A Short guide to the Canadian Open 2007

7/13/2007 – It features 22 grandmasters from more than a dozen countries, over 270 players in all, mostly from Canada but from as far away as Vietnam, Russia and Australia. The nine-day, one-section event, with a $26,500 CAD prize fund, has so far more than fulfilled their expectations. We bring you the standings after round seven and take you on a walk around Ottawa with Nigel Short.

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The Canadian Open 2007

Report after round six by Peter Hum

When super-GM Sergey Tiviakov arrived last week in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, he was surprised to see the country's red maple leaf flags flapping away, attached to passing cars. "Is it a holiday?" he asked. In fact, he had missed by just a few days Canada Day, the July 1 celebration that attracts tens of thousands to the city's downtown streets to display their nationalism.


Canada Day celebrations in front of Parliament Hill

Surprisingly, the seasoned world traveler GM Tiviakov was making his first trip to Canada – to play in the 2007 Canadian Open Chess Championship. He and 21 other grandmasters from more than a dozen countries lead the pack at the event, which by the time it concludes this weekend will certainly be regarded as a milestone in Canadian chess history. It has proven to be a more exclusive kind of celebration than Canada Day, but for more than 270 chess players – mostly from Canada but from as far away as Vietnam, Russia and Australia – the nine-day, one-section event with a $26,500 CAD prize fund has so far more than fulfilled their expectations.

GM Nigel Short, your tour guide

Arriving a day before GM Tiviakov was the first GM confirmed by the organizers, GM Nigel Short. He came from Athens with his daughter Kyveli, and before the competition began, they spent a few days sightseeing. Before we speak of the chess tournament, let's allow GM Short to be your tour guide...


Kyveli and Nigel Short, with the Rideau Locks, the Ottawa River and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in the background

"My daughter and I have had a splendiferous time in this beautiful capital city," says GM Short. "Among the highlights were a number of sights we would never see in London or our home in Athens. These included the magnificent towering totem poles at the Museum of Civilization which embody the symbols and icons of the Haida people of what is now British Columbia."


The Grand Hall in the Canadian Museum of Civilization

"The Canadian War Museum reminded me of the extraordinary valour and sacrifices of Canadian soldiers in the First and Second World Wars. I had quite forgotten the remarkable role Canada played in training airmen for the war in Europe."

The Canadian War Museum

"We also enjoyed wandering around the Parliament Buildings, the falls of the Rideau, the Gatineau Hills just across the Ottawa River, and the historic Meech Lake where much of Canada's recent history was made."


The Changing of the Guard ceremony outside the Parliament Buildings –
something GM Sergey Tiviakov enjoyed seeing


That's not Nigel Short, and this picture was taken in autumn,
but this is Gatineau Park in the Gatineau Hills.

"I was particularly impressed by the engineering feat of Colonel By, a century-and-a-half ago, in building an incredible system of locks and canals to connect Ottawa directly to the Saint Lawrence River. One could easily see why it has been designated by UNESCO as a world wonder.


Descending the locks of the Rideau Canal

"Quite apart from the chess at this first-class tournament, we have enormously enjoyed spending time in this beautiful, fascinating and comfortable city," says GM Short.


The event is being held at the Ottawa Marriott, a top-notch hotel just a few blocks away from Parliament Hill. The Ottawa Marriott, with its revolving rooftop restaurant, is in the background.

Grandmasters take Ottawa by storm

In the great expanse of Canada, grandmaster sightings are rare. Top-rated Canadian GM Kevin Spraggett relocated to Portugal years ago, enjoying easy access to European chess events as a result. GM Pascal Charbonneau, who scored an upset victory against super-GM Vishy Anand at Calvia last year, plays sporadically, as his Wall Street job allows. GMs Alexandre Lesiege and Duncan Suttles (a 1...g6 maverick in the 1960s) left competition years ago.


Chinese GM Bu Xiangzhi (2686) is the Canadian Open's top seed

So the arrival of GMs Short and Tiviakov, and 20 other GMs to boot, has Canada's chess fans buzzing. The organizers, a group of volunteers in Ottawa, Canada's capital, succeeded in attracting other A-list players such as GMs Bu Xiangzhi, Vadim Milov and Kamil Miton. leading the pack. Of these big names, only GM Miton has made a recent visit to Canada. GM Short played in Montreal in his teen years, and before that almost 20 years ago. In 1988, Short beat GM Gyula Sax in their Candidates Match in Saint John, New Brunswick.


Swiss GM Vadim Milov likes what he sees

The event's organizers could not have invited such a high-powered line-up without the assistance of an impressive array of sponsors. In this respect, this year's Canadian Open has been unprecedented. Previous Canadian Opens – which have taken place in other Canadian cities such as Edmonton, Alberta, Kitchener, Ontario, and Kapuskasing, Ontario – were fortunate to receive government funding. Although this year's event is being staged in Canada's capital, it has had no government largesse upon which to rely. Therefore, it was crucial for the organizers to secure private-sector support, most notably from Hill and Knowlton Canada, the country's industry leader in public relations, public affairs and strategic communications, and Magmic Games, a Ottawa-based leading developer and publisher of games for mobile devices including the BlackBerry.


GM Kamil Miton (2646) is playing in Canada this summer for the second year in a row

As well, the event was able to persuade several companies to support specific Grandmasters. Ottawa-based Fibre optics manufacturer OZ Optics, founded by Turkish-Canadian entrepreneur Omur Sezerman, sponsored GM Suat Atalik, IM Ekaterina Atalik and WFM Kubra Ozturk. (Their participation prompted Turkish Chess Federation president Ali Yazici to visit Ottawa for a few days. Yazici was also able to attending the closing ceremonies of the 2007 Canadian Youth Chess Championships, held at the residence of the the Turkish Ambassador to Canada.)

ATFCAN, a non-profit corporation that commercializes clean energy technologies and does extensive business in India, sponsored GMs Abhijit Kunte (co-winner of last year's Canadian Open) and Sandipan Chanda. Telecom giant Bell Canada sponsored Canadian GM Bluvshtein, who in spite of being ranked 15th or so in the field is undaunted by the stiff competition. After all, when the Canadian Open was held on Edmonton, Alberta two years ago, GM Bluvshtein tied for first with super-GMs Alexei Shirov and Vassily Ivanchuk.


GM and seasoned traveler Sergey Tiviakov is playing his first tournament on Canadian soil

Several foreign diplomatic missions in Ottawa are contributing to the success of the 2007 Canadian Open. The British High Commission helped sponsor GM Short and 16-year-old GM David Howell, England's youngest Grandmaster. The Embassy of the Republic of Poland, along with LOT Polish Airlines, is supporting GM Kamil Miton's participation in the event. The Embassy of Israel is supporting GM Victor Mikhalevski and the Embassy of the Slovak republic is supporting GM Tomas Likavsky.

Grandmasters without specific sponsorships have come to the event too, necesarily receiving more modest conditions. From Moscow has come GMs Andrey Rychagov, Anton Shomoev and Arkady Vul – although their luggage only arrived a day or two later. From Vietnam has come GM Tu Hoang Thong, childhood friend of the now Montreal-based IM Thanh Nha Duong, who was obviously excited about the reunion in his new homeland. From Serbia has come the legendary GM Borislav Ivkov, visiting his Ottawa friend and chessplayer, Alex Danilov.


IM Ekaterina Atalik, who is in Canada with her husband, GM Suat Atalik, is the favourite for the event's top woman scorer prize.

Thanks to all this imported star power, GM Yannick Pelletier of the Association of Chess Professionals contacted the event a few rounds ago to ask if the 2007 Canadian Open could be designated part of the 4th ACP Tour, reserved for the top events around the world and running from July 2007 through June 2008. The request was made in light of the very high level of the participants in the Canadian Open. Gordon Ritchie, chair of the event's organizing commitee (and GM Short's host during the event) happily agreed.


The top-rated Canadian woman in the event is WFM Dina Kagramanov

"The ACP Tour is happy to welcome a new tournament from the American continent," said GM Pelletier. "The Canadian Open has reached such a level, that there can be no doubt any more. It definitely belongs to the upper crust of chess events!"


GM Victor Mikhalevski celebrated his birthday – and a 100-move victory in round three

That said, plenty of amateurs were keen to have a crack at the GMs. (A few of the GMs have so far yielded draws and even full points to Canadian masters 200 rating points their inferior.). Chief Arbiter Jonathan Berry is pairing the event using the style of acceleration used at France's famed and successful Cappelle-la-Grande tournaments. But because in part of the novelty of the pairing system, each of the first three rounds began late and some of the organizers, frankly, were livid. The second day featured two rounds – common enough in North America, but practically an affront to European chess professionals. Furthermore, until the event's fourth round, Chief Arbiter Jonathan Berry declined to make available any advance notice of pairings – profoundly frustrating GMs used to preparing for specific opponents. Fortunately for the event, from Round Four on, the pairings have been available on the Internet and at the venue by noon, in advance of the weekday 6 p.m. starts.


As we "go to print" round seven has been completed. Suat Atalik (picture) defeated GM David Howell to take the sole lead in the tournament. We will update the games and results in our final report.

Top Standings after Round 7 - 2007 Canadian Open

# Name Rtng Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Rd 6 Rd 7 Tot
1 GM Suat Atalik 2564 D41 W20 W38 D27 W59 W29 W13 6.0
2 GM Xiangzhi Bu 2685 W21 W31 D5 D7 D6 W36 W25 5.5
3 GM Vadim Milov 2678 W39 W34 D11 D13 D16 W37 W27 5.5
4 GM Kamil Miton 2648 W61 D16 W17 D25 W34 D12 W26 5.5
5 GM Chanda Sandipan 2563 W43 W35 D2 D6 D33 W38 W28 5.5
6 GM Hoang Thong Tu 2483 W104 D68 W52 D5 D2 W120 W24 5.5
7 GM Nigel D. Short 2683 W106 W30 W28 D2 D8 D24 D12 5.0
8 GM Sergey Tiviakov 2648 W22 W18 D13 W11 D7 D27 D14 5.0
9 GM Victor Mikhalevski 2601 W174 D33 W19 D12 W15 L13 W31 5.0
10 GM Anton Shomoev 2561 D20 W41 W44 D15 D37 W42 D11 5.0
11 GM Valeriy Aveskulov 2539 W46 W36 D3 L8 W62 W33 D10 5.0
12 GM Mark Bluvshtein 2520 D64 W45 W51 D9 W76 D4 D7 5.0
13 GM David Howell 2519 W66 W37 D8 D3 W79 W9 L1 5.0
14 IM Tomas Krnan 2492 W70 L106 W67 D43 W63 W53 D8 5.0
15 GM Bator Sambuev 2482 W107 D44 W82 D10 L9 W121 W64 5.0
16 Nikolay Noritsyn 2446 W49 D4 W75 D24 D3 D74 W70 5.0
17 GM Borislav Ivkov 2414 D109 W111 L4 W140 D64 W81 W67 5.0
18 IM Leonid Gerzhoy 2409 W105 L8 L47 W184 W78 W130 W74 5.0
19 Rick Lahaye 2367 W110 D24 L9 W122 W109 H--- W75 5.0
20 FM Shiyam Thavandiran 2337 D10 L1 W197 D176 W123 W56 W76 5.0
21 GM Arkady Vul 2312 L2 W119 D79 W80 D49 W141 W84 5.0
22 Raja Panjwani 2311 L8 W177 D176 D123 W180 W82 W88 5.0
23 Dalia Kagramanov 1774 X--- L50 W102 W77 W52 L30 W178 5.0

Annotated games

Here are two games with comments by Canadian IM Deen Hergott, who is also enlightening and entertaining spectators in the commentary room. First, here is the Round Five win that catapulted GM Atalik into the lead.

Atalik,S (2584) - Likavsky,T (2485) [D31]
Canadian Open Ottawa CAN (6), 11.07.2007
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 a6!? Nearly anything is playable these days. With the popularity of the 4...a6 Slav, Black may be hoping for a useful transposition to something similar. 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Bd6 7.Bg3 Ne7!? Rather than wooden development with 7...Nf6, this gives Black the option of contesting a White bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal. 8.Qc2 Bf5 9.Qb3 Ra7!?

This got a chuckle out of today's specs, but actually this idea is quite common in those 4...a6 Slav lines I mentioned earlier. Black's idea is that if White's Queen has to stay on b3 to keep b7 occupied, Black doesn't mind using his rook for the job. It still looks pretty silly though, doesn't it? 10.Nf3 0-0 11.Be2 Re8 12.0-0 Bxg3 Otherwise, Black can't develop his Q-side properly. 13.hxg3 Nd7 14.Nh4 Be6 15.Qc2 Ra8 The dance continues. 16.Bd3 Nf8 17.b4 g5 White was planning a calm minority attack – 18.a4, 19.b5 (or maybe Rab1 first) –, but Black has violent intentions on the other flank. 18.Nf3 Neg6 19.a4 g4 20.Nd2 h5 21.b5 h4 22.gxh4 Qxh4 23.bxc6 bxc6 24.Ne2 Kg7 25.Rfb1 Nd7

26.Nf1! Rh8 All very consistent play for Black, but can he really break through White's solid position, with those knights ready to hold the fort? 27.Nfg3 Qh2+ 28.Kf1 Nh4? "Go long!" works much better in football. Here, Black's forces have ventured too far into White territory, and the Black Queen in particular is soon in serious trouble. 29.Nf4 Rhc8 30.Ke2 Nxg2 31.Ngh5+ 1-0. [Click to replay]

Next, here is a Round Four win by GM Mikhalevski that IM Hergott declares "a real gem."

Mikhalevski,V (2590) - Sambuev,B (2485) [D34]
Canadian Open Ottawa CAN (5), 10.07.2007
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 c5 Black eschews the typical Catalan setups and offers to transpose to the QGD, Tarrasch. 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.0-0 Be7 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Nc3 0-0 9.Bg5 cxd4 10.Nxd4 h6 11.Be3 Re8 12.Rc1 Bf8

All very theoretical so far. It is amazing how many IQP positions I have had in the commentary room so far in this tournament. Either it makes an appearance much more often than I imagined at the GM level, or it just happens to belong to the repertoire of a surprising number of players at this particular event. 13.Nxc6!? Connecting Black's pawns but creating a valuable strategic outpost for pieces on c5. And naturally there is still concrete play against the now backward c6-pawn in many lines. I have always found these positions much easier to play as White, but of course, Black's position can spring to life quickly if one is lax, so it pays to be vigilant at all times against players who wield the initiative well. 13...bxc6 14.Bd4 Bg4 15.f3 Bd7 16.Na4 g6 17.Nc5 Bf5 18.g4 Bc8 Several people were not impressed with White's bishop at this point, but its imprisonment is merely temporary. 19.Qa4 Qd6 20.e3 h5!? From what I have seen of Black's games, he is not a guy who just likes to sit around! Still, this aggression did not really achieve what I think he had been hoping for. 21.g5 Nh7 22.f4 h4 23.e4 h3 24.e5 Qd8 25.Bf3 Bxc5!? This hands the dark squares over to White for good. Agreed, Black does not have a very comfortable game, and the c6-pawn is a major nuisance, but I think here we have a case of "the cure is worse than the disease". 26.Rxc5 Bd7

27.e6!! Rxe6 28.Bc3. Opening up the long diagonal is not such a difficult concept on its own, but recognizing that it is worth a small investment in material without the ability to state a forced line of play is where Mikhalevsky's judgment really shines. Indeed, by the end of the game, he throws another two pawns into the mix for further line opening opportunities. 28...Kf8 29.Qd4 Ke8 30.Ba5 Qb8 31.Rcc1! Retreating moves are often the most difficult to find. This clears the a3-f8 diagonal for the bishop, and reconnects White's rooks. 31...Nf8 32.Bb4 Qb7 33.Bc5 Rc8 34.f5 gxf5 35.Qh8 Re7

36.g6!! Beautiful and elegant. In the commentary room, we only considered 36.Bh5 (threatening g5-g6) 36...Be6 37.Rce1 Kd7 38.Bxe7 Kxe7, which is also very good for White, but the text ends the game instantly. Another example of what I think of as move order permutations (probably a throwback to my degree in Mathematics) - in fact, we were using some of the same moves and themes, but simply in a less effective manner. 36...fxg6 37.Rfe1. Absolutely crushing. 37...Be6 runs into 38.Rxe6! now, so Black simply has no options but to resign. 1-0. [Click to replay]

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Editorial note

"Splendiferous" is an actual word, albeit "informal and humorous", according to OED. It is an adjective meaning "having great beauty and splendor". We have asked Nigel to eschew gratuitous ponderously, but to no avail.


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