The Brazilian Chess Championship has been played continuously since 1927, the same year that Capablanca and Alekhine clashed in the neighboring Buenos Aires. Since then the competition only faltered in 1946 and 1955. This year's edition – the 75th – occurred between December 7th and 16th in Porto Alegre, the capital of gauchos. With five GMs and four IMs in a 12-player round robin, the tournament reached category IX and was surely the strongest ever held in Brazil.
The venue was uncommon: the Synagogue of the União Israelita Porto-Alegrense (the Israelite Union Porto-Alegrense). It was the very first time in modern international chess that a tournament was played inside a synagogue. This was possible due to combined efforts between the Federação Gaúcha de Xadrez (state's local federation) and the city's Israelite Union. The Synagogue, under leadership of Rabbi Prof. Ruben Najmanovich, was especially prepared to host the tournament.
Chief arbiter was IM Francisco Trois, 1978 South American champion and a very experienced arbiter. He was seconded by César Viegas and Eduardo Medeiros, both regional arbiters. Ladir Brandt, the Federation's president, was the organizer. The technical staff also included Antonio Benevenga, Marcelo Konrath and collaborators from União Israelita.
A different place to play: the Synagogue of União Israelita.
Technical staff controls seven cameras to perform live coverage.
IXC is the main chess server in Brazil and the live coverage supporter.
From left: Ladir Brandt (local Federation president), IM Francisco Trois (chief arbiter), Rabbi Prof. Ruben Najmanovich, César Viegas (auxiliary arbiter) and Antonio Benevenga (IXC creator and manager). Mr. Najmanovich played chess professionally in his youth and now promotes the game – a very welcome help.
The first round saw a surprise: GM Fier, who performed very well in recent times and was among the favorites, was defeated by ninth seed IM Diamant. Black neutralized the attack, took the initiative and won nicely:
Fier,Alexandr (2581) - Diamant,André (2412) [B63]
75th Brazilian Ch, Porto Alegre, (1.6), 07.12.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 Be7 8.0-0-0 Qb6 9.Nb3 0-0 10.f3 a6 11.g4 Qc7 12.Be3 b5 13.g5 Nd7 14.Kb1 Nce5 15.f4 Nc4 16.Bc4 Qc4 17.Qg2 Qc7 18.h4 Bb7 19.h5 Rad8 20.a3 Nb6 21.g6 Nc4 22.h6
22...fg6 23.hg7 Rf6 24.Qh2 h5 25.Bc1 Rf7 26.Rhe1 Bf6 27.Na2 Rg7 28.Nd4 Re8 29.b3 Bd4 30.Rd4 Qc5 31.Red1 Na3 32.Kb2 a5 33.Qe2 b4 34.Rd6 Rc7 35.R6d2 Rec8 36.Rd8 Rd8 37.Rd8 Kh7 38.c4 bc3 39.Ka1 Nb5 40.f5 ef5 41.ef5 Nd4 42.fg6 Kg7 43.Qe8 Nb3 44.Kb1 Qf5 0-1. [Click to replay]
GM Giovanni Vescovi, who at 2635 has the highest rating in South America, came to Porto Alegre as the main favorite. He won the Brazilian title five times, including the last two years. After three rounds Vescovi was leading, together with Leitão, with 3-0 points. In the next game, he played Gattass, the tournament's bottom seed, who had got 0-3 until then. With a 400+ rating points gap, one can call this a David versus Goliath fight. And, you bet, David won:
Gattass,Allan (2223) - Vescovi,Giovanni (2635) [B42]
75th Brazilian Ch, Porto Alegre, (4.4), 09.12.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 a6 5.Bd3 Bc5 6.Nb3 Be7 7.c4 d6 8.0-0 Nf6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.f4 Nc6 11.Rf3 Re8 12.Rh3 g6 13.g4 Nd7 14.g5 Nf8 15.Rg3 Nb4 16.Bb1 b5 17.cb5 ab5 18.f5 d5 19.a3 Bd6 20.ab4 Ra1 21.Na1 Bg3 22.hg3 Qb6 23.Kg2 d4 24.Ne2 Rd8 25.f6 e5 26.Bd3 Qe6 27.Ng1 Bb7 28.Nb3 Nd7 29.Nh3 Qd6 30.Bd2 Nb6 31.Nf2 Nc4 32.Na5 Ba6
33.Bc4 bc4 34.b5! Qb6 35.Nc6 Bb5 36.Nd8 Qd8 37.Qh1 h5 38.Qa1 Bc6 39.Qa5 Qe8 40.Qc7 Qe6 41.Qe7 Qe7 42.fe7 Kg7 43.Kf3 f5 44.gf6 Kf6 45.Bb4 Bd7 46.Bd6 Ke6 47.Bc7 Bb5 48.Ke2 c3 49.Kd1 cb2 50.Kc2 g5 51.Kb2 h4 52.g4 Bc6 53.Kc1 h3 54.Nh3 Ke7 55.Nf2 Kf6 56.Bd8 Kg6 57.Kd2 Bb7 58.Ke2 Bc6 59.Be7 Bb5 60.Kf3 Bf1 61.Bd8 Ba6 62.Nh3 Bb5 63.Ng5 Ba6 64.Ne6 d3 65.Ba5 1-0. [Click to replay]
State champion and last seed Allan Gattass surprised favorite Giovanni Vescovi
After the fourth round, Leitão became the sole leader, followed by Fier, Diamant and Milos. This tight race remained during the next days and for a while it seems Leitão would win the tournament because he was the steadiest player. On the other hand Lima, who had a bad start with 0-2, recovered with four wins in a row and kept track of the leaders.
In the eighth round, Milos suffered a decisive loss to Vescovi, who won again in the next round to join Leitão and Diamant in the leadership, recovering completely from his defeat to Gattass.
[Milos,Gilberto (2593) - Vescovi,Giovanni (2635) [C10]
75th Brazilian Ch, Porto Alegre, (8.6), 14.12.2008
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 de4 4.Ne4 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nf6 Nf6 7.Bc4 c5 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bg5 Qa5 10.c3 h6 11.Bh4 Be7 12.Be7 Ke7 13.0-0 Rd8 14.Re1 cd4 15.Nd4 Nf6 16.Qf3 Kf8 17.Bb3 Qb6 18.Re3 a5 19.a4 Bd7 20.Rae1 Rac8 21.Re5 Kg8 22.Qg3 Rc5 23.h3 Re5 24.Qe5 Bc6 25.Qe3
25...Be4 26.Re2 e5 27.Nb5 Qe3 28.fe3 Bd3 29.Rd2 Rd7 30.Rd1 Bb5 31.ab5 Rd1 32.Bd1 b6 33.Bb3 Kf8 34.Kf2 Ne4 35.Ke2 Nd6 36.c4 Nb7 37.Bc2 Nc5 38.Kf3 Ke7 39.h4 g6 40.g4 Kd6 41.Be4 Na4 42.b3 Nc5 43.Bc2 g5 44.hg5 hg5 45.Ke2 e4 46.Kd2 Ke5 47.Ke2 Nd7 48.Kf2 Nf6 49.Bd1 Kd6 50.Ke1 Kc5 51.Kd2 Kb4 52.Kc2 Nd7 53.Kd2 Ne5 54.Bc2 Ng4 55.Be4 Ne5 56.Bd5 f6 57.Be6 g4 58.e4 g3 59.Ke2 Nd3 60.Kf1 Nc5 61.Bd5 Kb3 0-1. [Click to replay]
Di Berardino had a terrible start and lost his six first games. He finally succeeded to win in the ninth round. His victim was Gattass, who became the local hero after beating Vescovi, but experienced bitter times in other games:
Di Berardino,Diego (2503) - Gattass,Allan (2223) [B81]
75th Brazilian Ch, Porto Alegre, (9.6), 14.12.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.g4 h6 7.Bg2 Nc6 8.h3 Be7 9.Be3 a6 10.Qe2 Qc7 11.0-0-0 Nd4 12.Rd4 b5 13.f4 Rb8 14.a3 Nd7 15.h4 Bf6 16.Rd3 b4 17.ab4 Rb4 18.g5 hg5 19.hg5 Rh1 20.Bh1 Be7 21.Kb1 Nb6 22.Na2 Rb5 23.b3 Bb7 24.Rc3 Qd8
25.Bc1 g6 26.Rh3 Kd7 27.Bb2 Kc7 28.Rh7 Qe8 29.Nc1 Nd7 30.Qc4 Rc5 31.Qa4 Rc6 32.Rh8 Bf8 33.Nd3 Qa8 34.Qa5 Nb6 35.Bd4 1-0. [Click to replay]
IM Diego Di Berardino had a terrible start with six losses in a row.
The tenth round saw five black wins. Diamant won against Milos and took the sole leadership with a round to go. More: he also earned his second and much deserved GM norm. Fier fell a full point behind, without chances after a draw with Vescovi. This day also marked the fall of the remaining undefeated players.
Milos,Gilberto (2593) - Diamant,André (2412) [E94]
75th Brazilian Ch, Porto Alegre, (10.5), 15.12.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Nf3 0-0 5.e4 d6 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 ed4 8.Nd4 Re8 9.f3 Nc6 10.Nc6 bc6 11.Bg5 h6 12.Bh4 g5 13.Bf2 c5 14.Qc2 Rb8 15.Rfd1 Qe7 16.Rab1 Be6 17.a3 a5 18.Nb5 Nh5 19.g3 g4 20.f4
20...Bf5 21.ef5 Qe2 22.Qe2 Re2 23.b3 Nf6 24.Re1 Ra2 25.Nc7 a4 26.Nb5 d5 27.Bc5 ab3 28.Bd6 Rb6 29.Rb3 Ne4 30.Re4 de4 31.c5 Ra6 32.Be5 Bf8 33.Nd6 f6 34.Ne4 fe5 35.fe5 R6a3 36.Rb7 Ra7 37.Nf6 Kh8 38.Rb8 Ra8 39.Ra8 Ra8 40.Ng4 Bc5 41.Kg2 h5 42.Nf6 Bd4 43.Nh5 Be5 44.Kf3 Ra4 45.h4 Kh7 46.g4 Kh6 0-1. [Click to replay]
Leitão, who had been leading since the early games, also lost in the tenth round. Lima surprised him by using the ...Nd4 employed by Karpov in his 21st game against Kortchnoi for the 1978 World Championship. Leitão did not find a better defense and got an inferior endgame that Black converted into a win. This game was chosen by players and technical staff as the tournament's best:
Leitão,Rafael (2590) - Lima,Darcy (2488) [D37]
75th Brazilian Ch, Porto Alegre, (10.4), 15.12.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dc5 Bc5 8.a3 Nc6 9.Qc2 Qa5 10.Rd1 Re8 11.Nd2 e5 12.Bg5 Nd4
13.ed4 Risky. 13. Qb1 was Kortchnoi's choice. 13...ed4 14.Be2 dc3 15.Nb3 Qa4 16.Bf6 dc4 17.Qc3 cb3 18.Qc5 gf6 19.Rd4 Qa6 20.Qh5 f5 21.Rd8 Qa5 22.Rd2 Qe5 23.0-0 Be6 24.Qg5 Kh8 25.Rfd1 Rg8 26.Qe3 Qe3 27.fe3 Rac8 28.Kf2 Kg7 29.Bd3 Kf6 30.Bb1 Rc5 31.Rd4 Ke5 32.g3 Rgc8 33.Ke1 R8c6 34.Bd3 b5 35.Rf4 h6 36.e4 fe4 37.Re4 Kf6 38.Rf4 Ke7 39.a4 ba4 40.Ra4 a5 41.Rda1 Rd6 42.Ke2 Rdd5 43.Bc4 Rh5 44.Be6 Rh2 45.Kd3 fe6 46.Kd4 Kd6 47.Ra5 Rd2 0-1. [Click to replay]
In the final round just Diamant and Vescovi could take the championship. Moreover, they had to play each other, to the spectators' delight. The Internet coverage, which reached 6,500 daily average visitors, jumped to near 8,000 during this decisive game – impressive numbers in a country with a limited chess tradition. Diamant needed just a draw to win the title, but launched a violent attack against Vescovi's king. The struggle became complex and very tense, with many tactical treats:
Diamant,André (2412) - Vescovi,Giovanni (2635) [B85]
75th Brazilian Ch, Porto Alegre, (11.2), 16.12.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3 a6 4.d4 cd4 5.Nd4 d6 6.Be2 Nf6 7.0-0 Be7 8.f4 0-0 9.a4 Qc7 10.Be3 b6 11.Bf3 Bb7 12.g4 Nc6 13.g5 Nd4 14.Qd4 Nd7 15.Qd2 Rfe8 16.Bg2 Bf8 17.Rf3 d5. Vescovi needs a full point and take some risks. 17...b5 was interesting but after 18.ab5 ab5 19.Ra8 Ra8 20.Nb5 Qc4 21.Nc3 Be4 22.b3 Ra1 23.Rf1 Rf1 24.Bf1 Qb4 Black could hardly play for a win. 18.ed5 Rad8 19.Rh3 Nc5 20.Qf2. Even needing just a draw, Diamant plays aggressively. Another try is 20.b4 Nd7 21.Qd3 g6 22.d6!? 20...ed5 21.Qh4 h6 22.gh6
The critical moment. How must Black defend? 22...d4! 23.hg7 Bg7 24.Bb7 Nb7. Better 24...Qb7 25.f5! Qc6 (25...Ne4 26.Qh7 Kf8 27.Bh6 Bh6 28.Rh6 dc3 29.Qh8 Ke7 30.Re6!+/-; 25...de3? 26.f6+-) 26.Qh7 Kf8 27.Rg3 Re3 28.Qg7 Ke8 29.Re3 de3 unclear] 25.Qh7 Kf8 26.Rg3 f6 27.Ne4 Re4 28.Qe4 de3 29.Re3 Nd6 30.Qb4 a5 31.Qc3 Nc4. After a well calculated defense, Black got the better game. 32.Rd3 Qc5 33.Kh1 Qc6 34.Kg1 Qc5 35.Kh1 Rd3 36.Qd3 Qc6 37.Kg1 Nb2-/+ 38.Qa3 Qc5 39.Qc5 bc5 40.f5 Bh6. Black has a clear advantage as the rook is passive. Anyway, the endgame is far from simple. 41.Ra3 c4 42.Kf2 Ke7 43.Rg3 Kd6 44.Rg6 Bg5 45.Kg3 Ke5 46.Kg4 Bd2 47.Rg8 Nd1. Time pressure. 47...Na4 48.Rd8 Be3 49.Re8 Kd4 50.Re6 Nc5 51.Rf6 a4 gives Black better winning possibilities. 48.Rd8 Ne3 49.Kf3
49...c3? 49...Nd5 was necessary: 50.h4 c3 51.Re8 Kf5 52.Ra8 Ne3 53.Ra5 Ke6 keeps Black with clear advantage in a complex endgame. Now White is winning: 50.Re8 Kf5 51.Re3 Be3. Draw agreed. White is winning, but half a point is enough for Diamant. Now 51...Be3 52.Ke3 Kg4 (52...Ke5 53.Kd3 Kf4 54.Kc3 Ke3 55.h4+-) 53.Ke4 f5 54.Ke3 f4 55.Ke4 f3 56.Ke3 is zugzwang. 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]
Decisive game: Diamant faces Vescovi in the last round.
Live camera: Vescovi plays ...d4 in a complicated position.
Curiously, the new champion is of Jewish origin and represents the club A Hebraica from São Paulo. He even used the typical Yarmulke while playing the final rounds. According to Rabbi Najmanovich, until then the only player who used Yarmulke during a chess event was Akiba Rubinstein. Will Diamant's piece become a lucky one?
Incidentally, three of the most talented young Brazilian players have very mixed origins: Jewish (Diamant), Arab (El Debs) and Caucasian/Oriental (Fier, who bears a surname which is a corrupted version of German Vier). What a mix!
This win crowns the quick and continuous improvement reached by Diamant this year. Unofficial calculations report his rating to go over 2500 in the next FIDE list, an almost 100-point jump just in the last quarter of 2008. At 18, he is surely a great promise – but not the only one. Alexandr Fier (19, GM since 2007) and Felipe El Debs (who did not play here but got 8-2 and a GM-norm at the Dresden Olympiad) are under constant development. This new and talented generation also includes Mekhitarian, Di Berardino and Bittencourt, all with excellent prospects to become strong GMs.
Due to the tournament criteria (number of wins), Allan Gattass was actually the 11th placed.
Chief arbiter Trois (Black shirt) observes the decisive Diamant-Vescovi game
Lima recovered from a bad start; Milos lost his chances in the last rounds
With 2/11 this was not the desired result for FM Carlos Alberto Barreto Filho
Krikor Mekhitarian and Rafael Leitão during post-morten. Fier observes
Lima-Milos. Behind: Mekhitarian-Leitão. At right: technical staff
Mekhitarian, Fier, Leitão, Gattass, Konrath and Trois follow the critical last round.
Eduardo Medeiros follows Oliveira-Fier. The players appreciated the excellent job
Medeiros did in providing good conditions outside the board.
All tournament photos above by Antonio Benevenga / IXC.
In the media: Zero Hora, a large local diary, reported Diamant's win.
A larger view of the new champion (Photo by Fernando Gomes, Zero Hora)
Porto Alegre has 1.43 million inhabitants and is located at margins of Guaíba Lake, a singular reunion of five rivers. Some call it a lake, some a river and others think it is an estuary. The city is the most important cultural, commercial and industrial center of Brazil's South, midway from São Paulo to Buenos Aires.
Founded by immigrants from the Azores Islands (Portugal) in 1772, the city became known in recent years because it hosted the first editions of the World Social Forum. It's also one of the very few cities with two teams holding the title of Team World Soccer Champion. Grêmio won in 1983 with a 2-1 victory over Germany's Hamburgo. The Internacional epic title came with a win over all-star Barcelona in 2006 by 1-0.
Besides an outstanding sunset, the city has many parks, squares and wooded streets. The green concentration in Porto Alegre is the highest between Brazilian capitals and some vestiges of ancient Atlantic Forest are still found in urban areas. The city has ten universities, three large commercial centers, many museums and theatres.
Contrary to the vast majority of Brazilian territory, Rio Grande do Sul is not a tropical region. It integrates the Pampa area, a large plain which extends to Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay, There are cold winters with negative (<0º) temperatures. But summers are hot in a typical and melting Brazilian way.
Aerial view from Guaíba Lake
The outstanding sunset
Farroupilha Park, a large urban park a few meters from the Synagogue
Monument in homage to Azores immigrants. Behind, the Administrative Center
Nocturnal view of city's center, with Public Market and some port piers
Although a large city, Porto Alegre is highly woody
Local climate and vegetation are subtropical
Old coal power plant, now a cultural center, with its chimney hidden by winter fog
Bridge over Guaíba Lake
All photos from this section by courtesy of Porto Imagem
The Author: Igor Freiberger, 37, lives in Porto Alegre and works in Brazil's Federal Judiciary. A former lawyer, designer and computing teacher, he played chess mostly as a junior in the late 80's and early 90's, when he also collaborated with the local federation and its chess magazine.