Am. Continental Rd11: Winners and qualifiers

by Albert Silver
5/27/2015 – It was a long and epic competition, worthy of accolades on a variety of levels. The American Continental championship, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, was exciting through and through, from the constant change of leaders, to the six-way fight in the rapid tiebreaks to determine the lucky ones to leave with a place in the forthcoming World Cup. Large illustrated report.

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The tournament

The tournament is an eleven-round competition played at 40 moves in 90 minutes followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game and a 30-second increment as of move one. The first round is on May 15 with rounds every day until round eleven on May 24, including a double-round on May 17. Play typically starts at 5PM.

Although there are tiebreak scoring systems in place, starting with direct encounter, Buchholz, and more, in the event of a draw at the top, the top four qualifiers will be decided by a rapid tiebreak match or tournament, depending on the number, starting at 15 minutes plus a ten-second increment.

The prizes are US$5000 for first, $3400 for second, $2400 for third with prizes all the way to 20th place. Note that as FIDE events of this caliber, all norms scored count double, thus a player who scores a norm at the end of the competition will be considered to have earned two norms, not one.

A fond farewell

In the next-to-last day in Montevideo, a couple of the players, Claudia Montenegro and her husband Gabriel Curi, invited Gregory Kaidanov and myself for a personalized visit to a few points in the city, and a favorite place for lunch.

Claudia and Gabriel, seen here playing in the American Continental, picked
us up at the hotel and took us to a famous area of the city known as Carrasco

This beautiful shoreline with generous sidewalks and beach are a popular place to relax, exercise

On the way, I saw an unusual wall-like monument, and asked what it was. We stopped and to my surprise it was a monument to the Holocaust. In Europe this would be normal, but this is Uruguay, hardly a focal point of World War II. As it turns out, many fleeing the impending and later raging war, established residence in the country and as a result it is home to a significant Jewish community. The memorial is in honor of those who never made it.

When we arrived at the beach, exclaims of surprise were echoed as the water had receded
so far back, that one could easily walk quite a distance forward without necessarily dunking
one's shoes. It made for quite a sight with the ripples in the sand and enough water to see
the reflections. (Click image for high-res version)

I was hardly the only photographer to enjoy this unusual opportunity

When we got to the restaurant, it turned out to be an old train station that
was now home to a large number of restaurants that are favorites of the locals.

The most common type of food was the wide selectio of meats, a specialty of Uruguay

The narrow corridors and cozy restaurants gave it a neat 'industrial ruin' look (click image for high-res version)

A toast with our new friends: Claudia, Albert (myself), Gregory, and Gabriel

On my last morning in Montevideo, before leaving for the airport, I was greeted by this sunrise
seen from the hotel room. (Click image for high-res version)

Round eleven

The final round was one of quiet draws by those whose ambitions could no longer be realized, brave fights by those just wishing to enjoy their last game of chess, and plenty of nail-biting by those whose fates were yet to be decided.

Among those who were to leave disappointed was GM Eric Hansen who came so incredibly
close to a spot in the tiebreaker. He desperately needed a draw against Granda Zuñiga, but
the Peruvian is famous for his 'no compromise' approach to play and the Canadian was denied.

American GM Aleksander Lenderman was another who fell in the last rounds

Argentine GM Federico Perez Ponsa pulled off two key wins, including one with black over
Paraguayan GM Axel Bachmann, both of whom were in a win-at-all-costs situation

Argentine IM Carolina Lujan had an excellent event, and finished with 7.0/11
after putting....

... GM Alexander Yermolinsky against the ropes, forcing him to play
to hold the position, rather than for a win it as he might have preferred.

WGM Cori Deysi was the best female, beating Lujan by exactly one place and a small tiebreak

Argentine FM Kevin Paveto finished with 7.5/11

Jorge Arias Duran from Uruguay was the oldest participant. The 83-year-old was pitted against
a player who was his 70-years junior in the last round.

IM Alan Pichot (left), the World Youth under-16 champion, was the last and longest game of
the round, beating FM Renato Quintiliano and securing his GM norm and title

Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony was opened with a superb show of jazz and Bossa Nova music, sung
by Claudia Montenegro and her group. Classics from Summertime to Girl from Ipanema were
enjoyed by the audience.

The main authorities giving their final keynotes and thank yous. At the microphone is Jose
Sotelo Salcedo, the El Salvador Ambassador for Uruguay and Paraguay, enthused after
receiving confirmation the next American Continental will be held in his country.

IM Alan Pichot receives his award, announcing his GM norm, from the hands
of IM Bernardo Roselli, president of the Uruguay Chess Federation, and
organizer of the American Continental held in Montevideo

GM Jorge Cori, one of the biggest names throughout the competition,
receives his third place plaque from GM Darcy Lima, vice-president of
FIDE America

GM Yuniesky Quesada from Cuba had all the reasons in the world for
that jubilant smile. Not only was he second, tied in points with the winner
with 8.5/11, but he was the only player in need of a World Cup qualification
spot, who did not have to play in the subsequent tiebreak.

The winner of the X American Continental, GM Sandro Mareco from Argentina,
receives his award from Jorge Vega, president of FIDE America

Rapid tiebreak

After the closing ceremony ended, the tables were quickly set up for the rapid tiebreaker. Why after the closing ceremony? The reason is that while the tiebreak scores were used to determine the places and prizes of the winners, the four qualification spots were not. Three in fact, since GM Quesada’s score was higher than his rivals and his spot was secured. The top placed finishers such as GM Sandro Mareco, or GM Jorge Cori, had already won their spots in previous events, so were not competing for them.

Six players were left to fight for three spots: Eduardo Iturrizaga, Federico Perez Ponsa, Diego Flores, Yuri Gonzalez, Anton Kovalyov, and Salvador Alonso.

The spectators asked if there was a way to display more than one board as was being done with
the native DGT software, and the situation was easily solved by projecting the Playchess broadcasts

After five rounds of intense competition, the dust settled and the players with a ticket to the World Cup
were: Anton Kovalyov (left), Eduardo Iturrizaga (green/blue shirt), and Federico Perez Ponsa (right)

GM Yuri Gonzalez Vidal - GM Eduardo Iturrizaga (annotated by IM Luis Rodi)


[Event "Continental (Rapid Tiebreaker)"] [Site "Montevideo"] [Date "2015.05.25"] [Round "5"] [White "Gonzalez Vidal, Yuri"] [Black "Iturrizaga, Eduardo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B37"] [WhiteElo "2550"] [BlackElo "2613"] [Annotator "Rodi,Luis"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2015.05.25"] [EventCountry "URU"] {A rapid tiebreak is a fine balance between excitement, nerves, and precision. Whoever manages to get a grip on the first two elements will have the best chance to maximize the third. The Venezuelan Eduardo Iturrizaga was one of the standout players in this phase, achieveing the much sought out qualification.} 1. Nf3 c5 2. e4 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. c4 {The Maroczy is one of the main choices to fight the Accelerated Dragon. Since Black can pull off a timely ...d5 break in some of the lines, the Maroczy is a popular way to prevent it.} Nf6 6. Nc3 d6 7. Be2 Bg7 (7... Nxd4 {is a key alternative. Now} 8. Qxd4 Bg7 9. Be3 O-O 10. Qd2 {is the main tabiya, with Black choosing between a multitude of moves. In practice the most usual continautions are 10...Be6, 10.. .a5, 10...Qa5 and 10...Bd7}) 8. Nc2 {A relatively popular alternative recently, avoiding the various exchanges on d4. It follows the basic tenet that one should avoid exchanges when in possession of a space advantage.} (8. Be3 O-O 9. O-O Bd7 {is the main line. The black player is experienced in the line. For example,} 10. f3 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 a5 12. b3 Bc6 13. Qd2 Nd7 14. Be3 Nc5 15. Rab1 e6 16. Rfd1 Be5 17. Bf1 Qh4 18. g3 Qf6 19. Bd4 Qxf3 20. Bg2 Qf6 21. Bxe5 dxe5 22. Qd6 Nd7 $15 {Kryvoruchko - Iturrizaga, Dubai rapid 2014}) 8... Nd7 {[#] A thematic maneuver aiming to bring the knight to c5.} 9. Bd2 a5 10. O-O Nc5 11. Rb1 $146 (11. f3 O-O 12. Be3 a4 $132 {Nyback - Durarbayli, Aix-les-Bains 2011}) 11... O-O 12. Re1 $6 {Not the most precise.} ({Black could count on comfortable balance in case of} 12. Be3 $5 f5 (12... Bxc3 $5 13. Bxc5 Bg7 14. Be3 Be6 $11) 13. exf5 Bxf5 $11) 12... Be6 {Black has the initiative now.} ({ Another good possibility was} 12... f5) 13. Bf1 Nb4 $5 (13... f5 $1 $15) 14. Na3 $6 ({Missing a chance to complicate with} 14. Be3 $1 Bxc3 15. bxc3 Nxc2 16. Qxc2 Rb8 $13) 14... f5 $15 {This opening of lines is in Black's favor since the insistent policy of "no exchanges" by White has led to utterly passive piece play.} 15. Bg5 Rf7 16. f3 $6 {This move weakens the g1-a7 diagonal and is clearly not best. However, nor is it easy to suggest good options in a position that is falling apart.} ({The engines suggest} 16. Be3 {, but even here the simple} fxe4 {gives Black a clear advantage. A possible continuation is} ({Against the obvious} 16... Nxe4 17. Na4 $44 {is interesting.}) 17. Bxc5 dxc5 18. Nxe4 Bf5 19. Nb5 Qf8 $15) 16... fxe4 17. fxe4 Qb6 $17 {Tactical themes exploiting the weakened diagonal are beginning to crop up.} 18. Be3 (18. Nd5 Bxd5 19. exd5 Raf8 $17) 18... Raf8 19. Nab5 Bh6 $5 20. Bd4 {"and keep us from temptation"} (20. Bxh6 Rxf1+ 21. Rxf1 Ncd3+ 22. Kh1 Rxf1+ $1 23. Qxf1 Nf2+ 24. Kg1 Nxe4+ 25. Kh1 Nf2+ 26. Kg1 Nbd3 $1 27. g3 Bxc4 {In spite of the material imbalance, Black has the edge. Play might continue} 28. h3 (28. a4 g5 $1 $19) 28... Ng4+ 29. Kg2 Nxh6 $17) 20... Bg7 (20... Nc6 $5 21. Be2 ({ou} 21. Na4 Qd8 22. Bxc5 dxc5 23. Qxd8 Rxd8 $17) 21... Nxd4 22. Qxd4 Bg7 23. Qe3 Nd7 24. Qxb6 Nxb6 25. b3 Nd7 $17 {with an obvious positional advantage (bishop pair, control of the dark squares).}) 21. a3 $2 (21. Be3 {was necessary. In this case Black could opt to play 21...Qc6 or repeat the position with} Bh6 22. Bd4 {to follow with our recommendation Nc6} Nc6) 21... Bxd4+ 22. Nxd4 {[#]} Ncd3 $1 (22... Ncd3 23. Ncb5 {The best defensive move, though insufficient.} ({ The threat is a spin on Philidor's Legacy with} 23. axb4 Qxd4+ 24. Kh1 Nf2+ 25. Kg1 Nh3+ 26. Kh1 Qg1#) 23... Bxc4 24. axb4 Bxb5 $1 {Protecting the knight on d3, and untouchable due to the pin.} 25. Bxd3 Qxd4+ 26. Kh1 Bxd3 {and Black is up a piece and the proud owner of a ticket to the World Cup.}) 0-1

Special thanks to IM Luis Rodi for his invaluable analysis...

...and to Xadrez Diário, the daily chess newsletter in Portuguese, where the original notes were published, and that were translated and used in the reports throughout the event with their kind permission.

Final standings

Rk SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts  TB rtg+/-
1 10 GM Mareco Sandro ARG 2581 8.5 75.5 12.0
2 2 GM Quesada Perez Yuniesky CUB 2645 8.5 73.5 1.8
3 8 GM Cori Jorge PER 2609 8.0 77.0 12.1
4 13 GM Flores Diego ARG 2567 8.0 76.5 8.1
5 17 GM Perez Ponsa Federico ARG 2533 8.0 76.0 14.1
6 1 GM Granda Zuniga Julio E PER 2650 8.0 75.0 -3.8
7 7 GM Kovalyov Anton CAN 2613 8.0 73.0 -0.4
8 6 GM Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo VEN 2613 8.0 71.0 -0.8
9 15 GM Gonzalez Vidal Yuri CUB 2550 8.0 71.0 -0.2
10 24 GM Alonso Salvador ARG 2488 8.0 69.5 16.1
11 20 GM Matamoros Franco Carlos S. ECU 2525 7.5 75.0 13.4
12 11 GM Hansen Eric CAN 2580 7.5 75.0 2.8
13 9 GM Felgaer Ruben ARG 2582 7.5 73.5 -2.3
14 14 GM Kaidanov Gregory S USA 2566 7.5 69.5 -6.2
15 26 IM Henriquez Villagra Cristobal CHI 2478 7.5 68.5 -3.8
16 34 IM Martinez Romero Martin COL 2404 7.5 68.0 5.4
17 36 FM Paveto Kevin ARG 2400 7.5 65.5 5.6
18 21 GM Shabalov Alexander USA 2523 7.0 78.5 15.1
19 4 GM Lenderman Aleksandr USA 2636 7.0 77.5 -9.5
20 3 GM Bachmann Axel PAR 2636 7.0 76.5 -7.9

Click for complete standings

The top eight boards of the event can be followed live at both the official site and on Playchess.

All photos by Albert Silver


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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