Eduardo Iturrizaga wins American Continental

by Antonio Pereira
7/27/2019 – The 2019 American Continental Championship ran from the 5th to the 13th of July in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The eleven-round open tournament served as a qualifier to the World Cup, with four players getting tickets to the event scheduled for September in Khanty-Mansiysk. Coincidentally, four players — from four different countries — finished on 8½ out of 11, with Venezuelan Eduardo Iturrizaga winning the event on tiebreak criteria. | Photo: Elana de Souza

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A demanding contest

For South American players in particular, it is very difficult to participate in first-rate international events, which are mostly organized in European countries (and lately in the United States). Thus, getting a chance to qualify to the World Cup via a single event is perceived as a huge opportunity.

Timur Gareyev

In this year's American Continental Championship, 219 players from sixteen different countries gathered in Sao Paulo, Brazil to fight for the coveted tickets to the World Cup (or a chance to face some of the strongest players of the continent).

Besides the locals, the biggest delegations in Brazil's most populous city — over 12 million people inhabit Sao Paulo — were the ones from Argentina and Chile. And the top five seeds came from five different countries: Eduardo Iturrizaga (Venezuela), Rafael Leitao (Brazil), Neuris Delgado (Paraguay), Timur Gareyev (United States, pictured) and Alan Pichot (Argentina). 

The taxing eleven-rounder was organized by chess club "Xadrez Total" and ran for nine days — which meant two double-round days were scheduled. A prize fund of 20,000 US dollars, with 5,000 dollars for the winner, was at stake, although, as mentioned, the biggest incentive was getting one of the qualifying spots for the World Cup (the complete list of qualified players has been recently released by FIDE).

The winners

First seed Eduardo Iturrizaga had a commanding performance, as he started with three straight wins and played seven out of the eleven rounds on board one. The Venezuelan finished undefeated, with six wins and five draws. Third seed Neuris Delgado (Paraguay) and tenth seed Yuri Gonzalez (Cuba) tied with Iturrizaga on 8½/11 after avoiding losses all throughout the event, while the big surprise of the event was given by 41st seed Sergio Duran (Costa Rica), who reached the same score despite losing in round three.

In the end, each one of them took home USD $3,125, as the money prize for the first four spots was split evenly. Eight players finished a half point behind the winners.

Final standings (top 12)

k. SNo     Name Gr FED RtgI Pts.  TB1   TB2  rtg+/-
1 1
 
GM Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo AV VEN 2625 8,5 2498 75,0 9,7
2 3
 
GM Delgado Ramirez Neuris SC PAR 2605 8,5 2454 72,0 7,0
3 10
 
GM Gonzalez Vidal Yuri AV CUB 2547 8,5 2441 74,0 12,6
4 41
 
IM Duran Vega Sergio AV CRC 2364 8,5 2402 66,5 31,4
5 5
 
GM Pichot Alan AV ARG 2579 8,0 2504 76,0 11,6
6 7
 
GM Supi Luis Paulo SP BRA 2562 8,0 2454 73,5 7,1
7 11
 
GM Mekhitarian Krikor Sevag SP BRA 2545 8,0 2453 74,0 9,1
8 4
 
GM Gareyev Timur AV USA 2588 8,0 2447 68,5 2,9
9 9
 
GM Fier Alexandr PR BRA 2547 8,0 2441 73,5 7,6
10 21
 
IM Vazquez Guillermo AV PAR 2483 8,0 2412 70,0 12,3
11 20
 
GM Hambleton Aman AV CAN 2487 8,0 2349 69,5 5,2
12 22
 
GM Santiago Yago De Moura AV BRA 2473 8,0 2336 68,5 4,3

...219 players

Krikor Mekhitarian

Krikor Mekhitarian finished on 8/11 | Photo: Claudia Aquino

Let us recap the path to victory of the four winners.

Eduardo Iturrizaga (Venezuela, 2625)

The top seed started with two straightforward wins and had more of an up-and-down game against Roberto Sanchez in round three — in the end, Iturrizaga won a sharp struggle in 37 moves. Both days with double rounds, he went for quick draws in the second game of the day, splitting the point after 18 and 7 moves respectively. 

In the second half of the tournament, Iturrizaga obtained key wins against Pablo Salinas (a Semi-Slav turned sharp in which the Venezuelan outplayed his opponent) and Alexandr Fier (the Brazilian incorrectly gave up an exchange and lost in 36 moves). Finally, two quick draws in rounds ten and eleven were enough to get first place.

 

Neuris Delgado (Paraguay, 2605)

After getting two comfortable wins at the start, Delgado drew three players with ratings around the 2400-mark. For the Paraguayan, rounds four to six were crucial, as he obtained three wins in a row, including a sharp victory from the black side of a Sicilian against Brazilian Everaldo Matsuura and a long technical battle against Leandro Krysa.

In round nine, Delgado drew the strong Argentine GM Alan Pichot with Black, then went on to sign a 12-move tie with Iturrizaga and clinched shared first place with a 50-move win over 2560-rated Federico Perez Ponsa — Delgado was the only one from a six-player chasing pack to catch up with the leaders in the final round. 

 

Neuris Delgado

Neuris Delgado | Photo: Claudia Aquino

Yuri Gonzalez (Cuba, 2547)

Cuba sent only two players to this year's Continental Championship, and Gonzalez did a fine job in getting shared first place as the higher-rated player from the island. He kicked off with three wins in which he showed fine positional style, drew Iturrizaga and Roberto Bonilla in rounds four and five, and alternated wins and draws in the remaining six games.

Critical were his victories over Renato Quintiliano and especially over Argentina's top seed Alan Pichot in round ten — Pichot was over-optimistic from the black side of a Sicilian and Gonzalez proved his opponent's play was faulty with precise play.

 

Sergio Duran (Costa Rica, 2364)

Duran was the underdog who made it in Sao Paulo, and he achieved the highest goal of the event after having gone through a host of difficulties from start to finish. After his loss in round three, he bounced back with a win and went on to get two very important draws against Brazilian legend Henrique Mecking and  Paraguay's Jose Cubas (Duran held a sharp endgame a rook down thanks to his queenside passed pawns).

In round seven, the Costa Rican beat 2060-rated Sergio Araujo and then went on to get a dream-like streak of wins over Diego di Berardino (Brazil, 2506), Evandro Barbosa (Brazil, 2506) and Pablo Salinas (Chile, 2498) — his victory over Salinas was particularly double-edged, with both players missing chances repeatedly in a thrilling 56-move win for Black. A short draw against Yuri Gonzalez sealed the deal in round eleven.

 

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Timur Gareyev photo: Elana de Souza

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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