Naiditsch tops Zurich Christmas Open

by Alejandro Ramirez
1/2/2015 – Chess never takes a break, and especially not during the holidays! If anything, tournaments are more prolific during this season. The traditional Zurich Christmas Open celebrated its 38th edition this year and it attracted many grandmasters from around the World. At the end, there was one dominating performance, and that was of German grandmaster Arkadij Naiditsch.

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The Zurich Chrismas Open is a traditional event. The recently concluded 2014 edition was the 38th consecutive year that this tournament has been held. The Open section attracted grandmasters from far and wide... even Venezuela! After seven rounds of chess it was German Arkadij Naiditsch that unequivocally won the event, with a 6.5/7 score. His only draw came as Black against strong French GM Christian Bauer in round six.

Naiditsch was the pre-tournament favorite, since his 2731 rating gave him the number one seed, however he was not the only 2700 in the event. The new top rated junior Richard Rapport from Hungary was also participating, but he had a major setback... in round one!

[Event "Zürcher Weihnachtsopen M"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.12.26"] [Round "1"] [White "Salzgeber, Frank"] [Black "Rapport, Richard"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A65"] [WhiteElo "2175"] [BlackElo "2716"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2014.12.26"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 g6 4. e4 Bg7 5. f3 O-O 6. Bg5 c5 7. d5 h6 8. Be3 e6 9. Nge2 exd5 10. cxd5 {Rapport is known for his unususal openings and strange play, but so far he is playing actually fairly normally.} Nbd7 11. Ng3 h5 12. Be2 h4 13. Nf1 Nh7 {Even though these moves, h5 and h5, Nh7 might look suspicious, they have all been played before. Black is aiming at an f5 break to create counterplay while White has yet to castle and his knight is on f1.} 14. Nd2 f5 (14... a6 15. a4 f5 16. exf5 gxf5 {has been seen several times, including the game Kortschnoj-Saric from 2011, which was won by the Croat.}) 15. exf5 gxf5 16. O-O Ne5 17. Kh1 {White is playing very sensible chess. Now that he is fully developed he can think of kicking Black's pieces back, starting with the knight on e5.} Qe7 18. Bf2 Ng6 19. Rg1 {Overly cautious, but sometimes its hard not to guard yourself more than necessary when facing an attacking genius such as Rapport!} Bd7 20. a4 Nf4 21. Bf1 {Even though White looks passive, it is up to Black to find some activity to justify his weak pawn structure.} Nh5 $2 (21... Bd4 $13) 22. Qe1 $1 {Very good! Any queen swap is deadly for Black as d6 would be weak, and h4 would fall in only a few moves. } Qf7 23. Nc4 (23. Bxh4 {was already possible, but the move played was also good.}) 23... Rae8 24. Qd2 Bxc3 25. Qxc3 {White is not ahead material yet, but d6 is hanging and so is h4. If either of these pawns falls it would be a positional disaster for Black. Rapport goes in desperado mode, but it comes nowhere near close to working.} Ng3+ 26. hxg3 hxg3 27. Bxg3 Qh5+ 28. Bh2 Rf6 29. g4 $1 {With this important pawn move White gainst all the space he needs to defend comfortably.} Qh4 30. gxf5+ Kf7 31. Nxd6+ $1 {And thus White overcame a ~550 rating point difference!} 1-0

Rapport with a tough loss in round one

Despite this loss Rapport recovered reasonably well. He went on a five game winning streak, including a victory over German GM Georg Meier (the game can be found below, but it seems that the notation was messed up as it is hard to believe the grandmasters played that game). However 5.5/7 was far from first place.

In the last round Hungarian GM Gonda Laszlo outplayed Christian Bauer to clinch 6.0/7 (another recovery, as Gonda started with draws in rounds one and three!). Seeing this Naiditsch pushed against Bulgarian GM Kiril Georgiev... for over 100 moves! The game was probably drawn at some point but the pressure got to Georgiev who ended up losing.

Venezuelan GM Eduardo Iturrizaga

GM Georg Meier studies in the USA, but is currently on winter break

The strongest Swiss could not miss the event! GM Yanick Pelletier

Arkadij Naiditsch' pace was implacable

Best female: Serbian WGM Jovana Vojinovic

For his efforts Naiditsch took home 3000 Swiss Francs, which is about 2500 Euros

Replay Open Games

Select games from the dropdown menu above the board

Rg. Snr   Name FED Elo Pkt.
1 1 GM Naiditsch Arkadij GER 2731 6.5
2 9 GM Gonda Laszlo HUN 2542 6.0
3 15 IM Hansen Torbjørn Ringdal NOR 2470 5.5
4 5 GM Meier Georg GER 2640 5.5
5 2 GM Rapport Richard HUN 2716 5.5
6 4 GM Bauer Christian FRA 2647 5.0
7 8 GM Stojanovic Mihajlo SRB 2547 5.0
8 18 IM Kurmann Oliver SUI 2426 5.0
9 6 GM Georgiev Kiril BUL 2628 5.0
10 3 GM Iturrizaga Bonelli Eduardo VEN 2654 5.0
11 49 FM Corvi Marco ITA 2222 5.0
12 10 GM Miezis Normunds LAT 2499 5.0
13 16 GM Pikula Dejan SRB 2457 5.0
14 31 FM Moroni Luca Jr ITA 2321 5.0
15 19   Kaczmarczyk Dennis GER 2408 5.0
16 17 IM Lekic Dusan MNE 2439 5.0
17 40 FM Misiano Franco ITA 2269 4.5
18 14 FM Rambaldi Francesco ITA 2476 4.5
19 13 GM Turner Matthew J SCO 2485 4.5
20 72   Formento Paolo ITA 2135 4.5

Pictures by Georg Kradolfer, from the official website


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Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


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