NH Tournament: Experience Grandmasters vs Rising Stars

by ChessBase
8/18/2009 – This unique event, which takes place in the heart of Amsterdam, pits five highly talented young chess players against five older and experienced colleagues. You may remember that last year the Experience team got a painful drubbing. They lost to the Rising Stars for the third time in a row, but never was the score so dramatic: 33½-16½. For this year's event drastic measures were required.

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A Team Tournament with a Personal Touch

The 4th NH Chess Tournament, that starts on Thursday, August 20, and runs through August 31, is a team event. In the five-star NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky smack in the centre of Amsterdam, a team of Rising Stars faces a team of Experience in an event in which each member of one team plays each member of the other team with both colours (the so-called Scheveningen system). Obviously, the first question to be answered is which team scores most points to claim overall victory. But the tournament has some "personal touches" as well.

A five-minute walk from the Central Station takes you to Dam Square in Amsterdam

Hotel Krasnapolsky, seen from Dam Square

To begin with the best youngster, provided he or she has a positive score, qualifies for the 2010 Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament in Nice, the annual elite spectacular at the Côte d’Azur. A big honour, if we only remember the qualifiers from the first three NH tournaments: Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin and Wang Yue. Among the other "personal issues" that add to the suspense are the fact that the Rising Stars are led by the current American Champion and the Experience team by the reigning Russian Champion.

The NH Tournament is organized by NH Hoteles in close cooperation with the Monaco based Association Max Euwe of the renowned chess Maecenas Joop van Oosterom. As is the rule at ‘Van Oosterom’ tournaments the players are treated like stars; the only thing that is expected in return is that they entertain the public (and the sponsor!) with great fighting chess.

The Winter Garden inside the Hotel Krandapolsky, where the players will eat

The "grachten", concentric canals dug around the old city centre

For both teams there is no lack of incentives. You may remember that last year the Experience team got a painful drubbing. They lost to the Rising Stars for the third time in a row, but never was the score so dramatic: 33½-16½. Drastic measures were required and were duly taken.

For the first time the Experience team is slightly favoured to win the event. A quick look at the line-up of their team explains why.

Their top player is none other than Peter Svidler (2739), the Russian Champion. At 33 the grandmaster from St. Petersburg may seem a bit young to lead the Experience team, but if we cannot call a five-times Russian Champion who has been a member of the chess elite for fifteen years ‘experienced’ anymore, then who should we honour with that adjective?

His teammate Peter Heine Nielsen (2680) is only three years older, but he has no lack of experience either as the principal second of World Champion Vishy Anand.

Perhaps more in line with the expectations which an Experience team evokes is Alexander Beliavsky (2662), the highest ranked grandmaster of over fifty years old in the FIDE rating list (in actual fact there are only two such players, with Anatoly Karpov being the other one). Beliavsky has won more tournaments in his life than all members of the Rising Stars together which certainly makes him highly experienced.

Another "youngster" on the Experience team is 36-year-old Loek van Wely (2655), but with six consecutive Dutch championships under his belt and first places in all the major opens in the world, he definitely fits in too.

As does, without any doubt, Ljubomir Ljubojevic (2553), once the number three in the world rankings and for several decades the most successful player of Yugoslavia.

Based on their current ratings the Rising Stars are about equal in strength to the Experience team. One may expect that they will compensate a slight deficit in Elo points with youthful energy and bravura.

Their top player is Hikaru Nakamura (2710), who won the American Championship earlier this year after he had already done so five years ago at the age of 16. The American has been in great form lately and as a blitz and rapid specialist he will be highly motivated to go after the ticket for Nice.

But so will 17-year-old Fabiano Caruana (2670). He is the current Italian Champion, but he was born in the United States. It was there that he broke several of Nakamura’s old records. And he likes to play in the Netherlands, as witness his win in the Corus C-Group last year and in the B-Group this year.

The Dutch are represented by two players on the Rising Stars team. Jan Smeets (2632) is the current Dutch Champion and he will be eager to show that his excellent debut in the Corus top group this year was no accident.

Daniel Stellwagen (2630) is the only Rising Star who has played in all previous editions. Due to his chemistry studies he’s played less chess of late than he would have liked to, so he’ll be hungry to do well. On a good day Stellwagen can beat anyone. Just ask Peter Svidler, whom he defeated in a wild game in last year’s Bundesliga.

The fifth Rising Star is Hou Yifan (2584), the first ever girl to play on the team. The 15-year-old Chinese sensation is generally seen as the most talented female since Judit Polgar and so far her results don’t belie these expectations. Hou Yifan is the youngest girl ever to become a (general) grandmaster and judging by her fine result in the Zurich Jubilee tournament last week she is in good form.

And so the scene is set for an entertaining tournament where team and personal interests will guarantee ten rounds of fighting chess.

Playing schedule

Round 1 Thursday August 20 13.30 hrs
Round 2 Friday August 21 13.30 hrs
Round 3 Saturday August 22 13.30 hrs
Round 4 Sunday August 23 13.30 hrs
Round 5 Monday August 24 13.30 hrs
Free Day Tuesday August 25  
Round 6 Wednesday August 26 13.30 hrs
Free Day Thursday August 27  
Round 7 Friday August 28 13.30 hrs
Round 8 Saturday August 29 13.30 hrs
Round 9 Sunday August 30 13.30 hrs
Round 10 Monday August 31 12.00 hrs


GMs Viktor Korchnoi and Vlastimil Hort on losing


  • Official tournament site – during the tournament they will have live games, live radio commentary, videos, photos and daily reports.

The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

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