7th Continental Chess Tournament starts with surprises

by Albert Silver
10/13/2012 – The 7th Continental Tournament taking place in Mar del Plata, Argentina, is not only a large eleven-round open qualifier for the world championship but is also a rich opportunity for norms. The opening round saw few surprises, but one was the young Arthur Chiari, who held GM Alex Shabalov to a draw. Read how he even questioned Anand's opening choices. Illustrated report by Albert Silver.

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7th Continental Chess Tournament / Mar del Plata 2012

Tourney type: Eleven-round swiss open
Time control: 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game and a 30 second increment as of move one.
Location: Mar del Plata, Argentina
Dates: October 12-21, 2012
Prizes: 1st - US$5000, 2nd - US$3400, 3rd - US$2400, 20 prizes in all, not including prizes per category.

Special: Event is considered a world championship qualifier thus all norms earned are worth double.

7th Continental Chess Tournament starts with surprises

By Albert Silver

The ultra-traditional Mar del Plata tournament is currently being held from October 11-21, an event that has seen champions such as Fischer, Spassky, and many more over its rich history. This year, the tournament also brandishes the title of the 7th Continental Chess Tournament, having been chosen over candidate cities New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Mexico, and is a particular boon for norm-seeking players. As the event is classified as a world championship qualifier, all IM and GM norms scored over the course of the event are upgraded to count as two.

Bear in mind that since it is also a zonal qualifier, this event is restricted to players from the Americas (North, Central, and South) according to the FIDE divisions.


Spring is here and the beaches are already enjoyed by the young

Mar del Plata is by all means a seaside resort city, and in many ways typical of the description, with a few subtle differences. For one thing it is a little cooler than my hometown Rio de Janeiro, with temperatures during the day around the 20 Celcius mark, and the nights a good deal cooler. Still, it bears remembering that being south of the Equator, spring has barely started here, so things will soon be warming up considerably.


Sunbathing or just enjoying the beach

The temperatures also did not prevent visitors from thoroughly enjoying the bright sunny days and beaches, where a number decided that if there were beaches and sun, then sunbathing was the way to go while the young flocked to the ocean for some fun in the tame waters.


The playing hall with players from all over the Americas


Lazaro Bruzon is the top seed and defending champion

The tournament started well, with a lineup of 212 players, including 70 titled players, and 22 grandmasters, there will be no lack of action and drama. The highest rated player by far is Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon (2717 FIDE), 31st in the world, followed by the Peruvian Julio Granda Zuniga (2647 FIDE), Eduardo Iturrizaga (2639 FIDE) from Venezuela, and Rafael Leitao (2617 FIDE) from Brazil.


American GM Gregory Kaidanov


Some just sunk into deep thought...


...while others chose to defend themselves with all the means at their disposal.

As one would expect in an eleven round Swiss, the pairings meant mostly uneventful games in the first round, with almost all featuring 400+ Elo differences between opponents. That said, there were a few notable surprises, the largest taking place on board eleven between American GM Alex Shabalov (2570 FIDE) and the 15-year-old Brazilian Arthur Chiari (2098 FIDE).


15-year-old Arthur Chiari held GM Alex Shabalov to a draw (and even had winning
chances!). Watching in the background is GM Julio Granda Zuniga.

The result was not the expected 1-0, and the most impressive was that it was also not due to some tragic blunder that changed a sure result into an unsure one. Of course the GM made significant mistakes to be unable to beat his opponent, but credit must be given to the young player who held his nerve and showed that his extensive work with GM Rafael Leitao has started to yield fruits.


Arthur Chiari proudly holds the gamescore of his amazing result, together with
IM Christian Toth, friend and consultant.

Note that the young player is a typical teenager with a teenager’s self-assurance. This brings about a funny story that took place a couple of weeks ago while covering São Paulo.

Dinner with Anand

Whilst in São Paulo, the world champion Vishy Anand, a noted vegetarian, came to have dinner at the home of my friend IM Christian Toth, whose wife Marina Toth and their cook, put together a splendid dinner that even I, a pronounced carnivore, could not help but enjoy.


The lovely Marina Toth at the dinner


Everyone was in good spirits

It was a relaxed affair with animated jovial conversation, when Christian’s iPhone rang, and he explained it was his protégé, Arthur Chiari, calling on his Skype. The young player was anxious about a tournament he was starting the next day, and was having last-minute doubts on his openings, notably a line in the Sicilian.

He couldn’t seem to accept the lines he had been given, and Vishy asked what the doubt was. Christian smiled and told Arthur that he would end all his doubts as he had the ultimate consultant. “Who?” he asked doubtfully. Chris swung the phone to show Anand, and suddenly one could overhear, “Mom! Mom! Come here! It is Anand!! He is on the phone!”


Christian shows Vishy to his protegé over Skype

Chuckles went around as Arthur asked Christian what Anand thought of a specific line in the Sicilian he was unhappy with. Vishy ended his opinion with “and after Nd5, the plan is to play …b5.” There was a pause, and suddenly we all heard, “…b5?? …b5!?! That’s fine for him who is 2800!” We all started laughing. Not even the world champion was proof of a teenager’s skepticism!

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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