Donostia/San Sebastián: and then there were eight

1/2/2012 – We remind you: this is an extraordinary knock-out event in that the participants have to play two games against each other – simultaneously. In the A group three of eight matches were decided in classical games, three in rapid games and two in simultaneous blitz. All quite harrowing, as we learn from the players and in our illustrated report by WGM Anastasiya Karlovich.

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Report by WGM Anastasiya Karlovich

The event, which is taking place from December 28th 2011 to January 5th 2012 in northern Spain, is unusual in that, following an idea by David Bronstein, the participants play two classical chess games against each other – simultaneously. It is a knock-out, with the eliminated players continuing in a parallel group. Donostia (Basque for San Sebastián) is a city located in the north of Spain, in the coast of the Bay of Biscay, close to the French border. It is one of the most famous tourism destinations in Spain.

After New Year’s Eve all players were ready to do uncompromising battles again. In the A-group only three matches were decided in classical games. Julia Granda Zuniga defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with a 2:0 score, Alexander Moiseenko won against Kamil Miton 1.5:0.5 and Etienne Bacrot took an upper hand against his compatriot Sebastian Maze.


Andrey Volokitin playing Arkadij Naiditsch

Three other matches were decided in rapid games: Andrey Volokitin won against Arkadij Naiditsch, Viktor Laznicka defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The closest battle by rating was Dominguez-Fressinet, a very tough match which finished in favor of Cuban player.


Ponomariov-Feller in the foreground, Gashimov-Landa in the back

In the matches Gashimov-Landa, Ponomariov-Feller the opponents exchanged punches in the rapid games and were ready to check out who would be stronger in simultaneous blitz. The nervous systems of the rating favorites Vugar Gashimov and Ruslan Ponomariov proved to be stronger and both won their blitz matches with 2:0 score. After the fourth round eight participants of the A-group, who succeeded in winning today, will keep on playing in quarterfinals.

Only ten participants are left in B-group after the fourth round. All of them will play the last decisive matches on the 3rd of January. Players who lost today were redirected to C-group. One of the top players of the B-group, Sergey Fedorchuk, unexpectedly lost against Alejandro Hoffman, who caught him in the opening, with 2:0 score.


Julio Granda Zuniga immediately after his victory over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

The players continue sharing their thoughts about a new format of the event and their matches.

Julia Granda Zuniga:
“It was a very tough match today because it’s very, very difficult to play two games simultaneously against such a strong player. I didn't prepare for my games and I got very bad positions in the openings, especially in the game with the white pieces. His position was almost winning, but my opponent didn’t play precisely, so I held the position. In the second game I was slightly better, but he took some risks. At that moment his time advantage was very big – I had only five minutes left in both games, and he had one hour in each one. He offered draws in both games, but I refused to accept, thinking that my only chance to win would be in normal controls, because Shakhriyar plays rapid and blitz even stronger. In the end I won both games. The tournament is going well for me so far, I didn’t expect such a result. The funny thing is when I play tennis I use both hands usually. Here I use one hand to make moves and another one to write in score sheets. I’m satisfied with my result so I hope there will be more tournaments like this in the future.”


Dutch GM Loek van Wely in his games against Sebastien Maze

Loek Van Wely:
“Once I participated in a tournament where we played on six boards at the same time and it was more like simul. It was much more important to play quickly there and put time pressure on your opponent. It’s also kind of tricky to play on two boards. I believe its better not to play fast here. You should not be destracted by your opponent who makes moves on the other board as well. Although, if there is an obvious move on the other board you can make the move quickly, but in general it’s better to keep on thinking about your position on one board. The only situation when it’s possible to switch all the time is when you are in time trouble. In any case it’s not so simple. I lost to Sebastian Maze in the previous round. We had two very tough games in normal time control and in rapid it was even worse. It’s possible to play on “autopilot”, but in those games it was difficult to calculate all the variations. I was better in one rapid game, but I had to play accurately, which was not easy to do with that time control. You look at one board then at the other, and somehow you don’t see clearly any more. I believe people will like this format and we are going to see more tournaments with the Basque system. In my opinion it’s a fairer format. You play against the same opponent with both colors. In an open tournament you play with black against a weaker opponent and he is happy to make a draw with you, for example when you have to win. I don’t know why weaker players doing it, but many of them are just happy to make a draw against a stronger opponent – they don’t want to fight. Playing here I don’t worry about this problem, because I also have my game with the white pieces. If my opponent wants to make a draw with white I’ll be happy to take it, because he is still going to suffer in the other game (laughing). I also believe it’s good for chess because your opponent always has to show something if he wants to win.

Addendum: Mike Adams of Guildford, UK, asks us a startling question: in these two-board matches is there a rule to prevent a player achieving a level score simply by mirroring their opponents moves on the second board? If so, how is it implemented?

Pictures by David Llada and Anastasiya Karlovich

Lastest results and winners (December 30th)

1 Gashimov, Vugar
½
½
1
0
1
1
4
17 Landa, Konstantin
½
½
0
1
0
0
2
2 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar
0
0
0
18 Granda Zuniga, Julio E
1
1
2
3 Ponomariov, Ruslan
1
0
½
½
1
1
4
14 Feller, Sebastien
0
1
½
½
0
0
2
4 Moiseenko, Alexander
½
1
1.5
20 Miton, Kamil
½
0
0.5
5 Bacrot, Etienne
½
1
1.5
21 Maze, Sebastien
½
0
0.5
6 Naiditsch, Arkadij
0
1
0
0
1
11 Volokitin, Andrei
1
0
1
1
3
7 Dominguez, Leinier
½
½
1
1
3
10 Fressinet, Laurent
½
½
0
0
1
8 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
1
0
0
0
1
9 Laznicka, Viktor
0
1
1
1
3

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