2014 Politiken Cup

by Alejandro Ramirez
8/1/2014 – There are many tournaments that are competitive, stressful, difficult. Where players make sacrifices just to play and compete for the reward of winning. Politiken Cup is not that type of tournament. It is a pleasure to play, in a beautiful location full of fun and daily side events. The small town of Helsingor was once more host to undeniably a successful pre-Olympiad tournament!

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It is Summer in Europe! And with Summer it is tournament season! Many important Opens happen all over the old continent and the battles for the top prizes are always fierce.

I live in America, and for us the tournaments are very different than the ones in Europe. America is plagued with tournaments that are poorly organized, very cut-throat and usually they are double-round events (you play two games a day) which is unbelievably hard on players. It is always a nice change to visit one of the European tournaments and enjoy chess a little more.

With the Olympiad coming up, I thought it would be nice to play a tournament right before it. There were many appealing choices, from the Catalan Circuit near Barcelona/Andorra to Pardubice in Czech Republic; however I ended up going to the Politiken Cup, partially because it is close to Norway and partially because I have never been to Denmark.

I was not sure what to expect from the tournament, but I have to say most of my experience there (besides my level of play!) was quite positive. The tournament is hosted in Helsingor, a very small city (more of a town...) about an hour away from Copenhagen. The organizers were very welcoming and gave us a lift from Copenhagen airport.

The beautiful view from Konventum, the hotel where the Politiken Cup is held. That shoreline on the other side is Sweden!

Helsingor is an unpretentious small town, but quite picturesque

Helsingor "downtown" is about a 40 minute walk from the playing hall

The tournament itself is rather strange. There is not enough space for all the players (there are over 300!) so the players are split in different rooms throughout the hotel. The main problem of this year's Politiken Cup was a heatwave that affected Denmark. Some of the rooms were difficult to play in with the heat while the hotel rooms themselves were also very hot. Denmark being so far north usually doesn't have heat problems and the organizers assured this was a very rare thing. Just my luck to bring my tropical climate with me!

The top playing hall where boards 1-11 are located

The tournament was absolutely filled with chess monsters. The top 10 boards had 2600+ players and the top two (Moisenko and Rapport) are 2700+! Most impressive for an open. Speaking of Rapport, he had an interesting game one:

[Event "Politiken Cup 2014"] [Site "Helsingor DEN"] [Date "2014.07.21"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Rapport, Richard"] [Black "Rogers, Tim L"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B10"] [WhiteElo "2701"] [BlackElo "2011"] [PlyCount "9"] [EventDate "2014.07.21"] 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Qe2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Nd6# 1-0

Definitely not something you see every day! Tim Rogers, from England, was the first one to finish his round one game at only five moves but he was also the last board to keep playing in the final round, and he won that game!

Most grandmasters started with a steady 2.0/2 and moved on to 3.0/3, with a few exceptional draws here and there. The top boards were almost always occupied by grandmaster vs. grandmaster games starting from round four while boards 8-15 were usually a battle between a grandmaster and a strong 2300 or 2400 that had wiggled his way up in the tournament rankings.

Romain Edouard from France started out very strong but finished with two losses and out of the prizes

Hall number two could get a little hot with so many players. Bonus points if you recognize the curly haired player on the right.

The tournament was absolutely dominated by Bu Xiangzhi. He started on a strong 4.5/5 only to go on a superb winning streak. At 8.5/9 it was clear that he was going to be the tournament winner and his final result of 9.0/10 after surviving a tough endgame against Rapport gave him a win with a point over his nearest rivals.

There were always big challenges for the grandmasters in this event. Many strong and upcoming players were trying to make their mark and come with surprises. Especially interesting is the young German player Jan-Christian Schroeder who managed to end in the top 10 in the final rankings!

Many surprises were seen in the final round; Moiseenko who was the top seed was knocked out of the prizes when he lost his last game, as was Edouard.

Bu Xiangzhi had no problems tearing this tournament apart

Gawain Jones from England had a superb showing and finished second thanks to the tiebreak system

Last year's winner Parimarjan Negi had a great tournament but the tiebreaks did not help him; he ended fifth anyways

A chess legend on the board! Jan Timman had a decent showing in this event.

The tournament was certainly not just about chess. The format was very stressful if you wanted to have a good chance of winning the whole thing. With so many players a very high score is expected to finish first, and since the prizes quickly trickle down it is important to finish very high up if you are trying to make some money. That being said it seemed as if everyone was truly enjoying themselves. Almost every night there was some sort of side activity, and if there wasn't then many players participated in the nightly soccer games! More than one grandmaster was hurt in these matches, both physically and emotionally. Politiken 2014 reminds chess players once more that having a "grandmasters vs. others" soccer match never favors the high rated players...

Georg Meier lost two in a row in rounds eight and ninge and that put him outside reach of the top prizes

Yours truly finished ninth but somehow lost a bunch of rating. At least I'm faithful to my 1.Nf3!

The blitz tournament is actually a very important part of the Politiken Cup! The prize is quite high and most grandmasters participate in it. This year Maxim Matlakov was victorious, finishing well after 1 a.m....

Also traditional is the pairs blitz tournament. Players can pair up with any other player they want to create a team and then play ten rounds against other pairs. Some people even dress up for the event. Not only did the Blues Brothers win the best dressed team, they won their rating category prize!

Team he-he-he from Norway (left) playing against two of the organizers

David Smerdon had a good pair blitz tournament and a good main event but his individual blitz results were lacking!

Bu Xiangzhi analyzing with his young opponent... IM-elect Anton Smirnov from Australia!

Between the side events, the beauty of the city and the amazing effort the organizers put towards this event it is easy to see why many people choose to come back to the Politiken Cup. They have already announced the dates next year (July 25th-August 2nd, 2015) and it should be another smashing success. This year especially many players took it as a preparation for the Olympiad; most of the grandmasters participating will be in Tromso. The only big exception is that Bu Xiangzhi, despite winning a massive amount of rating, will not be representing China there.

Final Standings

Rk.   Name FED Rtg Pts.
1 GM Bu Xiangzhi CHN 2693 9.0
2 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2665 8.0
3 GM Matlakov Maxim RUS 2685 8.0
4 GM Rodshtein Maxim ISR 2671 8.0
5 GM Negi Parimarjan IND 2645 8.0
6 GM Rapport Richard HUN 2701 7.5
7 GM Romanov Evgeny RUS 2643 7.5
8 FM Schroeder Jan-Christian GER 2370 7.5
9 GM Ramirez Alejandro USA 2580 7.5
10 GM Hector Jonny SWE 2506 7.5
11 GM Schandorff Lars DEN 2529 7.5
12 GM Smerdon David AUS 2519 7.5
13 IM Svane Rasmus GER 2494 7.5
14 GM Semcesen Daniel SWE 2503 7.5
15 GM Le Roux Jean-Pierre FRA 2560 7.5
16 FM Smirnov Anton AUS 2334 7.5
17 IM Ly Moulthun AUS 2466 7.5
18 GM Hillarp Persson Tiger SWE 2569 7.0
19 GM Timman Jan H NED 2610 7.0
20 GM Gao Rui CHN 2529 7.0

My original plan was to stay a full day in Copenhagen doing touristy things before heading to Tromso to cover the Olyomiad for ChessBase, but unfortunately a major train accident delayed our trip to Copenhagen from Helsingor significantly. Still I was able to take a picture with the iconic Little Mermaid statue:

The Little Mermaid!

From tomorrow on I will be reporting live from Tromso on the World Chess Olympiad, the biggest celebration of chess in the World; and I will be joined by most of the winners from the Politiken Cup!

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


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