effectively. The course provided an invaluable resource for anyone who wishes to rapidly improve their chess and learn how to teach themselves.
Kings vs Princes
Saturday brings the long awaited Battle of Alberta, followed by the Calgary Chess Club Annual General Meeting on September 24, 2019.
Aditya finally put an end to Fred's winning streak by converting a favourable rook and pawn ending where his two advanced pawns were stronger than Fred's three pawns. Anand won the rubber match against Roy, closing out their games with 3/5, and giving the Princes a rare victory over the Kings this week.
Calgary International IM
After much drama and adventure, young Ian Zhao finally landed in second place with 7/10 and a 2538 performance! Along the way he collected a FIDE FM title, and a first IM norm on his path towards the International Master title. A fantastic performance at any age, and one that we most heartily congratulate him for!
Reports on recently finished events at the club and elsewhere. We try to cover major tournaments with participants from the Calgary Chess Club.
I was pretty excited about the tournament, but not expecting our team to win a prize. Our average rating was after all relatively low, as the young and inexperienced team members consisted of Anand Rishi Chandra, Hemant Srinivasan and Jerry Ming. We were underdogs for sure!
Grand Tour Leg #3
Old and New
As predicted yesterday, the 2019 Grand Tour came to a close with FM Dale Haessel claiming another crown. Behrooz Ebrahim Shirazi came second, followed by Roham Eslahpazir in third, and then Andrew Chen and Roy Yearwood in fourth and fifth, respectively. Top U2000 went to Brian Miller and the U1750 prize to Nerio Sibulo. Avery Li claimed the U1500 prize, while the Unrated trophy went to Rex Yumen.
Grand Tour Leg #2
The event featured a total of 22 players, notably missing FM Dale Haessel who is presently away and competing at the World Seniors Championship. He played only three of the five games. Instead FM Fred South joined the Grand Tour and thus became the highest rated player in the competition. With Behrooz Ebrahim Shirazi also joining, the overall Grand Tour title this year looks up for grabs!
Grand Tour Leg #1
The Finish Line
FM Dale Haessel defeated Anand Rishi Chandra in the last round to secure victory. Meanwhile Fred South, one of Calgary's all-time top players, drew his game against Behrooz Ebrahim Shirazi. The remaining legs of the Grand Tour promise to be competitive, with no less than seven players rated over 2000 joining the chase for the overall top prize of $450. In total, $1200 are up for grabs. The Grand Tour Leg #2 starts October 22, 2019.
Eric Hansen Classic
At the Finish
The 2nd annual Eric Hansen Classic, traditionally a great event for our junior members who are on their summer break without a worry about school or homework, concluded September 10, 2019. Young Anand Rishi Chandra, who is just 10 years old, won the tournament for the second year in succession! Just behind Anand in 2nd place was Avery Li, and thus it was the juniors who dominated the final summer event in our calendar.
Chicago Illinois Open
I was looking for a tournament over Labour Day and had a myriad of choices. In Canada there was Toronto, Winnipeg or Vancouver. South of the border was Portland, Santa Clara, San Jose and Chicago. Among my selection criteria are good hotel rates, easy to get to, and a strong field. Chicago offered room rates at less than USD $100 and was accessible with a direct flight. That beat out runner-up Portland, where a slower time control of 40/120+30 followed by G/30+10 wasn't to my taste. Five pre-registered Grandmasters and a larger prize fund also weighed in Chicago's favour.
Alberta Over/Under 1800
The 2019 ACA sponsored Alberta Over/Under 1800 featured the standard two section format and, as usual, produced a good number of fighting games. Steve Sklenka kept the event running smoothly, while Dale Haessel produced the pairings and distributed the prizes. The winner of the Over 1800 section was FM Ian Findlay from Banff, Alberta. Tied for second were Edmonton's Ralph Arruebarrena and David Miller. FM Dale Haessel's lukewarm recent form continued as he unexpectedly lost a total of three games.
Canadian Seniors Championship
The 2019 Canadian Seniors Championship took place August 2-5, in Kitchener Waterloo, at City Hall. Two sections of 50+ and 65+ were joined by a sectioned tournament going on at the same time.
After winning in 2018 with a perfect 7/7 I knew I had my work cut out for me, given this year's 4th seed ranking compared to 1st seed at last year's tournament. The event gets stronger every year, marking this year the strongest field in the history of the 50+ section.
Bobby Fischer Memorial
The second annual Bobby Fischer Memorial tournament concluded with a familiar FM Dale Haessel victory, scoring 4.5/5, which is in fact a perfect result considering he took a bye in order to compete at the Canadian Open in Regina! Second went to NM Kim Nguyen with a solid 4/5 performance, dropping his only game to Dale in the 4th round.
Calgary International Open
On day two Anand did not defend accurately in a slightly inferior minor piece ending and lost to Kevin Qin. That meant missing out on becoming the sole event leader. That left the door open for Ebrahim to take top spot with a final round win over Kevin. Kevin Qin notably played well throughout, and remained in contention for the entire tournament.
Canadian Youth Championship
Ian Zhao for example remained unbeaten, won first place in the U14 Section with 6/7, and showed great maturity in dominating tough opposition.
The Canadian Youth Championship has always been a very challenging event, and this time was no different. The tournament took place in Regina, Saskatchewan from July 7-10, 2019. One thing we definitely noticed was that players from Alberta are now competing on at least equal footing with their counterparts from the larger and formerly dominant centers of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver etc.
Calgary Chess Club Championship
In round three Hafiz Karmali failed to stand his ground against Anand Rishi Chandra, which left the talented youngster with a perfect 3/3 and closest to taking the championship. But that margin did not prove to be quite enough, and our congratulations instead go out to FM Dale Haessel, who outlasted 20 other contestants in becoming the 2019 Calgary Chess Club Champion!
Edmonton International GM
American GM Steven Zierk won the tournament with 6.5/9 followed by Philippine GM Mark Paragua and Canadian IM Nikolay Noritsyn with 6/9 each. Top Albertan was IM Edward Porper with 5.5/9, while FM Ian Findlay was the top finisher representing the Calgary Chess Club. Ian notably scored the top upset of the event by defeating GM Alexander Shabalov. Shabalov, who has won or tied for first no less than seven times in the USA Open, was off form this time and had to settle for 4.5/9 and a tie for 5th through 8th.
Calgary International Qualifier
Alberta Open champion and runner-up in the Steinitz Menchik Classic, NM Ian Zhao (2310) finished first with 5/5. Ian is only 14 years of age and amassed a huge 2477 performance in the process! 31 players participated in the event, which was directed by Dale Haessel.
Canadian Chess Challenge
From twelve players representing Alberta at the 2019 Canadian Chess Challenge held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from May 19-20, no fewer than eight came from Calgary. Credit and recognition for this wonderful achievement must go to all levels of our city's youth chess groups and volunteers! Our heartfelt congratulations go out to everyone who made it to Vancouver this weekend. Your success is our success!
Grand Prix Leg #4
This year witnessed the continuing strong performance of young Anand Rishi Chandra who finished second overall, and the emergence of Maxim Vasic who came third. Brian Miller managed a string of consistent results in all four events to finish fourth overall and laying claim to the U2000 top prize. Andrew Chen and Paul Wang, the recently crowned Canadian grade 7 champion, came in fifth and sixth respectively.
Omid Malek persevered with an impressive 4/5 total to convincingly win the 2019 Alberta Closed! Along the way, Omid defeated top seeds Gary Ng and Rafael Arruebarrena as well as recent World Seniors Championship participant Dale Haessel. Alberta Junior and Alberta Open Champion Ian Zhao, who is just 14 years of age, came in second with 3.5/5 followed by Edmonton's Rafael Arruebarrena at 2.5/5 in third.
The 2019 Alberta Reserves saw Michael Decaire, Mike Zeggelaar and Jacob Collins tie for first at 3.5/5, with Michael Decaire of Mirror, Alberta the winner on tiebreak by virtue of his last round victory over Cally Ntete. Victor Han travelled here from Brooks, came very close to winning it all, but missed out with a loss to Jacob Collins in last round. Tim Kowalyk had an exceptional tournament starting with a nearly perfect 3/4 but had to withdraw in the last round and thus forfeit a very good chance to win the overall title. Maxim Bryuzgin took the U1400 category, followed by the equally quickly improving Jerry Ming.
Grand Prix Leg #3
The event concluded with FM Dale Haessel securing top spot with a draw against Paul Wang, and thereby also winning the overall Grand Prix for the second year in a row. Congratulations! Elsewhere Andrew Chen also drew with Anand Rishi Chandra, while Andre Angelo Tolentino won over Maxim Vasic and Hemant Srinivasan beat Ali Husain.
Calgary Seniors Championship
FM Ian Findlay won the ACA sponsored 2019 Calgary Seniors Championship with 4.5/5 after a crucial win with the White pieces over FM Dale Haessel in the fourth round. Dale, who late last year represented Canada with an impressive result at the World Seniors Championship in Bled, Slovenia, finished in 2nd place ahead of Brad Booker in 3rd. Gordon Campbell, the 1976 Alberta Closed and 1977 Alberta Open champion, ended in 4th followed by Arthur Milne who has shown good form lately.
2018 Banff Open Armageddon Playoff
The 2018 Banff Open saw a 3 way tie for first place between IM Mark Ginsburg, FM Ian Findlay and Omid Malek with 5/6. Only after IM Thanh Nha Duong let a winning position slip into a lost position, moving him from clear winner to 4th place with 4.5 and out of the money. We were very fortunate to have an anonymous donor contribute $500 to the 1st prize, on the condition that if there was a tie, there would be a playoff for the extra cash!
Steinitz Menchik Classic
The third edition of the annual Steinitz Menchik Classic concluded last weekend at the Calgary Chess Club. The tournament was conducted in two sections with a total of 44 participants, including some who traveled from Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Tournament of Legends Blitz
Ted won the Best Hair contest hands down, while Rob Hawkes won Best Tie with Steve Sklenka offering the only competition. Probably Steve's decision to purchase this accessory at Woolworths had something to do with the outcome!
The South brothers offered a suspicious sibling draw in the last round that is currently being investigated by a hastily established ethics committee. Meanwhile the Deep Rust Award remains up for grabs, with Gordon Campbell claiming the inside lane after the first of two sessions.
Grand Prix Leg #2
After the emergence last year of young Anand Rishi Chandra, this year Maxim Vasic has added his name to the list of challengers for Dale Haessel's dominance of our Grand Prix events. Maxim seems to add rating points to his cache with every outing, and promises to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming months and years. This time around Dale actually faced more difficult opposition, and so the unfolding storyline likely still has many more twists and turns in store for us.
2018 World Seniors Championship
I recently travelled to Bled, Slovenia to play in the World Seniors Over 50 tournament. Although I didn't play well, I still managed to gain 27 rating points. Fellow Canadian Michael Dougherty gained 52 points. Overall the Canadians gained a tonne of rating points out of the event. I always remember GM Joel Benjamin saying he was underrated. When asked he stated that everyone is underrated in North America.
Anything goes! We are looking for contributions with an instructional angle. Played a nice game lately? Travelled to an interesting event out of town? Read a good book on the Catalan? Let the rest of the members know about it. And you don't have to be a top player either to publish something worthwhile. Even better if you include an annotated ChessBase file with your article. Got an idea?
Attacking the Scheveningen
Many players focus almost exclusively on opening preparation in their chess studies. The idea of catching an opponent in a prepared line and scoring an easy point is an appealing one, even if reality isn't quite so accommodating. That opening advantage and the final result are usually separated by several hours and dozens of moves where anything can happen...
Maybe you have an idea for a regular column? Let's talk!
Diary of a Woodpusher
I have decided to change my approach to chess studies a bit. An experiment if you will. To put it bluntly, and kindly, in the past my efforts were rather scattered. I would look at a little of this and a little of that, but bouncing from idea to idea does not allow the targeted concepts to take root. Which, perhaps, has resulted in the broken expert player you see before you today!
And so I am resetting the table. Instead of flitting from topic to topic, it is time to immerse myself in one aspect of the game for a prolonged period of time and really understand the concept in full. The topic in question is pawn structures.
I have confessed before to having holes in my chess education and, frankly, the biggest gaps involve my understanding of pawn structures. The whole game revolves around whatever skeleton of pawns we dangle out there, and the more familiar you are with them the better.
Diary of a Woodpusher
Pins and Kisses
Greetings fellow chess players! First and foremost I'd like to extend a massive thank you to Calgary Chess Club President Steve Sklenka and our webmaster Neven ... for this opportunity to contribute to the site. Steve, you have been exceedingly gracious and accommodating. Neven, thank you for all the help and advice, for proofing the articles and publishing my drivel for all the world to see!
The crux of everything I want to discuss boils down to how we can improve? I would like to visit the topic of plateaus and how to push beyond them. From time to time I will wax philosophic about fantastic books I think the world should read, DVDs you should consider, chess software and setups, using tech in your preparation, reviewing games that made an impression, and so on.
Early History 1930 to 1971
Looking for a chess club in Calgary, some fifty years ago, was an adventure! There was enough interest in playing chess with friends or family at home, but to play in a club, that was something different. Somehow, around fifteen brave players found each other and gathered every Monday night in Maccabees Hall on Fifth Avenue between 9th and 10th Street SW. This was the year 1968.