4th Floripa Open: a massive start

by Albert Silver
1/21/2018 – The 4th Floripa Open held in Florianópolis, Brazil, has grown into one of the pre-eminent swiss open tournaments, not just in Brazil, but in all of Latin America. Each year the organizers have striven to improve it with better conditions, prize money and more, and the field has now grown past 400 players. Here is a large report with many high-res photos. | Photo: Albert Silver

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All photos by Albert Silver

Anyone who has merely organized a modest weekend affair can sympathize with the challenges that a massive swiss open can involve. In fact the very first edition of the Floripa Open in 2015 was not without its growing pains. Although Brazil is famous as a tropical country with rainforests, beaches and what-have-you, it is also a vast country and as such has a significant diversity of climactic conditions. Rio de Janeiro, where I hail from, tends to be on the warmer side of things, and was upwards of 40 C. on the day I left, whereas Florianopolis is usually much more moderate. In the first edition of the event, the field was held in a gymnasium, and as Murphy’s Law would have it, the city was beset with the worst heat wave in decades. The players suffered in sweltering heat in spite of numerous giant fans placed throughout the playing area. Rather than just chalk it up to bad luck and hope for better the next year, the organizers relocated it into the ballroom of the Lira Tennis Club located in downtown Florianopolis, a gorgeous playing area with ample air-conditioning.

Final preparations before the first round with the five DGT boards, newly added for this year's edition

I was contacted by Marcelo, asking if I would like to come visit the event, enjoy the hospitality and see what the fuss was all about, since by now, the Floripa Open’s reputation is gold, and organizers from around Brazil come to play and visit and see what they can learn from this success story. Needless to say I was delighted by the invitation and graciously accepted.

Travelling in Brazil leaves no doubts about where one is. Aside from the usual 'airport stores' this one is dedicated exclusively to merchandise of Flamengo, the most popular football (soccer) team in Brazil.

Examplary response

The first bombshell came on the day I arrived. Francisco Vallejo Pons, the star invitee of the tournament had cancelled just days before, explaining that his mother had just been hospitalized in intensive care. One of the key points of the tournament’s formula had been to invite one big name player from abroad, to give a simul, and play in the tournament. Last year’s, for example, had been none other than Alexey Shirov.

Unsurprisingly, the organization announced that the fees paid in advance to play in the simul with ‘Paco’, as the Spaniard is commonly known, would be refunded, but the next announcement was what caught many by surprise. To compensate somewhat for the absence of the player, the prizefund of 25 thousand Reals (roughly US$7800) would be increased to 30 thousand Reals (about US$9400) with all individual prizes increased proportionately. It doesn’t need to be pointed out that this sort of attitude is virtually unheard of, and was applauded heartily. It is also the reason so many players speak so highly of the event in general, and are repeat visitors.

The slightly informal but convivial approach, combined with good organizational skills is a trademark of the event's two tournament diractors, Marcelo Pomar and Kaiser Mafra as they test out the digital boards above.

A family affair

This year the tournament brought in a massive 409 players with ten grandmasters and ten international masters, as well as a slew of other titled players. With the withdrawal of Vallejo Pons, the top seed is the legendary Peruvian player, Julio Granda Zuniga. Second seed is the Paraguayan GM Axel Bachman, who was also the winner of last year’s edition, beating out Shirov in the end. There are also many norm seeking players, some with better chances than others, at least on paper, but as soon became clear, no one is safe anymore.

No doubt expecting an easier time of it, top seed Julio Granda Zuniga was one of the first 'casualties', drawing in round one against Wladimir Zampronha (2126 FIDE)

As a result, casual players were surprised to find themselves playing next to a strong grandmaster where they least expected it

The spacious hall, multiple chandeliers, and nicely air-conditioned area all contribute to a very enjoyable experience

The tournament is a tough affair, with ten rounds played over seven days at a classical time control of 90 minutes plus a 30-second increment. The schedule means three days with double rounds, though the times of the rounds might seem somewhat ‘controversial’ at first. They did to me at least, since no fewer than four rounds would start at 8pm, meaning they could easily stretch past midnight. To be fair, there are no morning rounds either.

Reigning Brazilian Champion GM Everaldo Matsuura is a fan of the event

As GM Everaldo Matsuura, current Brazilian Champion, explained, “This allows players time to do some tourism and enjoy the city. Many grandmasters come here for that very reason.” Matsuura’s smile as he said this, clearly indicated he was one of them. This also helped explain why so many players came with their families. While the children would often play in the tournament as well, since there is no shortage of young participants either, they can also spend some quality family time with them during the day, visiting the sites, beaches and more.

Uruguay GM Andrés Rodrigues, winner of the 2015 edition, is another fan, welcoming my first time to this "delightful event here in the south"

Players of all walks in life and come to play in it, many bringing their families.

Among the top boards still with 100% is IM Diego Di Berardino (2516 FIDE) seeking his GM norm and title

Battle-hardened WIM Regina Ribeiro is always ready for a fight

The next generation of hopefuls...

... and the generation after that!

IM Roberto Molina had a close call in round three, saving a lost game against all hope, in a rook endgame two pawns down

Decisions, decisions!

Sensing trouble out of the corner of his eye

The city has 60 beaches and is a center of surfing activity. Lagoa da Conceição is the most famous area for tourism, recreation, nature and radical sports. The New York Times reported that "Florianopolis is the Party Destination of the Year in 2009." and  Newsweek placed Florianópolis in the "Ten most dynamic cities of the world" list in 2006.

Many players come with their spouses and children

FM Wagner Guimarães travelled with his son, Lucas, a chess fan in his own right

There are also gift shops with all manner of chess memorabilia. The t-shirt above is a twist on Descartes: "I think therefore I play chess"

No easy pickings

The very first round saw the consequences of so many hungry players, combined with an accelerated pairings system used. Two of the top ten seeds failed to score full points against their lower-rated opponents: Granda Zuniga and Delgado.

GM Neuris Delgado, who crushed the Duchamp in Rio field last November, has not been in the same form, allowing two draws in the first three games

They were not the only players to falter in the first three rounds and as a result only three grandmasters and one IM still lay claim to perfect scores of 3.0/3: GMs Fier, Barbosa, and Bachmann, as well as IM DiBerardino. Still, with seven rounds yet to go, these early slips can easily be made up before the final stretch.

GM Axel Bachmann (right) dispatched FM Felipe Menna Barreto in round three to preserve his perfect start

GM Krikor Mekhitarian started strong, but conceded a draw in round three against FM Alvaro Aranha, and has 2.5/3

Standings after three rounds

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Carneiro Vitor Roberto Castro 3,0
2 Fier Alexandr 3,0
  Barbosa Evandro Amorim 3,0
  Almiron Antonio 3,0
5 Bachmann Axel 3,0
  Di Berardino Diego Rafael 3,0
7 Costa Pedro Henrique 3,0
8 Moraes Silva Carlos Alessandro 3,0
  De Almeida Felipe Magno 3,0
10 Favero Bruna Francescato 3,0
11 Mekhitarian Krikor Sevag 2,5
  Aranha Filho Alvaro Z. 2,5
13 Perdomo Leandro 2,5
  Bittencourt Jorge 2,5
  Miranda Jr Roberto Calheiros De 2,5
16 Rodriguez Vila Andres 2,5
  Molina Roberto Junio Brito 2,5
18 Miguel Gabriel Carvalho Moreira 2,5
  Cadilhac Igor Tokuichi Kikuchi 2,5
20 Guimaraes Wagner Peixoto 2,5

Complete standings

Live games

 

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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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George Karoly George Karoly 1/21/2018 11:06
It looks interesting to an old (93, nearly 94 years old) semi-retired chess player.
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