Hans Niemann dominates Capablanca Memorial

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/30/2022 – The 55th edition of the Capablanca Memorial took place on April 19-28 at the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana. Hans Niemann from the United States dominated the Elite group, scoring 7½ points in the 10-player single round-robin. The Premier group, a women’s tournament, was similarly dominated by Romanian IM Irina Bulmaga, who also collected 7½ points to finish two points clear of her closest chaser. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Saint Louis Chess Club

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Ascending, quickly

Born in San Francisco in a family of Danish and Hawaiian descent, Hans Moke Niemann is an 18-year-old grandmaster who has quickly made a name for himself in the chess world. The youngster was awarded his GM title only 15 months ago, and by now has already climbed to seventh place in the junior live ratings list.

Two years ago, the ever-confident Niemann had a 2465 rating. Now, after his commanding performance at the Capablanca Memorial in Havana, his live rating is almost 200 points higher than that. Participating in strong online tournaments and focusing on his career as a professional chess player paid off handsomely for the rising star.

Clearly, the effort to gain Elo points is deliberate. On April 1, after being announced as one of the eight participants at the TePe Sigeman tournament in Sweden, he tweeted:

Over the next 3 months, I’ll play a marathon of 7 strong tournaments! The push to 2700 continues.

Niemann came from reaching the quarterfinals at the online Charity Cup, where he was knocked out by none other than Magnus Carlsen. At the Reykjavik Open, he scored 6½/9 to finish in seventh place, a performance which he described as pathetic. This might have sounded as a bit too harsh and perhaps overly ambitious, but his showing in Havana demonstrates that he is certainly capable of performing at a higher level.

The US grandmaster entered the 10-player event in Cuba as the second seed, behind Sandro Mareco, who recently won the Mexico Open in Chihuahua. Mareco and Niemann were two of five 2600+ rated players in the event.

Apparently the Caribbean weather is just what Niemann needed after his subpar performance — according to his standards — in Reykjavik.

Six wins and three draws granted the 18-year-old a 2857 tournament performance rating, as he got victories, among others, over Surya Ganguly (India), Yilmaz Mustafa (Turkey) and Mareco (Argentina). Ganguly was one of three players who finished two points behind the winner, as Vasif Durarbayli (Azerbaijan) and Luis Ernesto Quesada (Cuba) also collected 5½ points throughout the event.

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 NIEMANN Hans Moke 7,5 0,0
2 DURARBAYLI Vasif 5,5 1,5
3 GANGULY Surya Shekhar 5,5 1,0
4 QUESADA PEREZ Luis Ernesto 5,5 0,5
5 MARECO Sandro 5,0 0,0
6 YILMAZ Mustafa 4,5 0,0
7 ALBORNOZ CABRERA Carlos Daniel 3,5 0,0
8 ORTIZ SUAREZ Isan Reynaldo 3,0 0,0
10 QUESADA PEREZ Yasser 2,5 0,5

All games


Bulmaga shines among the women

Much like Niemann, Irina Bulmaga did not have a stellar performance in his previous classical, individual event. The Romanian got fourth place at the women’s national tournament despite arriving in Eforie North as the top seed — however, she did succeed at both the solving championship and the rapid championship!

In Havana, Bulmaga, much like the US star, grabbed six wins and three draws to finish two points clear of Yerisbel Miranda, who got sole second place. The 7½/9 score that allowed the Romanian to win the tournament outright gained her no less than 22.9 rating points.

Bulmaga was personally congratulated by Doris Mircea, the Romanian Ambassador in Cuba.

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 BULMAGA Irina 7,5 0,0
2 MIRANDA LLANES Yerisbel 5,5 0,0
3 HERNANDEZ GIL Ineymig 5,0 0,5
4 FORGAS MORENO Yaniela 5,0 0,5
5 ORDAZ VALDES Lisandra Teresa 4,5 0,0
6 KIOLBASA Oliwia 4,0 1,0
7 LUJAN Carolina 4,0 1,0
8 ARRIBAS ROBAINA Maritza 4,0 1,0
9 CORI T. Deysi 3,0 0,0
10 HERNANDEZ MOYA Yuleisy 2,5 0,0

All games



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.