Matthieu Cornette impressive in Barcelona

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
2/26/2021 – A 10-player closed GM tournament was organized in Barcelona on February 16-24. Former French national champion Matthieu Cornette finished in clear first place on 7/9. His countryman, 13-year-old Marc Andria Maurizzi, got sole second place and obtained his second GM norm — Maurizzi is still in time to become France’s youngest-ever grandmaster. | Photo: Echiquier Bordelais

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13-year-old Maurizzi gets second GM norm

Over the past few decades, Barcelona has been a hotbed of chess, with the Catalan Circuit a yearly opportunity for rising stars to fight for norms. Thus, after the pandemic made it impossible for the Circuit to take place in 2020, the Catalan Federation has organized early this year over-the-board events for players looking for IM and GM norms.

The tournaments took place on February 16-24 and were organized as 10-player single round robins. The time control was 90 minutes for the whole game, with 30-second increments starting from move one.

Matthieu Cornette, French national champion in 2016, was the clear winner of the main event, getting an undefeated 7/9 score. The only other player to finish undefeated was Marc Andria Maurizzi, who obtained his second grandmaster norm at 13. Maurizzi is still in time to break Etienne Bacrot’s record as the youngest French GM ever. In order to do so, he would need to achieve his third norm in the next 4-5 months.

Daniel Garcia, Pedro Gines and Sebastian Maze finished on 5/9 a whole 1½ points behind the youngster.

Marc Andria Maurizzi

Marc Andria Maurizzi | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Sunway Sitges 2020

In round 5, Cornette defeated Chilean IM Fernando Valenzuela with the black pieces. Valenzuela had a good position in the middlegame, but erred by weakening his kingside on move 20:


The players have reached that point of the game when one has already developed his pieces and set up his pawn structure and needs to look for a plan going forward. Here, Valenzuela played the committal 20.h4 and after 20...Ng4 further weakened his kingside with 21.g3. The game continued 21...Qf6 22.Kg2 Re7 23.Nf4:


Cornette found 23...Nxg3 24.fxg3 Nxe3+ 25.Kg1 Bxf4 26.gxf4 Qxf4:


There is no way for White to survive — 27.Rf2 Rce8 28.Rb1 Qg3+ 29.Kh1 Ng4 and Valenzuela resigned.

Although it is sometimes difficult to explain why strong players continue to fight in completely lost positions, the half point obtained by Maurizzi in round 6 shows how strange occurrences can lead to unexpected results even at the master level:


Black is completely busted. White can now play the natural and forcing 55.Qd5 threatening the knight and a potential mate on g8 while still defending his passed pawn on the seventh. However, Garcia played the one move that allowed his opponent to save the draw — 55.Bxe6:


Notice how every square around the black king is defended. Thus, Maurizzi can start giving checks — 55...Qa3+ 56.Kc4 Qb4+ 57.Kd5 Qd6+ etc. — and White can never capture the queen due to stalemate. The draw was signed shortly afterwards.

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Cornette Matthieu 7,0 0,0
2 Maurizzi Marc Andria 6,5 0,0
3 Garcia Ramos Daniel 5,0 1,5
4 Gines Esteo Pedro Antonio 5,0 1,0
5 Maze Sebastien 5,0 0,5
6 Bellahcene Bilel 4,5 0,0
7 Perez Mitjans Orelvis 4,0 1,0
8 Ayats Llobera Gerard 4,0 0,0
9 Valenzuela Gomez Fernando 2,5 0,0
10 Serarols Mabras Bernat 1,5 0,0

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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