Canadian Open: Friendly Faces Congregate in Edmonton

by ChessBase
7/23/2009 – This edition of the Canadian Open concluded with GM Mark Bluvshtein and IM Edward Porper clearing the field. We make a brief return to the scene of the crime to shed light on some of the lesser known faces around the tournament hall. Unsurprisingly, the Canadian contingent was large and noticeable, perhaps striking fear into the hearts of the foreign top-seeded players. Pictures by MonRoi.

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2009 Canadian Open Chess Championship, Edmonton

The Canadian Open was held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. This open Swiss tournament with a Classical time control attracted a few very strong GMs such as Alexei Shirov, Ni Hua and Michael Adams. Top Canadian players like GM Mark Bluvshtein played, as well as many other professional and amateur players. 203 players, all competed in one section. The playing venue was a ballroom within a large shopping mall in downtown Edmonton, with restaurants, a movie theatre and shopping all just minutes away. And with just one game every day, unlike most Opens in North America, there was plenty of time for entertainment and tourism.

Pictures and videos

With his performance, Mark Bluvshtein has a new rating with the Chess Federation of Canada of 2634, topping the domestic rating list. This rating also represents the third-highest ever achieved on the CFC rating scale. Here's hoping his FIDE rating will soon be on par.

You are from Canada, Mark! Someone's holding Canadian flags on Bluvshtein's shoulders

IM Edward Porper, 2510, is another fairly recent permanent addition to the Canadian chess scene, having moved to Edmonton, Alberta from Israel in 2008. Tying for first (losing the trophy on tiebreaks) in this edition of the Canadian Open, not to mention his GM norm at the Liechtenstein Open in 2004, he will certainly contend for the Canadian Championship later this summer.

A key round eight encounter GM Xue Zhao, 2544 vs. WIM Alisa Melekhina, 2315,
which saw the GM emerge victorious in 46 moves.

Micah Hughey, 2052, with girlfriend Lisa Yu, who recently learned the basics of the
Royal Game. Micah forms one half of the Rekhson-Hughey team.

Vlad Rekhson, 2065, forms the other half of the Hughey-Rekhson dynamic duo. Micah serves as the Chief Organizer and Vlad serves as the Chief Tournament Director of this edition of the Canadian Open, though their successful partnership is not isolated to this event alone, as investigation into further chess activity in Alberta evinces.

FM Raja Panjwani, 2350, former Canadian U16 Boys Co-Champion, pondering his move in round eight.

Former Champion of Alberta (1959), Phil Haley,1716, has been involved with Canadian chess for almost as long as many of the current governors of the Chess Federation of Canada (CFC) have been alive. Inducted into the Canadian Chess Hall of Fame in 2000, he served as President of the CFC from 1971-73, earned the International Arbiter title in 1973, and filled the position of Canada's FIDE Representative/Zonal President from 1994-2001. This represents only a snapshot of the services Mr. Haley has provided to Canadian chess, in his many years of active service with the CFC and FIDE.

One of Canada's stronger juniors, Noam Davies, 2136, lives on the West Coast, in the chess hotbed of Vancouver, BC. In the past, he has won the BC Provincial U12 Championship (2002 and 2003 – 5.0/5). The same year as his second U12 title, he competed in the BC Closed, finishing with a respectable 3/7. He capped that year with a solid 2nd-place finish at the BC Junior Championship. He then won the BC U14 Championship in 2004 and 2005 (4.5/5), followed by victory in the Canadian U14 Boys Championship (2005 - 6/7).

GMs Ni Hua, 2701 and Mark Bluvshtein, 2558, played a safe 18-move draw in round six.

In a critical round eight pairing, GM Alexei Shirov, 2748, sought revenge for his loss to GM Mark Bluvshtein, 2558, in the 2005 Canadian Open. Played in full view of the Champion's Plate, the import of the game was tangible throughout. The result: draw in 39 moves.

IM Leon Piasetski, 2288, has recently made a return to the Canadian chess scene, after years of hiding. Some of his most notable results include 1st at the 1970 Canadian Junior Championship, 1st at the 1973 Quebec Closed Championship, 1st at the 1971 Quebec Open Championship, and 1st at the 1974 Toronto Open Championship.

Here, Jonathan Farine, 1894, conducts analysis with IM Piatsetski, while Phil Haley et al. look on. Having started to play competitive chess in 2008, earning an initial rating of 1319, Jonathan has since shot up the list. His performance at this Canadian Open has put him well over 1900, and 2000+ cannot be that far off. As a student at Queen's University, one can only imagine their chess team will grow stronger in the coming year, in no small part due to his progress.

Aman Hambleton, 2052, is another Canadian junior to watch. He started to play in 2001, and placed second in the Newfoundland Open and 1st at the province's Junior Championship by the time 2003 rolled around. In 2004, he turned in an equal-third place finish at the Canadian U12 Championship, and, again, finished second at the Newfoundland Open (the winner was the same – FM Grant Spraggett, brother of GM Kevin Spraggett, though Aman managed to nick him for a draw). More recently, in 2007, he came equal-second at the Canadian U16 Boys Championship, as well as turning in a stellar performance in 2008 to capture the Toronto Junior Championship a full point clear of the field.

A round six encounter between Aman Hambleton, 2052, and IM Irina Krush, 2458,
which saw Irina roll her challenger in 34 moves.

Gordon Ritchie, 1870, is formerly one of Canada's top trade officials, who helped in the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Given this, you might be able to guess he lives in Ottawa, Ontario. He served as chairman of the organizing committee of the 2007 Canadian Open, and, in the recent past, has lent his voice to chess governance in Canada, having served as a governor with the Chess Federation of Canada (CFC).

Three young Canadian FMs Eric Hansen, Jonathan Tayar and Raja Panjwani
pose for a group shot during a lull in tournament activity.

Anastasia Kazakevich, 2049 and Cornelia Dinca, 2053

Anastasia is one of Canada's top female players and lives in Edmonton, Alberta. In 2005, she won the Canadian U18 Girls Championship with a perfect score. She also won the 2003 Canadian U16 Girls Championship, giving up a single draw, also winning the Alberta Womens Championship earlier that same year, again, yielding only a single draw. She had secured this title previously in 2001, scoring 4.5/5. Cornelia has not played competitively since 2006, but is roughly the same age as Anastasia, and, both being from Alberta, has served as a counterpoint to Anastasia's chess success. In 2002, she finished clear first in the Alberta Womens Championship and 2nd in the Alberta U14 Championships. Later that year, she tied for second in the Albertan Junior Championship. She also had further success, having won the U14 Albertan Championship in 2003, ahead of the boys, and then the Canadian U14 Girls Championship, with an undefeated 6/7. She also won the 2004 Alberta Womens Championship and the Canadian U16 Girls Championship. In addition, she and Anastasia were the only girls to compete in the 2004 Canadian Junior Championship, each getting a 50% score (4.5/9). Of course, as this picture evidences, far from begrudging their mutual triumphs, they are on good terms.

NM Dale Haessel, 2204, is a successful Albertan player, having won the provincial closed championship twice – back-to-back in 2001 and 2002, the first being an undefeated 6.0/7. He also won the Alberta Open Championship on four occasions in the 1990s (1992, 1994, 1995, 1998) – with 1992 being an unshared victory.

Chris White, 1766, is a former resident of Canada's East Coast, recently choosing to call Alberta home. Having been to every Canadian Open since 2001, he shows no signs of ending the streak soon.

Active in the governance and promotion of chess at all levels within the Canadian system, Bill Doubleday, 2110, is a past president of the Chess Federation of Canada.

Hailing from Waterloo, Ontario, Avinaash Sundar, 2093, is another one of Canada's better junior players. Since earning an initial rating of 2027 with the Chess Federation of Canada in 2006, he has continued to climb. His best performance to date was first at the 2007 Ontario U14 Boys Championship (4.5/5), followed by an equal-fourth place finish at the Canadian U14 Boys Championship later that year. As he continues to play, we can only hope the best is yet to come.

WIM Alisa Melekhina, 2270, from the USA, is a former Co-Champion of the 2005 Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls. More recently, she played spoiler at the 2007 US Womens Championship, holding WGM Katerina Rohonyan to a draw in the final round.

GM Michael Adams, 2699 and IM Edward Porper, 2510, fought to a 33-move draw in the penultimate round.

Photos Tracy Kolenchuk and Zeljka Malobabic of MonRoi, captions by Michael von Keitz


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and a selection on the chess server If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse the PGN games.

All Chessbase articles on this tournament

2009 Canadian Open Chess Championship
13.07.2009 – For the second time in recent memory, Alberta plays host to the Canadian Open. As in the 2005 edition, the top seeds sit amongst some of the best players in the world. Alexei Shirov has returned to defend the title he split with GMs Mark Bluvshtein and Vassily Ivanchuk, and has scored two fine victories in the first two rounds. Illustrated report with annotations by GM Alexander Shabalov.

2009 Canadian Open: five players lead with 4.0/4 points
15.07.2009 – They are GMs Victor Mikhalevski, Hua Ni, Mark Bluvshtein, Surya Ganguly and FM Raja Panjwani – the latter is the top player on his team at the University of Western Ontario. Top seed Alexei Shirov conceded a draw against Chinese GM Zhao Xue and dropped to second berth, which he shares with 12 other players. Big illustrated report with annotations by GM Alexander Shabalov.

2009 Canadian Open: four players with 6.0/7 points
18.07.2009 Two top seeds and internationally well-known players, Alexei Shirov and Michael Adams, are accompanied by two players below 2600 on the rating scale: GM Mark Bluvshtein and IM Edward Porper at the top of the table after seven rounds of this event. We bring you extensive annotations of the last three rounds by GM Alexander Shabalov, together with pictorial and video impressions by MonRoi.

Canadian Open: Nine players lead after penultimate round
19.07.2009 – Just a round ago it was four players, now a total of nine share the lead with 6.5/8 points. Shirov and Adams drew their round eight games, while Ganguly beat Zhe Quan and Perlshteyn beat Kovalyov to join them. IM Irina Krush, US, won her last three games to take a place in the top berth. Congratulations! Pictorial report with round seven commentary by GM Alexander Shabalov.

Canadian Open: Canadians take it all
21.07.2009 – Nine players were in contention, five drew their games, two lost and two Canadians won. GM Mark Bluvshtein and IM Edward Porper beat FM Theo Hommeles and GM Surya Ganguly to take first places. Bluvshtein won the title on tiebreak. In the next slot, 3rd–8th, we find Shirov, Adams and Irina Krush! Illustrated report with round eight commentary by GM Alexander Shabalov.

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