American Continental Rd1: Welcome to Montevideo

by Albert Silver
5/16/2015 – The X American Continental Championship has just started in Montevideo, Uruguay with a solid turnout and dozens of grandmasters and masters. Over eleven rounds they will fight for one of four qualifying spots to the next FIDE World Cup, as well as the privileged norm opportunities. Read on to see first impressions with many high-resolution photographs.

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The tournament

The tournament is an eleven-round competition played at 40 moves in 90 minutes followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game and a 30-second increment as of move one. The first round is on May 15 with rounds every day until round eleven on May 24, including a double-round on May 17. Play typically starts at 5PM.

Although there are tiebreak scoring systems in place, starting with direct encounter, Buchholz, and more, in the event of a draw at the top, the top four qualifiers will be decided by a rapid tiebreak match or tournament, depending on the number, starting at 15 minutes plus a ten-second increment.

The prizes are US$5000 for first, $3400 for second, $2400 for third with prizes all the way to 20th place. Note that as FIDE events of this caliber, all norms scored count double, thus a player who scores a norm at the end of the competition will be considered to have earned two norms, not one.

First impressions

I arrived in Montevideo a couple of days before the start of the competition, both to get a better grip on the city and what it had to offer, and to take care of any issues without require a last-minute solution. As someone who has been living in South America for close to two decades now, and visited numerous cities both large and small, the Uruguayan capital was a bit of a shock to me.

It started with the trip from the airport to the hotel, a somewhat lengthy ride, that depicted an immaculate and well-maintained city with lovely houses, and an enviable view. Surely this was but the marketing brochure view, not the city itself. The next day I vowed to see what it had to offer, and together with Gregory Kaidanov and Aleksander Lendermann, also early arrivals, went exploring a bit.

We had barely made it two blocks from the hotel that Gregory joked that chess was already in the
day-to-day vocabulary and pointed to the headline at one of the newsstands: “political chess game”
(Click on image for high-res version - all images in this report enjoy high-resolution versions)

We were headed toward the Ciudad Vieja, where we had been told we would find a wide
assortment of vendors, stores, and more. Not far along the way, we came across this park,
spacious and relaxing, but what soon struck us was not so much how special this one was,
but that there were so many. Not too far away was another, and another, and then another.

Not far after, we arrived at the entrance to the Ciudad Vieja (“Old City”),
a remnant of the original fortified city. The wall that once surrounded the
city is no longer, but the gateway still stands as a testimony. In the image
both Kaidanov and Lendermann posed. (Click on image for high-res version)

The main square, the Plaza Independencia, is surrounded by notable sites. In the center is
a statue of Uruguayan hero, José Artigas, on a horse, and the spectacular building to its left
(in the photo) is the Palacio Salvo. (Click on image for high-res version)

The statue of José Artigas stands over the famous Artigas Mausoleum, that
we have not had the opportunity to visit yet. By coincidence, that day a tribute
was being made, and numerous soliders in dress-uniform were present.

The street vendors focused mostly on warm clothes such as hats and gloves, as well as old
coins, and handicraft items. (Click on image for high-res version)

The reason this sign struck me is that Latin American countries don't usually
display large signs in tribute to events so far removed from them. In this case
it was to announce an exhibition in its honor. (Click on image for high-res version)

The more we walked, the more museums, displays, galleries, and more came up. It was incredible
to see so many cultural exhibitions, some displaying modern art, others in testimony to the times
long gone. Curious, we decided to enter one to see what it was like. This was from the Museo del
Monedo ("Museum of Currency"). (Click on image for high-res version)

The displays are not only for tourists, needless to say, and at all times one would see groups
of children being shown and instructed. (Click on image for high-res version)

The building of the museum was once the home to the Banco República. The image shows what
the original office once looked like in its heyday 99 years ago. (Click on image for high-res version)

Here is the same office reconstituted. There are many such displays throughout the city.

The modern commerce does indeed have the modern amenities one would expect, but there
were more than a few surprises. This Hi-Fi store had not one, but several newly built turntables
on display, which had us scratching our heads. (Click on image for high-res version)

Another example was here, where we stopped in front of a fairly standard electronics store,
selling TVs, home appliances and more. The motorcycles in the middle caught us off-guard though.

There is still a great deal to tell and see in this city, I will share as the tournament unfolds.

One special sidenote needs to be made about the official hotel of the event. Spacious and comfortable, with working WiFi throughout (hallelujah), each room also comes equipped with its own espresso machine (as above). I initially thought this was a charged service, one I knew I would not be able to resist thanks to its convenience, but the hotel assured me there is no charge, and the rooms come with a free bottle of mineral water per day, as well as two espresso capsules as a courtesy.

The Opening

International arbiter Blas Pingas introduces the officials for the opening ceremony

The auditorium where the ceremony took place is also where the top eight boards will be played

The officials presenting and opening the tournament, including Jorge Vega Fernandez (center right),
the president of FIDE America, IM Bernardo Roselli (second from right), president of the Uruguayan
Chess Federation and organizer of the tournament. One bit of news was also the announcement of
the 2017 World Youth Championship to be held in Uruguay.

IA Erick Hernandez, chief arbiter of the competition, says a few words

Round one

The tournament has had a strong turnout with 153 players coming to join the action. These include 24 grandmasters, and some 40 masters, all fighting for the top prizes or for the much desired norms that come in a “two for one” package. Uruguay obviously has the largest number of players present, with 57, followed by Brazil with 41 players. Argentina is third with 19, and would have a larger contingent were it not for the deep economic crisis in the country.

At the top of the ratings list is Julio Granda Zuniga (center), a top fighter and who re-entered
the Top 100 list this year at the age of 48, making him the oldest member as well. To his left
is IM Bernardo Roselli, the organizer. (Click on image for high-res version)

The friendly Paraguayan GM Axel Bachman is the third seed, an honor he shares with...

... Aleksander Lenderman, both of whom are rated 2636 FIDE.

Aleksander Lenderman had an excellent start. Here are notes to his first round game by IM Luis Rodi.

Aleksander Lenderman - Martin Daneri (annotated by IM Luis Rodi)

[Event "Continental"] [Site "Montevideo"] [Date "2015.05.15"] [Round "1"] [White "Lenderman, Aleksandr"] [Black "Daneri, Martin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E20"] [WhiteElo "2636"] [BlackElo "2109"] [Annotator "Rodi,Luis"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2015.05.16"] [EventCountry "URU"] {The US representative Aleksandr Lenderman just came back from an excellent performance in the World Team Championship - recently held in Armenia - and comes to this event as one of the favorites. His victory over Martina Daneria in round one is a fine display of good strategy tempered by precise tactics.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nf3 g6 7. Bf4 a6 {A subtlety.} ({In case of} 7... Bg7 {there follows} 8. Qa4+ {with the idea of} Bd7 9. Qb3 {is annoying.}) 8. a4 Bg7 9. h3 O-O 10. e3 Qe7 {The main move. At the highest levels nevertheless, they are experimenting with 10...Re8, 10... Ne8, and even 10...Nh5!?} 11. Nd2 (11. Be2 {is an important alternative. The main line goes} Nbd7 12. O-O {and now 12...Ne8 (Shankland - Leko, Khanty Mansiysk 2011) or} Rb8 {(Granda Zuñiga - Flores, Buenos Aires 2012)}) 11... Nh5 12. Bh2 f5 13. Be2 f4 14. Bxh5 fxe3 15. fxe3 gxh5 16. Nce4 $1 $146 {Uma melhora sobre} (16. Qe2 Nd7 $11 {Gruenhagen - Arkell, Vlissingen 2003}) 16... Be5 17. Qxh5 $14 {White's pieces are more active, and while his king is not yet safely behind its castle, Black's king is no better having lost most of its cover. A more obvious issue with the second player's position is the lack of development.} Bxh2 18. Rxh2 Rf5 $6 {The beginning of an ambitious maneuver, though imprecise.} ({Better was} 18... Nd7 19. Qh6 (19. g4 $5) 19... Nf6 20. Qg5+ Qg7 21. Qxg7+ Kxg7 22. Nxd6 Nxd5 23. Ra3 $14) ({ou} 18... Bf5 19. Qg5+ Qxg5 20. Nxg5 Nd7 $14) 19. Qh6 Re5 $6 {The follow-up to Black's idea.} (19... Nd7 20. Qxd6 Qxd6 21. Nxd6 Rxd5 22. N2e4 $16) 20. Qxd6 {The fall of the pawn base, bringing about a passed pawn in the center, is bad news for Black. In the sequence that followed, White came out ahead in the simplifications.} Bf5 21. Nf6+ Kf7 22. Qxe7+ Rxe7 23. Ng4 Bxg4 $2 (23... Kg7 24. Nc4 $16) 24. hxg4 Rxe3+ 25. Kf2 $18 Rd3 26. Nc4 Kg8 {Note que o peão d está defendido de forma indireta pelo duplo em b6} ({Note that the pawn is protected from} 26... Rxd5 { because of the double attack after} 27. Nb6) 27. Nb6 Ra7 28. Re1 Rd2+ 29. Kg1 Rxb2 30. a5 {Black is helpless against a rook on the eighth and the fall of the knight on b8.} 1-0

GM Krikor Mekhitarian is the top Brazilian representative

Among the six US players is GM Alex Yermolinsky, who arrives as one of the official representatives.
He expressed surprise at achieving that honor, since his current rating placed him behind enough
names to make the chances slim. Still, he added his name to the list (you get nothing by not trying)
since it does come with financial assistance to play. In the end, the lack of reply by those ahead of
him worked out in his favor. (Click on image for high-res version)

It isn't all top grandmasters of course, and numerous amateurs have come
to just enjoy the city, the competition, and the chance to play strong players.
Brazilian Martin de Haro (2048) is one who made the trip.

The first round was expected to be a relative walk in the park for the higher rated players since many enjoyed ratings advantages of over 500 Elo, but there were surprises even on the top boards. Top Canadian player Anton Kovalyov (2613) actually found himself worse and then dead lost against Uruguayan player Rodrigo Benoit (2088), and was very fortunate to escape with a draw when his opponent nervously accepted a repetition in a superior position.

Player list and results

The top eight boards of the event can be followed live at both the official site and on Playchess.

All photos by Albert Silver


Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.



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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Philip Feeley Philip Feeley 5/18/2015 10:34
I hope you have time to tell about the outgoing Uruguayan president. I've read two recent articles about him and his story is incredible (e.g. http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/05/15/10-reasons-to-love-uruguays-president-jose-mujica/).

Nice report, lovely city. Keep up the good work!
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