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Neven, Knut

Calgary International IM

Calgary International IM
Introduction

The 12th edition of the Calgary International is underway, featuring this year a six player double Round Robin consisting of four Albertans and two foreign players. The highest rated in the field is Alberta's newest International Master Bitan Banerjee, who lives in Edmonton but represents India. The two visiting IMs are John Daniel Bryant and Justin Sarkar, both from the United States. Bryant in fact has three GM norms to his name, while Sarkar can count no less than four!

Games from the event can be viewed live on chess24.com and followchess.com, while the Calgary International Open side event takes place starting 2019-08-03. And finally, the Calgary International Blitz will happen on 2019-08-05 at 17:00. Expect tough opposition from the attending IMs! Visitors and spectators are welcome...

Round 1
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The hopeful norm seekers in the field include Alberta Open and recent Canadian U14 champion NM Ian Zhao, three time Alberta champion FM Dale Haessel, and current Alberta Closed champion NM Omid Malek. In the first round FM Haessel was able to hold IM Banerjee to a draw in a rook ending. IM Bryant conjured a rook and pawn endgame up material against IM Sarkar, while Zhao defeated Malek after breaking through with a queenless middlegame attack on the king.

Rounds 2-3

Games from the event can be viewed live on chess24.com and followchess.com

IM John Bryant has a perfect start with 3/3, defeating second seed IM Justin Sarkar in the first round, followed by Omid Malek and Dale Haessel in rounds two and three, respectively. Calgary's top junior Ian Zhao went undefeated, and after comfortably drawing his third round game against IM Banerjee landed on an impressive 2.5/3. Omid Malek's speculative piece sacrifice was refuted with accurate play by IM Sarkar.

Round 4
Calgary Chess Club

In an Alberta vs the IMs battle, our boys managed well with 1.5/3. FM Haessel held a draw against IM Sarkar, while Ian Zhao came out on top in the fight for first place against IM Bryant! Ian looks in top form with one round to go in the first leg of the event.

Round 5

Ian Zhao kept up the momentum by defeating two IMs in the same day, thus proving that his strong early performance was no fluke! With the norm requirement set at 7/10, Ian's pace of 4.5/5 at the conclusion of the event's first half puts him on track for scoring that first IM norm. Great job, Ian!

Ian Zhao kept up the momentum by defeating two IMs in the same day, thus proving that his strong early performance was no fluke! With the norm requirement set at 7/10, Ian's pace of 4.5/5 at the conclusion of the event's first half puts him on track for scoring that first IM norm. Great job, Ian!

IM Bitan Banerjee is suffering a rough patch, and lost a long endgame to IM John Byrant. With 4/5 John still has a chance to catch up with the leader in the second half. Meanwhile, FM Haessel scored his first victory against a struggling Omid Malek today.

Round 6
Calgary Chess Club

Newly minted FM Ian Zhao disposed of NM Omid Malek with characteristic precision. The other games in round six were extremely hard fought, lasting more than five hours in the event's longest session yet. At the end, IM Banerjee won over FM Haessel, while Sarkar was triumphant in a very important encounter over fellow IM Bryant.

Round 7
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Ian Zhao turned on God Mode today, crushing his opposition with ruthless efficiency and crowning yesterday's FM title with his first IM norm after scoring 6.5/7 in the event so far. Ian's dominating performance makes him the youngest FM in the province. With a 1.5 point lead over his nearest rival IM John Daniel Bryant, the juggernaut leading the field seems unlikely to topple in the remaining three rounds.

Rounds 8-9

Just when it seemed that Ian could do no wrong, he suffered two consecutive defeats, leaving IM Bryant in the lead with 7/9! Sprinting out of the gate as Ian did, securing the FM title, followed at once by scoring an IM norm with three rounds still to play, can become a psychological burden. Mission already accomplished, with the finish line hardly in sight? What comes next, how to prepare and how to maintain that early momentum can be difficult questions to answer! Ian now faces the herculean task of regrouping by tommorrow morning in order to have any chance of winning the event.

After a slow start, IM Banerjee bounced back with two wins, and finds himself late in the event at 6/9 and in contention for top spot. Although clearly in trouble in both games, Bitan managed two spectacular swindles in objectively lost positions to take full points from his opponents. Finding such tricky resources time and again speaks to his class as an International Master.

Although clearly in trouble in both games, Bitan managed two spectacular swindles in objectively lost positions to take full points from his opponents. Finding such tricky resources time and again speaks to his class as an International Master.

Dale appears to suffer from IM Syndrome, where the lower rated player is intimidated by his opponent and plays at a level far below his competency. Despite reaching a very promising position against IM Sarkar, Dale let his opponent slip away with a draw by perpetual check. As former World Champion Emanuel Lasker quipped: "The hardest game to win is a won game!" The rest of us, to be sure, have all been there and done just that!

Round 10
John Daniel Bryant

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!

The final round left three players in contention for top spot, including of course Ian Zhao, as well as IMs John Daniel Bryant and Bitan Banerjee. Ian managed the sunny side of a safe draw from a quiet Italian Game, but the IM battle Banerjee-Bryant was anything but quiet or peaceful!

Edmonton's Banerjee played an aggressive line against the American's Modern Benoni, which resulted in a prolonged tactical skirmish and a number of big changes in fortune. White's attack crashes through by move 24 with a nearly impossible and counter-intuitive pawn capture by the dark squared bishop, but the shot goes unnoticed by both players.

The tide has now turned, and just a few moves later in an apparently completely winning position Bryant agrees to a draw. There is nothing obvious about the evaluation of the final position - engines have a way sometimes of making mere mortals feel completely inadequate to the task - and we can hardly blame the winner of the tournament for sealing the result with a handshake...

Sklenka, Steve

Edmonton International GM

The 14th Edmonton International took place from June 18-23, 2019. Rafael Arruebarrena did a commendable job running the tournament, including the live broadcast of games on chess24.com.

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.

Calgarian Bhavik Dave was out-rated by several hundred rating points in every game, but nevertheless put up valiant struggles in several encounters. Edmonton's IM Banerjee Bitan finished in the middle of the pack with 4.5/9, while the remaining players from the USA, IM Praveen Balakrishnan and FM Balaji Daggupati, both scored 4.5/9 and finished in that same tie for 5th through 8th with GM Alexander Shabalov.

Sklenka, Steve

Alberta Closed

Alberta Closed
Introduction

This year four players from Calgary and two from Edmonton are contesting the annual Alberta Closed, to be held at the Calgary Chess Club over the weekend from April 19-21, 2019.

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The favourite by rating, albeit narrowly, is Calgary's Gary Ng, followed by Edmonton's Rafael Arruebarrena. Neither will likely have an easy time however, since the field also includes 14-yr-old Ian Zhao who has marked his arrival as an elite player by climbing the provincial rating ladder at record speed in the last year.

Defending champion Bitan Banerjee is away in India and unable to defend his title. None of the remaining contestants are without chances, since the top and bottom seeds are separated by only 200 Elo. The club is open to visitors for the duration of the event, so please stop by and take in some of the best chess likely to be played in the province this year. More tournament details, including start times for each round, can be viewed at Events.

Results
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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 event marks an astonishing improvement from last year for Omid, who collected a mere 1/5 in the 2018 edition of the provincial championship. The result was especially satisfying when a win by Ian Zhao over Dale Haessel in the final round forced Omid to prevail with Black over top seed Gary Ng in order to prevent a play-off with the junior talent.

The event marks an astonishing improvement from last year for Omid, who collected a mere 1/5 in the 2018 edition of the provincial championship.

With a number of the province's top players formally retired in recent years, the torch now looks like it has passed to the next generation with players like Omid Malek and Ian Zhao leading the charge. Mind you, the list of top players does not end here, with Gary Ng, Rafael Arruebarrena, Ian Findlay, Belsar Valencia, Dale Haessel, Agnieszka Matras Clement and others, plus junior talents Maxim Vasic and Anand Rishi Chandra certain to be in the mix in the coming years...

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