Praggnanandhaa and Poetsch winners in Crete

by Daniel Fernandez
4/24/2018 – The Fischer and Capablanca Memorial tournaments were held April 9th to 17th in Heraklion, on the Greek island of Crete. The pair of closed round-robin tournaments were won by IMs Praggnanandhaa and Hagen Poetsch respectively. GM DANIEL FERNANDEZ was one of the grandmaster guests and sends this report of the highlights. Plus, IM SAGAR SHAH goes through Pragg's tournament in detail. | Pictured: ViceGovernor of Crete, Evripidis Koukiadakis, makes the first move on the game Praggnanandhaa vs Taylor | Photo: Kostas Klokas

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A Mediterranean destination for norm seekers

Most strong players would agree that closed tournaments and open tournaments are completely different from each other. Closed tournaments (for better or worse) feature greater extremes of form from all the players, deeper preparation, and a remarkable wealth of conspiracy theories-especially surrounding final round games.

As a veteran of many norm tournaments from the seekers’ perspective, I was interested in what it would feel like being on the other side of it all. So I accepted an invitation from the affable Greek organiser Kostas Klokas, who organises GM norm events in Crete three times a year, as well as various open tournaments.

Crete sunrise

Sunrise on the first morning. At first, I thought it was the moon! | Photo: Daniel Fernandez

The venue was the Galaxy hotel in Heraklion. If the organiser’s agenda was to ply the grandmasters with enough conditions that they ‘forgot’ to prepare for their hungry opponents, then it seems to have worked.

The pool

The playing hall was right next to the hotel pool — what could be more relaxing? | Photo: Kostas Klokas

Certainly, some GMs fared quite badly in encounters with ‘customers’ early on in the tournament.


Click or tap the second game in the list to switch

The second of these games was the initial spark in an amazing performance from the German player, who scored 5½ from six consecutive rounds of the Capablanca half of the event, en route to winning it.

IM Hagen Poetsch

Two of the top finishers in the Capablanca Memorial: IM Hagen Poetsch (left), FM Panagiotis Koutoukidis (centre) with tournament guest Georgios Vourexakis | Photo: Kostas Klokas

FM Panagiotis Koutoukidis played the most solid chess out of anyone, scoring 7 draws and 2 wins to make an IM norm. One of his wins was effectively a miniature:


Click or tap the second game in the list to switch

Stefan Pogosyan

Lest you think Townsend was in this tournament as decoration or a last-minute sub, the second game above is him dispatching the highest rated norm-seeker in the first round.

To round off the ‘overperformers’  in the Capablanca memorial we have the extremely talented Russian FM Stefan Pogosyan, who also scored an IM norm-courtesy of the following extremely double-edged encounter.

I had the chance to analyse a bit with this young man after our encounter. It would not be an exaggeration to say that his play reminds me of Karpov’s! Strong understanding of strategy and endgames, and the application of tactics exclusively in the service of those two things.

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Capablanca Memorial final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Poetsch Hagen 6,5 0,0
2 Fernandez Daniel Howard 6,0 0,0
3 Koutoukidis Panagiotis 5,5 1,0
4 Rozentalis Eduardas 5,5 1,0
5 Pogosyan Stefan 5,5 1,0
6 Kapnisis Spyridon 4,0 0,0
7 Ider Borya 3,5 0,0
8 Petrova Kristyna 3,0 0,5
9 Georgakopoulos Nikolaos 3,0 0,5
10 Townsend M Paul 2,5 0,0

The 13-year-old Russian was not the ‘most talented’ junior in the room. That honour belongs to the winner of the Fischer memorial, Praggnanandhaa.


Praggnanandhaa receiving his trophy | Photo: Kostas Klokas


Fischer Memorial final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Praggnanandhaa R 7,0 0,0
2 Nikolaidis Ioannis 6,5 0,0
3 Anand Nadar 5,5 0,0
4 Petr Martin 5,0 0,5
5 Mitsis Georgios 5,0 0,5
6 Arkell Keith C 4,5 0,0
7 Anagnostopoulos Konstantinos 3,5 0,0
8 Markidis Konstantinos 3,0 0,5
9 Taylor Adam C 3,0 0,5
10 Goumas Georgios 2,0 0,0

Finally, I should give a shoutout to my roommate, the effortlessly pleasant FM Adam Taylor, who retained his good humour despite a horrendous run of luck, including the following disaster which will be making the tactics columns for a while to come:


Adam Taylor

FM Adam Taylor | Photo: Kostas Klokas

If memory serves me right, the disappointment of this game put us off enjoying the ‘main side event’ on offer, a team blitz tournament. Nevertheless, as mentioned, the venue was not a bad place to do absolutely nothing!

I look forward to being back at this well-organised event. As usual for such experiences, there was a slick operator behind the arbiters’ desk as well…

Antonia Hristodoulaki

Antonia Hristodoulaki | Photo: Kostas Klokas

Praggnanandhaa achieves his second GM norm in Greece

by IM Sagar Shah

Courtesy of and originally published by ChessBase India

Praggnanandhaa became an IM at the age of 10 years and 10 months. Sergey Karjakin held the record for the youngest GM in the world — 12 years and 7 months. With nearly one year and nine months runway, it seemed as if Pragg would break Karjakin's record. However, it was not to be and although the young lad from Chennai crossed 2500 Elo mark, he could achieve just one GM norm. Many people felt that it was the pressure on his shoulders of becoming that youngest GM in the world that was not letting Pragg play his natural game. Now that we are past that phase, Pragg is showing his free-flowing game and achieved his second GM norm in smooth style at the 4th Fischer Memorial GM norm tournament in Heraklion, Greece.

Closed tournaments are quite tricky in nature. The upside is that you know your opponents and you also know the score that you will need in order to make a GM norm. The downside is that because you know the score you need, you often lose your sense of objectivity and are not able to play normal chess. Well, I guess Pragg had learned valuable lessons from his last two GM norm tournaments which he had played in the Charlotte Chess Club in the USA and the Adelaide Lidums GM tournament in Australia. These were two closed round-robin events where he had a chance of making a norm. Everyone thought that Pragg had good chances of making a GM norm, but he fell short by quite some margin.

Praggnanandhaa and his mother

Pragg and his mother Nagalakshmi arrive in Heraklion, Crete and are welcomed by the organizer of the event Kostas Klokas | Photo: Official site

With a rating of 2520 Pragg was the second seed. He needed to score 7.0/9 to make a GM norm.


Play through all annotated games above. Below are brief round-by-round summaries.

Round one - 1.0/1: a bright start!
Pragg began with a blistering attack against Adam Taylor's king. The g6 point was soft in the game and Pragg concentrated on that point with all his pieces including the rooks, knight and queen. He sacrificed quite a bit of material but made sure that he checkmated the black king!

Round two - 1½/2: taming the King's Gambit
GM Petr Martin is well known for playing the King's Gambit. Out of the 69 games that he has faced 1...e5 in response to 1.e4, he has played the King's Gambit in 22 games. Pragg was well prepared and was able to equalize the game without any real problems.

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Round three - 2½/3: Squeezing water out of stone!
There was absolutely no way that Pragg was going to win this one, but he did win it. There were draws to be taken on many occasions but the Indian prodigy kept posing problems to his 2400+ rated opponent, as he succumbed to defeat.

Round four - 3.0/4: A solid draw
Keith Arkell is an experienced GM with a solid opening style. He played a relatively unambitious opening, and Pragg managed to exchange his light-squared bishop, which is black's major headache in the Queen's Gambit Declined. The game ended in a quick draw.

Round five - 4.0/5: Imaginative and enterprising opening play

Round six - 5.0/6: Squeezing more water from the stone!
Anand Nadar, the other Indian in the fray was doing exceedingly well. But Pragg wanted to win. Hence, he played the Chigorin Defence. Black equalized without any problems and it seemed that in the rook endgame the game would end in a draw. But Pragg played well and Anand was off colour. The result was a win for Pragg.

Round eight - 6.0/8: A lucky escape?!
Perhaps, Pragg was a little lucky in this game. His opponent was the last seed and Pragg came to the game to ensure that he won today. If he did that he would need just a draw in the last round. However, Georgios Mitsis showed some very good preparation and was very soon having a very promising position.

Round nine - 7.0/9: delivering under pressure
Pragg was in a must-win situation in the final round. He had the white pieces and he played his simple Reti/ King's Indian Attack setup. Very soon Black equalized and it seemed as if Pragg would miss his GM norm, but in the late middlegame, IM Markidis (rated 2370), made an elementary error.

Once part of a 'golden generation' of young players in Singapore, he moved to England in his late teens and attended Cambridge University. Immediately after graduation, he began training as a time series analyst and also working on his chess, finally becoming a grandmaster in November 2017. He writes chess articles frequently and with enjoyment, and his first chess book is out in May. Away from the board, he enjoys table-tennis and language learning.


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