Eighth PAL/CSS Freestyle Qualifier

by ChessBase
4/18/2008 – The first Freestyle tournament of this year has finished its qualifier open for the best of ten, who will be competing for the $16,000 dollar prize fund on April 25-27th. Once again many FIDE and correspondence chess title holders showed up for this online event, where "anything goes" –computer help and consultation. But only few of them made their way up to the final. Arno Nickel reports.

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Eighth PAL/CSS Freestyle Qualifier

Report by CCGM Arno Nickel

The biggest news of the 8th PAL/CSS Freestyle main tounament on April 11-13th was that none of the previous Freestyle Champions got to the final, neither 'king' Rajlich, two times Freestyle Chamion, nor Anson Williams, who had won the last event. Instead, for the first time in Freestyle Chess, we might see a woman taking over the crown. IM Iweta Rajlich (former Radziewics) achieved half a point more than her husband Vas. She came sixth and will now defend the family's honour under the playchess.com handle "Rybusia".

More than 90 players and teams of about 25 countries took part in the nine round event with a rate of play of 60 minutes per game and 15 seconds bonus per move, among them 26 titleholders of FIDE and ICCF, not to mention lots of strong players staying anonymously in the background as co-analyists. Apart from eleven US players, participants from more non-Europeen countries like Mexico, Columbia, New Caledonia, Malaysia, India, Nigeria, South Africa and New Zealand had enrolled for the Freestyle 'World Open'. For an online event that means big differences of the time zones: When the first round starts at 2 p.m. CET (Central European Time), the clock shows 5:00 a.m. in Los Angeles and 8 p.m. in Singapore.

Everybody knows how hard it is to get through to the final, as this generally means you have to win at least three games, and draw the other six. Only two players (or teams, you never know!) achieved 6.5 points. Like five other qualifiers they had the benefit of playing five white games and only four with black. So this means, you not only have to play very well, but also need some luck in order to go through. The absolute winner by progressive score is "Moro Gamgee", which is the playchess.com handle of Dutch computer chess specialist Hans van der Zijden, who is said to be playing in a team with the Rybka book author Jeroen Noomen. Thus, the Rybka 'clan' had another reason to pop the corks…

The second winner, "Flyingfatman", is already well-known as a former Freestyle finalist. It's the Englishman Nick Carlin, who is rumoured to be playing with very strong hardware, as may be assumed by his 2976 computer rating on the ChessBase server. The third finalist is "Enchanter", the German correspondence chess IM Klaus Sperhake, who – as a newcomer – sensationally started with 3 out of 3 and then defended his good position, though he lost one game against "Flyingfatman". Fourth place was taken by "Komodo1", another Rybka submarine, who has been outet by others as the US IM Larry Kaufman. Wow, what a phalanx of 'Rybkies' the other finalists have to resist in order to earn some bucks…

The fifth is another computer chess specialist and experienced Freestyler from Italy: Alberto Gueci, who is also known as "Spaghetti Chess". We already spoke of IM Iweta Rajlich, who came sixth as "Rybusia". But who in the world is "Regina H-Milch" from Germany? He (or she?) was 16th in the previous Freestyle tournament. We will see later who is behind the seventh qualifier’s nickname. "Luminarydebris", the eighth, sounds like a new name in Freestyle, but the owner, Steven Cramton from the US, is none other than the teammate of Steven Zackery, both well-known as "ZackS", the legendary First Freestyle Champion. "Snuggles", the ninth finalist, is another German CC-IM, called Ulrich Stephan, who had his second try in Freestyle. Last, but not least, we see "Ultima", another Italian participant, on tenth place. His info shows the name of the mysterious young lady "Terra Branford", but insiders reckon that it is the well-known CC-SIM Eros Riccio, who came third in the previous Freestyle as "Auryn".

Top scorers in the Eighth Freestyle Qualifier (total 92 participants)

# Player/team Points TB1 TB2


Moro Gamgee

6.5 / 9




6.5 / 9




6.0 / 9




6.0 / 9




Spaghetti Chess

6.0 / 9





6.0 / 9



Regina H-Milch

6.0 / 9




6.0 / 9




6.0 / 9




6.0 / 9




6.0 / 9




Etaoin Shrdlu

6.0 / 9





5.5 / 9





5.5 / 9




5.5 / 9




5.5 / 9




5.5 / 9



New Man

5.5 / 9




5.5 / 9




5.5 / 9




5.5 / 9


The table shows two more players with six points, who however failed to qualify because of a slightly lower progressive score (half a point!). That's tough, especially as these players, the well-known Freestylers "Etaoin Shrdlu", Patrik Schoupal & friends from Czechia, and "Windpower", FM Michiel Wind, from the Netherlands, living in Malaysia, drew their last round games, hoping their six points would be enough for the qualification. Both had black against strong opponents, so what would you do? And if you remember the times zones, you must realise that it was already 2 a.m. for Michiel Wind when his last round game started. I am sure we will see these players back at the top in further Freestyle events, same as many successful players with 5.5 points – and also good old "Rentner2" with 5 points, who was in the top group until he lost in round 8.

Maybe it's a sign of ever more powerful hardware and software that the draw rate for the first time increased to 55%, while in the 60m + 15s tournaments before it the figure was about 50%. Yet, if we only consider the number of games with less than 31 moves, we find, that the percentage of the "quick draws" increased dramatically; instead of 10%, we now have 20% of these short and mostly drawn games. If this tendency continues in the round-robin final, where the draw rate in any case tends to be higher than in a Swiss tournament, then the organisers will have to think over the format, though each system, pure Swiss or play-offs, has its drawbacks.

But before any of this happens we invite you to come to the Playchess server on April 25-27th and enjoy the exciting games of the final, where for the first time also a webcast is planned.

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Participants in the Final

1st round
Spaghetti Chess – Ultima
Komodo1 – Rybusia
Moro Gamgee – Snuggles
Flyingfatman – Luminarydebris
Enchanter – Regina H-Milch
2nd round
Ultima – Regina H-Milch
Luminarydebris – Enchanter
Snuggles – Flyingfatman
Rybusia – Moro Gamgee
Spaghetti Chess – Komodo1
3rd round
Komodo1 – Ultima
Moro Gamgee – Spaghetti Chess
Flyingfatman – Rybusia
Enchanter – Snuggles
Regina H-Milch – Luminarydebris
4th round
Ultima – Luminarydebris
Snuggles – Regina H-Milch
Rybusia – Enchanter
Spaghetti Chess – Flyingfatman
Komodo1 – Moro Gamgee
5th round
Moro Gamgee – Ultima
Flyingfatman – Komodo1
Enchanter – Spaghetti Chess
Regina H-Milch – Rybusia
Luminarydebris – Snuggles
6th round
Ultima – Snuggles
Rybusia – Luminarydebris
Spaghetti Chess – Regina H-Milch
Komodo1 – Enchanter
Moro Gamgee – Flyingfatman
7th round
Flyingfatman – Ultima
Enchanter – Moro Gamgee
Regina H-Milch – Komodo1
Luminarydebris – Spaghetti Chess
Snuggles – Rybusia
8th round
Ultima – Rybusia
Spaghetti Chess – Snuggles
Komodo1 – Luminarydebris
Moro Gamgee – Regina H-Milch
Flyingfatman – Enchanter
9th round
Enchanter – Ultima
Regina H-Milch – Flyingfatman
Luminarydebris – Moro Gamgee
Snuggles – Komodo1
Rybusia – Spaghetti Chess

The following schedule will help you to find the correct time for your location. Simply click on the time in the right column to get a list of different locations around the world.

Round 1 Friday 25/04/2008 14:00h CET
Round 2 Friday 25/04/2008 17:00h CET
Round 3 Friday 25/04/2008 20:00h CET
Round 4 Saturday 26/04/2008 14:00h CET
Round 5 Saturday 26/04/2008 17:00h CET
Round 6 Saturday 26/04/2008 20:00h CET
Round 7 Sunday 27/04/2008 14:00h CEST
Round 8 Sunday 27/04/2008 17:00h CEST
Round 9 Sunday 27/04/2008 20:00h CEST

Winners and prizes

The winner of the finals receives the first prize of US $7.000 and the title of "8th PAL/CSS Freestyle Chess Champion". The runner up gets $3.500, the player coming in third $2.000, the fourth receives $1.000 and the fifth $500.

There will be no tiebreak games in case of a tie. The winner will be decided on the basis of Sonneborn-Berger (SB) points. If the SB points are equal the number of wins decides. If that is also the same, then the result in the game between the tied participants decides. If this was a draw then the player with the black pieces is the winner. All of this only affects the award of the title. The prize money will be divided equally if the final scores are equal.


Articles on Freestyle Chess

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