Illya Nyzhnyk wins Spice Cup 2014

by Sagar Shah
10/29/2014 – SPICE stands for Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, and has made Webster University in St. Louis, USA, a hotbed of chess talent. Players from all over the globe play and study there, and the participants of the Spice Cup 2014 showed high international standard. The event was won by former child prodigy Illya Nyzhnyk, now a ripe 18 year of age. Big illustrated report with analysis.

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Illya Nyzhnyk wins Spice Cup 2014

The Spice Cup 2014 was held from the 21st to 26th October 2014 in Saint Louis, Missouri. The event was sponsored by the Webster University along with Susan Polgar Foundation.

The two sponsors for the event are the Webster University along with the initiative SPICE (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence), which relocated in February 2012 from Texas University to Webster University, along with all the members of the reigning National Collegiate Chess team. The two have formed a deadly duo: ever since they joined hands the Webster Chess team has been ranked number one in Division College Chess and it has never relinquished its top billing.

Webster University, a hotbed of chess talents, with top players from all over the globe

Susan Polgar is a Hungarian-born grandmaster, famous for having been a child prodigy
and for being a pioneer for women in chess, and for being an advocate for chess in education.

The Webster team consists of GM Ray Robson, GM Wesley So, GM Anatoly Bykhovsky,
GM Le Quang Liem, GM Fidel Corrales Jimenez and GM Georg Meier (left to right)

It was natural that when their own university was sponsoring the event, the top Webster players would play in it. Hence, the Spice Cup 2014 kicked off with a 2700 player being the top seed: GM Le Quang Liem (2706). GM Ray Robson with a rating of 2628 was the second seed of the event.

The tournament was a nine round Swiss event with a time control of 90 minutes plus 30 second increment from move one. There were double rounds on three days, which made the tournament quite a hectic one. The best part about the tournament was that it boasted an extremely strong line-up of young players, like Vasif Durarbayli, Illya Nyzhnyk, Daniel Naroditsky, Kayden Troff and many more. There were just 50 players, but amongst them were twelve GMs, nine IMs and 16 FMs. Only a handful of players in the tournament were untitled. The average rating of the event was 2296. These statistics just show how strong the event was.

The tournament became extremely interesting as the young GM Kayden Troff moved into the sole lead at the end of the fifth round after he beat Ray Robson. It was a game where White gained a strong position from the opening and never let it go.

[Event "Spice Cup 2014"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.10.23"] [Round "5"] [White "Troff, Kayden"] [Black "Robson, Ray"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D81"] [WhiteElo "2532"] [BlackElo "2628"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "39"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Qb3 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Be6 $5 {more commonly played is Bg7.} 6. Qb5+ Bd7 7. Qb3 {Not getting tempted and trying to keep control.} ( {I was wondering why taking the pawn on b7 might not be so good.} 7. Qxb7 Nc6 ( 7... Bc6 8. Qb3 Qxd4 9. Be3 Qd8 10. Rd1 $14) 8. e3 Rb8 9. Qa6 Nb4 10. Qe2 c5 { and Black has excellent counterplay.}) 7... c5 8. dxc5 {This line is a speciality of Georg Meier, who is a teammate of Ray Robson at the Webster University. It means that there is a high chance that Robson came well prepared to the game.} Bg7 9. Nf3 $146 {Previously only 9.e4 had been played.} Na6 10. Qa3 Rc8 11. b4 $1 {A very bold move involving an exchange sacrifice.} Nd5 12. Nxd5 $1 Bxa1 13. e4 {For the exchange, White has a pawn and a nicely centralized knight. White should be better here.} Nc7 14. Bh6 Nxd5 15. exd5 a5 16. Be2 axb4 17. Qxb4 {White has a pleasant position and is surely better. Now Robson loses his cool and the game is quickly over.} Qc7 (17... Bf6 18. O-O $16 ) 18. O-O Qxc5 (18... Bf6 19. Rc1 $18 {is also a very difficult position to defend.}) 19. Qxc5 Rxc5 20. Rxa1 $18 {White has a completely winning position. The game ahead was easy for Kayden.} 1-0

Born in 1998, 16-year-old Kayden Troff is currently one of the youngest GMs in the world

Kayden was in excellent form, as after Robson he played another sublime game to beat the top seeded Vietnamese player Le Quang Liem (2706). Especially noteworthy is the sequence Kayden played from move 19 to 23.

[Event "SPICE Cup 2014"] [Site "St. Louis"] [Date "2014.10.24"] [Round "6"] [White "Le, Quang Liem"] [Black "Troff, Kayden W"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A29"] [WhiteElo "2706"] [BlackElo "2532"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "116"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] [WhiteClock "0:01:54"] [BlackClock "0:01:42"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Nb6 7. O-O Be7 8. a3 O-O 9. b4 Be6 10. Rb1 f6 11. d3 a5 12. b5 Nd4 13. Nd2 Qc8 14. e3 Nf5 15. Qc2 Rd8 16. Rd1 Nd6 17. Nb3 Nf7 18. d4 Bf5 19. e4 $6 {This is the start of all the problems for White.} ({Better was} 19. Ne4 $11) 19... Bg4 $1 20. f3 a4 $1 {A very strong intermediate move. The d4 pawn is extremely weak now.} 21. Na1 $2 ( 21. fxg4 axb3 22. Qxb3 exd4 $15) 21... exd4 $1 22. Ne2 d3 $1 23. Rxd3 Rxd3 24. Qxd3 Be6 $6 (24... Qd8 $3 {A move that was not so easy to find.} 25. Qc2 (25. Qxd8+ Rxd8 26. fxg4 Bc5+ $19) 25... Be6 $17) 25. Qc3 Qd7 26. Nd4 Rd8 (26... Ba2 $1 27. Rb2 Bxa3 $1 28. Rxa2 (28. Qxa3 Qxd4+ $19) 28... Bxc1 $19) 27. Nac2 Nc4 28. Nxe6 Qxe6 29. Bf1 Rd1 $1 30. Kg2 Nd2 31. Bxd2 Rxb1 {Black is up an exchange. Though in the remainder Black's technique could have been better, still it was good enough for a win.} 32. Bc4 Qd6 33. Nb4 Qc5 34. Be3 Qe5 35. Bd4 Bxb4 36. Qd3 Rb2+ 37. Bxb2 Qxb2+ 38. Kh3 Qd2 39. Bxf7+ Kxf7 40. Qc4+ Kg6 41. axb4 a3 42. Qg8 a2 43. Qa8 Qb2 44. Qe8+ Kh6 45. g4 Qe5 46. g5+ Kxg5 (46... Qxg5 $19) 47. Qf7 a1=Q 48. Qxg7+ Kf4 49. Qg3+ Ke3 50. f4+ Kxe4 51. fxe5 Qf1+ 52. Kh4 fxe5 53. Qg7 Qf4+ 54. Kh3 h5 55. b6 c6 56. Qg8 Kd4 57. Qd8+ Kc3 58. Kg2 Qd2+ 0-1

Le Quang Liem was in lacklustre form. Not only did he lose to Kayden in round six but also
to Ray Robson in the eighth. Yet a score of 6.0/9 was good enough to give him the fourth place.

It seemed as if Kayden would run away with the tournament. He had a point’s lead with 5.5/6 over the entire field and had beaten the top two seeds of the event. But as fate would have it he met his match in the form of a Ukranian prodigy: Illya Nyzhnyk (2613).

The all-important round seven clash between Kayden (5.5) and Illya (4.5)

[Event "SPICE Cup 2014"] [Site "St. Louis"] [Date "2014.10.25"] [Round "7"] [White "Troff, Kayden W"] [Black "Nyzhnyk, Illya"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D11"] [WhiteElo "2532"] [BlackElo "2613"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "108"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] [WhiteClock "0:00:52"] [BlackClock "0:10:00"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O Bg4 8. h3 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 dxc4 10. b3 $1 {This move has been played only twice, by Ganguly and Gajewski in 2014. It is nice to see that young Kayden is well versed with all the opening novelties.} Qa5 (10... cxb3 11. Qxb3 Qb6 12. Rb1 Rd8 (12... Nbd7 13. Qa3 $14) 13. Qxb6 axb6 14. Rxb6 $14 {with a small edge for White.}) 11. Bd2 Qc7 12. bxc4 $14 {White has a risk-free edge with the two bishops and a strong center – just the kind of position Kayden needs when he has a full point lead.} e5 13. dxe5 (13. Rb1 {could have been very interesting.} Rd8 ( 13... exd4 14. exd4 Rd8 15. Ne2 $16 {[%cal Gd2f4]}) 14. d5 $1 $14) 13... Nfd7 { Black is able to get some breathing space because White's pawn structure is now compromised. Most importantly the black knight will have an outpost on the weakened c5 square.} 14. e6 fxe6 15. Rb1 Na6 16. Ne4 Ndc5 17. Nxc5 Nxc5 18. Bb4 Rfd8 19. Qc2 Nd3 20. Bc3 $2 {A strategically poor decision. White should not have parted with his important bishop. It not only gives up his bishop pair but at the same time the knight will be untouchable on c5 now. From here on Illya plays the game excellently and slowly increases his advantage. He had his plans in the position while Kayden didn't really know what to do.} Bxc3 21. Qxc3 Nc5 {[%csl Gc5]} 22. Qf6 Qf7 23. Qc3 Rd3 24. Qa5 Qe7 25. Rfd1 Rxd1+ 26. Rxd1 e5 27. e4 b6 28. Qd2 Re8 29. Bg4 h5 30. Be2 Kg7 31. Qc3 Qf6 32. Bf3 Rf8 33. a4 Rf7 34. a5 bxa5 35. Qa3 Ne6 36. Rd6 Qe7 37. c5 Nd4 38. Qe3 Rf6 39. Rxd4 $2 {Black had pressure but White didn't need to give up the exchange. It's tantamount to a suicide.} (39. Bxh5 $5 Rxd6 (39... gxh5 40. Qg5+ Kf7 41. Qxh5+ Kf8 42. Qh8+ Kf7 43. Qh5+ $11) 40. cxd6 Qxd6 41. Bd1 $13) 39... exd4 40. Qxd4 Kh7 41. Be2 (41. e5 Re6 $19) 41... Rf8 42. e5 Re8 43. Bd3 Qxe5 44. Qd7+ Re7 45. Qxc6 Qe6 46. Qb5 Qe1+ 47. Bf1 Rf7 48. f3 Qe3+ 49. Kh1 Rc7 50. c6 Qc1 51. f4 Qxc6 52. Qxa5 Qc1 53. Qb5 Qxf4 54. Kg1 Rc1 0-1

After this win, Illya went onto win his eighth round against FM Razvan Preotu. At the same time the other leader, Kayden Troff, lost his game to GM Daniel Naroditsky. Going into the last round Illya (6.5) was paired against Robson (6.0), while Naroditsky (6.0) faced Vasif Durarbayli (5.5). Nyzhnyk made a quick draw against Robson. That meant that Daniel had a chance to catch the leader if he beat his opponent. And he was so close!

[Event "SPICE Cup 2014"] [Site "St. Louis"] [Date "2014.10.26"] [Round "9"] [White "Durarbayli, Vasif"] [Black "Naroditsky, Daniel"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C44"] [WhiteElo "2624"] [BlackElo "2601"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] [WhiteClock "0:11:57"] [BlackClock "0:14:21"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Be2 Nf6 4. d3 d5 5. Nbd2 Be7 6. c3 a5 7. O-O O-O 8. Re1 Re8 9. b3 Bc5 10. Bb2 dxe4 11. dxe4 Qe7 12. h3 Nh5 13. Bf1 Qf6 {After an insipid opening as White, one that looked as if it was inspired by Baadur Jobava, Durarbayli is in big trouble. Sacrifices on h3 are looming and his next move shows that he has absolutely nothing in his power to stop that.} 14. a3 Bxh3 (14... Nf4 $17 {Building up an attack was another way to go, but Daniel takes the more direct approach.}) 15. gxh3 Qg6+ 16. Kh1 (16. Bg2 Nf4 $19 ) 16... Bxf2 {With three of his pieces in the attacking zone Black has a very strong attack. But the problem with such attacks is that one mistake and the opponent is able to co-ordinate himself. So Black has to be very precise here.} 17. Re2 Ng3+ 18. Kh2 Nxe2 19. Qxe2 Qg3+ 20. Kh1 Ne7 $6 {This is the inaccuracy I was talking about. Better was to include the rook into the attack.} (20... Re6 $1 21. Bg2 Rg6 (21... Rh6 22. Nf1 Rxh3+ 23. Bxh3 Qxh3+ 24. N1h2 $11) 22. Ne1 Bb6 (22... Rd8 23. Nf1) 23. Nf1 $1 (23. Ndf3 $2 Rd8 $17 {And now Black's attack is extremely difficult to parry, because at the right moment Black can switch with Rgd6 and enter via the d-file.}) 23... Qf2 24. Qxf2 Bxf2 25. Rd1 a4 {Black has a promising endgame, but maybe it is not so easy to convert it into a win.} 26. b4 Rd6 27. Rxd6 cxd6 28. Nd3 Ba7 $17) 21. Bg2 Bb6 22. Nf1 Qf4 23. Bc1 Qf6 24. Ng3 {All White's defensive moves have come with a tempo.} Ng6 25. Nf5 Nf4 26. Bxf4 exf4 27. Qc2 {Black maintains a slight edge, but White has consolidated.} c6 28. e5 $1 {taking his chance.} Rxe5 29. Nxe5 Qxe5 30. Rd1 g6 31. Nh6+ Kg7 32. Ng4 Qe7 33. c4 Rd8 34. Qc3+ f6 35. Re1 Qd6 36. b4 Bd4 37. Qb3 a4 38. Qf3 f5 39. Nf2 Be3 40. Rd1 Qf6 41. b5 cxb5 42. cxb5 b6 43. Nd3 Qc3 44. Qb7+ Kh6 1/2-1/2

The youngest chess author in the history of chess, Daniel Naroditsky was quite close
to winning the SPICE CUP 2014 but finally had to be content with the third spot

The winner of the 2014 Spice Cup and $5000: Illya Nyzhnyk with his trophy

The two young American 2600s with Susan Polgar. Ray won $2500 and Daniel $1500.

What is particularly impressive is the fact that Illya won the tournament in spite of his loss in the first round. This shows how the 18-year-old has matured as a chess player. But, ChessBase has been following this young phenomenon ever since he made ripples in the chess world way back in 2007 when he won the B section of the Moscow Open.

Ten-year-old Illya Nyzhnyk in the year 2007...

... and giving a simultaneous exhibition. The nicest part in the video is Illya
carrying a little teddy bear around with him during the simul

At the age of eleven, Illya Nyzhnyk already had two GM norms under his belt and was all set to beat Karjakin’s record of becoming the youngest GM in the world. But he could achieve his GM title only at the age of 14 years and 3 months. All said and done, there is no denying that this youngster is a huge talent, and today, even at the age of 18 years, sporting an Elo of 2613 is quite impressive. The Ukranian prodigy now begins a new chapter in his life as he has taken admission in the Webster University in the United States.

Top final rankings (after nine rounds)

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg  TB1 
1 5 GM Nyzhnyk Illya UKR 2613 7.0
2 3 GM Robson Ray USA 2628 6.5
  6 GM Naroditsky Daniel USA 2601 6.5
4 2 GM Le Liem VIE 2706 6.0
  4 GM Durarbayli Vasif AZE 2624 6.0
  7 GM Corrales Jimenez Fidel USA 2532 6.0
  8 GM Troff Kayden USA 2532 6.0
  11 IM Chandra Akshat USA 2488 6.0
9 9 GM Yermolinsky Alex USA 2516 5.5
  10 GM Leon Hoyos Manuel MEX 2512 5.5
  12 IM Sevian Samuel USA 2484 5.5
  17 IM Kannappan Priyadharshan IND 2460 5.5
  22 FM Preotu Razvan CAN 2405 5.5
14 14 GM Boros Denes HUN 2468 5.0
  15 IM Ashwin Jayaram IND 2468 5.0
  18 GM Vera Reinaldo CUB 2449 5.0
  19 IM Kjartansson Guðmundur ISL 2439 5.0
  29 FM Bora Safal USA 2328 5.0
  32 FM Kavutskiy Kostya USA 2307 5.0
20 13 IM Xiong Jeffrey USA 2470 4.5
  20 IM Ruiz Sanches Orlen CUB 2429 4.5
  21 IM Recuero Guerra David ESP 2424 4.5
  23 IM Kiewra Keaton USA 2391 4.5
  24 FM Li Ruifeng USA 2365 4.5
  25 FM Banawa Joel Cholo B. USA 2350 4.5
  26 FM Tan Justin AUS 2346 4.5
  27 IM Neimer Vitaly ISR 2344 4.5
  37   Santarius Erik USA 2296 4.5
  38   Checa Nicolas USA 2266 4.5
  40 FM Liang Awonder USA 2253 4.5
  41 WGM Sharevich Anna USA 2249 4.5

Pictures from the Spice Cup

The playing hall of the Spice Cup 2014

The dazzling winner’s trophy

Vasif Durarbayli (2624), the third seed of the event, finished fifth

FM Daniel Gurevich did something special: he was the only one who could inflict
a defeat on the eventual winner of the tournament, and that too in the first round

[Event "SPICE Cup 2014"] [Site "St. Louis"] [Date "2014.10.21"] [Round "1"] [White "Gurevich, Daniel"] [Black "Nyzhnyk, Illya"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B32"] [WhiteElo "2314"] [BlackElo "2613"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] [WhiteClock "0:01:10"] [BlackClock "0:33:26"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Qb6 5. Nb3 Nf6 6. Nc3 e6 7. Bd3 d6 8. O-O Be7 9. Kh1 Qc7 10. f4 a6 11. Qf3 h5 12. a4 h4 13. Be3 Bd7 14. a5 Nb4 15. Bb6 Qc8 16. e5 Bc6 17. Qh3 dxe5 18. fxe5 {It seems as if Black is doing very well here. He just has to play Nfd5 after which he has a comfortable position. But Illya was attracted to an unsound tactic which led to his doom.} Nh5 $2 { At some point Black wants to play Rh6 and Ng3+, but this idea doesn't come to fruition.} (18... Nfd5 $1 $11) 19. Nd4 $1 Nxd3 20. cxd3 Rh6 21. Nxc6 Qxc6 22. Be3 $1 $18 {After this simple move White's position is winning. None of Black's previous moves make any sense now.} Rh7 (22... g5 23. Ne4 $18) 23. Ne4 Qb5 24. Rxf7 $1 {A powerful blow.} Kxf7 25. Rf1+ Nf6 26. exf6 Qxd3 27. Qf3 (27. Ng5+ Kg6 (27... Kg8 28. Qxe6+ $18) (27... Ke8 28. f7+ Kd8 29. Bb6+ $18) 28. Qf3 $18 {was a stronger way to play.}) 27... gxf6 28. Nxf6 Bxf6 $2 {Maybe the young Ukranian was so demoralised that he didn't put up the best fight in this position.} (28... Rg7 {And White's position is looks dominating, but there is no clear way to win.} 29. Nh5+ Kg8 30. Rd1 $1 (30. Nxg7 $6 Rf8 $1 $13) 30... Qf5 31. Qxb7 $16 {With a messy position that is better for White.}) 29. Qxf6+ Ke8 30. Qxe6+ Re7 31. Qg8+ Kd7 32. Qg4+ Kc6 33. Rc1+ Kd5 34. Qh5+ Ke6 35. Re1 Rae8 36. Bc5+ Kd7 37. Bxe7 Rxe7 38. Rd1 Kc7 39. Qc5+ {A powerful game by the young Daniel Gurevich.} 1-0

The norm winners: FM Safal Bora (IM norm), FM Preotu Razvan (GM norm)
and FM Kostya Kavutskiy (IM norm) together with Susan Polgar


America’s GM hopeful no. 1: IM Akshat Chandra, born in 1999, Elo 2488

America’s GM hopeful no. 2: IM Samuel Sevian, born in 2000, Elo 2484 and three GM norms

America’s GM hopeful no. 3: IM Jeffery Xiong, born in 2000, Elo 2470

Top women player: WGM Sharevich Anna, USA, 2249, with 4.5/9 points

Susan Polgar with Sarah Chiang, the second best female player in the tournament

Pictures from the official website. You can dowload all the games in PGN here

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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