Opening Encyclopaedia 2016

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Chinese dragon wins Canadian Open

7/16/2007 – Chinese super-GM Bu Ziangzhi is a man of few words, but many powerful moves. He demonstrated his class last week at the 2007 Canadian Open Chess Championship in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. In a field crowded with more than twenty GMs, including Nigel Short, Vadim Milov, Sergey Tiviakov and Kamil Miton, Bu finished clear first. Big illustrated report.
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Opening Encyclopedia 2016

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Chinese dragon wins Canadian Open

Final report by Peter Hum

Nearly two weeks ago, a certain Susan Polgar was in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, presiding as the honorary chair of the 2007 Canadian Youth Chess Championship. The talk over dinner turned to the upcoming 2007 Canadian Open Chess Championship, a ten-round, one-section event that would feature more than twenty Grandmasters, including five from the exalted above-2650 ranks: GM Bu Xiangzhi of China, GM Nigel Short of Great Britain, GM Vadim Milov of Switzerland, GM Kamil Miton of Poland and GM Sergey Tiviakov of the Netherlands. Who did Polgar favour to win? Her answer was short and sweet: Bu.

Turns out she was right. Although after nine rounds, four GMs – Bu, Milov, Miton and Sandipan Chanda of India – were tied for first with 7/9, Bu, with the black pieces, downed Milov while Miton and Chanda drew. Short won his last round game, but finished a half point behind Bu, along with Miton, Chanda, Russian GM Bator Sambuev and Canadian IM Thomas Krnan.

Final standings (6.5/10 or higher)






GM Xiangzhi Bu




GM Nigel D. Short




GM Kamil Miton




GM Chanda Sandipan




IM Tomas Krnan




GM Bator Sambuev




GM Vadim Milov




GM Sergey Tiviakov




GM Andrey V. Rychagov




GM Mark Bluvshtein




GM Abhijit Kunte




GM Alex Yermolinsky




FM Anton Kovalyov




GM Hoang Thong Tu




GM Frank De La Paz Perdomo




IM Thomas Roussel-Roozmon




IM Alexander Reprintsev




IM Leonid Gerzhoy




FM Joe Bradford




FM Daniel Rensch




FM Jonathan Tayar




GM Victor Mikhalevski




GM Suat Atalik




GM Anton Shomoev




GM Valeriy Aveskulov




GM David Howell




GM Tomas Likavsky




IM Tom O'Donnell




FM Shiyam Thavandiran




GM Arkady Vul




Michael Barron




Sebastian Predescu




Bindi Cheng




Josh Guo




Karoly Szalay



GM Bu, receiving the trophy from Chess Federation of Canada President Hal Bond

Bu's success, which garnered a $5,000 CAD first prize, was richly deserved. He was victorious in must-win games against GM Suat Atalik, who after seven rounds was leading, and against Milov in the last round. Notably, Bu demonstrated incredible mastery of the Slav Defence, winning with the black pieces against GMs Arkady Vul, Sipke Ernst and Milov, while beating Atalik's Slav with the White pieces and then drawing Miton in the same variation.

Bu, just 21, was modest in victory, saying that although he was the event's top seed, he only came to play each game as best he could, without thinking about the winning the title of champion. He said every game required intense effort, and the last-round win against Milov was particularly draining. Asked if he would be willing to play in Canada again, Bu's instant reply was, "Of course!"

Super-GM in the guest room

How GM Bu came to play in Ottawa in the first place is a story worth telling. In Ottawa, a few young chess players whose parents came from China have close ties with the Chinese Chess Association, and have even trained in Beijing during last summer. Because of that link, and because of the persistence of chess parent Lianhua He, the Chinese Chess Association gave its blessing for Bu to play in Ottawa. However, because of the red tape involved with passport and visa matters, Bu's participation was only confirmed in late June, days before the 2007 Canadian Open began. When the July FIDE rating list was released, Bu's rating had risen to 2685, while that of GM Nigel Short, until then the 2007 Canadian Open's top seed, had dropped slightly to 2683 – on paper, the event suddenly had a new favourite.

Bu even stayed at the home of Ms. He. Bu says he was glad for the companionship provided by his Ottawa hosts, preferring it to staying in a hotel, where he would have been lonely. Ms. He and her husband Charles Szalay made sure that Bu was well-treated, fed Chinese food, covered in Ottawa's Chinese-language media and taken to lunch with Chinese Embassy officials. By the way, Ms. He's 14-year-old son Karoly won the 2007 Canadian Open's Under-2200 prize – has some of Bu's magic rubbed off?

Thanks to his super-GM houseguest, young Karoly might have to take up the Slav Defence

GM Bu, centre, with his new Canadian friends, Karoly Szalay, sponsor Cheryl Mousseau, Charles Szalay and Lianhua He

Bu played tourist before Round Three. Behind him is the Ottawa River and the Canadian Museum of Civilization

In Canada, it most often falls upon unpaid volunteers to run even the most prestigious national chess events, which in general are movable celebrations, held each year in a different Canadian city by fresh crews of organizers. In Ottawa, Ms. He was one of just a dozen or so volunteers who had poured countless hours into organizing the 2007 Canadian Open and the 2007 Canadian Youth Championship that came before it. Just as she hosted GM Bu, the chair of the Ottawa events' organizing committee, Gordon Ritchie, hosted GM Short and his daughter at his home. The two Indian GMs. Abhijit Kunte and Sandipan Chanda, stayed at the spacious new home of Ottawa chessplayer Sanjiv Kalra. Asked if he missed India, GM Kunte said not all – Mr. Kalra's house is like India, he said.

GMs and future GMs? Agastya Kalra, Canadian IM Thomas Roussel-Roozmon, GM Abhijit Kunte and GM Sandipan Chanda in the Canadian Open analysis room

How committed were the volunteers to the success of their event? Although they had obtained corporate sponsorship for the 2007 Canadian Open, they nonetheless felt the elite players deserved to use fine wooden chess sets rather than the standard issue plastic pieces of North American Opens. The organizers dug deep into their own wallets to fund the purchase of expensive wooden sets for the top ten boards, which they kept as souvenirs when the 2007 Canadian Open was over.

GM Short's sugar shortage

Not to take anything away from GM Bu's well-deserved victory, but many of the 2007 Canadian Open's players and fans were rooting for GM Nigel Short. Clearly he was the event's marquee player who conferred real prestige and class to it. Short was exceedingly popular and approachable throughout the event, popping into the commentary room to share his thoughts.

GM Short (dark suit), flanked by Canadian IM Thomas Krnan, left, and GMs Sandipan Chanda and Bator Sambuev, right. With GM Kamil Miton, they finished 1/2 point behind Bu.

Short went undefeated at the 2007 Canadian Open, but had a stretch of five draws during the middle of the event, when the rounds were held during weekday evenings to accommodate Ottawa players who worked during the day. After his Round Eight draw with GM Bator Sambuev, rated 200 points below him, Short said in the commentary room that he was feeling more or less "brain dead" in his late game calculations, and that he was extremely low on energy and in need of something sugary to give him an energy boost.

While Short was not able to add the title of Canadian Open Champion to his curriculum vitae, the event's organizers hope that he was happy with his stay in Ottawa. He and his daughter Kyveli spent some time sightseeing, and the British High Commissioner in Ottawa invited Short and British GM David Howell to his residence. The British High Commission helped sponsor the travels of Short and Howell to Ottawa.

In many ways, the success of the 2007 Canadian Open flows from Short's agreement to take part. When the former world championship challenger's participation was confirmed, it triggered a rush of rank-and-file players to register. As well, until Short was confirmed, the organizers had much more modest goals for their event. But with him signed up the organizers felt they had to pack the field with a few other super-GMs to give him a run for his money. And then a few more GMs were invited, so that there would be no pronounced gaps by rating in the field. The next thing you knew, the group of a dozen or so organizers had succeeded in confirming 22 GMs – in no small part because of involvement of major sponsors 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.

Most of the 2007 Canadian Open's Grandmasters: Back Row (l-r): GM Victor Mikhalevski, GM Suat Atalik, GM David Howell, GM Valeriy Aveskulov, GM Tomas Likavsky, GM Bu Xiangzhi, GM Nigel D. Short, GM Mark Bluvshtein, GM Frank De La Paz Perdomo; Front Row (l-r):GM Vadim Milov,GM Arkady Vul, WGM Ekaterina Atalik, GM Sergey Tiviakov, GM Abhijit Kunte, GM Chanda Sandipan; Absent: GM Kamil Miton, GM Bator Sambuev, GM Andrey V. Rychagov, GM Alex Yermolinsky, GM Hoang Thong Tu, GM Anton Shomoev, GM Sipke Ernst, GM Borislav Ivkov.

Of the 2007 Canadian Open's 280 players, roughly one in four played at least one of the 22 Grandmasters! For Canada, a country in which its very few resident GMs prefer to play abroad or in the the rare strong invitational event, this kind of strength and depth at an Open event is very much unprecedented. However, with this standard set in Ottawa this year, the organizers hope that future Canadian Opens will only grow stronger and more well-attended, figuring on the calendars of Canadian and International chess players alike.

Player Gallery

GM Suat Atalik was all smiles at the beginning of Round Seven, since he was leading the pack. But then he met...

GM Bu Xiangzhi of China

GM Kamil Miton of Poland, who trip to the Canadian Open was sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland and LOT Polish Airlines

From Russia came GM Andrey Rychagov and GM Arkady Vul

GM Bator Sambuev and GM Anton Shomoev both made the trip from Eastern Siberia to Ottawa. They are from Ulan Ude, a town of 400,000 and an important commercial and industrial centre, located on the 5640th kilometre of the Trans-Siberian railway. It is the capital of Buryatia republic that is a home for Buryat, Evenk, and Russian people.

Of course, the pairings gods determined that GMs Shomoev and Sambuev would face each other in Round Four. GM Shomoev's comment upon seeing the pairing posted was something along the lines of "I traveled half-way around the world – and now I'm playing Sambuev?" He had to laugh. The result was a fighting draw. GM Sambuev, by virtue of his last-round win against GM David Howell of Great Britain, tied for second place.

Canadian IM Tomas Krnan tied for second place, thanks to a victory over Ukrainian GM Valeriy Aveskulov in the last round. British GM David Howell co-led the tournament after Round Five, with GM Suat Atalik.

GM Victor Mikhalevski played in Ottawa thanks to support from the Embassy of Israel. GM Tomas Likavsky, whose visit to Canada was assisted by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic, gave a popular lecture on psychology in chess.

GM Tu Hoang Thong of Vietnam, left, was reunited in Canada with his childhood friend Montreal-based IM Thanh Nha Duong, right.

American FM Joe Bradford made the trip from Texas; American FM John D. Bick, from Louisiana, displays his meaningful tattoo

Dalia Kagramanov, a B-class player not yet 14, scored several upset victories against players as much as 400 points higher-rated. As a result, she faced two Grandmasters.

WFM Kubra Ozturk of Turkey was also the guest in Ottawa of OZ Optics. She tied with IM Ekaterina Atalik for the Canadian Open's top woman prize.

Ali Yazici, right, president of the Turkish Chess Federation, was in the neighbourhood and he thought he would drop by. On the left is Peter Hum, author of this report and the 2007 Canadian Open's elite player liaison.


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