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Findlay, Ian

Banff Open

Banff Open

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.

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!

Ginsburg played a Sicilian Kan, which led to a fairly level game throughout. Eventually the players reached an ending where Mark's extra pawn was balanced by Agnieszka's active pieces. Next to the battle on the top board, new ACA President CM Rafael Arruebarrena faced FM elect Belsar Valencia in a showdown between top Edmonton representatives. The game featured another Sicilian Defence, which found Valencia on the winning side of a double edged fight.

This meant that, for the 2nd year in a row, an Armageddon finish would decide first place. An anonymous sponsor, last year and this year, donated $500 to go to the playoff winner. White gets 5 minutes and Black 4 minutes, but Black the luxury of draw odds. Belsar won the coin toss and elected to go with the White pieces. With spectators crowding the board for a good view, Agnieszka finally emerged victorious by winning on time after a back and forth struggle.

WIM Agnieszka Matras Clement

Congratulations to Agnieszka, who was a very popular winner. She would ask jokingly each night, "what is the top women's prize"? Considering she was the only female in the tournament, I considered her the heavy favourite. Even better, she went a step further and convincingly won the tournament! Her new 2398 rating easily tops the national women's rankings, and also puts her in the top list of Canadian players overall. Sadly she intends to cut back on her competitive play, although with this much talent we can only hope successes like this inspire her to continue for some time...

Sadly, I did not play many good games and therefore include only an annotated miniature from the third round. Agnieszka has promised to write an article for Chessbase, where one can find Chess in the Mountains and Chess to Enjoy in their archives.

Our fledgling tournament has grown from 33 to 41, then 78, and finally 89 players in the first four years. The success can be greatly attributed to our generous sponsors. Firstly the Alberta Chess Association who pay for the venue and expenses, the Banff Centre who give us great room rates and, in turn, benefit by a spike in business at the MacLab Bistro and other services. Everyone benefits.

Other notable contributions came from the Union at the Banff Centre, Local 4318, who have already pledged to increase their support next year. Our anonymous sponsor donation of $500 for the Armageddon playoff makes the conclusion of the tournament the most exciting of any Open tournament in Canada. Also appreciated is the support by the Society of Chess Aficionados, who contribute many original and fun ideas, as well as adding to our prize fund.

Congratulations to Agnieszka, who was a very popular winner. She would ask jokingly each night, "what is the top women's prize"? Considering she was the only female in the tournament, I considered her the heavy favourite. Even better, she went a step further and convincingly won the tournament!

I would like to conclude by thanking the Chief Arbiter, Mark Dutton and his lovely Assistant Arbiter Christine Dutton, who are clearly the best team in Canada. Despite increased numbers each round started on time, and I only wish other tournament directors made such wonderful pre-round announcements. A single day after the tournament, Mark had already submitted both sections to the CFC and FIDE for rating.

Thanks also to the Calgary Chess Club, the Edmonton Chess Club and Westmount Charter School for providing the sets and clocks. Alberta players are so spoiled! Next year's event is booked from 2020-11-13 to 2020-11-15, when we hope to break the 100 player mark. Since the dates do not fall over the Remembrance Day long weekend, I am toying with the idea of giving players a 2 or 3 day option, much like many Continental Chess Association tournaments in the USA. Stay tuned!

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